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.

HS Football: Week 5 Preview

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

An extra big shout-out to our fall sports athletes as the remnants of Hurricane Florence stormed through our coverage area, arriving just as most contests were getting underway.  As I could attest, the pounding rain made for ultra-slick conditions and tough visibility (yes, I was out in the storm at a soccer match—thoroughly protected, I thought, with an umbrella, hat and rain slicker).

The players I talked with afterwards said it was an interesting experience and told me they had a lot of fun playing in the sloppy, soaking conditions.

For me?  I’ll be doubling-down on the Vitamin-C for the next few days as I continue to try to dry out from the event.

As far as high school football this past weekend, we had a pair of great games on RCN-TV as both Easton and Bethlehem Catholic won in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion…

Don’t be surprised if a few plays from these games come up again on our “year-in-review” recollections in a few months—both on the TV “SportsTalk” program and here at “The Shop.”

With those games behind us, it’s time for this week’s edition of our high school football polls for teams in the District XI region…

“Big” Schools Poll

1)   Freedom

2)  Emmaus

3)  Easton

4)  Parkland

5)   Northampton

 “Small” School Poll

1)  Bethlehem Catholic 

2)  Palisades

3)  Saucon Valley

4)  Northwestern

Our poll remains with the same structure that we’ve utilized for many seasons.  We take the 400-male enrollment number as the cutoff for schools within the District XI/RCN-TV broadcast area.  All of the schools above that number qualify as “big schools” in our poll. These schools consist of Parkland, Liberty, Allen, Easton, Emmaus, Liberty, DieruffPocono Mountain West. Freedom, StroudsburgPleasant ValleyNorthampton, Nazareth, WhitehallSouthern LehighEast Stroudsburg-South, and Pocono Mountain East.  The five schools receiving the most votes are listed above.

“Small schools” (below 400-male enrollment) consist of both Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and Colonial League teams —  Bangor, Saucon Valley, Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, NorthwesternWilson, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.  The top four vote-getters are named.

Now, I won’t spend much time pointing out that I was the ONLY person who picked winless Whitehall to beat 2-1 Central Catholic last weekend in our “Pick 4” contest…

(pause here for your applause)

…but as my former “SportsTalk” partner’s favorite line goes, “even a blind squirrel can find a nut every once in a while.”

So here we go with this week’s football experts (and me) weighing in on four of the biggest high school games this weekend…

The
“PICK 4”
Easton vs. Emmaus  Northwestern vs. Bangor Southern Lehigh vs. Palisades Liberty vs. Parkland
Gary Laubach Emmaus Northwestern Palisades Parkland
Tony Cocca  Emmaus Northwestern Palisades Parkland
Keith Groller  Emmaus Northwestern Palisades Parkland
Chris Michael  Emmaus Northwestern Palisades Parkland

Check back next week for more high school football notes, polls, video highlights and predictions.

 

HS Football: Week 4 Preview

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

We had a great time on our “fall season premiere” of “SportsTalk” last week as PIAA Associate Executive Director Melissa Mertz discussed a number of scholastic sports topics and touched on a number of positive initiatives the organization has done to help student-athletes.

You can catch the entire interview through RCN On-Demand and by hearing our podcast.

There were a number of very competitive games last week, including two overtime contests and four other games decided by less than seven points.


With all of last weekend’s big “showdown games” behind us, it’s time for this week’s edition of our high school football polls for teams in the District XI region…

 Big” Schools Poll

1)   Freedom

2)  Emmaus

3)  Easton

4)  Parkland

5)  East Stroudsburg-South

 “Small” School Poll

1)  Bethlehem Catholic 

2)  Palisades

3)  Saucon Valley

4)  Central Catholic

Other schools receiving More Than One Vote: NorthwesternNotre Dame

Our poll remains with the same structure that we’ve utilized for many seasons.  We take the 400-male enrollment number as the cutoff for schools within the District XI/RCN-TV broadcast area.  All of the schools above that number qualify as “big schools” in our poll. These schools consist of Parkland, Liberty, Allen, Easton, Emmaus, Liberty, Dieruff, Pocono Mountain West. Freedom, StroudsburgPleasant ValleyNorthampton, Nazareth, WhitehallSouthern LehighEast Stroudsburg-South, and Pocono Mountain East.  The five schools receiving the most votes are listed above.

“Small schools” (below 400-male enrollment) consist of both Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and Colonial League teams —  Bangor, Saucon Valley, Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, NorthwesternWilson, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.  The top four vote-getters are named.

Here are our RCN football experts weighing in on four of the biggest high school games this weekend . . .

The
“PICK 4”
Bethlehem Catholic vs. Parkland  Wilson vs. Northwestern Central vs. Whitehall Liberty vs. Easton
Gary Laubach Parkland Northwestern Central Easton
Tony Cocca  Parkland Northwestern Central Easton
Keith Groller  Parkland Northwestern Central Easton
Chris Michael  Parkland Northwestern Whitehall Easton

Check back next week for more high school football notes, polls, video highlights and predictions.

Note: Yes, I did prediction winless Whitehall to beat Central Catholic, a 2-1 squad that just defeated Nazareth this past weekend.  No, I am not just picking a different team so we have some variety in this week’s picks.

I think the Vikings deserve a ton of credit for posting a very impressive win over the Blue Eagles and are in good shape for competing for a 4A district playoff spot going forward.

But Whitehall still has a lot to play for and this is one of their best regular season chances for a “W.”  Thanks to the new high school playoff format, the Zephyrs, despite their 0-3 record, are still considered in many circles as the team expected to capture this fall’s District XI 5A Championship.  They technically may not need ANY wins to qualify for the playoffs, but I think mentally it’s important for Whitehall to try to win this weekend’s contest.

Time will tell if my theory is correct.

Check back next week for more high school football notes, polls, video highlights and predictions.

HS Football: Week 3 Preview

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

We’ve passed the Labor Day holiday—and already we’re approaching the third week of high school football campaign!

It’s still hard getting used to these early starts to the season, but, ready or not, we have one of our most competitive weekends of the fall, filled with many intriguing match-ups.

Speaking of high school sports, our special in-studio guest on this week’s “SportsTalk” will be PIAA Assistant Executive Director Melissa Mertz, as she discusses a number of scholastic sports topics and controversies over recent changes to the high school sports landscape.  You can call with a question or comment on our live show this Thursday on RCN-TV, or email us your opinion right now to rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and we might read and respond to it on this week’s program.

Now, here are our first “in-season” high school football polls for teams in the District XI region…

“ Big” Schools Poll

1)  Parkland

2)  Emmaus

3)  Freedom

4)  Easton

5)  Nazareth

Other schools receiving votes:  Liberty

 “Small” School Poll

1)  Bethlehem Catholic

2)  Palisades

3)  Saucon Valley

4)  Notre Dame

Other schools receiving votes: Northwestern, Central Catholic

Our poll remains in the standard, tried-and-true format that we have utilized for many seasons.  We will take the 400-male enrollment number as the cutoff for schools within the District XI/RCN-TV footprint.  All of the schools above that number qualify as “big schools” in our poll. These schools consist of Parkland, Liberty, Allen, Easton, Emmaus, Liberty, Dieruff, Freedom, StroudsburgPleasant ValleyNorthampton, Nazareth, WhitehallSouthern LehighEast Stroudsburg-South, and Pocono Mountain East & West.

“Small schools” (below 400-male enrollment) consist of Bangor, Saucon Valley, Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, NorthwesternWilson, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.

Here are our RCN football experts weighing in on four of the biggest high school games this weekend . . .

The
“PICK 4”
Whitehall vs. Emmaus Southern Lehigh vs.  Notre Dame Parkland vs. Freedom Liberty vs. Bethlehem Catholic
Gary Laubach Emmaus Southern Lehigh Parkland Bethlehem Catholic
Tony Cocca  Emmaus Notre Dame Parkland Bethlehem Catholic
Keith Groller  Emmaus Notre Dame Parkland Bethlehem Catholic
Chris Michael  Emmaus Southern Lehigh Parkland Bethlehem Catholic

Check back next week for more high school football notes, polls, video highlights and predictions.

By the way, if you saw all of our “SportsTalk at the Fair” programs last week, you already know that Keith and I have “upped the ante” by pledging that if either of us loses this year’s “Pick 4” contest, we agree to do a Fortnight Dance, live on “SportsTalk” (we’re still waiting to hear if Gary and Tony will commit to this).

 

 

HS Football: Week 2 Preview

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Before we take a look at our first in-season high school football poll and “Pick 4” selections, a quick plug for our “SportsTalk” show, which will be broadcasting on location from the Great Allentown Fair this week.

For the 10th year in a row our shows will feature area cheering squads, marching bands and special guests looking at the new HS football season and catching up with legendary names from local high schools in the Lehigh Valley.  Check out the shows in person on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 6pm from the Farmerama Theater.

If you can’t make it out to the Fair, you can see the shows on RCN-TV or RCN On-Demand.

Now, here are our first “in-season” high school football polls for teams in the District XI region…

“Big” Schools Poll

1)  Emmaus

2)  Parkland

3)  Freedom

4)  Easton

5)  Nazareth

Other schools receiving votes:  Liberty

 “Small” School Poll

1)  Bethlehem Catholic

2)  Palisades

3)  Central Catholic

4)  Saucon Valley

Other schools receiving votes: Northwestern, Notre Dame

Our poll remains in its’ standard, tried-and-true format that we have utilized for many seasons.  We will take the 400-male enrollment number as the cutoff for schools within the District XI/RCN-TV footprint.  All of the schools above that number qualify as “big schools” in our poll. These schools consist of Parkland, Liberty, Allen, Easton, Emmaus,  Dieruff, Freedom, StroudsburgPleasant ValleyNorthampton, Nazareth, WhitehallSouthern LehighEast Stroudsburg-South, and Pocono Mountain East & West.

“Small schools” (below 400-male enrollment) consist of Bangor, Saucon Valley, Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, NorthwesternWilson, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.

Here are our RCN football experts weighing in on four of the biggest high school games this weekend . . .

The
“PICK 4”
Freedom vs. Bethlehem Catholic Easton vs. Whitehall Emmaus vs. Nazareth Northwestern vs. Salisbury
Gary Laubach Bethlehem Catholic Easton Emmaus Northwestern
Tony Cocca  Bethlehem Catholic Easton Emmaus Northwestern
Keith Groller  Bethlehem Catholic Whitehall Emmaus Northwestern
Chris Michael  Freedom Easton Emmaus Northwestern

Check back next week for more high school football notes, polls, video highlights and predictions.

 

Football Preview #2

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Last week here at “The Shop” we brought you samples of our high school sports interviews featuring local coaches and players (more can be seen on our “SportsTalk” program).

This week, we have our pre-season high school football poll and the return of the “Pick 4” game predictions, along with samples of our interviews previewing the Lafayette College football season.

Now the unveiling of our pre-season high school football poll for District XI teams…

“ Big” Schools Poll

1)  Parkland

2)  Emmaus

3)  Freedom

4)  Easton

5)  Nazareth

 

“Small” SCHOOL Poll

1)  Bethlehem Catholic

2)  Palisades

3)  Central Catholic

4)  Notre Dame

Other schools receiving votes:   Saucon Valley

Our poll remains in its’ standard, tried-and-true format that we have utilized for many seasons.  We will take the 400-male enrollment number as the cutoff for schools within the District XI/RCN-TV footprint.  All of the schools above that number qualify as “big schools” in our poll. These schools consist of Parkland, Liberty, Allen, Easton, Emmaus,  Dieruff, Freedom, Stroudsburg, Pleasant Valley, Northampton, Nazareth, Whitehall, Southern Lehigh, East Stroudsburg-South, and Pocono Mountain East & West.

“Small schools” (below 400-male enrollment) consist of Bangor, Saucon Valley, Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Northwestern, Wilson, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.  Each pollster will identify their top five teams in each group—the top school gets five points, the second team gets four points and so on, with an average score determining the order of teams in the poll.  Check back each week here at “The Shop” to see if your favorite teams make our list!

Now, here are our RCN football experts weighing in on four of the biggest high school games this weekend…

The
“PICK 4”
Catty at Bangor Nazareth at
Pocono Mountain East
CCHS at Stroudsburg Salisbury at Pen Argyl
Gary Laubach Bangor Nazareth CCHS Pen Argyl
Tony Cocca  Bangor Pocono Mt-East Stroudsburg Pen Argyl
Keith Groller  Bangor Nazareth Stroudsburg Salisbury
Chris Michael  Bangor Nazareth Stroudsburg Salisbury

 

HS Football Preview #1

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

It’s just about that time of year—when high school and college football games play “meaningful” games (and the NFL isn’t too far behind).  Consequently, our RCN Sports team is getting geared up for our wall-to-wall coverage of scholastic pigskin action in the Lehigh Valley (plus interviews in the Philadelphia and Washington DC areas as well) on our upcoming “SportsTalk” programs.

RCN Videographer Alyssa Sheckler and I have been out talking with local high school football coaches and players.  Here are samples of some of our conversations so far:

One of the things that has impressed me the most so far this preseason is the fortitude of the Whitehall football team.  They lost their head coach and their starting quarterback (due to transfer) this spring, but they’re not using any excuses and still are setting the lofty goal of competing for an EPC title (they are still the favorites to win another District XI 5A crown, although they’ll have a little more competition this fall).

They also graduated quite a bit of talent defensively and along their offensive line,  but even with all these things working against them, the coaching staff and players have been working hard preparing for the upcoming season.  Keep an eye on the Zephyrs as they will have several key match-ups this fall.

We are busy editing these and collecting even more interviews this week, with many more to air on our Thursday show!

Don’t forget to check out “RCN SportsTalk” the next few weeks on RCN-TV, On-Demand and our podcasts to get more interviews, insights and predictions for many of the fall sports programs this season.

Also, next week here at “The Shop,” we’ll have the return of our “Pick 4” predictions and high school football polls, featuring RCN announcers, local media members and special guest-coaches all making contributions each week!  Make sure you bookmark our blog each week to check out where to find your favorite teams.

Summer Hoops ’18 (Part 4)

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

 We hope you have been enjoying our summer basketball coverage both here on our blog and on “SportsTalk,” the television show, on RCN-TV.

Here’s a gallery featuring many of the teams, coaches and players that we have seen over the last few weeks in our travels at different stops in Eastern Pennsylvania.

ChrisPhoto9ChrisPhoto8ChrisPhoto7ChrisPhoto6ChrisPhoto5ChrisPhoto4ChrisPhoto3ChrisPhoto2

Don’t forget! To hear our summer basketball interviews with local coaches and players as well as our experts who’ll break down the last few months of HS hoops action, check out “SportsTalk” through RCN On-Demand as well as previous blog entries here at “The Shop”.

On the next several editions of “SportsTalk” we’ll begin our previews of the upcoming high school fall sports season. Our in-studio guests over the next few weeks include several schools within the RCN Lehigh Valley region that captured District XI titles for both their boys and girls programs. We’ll start with the boys & girls Easton cross country teams and the Parkland boys and girls defending soccer championship squads. Yes, we will be attempting to set a new record for the number of athletes/guests in our studio!

More guests and show information to follow. Tune in to see how we pull it off and hear some great stories from last year’s teams along with thoughts on how they are preparing for the new season.

 

Summer Hoops ’18 (Part 3)

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

The Cedar Beach Summer Basketball League wrapped up this past weekend, culminating with a thrilling championship game!

First of all, huge congratulations are in order for the 2018 summer champs–the Easton Red Rovers boys’ basketball team.

Easton features a number of talented players who got valuable experience on the varsity level last year and probably didn’t get the attention they deserved for having a great winter season (we saw a number of impressive victories by the Rovers on RCN-TV last year).

Those returning players held off another team we’ll be talking about this winter–Emmaus–who had the distinction of playing in all three major boys title games held within the Lehigh Valley area.

Check back to “The SportsTalk Shop” next week for our gallery of the summer hoops in-game action.

In the meantime, here are a few more notes of interest for Lehigh Valley basketball fans from this summer’s action…

  • There is certainly a lot of balance since Bethlehem Catholic boys’ Golden Hawks continue to be the area’s most dominant Lehigh Valley team. Allentown Central Catholic, last year’s “#2” squad, so far, look like it has come back to the pack a bit. In talking with Dieruff Head Coach Joe Jarjous recently, he’s among those believing that a number of teams (including his own) will be improved and that several programs featuring an abundance of youth have really played well and will show great improvement by the time the school year starts.
  • The Becahi girls have been equally as dominate as their boys teams, although Nazareth is taking great strides. They’ve been participating in tournaments both inside and outside of the Lehigh Valley region. Among the Blue Eagles’ top efforts…they ran the table in the “June” edition of the Holy Name basketball tournament and finished with a perfect 9-0 record in a pool against a number of strong programs.
  • The Northampton boys’ team lost two of its’ biggest scoring machines (Cody Weisenberger and Aiden Ellwood) from last year’s team. I talked with Head Coach Coy Stampone and he said he thought there’s definitely some rebuilding that will have to be done with his program this year. However, upon a closer look at the way his team played this summer:

…He’s playing a couple players who actually will make his squad bigger than last year’s (thanks to my “SportsTalk” co-host Keith Groller for pointing that out).

…Stampone is very high on some of his JV players from a year ago who look like they’re progressing at a nice rate and could contribute more than initially projected.

…Don’t forget, the K-Kids played tremendous defense a year ago, leading the team to some of the biggest wins of the season. Most of those defensive-minded players are returning, so if they can find a couple sure-handed scoring options (especially among the big men), don’t count on Northampton’s “rebuilding” taking very long.

We’ll have our final look at high school summer league action and more news, notes and images next week here at “The Shop.”

For more local summer basketball action, be sure to check out this year’s “Tournament of Champions” held at the Catasauqua playground. RCN-TV’s Gary Laubach and Tom Stoudt will have the call and all the excitement of this year’s event…this Thursday evening on RCN-TV.

And…coming up over the next few weeks on “SportsTalk,” we’ll be featuring defending District XI boys and girls fall sports champions, along with high school and Lafayette College football interviews as we get you ready for the upcoming fall sports season. “Official” high school sports practices commence this Monday–where did the summer go?

Phillies’ Unsung Storylines

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of  RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

One of the reasons why the Phillies have had the kind of “surprising” (by most fans’ expectations) season to date is the team’s flexibility.

New Manager Gabe Kapler made it very obvious in spring training that he wanted players to play multiple positions—regardless of whether or not they had any prior experience playing new spots.  Learning a new position on the fly at the Major League level is nothing less than an amazing accomplishment, and players like Jesmuel Valentin are really the unsung heroes as this team stays in playoff contention.

Mind you, it’s not just the physical aspects of playing a brand new position (and we’re not just talking about moving from second base to shortstop).  The mental aspect of going from the infield to the outfield and then back in again (and doing it with no experience at lower levels) is one of the most impressive/least talked about aspect of this year’s Phillies.

Once more, it takes a special athlete to be able to make these adjustments and carry on as “good soldiers” in the clubhouse, when players are asked to make these significant changes for the overall good of the team.  Moving to a new position is one thing—but doing it while keeping the clubhouse a positive experience for the whole squad is also something that should not be overlooked when analyzing Philadelphia’s success this year.

This unselfish approach is something that Phillies Shortstop-Second Baseman-Third Baseman-Pinch Hitter-Right Fielder-Relief Pitcher Jesmuel Valentin has shown throughout his baseball career…and MLB fans are finally getting to see what this versatile player can do at the Big League level.

I had the great opportunity of speaking with Valentin—once at Reading, again at Lehigh Valley after spring training last year, and again earlier this month in Philadelphia, about this unique ability to successfully move around, playing new positions, while still trying to prove that he can hit Major League pitching.

Here’s a portion of my interview with Valentin…

There are more “feel-good” stories surrounding the Philadelphia team—some that sports fans everywhere will be become aware of – should this unlikely collection of prospects continue to play—and beat—some of the best teams in all of baseball.

Be sure to check out our “SportsTalk” program for more Phillies interviews as they chase a playoff berth.

Also, don’t forget to catch our final “SportsTalk Gets Wild” program of the summer as our “RCN SportsTalk presented by ‘The Morning Call’” will broadcast live from the Buffalo Wild Wings on Grape Street in Whitehall, this Thursday, from 7-8pm.

Our guests will be members of the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleading Squad (complete with their Super Bowl Pendants to showcase).  Come on out to see the program in person and 10% of your food bill will go to support the Miller–Keystone Blood Center.

 

 

Mid-Summer Baseball Update

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

We got some great insights on teams in the Eastern League, including the minor league franchises for the Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and more from Play-by-Play Voice Mike Ventola on our “SportsTalk” program.


Ventola also gave his thoughts on future prospects to watch in the upcoming months, along with a predicted winner in the Eastern League’s East Division.

Speaking of baseball guests, a special thanks to ABC-8 News’ Sports Director/Anchor Natalie Kalibat for joining us on last week’s “SportsTalk” show. She provided us with a live report from Washington, DC, previewing the city’s preparations to host Major League Baseball’s All-Star game, and giving her opinions on sports events in the DMV region.

Natalie also gave insights on the lingering “good vibes” from last month’s Capitals’ Stanley Cup championship and renewed enthusiasm for the Washington Redskins under new Quarterback Alex Smith and their upgrades on defense, along with thoughts on their upcoming training camp.

If you missed these interviews, you can see them in their entirety through RCN On-Demand or hear our podcast at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk

Coming up on this week’s show, Morning Call Baseball Writer Tom Housenick and Fox Sports Baseball Insider Chuck Hixson are our guests recapping Tuesday’s All-Star game, giving thoughts on the first half of the baseball season and previewing what to expect for the second half. We’ll also be discussing the various playoff possibilities for both Major League and Minor League teams of interest to baseball fans within the RCN-TV area.

We’ll also discuss other relevant topics like the drop in attendance at baseball games, the increased use of analytics and off-season news for high school wrestling in the Eastern Pennsylvania region.

Email your comments, questions and opinions to rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and we might read and respond on this Thursday’s program.