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.

$15 Made All the Difference

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 I begin to contemplate my retirement from high school athletics, I find myself looking back on how it all began.  Being a firm believer in “right place, right time”, I am struck by the circumstances that got me started on a 50-year journey of sports broadcasting.

I was teaching at Wilson High School.  It was late in the day on a Friday in November when I checked my mailbox and found a note from Dick Hammer of radio station WEST asking me to call him.  School was still in session and I was on my way to monitor a pep rally for the football team as they were preparing to face their arch rival the next day.  There was no time to make the call.

Ironically and, as it turned out fortuitously, when I returned from the pep rally and the students had been dismissed, I found yet another note in my mailbox.  This one was from Bob Gehris of Twin-County TV.  He asked me to call him.  I noted that the calls came in about 20 minutes apart.

I knew both of these men – Dick Hammer was renowned in the area as a radio sports announcer and we had crossed paths many times when I was playing and coaching.  I respected him so much both for his broadcasting skills and his personal traits.  He called me first so I called him first.

Dick Hammer asked me to be his color analyst for the upcoming basketball season.  I was thrilled.  I was confident in my ability to fulfill the position – I was an English teacher so I was certain I could do justice to the English language. I played and coached basketball so I knew that I could analyze the game.  After a good conversation, I asked about the pay.  I would get $15 a game.  That seemed fair and I really wanted to do it.  Before accepting, I mentioned that I needed to talk to my wife and that I had received a call from Bob Gehris of Twin County TV which I should return.  So, despite my intense interest and excitement, I said I would get back to him.

I next called Bob Gehris.  I had known him since I was in elementary school.  He was the principal of my grade school and was my sixth grade teacher.  I had a love of sports back then and he shared that same passion.  I looked forward to just speaking with him.

After catching up with one another, he asked me if I would be his color analyst for the upcoming basketball season.  Yup, you heard right – same request, same job, television, not radio.  I could not believe it.  Within 20 minutes, both men had me on their radar to be their co-announcer.  Once again, the conversation turned to the pay.  It was $30 per game.  It was double what WEST was offering.

I told Mr. Gehris that I truly appreciated the offer, needed to talk to my wife, and I would get back to him.

The rest became my history.  My wife was fine with me accepting and, in fact, was convinced I would do a good job.  She felt, as I did, that television was the future here and earning twice the money was a no-brainer.  It would be difficult to say “no” to one and exciting to say “yes” to the other.

I called Dick Hammer and explained that I appreciated the offer and would have loved to work alongside him, but the Twin-County offer was, as The Godfather once implied, “one I could not refuse.”  I called Bob Gehris and accepted the position.

That moment changed my whole life, as I eventually left teaching, became Sports Director, and did the job for 50+ years.

Who would have ever thought that a mere 20 minutes and $15 would mean so much?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

Olympic Golf was played at the Kasumigaseki Country Club and won by American Xander Schauffele. One interesting aspect of golf at the club was the dress code for the players.  According to James Colgan of Golf, the code there was very, very strict:

  1. Blazers and jackets are required upon arrival.
  1. Shorts can be worn on the course, but only with knee-high socks. Cargo shorts, jeans, mini-skirts, tights, leggings, and “hot pants” are strictly forbidden.
  1. Collars can be worn up on shirts on the course, but must be turned back down in the clubhouse.
  1. If you wear a long-sleeved underlayer shirt, you MUST wear a long-sleeved overlayer.
  1. No metal spikes may be worn and sneakers, sandals, and golf shoes are forbidden in the clubhouse.
  1. Loud colors and “conspicuous designs” may not be worn.
  1. James Colgan leaves us with this thought, “The crown jewel of KCC’s dress code rules. In the summer months, members and guests are asked to change their shirt and trousers before entering the dining room to prevent from leaving a damp seat for future guests.”

This makes me wonder if I have EVER left a damp seat!  I sure hope not.

 

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: David Niven’s Early Years

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.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.   Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

As we approach the anniversary of the passing of one of cinema’s classic actors, we salute the talented career of David Niven.

If a movie watcher was asked to identify one of the most suave and sophisticated actors in the first 100 years of cinema, the name David Niven most certainly would have to be included in the conversation.

Although he claimed throughout his life that he was born in Scotland, records indicate that James David Graham Niven was born in Grosvenor, London on March 1st, 1910.

Losing his father before his seventh birthday, Niven was kicked out of school at the age of 10 because of the incessant practical jokes he would play on his schoolmates.  According to his autobiography, “The Moon’s A Balloon,” he received many acts of corporal punishment throughout his childhood, but finally found some solace while attending the newly created public Stowe School, due to the kindness of its headmaster.

He then enlisted in the British Army but quickly grew tired of the experience.  His ultimate decision to resign came after a lengthy lecture on machine guns, which was interfering with his plans for dinner with a young lady. At the end of the lecture, the speaker (a major general) asked if there were any questions. Showing the typical rebelliousness of his early years, Niven asked, “Could you tell me the time, sir? I have to catch a train.”

After being placed under close-arrest for this act of insubordination, Niven shared a bottle of whisky with the officer who was guarding him and was allowed to escape from a first-floor window and set sail for America. After failed attempts at being a whisky salesman and a rodeo promoter, David tried his hand at acting.

Niven’s acting career quickly grew with bigger and bigger roles in “B films” and then a few small parts in major motion pictures.  His early highlights in the mid-1930s included Mutiny On The Bounty, Barbary Coast, Palm Springs and The Charge Of The Light Brigade, starring Errol Flynn.

From there, David began receiving larger roles in films and soon became a major star with flicks like Bachelor Mother, Wuthering Heights, Eternally Yours, Raffles and The Real Glory…all in 1939 alone!

And then…World War II broke out.  Like many in Hollywood — and around the world, Niven’s career was put on hold. And, like a good number of soldiers, he didn’t have the smoothest return to a “normal” life after the war.

We’ll explore the roller coaster that made up David’s “second act,” next week here at The Showplace.

In the meantime, you can see David Niven in one of his earliest leading roles in Eternally Yours on RCN-TV.  To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

Announcer 101

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.

I believe most sports fans believe they could just jump behind a microphone and do an announcer’s job.  Most do not realize the preparation and skill it takes to present the product for the enjoyment of the viewer.  It only looks easy because of the work that goes into knowing the players, their teams, and the game itself before you even go on the air.  It also helps to surround oneself with a great crew and outstanding fellow announcers.  In the many years I have been behind the microphone (50+), I have been blessed with outstanding color analysts – the ones who create additional information as the action unfolds.

It all started with Dick Tracy, who probably was the quirkiest of all, but so highly respected that he could say almost anything, never look at the camera, and be received as the true authority of the high school football, basketball, and baseball scenes.  He was not television “savvy” but that was part of his charm and mystique and it worked!

When Dick retired, it left a huge void that needed to be filled and it was my job to find the replacements.  I decided that, prior to any interview, I would create a blueprint for the job.  Here are the suggestions (in bold type) I tried to instill in my potential recruits:

MY TOP 10 ANALYST TIPS

BE PREPARED:
Follow all the games each week so you get a feel for the top players, the teams, and the conference. 

BE NATURAL:
Try to stay conversational and relaxed. With TV, the pictures can speak for themselves – just try to add interest to the game. Relax and respond to the situation and the play-by-play guy.

KNOW THE NAMES:
Learn the proper pronunciation prior to the game.  Take time to find the names before talking about a play.  It is not a panic situation.  There is time to find the number and the name in the program.  This will become second nature to you with experience.

DON’T HESITATE TO BE HUMOROUS:
The only caution is try not to demean a player; you certainly can point out a mistake (but it is still better to give the player who did the right thing more air time). Instead of saying someone badly missed a tackle, give credit to the runner.

IF YOU THINK YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN’T SAY SOMETHING – DON’T!

POINT OUT AND CLARIFY:
You can truly add to the game by pointing out things – emphasizing a player’s skills, clarifying why a play worked, etc.

DON’T RESPOND TO THE DIRECTOR IN THE HEADSET – THE PEOPLE AT HOME CAN’T HEAR HIM:
If a question is asked by the director, work the answer into the conversation.

P.S. – the crew will always try to test a rookie and make him answer a question on the air.  You’ve been warned.

DON’T TALK OVER THE PLAY-BY-PLAY MAN:
There is ample time to get your analysis in after the play has been called.  Relax and jump in at the appropriate time.  Remember – “Dead ball is you”; “Live ball is not you”.

LISTEN:
To coaches, sportswriters, players, and play-by-play announcers.  Their insights become YOUR insights.

BE READY FOR THE NOTORIETY:
People will eventually get to know you and talk to you at the mall, on the street, at the corner store like you are their friend.  I have found that a simple “Thank you” for a compliment and an “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I hope not to do that again” for a valid criticism works pretty well. Remember – you are a representative of RCN. 

I fortunately found Mike Joseph (football), John Leone (college basketball), Tom Stoudt (basketball) and Scott Barr (wrestling and baseball) as the four who fit the bill.  I could not have surrounded myself with better people over the years, and for that, I am grateful.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I did watch the All-Star game because of Shohei Ohtani. I do not know which is better for the game – his exploits or his personality.  He may hit 60 or more home runs this year and win 15 games as a pitcher, but the story I found to be the best was that he donated the $150,000 he won for the Home Run Derby to a couple of dozen members of the LA Angels’ support staff.
  1. The NBA Finals have demonstrated the immense shooting ability, especially from beyond the arc, that exists in the pro game today. These players are amazing in both their accuracy and their ability to shoot despite being guarded so closely.  There is certainly defense in the NBA, but, man, there is plenty of offense!
  1. The San Francisco Giants have the best record in baseball and they are managed by Gabe Kapler – yes, that Gabe Kapler who managed the Phillies in 2018 and 2019. The fans couldn’t wait for him to leave town.  He loved analytics – the Phillie fans did not.  It appears right now that Kapler knows what he is doing – analytics says so!
  1. It was nice this weekend to root for any of the top three as the British Open unfolded – Oosthuizen, Morikawa, and Spieth are all difficult to root against. It became one of those – “May the best man win” kind of competitions.  That turned out to be Collin Morikawa.
  1. Blue Mountain League baseball is back on Tuesday this week LIVE at 6:00pm. The game features the the Limeport Dodgers vs. the Northampton Giants.  The Limeport Bulls and the Egypt Orioles are on tap next week.  Join Chris Michael and me.

 

 

 

Behind the Mic: America’s Guest (The Saga Continues)

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 my previous blog, I spoke of having played seven of the top 20 golf courses in Pennsylvania.  The caveat of doing that was that I had not paid to play any of them.  Due to RCN, Lafayette, and a couple of “Joes”, I had managed to be a guest at all seven.

You can find the courses listed on this site: Golf Magazine’s 20 Best PA Golf Courses and the ones I played on my previous blog.

I bring this up, because on July 2, I was supposed to play my 8th – the Philadelphia Cricket Club, which is #4 on the list.  Once again, this was as a guest.  I was prepared to put another checkmark on my bucket list.  That morning (7:31 AM) I received this e-mail – “There are no carts out today due to the week’s heavy rains.  Any issues or concerns?”

For me, there were both “issues” and “concerns”.  I had no idea if this would be a difficult walk and, at 75, the last thing I wanted to do was hold up my three playing partners, all of whom were much younger and had lower handicaps.  I did not wish to spoil their enjoyment.  As disappointed as I was, I told them to play without me and enjoy the day.

At 8:49 AM, this email arrived: “Good news- Joe bailed us out with a tee time at Saucon/Old Course at 12:30 today.  Let’s meet around noon and hit a few balls.”  This great golf course has been the venue of many PGA events with the Senior Open coming up next year.  I have played it before, but it is a golfing treasure.  Any opportunity to play it is certainly special.  This past Friday was no exception.  The course was in magnificent condition; the golf was good; and the camaraderie and the friendly insults were flying.  It was what a day of golf should be.

More importantly, I continue to be amazed by friendships that offer benefits far beyond my ability to reciprocate.  The best I could do here was to give my hosts Saucon Valley Senior Open golf hats as a token of my appreciation.  Naturally, however, they gifted, not a sleeve of golf balls, but a BOX of golf balls (of course, they were Titleists).  As you can see, it’s hard to balance their generosity.

The final line of the last email said, “I will circulate some alternate Cricket dates and we can reschedule that visit, too.”

In conclusion, I WILL get to play the Philadelphia Cricket Club (#4 on the list of Pennsylvania’s best courses) this summer.

I think you would agree that the early disappointment caused by the “no carts” rule at the Cricket Club was more than overcome by what transpired the rest of that Friday and what is certain to be another memorable round of golf in the future.  I am not sure why I am so fortunate and I am not sure how I will ever repay their generosity, but the list of things I am thankful for is constantly growing – friendships being near the very top of the list.

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

 

  1. Did you watch golf’s The Match – Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson vs. Aaron Rodgers and Bryson DeChambeau? On the second hole, Mickelson made the comment, “We’re not in a rush”.  And they were not.  The round was not good television – little drama, with few great shots by the pros, and much, much too long.  Thank goodness for Aaron Rodgers.  His shots, especially his putts, made for some enjoyment.
  2. It was announced this week that there will be no fans at the Olympics in Tokyo. Does this mean that those who have the rights to broadcast the events are disheartened or secretly smiling?  Now the only way for anyone and everyone to get their Olympic “fix” is by watching the events on television.  And, ironically, it is because of television that the Olympics will go on.  75% of the IOC’s income for the Olympics comes from television rights estimated to be worth $3 to $4 billion.
  3. It has been a long time since I set aside the time to watch the MLB All-Star game and an even longer time set aside for the Home Run Derby. But this Monday and Tuesday, I want to watch because of the LA Angels’ Shohei Ohtani.  He is a two-position All-Star (pitcher and DH) and the modern day Babe Ruth.  He will be in the HR Derby and he will also pitch in the game.  He is worth watching.
  4. Speaking of All-Star games, 50 years ago, the All-Star game featured 22 Hall of Famers – Rod Carew, Brooks Robinson, Luis Aparicio, Frank Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Jackson, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Jim Palmer, Johnny Bench, Willie McCovey, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Willie Stargell, Lou Brock, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Ferguson Jenkins, Juan Marichal and Roberto Clemente, who would sadly be there for the final time. The managers, the Orioles‘ Earl Weaver and the Reds‘ Sparky Anderson, are also in the Hall of Fame. This was the greatest collection of baseball talent on one field ever.

 

 

 

America’s Guest

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.

So I’m watching golf this weekend and realize that the PGA Travelers Championship is being played at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.  I then realize that I played that course one Friday on the way to do a Lafayette game against Harvard or Yale (I don’t remember which).  I also remember playing the TPC course in New Jersey and the TPC Potomac at Avonel Farm, again through my Lafayette ties.

This got me to thinking about some of the great courses I have had the privilege of playing.  So I went to this site: https://golf.com/travel/best-golf-courses-pennsylvania-2020-2021-ranking/ and saw the list of the top 20 golf courses in Pennsylvania.  I was shocked to discover that I had played or will play EIGHT of them, including four of the top five.  I was also shocked that I never PAID to play ANY of them.  Allow me to explain.

My good friend, Joe (I’m not sure he would want me to use his last name), a company president and RCN customer, gave me the moniker “America’s Guest” during one of the many rounds I played with him.  He came up with this name when he realized how my job often allowed me to play in charity tournaments paid for by the company.  Since he belonged to four different courses – Saucon Valley, Aronimink, Manufacturers, and the Philadelphia Cricket Club – he was not jealous, just amazed that I was able to play so many courses without paying, thus the term “America’s Guest”.  Here is a brief history of my journey through the very best courses in the state:

#20 –   Saucon Valley Grace – I have played this course many times as an invited guest, on media press day, or as part of a company-supported charity event.  Any time you are heading to Saucon Valley for golf, it is a special day.

#16 – Lehigh Country Club – This one is a yearly Sacred Heart charity event that RCN supports and graciously asks me to play.  Who am I to say no?

#14 – Saucon Valley – Old – This great golf course has been the venue of many PGA events with the Senior Open coming up next year.  Each of these events called for Press days where the tournament specifics were offered up followed by lunch and a round on the golf course.  I am guessing that I have played the Old Course at least half a dozen times.  It is hard to believe there are 13 better courses in Pennsylvania.

#11 – Saucon Valley – Weyhill – This is the most exclusive of the three Saucon Valley courses and is the best.  Recent renovations have made it even better and more challenging.  I have played here by invitation only and have appreciated every one of those invitations.

#5 – Fox Chapel (Pittsburgh) – Another Joe (again, I will refrain from using his last name) invited me and a Lafayette colleague to travel to Pittsburgh.  We played in a Coca-Cola tournament on Thursday at Fox Chapel.  I managed to get Mets-Pirates tickets that night for the three of us through Mets catcher, Brian Schneider.  Joe is a huge baseball fan and I was so glad I could contribute something to the two days.  I’ll tell you about the next day shortly.

#4 – Philadelphia Cricket Club – Wissahickon – This is where the first Joe comes in.  I will be playing the Philadelphia Cricket Club on Friday, July 2.  Joe is always a terrific host and I look forward to another great day on another great golf course.

#3 – Aronimink – Joe again.  This time I played with the President of the Club and my Lafayette colleague and Joe.  It was a member-guest tournament.  My greatest memory was a par-three hole where I put my tee shot about six inches from the hole, tapped in for a two, got a stroke based on my handicap, and won a “skin” with a “net” hole-in-one.  My actual greatest memory was playing this golf course.  It is one of the most renowned courses in the country, not just Pennsylvania.

#1 – Oakmont – We culminated our weekend in Pittsburgh on Friday morning, playing the #1 course in Pennsylvania.  This occurred due to the generosity of Coca-Cola Joe.  He, too, is an amazing host.  Valet parking, lunch, a caddy with a great sense of humor, and one of the world’s great (and most difficult courses) made this a day to always remember and cherish.  I spent more time in sand traps than I wanted, but did not mind so much.

So I am forever indebted to a couple of “Joes” and to RCN for creating the opportunities to experience golf at its zenith.  I’m not quite sure why I was the recipient of such generosity, but I will tell you there is no downside.  Trust me, it is great to be “America’s Guest”. 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. What will the Eagles end up doing with Zach Ertz? His days in Philly are supposedly over, but the next stage is taking a long time to happen.  No one wants his contract or a high trade price.  Teams, I think, are just waiting for him to be released before he is picked up.  This has become a mini-series.
  1. So the Phillies stop Jacob deGrom’s shutout streak at 31 innings by scoring two runs and raising his ERA to an amazingly low 0.69. The Phils lost anyway.
  1. It is still hard to fathom that both the 76ers and the Nets are out of the Eastern NBA Finals. With all that star power and talent, who would have believed this would happen?  The Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks have not won a title for a combined 113 years.  Yet, they are in the Eastern Finals.
  1. Tuesday, June 29, our Blue Mountain League Game of the Week features two teams in the top echelon of the standings – Northampton Giants at Hellertown Royals. It is on LIVE at 6:00pm.  The BML shuts down for July 4th week.  We will be back on July 13.
  1. There will be no blog next week due to the July 4th Enjoy your family and stay safe.

 

 

Name, Image, Likeness

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 October of 2019, I wrote a blog entitled, “What Happens Now?”  It concerned the battle that student-athletes were waging against the NCAA to have the right to market themselves and share some of the revenue.  That battle is finally coming to the forefront now as soon the courts and legislators will consider this issue.  I wrote then:

The quandary: Today, if you go into any store and buy a jersey, a poster, a mug, etc. with a player’s name, number, or face on it, the team or university derives some sort of royalty for that purchase.  The student-athlete receives nothing.  Obviously, the case can be made that the athlete is, in most cases, receiving a full scholarship and a complete education for his efforts.  Does the athlete deserve more or are they getting enough? 

All students have the ability to work after school hours in order to make some money.  Should we now consider athletes who “work” every day as a member of a team someone who should have the right to make money, if there is a demand for their wares directly associated with the university? 

Sports agents at the college level are often portrayed as sleazy people who sneak around in the shadows of NCAA athletics.  Now, a student-athlete risks everything if they are lured into an illegal arrangement with an agent to gain financial rewards.  Often, these stories center around students who come from poor backgrounds and the lure of financial gain is quite enticing even at the risk of losing eligibility and their scholarship.  Should they now openly be allowed to hire an agent to help them get the best deal for their talent? 

Colleges, universities, and the NCAA make billions of dollars on their product.  Coaches get paid millions at major sports institutions. Shouldn’t the athletes have the opportunity to share in those funds? 

And, finally, will this law make these young people more athlete than student?  Will they spend more time setting up appearances and endorsement opportunities that they spend in the classroom?  Will academics take a back seat to the now legal lure of making as much money as one can in the short time available to a student-athlete?  

These questions still need to be answered, but answers are on the way because the ability for student-athletes to market themselves is coming sooner rather than later.

This past week, the Patriot League and INFLCR entered into a partnership to aid student-athletes in sharing and managing their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL).  The Patriot League became the first NCAA Division I conference to provide league-wide support to their institutions and their student-athletes.  This partnership will provide tools to the student-athletes to manage their brands.

They said, “By providing each Patriot League institution with a department-wide INFLCR Verified solution, the conference is leading from the front and empowering all Patriot League student-athletes to grow their brands and educate themselves on the new opportunities that are coming soon from NIL.”

Granted the Patriot League is not the Big Ten, the SEC, or the Pac-Ten, but theirs is the first step towards fairly giving a student-athlete the opportunity to share in some of the vast amounts of money that fill the coffers of colleges and universities brought on by their athletic programs and, more importantly, by their athletes. In the near future, my original question will also be answered: What happens now?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. It was nice to see the maturity of Jon Rahm come to fruition on Sunday at the U. S. Open. There was a time when his anger over a poor shot would get the best of him.  Something, whether it is marriage, a new baby, or maturity, has caused him to change for the better.  Not only did he win on Sunday, but his interviews afterwards showed him to be very likable.
  1. Oh, those poor Philadelphia fans! Their hopes rested on the 76ers winning an NBA championship and then on Sunday night, those hopes were dashed by Atlanta.  The 76ers were the more talented team and blew big leads in three of their four losses. They managed to lose game 7 at home in front of their people.  This one was hard to take, except for the fact the Philadelphia fans are used to it.  But it still hurts.
  1. Now the attention of the Philadelphia fans turns to watching the Phillies. They show no signs of being able to put together a winning streak to excite their following.  The Flyers had a bad year preceded by a terrible Eagles’ season.  We know what happened to the Sixers.  It does not look like the Phillies can be the cure.
  1. It was great to see a big crowd at the 50th McDonald’s All-Star Football Classic. Fans meant money for this great charity and seemed to inspire the players to play a very entertaining game.  There is nothing better than a beautiful night, sitting outdoors, and experiencing the great efforts of young athletes.  Congratulations to all who were a part of the game.
  1. Speaking of congratulations, Bethlehem Catholic’s and Penn State’s Joe Kovacs is going to the Olympics. He finished second in the shot put at the Olympic Trials this past Friday in Oregon.  Joe is the former gold medalist at the World Championships and a 2016 Olympic silver medalist.

 

Right Place – Right Time

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.

I hope you are old enough to remember the names of some famous Yankees – Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, and Joe Dimaggio.  Now imagine that Phil Rizzuto is your next door neighbor.  Imagine as a 7-year-old that Phil Rizzuto would take you to the Yankee games and you would ride home with him and Yogi and “Joltin’ Joe”.  That is exactly how the childhood of Lafayette grad Mark Holtzman was spent.

Now imagine that as a 1980 graduate you worked for sports agency, ProServ, went on to Reebok, the NFL, and finally fulfilled your lifelong dream of working for the Yankees.  Yup, that happened to Mark Holtzman, too.

I interviewed Mark this past Thursday on Primetime Pards.  Trust me; he has plenty of stories with a great deal of name-dropping, claiming to always be in the right place at the right time.  I think he also possessed a great deal of marketing skills.  You be the judge:

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The Phillies had three consecutive “walk-off” wins this week and one was against the Yankees. The Phillies win on Saturday was before a crowd of 38,450, the largest since 2019.  Many Yankee fans went home disappointed especially after tying the game in the ninth inning with a 3-run home run.  The Phils beat the Yanks again on Sunday taking the series.
  1. The 76ers have enticed me to watch their NBA games from the opening tip-off. It has been a long, long time since that has occurred.  They play defense, share the ball, and are coached to take advantage of the other team’s weaknesses.  In a nutshell, that is the way basketball should be played.  I expect them to win the Atlanta series and face the Brooklyn Nets next.  I will be watching!
  1. Being an American sports fan, I discovered, to my amazement, that the top two most Google searched sports were Soccer (39%) and Cricket (8%). Basketball, football, and golf rounded out the top five, but those three only accounted for a total of 20% of the searches.  What???
  1. Congratulations to the Central Catholic Viking lacrosse team for being the first District XI team to capture a PIAA state title. On Saturday, they beat undefeated Mars by a 14-5 score to win the AA championship.  Central outscored their opponents in the state playoffs 65-18 and finished with a 23-1 record.
  1. This week features our first Blue Mountain League Game of the Week. The games will be on Tuesday nights LIVE at 6:00pm.  The McDonald’s All-Star Football Classic is on tap Thursday, June 17, at Nazareth’s Andrew Leh Stadium.  We will have the game on a tape-delayed basis at 10:00pm.  Support a great cause and get out to the game.

 

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

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.

Thankfully, the coronavirus appears to be on the decline as millions get vaccinated.  As the virus wanes, the prospect of actually announcing games from the venues in which they are being played appears closer.  That has not happened since March 18, 2020 – 16 months ago.

This past year, like so many other things in our everyday lives, has been like no other.  I know I have never had a broadcast year anything like this one.  With that said, through great forethought and adaptation, we were able to still bring you the major high school events in football, basketball, and baseball.

As a high school student myself, I played them all.  Unlike the high school specialist of today, I felt each sport offered up unique lessons about life and, thus, were equally important in one’s adult development.

Football was the ultimate team sport where you had to count on 22 or more players to gel as a unit.  No sport brought more attention, both good and bad and, therefore, the wins were more meaningful and the losses were tougher to take, but there are lessons in both winning and losing.

The focus was greater in basketball on your individual skills and meshing those skills with those of your teammates.  Individual offensive and defensive challenges were present throughout the game.  Basketball, also, forced you to learn plays as a unit and each basket or defensive stop was contingent upon the group doing their job.  Sounds much like the work environment, right?

Baseball was much more individualistic.  It was a simple game on paper – a pitcher faced a batter; a fielder waited to react when needed; and everyone had to do their job, within the framework of a team game, when called upon.

Announcing football, basketball, and baseball, much like playing the sports, had their own set of challenges.  Those challenges increased dramatically when you were not there.

Football – Who has the ball?  What yard line is the ball on?  How many yards were gained or lost on a given play?  Who made the tackle? These were the questions that needed answers on every play.  I feared looking like a fool trying to call this game.  But help was offered – eyes at the stadium that could instantaneously get information to me; a scoreboard shot that would tell me where the ball was; and a close-up view of the teams as they ran their plays.  My fears were unwarranted.  Much like the game of football, the broadcast of football required all parts of the team to work together.  No one was more surprised than me, but it worked.

Basketball – A new sense of trepidation crept in as I anticipated doing play-by-play for this fast-paced sport.  Could we follow the ball?  Could I see the numbers?  Could I determine who made the shot, blocked the shot, made the pass, got the rebound, committed the foul, etc.?  The answer was, “Yes, we could and did.”  This was tougher.  We may have been a split second late with the call, but the correct call was made.

Baseball – This past week, it was baseball’s turn.  I arrived at the studio (not the baseball field) hoping that somehow I would know where the ball was hit.  We would not have a camera shot of the scoreboard so calling balls and strikes might be a challenge.  But we proved, once again, that we are a team, too.  The camera work was superb.  I could call balls and strikes just like the umpire because I had a terrific view of the pitch and the plate.  I could tell where the ball was hit because our camera guys were flawless and our director pushed all the right buttons.  We did not miss a play.

I can’t wait to get back to the actual venues again, but until that happens, I can guarantee you our “team” will do the very best to make you believe you are at the stadium, the court, and the ball field.  We will “take you out to the ballpark” even if I cannot join you there.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I am predicting that it will be the Brooklyn Nets versus the 76ers in the NBA Eastern Finals. The Sixers need to get by the Wizards and, I’m guessing, the Knicks in the second round.  That should happen and create a thrilling Eastern Conference final.
  1. In the NBA West, I like the Jazz over the Grizzlies; the Lakers over the Suns; the Trail Blazers upsetting the Nuggets; and the Clippers over the Mavericks.
  1. The Phillies have lost four in a row and they are doing it with poor fielding, poor hitting, and poor pitching. That combination will get them absolutely nowhere.  They are now under .500 and sinking fast.
  1. Congratulations to Emmaus for winning the EPC baseball championship, their first league title since 2005. Pleasant Valley, the other finalist, deserves some accolades, too, for knocking off #1 seed Liberty in the semis.  District baseball starts this week.  We will have the 6A championship game on Tuesday, June 1.
  1. With the holiday weekend coming up, I will be taking a break from blogging next week. Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.

 

What is a Great Game?

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 answer is Jeopardy!

I have always been very competitive.  I want to win at pretty much everything that is a form of competition.  With that said, I am not a sore loser.  When that happens, I do congratulate my opponent, appreciate their skill, and look forward to the next time when I have a chance to gain some possible revenge.

I believe this is why I am a huge Jeopardy fan.  I tape it every night.  I just love the battle and, knowing that ten million people on average watch the show each night, I am not alone.  That interest is created because every viewer at home can play along – every viewer can compete.  I am sure we all test our knowledge, subliminally become a contestant, and self-determine whether we won the night.  It is so easy to sit in your recliner and bet it all on Final Jeopardy and hope for the best.

But first, I need to do well during the first and second round and that depends so much on the categories.  Here are the Top Ten Jeopardy categories and my reaction to each of them when they are announced:

#1) Before & After – I have a fighting chance here having lived long before many contestants and continuing to live after.

#2) Science – Boy, I hope this just skims the surface of the category – E still equals MC2, right?

#3) Literature – As an English teacher, I should know the answers to these questions.  But just think of the added pressure attached when you SHOULD know these answers and the embarrassment when you do not.

#4) American History – Well, I live in America; I am old; I read the newspaper; I watch the news – bring it on!!

#5) Potpourri – I have always known a great deal about stuff that has very little importance until now when this category comes up.

#6) World History – This one ranks right up there with Geography for me.  By ranks, I mean as one of the worst categories.  I should have paid better attention in class.

#7) Word Origins – See #3 “Literature”.

#8) Colleges & Universities – I went to a college and two universities; I have degrees; I broadcast college sports – I have a fighting chance.

#9) History – Not “World” or “American” – what else is there?

#10) Sports – Now we’re talking.  I better know this (the embarrassment factor is, also, at work here if I miss).  And most of the contestants are knowledge geeks, but not sports geeks. I remember on one show when all the contestants missed all five answers when the category was “The NFL”.  I knew them all – so, there!

So each night, I give it my all.  I hope the Final Jeopardy category gives me a fighting chance.  I always bet it all.

I confidently yell out the answers and, for some reason, my wife takes great satisfaction when I am wrong.  I do not know why she has to laugh so hard at my ignorance.  I certainly do not think it is funny.

There is added interest in the game right now as various guest hosts have come on to stand in for the late Alex Trebek.  I have my favorites already, but that may be a blog for another time.

For now, the answer is “Jeopardy”.  The question, “What is my favorite game show?”

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The 76ers have earned the #1 seed in the NBA Eastern Conference. It is their third #1 seed in 44 years.  They last did it in 2000-01.  They did it in 1982-83 when they won their last NBA title.  They will have home court advantage throughout the playoffs.  They will start by playing the #8 team after #7 – #10 play-in round.
  1. There will be no Triple Crown winner in horse racing this year. Medina Spirit “won” the Kentucky Derby but failed the post-race drug test.  He finished third in the Preakness, which probably casts more doubt on the legitimacy of his Derby victory.  Rombauer won and paid 11-1.
  1. I have complained before that Major League baseball is hard to watch, primarily because of the pace of the game and the lack of action. More proof came out this week with1/5 of the season completed.  There is little offensive production.  There have been 1,000 more strikeouts than hits.  In April, the combined batting average was .232, less than one hit for every four at bats.  No team looks exceptional with only five teams just barely winning 60% of their games with the best being the Chicago White Sox at 62%.
  1. With the Covid mandates easing up, it may not be too long before I can actually announce a game from the venue. It was way back in March of 2020 that I actually attended an event that I broadcast.  I can’t wait to emerge myself into the atmosphere of a LIVE game again.
  1. The top four teams are left in the EPC playoffs after the quarterfinals – 1) Liberty, 2) Parkland, 3) Emmaus, and 4) Pleasant Valley. We will have the championship game for you LIVE on Wednesday at 4:30pm on RCN-TV.

You Men Have It So Easy

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.

I am writing this on Mother’s Day morning and it just did not feel right to write another blog about sports, especially when I was thinking about what this day means to me.  My wife and, I am sure, many other wives and mothers, have said many times: “You men have it so easy”.  Honestly, by comparison, I cannot even whimper a mild protest.  As a tribute to the mothers I have known in my life, let me offer up evidence that my wife and other women like her are 100% correct.

My mother – She raised four children, first as a stay-at-home mother and, then by necessity, both a mother and a full-time wage earner.  Both my brother and my father contracted tuberculosis, sending both away at different times in their lives (my brother in high school; my father after my brother came home from the sanitarium).  It became my mother’s burden to care for the four of us, keep the house, earn enough money to pay the bills, and visit my father as often as possible.  He was four hours away in Altoona. She found a job within walking distance because after experiencing a car accident early in her twenties, she never wanted to drive again.  So she walked to work every day.  We all survived until we lost my sister to cancer; my father eventually was cured; and my mom more than persevered.

My mother-in-law – If you can, imagine leaving the country of your birth, settling in Germany during wartime, and then making the decision to leave it all behind and come to America with your husband and baby daughter for the opportunity to create a better life.  That opportunity required two years of labor on a farm to pay off the cost of passage paid by the farm owner.  Once the debt was paid, uproot again and come to Easton to start another new life.  She kept the house; she worked full time on a sewing machine in a clothing factory; had another daughter; and was the best cook you could imagine.

My wife – We had two children very, very early in life.  Being a mother should not happen during the teenage years, but it did.  Despite her youth, my wife never abdicated any of the responsibilities of being a mother.  She raised our two daughters to be responsible beings while working as a dental assistant, an executive assistant, and finally as an entrepreneur owning her own business.  She was successful doing it all, but being a mother was always her primary responsibility and her greatest accomplishment.

Our two daughters – We have three grandchildren and our daughters have good reason to be proud of all of them – one taking on the challenge of a life in the theater; another working in higher education; and another working for the state government in Harrisburg.  Both daughters are successful in the medical field and happily married.  They have always worked full-time while raising their children.  They were certainly role models for their kids.  So far, motherhood goals have been accomplished.

All are close enough to keep tabs on everybody and get together many times during the year.  Until now.

Our grandson has found a mate.  She is a doctor of veterinary medicine specializing in equine medicine.  Her new job will take her to Chicago and, therefore, our grandson will follow.  He is uprooting to a place that is rather far away and visiting in person will be rare.  He will work at Loyola of Chicago University and has made a major career advancement.  All we can do is be happy for them and wish them great success.  (And be sad for their absence).

We will all do that today as we celebrate Mother’s Day with the family and have a chance to send the new couple off to their new life.

It is obvious that the jobs assigned to mothers are many and varied – keep the house, make the meals, work to help support the family, accommodate one’s mate, raise the children, and send them off into the world.  As I write this, we are all getting together today to honor the mothers of the family. They deserve more than one day.

And…I can only come to the conclusion that my wife is right – We men have it so easy!!

Happy Mother’s Day!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. My boyhood hero, Willie Mays, turned 90 this past week and was honored by the San Francisco Giants. I remember trying to bat like him, catch a ball like his famous basket catch, and acquire his mannerisms.  He was a New York Giant then.  The “Say Hey Kid” looked spry when he was honored this week even though he is the oldest living Hall of Famer.
  1. Get familiar with the term NIL (name, images, and likenesses). College athletes are closing in on being able to sell those three entities in order to capitalize on what they bring to a college and university athletics.  Legislation is occurring in both the state and national branches of government.  It will happen.
  1. What “might or might not” happen are the Tokyo Olympics. Opposition to holding the Olympics in Tokyo is rising among the citizenry (300,000 signatures in three days to cancel), yet the IOC continues to insist the Olympics will take place and the athletes will be safe.  The event is scheduled for July.
  1. It appears Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, may be disqualified due to doping allegations. If so, Mandaloun would be declared the winner.  Medina Spirit would forfeit the $1.86 million purse, but the bettors would not be affected.  Those payouts have already been made.  Mandaloun would have paid $50 for every $2 bet on him to win.
  1. High School conference and District playoffs begin in the next two weeks. Hopefully, we will be there to crown the champions.