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: Oil and Water

One of the great benefits of sports is that, for a few hours, one gets away from the trials and tribulations of everyday life and watches cars go around an oval, a pass being thrown, a homerun being hit and, … well, you get the picture.

And one of the focal points of everyday living certainly has become politics.  There has not been anything more polarizing in our society since this last election.  Everyone not only has an opinion, they have very strong opinions and they do not particularly want to hear yours!

So it is probably best if the sports worlds and the political worlds are kept separate.  It certainly didn’t help Chris Christie’s popularity in New Jersey when he attended the Dallas Cowboys game against Detroit as the guest of the Cowboys’ owner.  Seems Christie does not root for the Jets, the Giants, or the Eagles – the three closest NFL teams to New Jersey – he roots for the Cowboys.  He would have been better off politically if he had just stayed home.

The sports and politics worlds collided again this past weekend.  The LPGA held the U. S. Women’s Open at Trump National in Bedminster, NJ.  This did not sit well with a large number of protesters, both at the course and around the country, who felt the women should not be playing at a course owned by the President whom they feel has sexually harassed women.  To make matters a bit worse (if that’s at all possible), there was video of Trump driving across a Trump National green a few weeks ago.  Driving across a green – this violates all rules of golf etiquette (unless you own the course, I guess).

And the players got caught in the middle.  This is the most important championship in women’s golf.  It has the largest purse and is the most prestigious.  To ask them to skip the tournament in protest against the host seems unfair.  During the week, the players went out of their way to stay out of the controversy because they are well aware that any answer would be seen as the wrong answer by so many.

So they played.  And the President showed up.  To the President’s credit, he did not get too involved other than watching from his temporary bungalow.

There were some peaceful political demonstrations, but the tournament took center stage and it was a great one.  An amateur almost won and the three-day leader couldn’t hang on until the end.

Politics and sports came together, but much like oil and water, they did not mix and that’s the way it should be.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. At the MLB All-Star break, two rookies are making the most impressive news.  In the National League, the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger has 22 home runs in 52 games and hit 10 homers in 10 games, a record.  On Sunday, he hit for the cycle.  In the American League, the Yankees’ Aaron Judge has set the Yankees record for home runs by a rookie (30) and leads the majors in six categories.  And, he was the first rookie to win the Home Run Derby.
  2. Speaking of the MLB, the games so far this year are taking longer than ever – three hours and nine minutes.  This is five minutes longer than last year.  ESPN’s 18-inning game lasted six hours and five minutes.  Rule changes to speed up the game are on the horizon.
  3. What has happened to the Cubs?  As I write this, they lag five-plus games behind the Brewers.  They are in the bottom third in the league in runs scored and hitting.  Their pitching is giving up almost five runs per game.  Joe Maddon will need some second-half magic.
  4. Jeongeun Lee played in the US Women’s Open but was listed on the board as Lee Je6.  On the Korean LPGA tour, she is the sixth player with the exact same name.  There was another Jeongeun Lee in the Open and she was, as you might expect, Lee Je5.
  5. We finish up our Blue Mountain League game of the week next Tuesday, July 25.  It has been a great year in the BML with very competitive teams and games.  The playoffs should be terrific.  If you’re a baseball fan, get out to a game or a series.  Thanks to the League officers and the managers for all their help.

Behind the Mic: Where Do I Sign?

In case you missed it, Saturday was the first day of NBA free agency and some rather large contracts were signed. The big names caused a big stir. Stephen Curry signed for $201 million (5 years); Blake Griffin for $175 million (5 years); and the 76ers got JJ Redick for a mere one-year $23 million contract. Curry’s deal was the biggest in NBA history and, it seemed to me, that it had to be one of the biggest of all time.

I knew there were bigger contracts over longer periods of time, but how did this one stack up on a per-year basis? I investigated. According to Wikipedia, only boxer Floyd Mayweather made more in a year than Curry – $72 million-plus in 2015. Kobe Bryant in his last year made $20 million. Five players in the NBA currently make more per year than Bryant ever did.

Is it justified? It would certainly be hard to argue the value of Curry or Griffin to their respective teams. Some things would seem to be obvious – they put people in the arenas; they therefore add to the concession dollars; they play up to their potential; and, most importantly, the owners think they are worth it. To me, that’s enough said. Unless the owners are willing to greatly reduce the price of a ticket (which they are not), I have no problem with the players getting a large piece of the pie that would otherwise go to the owners.

By the way, of the top 25 sports contracts on the Wikipedia list, 22 were signed by baseball players. Curry, Griffin, and Mayweather were the only ones to crack the list.

Where are the NFL players? This is interesting because when you look at their per-game paychecks from last year, they do just fine (not that anyone thought they were hurting financially). Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts made $1.4 million per game; Jay Cutler $1.1 million; Colin Kaepernick, Matt Ryan, and Aaron Rodgers made $1.3 million. Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady is not in the top 125 considering overall contracts.

So what do we take away from this? These are very talented people who are, obviously, highly valued financially in our society, rightfully or wrongfully. They are making more money for an event or a season than almost every American household will make in a lifetime. When it comes to the concerns of most Americans – putting food on the table, clothing the children, the economy, worrying about Obamacare vs Trumpcare, or Medicaid and Medicare, most cannot relate to their income.

However, we also create their value by buying the expensive tickets, the over-priced beer and food, and their jerseys. When we say they are not worth getting paid what they make and then buy tickets to their games, we deflate our own argument.

Bottom line – in our society, we are all worth what someone is willing to pay us!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
 

  1. Speaking of NFL contracts, Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr will make $25 million this season, but that’s not the point here. In 2019, the Raiders will move from California to Nevada. California has the highest income tax in the nation and Nevada has no state income tax. Carr will save $8.7 million in taxes!
  2. Yankees’ rookie Aaron Judge has put up home run, RBI, and batting average numbers to warrant being named both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP. Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki are the only players to win both awards in the same year. By the way, Fernando Valenzuela is the only player to win the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award in the same year.
  3. If you follow the PGA, you know that Phil Mickelson and caddy “Bones” MacKay split after 25 years together. Mickelson’s brother, Pete, will take on the caddy role. So what does MacKay do? He signed a multi-year contract with NBC/Golf Channel to be an on-course announcer. His insights should be somewhat different from all the former players who have become announcers.
  4. It’s not just our President who gets in trouble with his “tweets”. Rory McIlroy had problems this past week himself. Fellow golfer Steve Elkington suggested that McIlroy, with “100mill in the bank”, was so rich he is “bored” with golf and that is why McIlroy missed the US Open cut. McIlroy tweeted it was more like “200mill, not bad for a ‘bored’ 28-year-old.” He regrets that tweet and has turned his Twitter account over to his wife. Is there a lesson here for our President?
  5. Our “first-time ever” broadcast of the Men’s Senior Baseball League continues to get postponed due to weather. We will get it done at some point. But the Blue Mountain League Game of the Week continues on Tuesday, July 18, when the Orioles visit the Limeport Bulls. Watch at 9:30pm.

Behind the Mic: The Next Babe?

Sunday is, at least for me, a day of watching sports. I try not to interfere with family time, but I must admit, between the NFL, college basketball, and golf, there is often a magnetic pull towards the remote control anytime I am in the family room.

This past Sunday was no exception. The Travelers’ Championship was on CBS and Jordan Spieth was in the lead.  I enjoy rooting for Jordan, I had played the golf course, and Travelers is my insurance company, so I just had to tune in.  On a day when Spieth could not make a putt, he dramatically wins the tournament in a playoff by holing a sand shot from 60 feet away.  Another $1.2 million in his 24-year-old bank account.

I figured my sports’ viewing for the day was over. Then on comes 60 Minutes, a show my wife and I watch every week.  They did a very, very interesting piece on Artificial Intelligence.  The final story was on a Japanese baseball player named Shohei Ohtani who plays for the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Ohtani is a 6’4, 215 pound, 22 year-old right-handed pitcher who has thrown the ball an amazing 102.5 miles per hour. To steal some facts from the show, he has a higher strikeout rate than Clayton Kershaw, has thrown the fastest pitch in league history, strikes out 11+ batters per game, and last year had an ERA of 1.86.  And, oh, by the way, that’s just on Sundays.

During the week, except for the two-day rest he gets before he pitches again, Ohtani is the designated hitter. That’s right – when he doesn’t pitch and hit, he just hits.  “Just” is a misplaced adjective here.  Last year, he had 22 home runs, hitting the long ball 6% of the time he came the plate.  That’s a better percentage than Bryce Harper and Mike Trout of Major League baseball.

And it looks like this is his final year of Japanese baseball. He is, most likely, headed here.  BUT, he will only play for a team that allows him to hit when he pitches and hit when he doesn’t.  The last player to do that and do it well was Babe Ruth!

He currently makes @ $2 million, lives in a team dorm, does not drink, and has no car. He would have garnered close to $20+ million had he signed an MLB contract last year, but the new bargaining agreement limits international players from earning over $10 million and they must play at least six years with the team that signs them.

Ohtani doesn’t care. He says he has enough money.  And he is anxious to bat against Kershaw and pitch to Harper.

The first piece on 60 Minutes was about robots doing amazing things that humans cannot do.  The Ohtani story seemed to be just a continuation, but this was an amazing thing that a human can do.  Much like Babe Ruth did.

Check out the segment:
http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/japans-babe-ruth-2/

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. ESPN is polling fans to choose the top quarterbacks on a given team. For instance, the Packers’ top three would have to be Bart Starr, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers. How would you rank them.  Ironically, ESPN has listed 19 teams and the Eagles are not one of them. Are they telling us something or did they just not get to the Birds yet?
  2. Speaking of “telling us something”, on the ESPN “This Week in Sports” search under MLB, there are 166 stories listed. The Phillies are the focus on one! That story is about their Saturday win (I guess the rare win warranted the story) over the Diamondbacks. Pathetic.
  3. It was announced this week that the Saucon Valley Country Club will host its eighth USGA championship in 2022 when the Senior Open comes to the Lehigh Valley. That is the year when Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, and many other famous names will be eligible to play. RCN has always been proud of their telecommunication assistance during the past tournaments. It should create a great deal of national excitement for our area.
  4. The Cedar Beach Basketball Showcase in Allentown is, often, an indicator of which local teams will be the best in the upcoming high school season. The early favorites are familiar – Emmaus, Allen, Central Catholic, and Bangor (of the Colonial League) all look solid again. Sleepers could be Nazareth, Northampton, Liberty, and Dieruff (yes, Dieruff). That’s plenty of teams creating plenty of competition. It looks like another good year.
  5. No Blue Mountain League Game of the Week this coming Tuesday night (it’s July 4). However, on Friday, July 7, you can watch the Senior Baseball League on RCN at 9:30 PM. It’s their first television game in history and features the Gabelsville Owls vs the Palmisano Rangers.

We’re taking a holiday break next week, so there will be no blog. Wishing you a happy and safe Independence Day!

Behind the Mic: Golf Language

For most fathers, Father’s Day is a special weekend.  My family celebrated on Saturday and it was a wonderful day.  The celebration continued into Sunday like it does every year for me because that is when the US Open Golf Championship is decided.

Much of the time when I play these days, it is in a charity tournament. Ninety-percent of the time the format of the tournament is a “scramble”.  This means after everyone hits, your group takes the best shot and everyone plays from there.  That process continues until the ball is in the hole.  Because we are always playing the best shot, it is not unusual, unlike when one plays their own ball, to get pars and birdies.  This allows one’s team to get scores much like the pros.

So Sunday, I am camped in my recliner watching the golf and being amazed by the shots of eventual winner Brooks Koepka.  He is making birdie after birdie on the back nine and he even threw in an eagle.  My wife, supposedly reading the Sunday paper and playing games on her phone, seemed to become very interested in the leader.  “He certainly goes to the gym”, she offered up and I now realize she is suddenly interested in golf.  This is as rare as a snowstorm in July.

Then she opines, “Why do they call the scores pars, birdies, or eagles?”  No one ever asked me that before.  I know what they are; I do not know their origin.  So I decided to find out.  I’m not sure she really wanted to know, but now I did.

It turns out a man named Hugh Rotherham in 1890 standardized the number of shots a golfer should take at each hole.  This score eventually became a “bogey” named after the Bogey man, a goblin or devil.

Par was derived from the American stock exchange term which is a stock’s normal figure.  Par was actually used before bogey, but Americans did not like the British system and began referring to one over par as a bogey.

“Birdie” was an American slang term meaning excellent.  It originated at the Atlantic City Country Club in 1903 and meant one under par.  A stone on the course signifies the origin (I’ve played there and have seen the rock below):

birdie

“Eagle” just became an extension of the bird theme and came about shortly after “birdie” came into vogue.   It meant two under par.  The extremely rare three under par was named after a very rare bird – an “albatross”.

So now I know the origin of the terms and I will tell my wife to read this blog.  I just have a feeling that if the blog does not include a picture of Brooks Koepka, she might not be all that interested.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. I’ve had it with the pace of Major League baseball. Pitchers take too much time; batters step out of the box too often; managers make too many trips to the mound and there are too many pitching changes.  Throw in a 17-inning game from time to time and baseball becomes excruciatingly slow.  I hope the rules “they are a-changin’”.
  1. It looks like the “76ers” are going to get a first-round draft pick. It appears that Washington point guard Markelle Fultz will be the selection.  A great point guard could actually make them competitive.  Dare a Philadelphia fan get one’s hopes up?
  1. Ever since her UConn days, I always loved watching Diana Taurasi play basketball. Her talent and enthusiasm were what made her stand out.  She just seemed to love the game.  This past Sunday she became the all-time leading scorer in WNBA history.  After Sunday’s game, she had scored 7,504 points.  Amazing!
  1. Watching golf on FOX is still not the same as the Golf Channel, NBC, or CBS. Joe Buck had an awkward moment when Brooks Koepka kissed a girl after he won the US Open and Buck incorrectly identified her as Koepka’s former girlfriend.  The young lady was his new girlfriend.  It was later corrected.

P.S.  FOX is much better than they were the first two years.  However, there is still room for growth.

  1. Watch the Blue Mountain League Game of the Week every Tuesday night at 9:30 PM.  On Friday, June 23, you can watch the Senior Baseball League on RCN at 9:30 PM.  That game will be from Sam Balliet Stadium.  It’s always nice to go back there.

 

Behind the Mic: Hall of Fame

No matter how you look at it, it has been a good year for District XI.  Chairman Bob Hartman and his committee have managed 24 sports for 54 schools, but they have done that in the past.  This year, however, they managed many of those sports by adding two more classifications to the mix.  Where the maximum number of classifications before this year was four, they were forced to manage six this season.  That is a 33% gain in games and champions in those sports that were affected.  There were more playoffs, meaning more schools and more champions.

Last year at this time, when it seemed like it would be a nightmare for everyone to adjust, the District XI planned for the contingencies well in advance.  Therefore, for the most part (despite weather being a troubling factor), all was accomplished rather seamlessly.  One can argue the merits of adding more classes, but it would be hard to argue that District XI was not up to the challenge.

Another major accomplishment of the committee was the use of the PPL Center for the AAAAAA boys’ basketball semifinals.  With 7000+ fans in the stands, four outstanding teams, and some of the greatest Lehigh Valley high school players to play in the same place on the same night, it may very well have been the single most legendary night of District XI basketball.  Again, praise goes to Bob Hartman and his staff.

Instead of resting on their laurels after what had to be a trying year logistically, this past week it was unveiled that a District XI Hall of Fame will be organized “as a means of recognizing, preserving, and promoting the heritage of interscholastic sports in District XI”.  Those eligible for admittance will consist of athletes, contest officials, coaches, and contributors.

If you have been around District XI athletics for as long as, or even longer, than I have, you can imagine the monumental task of paring down the list of entrants to a manageable number each year.  The McDonald’s Lehigh Valley Hall of Fame has nearly 100 members and the VIA Lehigh Valley Basketball Hall of Fame is nearing the 200-member total.  That is just in two sports – basketball and football!  Now, consider the outstanding high school athletes who have passed through the Lehigh Valley in the past 30+ years in 21 other sports.  To use a pet phrase of mine – “Oh my!!!”

And, to their credit, this is not something that District XI needed to do.  They have placed this challenge upon themselves and, for that, they are to be commended.  And, if history is any proof of their ability to meet the challenge, it will get accomplished.

So when accolades are being tossed around at the end of this school term, all lists should include the work and accomplishments of District XI.  It bears repeating – District XI has had a very good year.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. “Familiarity breeds contempt” goes the adage. It is no more evident than in the NHL and NBA finals.  As any fan can see, play the same people day in and day out and things get particularly nasty and “chippy”.  Each additional match or game becomes that much more emotional.
  2. I’m sure at the time the New England Patriots were not very pleased to be trailing the Atlanta Falcons 28-3 in the third quarter of the most recent Super Bowl. But because of that deficit their Super Bowl championship rings contain 283 diamonds, the biggest Super Bowl ring ever made.  This almost makes a team want to fall behind!
  3. How much would you pay for a new pair of sneakers? Up to $150?  More?  This past Sunday morning, the sneakers Michael Jordan wore in the 1984 gold-medal win over Spain sold for $190,373!  Another pair of Jordan sneakers had previously sold for $104,765.
  1. As I write this, Liberty and Whitehall are still alive in the PIAA state baseball playoffs. Each needs to win this Monday to get to the title game at Penn State which will be played on Thursday and Friday.  Go Canes!  Go Zephs!
  2. This week on RCN-TV, we will start our Blue Mountain League baseball coverage. The Game of the Week will be on Tuesday nights at 9:30.  This week’s game features the two-time defending champion Limeport Bulls taking on the Hellertown Royals.  The McDonald’s All-Star Football Classic will be on Thursday, June 15, at 10:00.

 

Behind the Mic: Filling Out the Brackets

The 2016-17 school year is winding down and, therefore, so is the athletic season.  State titles still need to be decided in girls’ and boys’ lacrosse, tennis, track and field, and boys’ volleyball.  These championships are basically the same as in previous years with AA and AAA champions.

But this school year was a year of change for a number of sports in the PIAA due to the addition of two more classifications in many other sports.  In particular, the big three of football, basketball and baseball each added a AAAAA and AAAAAA class to the previous four.  District XI, our district, was no exception.  So, now that we have been through one year and with the knowledge that this format is already set in stone, allow me to give you some interesting facts, specifically concerning football, boys’ basketball, and baseball:

  • There were 19 teams in those three sports that got into the District XI tournament with losing records (in the past, you had to be at .500 or better to get in).
  • The justification for adding these teams is to “fill out the brackets” or allow the minimum number allowed for a district in the playoffs.
  • One team got into the football playoffs with a 1-9 record.
  • Nine teams got into the basketball playoffs with losing records and eight teams got into the baseball playoffs with losing records.

No team took more advantage of the “filling out the bracket” rule than the Whitehall baseball team.  They were placed in the AAAAA class to make a four-team bracket.  Blue Mountain was ranked first with a 15-4 record, Southern Lehigh was second with a 16-4 record, and Bangor was third with a 13-7 record.  No one would argue that they deserved to be in the playoff, but Whitehall got in with an 8-12 record.  This would not have been good enough in the past.

But, before you trash the system, Whitehall won the championship!  That’s right.  They upset the #1 seed in extra innings and went on to destroy the #2 seed in the championship.  So… there are questions:

  1. Should teams with losing records be allowed in?
  1. Is the goal to get as many athletes and teams involved in playoffs justifiable?
  1. Does a losing team winning the championship prove their right to admission?

And, the biggest question of all –

  1. Do we need six classifications?

I’m pretty sure they are here to stay, but you might have some fun debating their value.  We, in the media, do it all the time.  And you have all summer to discuss before the games begin again in September.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. No one was more skeptical than I was when the pundits were predicting that the Golden State Warriors would easily defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA playoffs. Some said they would sweep them in four straight.  Well, they have won the first two and are now 14-0 in the playoffs.  No team has ever gone undefeated throughout the entire playoffs.  Steph Curry and Kevin Durant more than balance out the talent of LeBron James.
  2. The NHL playoffs are just as entertaining as the NBA. When the Nashville Predators went down 2-0 in the series, and 1-0 in game three, it looked like a sweep might also happen in the NHL.  But Nashville went on to score the next five goals to win their first Stanley Cup game in history.  No sweep here and no heavy favorite either.
  3. As a kid, I remember reading “Fear Strikes Out” written by major league baseball player Jimmy Piersall. It was a very moving story.  The book dealt very realistically with Piersall’s mental illness which turned out to be a bipolar disorder.  It showed in Piersall’s furious arguments with umpires, a fistfight with Billy Martin, making pig noises in the outfield, etc.  This all culminated in a mental breakdown.  I honestly thought he had already passed away.  I was a bit shocked when I read he passed away this past week at the age of 87.  It is a book worth reading.
  4. Congratulations to Liberty, Parkland, Whitehall, and Wilson for making the PIAA state baseball championships. Each needs to win three games to get to the title game at Penn State.
  5. Next week on RCN-TV, we will start our Blue Mountain League baseball coverage. The Game of the Week will be on Tuesday nights at 9:30.  The McDonald’s All-Star Football Classic will be on Thursday, June 15, at 10:00.

 

Behind the Mic: Bucket List

Every sports fan dreams of one day attending a major sporting championship – the Super Bowl, an NCAA basketball championship, the Masters, college football’s national championship, etc.  You get the picture.

Every week, I receive “deals” that would allow someone to purchase access to major sporting events.  In fact, this week, I was offered tickets to the US Open, the Major League Baseball homerun derby and All-Star game, the Yankees VIP private luxury suite, and the NBA playoffs.

After you get done “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing”, allow me to give you the specifics and you can decide whether you have a large enough “bucket” (full of money) to attend these once-in-a-lifetime events.

I will start with the “cheapest” (and you will see I have used the wrong word here):

2017 US Open Golf Tournament – Erin Hill G. C., Hartford, WI
Four (4)Trophy Club Tickets for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Trophy Club is the Official On Site Hospitality Facility where Food and Beverage is available on a daily cash basis along with Flat Screen TVs for Live Tournament Coverage, Tables, Chairs, Service Staff, Private Restrooms in a Temperature-Controlled Environment.
All Inclusive Price:  $5,250

Only $5,250 but you must buy your own food and beverage and watch the tournament on TV in a room with tables, chairs and a bathroom – that sounds like my house.

2017 Major League Home Run Derby and All-Star Game – Marlins Park, Miami, FL
Four (4) Lower Level Infield* Tickets to Monday, July 10th-Home Run Derby
Four (4) Lower Level Infield* Tickets to Tuesday, July 11th-All Star Game
*(Tickets will be located between First Base and Third Base)
All Inclusive Price:  $10,950

Good seats, for sure.  Watch it all LIVE – nice.  Did you see the price? – Not nice!

NY Yankees VIP Private Luxury Suite
Sixteen (16) VIP Suite Tickets
$15,950
June 9th vs Baltimore Orioles (Reggie Jackson Bobblehead)
Aug 11th vs Boston Red Sox
Aug 14th vs NY Mets
Aug 15th vs NY Mets
*Additional Games Available 

Okay – these tickets are for a regular season game, so how special is that?  Well, you do get a Reggie Jackson Bobblehead doll.  If you have 16 friends, they must be willing to pony up $996.88 apiece.  You could tell them that the price is usually $1,000, but you got a special deal.  Or (and I would never do this), charge them $1064 and you get in free (now that’s a way to check one off of your bucket list).

NBA Finals – Home Game #1
Ten (10) Person VIP Private Luxury Suite
$34,950*
*Includes Food and Beverage Catering Package

You can’t beat this!  Food and beverage is included for just $3,495 per person.  How could anyone turn this down?

Just a note: If you could find 34 others to join you and for the mere price of $7,173.13 apiece, you could see them all.  Or imagine the food, beverages, and TV you could buy for that price and invite 34 friends over (and give each of them a really nice “bucket” as a souvenir)!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. ESPN has come out with the top 100 most famous athletes on the planet using a number of analytics. The top five are: 5. Phil Mickelson 4. Roger Federer  3. Lionel Messi  2. LeBron James and 1. Christiano Ronaldo – two soccer players, one golfer, one tennis player, and one NBA player.
  2. The Los Angeles Angels lost 2016 MVP Mike Trout for six to eight weeks due to surgery on his thumb. He injured it sliding into second base.  Trout was second in the American League in batting, second in home runs, and fourth in RBIs.
  3. There was a pretty good brawl on Memorial Day Monday between the Nationals and the Giants. It featured Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland.  Watch:

http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/19492344/bryce-harper-washington-nationals-hunter-strickland-san-francisco-giants-start-bench-clearing-brawl

  1. As well as the Iron Pigs are playing (21 wins in last 23 games), that’s how bad the Phillies are playing (four wins in last 26 games).  Is the glass half full or half empty?
  2. NBA playoffs start Thursday. The Golden State Warriors are 12-0 in the playoffs.  No team has ever finished the playoffs unbeaten.  Don’t expect the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers to lose four straight.  They could even win the whole thing again.  This one is worth watching!

Behind the Mic: Activity Suspended

“Activity suspended” – believe it or not, that is one of the definitions of a vacation.  Well, I just returned from vacation and, trust me when I tell you, activity was not suspended.

Before I get into the details, I want to thank John Leone, Scott Barr, Jim Best, and Randy Kane for filling my blog space while I was away.  They did wonderful pieces on a variety of topics and you should take the time to go back and read them if you haven’t done so.

While they were helping me, my wife and I were sailing on a two-week cruise on the Harmony of the Seas for our “suspension of activities” after the football and basketball seasons.

The ship (do not call it a boat) is the largest sailing vessel on the seas.  6,000 passengers are on board each week.  There are seven different “neighborhoods” to be found throughout the five stories–

  • A royal promenade (think shopping mall)
  • Central Park (think New York with live trees, upscale New York restaurants, and expensive jewelry stores and a beautiful open-air walkway)
  • A boardwalk (complete with a merry-go-round, two dry nine-story slides, two restaurants, a hot-dog shop and an aquatic theater)
  • An entertainment area (think a major theater, an ice theater, a comedy club, a jazz club, and a karaoke bar)
  • The pool area and water park (think three water slides and three pools)
  • A sports zone (think zip line, miniature golf, surfboarding, a basketball court, and ping-pong)
  • A spa (think “suspension of activities”)

If you think that is enough to keep you busy, let me get to the entertainment:

  • Two full-scale production shows (Grease and Columbus, the Musical)
  • A headliner show (a ventriloquist in week one and an a cappella group in week two)
  • Two full production ice shows
  • Two aquatic shows featuring high diving from 10 stories above the theater pool at the back of a moving ship
  • A comedy club featuring two new comedians each week
  • Three game shows
  • A major casino
  • An art auction, etc.

And, of course, there is the food and drink.  There is always food – all the time, anytime.  In fact there are 25 different places to eat (at least that’s what I counted) and 37 bars (no, I did not try each one).

To attempt to see and do everything in a week, or even two, leads me to believe that Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com, and the Cambridge Dictionary need to re-think their vacation definition when it comes to cruising – please drop “suspension of activity”.

It is much more restful at my desk.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. I will watch the NBA finals between Golden State and Cleveland. Now that should be great basketball.
  2. It is not easy to keep up with the sports scene on the ship. Upon returning, I realized the Phillies were 2-11 while I was gone.  I was glad I could not keep up while away.
  3. The 76’ers will get the #3 draft pick this year, so the franchise can continue to add good players. I just hope they add a player who can actually play and not be on the injury list for most of the season.  When will the Philadelphia fans finally see a competitive product?
  4. Parkland won the EPC baseball championship by beating Liberty. It was their 20th league championship, far more than any other school.  Congratulations!
  5. Once again, on Memorial Day, we will replay some of our most memorable football, basketball, and wrestling contests this past season (see schedule here). Everyone is a classic if you want to relive the memories.

Behind the Mic: Grandview’s Bruce Rogers

I’ll return with a new blog post on May 22.  This week, I’ve asked race announcer Randy Kane to guest blog.  RCN-TV viewers should recognize Randy from the Grandview Speedway broadcasts airing April through August each year.  Click here to read Randy’s bio from the RCN-TV “Our Broadcasters” page.

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Grandview Speedway Owner-Promoter Bruce Rogers Certainly Will Be Missed 

Longtime Grandview Speedway owner-promoter Bruce Rogers, who passed away in late March after a long battle with a number of health issues over the past year, was an icon in the local auto racing community. He certainly will be missed.

Rogers had been running the show at the Bechtelsville-based, high-banked third-mile dirt track since it opened back in 1963.  His father, Forrest Rogers, owned 100 acres of land and for many years was a race fan, who took his son along to all the weekly local tracks. After several tracks closed up, Forrest decided to plow under his farmland and build his own race track. Ground was broken in 1962 and the first race was held in August 1963.  The new speedway got its name simply from Forrest Rogers looking out over the area while standing on the back straightaway and telling everybody it was a “grand view.” Truly, that name just stuck.

When Forrest passed away in 1966, Bruce and his mother took over as speedway promoters.  Bruce’s mother sold admission tickets for $2 each out of the back of a station wagon parked at the main entrance.  Bruce had a full-time job in addition to the race track position, but he loved his part in the family business.  Eventually, the annual Forrest Rogers Memorial became a race every driver wanted to win. In recent years, drivers have earned as much as $20,000 for the win on those special nights.  The first race ever on August 11, 1963 paid $350 to win and was won by Lauden Potts.  Together, the Rogers family – Bruce, wife Theresa, son Kenny and daughter Tina – turned the track into a huge success. Grandson Brad recently joined the staff as well.

Grandview Speedway has long been known for its smooth racing surface and superb track preparations, with Bruce Rogers the main man operating the grader.  Rogers brought many different types of racing to the track through the years, from winged sprint cars to midgets to the 358 Modified cars of today, along with the Late Models and Sportsman.  Thunder on The Hill mid-week racing specials were brought to life by Rogers and promoter Bob Miller. NASCAR greats raced at the track on special nights as well.  The track today continues to present some of the finest weekly competition around and the grandstands continue to fill up.

RCN TV joined forces with Grandview Speedway back in the 2001 racing season. The very first television broadcast took place on May 5, 2001. Today, after 17 consecutive seasons, Grandview remains a solid partner with RCN TV bringing the local fans some of the finest local dirt track racing around.  In the past, RCN TV brought the fans local racing events from Nazareth Speedway, the Flemington Fair Speedway in New Jersey, races from Pocono, Nazareth National Speedway and other places, but the most success has been brought by the marriage with Grandview Speedway.

Throughout it all, Bruce Rogers was there for every minute of it until earlier this year in late March.

Bruce Rogers no longer is calling the shots at the track, but the foundation he built continues to be strong today. Bruce Rogers certainly will be missed, but the track will continue on, running every Saturday night throughout the summer in his memory. Rogers truly was an icon in local racing.

Behind the Mic: The State of District XI Wrestling Address

Gary will be returning with a new blog on May 22.  This week, he’s asked RCN’s Jim Best to guest blog.  Viewers should recognize Jim from RCN-TV’s coverage of high school wrestling.

The State of District XI Wrestling Address:

The 2016-17 high school wrestling season has come and gone. At face value, what a great season it was. In the AAA ranks, Nazareth and Bethlehem Catholic had three epic dual meets, and Nazareth finally cracked the code to knock off the Golden Hawks for a District XI team title and then went on to capture a coveted Pennsylvania State Championship team title by defeating the Golden Hawks in a come-from-behind victory in the finals of the team championships. In the AA ranks, Saucon Valley continued their dominance, but Wilson High School showed that they are back in the mix of things with a young and talented team. At the conclusion of the individual post- season, District XI crowned four state champions in the AAA division, and Nazareth, Bethlehem Catholic and Northampton placed first through third respectively in the team standings. Many fans of District XI wrestling are chanting the phrase, “We’re back!” in reference to the statewide dominance of District XI wrestling in the 1980s and 1990s.

So, it’s all good in the District XI wrestling world, or is it? Dig a bit deeper, and an argument can be made that District XI wrestling is struggling. Why? For starters, the balance of wrestling power weighs heavy towards five teams. In AAA, Nazareth, Bethlehem Catholic and Northampton have separated themselves from the rest of the AAA field. In fact, those four AAA state champions were all from either Nazareth (2), Bethlehem Catholic (1) or Northampton (1). In AA, the balance is a bit more distributed, but Saucon Valley and Wilson appear to have distanced themselves from the rest of the competition. I happened to have spent a lot of time at the District XI Junior High Championships in February, and I can tell you, based on what I saw at that tournament, that those five teams are going to continue their dominance for at least the next six years. Meanwhile, the majority of the other District XI wrestling teams are left hoping for a slightly above average team record and, if they have a really over-achieving season, they qualify for the team districts where they will eventually run into one of the five “superpower” teams and suffer a humiliating defeat. The result…as evidenced by steadily declining entry numbers in the junior high district tournament, participation numbers in the sport of wrestling are down across the district (as they are across the state) and a classic case of “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” is in full process. Good news for District XI wrestling? I don’t think so.

A second hint that something is amiss in the District XI wrestling world is the resignation of several prominent coaches across the district following this past season. When at least three quality head coaches decide to resign in the same year, you have to scratch your head and ask, “Why is this happening”? While I don’t think there is any one specific reason, I do think that the time and energy commitment it takes to build a top team in the district has taken a toll on the personal lives of many head coaches. In addition, those coaches who have not seen their expected level of success over many years, despite their non-stop effort to build a top program, eventually get to the point when the say, “Why am I doing this”? It is admirable to want to help wrestlers become better wrestlers, and better people in the process, but to keep running into the same wall over and over again, and not see different results, is frustrating. Quality coaches resigning from their positions while still in their prime coaching years should be a big red flag to all District XI Wrestling fans.

I apologize if I have painted a grim picture of District XI wrestling. From a broadcaster’s perspective, the District XI wrestling world couldn’t be better. My partner (Scott Barr) and I get to call some great dual meets, and the finals of the District XI individual championships seem to get more action packed every year. As a fan of wrestling, with no invested interest in the success of any one team, all IS good in the District XI wrestling world. However, as an ex-District XI wrestler and head coach, with an invested interest in helping to maintain or grow interest levels in the sport of wrestling, I have serious concerns about the current “state of affairs” within the district. In my humble opinion, an honest and in-depth conversation which begins the process of solving the existing problems is long overdue. Where, and with whom, does that conversation begin?