Chris Michael

About Chris Michael

Chris handles play-by-play for RCN sports events, including baseball, football & basketball games and produces/hosts the station’s 60-minute live call-in show. Among Chris’s other responsibilities include reporting on local news & sports stories, conducting “Take 5” interviews with community and political leaders, producing commercials, voiceovers and promos; and generating blog entries and videos on the internet. Click here to listen to the weekly Sports Talk podcast.

The SportsTalk Shop: Summer Hoops 2017 (Part 1)

With area schools now out of session, high school summer league basketball action has been picking up speed this past week.

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The “SportsTalk​” cameras were out and about covering several different local tournaments in the RCN viewing area the last few days and caught up with a number of coaches and players to get their thoughts on summertime basketball thus far.

(For more of these interviews, plus additional video highlights of summertime basketball action, check out last week’s “RCN Sports Talk presented by the Morning Call” program available through RCN On Demand as well as this Thursday’s show.)

A few notes/observations on the summer basketball action…

*The Central Catholic girls basketball team looks to return to form this year. After a rare under-500 regular season last winter, the Vikettes have added both height and depth to a young but talented team. With an extra year of experience under their belts, Central’s players looked extremely confident (and efficient) in running Coach Kopp’s motion offense to near perfection in the Holy Family Tournament last week—claiming the #1 ranking heading into the final day of action with their scrappy style of play.

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*Northampton, Nazareth and Easton are three of a number of girls teams that lost significant players to graduation, but each has lots of talent coming up through its system. The K-Kids probably have the biggest gap to fill, replacing Aja Blount (who averaged over 20 points and almost 20 rebounds per game).

Easton has shown a strong back court presence, led by Jah’nel Oliver, who had 13 points in the Holy Family Championship game, and boasts several outstanding forwards as well, including Hanna Doell—who is back after missing last season with an injury.

Nazareth also some big shoes to fill and is still looking to establish its back court combination (and have a TON of unselfish ball distributors), but the Blue Eagles have lots of depth at every position (and even more height coming in) and no doubt will be among the top teams in the 6A classification once again this year.

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*Before I saw the Patriots last weekend, several parents (from opposing schools, no less) advised me to keep an eye on both Whitehall and Freedom girls teams—programs that were not considered about the elite teams last winter. Both squads have a number of young players coming up, and one player from a rival school that I talked with said she’s not looking forward to facing either of those teams again during the regular season.

We’ll have more interviews, video highlights and packages, both on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” program (7pm, LIVE) and here in the next installment of the “SportsTalk Shop.”

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Also, don’t forget to stop by Buffalo Wild Wings (Grape St., Whitehall, PA) this this Thursday night for this week’s show as we broadcast LIVE on location. Check out the “SportsTalk Gets Wild” page here on the RCN-TV website for more details on this show and for ways to help out a local organization!

 

The SportsTalk Shop: MLB Draft & Spring Sports Recap

One of the guests on our last “SportsTalk” program was MLBPipeline.com Senior Writer Jim Callis, who does an amazing job analyzing both high school and college baseball athletes all over the country.  Each year Jim and his colleagues preview hundreds of prospects—many stories accompanied by video highlights of the player—from all corners of the country—and beyond.

Previewing the MLB Draft is incredibly more complex than the NFL and NBA Drafts, with practically every potential football and basketball draftee having all their games now broadcast on television or internet outlets.  We’re fortunate to have someone like Jim on our program, with the depth of knowledge about potential baseball prospects for the professional baseball franchises in the RCN-TV viewing area and beyond.  Be sure to check out the entire interview on RCN On-Demand or on our weekly podcast for insights on all the top-tier prospects.

In the same way, on this Thursday’s show we’ll have Eric Longenhagen from “FanGraphs” to recap this year’s MLB Draft, with insights on the selections made by the Phillies, Nationals, Mets, Yankees and other teams in the RCN viewing area.   We’ll also have a discussion on the use of analytics in baseball—something that “FanGraphs” has excelled in providing to baseball players, coaches, front office personnel and fans alike.
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After a spring that saw some wild weather issues (the same season that included a record low and a record high temperature within two weeks), we will officially enter the summer season and, with it, conclude our spring sports coverage in the RCN-TV viewing area.

Additionally, there were equally wild games that we covered—both with our full-productions and on our weekly features on the “SportsTalk” programs.   Our spring sports broadcast coverage included the District XI 6A baseball championship game, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference baseball semifinals and final, the McDonald’s Football All-Star contest and Grandview Speedway auto racing.

Here are highlights of our spring sports productions:

Don’t forget, there are still a few weeks left to check out all of these productions in their  entirety for free by utilizing RCN’s On-Demand services!
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This week, I’m looking forward to my first look at Blue Mountain League Baseball game with the Orioles taking on the Royals.  The “BML Game of the Week” will be on RCN-TV every Tuesday evening at 9:30 featuring the top teams squaring off against each other in some of the best local amateur baseball action in the Lehigh Valley.

Finally, special thanks to NFL Network Football Analyst and Former Pro NFL Player Brian Baldinger for inviting me to a special event in Philadelphia this past week featuring area sportscasters, media members and special community leaders.  It was an honor to speak with and be included on a list of incredible broadcasters in the Delaware Valley.  Brian and fellow “Footballstories” Co-Creator Al Thompson do amazing work supporting the community—in addition to running a first-rate magazine, radio program and internet services—and I enjoyed my time with them and some truly great names in Philadelphia broadcasting.

Now, bring on the summer season…!

The SportsTalk Shop: “Simplifying” Sixers Draft Options

There has been lots of debate (partially because of the lack of any other positive sports news) in the Delaware Valley over the last few weeks about the 76ers’ upcoming NBA draft selections.  There have also been varying opinions and radical mock-draft shifts—some of which have no possible way of coming true.

In order to help cut through the misinformation and get Sixers’ fans ready for the June 22nd draft, here are a few “clear-cut” things to know in helping you figure out what Philadelphia will do.

1) Remember Your Needs 

  • a point guard (or point-forward) who can run the offense
  • a guard who can DEFEND the opposition’s point guard
  • a wing player who can shoot from the outside & stretch opposing team’s defense
  • a lock-down defensive player

After years of selecting the best available player in the draft, the time has clearly come when the Sixers must focus in on filling their biggest needs and not necessarily adding the most talented player available when making your pick(s).  You are probably looking at adding at least three players who can fill these needs, which is very important when looking at what the team must do over the next few weeks (and not just in the draft).

2) Careful Evaluation of Your Options
The conventional wisdom is that the Celtics select Markelle Fultz with the first pick and Lonzo Ball (and his controversial father) would head to the Lakers with the second pick.  That leaves four most probable players for the 76ers to decide on.

Here’s a scaled-down scouting report from CBS on the first three players most likely to be available:

  • Jayson Tatum – can play right away .. quality jump shooter potential .. a multi-positional defender
  • Josh Jackson – great defender .. physically ready to contribute … needs a consistent jumper in order to become a tremendous player
  • De’Aaron Fox – great speed … true PG .. a jump shot away from being frightening

Notice a pattern?  All three of these options are missing one of the biggest needs the Sixers have right now.

Of these three, Fox probably has the most upside and can be the biggest impact.  However, 76ers President of basketball operations and General Manager Bryan Colangelo made the rounds on many radio talk shows and podcasts clearly stating that he believes Ben Simmons is unquestionably going to be the point guard—on offense—for his team for the foreseeable future.  Unless he’s purely posturing (and he likely could be), selecting Fox would create a log-jam, pitting two of the team’s biggest names at the same position on the floor.  However, if you’re willing to NOT have your offense run through Simmons, Fox would add speed and a very strong point guard defender to your team.

Tatum and Jackson are similar players with minor differences and each could enhance your wing players—although not guaranteeing that you’d fill the much-needed role of an outside shooter, which brings us to option number four—Malik Monk.

Monk may be the best pure shooter of anyone in the draft and he would fill one of your biggest needs for a long time.  However, Monk doesn’t give you much size, he’s not a great defender and may only be a one-dimensional offensive weapon if he can’t find a way to score off his own dribble.  Selecting him with the 3rd pick in the draft would be a reach in a year in which the 76ers MUST take an impact player.

3) The Trade/Free Agent Factor

The 76ers have tried many times to add an established veteran, either through free agency or via trade over the last couple seasons, which virtually no success in adding an established presence.   Between not wanting to play in Philadelphia to outrageous financial demands to not finding a good dealing partner, Colangelo and Company have not been able to obtain a standout star to help fill in some of the gaps.  If they could add one or two pieces to solve SOME of the above needs, then that would make your first round selection much easier to figure out.

There are a few names out there who I think would vastly improve the team:

  • The Clippers’ JJ Riddick ($ 6.9-million AAV) is an unrestricted free agent, a great character guy, a great long-range shooter –not a star–but someone who wouldn’t be overly expensive to add. Would he want to come to a team that’s still a few years away from contending is the issue.
  • Denver’s Danilo Gallinari has great size (6’10), is a great-shooter and would be a great “stretch-four” (allowing Dario Saric to be a potent weapon off the bench) and would give you an established veteran presence, but his AAV last year was over $ 15-million and will command even more combined with a long-term deal that might prevent you from adding any other pieces.
  • Otto Porter is the youngest of the three names listed here and is an unselfish player who would fit in brilliantly with Simmons, Embiid and whichever star the Sixers would draft. His AAV was under $ 5-million but is a restricted free agent, and my contacts down in the Washington area all would be shocked if the Wizards don’t make a big push to resign him—meaning the Sixers would have to drastically overpay to add him.

The 76ers also could trade away their draft pick, to either move down and get a player like Monk, or package that to trade for another established player—if their front office is willing to go that route.

Only the Sixers front office knows to what lengths they’ll go to add a free agent or two, and what other teams would require in order to obtain that much-needed veteran.  If you could unlock that mystery, you would know exactly what Philadelphia is looking to for this year’s NBA Draft.

For more on the 76ers, the DMV’s Markelle Fultz and other NBA issues, check out the latest “SportsTalk” podcast featuring CBS Sports Radio Talk Show Host/Reporter Jon Johnson at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk

The SportsTalk Shop: Eagles & Phillies Prospects

This past week “SportsTalk” got to chat with some of the up-and-coming stars in both the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies organizations.

First, the Eagles and a preliminary look at some of our interviews:


You can see more interviews on the next live edition of “RCN SportsTalk presented by The Morning Call.”

The thing that was so impressive to me about the Eagles rookies we spoke with was their focus.  We interviewed them on a day in which nearly all the Philadelphia fans’ focus was on the issue of Fletcher Cox attending “voluntary” practices—which he did on this day (there was a incredible crowd of reporters/videographers around Cox in the locker room after practice).

The players we spoke with were very determined to acclimate themselves with the speed of the NFL game and learn from the veterans about all the nuances that come with playing on the pro level.  There were no big egos…only a quiet passion to try to improve their game and their skill-set and a desire to contribute in any way they can.

Derek Barnett, Rasul Douglas, Mack Hollins and Donnel Pumphrey all will have opportunities to contribute for the Birds this season…and all seem like they have the mental drive to be standout players for the Eagles for the foreseeable future.
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Fans of the Phillies are a little less optimistic right now based on the team’s win/loss record. However, there are still lots of reasons for hope down on their farm—especially within its current core of young outfield prospects.

(More Phillies prospects interviews available through RCN On-Demand and here on the RCN-TV website).

All three Triple-A starting outfielders—Dylan Cozens, Nick Williams and Roman Quinn—have some outstanding talent.  Cozens has bashed tremendously long home runs over the last few weeks (and was last week’s International League Player of the Week) but still strikes out quite a bit.

Williams, who had issues last season with intensity and not running hard on the bases, now hustles every time I see him.  He’s still not taking many pitches and hasn’t been as hot as some of this teammates, but he is also primarily hitting sixth in Lehigh Valley’s lineup and has not had the benefit of any consistent hitter behind him.

Quinn is such an exciting player and I think might be the first of the three outfield prospects to get a call up to the Big Leagues.  His issue in the past was staying injury-free—something he has been able to do so far in 2017.  But I don’t believe he’s been able to drive the ball with authority on a consistent basis and that might hurt him in the Majors.   Still, he’s been working on bunting and finding ways to get on base—something that would be most welcome with a Phillies lineup that has struggled overall this year.

I don’t think either the Eagles or the Phillies will be bringing home a championship banner in the next year or two.  But with exciting young players in both franchises a year or two away from potentially blossoming into superstars, it is worth fans pushing their patience level a little further in the realistic/slightly optimistic chance that much better days are almost within sight.

The SportsTalk Shop: Phillies, Lacrosse & Special Events

As we have crossed the Memorial Day weekend and are roughly two months into the pro baseball season.  Players have now gotten enough experience that you can start analyzing and evaluating performances.  With that in mind, we caught up with Morning Call Senior Sports Writer Tom Housenick (who covers the Phillies minor league affiliates) to talk about the Phillies, their farm system and get his thoughts on how well the organizations top prospects are doing…

Tom will be on the June 22nd edition of “SportsTalk” to go into more details about MLB & MiLB baseball issues.
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There are also some special high school teams and organizations I want to give shout-outs for their recent efforts.

First, the Allentown Central Catholic state winning girls volleyball team.  The Vikettes not only captured district and PIAA gold this past year (coming out of perhaps the most competitive area for volleyball in the entire state) but did a great job on last week’s “SportsTalk Goes Wild” show, on location at the Whitehall “Buffalo Wild Wings.”

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Head Coach Laurie Corcoran, her staff and her players had some great insights on their accomplishments, both this year, and in the program’s history (Central Catholic was the “original” girls volleyball champion in the Valley–winning the first one back in 2001).

This year’s squad shared some of their special memories and were very entertaining on our program.  We’d like to thank them for coming out on a rainy evening to be the stars of our show last Thursday.  If you missed it, RCN customers can watch the show for free (for up to two months) through RCN On-Demand!

Also, I want to single-out the teams who competed in the District XI girls lacrosse championships at Lehigh University this past week.  SportsTalk Videographer Alyssa Sheckler and I had the pleasure of taking in both title games last week, and both of us were very impressed with the competing teams.

Saucon Valley (winners of their first district lacrosse title ever, after not winning a single game five seasons ago) and Moravian Academy and then Parkland (the 3A winners) against a spirited Easton ball club made for two hard fought games.  The Panthers took the early lead in their title game but had to hold on as the Lions stormed back to make it close.  The Trojans and Red Rovers went back and forth all night before Parkland held the final possession for a one-goal victory.

Lacrosse doesn’t get the attention local baseball and softball receives (ironically, we tried to cover four different lacrosse matches this year–all of them got rained out or moved to different sites).   I, for one, was very impressed by all four representatives in the District XI championships (our features on those games are also available through RCN On-Demand).

Saucon, Parkland and Easton all move on and embark on the state tourney this week, and we wish all three local teams the best of luck in their state championship quest.

Thirdly, I wanted to mention an upcoming event held at William Allen high school. Canaries’ Senior Marcus Dileo Vereen was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia.  To help raise money to help with medical costs, the school is sponsoring #MarcusStrongDay on Saturday, June 3rd from 9am-2pm in the Allen cafeterias.  They are holding a blood drive, bone marrow registry drive, a bake sale, raffles, prizes, games and fun for all.  Support is desperately needed for this outstanding student (who is also dual-enrolled in college level classes).

For more information, you can call Susan Wood at 484-765-5197 or email her at Woods@qallentownsd.org.  You can also email the Allen Football Head Coach, George Clay, at claygf@allentownsd.org for details on this cause.

Last but certainly not least, June 3rd is also the date of this year’s Howard Deppe Memorial Baseball All-Star Event held at Fegley Field at Limeport Stadium.  There are multiple activities going on throughout the day to highlight local high school baseball all-star players, including a skills competition and home run hitting contest.  The event raises money and awareness for the American Cancer Society.

A representative will be on the next “SportsTalk” program to talk about this year’s festivities and let you know how you can help support and donate to this worthy cause.

The SportsTalk Shop: The “Pokemon Go Effect” on Sports

There is a charming game (that nearly everyone probably knows by now) that has been sweeping the world, that everyone can play for free (for the ‘basics’ anyway) on their cell phones and tablets, called “Pokémon Go.”

While my son is an expert (or he better be, with all the cards and accessories that I’ve paid for) and I know very little about the game itself, I do admit there are a number of benefits to participating in this activity.  It encourages people to get out, walk around and get some exercise and fresh air.  Also, it is a nice “unifying” event that helps bring people together, and it is something that people of many different ages, classes and demographics can participate in.

There are also times when I see parents so engaged in their cell phone activities that their little kids are getting into trouble or nearly get hurt themselves—being oblivious to things going on around them.  It’s also quite common now for couples to be holding hands while simultaneously frantically typing on their screens with the other hand while never exclaiming a word to each other.

But I am not here to pass judgment on social issues…and if that’s how love looks in 2017, then so be it.

The “disturbing” feeling that I sometimes get while watching people overly addicted to this activity at the expense of everything else around them, is the same emotion I have felt a few times during this school year when some (but certainly not all) teams seem to be trending down a similar path.

Let me explain.

I’ve noticed more than a handful of individual athletes—at different schools in different areas and in different sports—who seem largely focused on what is clearly most important to them—themselves.   Players who seem more interested in padding their stats, doing what’s in their best interest, and, in many cases, doing what their parents are telling them to do—even when in direct contradiction with his/her head coach.

The primary interest of these athletes’ parents appears to be to do what is best for them, for now and for their immediate future and, oh yeah, the coach better keep winning games so that my son/daughter can continue to get more and more exposure.

This year, I’ve noticed a slight spike in the already excessive amount of student-athletes (do people still use this term?) who coincidently/ironically/purposefully transfer out of schools at a time when their team’s win total is declining, and “moving” into school districts in which their new team’s win total is increasing.  More wins equal more media/internet coverage, which equals more exposure to college scouts which translates to scholarships and dollars in other areas.

Once the family makes this commitment, then the “new” coaches’ philosophies better change to accommodate their son/daughter or there’s going to be conflicts that quite frequently escalate to the school’s administration and school boards, which, as we’ve seen over time, frequently leads to the removal of coaches that parents don’t “approve” of—regardless of how successful or how many wins that coach has achieved in the past—or is currently achieving.

In one school district, speculation (in the absence of clear specified reasons) has left the very strong impression that the style in which a coach wins games is (now was) even more important than if the team succeeds.  This “theory” becomes more palpable when the new coach indicates operating in a style that will be more beneficial to the individual player(s).

Keeping your eye on your own game is key to having success in the world of Pokémon Go.  But encouraging an atmosphere where it’s acceptable for athletes to only care about their own self-interests at the risk of their school and community will undoubtedly continue to erode the waning interest in many high school sports programs that numerous districts are now facing.

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Don’t forget to stop by Buffalo Wild Wings on Grape St. in Whitehall this Thursday for our special “SportsTalk” show, honoring the Allentown Central Catholic Girls Volleyball Team for capturing a state championship title.  We’ll talk with members of the Vikettes during the hour- long program and you can have the opportunity to ask a question or make a comment, supporting their tremendous achievement. Also check out ways here on the website how you can also support a local charity at the same time! This week’s charity is LLS.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Bangor Baseball & More HS Spring Sports Notes

As we embark on the final month of the spring scholastic sports season, here are a few important news items you should know about.

One of the nice spring sports storylines—over the last two seasons, in fact—is that of the Bangor baseball team.

Last spring, the Slaters went on an almost unthinkable run of 23 consecutive victories, culminating with the school’s first Colonial League baseball championship since 1981.  While they lost significant talent to graduation, they brought back roughly half of their roster and were the odds-on favorite to repeat again this spring.

The league is clearly more balanced this spring; however, with many of last year’s up-and-coming prospects on other teams making the jump to becoming prime-time varsity talents this season.

The top of the standings have rotated schools almost on a weekly basis, with most every Colonial League game being very competitive—regardless of the competing teams’ win/loss record.

Despite many close games, Bangor clinched a berth in the playoffs last week with a 5-1 win over Catasauqua, thereby earning the right to truly defend its title in the league playoffs.

We had a chance to catch up with Head Coach Greg Hartman, pitcher Landon LaBar (who pitched a one-run complete game in the win over the Rough Riders, along with fellow senior, shortstop John Raub about last year’s record breaking season, the win over Catty, and the road ahead.

I’ve had the pleasure of being around a few of these athletes a few times over the last couple years, and they have always impressed me with their attitude, their obvious athletic talents and the way they pick each other up and grind out wins, regardless of the opponent.

The Colonial League baseball playoffs always seem to be very competitive all the way around, and the way the regular season has played out, I doubt very much this year’s post-season will be any less dramatic.
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Just a passing observation as I certainly don’t get a chance to see every game in person, but the local baseball games overall seem to have been have been much closer and more competitive than many of the high school softball games played this spring (“SportsTalk” co-host Keith Groller seemed to support this statement on last week’s show).

Both the Colonial League and the EPC have rotated different schools playing the role of “favorites” a few times, which defending Colonial champion Bangor falling as low as 4th at one point in their divisional standings.  Notre Dame, Wilson, Pen Argyl, Palisades, Southern Lehigh and Northwestern all have had strong springs and have chances to go deep in both leagues and districts.

By contrast, you could almost guarantee who wins the local softball teams in advance, with the top teams having their way with the rebuilding teams…and some significant territory separating the “haves” from the “don’t have just yets.”

Moreover, (again, it maybe just odd timing on my part), but every local baseball team I’ve seen has been decided by no more than three or four runs.

The “closest” softball game I’ve seen so far this spring was a 15-4 contest, although even that game was somewhat bizarre–the team that eventually lost initially had held a 4-0 lead going into the 5th inning, only to allow 15 consecutive runs in the fifth and loss by “mercy rule.”  Every other game I’ve seen has either had a wider margin of victory or some were even “mercy ruled” after just three innings of play.

Nevertheless, there have been some outstanding individual softball athletes this spring…the EPC just released its All-Star team this past weekend…

EPC Softball 2017 1st Team All

But now, records, individual accomplishments and margins of victory get placed on the back burner as we embark on the playoffs for most sports (tennis already started several weeks ago) and the excitement level and competitiveness start to rise this time of year.  It’s a great time to follow local sports!
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Also, the track and field post-season tournaments also have just begun.  Here’s the latest information received on our local boys and girls track athletes as they embark on the district, state team and individual playoff tournaments.

http://www.districtxi.com/spring/track–field-bg
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In addition, RCN’s full production schedule gets back in action this week.  Tune in for our high school baseball playoff coverage as Gary Laubach and Scott Barr will be calling the EPC semifinal games (on Wednesday) and the EPC Championship game live on Friday.  Remember to bookmark our broadcast schedule page here at RCN-TV and check back to get the latest details on RCN’s coverage of the District XI 6-A baseball championship coming your way in two weeks (weather permitting).

I’ll also be out-and-about over the next few weeks continuing to bring you high school sports and pro baseball interviews for “RCN SportsTalk” and here on the RCN-TV website!

The SportsTalk Shop: “Twin Peaks: The Return”

Most people who know me would probably label me as a “sports guy.”  I work in sports, I write about sports, I interview sports personalities…and when I’m home, I’m reading about and/or watching–when my son lets me have the remote–sports.  It’s pretty much what I’ve wanted to do with my life since I was very little.

But for once here at “The Shop,” I’m going to break my own mold and actually talk about a small part of my personality that was actually sparked by a quirky, landscape-changing television show from decades ago.  A program that, not coincidently, is returning to television this month.

The program is “Twin Peaks.”

Twin Peaks

Granted, I’m well aware that most people who were around when this show initially aired probably have a negative view of this show.  First, it was bizarre and cerebral, and if you don’t have the patience or a predilection to give a television program time to evolve, “Peaks” would probably not be for you.

Secondly, people assumed that it was a traditional mystery story—one that would reveal its penultimate puzzle, “Who killed Laura Palmer?” in a standard way, and in a short amount of time.  Instead, the mystery carried over into its second season, slowly losing fans who grew tired of every episode ending with a new cliffhanger—never fully answering the primary question that kept people coming back each week.   Ironically, the original show’s fate was sealed when its original broadcast network forced the show’s creators (David Lynch & Mark Frost) to reveal/capture/kill off Laura’s chilling killer…only to see its ratings (along with frequent network scheduling changes) plummet, forcing the cancellation of the show.

Until now.

It was truly groundbreaking television—one that has inspired many of today’s most popular directors, writers and movie/TV creators in a current climate more forgiving of people who like to “break the mold.” And, as someone who spent two years of my childhood following along with the “Twin Peaks” mysteries, the cliffhangers (naysayers called it ‘teases’) and all the twists and turns, it did inspire me to learn more about the film industry and put together a few short experimental films of my own.  It also taught me to think beyond the norm, don’t be afraid to try new things, and, for heaven’s sake, don’t ever take a single critic’s opinion too seriously.

The show holds a special place in my own personal history—and now, for a “limited run,” it’s back.

I don’t work on commission, so I can honestly say, with no personal gain, do yourself a favor and add Showtime to your RCN digital package if you don’t already subscribe. It is sure to be a very entertaining 18-episode run that will culminate with an early September finale.

But first, a few warnings!

Don’t expect instant gratification…don’t expect everything to be clearly presented to you…and by all means, give yourself time to let everything soak in and don’t make a quick opinion of the show—like many people do—mere minutes into watching it.  It’s been years since I first watched the program but I’ve kept coming back to it many times for its freshness and its creativity in its presentation.  I’ve given lectures on it when teaching college and high school radio/TV/film appreciation courses and I always find something new each time I go back and revisit the “Twin Peaks” television program and movies.

It’s been refreshing to hear younger viewers discover, watch and enjoy this show over the years…and I enjoy discussing other people’s views of the show—whether they understood its many otherworldly elements, or not.

Surely, not everyone will love it…and most certainly many viewers won’t necessarily ‘get it’… at least not right away.  But here we are, more than 26 years after the show went off the air. And it’s still something that is very fresh in my mind—both in terms of its creativity, its boldness and, for at least a little while, its inspiration.

The fact that demand has forced the show’s original creators to pick up the series where it left off almost three decades later, enforces something that I realized some time ago. Creating a different mold, doing things that may seem bizarre to some initially, or by going about things the “wrong way” (inside joke to the original series’ final episode intended) when developing something…might be the best possible thing you could ever do.

So as we approach the “debut” of the show’s return, here are a few pressing questions/issues I am most curious about…

SPOILER ALERT:  If you have not seen the original “Twin Peaks,” I suggest you binge watch Seasons One and Two (29 episodes total) through On-Demand, as continued reading will reveal major plot points.  You have plenty of time to get caught up on these episodes to gain an understanding of what this show is about.  Watching the full-length movie “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” (a prequel to the series) is also available, although you really should watch the television episodes first to “get” the hidden storylines woven throughout the film. 

  • How will the “good” Agent Cooper “get back” to Twin Peaks?

Will this be revealed in the initial episode, or will this quest be the plot that drives the entire Season Three?

  • Where’s Annie?

Even die-hard “Peaks freaks” must admit episodes 10-16 in Season Two are not the strongest of the series, but the Annie Blackburn story arc was one worth watching—leading to the grand series cliffhanger than fans have waited 27 years to see resolved.  However, Heather Graham, who portrayed Annie, is not listed in the show’s actor credits, so how can this question be resolved without this key figure on board?

  • What about Catherine?

Piper Laurie’s Catherine Martell was not one of the major characters as the show plotlines unfolded, yet Lynch has tried very hard to bring back nearly all of the shows initial leading characters (save Lara Flynn Boyle—who reportedly did not get along with certain cast members and Joan Chen—who ask to be written off the show during season two, a move she later regretted).  Laurie has always been a huge fan of Lynch and reportedly was shocked she was not asked to return.  But fans will remember she was already thought to be dead once during the show’s initial run (her name was taken out of the credits) only to return as another character…might history repeat itself?

  • How did Audrey Horne survive?

One of the Season Two cliffhangers involve a number or characters being blown up in a bank—nearly all of the actors portraying those characters have since passed, and the fictional reasoning for their characters’ fate is that they perished in the blast.  However, Audrey’s character (Sherilyn Fenn) is said to figure prominently in Season Three, so how does Lynch explain her return?

  • What about BOB?

One of the show’s key “bad guys” also died in 1995.  It’s hard to believe the series’ main story arc can continue without this central character’s image that was so engrained in the Peaks mythology.  Do they use stock footage of him?  Do they find a look-alike actor to portray him?  Does another character take his “role?”  Of course, this new season is said to contain several characters who died during the series—how these characters get driven back into the new episodes will be an intriguing issue to see resolved.

“Twin Peaks: The Return” premiers at 9pm on May 21 on Showtime.

The SportsTalk Shop: NFL Draft “Recap Thoughts”

As the dust beings to settle from this year’s NFL draft, a few observations on the picks by the Eagles and Redskins:

Most of these players were, in fact, available and, although I was very high on Eagles adding Foster to shore-up their linebacker core, I can’t argue with the logic of either team’s number-one selection.

      • Talking with Redskins insiders in the days leading up to the draft, they were unanimous in that Washington had multiple holes still to fill and that adding the “best available” player in each round was the way to go.  They did that, picking up a stud defensive lineman in Allen with their top pick and acquired value at several positions—all of them should benefit from the added depth.
      • Fabian Moreau was a good gamble for Washington to take with their third round pick. Unlike rounds 1 and 2 (see below), I don’t have a problem with selecting a top-tier player buoyed by injury concerns in round three.  Moreau clearly will not be available for training camp, but hopefully we can start to see his potential by the season’s second half.  With the league moving towards a more wide open/pass-happy offensive sets (and three WR looks becoming more prevalent), adding a physical corner with Moreau’s speed could be an excellent pickup for the Redskins.
      • The Eagles also had multiple options to strengthen areas of need, specifically cornerback, running back, offensive line and wide receiver. Their biggest gap was a corner—an area I thought the Birds needed to add at least three quality CBs in order to have a “successful” draft.  They responded by added one-and-a-half (Sidney Jones will probably not be available to play this fall). IF (and that’s a big IF) he returns in 2018 and plays up to his pre-injury capability, it will be a tremendous selection.  However,…
      • The Eagles still have gaping holes at corner, with their only other CB selection (and a good one at that) being Rasul Douglas. You could argue that Philadelphia will not be a realistic playoff contender this fall, so they could afford to wait a year and hope that Jones recovers completely from his Achilles tendon tear (same injury that felled Ryan Howard, btw).  But, you won’t really know how good Jones will be by this time next year, leaving the Eagles will virtually the same concerns in their secondary going into NEXT year’s draft.

Another somewhat questionable decision by the Eagles was to NOT target a bruising running back who get can you yards between the tackles.  In fact, with the Eagles decision to NOT bring a proven, short-yardage back and not adding depth along the offensive line, you may even have the same number of holes a year from now: corner, o-linemen, wide receiver (if either Alshon Jeffery and/or Torrey Smith don’t return), running back…clearly, this would be a ‘worst case scenario,’ but by gambling with your second round pick, this is a legit concern.

Now, if the Eagles are setting their sights on next year, when Penn State highly touted running back Saquon Barkley might be available…?

We’ll have more insights and analysis of this year’s NFL Drafts with NFL Beat Reporters Nick Fierro and George Wallace on this Thursday’s program, live at 7pm on RCN-TV.   Email us (rcnsportstalk@rcn.com) your thoughts on this year’s draft along with questions as teams get ready for “voluntary” workouts.
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Again, big “thanks” are in order for some of our local “AD-s” for sending us this week’s top track and field performers:

4-28-17 boys frosh
4-28-17 girls top 60
4-28-17 girls relays
4-28-17 girls frosh
4-28-17 boys top 60
4-28-17 boys relays

Colonial League Boys Week 5 Link
http://www.colonialleague.org/sports/boys/boys-track-field/

Colonial League Girls Week 5 Link
http://www.colonialleague.org/sports/girls/girls-track-field/

School administrators:  don’t forget to send us your news notes, top athletes and other special achievements to us as we continue to spotlight local student-athletes in the RCN viewing area each week.  Also, be sure to catch our local sports features on this week’s “SportsTalk” show as well!

The SportsTalk Shop: NFL Draft Thoughts/Sports Interviews

We had some great analysis and insights for this week’s NFL Draft on the most recent “RCN SportsTalk presented by The Morning Call” which you can see on RCN On-Demand or hear the podcast: rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk.

Here are a few more insights/observations that either didn’t make it to air or should be emphasized as we approach this week’s Draft:

1.  Neither the Eagles nor the Redskins should be picky: take the best available player!
Both teams have multiple holes to fill and are not any one position player away for making a major jump to becoming a Super Bowl contender. Take the best option / most talented player at the spot you pick — whether you move up or down — and find a place for him to utilize his talents!

2.  Stay away from Christian McCaffrey.
Unless you move down later into the first round he’s not going to be your best available player. Durable running backs can be found much later in the draft and NFL beat writers are mixed as far as how well McCaffrey will hold up as a between-the-tackles rusher. He’s a great talent and will be a great compliment player to a team that is already close to Super Bowl contention but neither the Redskins nor Eagles find themselves in that position right now and, although he’d be a great storyline for us in the media, avoid people that encourage picking up this Stanford back.

Our beat writers on this week’s “SportsTalk” discussed in more detail some areas that should concern fans that are going “all-in” for McCaffrey that you need to hear.

3.  Although not necessarily all flashy names, there are some outstanding talents both the Redskins and/or Eagles could pick up throughout the draft who could go a long way in helping each organization. 
Some of my top names for round one who could be available “mid-round” include:

  • LB Reuben Foster, Alabama  (although he’s MY pick, word is Arizona is heavily in on him) 

On our program, Al Thompson and Rock Hoffman also had an interesting rumor regarding a certain team’s interest in the controversial but ultra-talented running back Joe Mixon, along with some great insights on “diamonds in the rough” among later round draft picks that you can hear on the podcast.
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In addition to our pro sports coverage, our “SportsTalk” cameras have also been busy keeping up with local high school sports, including this past weekend’s Colonial League “Play Day” tournament…

We’d also like to thank Lehigh Valley track-and-field Chairs Bob Hartman and Brian Geist (EPC & Colonial League, respectively) for sending me the updated “performance list” for us to highlight the top male and female track athletes and their performances to date:

4-21-17 girls top 60
4-21-17 girls relay
4-21-17 girls frosh
4-21-17 boys top 60
4-21-17 boys relay
4-21-17 boys frosh

Colonial League Boys Week 4 Link: http://www.colonialleague.org/sports/boys/boys-track-field/
Colonial League Girls Week 4 Link : http://www.colonialleague.org/sports/girls/girls-track-field/

You can catch high school sports videos and interviews on this Thursday’s program, live at 7pm on RCN-TV, including a feature on the Saucon Valley track team that posted a major tri-meet win for both its girls and boys teams last week.  We’ll also have coverage a big girls lacrosse battle—tune in for details!