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The offbeat side of the news

Early spring training

There is no doubt that Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s nominee for social services commissioner was well prepped to answer some the hard-hitting questions Thursday when he appeared before the County Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

It was less likely that Al Dirschberger was ready for a softball question that was about softball.

In addition to his extensive background in social services, the former Gateway-Longview vice president and Erie Community College professor also coaches softball at Canisius College. So after some tough questioning about Dirschberger’s readiness to take on the county’s biggest department, it was Legislator Kevin Hardwick’s turn at bat.

“Dr. Dirschberger, I’m looking for some assurance to allay my fears that the only reason the county executive is bringing you on is to improve his softball team’s performance,” Hardwick said.

Though it has been a longtime passion for him, Dirschberger assured Hardwick that he’s not going to be any secret threat when the Legislature’s and county executive’s teams meet on the softball field later this summer.

“No, I’m retired,” Dirschberger replied. “I’m sorry. I just coach the sport.”

“Well, I know from their play a couple of years ago, they could really use some help,” Hardwick said of Poloncarz’s squad.

March madness

Here’s a really tough trivia question for even the most diehard Buffalo sports fan.

Prominent University at Buffalo alumnus Ronald Balter correctly pointed out this week that the Bulls’ game Friday against West Virginia wasn’t the school’s first appearance in an NCAA men’s basketball tournament. UB played in the Division III tourney back in 1982, losing to Staten Island in the first round.

The question: Who was the leading scorer and most valuable player in that tournament?

Two hints: He later played an important role on the Buffalo Bills four Super Bowl teams after playing both football and basketball at Wabash College in Indiana.

The answer: Pete Metzelaars, who scored 129 points in Wabash’s five-game run to the championship.


The modern artists at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery might get some Renaissance visitors this spring when Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello come to town to film scenes for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2.”

Mayor Byron Brown said filming is expected to take place for about two weeks in May – just as the weather is turning the area from winter gray to turtle green. The director is the aptly named David Green and local people are expected to be part of the production team.

The mayor was reminded that the turtles are famous for their unquenchable appetite for exotic pizzas, and wondered if that had anything to do with them coming to Buffalo.

“Ninjas do like pizza, and we have some of the best pizza,” the mayor acknowledged.

The question is, who makes the best 99-cheese pizza in Western New York? Mikey wants to know.

The film will be released by Paramount Pictures on June 3, 2016.

Buffalo’s best side

Continuing his youthful focus, Brown also kicked off the Mayor’s Serious Computer Game Design Competition on Friday. Techies are being challenged to design a video game about Buffalo in 48 hours, with the winner getting $5,000.

Guidelines say the game should be fun to play and positively promote the city, so we assume we won’t be seeing “Grand Theft Auto X” or “Mortal Kombat V.” Possibilities: “Minecraft: The Frederick Law Olmsted Edition,” “Game of Groans: Buffalo’s Diehard Sports Fans” or maybe “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Taste of Buffalo.”

Off Main Street is written by Harold McNeil, contributions by Gene Warner and Melinda Miller. email: