Gary Laubach

About Gary Laubach

Gary began his broadcasting career with Twin County in 1972. Twin County eventually became C-TEC and then RCN. Gary holds the dual role of Director of Media Services and Sports Director/Broadcaster. He currently broadcasts about 140 sports and entertainment broadcasts a year, and oversees the scheduling of all sporting events for RCN.

Behind the Mic: Dead Pool

I am the Sports Director at RCN.  RCN has only one Sports Director.  I am their guru of sports, right?

The RCN Fun Committee (notice the word “Fun”) runs an NCAA pool every year.  There is no money involved.  Anyone can enter and the prizes are donated by the company and are minimal.  In other words, it’s “for entertainment purposes only.”

One would think the Sports Director would have the inside track to victory or, at the very least, a top three spot or a top ten spot.  Or a place with the word “top” in it.  One would think that, right?

There are 63 games played in the tournament.  I already know that I will only get 35 right or 56% correct (I rounded up).  You see, I only have North Carolina in the Final Four and I have them losing that game.  My pool is over – Kaput!  Who would have guessed that Gonzaga, South Carolina, and Oregon would be in the semifinals?  Gonzaga and South Carolina have never been there and Oregon only once before even I was born.

Before Sunday’s games, I was trailing sixteen other fellow workers.  That’s not so bad, I guess.  Okay, Mr. Sports Director, it’s VERY bad!

To make matters worse, I have an arch–enemy in the pool.  Let’s call her Laura because that’s her name.  She takes great pleasure in challenging me and is not shy about rubbing it in when she is ahead.  She beat me last year and was quite obnoxious about predicting that she would do it again this year.  I considered last year a fluke.  She did not. And she took any opportunity to announce to everyone that she had embarrassed the Sports Director.  I was determined not to let that happen again.

I guess I was not determined enough.  Not only is she beating me, Laura is currently beating everyone.  She is in FIRST PLACE!  Out of 38 players, she has the lead!  Now, she may not win (she has Kansas to win the Championship), but she will certainly beat me and beat me badly.  I cannot earn another point with the three games that are yet to be played.  I have Duke and Kansas winning the semifinals.  Since their uniforms are washed and stored away for another year, that will not happen.  In fact, I can only go down; I cannot go up.

So Laura will beat me again!  Do you know how hard that is to type?

So for those of you who think that Sports Director is, obviously, a misnomer for me, then I can guarantee you that so is “Fun Committee” and “for entertainment purposes only”.  You see, again this year, I have had neither fun, nor entertainment.  Now if the company would just form an Embarrassment Committee, I would be the first to sign up.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. The Bethlehem Catholic AAAA girls’ basketball team won the PIAA State Championship! It was their first state championship in girls’ basketball.  They thumped Villa Marie -Erie 46-27 and finished the season with a 30-2 record.  They won all five of their state games with double-digit wins.  They were dominating.  Congratulations to Coach Medina and the girls.
  2. In the ESPN MLB power rankings, they have the Phillies as #24 out of thirty teams. They also picked them last in the NL East.  This doesn’t offer up much hope for the season.
  3. Speaking of Philadelphia desperation, the Flyers are six points behind for a wild card berth in the NHL and there are three other teams ahead of them. The Sixers, well, are the Sixers – no playoffs again this year.
  4. It appears that the Oakland Raiders will relocate to Las Vegas. 24 votes were needed as I write this and the league office said the result will be “positive”.  I bet (no pun intended) legal gambling across the country on NFL games will soon follow.
  5. The Giant Center held all 12 boys’ and girls’ PIAA championship games this past week. The highlight was the Reading-Pine Richland AAAAAA game. 9, 531 fans filled the Center, as Reading won their first state title in school history 64-60.  Reading has played basketball for 118 years; has won over 2000 games, but they had never won a state title.  Until now.

 

Behind the Mic: Thrill; Agony

From 1961-1998, I regularly would watch The Wide World of Sports on ABC.  Jim McKay was the host and the show’s introductory video and catchphrase was “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”.  Those words were spoken over a celebration of a great win followed by a ski jumper severely crashing during a competition.  The pictures and the phrase became ingrained into the psyche of every regular viewer.

That phrase came back to me this past week while broadcasting the two Emmaus state basketball games.

Let’s start with the “thrill of victory”.  Emmaus had beaten Cheltenham 68-67 the previous Saturday to advance to the PIAA State second round.  They were the only AAAAAA boys’ team left from the Lehigh Valley because both Allen and Parkland had already been beaten.  The irony of their participation is that up until this year when the PIAA added six classifications, Emmaus would not have even gotten into the state playoffs.  With the additional classes, four teams were eligible and Emmaus was the fourth.

That set up a one day snow-delayed matchup with the Harrisburg Cougars, the #1 team out of a very strong District 3 at Reading High School.  Harrisburg had beaten Reading in their District playoffs and they were now considered the favorite to make it to the state championship game.  In a thrilling game with a nail-biting finish, Emmaus won 64-61 and, for the first time in school history, would move on to play in the state quarterfinals.  They would be part of, in NCAA March Madness lingo, the Elite Eight!  The celebration that followed was the definition of “the thrill of victory”.

That set up a return trip to Reading for Emmaus as they would take on the Carlisle Thundering Herd for a place in the state semi-finals.  Harrisburg had beaten Carlisle twice and they were in the same district as the Cougars.  They entered the playoffs as the #5 team in District 3.  Emmaus certainly could enter this game knowing they were every bit as good as their opponent.  And they were.

Emmaus led by six at the end of one period and by ten at the half.  They still led by ten with just 3:05 to go in the game.  But… Carlisle waged a comeback.  Emmaus still could clinch the win as they led 62-59 with 7.9 seconds to go.  Emmaus’ all-time leading scorer, David Kachelries, a 76% free-throw shooter, went to the line to shoot one free throw (he had made his first six of the game, but missed his previous three).  Make it and the Hornets are in the state semi-final; miss it and the Herd still needed to make a three-point shot to send the game into overtime.  He missed and Ben Milligan made a three at the buzzer to tie the game at 62.  “Thrill” and “agony” by anyone would be delayed.

Emmaus needed three free throws on one trip to the foul line by David’s twin brother, Matt Kachelries, to send the game into a second overtime.  He calmly went to the foul line and made all three.  The first overtime ended 69-69.

But the second overtime period ended with Carlisle controlling the scoreboard and the Thundering Herd galloped to a 78-74 win.  The Emmaus season was over.  The Kachelries twins had scored an amazing 57 points in the game and that was still not enough.

David ended his career with 1,910 points and Matt finished with 1,027.  Matt had missed two-thirds of his sophomore year due to injury or his total would have been much higher.  Emmaus finished with one their greatest and most memorable seasons ever.

None of that mattered though at @ 6:30pm on Saturday night as the Green Hornets and Coach Steve Yoder walked off the floor in Reading.  Much like the skier in the Wide World of Sports intro, they were severely suffering from “the agony of defeat”.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. The Bethlehem Catholic AAAA girls’ basketball team is the last team standing from the Lehigh Valley. As I write this, they are preparing to play Gwyned Mercy in the PIAA semifinals.  A win would get them into the state championship game.  Congratulations to Coach Medina and the girls.  Go Hawks!!
  2. How are you doing on your NCAA bracket? I assume many of you had Villanova and Duke to go far into the tournament and even winning it all.  I had Duke making it to the Final Four.  I still have Arizona, Kansas, and North Carolina alive to make the Final Four.  I heard a lot of moans and groans this past weekend.
  3. It is hard to imagine that the next Eastern Pennsylvania Conference basketball season could match this one. Losing so many stars like Sam Iorio, Kevin Wagner, the Kachelries twins, Tyrese Martin, Talek Williams, etc. will be hard to duplicate for a very long time.
  4. He gets a mention every week – Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman of Central Catholic is still playing in the NCAA tournament. Muhhammad starts and plays as many minutes as anyone for Michigan.  He scored 16 against Oklahoma State and some vital points down the stretch against Louisville as his team moved on to the Sweet Sixteen.
  5. My usual reaction at the end of the basketball season is how fast winter flew by. Except this year, the season has come to a close and winter continues to rear its ugly head.  C’mon!  What’s a golfer to do?

Behind the Mic: Bracketology

Northwestern is in!  For the first time in school history, the Wildcats are in the NCAA tournament after winning 23 games this season.  Can they win their first game ever when they take on Vanderbilt in Round One?

Before we get to that, there are more important things to consider – which of the 68 teams will win their bracket and move on to the Final Four?

WEST
Gonzaga (32-1) was given the top seed in this bracket.  There are many who believe that, despite their 29 straight wins before a loss to BYU, top seed was only possible because they played a weak schedule.  With that said, they have beaten the #2 team in this section – Arizona.  Gonzaga has never made it to the Final Four.  And… they will not make it again.  They will lose to Arizona in the Regional final.

And, by the way, Northwestern will lose to Vanderbilt in the first round.

MIDWEST
Kansas (28-4) is #1 in this region and the committee selected them #2 overall in the tournament.  They were the Big 12 champions.  I like the way Michigan played in the Big 10 tournament and they have local favorite Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman.  I like Michigan to beat Oklahoma State in their first-round game, but then they run into Louisville and their season will end.  Louisville will play Kansas in the Regional final.  Kansas is a potential national champion and will win this region.

SOUTH
After winning the ACC tournament championship, many expected Duke to garner this top spot.  Instead it went to North Carolina (27-7), a team that Duke beat two out of three times.  Time will tell if this was a wise decision by the committee.  It is probably their most questionable top seed.  It appears that UCLA or Kentucky would be their biggest challenge and that can only happen in the Regional final.  UCLA’s Lonzo Ball is certainly one of, if not the best, freshman in the country.  So I like UCLA vs North Carolina in the final.  North Carolina wins.

EAST 
I saved the East for last.  Can Villanova (31-3) do it again?  They are good enough to do it and they are certainly battle-tested having played one of the toughest schedules in the nation.  If, as many believed, Duke should have been a #1, then Villanova may have the toughest road to the Final Four because Duke is #2 in this region.  And it should come down to these two outstanding teams.  I would rather see Villanova win, but I think Duke wins this game.

FINAL FOUR
                        Kansas vs North Carolina
                        Duke vs Arizona

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
                        Duke vs Kansas
 
NATIONAL CHAMPION
Kansas

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. It was certainly not the weekend that local basketball fans expected when our 15 boys’ and girls’ teams played in the first round of the PIAA basketball playoffs. Only four of our teams advanced into the second round of playoffs.  Northampton, Bethlehem Catholic, and Southern Lehigh girls moved on, but only the Emmaus boys won their game against Cheltenham by a 68-67 score.  It was shocking that the Allen boys, Bethlehem Catholic boys, and the Easton girls lost.  What is the adage – “That’s why you play the game.”
  2. If the local basketball players disappointed over the weekend, the District XI wrestlers did not – Lehigh Valley AAA wrestlers claimed four state titles, two runner-ups, and 18 total medals. Nazareth won the team title, had two state champions, and Coach Dave Crowell was named Coach of the Year for a record sixth time.  In AA, eight local wrestlers won medals.
  3. Parkland boys’ basketball lost to Archbishop Ryan on Saturday, indicating, once again, just how powerful the Philadelphia Catholic League teams are. Ryan was the #3 team out of District 12 and they were every bit as good as any team here in the Lehigh Valley.  They beat Parkland by 24 – enough said.
  4. The Bucknell men will face West Virginia in their opening round NCAA matchup in the West Region. Bucknell was seeded #13 and that’s impressive for the Patriot League. West Virginia is the best team in the nation at forcing turnovers, so this will not be a pleasant experience for the Bison.  But I will cheer them on and hope for the upset.
  5. One final note about the Allen Canaries – this team under Doug Snyder made basketball in Allentown meaningful and exciting again. No team had a more supportive fan base and their energy migrated out to other communities once basketball fans got to see them.  It was a great year ending in disappointment, but thanks for so many memorable individual plays and games.

Behind the Mic: March 1 Madness

Any true basketball fan is well aware of March Madness – the term that indicates basketball season is coming to an end, but not before the colleges and high schools battle for conference, district, state and national championships.  It normally builds each week until the final games are played.

For Lehigh Valley fans, March Madness began a bit early – on March 1!  That is the night that District XI decided to take their AAAAAA boys’ semifinals to the PPL Center in center city Allentown.  PPL had hosted two college basketball games in the past and a professional exhibition game, but it had NEVER hosted a high school game.  No one was quite sure what to expect.

District XI officials worried that they may have taken on more than they should have in terms of rental costs and expectations.  After all, the place held 8,000 people, but up until game night “only” 3200 tickets had been sold.  PPL cooperated to make the fees more palatable, but the numbers were still risky, for sure.  What both had going for them were the teams themselves and the individual talent.

You see, this was a basketball “perfect storm”.  There were four great teams (17 total losses – eight losses by one team) and many of those losses coming when they played one another.  There was a plethora of great talent (seven 1,000 point scorers) who, by themselves, were well worth the price of admission all year long.  Three of the four teams had their school’s all-time leading scorer and one school had two players who went back and forth for that honor each time they took the floor.  And there was Allen High School; a team that had grabbed a hold of their fan base in December and watched it grow to immense numbers by the end of the season.  These were four teams who were so talented and so successful that no Lehigh Valley gymnasium could hold the crowd.

Fans poured in when the doors were unlocked.  The upper deck seating, originally thought to be unnecessary, started to be occupied by halftime of the first game.  The fans just kept coming.  By the time the first quarter of game two rolled around a “Sold-Out” sign had to be posted at the ticket windows.  The final count was a paid attendance of 7,661 and an estimated final tally of over 8,000 people, the largest crowd to watch a high school game ever in the Lehigh Valley.  It really didn’t matter so much who won the games, because everyone – coaches, players, and fans, won that night.

Congratulations to all who put this together, who had the foresight to give it a chance.  It is hard to imagine that teams this good, with players this talented, and fan interest this high will happen for a long while, but, on this night, in this arena, with these four teams, it was awesome.

PPL Center

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. If you were wondering where District XI big basketball games were played in the past, when there were NO really big gyms, I can tell you that it was NOT in District XI. Way back when I was playing at Wilson High School, we played Bethlehem High School in the District semifinal at the Harrisburg State Farm Show Arena.  We won and returned to Harrisburg for the championship against Larry Miller’s Catasauqua team.  There were @ 8,000 people for each of those games.  Only one classification existed back then.  Catty beat us, if you care.
  2. The Lafayette women’s basketball team beat Holy Cross on Saturday. With the win, they became the first Patriot League #10 seed to win a tournament game.  They were getting better as the year progressed and their hard work paid off.
  3. The Northeast Regional Wrestling championships were an absolute showcase for Lehigh Valley wrestlers. Nazareth had six champions; Bethlehem Catholic had four; Northampton two; and Freedom one.  That’s thirteen out of fourteen – amazing results.  And talk about fans – perhaps, this is the next high school event at PPL.
  4. The Bucknell men will face Lehigh on Sunday, March 12, for the Patriot League basketball championship.
  5. Congratulations to Brad Pensyl, the coach of Pocono Mountain West for winning the District XI AAAAAA basketball championship. It was his second and it will be his last.  After 28 years (making the Districts in every one of those years), he has decided to retire.  He will move into administration at Pocono Mountain.  Brad will be very hard to replace and I will miss him on the sidelines.

 

Behind the Mic: By the Numbers

With the PIAA and District XI classifications in basketball going from four to six this year, there were a record number 80 teams that qualified for the playoffs in both boys and girls.  Obviously, some of these teams are not in our viewing audience, but most are.  Putting together a broadcast schedule and gathering the information for those broadcasts is a difficult task.

This past season produced some of the best team and individual performances ever.   The Nazareth, Easton, Southern Lehigh, Bethlehem Catholic and Notre Dame girls had outstanding regular seasons.  Losses were few and far between.

On the boys’ side, Allen got to districts as the number one team in the state, but Parkland, Emmaus, Pocono Mountain West, Bangor, and Bethlehem Catholic were all mentioned in the state rankings, also.

Individual players on these teams created, perhaps, the most talented group we have ever seen in one season.  I fear mentioning names because I will forget someone so, suffice it to say, that this week I did a double header that featured seven 1,000 point scorers – seven!!  To have a couple reach this individual milestone each year is the norm.  We have seen fantastic dunks, amazing point productions, and great team play.

This was a special year, for sure, and with it, came the challenge of many more games.  Preparing for this many games in such a short time is a labor of love, but it would be virtually impossible to properly research all of these games without the cooperation of the coaches and the statisticians.  This time of the year there is, often, just one day to get starting lineups, updated stats, officials, background, etc – information necessary to present a quality broadcast.  Add to that the possibility that the RCN crew will be going into gymnasiums that we have not been at previously.  This, too, requires advanced site surveys and logistical decisions to lay all the wire and get the proper camera angles.

It is certainly a time of necessary chaos, but through the cooperation of athletic directors, coaches, stat guys, and school personnel, it gets done.  Basketball is a game of numbers – threes made, foul shooting percentages, rebounds per game, points per game, assists, steals, blocked shots, team shooting percentages, scoring averages, free throw percentages – the list can go on and on.

So before I start to prepare for the next double header, I just want to thank everyone who helps to make our product better.  There is plenty of basketball left to be played and, before I get caught up in the state playoffs, I just wanted to thank those who help along the way.  Those numbers of people are the most important numbers of all.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Gonzaga lost their last regular season game of the year against BYU. But does it mean anything as we head to March Madness?  Probably not – with Villanova, Kansas, and North Carolina solidified as the top regional seeds, Gonzaga should and will get the other spot.  The only change may be that Kansas or Villanova will probably be ranked #1 this week.
  2. Will Michigan get into the NCAA playoffs? Will Central Catholic’s Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman get a chance to show the hometown fans his skills?  As I write this, he has started 28 of the 29 Michigan games, is the fifth leading scorer (8.9) and is fourth on the team in minutes played.  Michigan is 19-10 and should get a serious look by the committee.
  3. I know that NFL rumors abound this time of the year, but there is talk that DeSean Jackson AND LeSean McCoy might both be back in Eagles’ uniforms this year. Jackson is a free agent and Buffalo may want to get rid of McCoy.  I don’t like acquiring either one.  What do you think?
  4. Tim Tebow went into broadcasting after his NFL failure and, word is, he is very good at analysis on SEC Network and ESPN. But it appears he still wants to compete.  He is trying professional baseball, a sport he has not played since high school.  Remember Michael Jordan? – that didn’t go so well.
  5. First it was Steve Harvey at the Miss Universe contest announcing the wrong name and this past Sunday the wrong Picture of the Year was announced at the Oscars due to some envelope confusion. Embarrassing to say the least. I feel a little better now when I call the wrong player in the heat of a game.  The difference is that I can’t blame anyone else.

 

 

Behind the Mic: Packed House!

This past Friday, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference girls’ and boys’ basketball championships were held at Freedom High School.  Seating capacity at Freedom is @ 2700.  All those seats were filled.

By the third quarter of the first game, it became obvious that the gym would be sold out.  As we were doing game one, District XI personnel had to go tell the long line of people standing outside that many of them would not get in to see the game(s).  And as regretful as that message was to those who came to see great basketball, it was just as rewarding to know that so many people had gotten caught up in the Lehigh Valley basketball scene this year.

And it was easy to see why.  The Bethlehem Catholic girls had lost only twice and neither loss was to a Lehigh Valley team, but to two highly-respected programs – Cardinal O’Hara of Philadelphia and Rock Creek Academy of Maryland.  Their opponent, Easton, had only three losses and two of those were to Bethlehem Catholic by 18 and 19 points.  However, Easton was the defending champion and played like it.  The game came down to a final possession and Beca forced a turnover and won by five: 45-40.  Both teams played as hard as they could.

There was even more electricity surrounding the boys’ championship.  Allen was the #1 team in the state.  They were 23-1, with their only loss in overtime to (you guessed it) their opponent – Bethlehem Catholic.  To increase the drama, Allen had beaten Beca earlier in the season, but by only one.  The stage was set for a great battle.

It never happened.  The #1 Allen Canaries jumped on the Hawks early and never looked back.  With exciting and dramatic plays coming at a frenetic pace, Allen led at the half by 23.  But no one left the gym.  With Allen, you can expect plays, at times, that you have never seen before – whether it be passing, blocking, or, most dramatically, dunking.  No one wanted to miss the play everybody would be talking about tomorrow.  Allen supplies those plays every time they step on the court.  So… almost everyone stayed right up to the medal and trophy ceremony.

It was a great night for Lehigh Valley basketball.  Four good teams battling for two championships before a sold-out, standing room only packed house!  Hopefully, those who were turned away went home and joined the others watching the games on RCNTV.  High school basketball doesn’t get any better.

Or does it?  District playoffs begin this week!  Can’t wait!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. If you like offensive basketball, then I am pretty sure you enjoyed the NBA All-Star Game this past Sunday. The game ended with the West defeating the East by the ridiculous score of 192-182 and Anthony Davis broke Wilt Chamberlain’s scoring record by scoring 52 points.  It seems obvious that the game was only played at the offensive end of the court.
  2. November 17, 2014 is a long time ago, but that is the last time the Connecticut women’s basketball team lost a game – in double overtime to Stanford. 26 months ago! Following this past weekend, they have now won 101 straight games.  On Saturday, they only won by three points over Tulane.  That was the second smallest margin of victory in the streak.  Could the streak end this year?  Stay tuned.
  3. Dustin Johnson won the Genesis Open golf tournament this weekend and jumped to #1 in the world rankings. He is the 20th player to get to #1 in the 31 years of the rankings.  He replaced Jason Day, who held the spot for 47 weeks.
  4. The NBA dunk contest is being rivaled every time the Allen basketball team steps on the floor. Talek Williams and Tyrese Martin produce a highlight reel in just about every game.  The behind-the-back, between-the-legs pass by Martin to create a resounding dunk by Williams in the EPC Championship game this past Friday was just awesome.
  5. It’s PIAA playoff time and, for the first time, there are six classifications for both the boys and the girls. That means games almost every night.  Pay close attention to the TV schedule as we wind our way through the next month.

 

 

 

Behind the Mic: Ho-Hum!

Now what?  The Super Bowl has been played so there will not be any football for quite awhile.  The NBA and the NHL are in full swing, but for my interest is limited to the playoffs.  College basketball is heading to March Madness with league and conference championships right around the corner, but that’s still a few weeks away.  I do watch Villanova when I can and I pick up a Michigan game here and there just to watch former Allentown Central Catholic and Michigan starter, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, play.  Villanova was on this weekend and so was Michigan.

So, for me, that leaves golf.  There is nothing like the scenery offered up this past weekend at Pebble Beach in California.  With the sun shining brightly, there was beautiful green grass surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.  Even if you were not a golf fan, like my wife, the sight of beaches and whales and yachts and sailboats even drew her in.  For me, when Jordan Spieth is near the top, I will watch.  He has become my new “Tiger”.  I used to watch any tournament that had Tiger in contention, but, as I am sure you know, his back surgery has kept him away and “contention” is a long way off.

Spieth took a six-shot lead into Sunday and for that reason there was little excitement.  Now I would be thrilled if I could move from hole to hole and just get pars, which is what Spieth was doing.  He was playing “prevent defense” and there was no one in the field who could produce a New England Patriots comeback.  Spieth just moseyed his way around the course, had an early and late birdie, and settled for the victory, his ninth on the PGA tour.

Tiger won nine times in 61 starts.  This was Jordan’s 100th pro start.  But does that matter?   Spieth is now the measuring stick.  Tiger bowed out of the last two events he was scheduled for after coming back.  He was able to play just seven rounds before his back forced him to stop again.  He may never be back.

The good news is there are plenty of terrific, young golfers on the tour and they will make each week a true crapshoot.  My problem is I tend to latch on to a favorite and follow that golfer.  The good news is, for me right now, that golfer is Jordan Spieth.  He is polite, seems to have good family values, has ties to Saucon Valley, and is very competitive.  And, if he is not having a good week, the scenery is still beautiful!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. 76ers center Joel Embiid has been on the sideline with a torn meniscus in his left knee, yet he was caught dancing shirtless on stage at a concert this past weekend. He missed the entire 2014-15 season with a broken bone in his foot and went on to miss the entire 2015-16 season.  He played this season until February 11 when he tore his meniscus.  It just doesn’t sound like he should be dancing.
  2. You probably would not be surprised to learn that the Tom Brady NFL jersey is the #1 seller. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is #5.  His jersey accounted for more than 50% of all Eagles’ jerseys sold.  Fletcher Cox is #2 among the Eagles, but #3 will surprise you.  The third highest selling Eagles jersey belongs to Brian Dawkins who has not played for the team in almost ten years.  You now have a good trivia question.
  3. Since 2001, the New England Patriots have a 196-60 regular season record. No team is within 30 wins of that record. They have played in seven Super Bowls in that time span and, surprisingly, every one has been decided by one score or less.  In fact, their average point spread in all seven games is 3.7 points.  Remember, they beat the Eagles in 2005 by a 24-21 score.  Sounds like they could have won them all or lost them all.
  4. Most people around here are Villanova fans and they are currently ranked #2 in the country after spending the early part of the season at #1. Gonzaga has that spot right now and they are 26-0.  It does not appear, looking at their schedule, that the Bulldogs will lose a regular season game.  Villanova should get a #1 seed in the tournament and then prove they deserve the #1 spot overall.
  5. Don’t ask me why, but I watched the Grammys on Sunday night. Thank goodness there were excellent performances during the BeeGees and Prince dedications because almost everyone else was bad or chose a bad song, including Queen Bee (yet no one will say it!); Lady Gaga who killed at the Super Bowl but not so much with Metallica; and even Adele when she sang the George Michael tribute song.  Some great talent wasted.

 

 

 

Behind the Mic: Thoughts on #51

I do not think anyone would argue the fact the Super Bowl #51 was one of, if not the best, Super Bowl game ever.  The drama, the comeback, the overtime, the improbable plays, etc. all made for just a tremendous game.  And the telecast had everything from the commercials, to the human interest, to the Gaga extravaganza.  As I watched the game, I made some random notes about it all.  I thought I would share them with you in just the random way I wrote them down.

  1. Joe Buck made an early mistake calling an Amedola catch an Edelman catch and then he compounded it by making the mistake again after correcting himself. Obviously, I have been there and from experience I can tell you there is nothing worse than getting off to a bad start during a broadcast.  It affects you right away.  Naturally, Joe Buck recovered much better than I ever did.  I like Joe Buck and Troy Aikman – I am not sure why so many do not.
  2. Don’t you want WATSON to do your taxes? That’s what H&R Block says they are using.  I just get a sense WATSON would find ALL the possible deductions.

  1. There was a small snippet about motorized tackling dummies used for the safety of the players. It was intriguing, but fleeting.  I certainly wanted to know more.  I guess whoever promoted it couldn’t afford more air time.
  1. To me, the Honda yearbook commercial was the best and the most creative. It took quite awhile to realize it was a Honda commercial, but the message to chase your dreams from yearbook “nerds” who did just that was intriguing and meaningful.

  1. The Bradshaw stain followed by the journey to a Tide removal was funny. Even James Brown got into the act later in the game.

  1. Watching Julio Jones of the Falcons make catches is sheer artistry. He comes off as being almost superhuman.  He would have been the hero if…
  2. The last offensive play by New England, a flat pass instead of throwing into the end zone, was the worst call of the game. Time could have easily run out if the receiver had not been tackled right away.  Therefore, no field goal and, therefore no overtime, and therefore, no victory.  A win made that play disappear from everyone’s memory.
  3. Did you find the CURE auto insurance with Todd approaching Mandy the creepiest commercial of the day? The message was “don’t follow too closely”, but Todd was a weird stalker.  It was not funny and bordered on “icky”.

  1. How will someone follow the Lady Gaga spectacular? From the 400 drones (amazing), to the leap from the stadium roof, to the show itself, Gaga delivered a Super performance!
  2. In the midst of a critical third down play by Atlanta at the start of the second half, I assume, like me, all of Pennsylvania got an Amber alert. The system, obviously, works.  It can even interrupt the Super Bowl.  I hope the little girl was found and is back home safely.
  3. Did you wonder, as I did, why New England did not seem to be in any hurry offensively when they were down 28-3? And the slow and steady pace continued right into the fourth quarter.  There was no sense of urgency except in my family room.
  4. There must have been @ 10 commercials that I either did not know the product or did not understand the connection to a product. Is that a good commercial?  I’ll check with marketing.
  5. I want an Alfa Romeo!

  1. In the excitement of the New England late drives, it seemed like everyone on the broadcast forgot about the spectacular Julian Edelman catch. He deserved more credit for the victory.
  2. Tom Brady IS the best quarterback ever!
  3. The NFL overtime rule is totally unfair. Each team should have the opportunity to have a possession.  Allowing a coin toss and one successful drive is unfair to the opponent.
  4. I know there are plenty of Brady haters, but the scene with his mother after the game was heartwarming.
  5. I saw Bill Belichick smile!
  6. The New England crowd booed during the entire Roger Goodell trophy presentation, remembering Deflategate and the Brady suspension.  Maybe that is when Belichick smiled!
  7. My blog prediction last week was New England – 31 Falcons – 27; it was 34-28 – pretty close!

 Final results – NFL Picks – Last week – 1-0
169-95-2 – 64%

 

 

 

Behind the Mic: #51 Should Be Fun

The stage continues to be set for Super Bowl LI (that’s #51 for those of you who are not Romans).  This matchup between New England and Atlanta looks like it could be one of the best games ever.

You know the names – Tom Brady and Bill Belichick versus Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.

Atlanta, this year, was the 8th highest scoring team in NFL history and Bill Belichick is the best defensive mind in NFL history and this year was no exception – the Patriots have the top-scoring defense in the league.  New England has Tom Brady, but Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn made Brady and the Patriots very uncomfortable when he was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.  The Falcons, however, gave up more than 400 points during the regular season.

In the playoffs, the Falcons outscored Seattle and Green Bay by an 80-41 combined score.  Matt Ryan threw for 730 yards and seven touchdowns.  And Julio Jones is a super-human receiver.  During these playoffs, he became the first player in NFL history to put back-to-back 150+ yards receiving and two touchdown games together.  Belichick is known for saying he designs a defense to take away the opposing team’s best player.  That is Julio Jones.  If that becomes New England’s goal, then Mohamed Sanu and company should have a big day.

But, you must consider the fact that New England and Belichick have had two weeks to prepare for the Falcons’ offense.  Consider, too, the intangible motivation – the Patriots taking the trophy from Roger Goodell after the four-game suspension penalty imposed on the Patriots and Tom Brady to start the season.  The Patriots have been solid in the playoffs – easily beating the Ravens and Steelers.

So who will win out?  This year’s probable MVP – Ryan, or, perhaps, the greatest QB of all time, Brady?  You have two great defensive minds going against two outstanding offensive units.

I think we can expect lots of scoring – the over/under is 58.5 and that is the highest number in Super Bowl history, and could be attained.  New England is favored by three to win the game.

64% of the time this season, I have correctly picked the NFL winner.  I would like to see a Falcons’ win this Sunday, but it is very hard to go against the dynasty:

NEW ENGLAND – 31                 FALCONS-27
P.S. – Take the under!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Super Bowl III was the first to use the term “Super Bowl” and the first to use Roman numerals. No Roman numeral was used last year for #50.
  2. The top 24 shows watched on network TV all-time are ALL Super Bowl games.
  3. Americans eat more food on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year except for Thanksgiving.
  4. The first Super Bowl was simulcast by both NBC and CBS. Neither was happy with the other company and they had to build a fence to separate the two production companies and their trucks.
  5. No Super Bowl has ever gone overtime – five AFC or NFC championships have gone OT.

ENJOY THE GAME!!

Gary's Picks 

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (Last week – 1-1; Overall – 168-95-2 – 64%)

 

 

 

           

 

 

Behind the Mic: Beca-Nazareth Wrestling

It seems that every year the question on every District XI wrestling fan’s mind is, “Can ANYONE beat Bethlehem Catholic?”  The answer this year is a definitive “maybe.”

This past weekend the Golden Hawks dropped two dual meet matches to #4 in the nation Lake Highland Prep out of Florida and then lost to Malvern Prep, ranked #8 in the nation.  They will wrestle #9 Wyoming Seminary on Thursday, before moving on to the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference “championship day”.

This Saturday on RCN, the #14 Nazareth Blue Eagles will take their shot at the Golden Hawks, in the Eastern PA Conference Championship match.  The teams are each champions of their divisions, and will meet at 7:00pm on Saturday night at the Easton Middle School.  The atmosphere should be much like the old days when fans looked forward to three or four outstanding dual meets each year.  That environment has been missing for a few years, but rest assured the Middle School gym will be rocking, especially if Nazareth can give the Hawks a battle.

Both lineups are peppered with nationally ranked talent, and both offer plenty of balance throughout their squad.  There is a very good chance that Beca, banged up with injuries, can be in the throes of a three-match losing streak by the time Saturday rolls around.  Granted—all three losses are to top-tier academies – but the losses are not something that Jeff Karam’s team is used to.  How will they react?

Nazareth, under legendary coach Dave Crowell, will have their hands full.  They will need bonus points from their blue chippers, and will need to grab at least two tossup bouts.  Even if this all goes the way of the Eagles, they may need one more upset.

If Beca prevails, as I suspect they will, fear not Blue Eagle fans.  This may be the first of three consecutive Saturdays that feature these squads.  There is nothing that can stop a rematch for the District XI Team Championship, and both are favored to make the PIAA State Championship finals.

Scott Barr (who assisted with this blog) and Jim Best will be there along with the RCN television crew to bring you these two powerhouses.  It will certainly take us back to the days when Easton-Northampton, Easton-Nazareth, Nazareth-Northampton, etc. were on every wrestling fans’ calendar.

Those were the good old days of Lehigh Valley wrestling!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Tom Brady of the Patriots and Matt Ryan of the Falcons text each other regularly during the NFL season. Matt Ryan played his college football at Boston College and Tom Brady always followed him.  Two good friends will try to beat the other in the Super Bowl.
  2. Up this way, we do not get to see the Falcons very often, but they were sure impressive yesterday against the Packers. No player was more impressive than Julio Jones – 15 catches, 247 yards, and 3 TDs.  Bill Belichick always says he wants to stop the opponent’s best player, but seven Falcons caught passes on Sunday.
  3. How do the Patriots do it? They draft Chris Hogan, a Penn State lacrosse player, and they make him a star wide receiver.  No organization is better at resurrecting careers and finding obscure players.
  4. During the Lafayette at Lehigh men’s game on Saturday, Lehigh honored the team that stunned Duke in the first round of the NCAA playoffs in 2012. The star of that team, C. J. McCollum, could not be there because he was preparing to play the Celtics as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.  He did send a recorded message that was played in the arena.  He went on to score 35 points against Boston and Portland won the game.
  5. Only Allen remains undefeated in high school basketball as Bangor suffered their first defeat to Stroudsburg this past weekend. And then there was one.  Allen has Liberty and Stroudsburg this week – two tests for the Canaries!

Gary's Picks

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (Last week – 1-1; Overall – 168-95-2 – 64%)
SUPER BOWL PICK NEXT WEEK