The (Ir)regular Season

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.

Well, we made it.  The Covid-19 “regular season” for high school football has come to a close.  I know that teams can still add to their schedules either by making the district playoffs or by adding games until the end of November, but the original schedules are complete.  So what have we learned from the league games going into the District XI playoffs:

  • Nazareth REALLY wanted to defend both their EPC South title and looks to be the favorite to defend their District 6A title.  Although there is no official champion designated this year in the Northampton Division, Nazareth was the only team to get through a very tough gauntlet of opponents undefeated.  Despite losing some very talented seniors, they still played at the highest level.  Credit must go to Coach Tom Falzone and his staff.
  • Whitehall is a much improved football team.  Kudos must go to Matt Senneca and his staff.  They took a team that did not win a game last year to a 3-3 record that included admirable performances even in their losses.  They scored 24 and 28 points against Parkland and Emmaus despite losing.
  • It’s very hard to replace your starting quarterback.  Both Freedom and Bethlehem Catholic were playing at their highest level when their starters went out – one by suspension and one by injury.  With a few weeks of practice, it will be interesting to see how far their replacements can help carry their teams.
  • If I had to pick an MVP (and I don’t, but I will) for the regular season, it would be Nazareth’s Matt Bugbee.  The quarterback/kicker has thrown for over 1000 yards and seven touchdowns; he has rushed for 186 yards, disregarding sacks and has scored seven touchdowns; he has scored 30 more points as the field goal and extra point kicker.  Add to that, Matt has become the quickest player to change shoes in the middle of a play countdown to go from a running shoe to a kicker’s shoe.  I’ve watched and it is not easy.
  • Four running backs have really impressed me: Matt Russin of Freedom, Brandon Camire of Emmaus, Nahjee Adams of Easton, and Isiah Rico of Parkland.  If I were a head coach (and I’m sure everyone is happy I’m not), I would have no idea which one I would start, nor any clear opinion what the rotation would be.  Suffice it to say, they are all exceptional.
  • Northampton deserves to be in Districts.  They were beaten out because of “power” points by Pleasant Valley.  PV was 1-2 beating only East Stroudsburg North, a team that did not win a game.  Northampton played five games; each one against a tougher opponent than PV faced and finished 1-4.  Their losses were against Freedom, Nazareth, Easton, and Whitehall.  Their win was against Liberty.  I feel confident that all five of Northampton’s opponents would have beaten PV.  So, Northampton plays a much tougher schedule and more games and pays the penalty.  Damn math!
  • Despite the fact that there were only five or six “regular” season games, the important thing is that there WERE games.  Athletic directors, principals, coaches, and players all need to be congratulated for maintaining safety precautions, along with the RCN-TV team who figured out the safest way to bring games to our viewers.

On to districts – the (ir)regular season is over. 

 ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I hope you saw former Nazareth star Jahan Dotson in action on Saturday night against Ohio State.  Here is a recap of his night.  Watch until the end.  Two catches are almost indescribable. Take a look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBUh_Pj3voE

  1. Good news came out of Bethlehem this week when it was announced that Liberty and Freedom will do their best to play the rivalry game.  A date is dependent on Freedom’s success in the district playoffs, but there should be a place for the game sometime in November.  Along those same lines, Easton and Phillipsburg will play Thanksgiving Day at Phillipsburg.  All good news.
  1. Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson has to stop thinking he should go for it on 4th and short.  It has backfired too many times this year.  On Sunday night, he did it twice against the Cowboys and failed to make it, giving Dallas the ball close to midfield.  Both times, the opponent kicked a field goal.  Six of the Cowboys nine points came on those unsuccessful 4th down attempts.  Against an inept offensive unit like the Cowboys, this was not the time to go for it.
  1. The Bills beat the Patriots on Sunday.  So?  It was only the sixth time in the last 41 games that that has happened!!  It was the first time since 2016 and the first time for Bills’ head coach Sean McDermott and it put the Bills 3-1/2 games ahead of the Patriots in the standings.
  1. District playoff action begins this week in high school football.  We think we have a really good match-up for you on Friday night at 7:00 PM when Easton travels to Emmaus.  The two teams did not compete during the regular season and both played in different divisions.  

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 5-8; OVERALL- 78-38-1 – 67%)

San Francisco

Atlanta

Seattle

Tennessee

Baltimore

Kansas City

Minnesota

Giants

Houston

Las Vegas

Pittsburgh

Arizona

Tampa Bay

New England

 

Is Anybody Watching?

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.

With all the turmoil in sports this past year – will they play, won’t they play, who will play, who can’t play, where will they play, etc. – I wondered whether fans were still watching. This question is especially interesting since the seasons were overlapped and none had the stage to themselves. The news is not good.

I will start with the NBA finals. From 1987 to the present, the three lowest rated playoff games and the least watched for that 33-year period were the same. They all occurred in 2020. This year’s games 1, 2, and 3 had the lowest ratings in NBA history. To give you an idea of the decline, the most watched game was Game 6 of the NBA finals in 1998.  That game drew an audience of 35.9 million viewers. Game 3 of the NBA finals this
year drew 5.94 million viewers. That is an astounding 84% drop in viewership.

The average number of viewers for the six games of this year’s Final was 7.5 million – down 51% from last year and 67% from the 2018 championship series. The reasons given were the fact that the games were being played out of season and some pundits thought the players’ activism in the current climate turned some viewers away. More people were home due to Covid-19, but fewer were watching.

The NHL championship finals showed a decline of almost 38% from the previous year. On average 2.4 million viewers watched each game of the six-game Stanley Cup finals compared to an average of 6.1 million who watched the previous year. Game 7 in 2019 drew the second highest rating in NHL history. This year’s NHL final series was the least watched since 2007.

Major League Baseball’s World Series is not faring any better. The first three games in the Series are the three lowest rated games in history by a rather large margin. On average those three games have had an audience of 7.9 million viewers. Just to give you an unfair, but startling, comparison, the 1978 World Series which featured the Yankees and the Dodgers drew 44.3 million viewers on average. Closer to home, Game 6 of the 1980 Phillies-Royals series drew a startling 54.9 million viewers.

It certainly doesn’t help that college football and the NFL are also fighting for the eyes of American sports fans. Early reports on them, however, also show a decline. NFL viewership is down 10% through the first four weeks. College football has not generated much interest yet.

Even the US Open final golf round was down 56%.  Why has there been such a drastic reduction? I mentioned overlapping seasons earlier. It should also be noted that a number of fans are watching on streaming services and those numbers, as of now, are not counted. People love to talk sports, but socializing, one would suspect, is at an all-time low. And, maybe, between politics taking center stage and many being stuck at home, sports just aren’t all that important right now.

So, I ask – Are you one of those who is watching or has sports become less important?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. Through seven NFL weeks, the NFC East is officially the worst ever in history to this point. No division has gone through the first seven weeks without one team in the division having three wins. The Eagles, Cowboys,
Giants, and the Washington Football Team have two or less wins. The Eagles are in first place with a 2-4-1 record.

2. Didn’t you think when Tom Brady went to Tampa, that the Patriots would be just fine when they acquired Cam Newton? Last week, the Patriots lost to Denver and this week the 49ers beat the Patriots 33-6. Newton did not even throw for 100 yards and was eventually benched. Tom Brady’s Bucs are 5-2 while New England is 2-4. Same coach; different QB – Hmm….

3. It is not often in football when a team does NOT WANT to score. But twice this weekend, a defensive unit allowed the opponent to score just to get the ball back with a chance to win the game. Both times it worked due to a poor decision by the offensive player. Penn State scored a touchdown late in the game when they could have run out the clock and won. Instead, they lost in overtime. In the NFL, the Falcons did the same thing, allowing the Lions to have enough time to beat them on the last play of the game. The moral: it’s not always in your best interest to score.

4. I hope you are at least looking in on the World Series (not many are) because the games are very entertaining, none more so than Saturday night’s last at-bat victory by the Rays when Brett Phillips got a base hit in the bottom of the ninth with two outs to win the game. No one was more shocked than Phillips. He needed an IV after the game because his heart was racing and he was dehydrated. Take a peek at the games and decide if you want to stay until the end.

5. The regular season for high school football comes to an end this weekend and we have two exceptional games for you. Undefeated Emmaus takes on undefeated Parkland on Friday night at 7:00pm. We will also do the game
across the state of Pennsylvania for PCN. Saturday afternoon at 1:00pm, Freedom takes on Liberty in their intercity rivalry. Records do not seem to matter when these two teams clash. The city championship is at stake.
District playoff action begins the following week.

Gary’s Guesses:
NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 9-5; OVERALL- 73-30-1 – 71%)

Carolina
Cleveland
Detroit
Baltimore
Buffalo
Kansas City
Green Bay
LA Rams
Tennessee
LA Chargers
New Orleans
Seattle
Philadelphia
Tampa Bay

 

 

Behind the Mic: Professional Field Hockey – Who Knew?

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.

Amanda Magadan is, arguably, the greatest field hockey player to graduate from Lafayette College. So what you might say since the usual path for Lafayette athletes and
graduates is to go on to a very successful career in the business and professional worlds. Amanda’s degree in both Economics and Psychology would lead one to believe that is
exactly where she was headed. But, she had a different plan. She was invited to try out for the US Women’s National Field Hockey Team in 2017. She has not looked back. I caught up with Amanda this past week for an interview on PrimeTime Pards. But before I chatted with Amanda, her head coach at Lafayette, Jennifer Stone, gave some background on her star player (start at the 1:54 mark of the YouTube post):

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. The Tampa Bay Rays made sure that infamy would not accompany them if they lost a 3-0 series lead to the Astros by winning Game 7, 4-2, on Saturday. The Astros won games 4, 5, and 6 and were poised to be only the second team in history to win the series after being down 3-0. Many fans were rooting for the Rays after Houston was involved in a sign-stealing scandal that tainted their 2017 World Series title. Now the Rays will play in only their second World Series ever. They lost to the Phillies in 2008.

2. Wouldn’t you think with all the Covid related issues for Major League Baseball, there would be a twist at the end? It did not happen. The two teams with the best records during the season ended up playing one another in the World Series. The Dodgers defeated the Atlanta Braves on Sunday night to win the National League pennant. The Dodgers have the stronger offense and
the Rays have the stronger pitching. On to the World Series in Arlington, Texas.

3. We are six weeks into the NFL season and fans are starting to think Super Bowl. This past week should certainly make Steelers fans have high expectations. As long as Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy and their defense plays at the high level they currently employ, the Steelers look like the best team in the NFL. And the second best team (or still the best) is the current Super bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. The NFC is up for grabs – you pick the favorite.

4. Eagles’ fans (some even allowed in the stands) had to be doing a lot of “what if…” this past Sunday. What if… they kicked an early field goal instead of not getting a first down on a QB sneak? What if… they did not go for two on their first TD? What if… two long passes were completed – one for a TD? What if… they were successful on the final two-point conversion to tie the game? The answer to all the questions may very well have been, “They would have won.”

5. With only two weeks left in the regular season schedule, our high school football games this week are Nazareth at Liberty on Friday night at 7:00pm and Freedom at Bethlehem Catholic on Saturday afternoon at 3:00pm. Both are LIVE.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 10-5; OVERALL- 64-25-1 – 72%)

Philadelphia
Green Bay
Detroit
Dallas
Buffalo
Cleveland
New Orleans
Tennessee
Seattle
Kansas City
New England
LA Chargers
Las Vegas

I Miss People

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 have been working since I was seven years old – that’s right; I had a paper route to call my own at that age.  My route was made up of only two long streets, Front and Second, but I had 101 papers to deliver every day, except Saturday and Sunday.  I earned my money by collecting personally from each house every two weeks.  I got to know my customers – all 101 of them plus members of the household and their pets. Each afternoon, I would see a lot of people. 

As an aside, some of the pets were far from friendly.  One cocker spaniel appropriately named “Inky” was particularly frightening to me.  The owners used to discipline him with a rolled up newspaper, and, it seems, Inky blamed me for bringing their weapon of choice to the house each day.  Each day Inky would wait on his porch to snarl, pull at his rope and try his very best to get a piece of me.  I would laugh at his effort to free himself, until the day he was left untied on his porch.  He attacked and managed to tear up my bag full of undelivered papers.

There was a parrot on my route who would announce my arrival each day.  He would shriek “Paperboyyy!  Paperboyyy!” as I arrived.  It was a bit bloodcurdling, but funny.  Adding this to the opportunity to meet and chat with people every day made me look forward to doing the job.

In school, I played on teams of people, both formally and informally – football teams, basketball teams, and football teams.  College allowed for an even greater circle of friends.  I became a teacher meeting hundreds and hundreds of students every year.  Many have kept in touch.  In other words, I have always been surrounded by many, many people.  I miss them.

My television job has exposed me to thousands of athletes, coaches, fans, parents, and fellow workers.  I continued to be surrounded by people, hundreds of them, and that made life fun and interesting every day.

Now, much of that is gone.  I sit in my office most days doing my work through emails, texts, or phone calls.  Most work-related outside human contact is done through ZOOM.  Make no mistake; I am impressed by this technical marvel that allows people to get together without ever leaving their space.  But… it is not the same.  The first request in the meeting is for all but the speaker to “mute” themselves.  The last thing I want to do is that.  

I find myself wanting to talk face to face with players and coaches.  I want to have spontaneous conversation prior to a game or a meeting.  At a meeting with a group, I want to insert a zinger into the back and forth and relish the laugh, the groan, or the surprised look that one can only get from a group.

I wonder how long it will be when people can comfortably get together with non-family members and just be themselves again.  I want to experience people again to the point where I will say that I would relish some “alone time”.  There is too much “alone time” right now.

I MISS PEOPLE!  

 ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The Lakers won the NBA title.  Time to argue whether LeBron or Michael Jordan is the GOAT (Greatest of all Time).  Get together with friends and argue about something other than politics.
  1. It turns out that maybe the biggest loss to affect the Eagles on Sunday wasn’t losing to Pittsburgh.  The biggest loss could very well be the broken ankle suffered by Dak Prescott against the Giants.  The Cowboys won, but will they be able to win without their starting QB? 
  1. There is a part of me that is pulling for the Las Vegas Raiders to do well.  You may recall that head coach John Gruden’s son, Deuce, played for Lafayette and John and his wife came to a number of games while he was doing Monday Night Football.  He was always very accommodating to both our broadcasts and to the Lafayette coaching staff.  Sunday, they beat the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.  They previously beat the Saints, two teams considered Super Bowl contenders.  Deuce is on the Raider’s staff and John is making good things happen in Vegas.
  1. I’m sure there was plenty of disappointment when the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Yankees to get to the American League Championship Series to face the Astros.  The Rays have a tremendous bullpen (unlike the Phillies) and they came into the latest series 15-5 in one-run games.  Remember they won game five over the Yankees 2-1.
  1. Our scheduled high school football games this week are Nazareth at Freedom on Friday night at 7:00pm and Easton at Bethlehem Catholic (at BSD) on Saturday afternoon at 3:00pm.  Both are LIVE.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 9-4; OVERALL- 55-20-1 – 73%)

Tuesday, October 13

Buffalo

New England

Tennessee

Indianapolis

Minnesota

Giants

Baltimore

Pittsburgh

Chicago

Detroit

Miami

Green Bay

LA Rams

Kansas City

Dallas

 

 

 

How We Did It

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.

“From Bethlehem School District Stadium in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, RCN4 Sports presents…”  That is how it all began this past Friday night when we were set to begin the broadcast of the Northampton at Freedom football game.

But, it was a lie.  I wasn’t at Bethlehem School District Stadium and neither was color analyst, Mike Joseph.  Instead, we were comfortably sitting in the RCN TV studio.  In the 50+ years of doing high school and college sports, I have never called a game I was not attending in person (I know, a double negative in one sentence, but you try to say it differently).

I have announced two events that were played prior to “announcing” them.  In the days when we did almost everything “tape delay”, I once had to re-call a football game when the audio never made it to the tape.  After the game, I sat in our production truck and watched the video and called the game again from my notes.  I, also, once announced a District XI track meet after the meet was over and the results were known.  This was done because track events go on at the same time so we taped the events, edited them to show each event and, then, called the meet.  Since I knew the results, I looked like a genius as I announced favorites, who just so happened to win.

This was different.  Mike and I were being asked to call a LIVE game as it was happening without being at the game.  I was vehemently opposed to this strategy.  It was all being done because of RCN’s strict COVID policy.  Social distancing was not possible in our production truck if an audio technician and other personnel needed to be present at the game.  We even used two trucks to keep everyone separated. The audio person had to be in the studio.  Our studio manager devised the plan with great thought and experienced technical knowledge.  As stubborn and apprehensive as I was, I understood the safety concerns, and the challenge was accepted.

At the game, we had a crew of three camera people, a spotter, a replay person, a director, and an engineer to make sure things went well technically.  The studio personnel consisted of a studio director, an audio person, a cameraman, a graphics person, a standby engineer, and a contact with the spotter at the stadium.  Mike and I were at their mercy.

We were able to watch the game like those of you at home.  In addition, we had a camera shot of the stadium scoreboard.  Days, prior to the actual event, we rehearsed the process.

As a play unfolded, our stadium spotter relayed the ball carrier or receiver to our studio contact who relayed the information to me.  Turns out, it was pretty much instantaneous.  We got terrific shots with needed replays, but that is just normal for our talented crew.  In addition, the studio contact kept individual stats and I kept the team stats.  A play required me to call it, Mike to analyze it, and take a second look at the replay.  It worked about as smoothly as possible.

There were two drawbacks – it was hard to sense the atmosphere at the game, but with few fans allowed in attendance, I’m sure the atmosphere was minimal.  With COVID conditions, the bands are not performing as they normally would and that is a shame.  The Lehigh Valley has plenty of great bands to highlight.  I admire all of the high school band performers for continuing to put in the hours of work necessary.  Luckily, we have a treasure chest of halftime band performances which we will use for this year’s games.

So this old veteran of broadcasting high school football games needs to eat a bit of crow.  Because of the talents of our camera people, our audio person, our directors, our engineers, graphics, etc., it all worked.

The plan goes back into effect again next Friday and Saturday.  I didn’t think I would say it but, I CAN’T WAIT!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Guess which team is in first place in the NFC East? With one win and a tie, the Philadelphia Eagles are atop their division.  I mentioned every week how weak this division was.  Except for the Eagles, they all lost again this past week.  The teams are a combined 3-15-1.  The good news is an NFC East team WILL win the division.
  1. Speaking of standings, the two NFL surprises are the Bills and the Bucs. The Bills are 4-1 and the Bucs with Tom Brady have won three straight.  Let’s hope Covid doesn’t derail the season.  It is very entertaining already.
  1. Eight teams are left in the MLB playoffs. Who do you like?  Who do you hate?  The Rays against the Yankees and the Astros against the A’s promise to be very emotional match-ups in the ALDS.  There are plenty of grudges to go around.  The Dodgers look almost unbeatable in the National League.
  1. Parkland will finally get to play a game this coming weekend. The Trojans will take on Whitehall Friday night at Parkland.  Hopefully, there will be no more disruptions in either team’s schedule.
  1. Our scheduled high school football games this week are Bethlehem Catholic at Liberty on Friday night and Freedom at Easton (at BSD) on Saturday night. Both are LIVE at 7:00.

 

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 11-4; OVERALL- 46-16-1 – 74%)                  

Tampa Bay

Arizona

Dallas

Carolina

Kansas City

New England

LA Rams

Houston

Buffalo

Pittsburgh

Baltimore

San Francisco

Indianapolis

Seattle

New Orleans

 

 

 

 

 

The “Never” Normal

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 have been doing football games for 50+ years.  There is a routine in the week of preparation.  

For football, it was always to prepare for Lafayette football on Monday (stats for both teams, projected starting lineups, pre-game notes, etc.) and Tuesday (press conference, read game notes, do trivia, and prepare game-day sheets).

Wednesday and Thursday were set aside for high school football with duties very similar to the Lafayette prep without the press conference and the game notes.  That information was my job to gather.

However, as you know, there is no Lafayette football to even prepare for.  And high school football is starting a month later than it usually does.  Many refer to this time as the “new normal”.  For me, this past week has been more like the “never normal”.  It has been a week like none other.  Allow me recap the six days:

Monday – First, I completed my blog for the week.  Knowing that our first game was 12 days away, I asked for and received the rosters of both Central Catholic and Parkland.  Those rosters were entered onto my game-day sheets.  I then requested from my various sources the stats from last year, with particular interest in those players returning.  I then read up on the prospects for both teams for the upcoming season.

Tuesday – I entered the stats from last year for Parkland, since they would not play until October 2.  I did the pre-game sheets and highlighted the impact players.  I sent those sheets off to our graphics person so he could get a head start.

Wednesday – This was a ZOOM day with one virtual meeting scheduled and one in-person meeting held at our studio.  The ZOOM meeting was a company gathering to bring everyone up-to-date on business operations.  Next, was a studio meeting to discuss how we would be doing the games in this environment.  The big difference, and it is big, is that the announcers would not actually attend the game.  Instead, my color analyst and I would announce the games from the studio watching television monitors.  In other words, we would call the game watching like our viewers at home.  This would be a career first and, despite trepidation, seemed doable.  We rehearsed everyone’s role and left both fearing and anticipating Friday’s broadcast.

Thursday – I began to gather starting lineups for our first game and organized all the information.  Another ZOOM meeting followed.  District XI held a meeting to go over the thoughts on the football playoffs.  They made a wise decision to forego state playoffs in favor of holding District playoffs (the two would have overlapped one another).  A vote would be upcoming, but there was quite a bit of certainty that the votes would be there to have Districts, not states.

Friday – I made plans to attend the Central Catholic-Nazareth football game that night in order to scout both teams.  A morning e-mail arrived from Whitehall saying that their game against Bethlehem Catholic was postponed.  No reason was given, but it was not hard to surmise the reason.  Within an hour, Parkland sent out an e-mail saying they were shutting football down until October 2.  Channel 69 reported the virus had infected a member or members of the team.  I attended the Central-Nazareth game that night, with the knowledge that Central-Parkland the following Friday night probably would not happen.

Saturday – I read that our scheduled first game Central at Parkland would not take place.  We would need to replace the game.

It was time to start the prep all over again for two new teams.  The “new normal” has become more like the “never normal”.  I look forward to the challenge.  Watch on Friday night, no matter who is playing.  Rest assured, we will do our best.

 ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. It turns out the Phillies needed to win just one game against the Rays in their final regular season series in order to make the playoffs.  They could not do that.  Season’s over as they lost seven of their last 10 games.
  1. There was poetic justice on Sunday when the Bengals took on the Eagles.  Both teams were so bad that the football gods decided neither should win so it was an appropriate 23-23 tie.  Both are now 0-2-1.
  1. As I suggested last week, the NFC East is not good.  This past weekend, the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, and the Washington Football Team all lost.  The division winner may very well not have a winning record.
  1. I decided to scout some high school football on Friday night so I went to Andrew Leh Stadium to watch Central Catholic at Nazareth.  The crowd was sparse, but maintained social distancing and wore masks.  Nazareth was very impressive in their win, showing emotion and speed.  They will be a tough opponent, for sure.
  1. Our scheduled high school football opener was affected by the virus.  Parkland was forced to postpone their game against Central Catholic.  We will bring you Northampton at Freedom LIVE on Friday night at 7:00pm. 

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 9-6-1; OVERALL- 35-12-1 – 74%)

Denver

Indianapolis

New Orleans

Arizona

Cincinnati

Dallas

Houston

Seattle

Tampa Bay

Pittsburgh

Baltimore

LA Rams

Kansas City

Buffalo

San Francisco

Green Bay

 

 

 

 

 

A Huge Success Story

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.

You know the brand name Snapple, right?  Did you know that when the product was introduced, it just tanked.  Quaker Oats paid millions for the product and, due to its lack of success, sold it for $300,000 to Triarc Companies in 1997.  That is where 1970 Lafayette graduate, Mike Weinstein, came into the picture as the CEO of Snapple and within three years orchestrated the sale to Cadbury Schweppes for $1.45 billion!

That story is now the first case taught at the Harvard Business School.  I interviewed Mike Weinstein this past week on Primetime PARDS.  He has a good story to tell starting at the 4:10 mark in this YouTube video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al2Y8kzw64A&feature=youtu.be

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. It is a rare sight when the average golfer can watch the PGA pros hack around a golf course, much like we do. The US Open challenge at Winged Foot this week looked eerily similar to shots hit in my golf league every week.  It is almost a pleasure to see the pros struggle one time a year and then, much like us, complain vociferously about the unfairness of the course conditions.  It’s music to my ears.
  1. As a kid, I used to try to emulate the swing and basket catch of Willie Mays, the passing and dribbling skills of Bob Cousy, and the passing style of Norm Van Brocklin. I am not sure any kid can emulate the golf swings of Bryson DeChambeau and Matthew Wolff.  Their swings are so unique; it will be interesting to see if anyone attempts to seriously mimic them.
  1. I wrote this last week: “Speaking of irony, New England QB Cam Newton looked terrific while former New England QB Tom Brady looked average for Tampa Bay (2 interceptions; 1 touchdown).” I would write just the opposite this week – Brady was exceptional in Tampa Bay’s win over Carolina and Newton could not lead New England to a win over Seattle.
  1. The Eagles now appear to be weak on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Their offense improved a bit and their defense deteriorated this past week against the Rams.  The good news is the NFL East does not look very strong so there is still hope.
  1. Check out “Gary’s Guesses” from the past week! That’s right, a record-setting week, only missing the Monday Night game: 15 correct out of 16 games!

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 15-1; OVERALL- 26-6 – 81%)                 

Jacksonville               

Pittsburgh

Minnesota

Atlanta

New England

San Francisco

Philadelphia

Cleveland

Buffalo

Indianapolis

LA Chargers

Arizona

Seattle

Tampa Bay

New Orleans

Kansas City

 

 

Let the NFL Begin!

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.

Despite not having any preseason games, all 32 NFL teams kicked off their official season this week.  Obviously, it remains to be seen if they can get through the season without having to shut down.  NHL hockey, NBA basketball, and MLB baseball have done a pretty good job so far, but nothing compares to the lack of social distancing in the game of football.

You should be aware that I am writing this Sunday morning before the games (I know the Chiefs won on Thursday, but I would have picked them to win anyway).  So before the first weekend and Monday night games are played, here is how I see the divisions unfolding:

AFC

East

  • Buffalo – They finished second to New England last year with Brady.  This is their year to shine.  QB Josh Allen is the key.
  • New England – It could be a big mistake to pick against Belichick.  There’s no Brady, but there is Cam Newton.  I’m guessing he will not stay healthy for the entire season.  If he does, you will continue to despise the Patriots.
  • Miami – This team is a work in progress and progress should happen this year.  Is Tua Tagovailoa (I hope I don’t have to type this again) their next Dan Marino?  He could be and the Dolphins might surprise.
  • Jets – They may as well plan a “Celebration” of their tenth anniversary of not making the playoffs.

North

  1. Baltimore – LaMar Jackson is the real deal.  He was the NFL MVP and the Ravens are very strong on defense.  The ingredients here could win them a Super Bowl. 
  2. Pittsburgh – They are always dangerous, but a bit old and injury prone.  Everyone says Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, but, at 38, can he remain healthy in this league?

  3. Cleveland – No team causes me more grief for Gary’s Guesses than the Browns.  It got to the point where I just picked them to lose every week.  That should not be the case this year.  Baker Mayfield makes them better and they might be better than the Steelers (am I really writing this?)

  4. Cincinnati – 2-14 last year says a great deal about this team.  They took LSU QB Joe Burrow as their top pick, but it should be a tough learning process for the rookie with this team.

South

  • Indianapolis – Philip Rivers is no longer in San Diego and is reunited with head coach Frank Reich and two of the Colts’ assistants.  The sooner he gets comfortable with his teammates, the better this team can become.
  • Tennessee – I’ll be honest – I was going to pick the Texans here, but their Thursday night showing was not impressive at all.  The Titans have an excellent ground game.  They were 9-7 last year and found a steady QB in Ryan Tannehill.
  • Houston – The Texans are better than what they showed on Thursday night.  Deshaun Watson at QB makes them a contender, but the offense did not look good against the Chiefs, especially in protecting their QB.  That has to improve.
  • Jacksonville – This team was just not good offensively last year.  QB Gardner Minishew made them better after replacing Nick Foles.  Jay Gruden (OC) and Ben McAdoo (QB coach) have the experience to make them better.

West

  • Kansas City – Based on Thursday night’s performance, the Chiefs look better than last year if that’s possible.  Patrick Mahomes now can rely on a running game and the defensive line looks awesome.  Andy Reid will be smiling again this year on his way to a second Super Bowl.
  • Denver – Take your pick from here on in this division.  Denver’s defense is not strong.  They could finish second or last.
  • San Diego – QB Philip Rivers is gone and Tyrod Taylor is inserted.  The receivers he has available to him are very talented.  Combine that with a strong defense and they could certainly jump over Denver.
  • Las Vegas – If you are a betting person, what better team to put some money on?  Jon Gruden moves his team to a new home and brings former Dallas great TE Jason Witten with him.  This team looks like a last place finisher to me.

NFC

East

  • Dallas – I know – it hurts me to write it, but I have felt the Cowboys only needed a coach that really motivates his guys and they have it in Mike McCarthy, formerly of the Packers.  He will make them better defensively and that will make them good enough to win the division.  I hope I’m wrong.
  • Philadelphia – They won the East last year, but their offensive line is certainly suspect due to injuries.  Carson Wentz needs time to pick out his receivers; if he has it, the Eagles might repeat as East champs.  Also, the linebacker corps looks somewhat suspect.  E-A-G-L-E-S! (Just practicing).
  • Giants – They have a new coach – Joe Judge.  He is tough and coached with Bill Belichick and Nick Saban.  I really want the Giants to do well because I want Saquon Barkley to have a great year.  For that to happen, QB Daniel Jones must be better this year.
  • Washington – Ron Rivera will make the team with no nickname better, but it takes time.  They could improve this year and the record might not illustrate that.  Rivera is now also fighting a cancer diagnosis and may not be at full strength during the season.

North

  • Minnesota The Vikings were not better than the Packers last year.  I think they are better this year.  QB Kirk Cousins is a veteran (9 years) with some outstanding receivers and the Vikings have a very strong defense. They will win the North.
  • Green Bay – 13-3 last year is certainly a great NFL regular season and much of the credit always goes to Aaron Rodgers.  He’s back and, if he stays healthy, he is as good as any QB in the league.  The Packers win close games.  If that trend continues, they will win the division again.
  • Chicago – I like the Bears; they should have been in the NFC Championship game last year (remember the Cody Parker missed field goal?).  Their defense should be better than last year and they were very good last year.  Yet they don’t seem to win the big games.
  • Detroit – 3-12-1 is bad.  The Lions were bad last year.  QB Matt Stafford’s injury caused him to miss half a season and the Lions defense is just not good.  The team needs to rally around HC Matt Patricia or he will be gone.

South

  • New Orleans – Are the Saints ever bad?  They were 13-3 last year and in the last three years, they have won more regular season NFL games than any other team.  Former Eagle Malcolm Jenkins is now a Saint and one of the best safeties in the league on the field and in the locker room.  He will motivate a team that is always ready to play.
  • Tampa Bay – They now have Tom Brady, right?  Enough said.
  • Atlanta – This team is just not good defensively and that means losses in the NFL.  They were 7-9 last year and I do not see improvement in their record.
  • Carolina – Talk about a one-man team – As Christian McCaffrey goes so goes the Panthers offense.  He can do it all, but can he do enough to win games for this team which really struggles on the defensive side of the ball?  No.

West

  • San Francisco – They won the NFC title last year (13-3) and had a 10-point lead on the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.  Coach Kyle Shanahan proved he was up to the job and QB Jimmy Garoppolo followed in the footsteps of successful QBs under Shanahan.  Garoppolo should be better in year two.  And that makes the 49ers better.
  • Seattle – Pete Carroll has eight  consecutive winning seasons.  Almost their entire team is back from an 11-5 season. Their defensive secondary is much improved and they still have QB Russell Wilson, a proven winner.  Coach Carroll gets his ninth consecutive winning season.
  • LA Rams – The Rams will play in a brand new stadium and, despite the absence of a big crowd, should have some extra incentive this season.  Sean McVay appears to be a very good young coach.  Their offensive line was decimated with injuries last year and they still finished 9-7.  Give QB Jared Goff some blocking and the Rams could surprise.
  • Arizona – At 5-10-1 last year, the Cardinals struggled.  They appear, however, to come into this season with a very potent offense with two excellent running backs, a stable of receivers, and Kyler Murray at QB.  This team will cause defenses many problems; they hope their defense does the same.

 ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Isn’t it ironic (a nicer word than a Philadelphia fan would use) that neither the Phillies nor the Eagles can hold a lead?
  1. What was worse on Sunday watching an inept Eagles offensive line or the downhill performance of Carson Wentz?  Might the two be related?
  1. Speaking of irony, New England QB Cam Newton looked terrific while former New England QB Tom Brady looked average for Tampa Bay (two interceptions; one touchdown).
  1. Dustin Johnson won $15 million by winning the FedEx Cup last weekend.  That money used to be deferred into a retirement fund, but now the winner gets $14 million with $1 million deferred.  Rory McElroy and Tiger Woods are the only ones to win the Cup twice.  When they won, the prize was $10 million.  $9 million of Tiger’s winnings were deferred each time.  Just from that event, he has an $18 million retirement fund! 
  1. Congrats to the Notre Dame HS and Northwestern HS football teams.  They both won the first two football games of the 2020 season. 

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 11-5; OVERALL- 11-5 – 69%)

Cleveland

Tennessee

Buffalo

Pittsburgh

Dallas

Indianapolis

Green Bay

San Francisco

Chicago

LA Rams

Tampa Bay

Arizona

Kansas City

Baltimore

Seattle

New Orleans

 

Virus Vacation

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.

Here it is the start of September and my wife and I have yet to take a vacation.  For us, that is unheard of and we would love to remedy the situation.  I am going to take next week off, but, in all honesty, we have nowhere to go.  Those words are very difficult to write.

If you have read some of my blogs, you probably know we love cruising and we love the islands.  The cruise industry has been devastated by the COVID virus and we are fearful about getting on a plane and flying in this environment.

So, all I can do is reflect back on one of my very favorite vacation stories – our introduction to Antigua.

I ran into one of my graduate school fellow students at a Lafayette basketball game years ago.  As we chatted, he mentioned that his family had a home in Antigua.  I asked if he rented it out and he said they would be happy to rent it to me.  I discussed it with my wife and friends whom we travel with and, after some research, we decided to go.  It turned out to be quite the experience.

Upon arrival in Antigua, we were met by a driver who had been recommended to us.  Our desire was to rent a car for the week so he told us it would take a while for me to get a license.  He recommended dropping us off at the vehicle office for the car and the license.  He would then take the wives to the home and unload the luggage.  They could settle in before we arrived.  That sounded like a good idea.  It was not.

The car rental and licensing process took about 90 minutes.  The driver came back so we could follow him to the house.  We walked up the driveway, entered the front door, only to be met by two women who appeared frozen in time.  The suitcases had not been touched and both our wives had barely stepped inside the house.  Something was, obviously, wrong!

We were told that when they entered the house, hundreds of lizards ran up the curtains and the walls.  They were petrified.  Being men, we thought we could handle this dilemma.  We, too, were wrong.  Our friends were going to stay in the guest house, so we decided to check out their accommodations.  As soon as we opened the door, hundreds of lizards scurried up the walls and the curtains.  The ladies shrieked and we may have silently shrieked, too.

I suggested that we go look for a place to eat and discuss the situation.  That caused even more consternation.  In Antigua, you drive on the left side of the road.  No problem.  I could certainly handle that.  What I had trouble handling was avoiding the chickens, horses, and cows that were in the middle of the road.  Adding to my displeasure was the backseat screams warning me to watch out for the chickens, horses, and cows.  I pulled over and suggested that I was not going to spend all week being yelled at while driving.

We found a place to eat and checked out the menu.  The prices appeared to be outrageous.  Almost every meal had a price in the 70’s or higher.  After each price, were the letters EC.  We did not know at that time that American dollars were about one-third EC dollars.  A $90 EC meal would cost about $30 in our money.  Our initial thought was that we could never afford to eat here for a week.  I know – we should have done some research.  We did not eat there.

In no uncertain terms, our wives told us they would not stay at the house.  They insisted we find a resort.  Luckily down the road from the house was the Rex Halcyon Resort.  We walked onto the grounds just as they were having a welcoming party for the guests.  Since we looked like guests, and they thought we were guests, we, of course, ate like guests (starving guests).  Our plates of hors d’oeuvres were certainly larger than anyone who was actually staying there.

We went to the front office, asked to see a room, and decided to stay there for the week.  We easily transferred the luggage, found a driver for the week, and returned our rental car.  As the week progressed, we met a woman who wanted to sell her limited timeshare (12 years, not perpetuity) on the same property for $800 total.  It had two bedrooms, two baths, two balconies, a living room, and a kitchen.  Since we were having a wonderful week and despite my despising timeshares, we and our friends decided to buy 12 years of vacations for $400 apiece.  It was a no-brainer.

We used the timeshare every year after the purchase, bought another week two years later for $500 and spent the next ten years vacationing for two weeks in Antigua for only a $900 investment and yearly maintenance fees which we also split.  We had the most wonderful yearly vacations!

After we returned home that first year, I informed my classmate why we did not stay at his place.  He informed me that had we opened the patio doors, moved around a little, all of the lizards would have left the place and we would have had a week of peace and serenity.

But for the next 11 years, our friends, my wife, and I were very happy we did not know that.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Speaking of vacations, I noticed that the Tour de France started this week. My wife and I were invited to dine with the captain on a cruise ship one year.  I wondered why he chose us.  He discovered I was a sports broadcaster and he wanted to discuss the bike race and, more specifically, America’s top cyclist, Greg Lemond.  I had virtually no knowledge of either, but I faked it and thoroughly enjoyed the escargots and lobster tail.  I think I fooled the captain.
  1. Isn’t it perplexing when the Phillies and the Flyers games overlap one another? I want to watch both.  Many of us do.
  1. Can someone explain to me why some support only the police and some others support only Black Lives Matter? I support both – good police officers who do their job every day the right way and peaceful BLM participants who recognize we desperately need changes made.  They are not mutually exclusive.
  1. As of now, high school football will return to RCN TV Sports on October 2. It will be quite different.  I have been informed that I will have to call the game from our studio, not at the stadium.  I am very apprehensive about being able to do that.  If you watch, be kind.
  1. No blog next week – Have a safe, happy, and healthy Labor Day!!

 

 

 

 

 

Fore!

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.

Every golfer knows the cry – “fore!”  The announcement means that a golf ball is heading your way and you should be on the lookout.  Those of us in the Lehigh Valley now know that many, many golf balls and professional golfers are headed our way.  The 2022 USGA U. S. Senior Open will be at the Saucon Valley Country Club the week of June 21-26.

At a time when there is not much, if any, LIVE sporting events to attend, knowing there is one on the horizon, no matter how far away, is certainly good news.  It is especially good news if you were one of the thousands who attended Saucon’s three previous USGA events: the 1992 and 2009 Senior Opens and the LPGA’s 2009 US Women’s Open.

I attended all three with memories of having interviewed Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, and others in the beautiful setting that is the Country Club.  I remember what it was like to watch the best women players, not only play exceptional golf, but make themselves accessible to the fans.  And I remember the crowds that brought tens of millions of dollars to the area, a boom that certainly will be welcome again especially now.

Only 13 clubs in the country have hosted more USGA events than Saucon Valley.  This will mark the eighth.  The complex covers 850 acres and has 60 magnificent golf holes – three 18-hole courses (the Old Course, Grace Course, and Weyhill) and a pristine 6-hole course for junior golfers to prove their skills before taking their talent to the 18-hole courses.  Just to be able to walk these grounds is a feast for any nature lover.

2020 is the actual 100-year anniversary of the club, but 2022 is the 100-year anniversary of the club’s completion.  This event will mark those two occasions.

The other exciting news is which golfers will turn 50 between now and then, making them eligible for the Seniors’ tour.  Those expected to be at Saucon for the Open are Phil Mickleson, Jim Furyk (who is a native Pennsylvanian), Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn and those currently on the tour like Fred Couples.

I know it feels as if 2022 is a long way off, especially when the days right now seem longer than usual as we scratch our heads trying to come up with safe things to do.  Mark your calendar, knowing good times have to return at some point.

Golfers have described the game as “a good walk spoiled”, but for those attending the 2022 US Senior Open, I can pretty much guarantee it will simply be a good walk.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Do any of you collect baseball cards? Did you see where the Mike Trout rookie card became the highest selling sports card of all time?  The 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Superfractor signed rookie card sold for $3.12 million.  The card had been purchased from a Taiwan seller in 2018 for $400,000.  Someone made a very nice profit.
  1. Last week, I was feeling pretty good about the Phillies, but warned that they needed to get better performances out of their bullpen. This week the bullpen failed them again.  They lost five straight before winning Sunday and are in last place in the NL East.  The Phils have added three new names to the relief corps, but so far, that has not helped.
  1. The Flyers take on the Islanders in Round two of the NHL playoffs. They finished off Montreal this past week and now play a team that beat them in their only three meetings this year.  On paper, this series looks about as even as they come.  This one will be very defensive and the team that solves the other offensively will win.
  1. It had been 63 years since the Celtics completed a playoff sweep of a Philadelphia NBA franchise. The Celtics did it on Sunday and beat a Philadelphia team for the fifteenth time in the playoffs. Expect some shakeups in the 76ers organization.
  1. Nazareth’s Marco Andretti sat on the pole position for the Indianapolis 500, scheduled in May, but postponed to this past Sunday. I never watch racing, but, since Marco looked like a potential winner, I watched – for four hours and 45 minutes!  Marco was never in the race and the last four laps were under the yellow with the cars going about 65 miles an hour.  It was like driving on Route 22!  I wasted a Sunday afternoon.