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.

Winter Playoffs ‘19 Highlights (Part 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.

The state post-season action is in full swing on RCN-TV and we hope you have been enjoying our coverage in both high school basketball and wrestling playoffs.

This Thursday on “SportsTalk” we’ll recap some of these and other games played featuring teams in the RCN viewing area.

Also, we’ll take our first look at the upcoming spring sports season by honoring some of last year’s high school championship teams by having them in-studio to talk about defending their titles and their outlook for the 2019 campaign.  Among the teams we’ll be hearing from this week include the Freedom baseball team (who captured their first District XI title in decades last spring) and the Parkland girls lacrosse team, who are three-time defending champs.

Winter Playoffs ‘19 Highlights (Part 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.

This week we present highlights from some of our recent District XI playoff games and matches broadcast by RCN-TV (these contests can be seen in their entirety “on-demand” for free for RCN customers.)

Included in this week’s rundown are some of the top wrestlers in Pennsylvania, who received their PIAA metals last weekend.

We’ll be talking more about the high school basketball post-season on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” show featuring guests breaking down this week’s games and previewing matchups on Friday and Saturday.

Check out the RCN-TV broadcast schedule to see which local boys and girls basketball teams will be featured over the next few days as the state tournament rolls on!

Underrated Canaries

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. 

In a season in which several teams had legitimate shots at winning a District XI 6A boys basketball title, one of the most improbable teams ended up capturing the crown last weekend.

Allen had started Nate Ellis, a ninth grader, at point guard all season.  They had another first year player, Alexis Adames, a transfer from Perth Amboy in New Jersey, starting in the backcourt with him.  They had only one returning starter (“Q” Adderley) from last year and lost one if its top players during the first half of the season.

Yet, the Canaries overcame an inconsistent first month of the season to defeat arguably the three best large school teams in the area to become gold medal winners last weekend.

Allen Head Coach Doug Snyder and his team will be on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” show to talk about their rise to winning Saturday’s title.  When I had talked to him back in early December, he said that this team was “his biggest question mark” of any squad he’s coached in 22 seasons.  We’ll talk about what he, his coaching staff and his players did to right the ship and prove wrong the naysayers, who said the Canaries were at least a year away from being a championship contender.

Also, we’ll talk to the “Voice” of the University of Virginia’s men’s basketball team, Dave Koehn, via Skype.  Dave will talk about Monday’s record setting victory over Syracuse and give his insights on what the #2 ranked team in the nation needs to do to have success in the upcoming league playoffs and NCAA tournament.

Here are highlights of recent games broadcast on RCN-TV…

Also, as our state post-season coverage gets underway this week, make sure you bookmark the RCN High School Sports Schedule page here on the RCN-TV website.  Our broadcast schedule will be updated regularly with our coverage of your favorite teams though the PIAA state playoff season!

 

Lineup Projections & Bearman Farewell

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. 

As someone who equally loves basketball and baseball (but DESPISES the cold weather), I find myself around this time of winter starting to check out the MLB Spring Training reports from Florida and Arizona.

While I must admit a tiny dose of jealousy when I see reporters filing their video stories while wearing short-sleeves and sporting sunglasses, my thoughts begin to stray towards the season yet to come.  And, like any true baseball fan who thinks it would be “easy” to run a professional baseball team, I think about a potential lineup that I would trot out on Opening Day if I ran the show.

So, while thinking warm thoughts…here’s my lineup (version 1.0) for both the Phillies and Nationals as we stand here today on February 25th.

 

NATIONALS

Trea Turner              Shortstop

Adam Eaton             Right Field

Anthony Rendon    3rd Base

Juan Soto                  Left Field

Ryan Zimmerman  1st Base

Brian Dozier             2nd Base

Yan Gomes               Catcher

(Pitcher spot)

Victor Robles           Center Field

 

ANALYSIS

Although Eaton was originally brought in to be the team’s lead-off hitter, I think Turner can do too many good things at the top of the lineup to not have him bat first.

Plus, you have a nice right/left alternation through the first five spots in your order.  Thanks to a strong second half by Zimmerman and the addition of Dozier to solidify second base, you have a strong protection behind the Soto, to help him out in case of a sophomore slump.

Finally, although I’m not a huge fan of batting the pitcher in the eighth spot, I would consider moving Robles down to the “second leadoff position.”  However, if you would do that, I might be inclined to move Eaton back to first in this order to avoid having Robles and Turner go back-to-back.

 

PHILLIES

Jean Segura                         Shortstop

JT Realmuto                         Catcher

Bryce Harper                       Right Field

Rhys Hoskins                       1st Base

Andrew McCutcheon        Left Field

Odubel Herrera                  Center Field

Mikael Franco*                   3rd Base

(Pitcher spot)

Cesar Hernandez                2nd Base

*(or Scott Kingery, if he wins the open competition in spring training)


ANALYSIS

First of all…regarding the whole Manny Machado vs. Bryce Harper debate, the Phillies have WAY too much money available to not sign Bryce Harper, and I think the whole “mystery team” is another grand Scott Boras-created hoax, so I’m going to go ahead and say he signs with Philadelphia.

Secondly, I again have to break my own rule of batting the pitcher in the eight spot, but with good reasoning.  With a lineup this solid, you simply can’t afford to have someone of McCutcheon’s talent hitting any lower than sixth on this team—not unless he has a dreadful spring.

Furthermore, Hernandez still hasn’t convinced me he is a pure leadoff hitter (yes, I know he was “secretly” hurt through the second half of last season), but in this lineup he can be a great piece to get on base at the bottom of the order and set up Segura (ideally a number-two hitter anyway), Realmuto (another good contact hitter) and Harper.

Also, remember how well Franco seemed to hit while batting eighth in front of the pitcher last year?  It may have been an anomaly, but with this lineup, we’d see if there was something to it.

Finally, while I am a huge Roman Quinn fan, I’ll take an optimistic view of Herrera’s intense off-season workouts and say he reclaims his form as an everyday center fielder and solid middle-of-the-lineup persona at the plate.  If Quinn stays healthy and has a solid spring (and they do in fact sign Harper), I’d have Quinn bat just ahead of the pitcher’s spot (to maybe steal a base ahead of a sacrifice bunt every now and then) and Hernandez to form a “double-leadoff” position ahead of the power bats.

Keep thinking warm thoughts and, in a few short weeks, it’ll be time to talk more baseball on our “SportsTalk” show and here on our blog!

***

Before I sign off today, I did want to express my deepest condolences to the extended family of a friend and former colleague, Kevin “Bearman” Schutts — one half of WZZO’s legendary morning team.

When I first started in the communications business, one of my roles was as a fill-in traffic reporter at WAEB/WZZO.  While some of the bigger on-air personalities looked down on part-time/non-big-named employees, both Schutts and his partner, Keith Moyer, treated me like one of the gang right away and never looked down at me (or anyone else on the staff) like many media personalities frequently do.

Years later after I worked in Philadelphia and New York and had a chance to come back to the Valley and be part of a media event with them, they treated me exactly the same as they had when I first knew them—with no extra airs and just like a regular person…again, something that doesn’t always occur in this industry.

Some of the bigger names in broadcasting typically give people a once-over and decide if that particular person can help their career, enhance their life in some way, or be a threat to their job.  If it’s one of the first two categories, they’ll act like the most gregarious individual you’ve ever met…and if it’s the latter, well, heaven help you.

Whether or not you liked the playful shenanigans of the “Bearman and Keith” show over the decades, even a critic would have to say their longevity and creativity in a business which frequently changes trends (and subsequently, people) on a dime, was second to none in the Lehigh Valley.  I would also argue that in the area’s rich broadcasting history, they will go down as one of the greatest announcing duos on a short list of some incredibly talented broadcasters to come out of and/or serve this area.

And yet, the thing I remember most of this pair is simply the kindness they showed to all people.

I have always carried with me the respect they showed their co-workers and audience members alike.  It is something I have tried to emulate in my own career—something that may not be that important in moving up the “food chain,” but one of the most important lessons of life that they probably don’t even know they taught me as a young, fill-in radio guy.

RIP Bearman…you will be missed, in more ways than you can ever know.

Mid-Winter Highlights (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.

Once again this week we’ll take a look back at game highlights as seen on RCN-TV recently…

 

Remember to check out all the action from these games through RCN On-Demand!

Mid-Winter Highlights (Part 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.

It’s just about time to get ready for the winter scholastic sports playoffs with our coverage on RCN-TV.

Before the post-season gets underway, here’s a look at our recent high school sports broadcasts on RCN (a reminder that all of RCN’s productions are available to watch for free for RCN video customers for two months following their initial air dates.  Be sure to check out these games in their entirety through RCN On-Demand).


Stephon, briggs

Also, as our post-season coverage gets underway, make sure you bookmark the RCN High School Sports Schedule page here on the RCN-TV website.  Our schedule will be updated regularly with our broadcasts of your favorite teams though the league, district and PIAA state playoff season!

Redskins’ Kyshoen Jarrett

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.

Redskins Assistant Coach Kyshoen Jarrett has had an interesting career in his 25-year life thus far.

In high school, he was a standout player for East Stroudsburg South High School, but probably didn’t receive nearly the amount of recognition as his southern competitors because of much less coverage of high school sports in the Poconos.

Then he went on to have a stellar career at West Virginia, culminating with his selection in the NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.  His career was then cut short due to injury, but he transitioned into the coaching ranks with Washington and has gotten very good reviews of his work with the players thus far.

We will have a chance to speak with him regarding another roller coaster type of season for the Redskins and an offseason full of ambiguity for the entire organization on this week’s “SportsTalk” show.

Also, we’ll have something for our audiences in the Lehigh and Delaware Valley areas in addition to high school basketball fans in the DMV.

Maret HS Girls Basketball Head Coach Monique Liddell will be on to talk about her up-and-coming program that has started as many as five freshmen in games this year and hopes to keep their first-half season success going to qualify for the playoffs, which would be a huge step forward for her young squad.

Bonner-Prendie Head Coach Kevin Funstan will join us via Skype to talk about his team knocking off some of the top high school boys basketball programs in Pennsylvania—and how they plan on continuing their winning ways in the upcoming post-season.

And, we’ll be talking boys and girls Lehigh Valley basketball action and getting our first thoughts on what to expect in next week’s EPC and Colonial League playoffs.  Our in-studio guests will be members of the Notre Dame-Green Pond girls basketball team—the squad recently dubbed “Giant Killers” in a recent edition of “The Morning Call.”
As we get closer to high school basketball playoff time, I just wanted to throw this bold prediction out there…

Southern Lehigh girls basketball will again win the Colonial League BUT someone other than Bethlehem Catholic will win the EPC

Yes, this would be a shocker for girls basketball fans in the Lehigh Valley — both the Spartans and the Golden Hawks have been dominating local girls basketball for years.

Make no mistake, both programs will continue to post a ton of wins and have success in the state playoffs, but both leagues have quite a bit of improved programs.

Southern Lehigh still should have enough talent after graduating several top players to be the heavy favorites for their league title in February, but Bethlehem Catholic (currently undefeated in the league—again) will be tested by a number of different teams in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference playoffs, including Northampton, Nazareth, Freedom and possibly others.  No streak lasts forever, and while I do expect them to win the District and play deep into states,  I think this is the year the Hawks fall short in their league (I also wouldn’t be surprised if they bounce back and sweep everything in 2020, however).

We’ll see if this prediction comes through over the next several weeks on RCN!

Speaking of high school hoops, here are a few highlights of recent games on RCN-TV…

Mid-Winter ‘19 Sports Recaps

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 reached the midway point of the winter high school sports season and hope you have been enjoying our coverage of scholastic wrestling and basketball action so far this year.

Here are the video highlights of our last several weeks of coverage on RCN-TV…

We’ll be talking about some of these games (including the battle between the Lehigh Valley teams with the two best records in the area — Becahi and Emmaus) on this week’s “RCN SportsTalk” program.  Our guests include Head Coach Steve Yoder and members of the Green Hornets basketball club to talk about their current number one seeding in the area’s largest classification.   They also have some unique storylines this season that should be interesting to our viewers to check out along with their thoughts on the playoffs coming up in a few weeks.

Also on this week’s show will be Lou Trivino, who is from the RCN viewing area and made his Major League Baseball debut this past year and is looking to return to the “bigs” this spring.

Chris’ “ALL-UNDERRATED” Football Edition (Part 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.

A week ago I started naming my underrated sports personalities from last fall’s football team (see last week’s blog entry for the “rules” and the previous week’s “winners.”)

Continuing on with that list… 

MOST UNDERRATED RUNNING BACK

 Liberty’s Nasir Legree.

While Legree was one of several outstanding backs in the Lehigh Valley, I think you could argue that none of those other stud backs had as much of a single target placed upon him than this senior.  When I saw him against Parkland, which featured one of the fiercest rushing defenses in the EPC, Legree was working with a quarterback making his debut (who showed great flashes of potential and will be a player to watch for 2019-20).  The team was also without several key lineman and facing a Trojans’ squad that was sending everything they had at Nasir, daring someone else to beat him—a strategy many opposing teams employed during the year.  Legree was also huge in one of the biggest upsets of the year—against the eventual District XI 6A champions—and Liberty’s biggest rival, the Freedom Patriots.  

MOST UNDERRATED CONTRIBUTION OFF THE FIELD

Parkland Cheerleaders, band and PA announcers.

The Lehigh Valley boasts some of the top cheering squads in the state and the Parkland cheering section has to be one of the Valley’s best in terms of their spirit and their routines on the track during football games.  They do a tremendous job adding to what already is normally an exciting atmosphere for the school’s home games.

While Liberty, Freedom and Easton seem to get the most attention for local bands, the Trojans can’t take a back seat to anyone with their performances every year.

But a personal highlight for me this past football season was when these two groups, along with Parkland Stadiums’ announcers, went through the different branches of the military at their home games.  The band played the theme songs from the corresponding service corps and the cheerleaders led a salute to the veterans in attendance for standing during their halftime shows.  It was a really great idea and well-executed! (Also, the Parkland dance team has been exceptional again so far this winter—keep an eye out for their performances in the gym!) 

Parklandcheer2

parklandcheer1

MOST UNDERRATED PLAY

Easton Wide Receiver Nahjee Adams getting an extra six yards for a first down after it appeared he was going to be down before getting to the sticks in a key game against Liberty.  Not only did Adams make a spectacular grab but he had the idea of fighting to get the extra yardage needed to get the first down on a 3rd down and 25.  This play also set up the game-winning touchdown and gave the Rovers a big win en route to qualifying for the district playoffs.  It was one of the most dramatic plays in a crowded field of close regular season games this past fall.  

MOST UNDERRATED QUARTERBACK

Notre Dame’s Cole DeFranco.

It might be hard to say that the District XI’s leading passer (by far!) could be underrated, but in a year which Ethan Parvel, Jared Jenkins, Logan Edmond and others were getting tons of attention, all DeFranco did was complete 208 passes for a school record 3,441 yards (more than 1,600 yards than any other District XI player) and set another seasonal school record with 43 touchdowns thrown in a season.

All told, DeFranco finished his career completing 675 of his 1,026 attempted passes and set career school records with 9,904 total yards and 99 touchdowns.  He threw over 4,500 more total yards than any other active player in the district.

DeFranco got some accolades in the media, but probably deserved more than was given after you look at both the team and individual accomplishments this season (not to mention some of his tremendous throws in their dramatic win over Saucon Valley which gave his school its first-ever Colonial League championship).

Coming up on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” program, we’ll have an all-star panel of wrestling experts breaking down thoughts from the current regular season for high school wrestling, including thoughts on the top teams and individual wresters heading into the post-season.

Plus, we’ll be previewing this weekend’s Colonial League wrestling championships and the EPC “Challenge” and next week’s District XI team wrestling finals—the latter two events can be seen live on RCN-TV.

Among this week’s guests are the Morning Call’s wrestling beat writer Tom Housenick, long time wrestling official Gene Waas and members of the RCN wrestling announcing crew!

Email your wrestling comments and questions to us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and we might read and respond to your emails live on this Thursday’s live show!

The Sports Talk Shop: Chris’s “ALL-UNDERRATED” Football Edition (Part 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.

Last year, I did a blog entry here at “The Shop” reflecting back on the past basketball season that was well-received and seemed to generate some very positive comments.

The idea for that blog was not to single out the best players, teams and individual plays, but to spotlight student-athletes and coaches who did something great but perhaps didn’t get the attention he or she deserved.

As with the “All-Underrated Team” I did last spring, it’s completely arbitrary and was based solely on the games that I witnessed in person—either as a broadcaster or as a spectator. It did NOT include any games or videos I watched through RCN On-Demand, HUDL or any videos I saw on social media.

With that in mind, I wanted to single out some individuals who fit that same criteria during this past District XI high school football season.

The awards go to…

MOST UNDERRATED KICKER

Whitehall’s Alex Khouri.

The Zephyrs had a rare poor season and was one of the few Lehigh Valley teams that did not qualify for the playoffs this year.  However, Khouri was one of the most consistent extra point kickers in the area and had a strong leg on kickoffs in the few times we got an opportunity to see Whitehall this past season.

MOST UNDERRATED DEFENSIVE PLAYER IN A GAME

Southern Lehigh Linebacker LB Asher Smith. In a game I witnessed as a fan, the junior really stood out in a much-needed win over Palmerton after the Spartans were upset against Saucon Valley to open the season. Smith had a team-high nine solo tackles (10 total), five pass breakups and one pick-six….he also played well, was all over the place the previous week in keeping his team in the close game in the Panthers loss and also ended up with several returned kickoffs as one of the “up men.”

MOST UNDERRATED DEFENSIVE PLAYER/SEASON

Bethlehem Catholic’s Tavion Banks and Paul Carreras

Banks was one of the preseason “running backs to watch” in both local papers, however, he impressed me even more with his defense this past fall.  Banks is one of the top cover men in league—I kept reading in the high school football capsules each week that Becahi’s secondary was a weakness and that teams will look to exploit the Hawks’ ability to give up big plays.  However, the Hawks’ passing yardage was right in line with their opponents (153 yards per game vs. 158 at the end of the regular season).  I thought Banks did a great job keying on other teams’ top receivers and Becahi had just as many big players (if not more) than many other LV teams.

Carreras deserves extra mention because he was not only a standout linebacker all year long, but he was impressive offense (and both a running and a blocking back) and even excelled in the thankless role of a punter (averaging over 37 yards per punt during the regular season—one of the top marks in the area) and filled in kicker when Penn State-bound Anthony DeSilva went down with an injury (and did an admirable job in that role, too.)  All he did on defense was lead his team in tackles, tackles for a loss and sacks (77, 22 and 8, respectively, using his final regular season numbers).  Not too bad anchoring a defense that—for the third straight year—many people called the best “Front 6” in the entire Lehigh Valley.

MOST UNDERRATED IMPACT (IN THE LEAST AMOUNT OF TIME)
 
Parkland Running Back Isiah Rico.  Before last season started, I heard great things about Rico’s potential as a quality back in the Lehigh Valley.  When senior starter Joseph Guida went down with a major injury, the sophomore Rico had to step into the spotlight in what may have been the team’s biggest regular season game against Bethlehem Catholic—only to sustain several serious injuries himself in that contest.

But what impressed me the most about Rico’s season was not the numbers he posted during his brief varsity experience this fall, but rather the conversation I had with him the week after suffering the injury.  When I talked with him the before the Liberty game, he was very positive about the team’s ability to overcome losing its two top running backs (at a time when there was still much indecision about the Trojans’ quarterbacks as well).  He also was in great spirits and refused to say anything negative about the situation surrounding the injury (on a controversial hit) and really gave some great responses in what could have been a very tough situation for him.

I am sure he will go on to post great numbers in his junior and senior seasons, but I instantly became a fan of Rico going forward based on the maturity he displayed in an off-the-field conversation.
 
MOST UNDERRATED UPSET

The then-winless Zephyrs. They defeated a Central Catholic team that had won two of its first three games, including an impressive victory over a Nazareth team that was also feeling good about themselves following terrific performances the first few weeks of the season. Whitehall not only pulled the upset but did it by scoring 75 points (and several Vikings fans admitted they probably could have scored more than night if they wanted to).

Both Central Catholic and Nazareth proved to be playoff teams again this year, which further showed what a big win it was for the Zephs.  (Did I mention that I was the only Lehigh Valley football media member who had predicted that Whitehall would win that game in advance?  I won’t mention I also predicted their other upset win over another playoff team in Northampton.)

MOST UNDERRATED COMEBACK STORY

The Northern Lehigh football team. Not only did Head Coach Joe Tout and his coaching staff turned around last year’s dismal season by posting five wins, but would have easily qualified for the playoffs had the powers-that-be not reduced the 3A classification qualifiers from eight to four teams.

A playoff appearance for the always hard-working Bulldogs would have been the perfect cherry to top the dramatic turnaround, but this year’s team certainly laid the groundwork for what will probably be an even more impressive football squad for the 2019 campaign.

MOST UNDERRATED FAN BASE

Palisades. One of District XI’s smallest schools features one of the most passionate and classy fans—from students, players, parents and coaches.

We talked at length about how well this group handled the controversial situation involving the previous year’s state playoff game loss to Conwell Egan.  This year, the team was in the hunt for another Colonial League championship—yet had the dubious distinction of being in the 3A classification (which switched from eight playoff qualifying spots to just four) and faced a nearly impossible road to a potential post-season berth once the team picked up its first loss.

This group remained loyal when the team was struggling to get enough players on the field to play a few years back and have handled being one of the league’s elite teams the past few years with respect towards other schools.  It was very enjoyable to travel outside our coverage area to Kintnersville again this year to see the stadium (how can you go wrong with a pirates ship on the field?), to experience the warm hospitality I experienced and receive the nice comments they passed along to me regarding reading my blog.

More “awards” coming, next week….