Pro Football – C’mon!

I know many of you remember my shtick on WZZO with Bearman and Keith. I know you do because people still yell, “Gaaaaryyy Laubach!!”, when I see them around the Valley.  Some woman even yelled it when I was getting on an elevator on a cruise ship somewhere in the Atlantic.  I would chit-chat with Bearman and Keith on Monday mornings and make my NFL picks on Friday mornings.  My picks were often spot on and it was always a fun time.

Someone at RCN thought it would be a good idea to continue offering up my thoughts on a weekly blog and make NFL picks each week – thus, “Gary’s Guesses”. It seemed like a good idea at the time and for many years I looked like I knew what I was doing.  Until this season -it has been almost impossible to confidently pick any NFL game.

Sure, I can always pick the Browns to lose (1-21 the past two seasons) and the Patriots to win (although they just eked out a win over the Jets so even the Patriots are a bit shaky). As I prepare to make picks again this week, how do I account for:

The Packers losing Aaron Rodgers?

The Giants beating Denver Sunday night without any notable receivers and still being just 1-5?

The Ravens who look like a different team every week (they just lost to the Bears)?

Speaking of the Bears, how do I deal with a team that is almost a sure bet to lose, except when they don’t, like this week?

Dallas losing Ezekiel Elliott this week through Thanksgiving, given that they are only 2-3 with him?

The Falcons losing two straight to lesser teams?

The Cardinals – did you see them against the Eagles?

The 0-6 49’ers, who have lost their last five games by 3 or fewer points?

A decent Oakland team that has lost 4 in a row?

The Lions looking good and then not?

The Dolphins, Lions, Texans, Jets, Jaguars, Chargers, Saints, Steelers, Rams, etc.?

Despite my misgivings and going 10-18 the past two weeks, I will make my guesses again. But my confidence is certainly shaken.  I hope no one is using my picks as their picks.  I am on the verge of just using a Ouija board.  I couldn’t do any worse. One of my friends, a Steelers fan, implores me to pick them to lose every week knowing they would then win.

In fact, except for the Browns, who I can count on to lose every week, the most dependable team right now looks like (dare I say it), the Eagles! And now, I have just jinxed them!!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. NFL officiating sure creates controversy every week. Take a look at this call that cost the Jets a touchdown against New England:The Jets lost by 7.
  2.  http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=21033522
  3. #2 Clemson lost to Syracuse in a shocker, 27-24, which allowed Penn State to move up to #2 without even playing a game. Can they stay there with Michigan at home, Ohio State, and Michigan State on the road up next? Win those three in a row and no one will doubt their ranking.
  4. Speaking of Penn State, Saquon Barkley was back home in Whitehall this past weekend and attended the Whitehall-Bethlehem Catholic game on Friday night. He was kind enough to grant us an interview during our broadcast. He was his usual modest self and, in fact, was hoping not too many people would know he was there. He told us he did not want to detract from the game. Truth be told, he is a bit too famous these days not to be noticed. He graciously signed autographs.
  5. I am enjoying the baseball playoffs after watching very little during the regular season. The starting pitching is awesome, almost unhittable. Defense has been outstanding. The games are extremely tense right up to the last out. The pace is still a bit taxing, however.
  6.  I am happy to report that Mike Joseph and I are in the Colonial League this Friday night with a great match-up: Notre Dame at Saucon Valley. Game two on Friday is Nazareth at Liberty, an important game in the AAAAAA district picture. Saturday the Lafayette Leopards, tied at the top of the Patriot League at 2-0 will take on the Bucknell Bison at 3:30. At 7:00, Bethlehem Catholic takes on Freedom.

 

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 6-8; OVERALL – 49-41 – 54%)

Week Seven

KANSAS CITY

TENNESSEE

JACKSONVILLE

PITTSBURGH

MINNESOTA

JETS

BUFFALO

CAROLINA

NEW ORLEANS

RAMS

DALLAS

SEATTLE

DENVER

NEW ENGLAND

PHILADELPHIA

Learning To Fail

I always enjoy being asked to speak to local community groups—especially to our younger audience.

For one, it helps me keep in touch with the “lingo” that young people use. For example, I found out a few years back that with kids, “mad”  is used for an adjective that intensifies a strong feeling… “he has mad skills” means he is a very skilled person or athlete.)

I also learn what’s important to young people, what their biggest interests are …and, in some cases, stumble across a different way of looking at things.

One particular thing surprised me recently about a certain group of young people that I spoke with. To make a long story short, the kids expressed a dreaded fear of not being good at something…or, more importantly to them, afraid that other kids would find out a particular skill that they are not good at.

It prompted me to bring up the fact that in sports (and in life as well), failing is not only a part of an experience, but it is a way to learn, improve and make yourself better.

Using some sports examples:

  • Russell Wilson, Seattle’s quarterback. He threw an interception at the end of a recent Super Bowl—one that cost his team the victory in sports’ biggest game, in front of the world’s biggest audience and on its grandest stage. Since that ill-advised throw, he’s gone on to be one of the premiere quarterbacks in the NFL and one of the sports’ most marketable players.
  • Yankees’ outfielder Aaron Judge. He struck out over a whopping 200 times this past year in the regular season alone (sometimes players go years with fewer strikeouts) and yet is arguably baseball’s best up-and-coming player who received much attention for some clutch hitting during the last month of the season.
  • Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook. He MISSES approximately 70% of his three-point shot attempts over the course of his career, yet is widely regarded as perhaps the NBA’s greatest three point shooters—and hundreds, if not thousands, of young people around the world are growing up tailoring their basketball ability based on his “success” (which happens 30% of the time). The changing style of basketball may have been re-written forever with more and more players shooting more three-point shots than ever before, in part because of Westbrook’s efforts.

The kids I spoke with seemed amazed by these facts–that the great athletes in the modern era actually fail many more times that they succeed…and that by not being perfect all the time—even with millions of people watching you—doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world.

I’m sure these young people would have realized these things on their own…but it certainly got me thinking. What a scary world this would turn into if people stopped trying to reach for the stars, because they’d be afraid they might burn themselves on the journey.

***

As I often do here at the “SportsTalk” show, I ask local athletic directors, coaches and school administrators to pass along special accomplishments for us to highlight and let other people know about.

First, a shout-out to Freedom’s Athletic Director and Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Tennis Chair Nate Stannard for doing just that, as he sent me the EPC All-Conference Team members that were announced last week…

2017-18 EPC Girls Tennis All Conference

Robert Frey (Saucon Valley’s Athletic Director and District XI Golf Chair) passed along the results from the District XI Golfing Championship…

2017 District XI Golf Championship Results

Also, thanks to Easton’s AD Jim Pokrivsak for sending me a picture of the Red Rovers girls tennis team.

chris_image1017

Coach Rossi and his team went a perfect 16-0 this past season and captured the EPC championship, also held last week.

If you have a player, coach or team that you feel deserves recognition or is worthy of extra attention, don’t hesitate to pass that information along to me at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and we’ll look to highlight him/her on future editions of the “SportsTalk Shop” and/or on our weekly television show!

Football Polls: “Half-time 2017”

This week marks the midway point of the “SportsTalk” high school football poll.

 

For most weeks this fall, there’s been consistency as to which teams will make our polls and in which spots each will land in our high school football poll in the Lehigh Valley RCN-TV footprint. While always feeling we are very fortunate to have some exceptionally good pigskin prognosticators, there usually is some movement between our pre-season poll and the mid-way point in the scholastic football season.

This year? Not much movement at all.

A quick reminder about how our polls are constructed. Unlike polls that consist of a couple representatives within the same organization, our poll is much more varied with input from numerous people over a wider scope.  Our voting panel consists of local media members from different outlets, including RCN’s Gary Laubach, Tony Cocca and Dennis Laub, Morning Call’s Keith Groller, David Mika from EasternPAfootball.com and others.

We also include local coaches and athletic directors from across the entire district.  The voters are not identified (unless they appear on our “SportsTalk” TV show and podcast and choose to reveal themselves) so they can give their honest impressions without any worry of outside pressures or “bulletin board” material, and we rotate different pollsters from different schools each year, including guests from our biggest to smallest schools.

Despite the change in the PIAA classification, our poll remains with the standard, tried-and-true format that we have utilized for many seasons.  We will take the 400-male enrollment number as the cutoff for schools within the District XI/RCN footprint.  All schools above that number qualify as “big schools” in our poll. These schools consist of Parkland, Liberty, Allen, Easton, Emmaus, Liberty, Dieruff, Freedom, Stroudsburg, Pleasant Valley, Northampton, Nazareth, E. Stroudsburg-South, Whitehall, Southern Lehigh and Bangor.

“Small schools” (below 400-male enrollment) consist of Saucon Valley, Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Northwestern, Wilson, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.  Each pollster will identify their top five teams in each group—the top school gets five points, the second team gets four points and so on, with an average score determining the order of teams in the poll.

Every other week we have been asking four local media members to pick the winners in four of the most anticipated games for that weekend.  We’ll keep track on how each of our pollsters (tune in to each “SportsTalk” show as we post their standings, as well as the teams) are doing throughout the fall season–and we encourage you to let us know what you think of our prognosticators picks, either by calling in to our Thursday night show, or by emailing us at RCNsportstalk@rcn.com

And…if you have a beef with our pollsters’ opinions or dislike our game projections? Tune into “SportsTalk” and call or email us with your thoughts!

Also, don’t forget to check back to the “SportsTalk Shop” for more sports interviews, high school football news, rumors and insights, our polls and picks and features on fall sports teams in the RCN viewing area over the coming weeks, plus interviews, video highlights and game previews!

 

 

Stand, Kneel, Etc.

As many of you know, I taught school for almost thirty years. In all of those years, I only encountered one protest concerning the American flag.  Throughout the US, a school day began with the Pledge of Allegiance as everyone, teachers and students combined, stood and, in unison, said, “I pledge allegiance to the United States of America…”

On one occasion, a student in my homeroom refused to stand and recite the pledge. After he did that the first time, I asked him why he refused to stand.  He said that he was protesting America’s involvement in Viet Nam and the country’s aggressive stance throughout the world.  I was not happy with his stance, but I also understood everyone’s right to protest.

After all, in my English class I taught a unit called Books That Changed the World.  One of those books (a pamphlet, actually) was Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.  That treatise was a call for America’s thirteen colonies to break away from England and become a nation unto itself.  For Paine, this call to action just made “common sense”.

The most important impetus for this action, according to Paine, was “if a government requires you to do something you believe is morally wrong, you are morally obligated not to do it.” This is exactly what this student believed he was doing.  Would I be hypocritical to deny him that right?  I believed I would be, but I sought out higher authorities for their position.  They decided he did not have to stand, but he needed to go out in the hall during the Pledge.

This is where the NFL player protest has gotten. Players on some teams may either stand or kneel.  However, some owners are now insisting the players, who wish to protest, “go out into the hall” by staying in the locker room while the Anthem is being played.  Some owners have threatened that if a player does not stand, he will not play and may even lose his job, ala Colin Kaepernick.

I am somewhat mystified how a protest against what are perceived as unwarranted shootings by police by some has been turned into disrespecting our troops and our country, but it has. But for every action, there is usually a reaction.  That has certainly been the case here.  Thomas Paine was well-aware that if you protested, you must be willing to accept the consequences of those actions.  Gandhi knew that; Martin Luther King knew that; Nelson Mandela knew that and all of them paid the consequences in order to create change.

So whether a player decides to stand, kneel, or stay in the locker room, it is a personal decision with potential consequences. But isn’t that how great changes in the world have come about?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay both agree that Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is the best running back in college football. How will he fare in the NFL draft? Here is their take:
    http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/20960145/mel-kiper-todd-mcshay-just-how-good-penn-state-nittany-lion-runnning-back-saquon-barkley
  2. What is happening in the NFL? Jacksonville crushes Pittsburgh; the Giants are 0-5 with a completely depleted receiving corps; Dallas has a losing record; New England has already lost two games and is tied with the Jets and Bills in the standings… I could go on and on. Has the cliché, “On any given Sunday…” ever had more meaning? And the Eagles are in first place! Is this the world as we know it?
  3. The Lafayette Leopards are 2-0 in the Patriot League after another nail-biting win over the favored Fordham Rams. They won 14-10 after trailing 10-0 at the end of three quarters. This is the first time since 2013 that the team is 2-0 in the League. They ended up as Patriot League champions that year. Dare we dream?
  4. I have to offer some praise to Bob Andrews, the highly respected referee in the Parkland-Beca game on Friday night. If you watched our broadcast, we were quite critical of a number of calls in the first half. One call actually kept Beca from scoring a touchdown on a fumble. The officials said it was not a fumble. Our replay showed otherwise. There were three other calls that seemed to be unwarranted or incorrect. I saw Bob at the Lafayette game the next day and he had watched our replay that morning. We discussed each play. He was in agreement with some of our opinions and disagreed with others. He felt each one would become a teaching lesson for his fellow officials. We both learned from the experience.
  5. The games may not be as meaningful this Friday night, but, boy, should they be entertaining. Bethlehem Catholic hosts Whitehall and points should come in abundance. That game will be followed by Freedom at Nazareth and points should come in abundance. Did I just repeat myself? You might be up late, but you should have fun watching.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 4-10; OVERALL – 43-33 – 57%)

Week Six

CAROLINA

WASHINGTON

ATLANTA

HOUSTON

NEW ORLEANS

BALTIMORE

GREEN BAY

NEW ENGLAND

ARIZONA

JACKSONVILLE

KANSAS CITY

OAKLAND

DENVER

TENNESSEE

 

The First Quadmester

Did “quadmester” get your attention? It is a word (much like semester and trimester) or it isn’t, but I used it to signify that, for the most part, one-quarter of the NFL season is now completed. I know that the Bucs and Dolphins did not play in Week 1 due to Irma, but, come on; there have been enough games to begin to fool around with what we currently know. Here are ten ramblings about the season so far (in no particular order):

  1.  The Browns and 49ers are not good now and will not be good in the next trimester (notice the theme this week) either.
  2. Don’t gamble on the NFL for awhile. There have been numerous upsets the past two weeks (Panthers over New England, Jets over anybody, the Rams over the Cowboys, the Bills over the Falcons – need I go on?). I would assume there are quite a few who are already out of their survivor pool. Don’t start a new one. It might be that kind of year.
  3. The Rams are in first place and Seattle is not in the NFC West. The Jets are tied with the Patriots in the AFC East, but the Bills are in first place. The Eagles are in first place!
  4. The Buffalo Bills have given up an average of 13.5 points a game – in the NFL!
  5. The Dolphins were supposed to be good, but have lost to the Jets and the Saints with one total touchdown the last two weeks (and that came on the last play of the game against the Jets). They’re not so good.
  6. What’s wrong with the Patriots? Their defense! How long will Bill Belichick stand for these results before heads begin to roll?
  7. If I said a New York team might be the worst team in football, you and I would think I was talking about the Jets. But the New York Jets are 2-2 and the New York Giants are 0-4.
  8. Why is anyone a Cleveland Browns fan? They, too, are 0-4.
  9. On a positive note, the Los Angeles Rams are the most surprising team so far with their 3-1 start, especially after their 4-12 season a year ago in St. Louis. Is head coach Sean McVay that much better than Jeff Fisher? The next 13 weeks will tell.
  10. Go Eagles! So far, they have really been fun to watch and, did I mention, they are currently in first place in the NFC East. WITH ONLY A  TRIMESTER TO GO!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Penn State ids 5-0 for the first time since 2008 and find themselves #4 in the nation. Saquon Barkley right now is the Vegas favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. He leads the nation in all-purpose yardage. This past weekend he ran the opening kickoff back for a TD and actually threw a pass for a TD. Amazing!!
  2. The Rams moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles this year, but their uniform jerseys remained the same and do not match their helmets or their pants. The NFL due to a “uniform alteration” timing rule would not allow it. Their helmets and pants are blue with white stripes and the jersey is blue with gold numbers.
    garyfootball
  3. The Eagles are 3-1 – oh, my!! They are in first place in the NFC East. And, how about Jake Elliot? After winning the game the week before against the Giants with a 61-yard field goal, he made four more of 40+ yards this week (with a 53-yarder). The Eagles, also, can run the ball, a huge asset in the NFL. The Eagles next take on the Arizona Cardinals in Philadelphia.
  4. The Lafayette Leopards put up plenty of firsts this past Saturday in Worcester, Mass. By beating Holy Cross on the last play of the game, they attained their first win of the season; achieved a Patriot League victory in the first league game; took over first place in the PL; and gave Coach John Garrett his first-ever win as a college football coach.
  5. Bethlehem Catholic travels to Parkland this Friday in a battle of two unbeaten teams. You can watch the match-up LIVE on RCN at 7:00pm. Whitehall and Freedom follow at 9:30. Lafayette tries to win their second Patriot League game on Saturday at 3:30pm. Northampton plays Liberty Saturday night on RCN at 7:00pm.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 10-7; OVERALL – 39-23 – 63%)

Week Five

PITTSBURGH
RAIDERS
NEW ENGLAND
PHILADELPHIA
SAN FRANCISCO
BUFFALO
GIANTS
RAMS
MIAMI
JETS
CHICAGO
HOUSTON
DETROIT
DALLAS

Projecting the Sixers Roster

After years of “tanking” (it was refreshing to finally hear a 76ers player admit that at last week’s “Media Day”), Philadelphia is finally looking to put together a solid—and competitive—roster for the upcoming NBA season.

With training camp now underway, a crowded, yet very talented, field of players are participating at the team’s pre-season workouts at its Camden facility with some very tough roster decisions looming for the Sixers front office.

Here is a breakdown of the players currently in camp, along with predictions as far as who makes the Opening Day roster when the 76ers take on the Wizards in Washington on national television on October 18th.

ROSTER LOCKS
Amir Johnson
Dario Saric
J.J. Redick
Markelle Fultz
Joel Embiid
Ben Simmons
Robert Covington

Aside from your projected superstars/starters of Fultz, Simmons and, if healthy, Embiid, free agent addition JJ Redick will garnish major minutes as a guy who must force opposing team’s defense to spread the floor with his long range shooting ability. Johnson, another off-season signee, will be a much-needed veteran presence upfront in a crowded arena of big men, even if Embiid is ready to go for the Season Opener. Covington’s defensive ability and versatility (he can play as well as defend both the #3 and #4 spots with anyone on the roster) make him assured of a roster spot and significant minutes regardless of who else makes the team.

For more on Embiid’s health and both Fultz and Simmons discussing sharing time at the point guard position, check out last week’s “4-for-4 Video” in our previous blog entry.

ROSTER PROBABLES
T.J. McConnell
Richard Holmes
Justin Anderson

McConnell has often been referred to as the “heart and soul” of this organization by team President Bryan Colangelo and others with the team, but T. J. figures to lose major minutes assuming Simmons and Fultz are healthy. However, McConnell and Holmes are tireless, blue collar guys this team needs and will shine when given even a limited opportunity to help the team.

Anderson might surprise some people after he was acquired by the 76ers later last season. However, he has been one of the most visible and hard working players around the practice facility and seems determined to prove that he belongs in this cast of talented players. I think he finds a niche helping the team out as a backup off-guard/small forward backup.

ROSTER QUESTIONALBLES
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
Nik Stauskas
Kris Humphries
Emeka Okafor

Luwawu-Cabarrot really impressed people who follow the team down the stretch run of that season. It remains to be seen if the quality of the competition (and the fact they played a lot of other teams with little to play for) mis-calibrated his evaluation—a strong training camp could prove people wrong. Stauskas may still have a role on this team as a wing but also will have to really impress Head Coach Brett Brown with a strong performance the next two weeks.

Okafor’s chances of making the team could dramatically improve if there’s any setbacks to Embiid…otherwise, he could make the roster as another veteran presence. Humphries’ non-guaranteed signing is intriguing, because the Sixers could use a “Stretch 4” to go along with Saric, and if Humphries continues to shoot the three with some proficiency, he could be that power forward/veteran the team sought for all offseason.

ROSTER DOUBTFULS
Jacob Pullen
Jerryd Bayless
Jahlil Okafor
James McAdoo
James Blackmon Jr.
Furkan Korkmaz

A couple of these guys could/will go to play for the Sixers’ D-League to start the year. Others will be hard pressed to find any openings in the roster, combined with the team’s youth movement and a core of veterans added to the club this off-season.

Bayless came into last year as a guy expected to be a major contributor by running the team’s offense while paving the way and serving as a role model for young players. However, his injury killed his 2016-17 campaign and there’s really no place for him now to find a spot with this organization as is.

Okafor has shown himself to be a true professional in the way he has handled some trying times with the team, after so much fanfare when he was selected with the overall number one pick. The Sixers owe it to him to find a place for him to play and to not keep him on the shelf, collecting even more dust, while trying to outwait a potential trading partner.

What do you think of my projections? Anyone you think should be higher/lower on the list? Just how good do you think Embiid, Simmons and Fultz can be? Email your opinions to rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and tune into this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” show for more 76ers player interviews and discussions on a variety of different sports topics.

HS Football: One Month In

HS Football: One Month In

With an early start to high school football again this season, we are already at the “one month in” mark of the scholastic season.

We’ve had some great contests on RCN-TV thus far, with some exciting games coming up (link to the RCN broadcast schedule).

If you’ve missed any of our games so far this season, they are all available for free OnDemand to RCN video subscribers for up to two months from their initial broadcast date.

To give you a taste of the action so far this season, here are the highlight “reels” of games broadcast on RCN-TV.

If you have a high school sports question or comment, you can participate on the next “SportsTalk” show by either calling in to our Thursday night show, or by emailing us at RCNsportstalk@rcn.com at any time.

Next week here at the “SportsTalk Shop,” we’ll take a look at the Philadelphia 76ers training camp opening and give you the skinny on what to look for over the next few weeks, and which players—on a VERY crowded roster—have the best shots at making the team.

 

 

The Red Zone

I know I have previously espoused the virtues of the NFL Red Zone in this space. But making the wild assumption you may have missed that particular blog (and, boy, is that a possibility), allow me to once again toot the horn of a product that any rabid football fan should have.

For those who might be unfamiliar with the channel, it is owned and operated by the NFL. It brings bits and pieces of every Sunday afternoon game, guaranteeing that you will see “every touchdown of every game” and they never fail in that mission.  They call it “whip around coverage” and as each game heads towards moments of excitement The Red Zone takes you there.  For an avid fantasy football player or fan, it never disappoints.  Scott Hanson is the host and does a masterful job setting up the video.

If you needed any proof of how addicting this channel can be, just ask someone who had The Red Zone this past Sunday. There were five games that were decided in the final seconds of regulations or overtime and you could see all those finishes on one channel.

The Giants, desperate for a win (0-2 going into the game), looked like they were on their way to an overtime against the Eagles and the Giants had all the momentum. However, they were beaten in the last second by a 61-yard field goal by Jake Elliot. The Red Zone had all the excitement of the last two minutes.

The Atlanta Falcons had a four-point lead when Detroit’s Golden Tate caught what appeared to be a last second winning touchdown. A “pick” penalty was called against the Lions, 10 seconds were run off the clock due to the penalty and Atlanta won the game.  There were plenty of “couch potato” second-guessing moments in those final seconds and The Red Zone offered up all the evidence you needed.

The Houston Texans had a fourth and inches on the Patriots 18-yard line with @2:30 to go and a two-point lead. The Texans chose to kick the field goal.  Of course, Tom Brady took New England down the field, escaped a potential interception, and threw the game-winning touchdown.  I guess it was another “Ho-hum” for Brady, but not for those of us watching The Red Zone looking for an upset by a team that was a 13.5 point underdog.

I do not like the NFL overtime rule which allows a team to score a touchdown for the win, without ever giving the opponent a chance to possess the football. That is what the Chicago Bears did to the Steelers on Sunday.  There was plenty of chaos at the end of this one, but The Red Zone kept us informed.

Finally, the Bills beat the Broncos (the same team that demolished Dallas the previous week). There was a bizarre penalty in this one that allowed the Bills to kick a field goal and put the game out of reach.  This was just another upset in a weekend of upsets that you could have experienced by watching The Red Zone.

The Red Zone costs $59.99 for the season on RCN. This past weekend, it was well-worth the investment.  Actually, it’s true every weekend.

And… at the end of the day, they show every touchdown from every game, as promised!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. This space has recently become my Saquon Barkley weekly call-out and this week is no exception. If you missed Penn State against Iowa on Saturday night (I did not, thanks to TIVO), go back and watch it. Whitehall’s Barkley had his best day ever rushing for 211 yards. He had 94 yards in receptions and set the Penn State record for all-purpose yards in a game. The Iowa coach said about Barkley, “The big difference in the game was that running back. He is a phenomenal player”. By the way, Penn State won on the very last play of the game 21-19.
  2. With the NFL and the NBA players now angry at the President, is MLB and the NHL far behind?
  3. Derek Jeter will soon be in charge of the Miami Marlins as the head of business and baseball operations. He will dismiss the current president and before that dismissal, Jeter wants him to fire Andre Dawson and Tony Perez (both Hall of Famers), Jeff Conine (former great Marlin player), and former manager Jack McKeon. This team will, obviously, be Derek’s team.
  4. The World Champion Chicago Cubs should clinch their division this week. Lafayette’s Joe Maddon is the manager and they seem ready to defend their title in October as they currently are playing great baseball. If I can’t root for the Phillies in the postseason, then I’m a Cubs’ fan.
  5. Parkland travels to Whitehall this Friday for a big rivalry match-up LIVE on RCN at 7:00pm. Lafayette opens the Patriot League season on Saturday afternoon in Worcester, Mass. at 1:00pm. That is where I will be. Northern Lehigh travels to Pen Argyl for a 7:00pm game.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 9-7; OVERALL – 29-17 – 63%)

Week Four

GREEN BAY

NEW ORLEANS

DALLAS

HOUSTON

DETROIT

ATLANTA

BALTIMORE

CINCINNATI

NEW ENGLAND

JACKSONVILLE

ARIZONA

PHILADELPHIA

GIANTS

DENVER

SEATTLE

KANSAS CITY

Summer Reflections 2017 (Part 3)

We’ve officially reached the end of summer and, sadly, the leaves are already starting to turn, so we’re about due for our final look back at our summer sports show highlights.

A few weeks back we featured pictures of some of the special people, guests and panelists featured on this summer’s “RCN SportsTalk presented by The Morning Call” shows that we broadcast on location at different hot spots around the Lehigh Valley region.

Today we feature more photos of those special guests along with a heart-felt “thank you” to all the groups for their time, their interesting stories and some terrific performances.

A reminder that most of these shows are still available to RCN customers to watch On-Demand, for free, for a limited time, to watch in those episodes in their entirety. 

Make sure you check out this weekend’s high school football games (you can find our broadcast schedule here on the RCN-TV website) along with this week’s “SportsTalk” show as we bring you more great stories and interesting people from the RCN viewing area. Scheduled guests include Former NFL Lineman/NFL Network Analyst Brian Baldinger, Eagles Beat Writers Al Thompson and Rock Hoffman & Fox Sports’ Redskins Reporter Kelsey Nicole Nelson.

Also, be sure to check out RCN’s coverage of this year’s Celtic Classic, including a final performance by Highland Game’s legend Dan McKim, who will be retiring after this weekend’s event. McKim will also be featured as a guest on the following week’s “SportsTalk” program.

Guaranteed Losses

Penn State beat Georgia State on Saturday afternoon by a 56-0 score. This was their third win of the year, all over much lesser opponents – Akron – 52-0 and Pittsburgh – 33-14.  Games one and three would be best described as “guarantee games”.  The opponent is “guaranteed” a nice paycheck for playing Penn State and Penn State is “guaranteed” a win.  Pitt is down in quality from many of their past teams, so this game proved to be no challenge either.  All the teams have valid reasons for the match-ups: the losers for the money and the winner – well, Penn State head coach James Franklin probably said it best:

“The most important thing you can do, year-in and year-out, is schedule in a way that’s going to give your team the best chance to win your conference.”

That’s all good advice if you are the team that wins, but how about the teams that have no shot at winning? For example, Lafayette’s football team really took it on the chin this past weekend when they traveled to #7 Villanova to play the Wildcats.  Villanova completely dominated the game by a 59-0 score and it could have been worse if Villanova hadn’t stopped throwing the ball in the second half.  It was 49-0 at the half.  And this game was not for the money.

Lafayette had already lost two games by a 31-12 score to Monmouth and 38-24 score to Sacred Heart. Both of these teams were laden with 5-year players who had a red-shirt season (an extra year to develop as a football player).  Lafayette and the Patriot League do not allow red shirts except for injury.  There is no extra year of physical maturity for the Leopards.

Up next for the Leopards is Princeton, a team they have beaten only three times in 48 tries. Their remaining non-conference opponent will be Harvard.  The Crimson leads in this series 16-3 over Lafayette and have won five in a row.  In the last 12 non-conference games, Lafayette has only two independent wins in the past three years – Wagner and Central Connecticut State.

John Garrett, the first-year Lafayette head coach, inherited a schedule which offers little chance of winning a non-conference game and a slim chance of winning a Patriot League game this year. They have only one Patriot League win in the past two years (over non-scholarship Georgetown).  But, at least, the playing field is level when you play within the conference.  Lafayette will just have to get better and will if they are not totally demoralized before the conference games begin.

I am well aware the schedules are developed years in advance (already in stone through 2020) and Coach Garrett knew what he was getting into when he accepted the job. Coming up in the next three years, Lafayette will play Delaware, William & Mary, Army, and Navy.  Beating Delaware and/or William & Mary would be considered big upsets.  Army beat Lafayette last season 62-7 and the Leopards will be no match for Navy.

John Garrett is one of the most positive individuals I have ever met. But when you are an Akron or Georgia State week in and week out, it is very difficult to instill that same positivity in the players and the fans.

If you don’t believe me, re-read Penn State’s Coach James Franklin’s quote:

“The most important thing you can do, year-in and year-out, is schedule in a way that’s going to give your team the best chance to win your conference.”

Lafayette needs to pin the message on the wall and remember it as they schedule for 2021. Please schedule a “guaranteed” win.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. I’m sure many of you saw the play, but in case you missed Whitehall’s Saquon Barkley’s catch and run on Saturday here it is:He set the Penn State record for career receiving yardage for a running back in this game.
  2.  https://www.roarlionsroar.com/penn-state-football/2017/09/2912/key-play-georgia-state-saquon-barkley-brandon-polk-trace-mcsorley
  3. Tom Brady of the Patriots took last week’s loss rather personally. He threw for 447 yards and three touchdowns in the Patriots’ win over New Orleans. In terms of consistent success, the Denver Broncos keep on winning as they stifled Dallas this past Sunday.
  4. The Cleveland Browns have not been favored to win a game since Week 14 of the 2015 season. They won that game, by the way, 24-10 over San Francisco in Cleveland. They have not been favored to win a road game since Week 7 of the 2014 season (they lost to the Jaguars 24-6). The Browns are 2.5 point favorites to beat the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis this week.   I picked the Colts.
  5. East Stroudsburg South beating Central Catholic and Palisades drubbing Southern Lehigh were the most surprising high school football outcomes this past weekend.
  6. We have an inter-city rivalry on Friday night when undefeated Bethlehem Catholic plays Liberty at 7:00pm. Lafayette takes on Ivy League champion Princeton on Saturday night at 6:00pm on RCN-TV. There are also plenty of Celtic Classic festivities this weekend on RCN-TV. 


Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 11-5; OVERALL – 21-10 – 68%)

Week Three

LA RAMS

BALTIMORE

INDIANAPOLIS

PITTSBURGH

MIAMI

DENVER

NEW ENGLAND

CAROLINA

TAMPA BAY

ATLANTA

PHILADELPHIA

TENNESSEE

KANSAS CITY

GREEN BAY

OAKLAND

DALLAS