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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: Steve Tasker's "Tales" a Special Teams hit

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Steve Tasker's "Tales" a Special Teams hit

Steve Tasker’s Tales from the Buffalo Bills
By Steve Tasker with Scott Pitoniak
171 pages
Sports Publishing L.L.C.

Former Buffalo Bills special teams players extraordinaire Steve Tasker has moved from the playing field and the broadcast booth into the role of author in Sports Publishing L.L.C.’s latest Western New York entry, “Steve Tasker’s Tales from the Buffalo Bills.”
The work is written in the first person with Rochester Democrat and Chronicle columnist Scott Pitoniak. Like the special teams phenom Tasker was on the field, at times, his tales book is also all over the place.
Instead of running full-tilt towards ball carriers or on coverage teams, Tasker appears to have taken a list of rosters from his Buffalo Bills days and played word association with Pitoniak.
While it sounds confusing, it works, as Tasker doesn’t leave a stone unturned as he reminisces about famous Buffalo Bills players, hall of famers as well as those who made a difference in the Buffalo organization.
Tasker was one of the first players signed by Buffalo coach Marv Levy, his signing was first a practical joke, before it became a reality.
Once relocated from Houston, to Buffalo, Tasker found a home with the former special teams coach in Levy along with the brutes and backs in red and blue.
Tasker begins his 171-page tribute to his former teammates with glowing and humorous comments about Levy, owner Ralph Wilson and general manager Bill Polian.
Tasker moves on to his teammates, beginning with stars Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, Andre Reed, Kent Hull, Don Bebee, Darryl Talley and a host of others.
The author doesn’t mince words about his former teammates, but does stay on their good side with primarily positive comments. He doesn’t shy away from addressing the “Bickering Bills” moments during the 1990’s and skirmishes between Kelly and Thomas. Tasker even points out that the public statements issued by Kelly and Thomas after the running back’s “quarterback was a position that needed upgrading,” comment, was staged by management for the media only. The two did make their piece shortly afterward.
Despite competing on special teams, Tasker, has tremendous insight into the Bills offense and defense, giving credit to Kelly for changing plays at the line of scrimmage from a pass to a run, looking for the best way to win. The author also gives credit to Kent Hull for assisting Kelly from under center on those line of scrimmage calls.
Tasker writes of the evolution of the no-huddle offense in Buffalo and Kelly’s desire to convince Levy and Ted Marchibroda after its late-season success versus the Cleveland Browns.
After the “K-Gun” was formed, not named after Kelly, but after tight end Keith McKeller, the Bills started the runs at AFC titles and eventually legendary four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
Before launching into a re-hash of the four Super Bowl losses, Tasker takes time to write about the greatest comeback in NFL history, orchestrated by Bills back-up Frank Reich.
The biggest disappointment in Bills history starts with a missed 47-yard field goal by Scott Norwood against the New York Giants. Tasker supports his teammate and his efforts as well as crediting Giants’ kicker Matt Bahr with two game-saving tackles and propelled his team into the playoffs with three field goals in the NFC Championship game.
The Bills suffered three more consecutive losses in the final game of the NFL season, but Tasker makes no excuses for the losses and takes pride in the Super Bowl appearances.
The author shares humorous stories about boyhood pranks played on teammates, pleasant team gatherings as well as Jim Kelly’s charity proficiency.
For fans of the “only” New York State football team, defeating the Miami Dolphins was always a goal for the blue and red football squad. Tasker relates how locker room attendant Art Hauret earned himself a game ball after discovering a Dolphins play book left behind after an earlier meeting at Rich Stadium. In their next meeting, Buffalo owned Miami and Hauret earned himself a game ball.
Taker underwent knee surgery where the muscle from a cadaver is stapled to the top and bottom of the athletes MCL, it re-invigorated his career, including seven Pro Bowl appearances as well as being the only special teams player to receive the Pro Bowl MVP in the 1993 contest.
Like all players, there is a time to call it a career and Tasker relates how Jim Kelly prodded him into making his announcement prior to the Buffalo Bills final contest in 1997. It was moment he will always remember, just as his final NFL game was too.
Tasker’s final NFL contest lasted three minutes after he ran up to the referee to argue a call about a punt return hitting another Bills player. Tasker was ejected from the contest for making contact with the referee as he rushed over to plead his case.
It is a moment the special team pro bowler regrets, but made him a hero in his own locker room.
“Steve Tasker’s Tales from the Buffalo Bills” is a quick read (171 pages) and an ideal gift for the Buffalo Bill fan in your life. The pro bowl special teamer includes all the names that your fan will fondly remember as well as prod some smiles from those they are reminded of.
Before the 2006 season gets underway, make “Steve Tasker’s Tales from the Buffalo Bills” the playbook for your red and blue fan.
Four Hudy Heads out of Five

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