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IT SEEMS TO US . . .

THE BIG CHILL: Buffalo Bills fans may have no choice but to give National Football League playoffs an icy reception this season. Thanks to a league decision this month, next January's post-season contests will be night games instead of afternoon ones.

Frankly, the prospect of sitting in the open air of Ralph Wilson Stadium long after the sun goes down on a bone-chilling Saturday night on Jan. 5 or Jan. 12 leaves us a little cold, no matter how warm we might feel about the B-B-B-Bills. While it definitely should lessen the chances of X-rated fan behavior in the stands, this cold-hearted decision proves the NFL cares a lot more about its national television ratings than it does about die-hard game-attending fans.

For northern NFL cities, it's a slap in the face -- which we may need in January just to keep the blood circulating. And worst of all, it's being done for the networks that insert all those "commercial time-outs" that freeze the action on the field, anyway. It's easier to watch ice hockey. At least there, we stay warm.

MILLIGAN'S MILLIONS: The U.S. Postal Service couldn't have asked for a better stamp of approval than the one Melvin B. Milligan provided when he dropped his New Jersey "Big Game" claim form and lottery ticket, worth $46 million, in a mailbox. Milligan was the first multimillion-dollar winner in the lottery system's history to mail in his ticket, and he did it in simple faith that it would be delivered.

The New Jersey resident had forgotten about the ticket, which was validated two days before the one-year deadline. When he told his wife he'd dropped the ticket in the mail, she asked if he was crazy. Turns out he was just being efficient.

Being a modest man, perhaps Milligan didn't want the pomp and circumstance of hand-delivering the ticket by limousine. Of course, he can now afford a fleet of his own limousines -- or couriers.

WHO'S WINDIER?: This week, the City of Chicago announced a plan to become the nation's "greenest" city by drawing 20 percent of its energy needs from such renewable resources as wind and solar power within the next five years. The drive, city officials said, is part of a larger effort to become the country's center for manufacturing and developing green technology.

Chicago is known as the "Windy City," but National Climatic Data Center records show Buffalo is actually breezier, with an average annual wind speed of 11.9 mph compared to Chicago's 10.4 mph. Chicago does get a bit brighter, with 54 percent of possible daily sunshine compared to Buffalo's 48 percent, but Buffalo Niagara already has a clear advantage in renewable hydropower.

Buffalo and Chicago share the same type of smokestack history, heavily reliant on heavy industry and its energy demands, and significant shares of that energy have come from fossil fuel plants. And New York Gov. George E. Pataki earlier this month ordered state agencies here to draw 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010. With energy issues likely to loom ever larger in the years ahead, Chicago's experiment bears close watching in Buffalo.

TORONTO AS A MELTING POT: One last-minute reason Toronto might not win its bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics has now been provided by Mayor Mel Lastman, who was quoted as telling a Toronto Star freelance reporter that he was reluctant to travel to the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa meeting in Mombasa because "I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me."

The mayor later apologized, profusely, saying, "I'm sorry I made the remarks. . . . I'm truly sorry I made the remarks. . . . I'm truly sorry. . . . I'm very sorry about the remarks. . . . I'm sorry I made the remarks." And when a smart-aleck reporter then asked, as a follow-up question, whether he was sorry about the remarks, he noted, "Yes. I am."

Who's sorry now will be definitively determined by the Olympic Committee when it chooses among the finalists July 13. As for Lastman, perhaps he just should have followed the advice of another (former) local mayor -- and simply stayed home with a six-pack.

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