DAWK & MITCH

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.

My very first full-length sit-down interview with a professional athlete was Eagles’ Safety Brian Dawkins.

I was nervous as all-heck.

Dawkins was just entering his prime and was one of the biggest sports personalities in all of Philadelphia.  I had been working at Philly’s Sportsradio WIP (the number one sports radio station in the nation at that time) and I had done some group interviews, but nothing “one on one.”

Of course, I figured if I messed up this interview, I might never get another chance again and my entire career would be ruined!  I had heard some horrible stories from seasoned journalists about how rude pro athletes can be (along with lots of encouraging words) but I was afraid he’d turn out to be another Chase Utley–someone who always appears gracious on camera but bites reporters’ heads off the second they ask a question that he has the slightest problem with.

I could not have been more wrong.

Brian was as wonderful a big time personality as I ever had the good fortune to interview.  He said he was honored to be interviewed by me (I knew he didn’t, but what a thing to say??) and made for pleasant talk before the interview, joked around a little, and then gave clear and well thought out responses to all of my questions.  I could not have imagined a better experience and it was a tremendous confidence boost for the hundreds of sit-down interviews I’ve done since.

I had the good fortune to interview Brian again twice more…once when he was “on the way out” of Philly (one of the dumbest things the Eagles did–and they’ve made a lot of “brain dead” decisions).  Dawkins was once again as kind and as considerate as he was the first time, even though he was no longer on top of the world and his career as an athlete was in decline.

A few years after that, I had him on RCN SportsTalk this time as a retired ball player who looked back at his career and his road ahead as a family man, a tremendous banquet event and inspirational speaker and as a businessman.  He was, and is, a tremendous person and a joy to interview.

Brian Mitchell is very similar to Dawkins.

Both are tremendous athletes who have done great work in their respective communities.  Both are terrific interviewees and give deep, thought-provoking answers and are pleasures to speak with.

Also, both athletes “get it;” aka, they’ve always known they are not “God’s gift” to mankind, even though they both are two of the greatest football players I (and millions of others) have ever seen.

I also first had a sit-down interview with Mitchell when he first came to the Eagles.  Although it was later in his career and, by this time, it was not my first “one on one” with a pro athlete either, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with him and had a great radio interview with him.

Shortly after Mitchell retired, I interviewed him again for television and, just like Dawkins, he was a great person to speak with and gave just as wonderful an interview as before.

And this week, much like Dawk did, Mitchell will be giving a sit-down interview on this Thursday’s SportsTalk program.

Much like the third time I interviewed Dawkins, Mitchell will be looking back at his career and all his highlights, including memorable experiences with his playing time in Washington, Philadelphia and New York.  But he will also be discussing growing up in less-than-ideal conditions, how football helped save his life and many more important issues than just “Xs and Os.”

We hope you will tune in to hear his stories and insights.

The “Virtual” Telethon

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

It is obvious that this year, more than ever before, a greater number of people are in need of our help.  And, ironically, since more and more people are suffering from the physical and financial effects of the Coronavirus, there are probably fewer people to count on for that help.  But the need for help has not changed.

In addition to that, ways of doing things have completely been altered, which brings me to the 35th Annual Dream Come True Telethon, which is held the first Monday of December every year.  RCN has hosted all 35.  I have co-hosted or appeared since the beginning and will once again be joined by the Executive Director of Dream Come True, Rayann Vasco.

The Dream Come True organization, in case you did not know, was founded in 1984 by Kostas Kalogeropoulous, a local businessman.  The goal of the organization is simple – fulfill the dreams of children who are seriously, chronically, and terminally ill and reside in the greater Lehigh Valley area.  Children are referred by family, friends, clergy, doctors, social workers, etc. and the dreams usually fall into three categories – trips, contact with celebrities, and special gifts (computers, shopping sprees, for example).  The organization has also helped with scholarships and, when sadly necessary, funerals.

This year, as I’m sure you have suspected, will be like no others.  In the past, telethon highlights have centered on the many school groups and adult organizations that stop by the studio for some good-natured conversation.  They tell the story of their reasons for getting involved in DCT, their unique way of raising money, and then they present a check to help satisfy the dreams of the children.  That format has worked for 34 years.

Not this year.  The Covid virus has forced us to go “virtual”.  Instead of having groups coming to the studio, we have had to figure out how to keep them and you involved, while maintaining a safe environment for everyone.  We think we have done that.

Because everything was done virtually, I had the opportunity to ZOOM with Dream recipients all across the country, something we could not do in our studio.  Their stories are amazing, and I mean amazing, and certainly demonstrate the value of your donations.  You need to watch them.  We  also got a bit nostalgic and went into our archives to find performances by the Dream Kids, our most popular entertainment over the years.  They will get you into the holiday spirit.

And it is not a Telethon without the help of my co-hosts.  Scott Barr and Devin Almonte will be joining the program again (virtually) this year. Scott and I have spent this night together for many, many years and I would not want to work with anyone else.  Devin joined us last year and did a marvelous job with the auction and the interviews with the children. Devin works for QVC and Scott certainly could.  They are terrific!  The difference is that we have all worked apart this time, but the cause remains a common one.  Here are the specifics:

2020 Dream Come True Telethon & Online Auction
35th
Annual Dream Come True Telethon
Benefit for Seriously, Chronically and Terminally Ill Children

 The 35th ANNUAL DREAM COME TRUE TELETHON will take place on Monday, December 7, 2020 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. RCN customers in the Lehigh Valley (Channel 4 |1004 in HD), and Delaware County (Channel 8 |608 in HD), can watch live on RCN TV. The goal of the telethon is to increase awareness of Dream Come True, an organization that raises funds to grant the dreams of children who are terminally, chronically, and severely ill.

The online auction began Monday, November 23 and will close Monday, December 7 at 9:00 p.m. Please check the auction site frequently as new auction items could continue to be added!  You will find a variety of special items. If you want something really unique that cannot be found in any store, tune in and bid on the items.  You will make our night and, more importantly, help to make some child’s dream come true.  Just go to https://www.biddingowl.com/Auction/home.cfm?auctionID=2691

Please check the auction site frequently, new auction items will continue to be added!  As I write this, there are 57 items available for bid.

100% of the proceeds raised from the auctions go directly to Dream Come True.  

Watch. Bid. Donate.

For more information and background on the organization, go to www.dreamcometrue.org    

Thank you in advance for your consideration and support! Your donation will help make a child’s dream come true!

The important facts again are:

The Date: Monday, December 7

The Time: 6:00 – 9:00 PM

The Purpose: To fulfill as many hopes, dreams and fantasies for seriously, chronically, and terminally ill children as possible

The Phone Number to Make a Donation: 610-865-3475 (It is only a single line, so please be patient if you get a busy signal)

All proceeds from the online and on-air auctions go directly to Dream Come True.

Thank you, in advance, for your consideration and support!  Your donation will help make a child’s dream come true! 

 ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. How the mighty have fallen!  Watching the Michigan-Penn State football game on Saturday afternoon was a sad reminder of how this year the two mighty programs have regressed.  My hope is that we can blame it on 2020 and they both will back to their lofty perches next year.
  1. Did you know that this would have been the last regular season game in college football?  Rivalry games would have been played around the country and teams would be fighting for a spot in their conference championships.  Not in 2020.
  1. As the NFL continues to try to complete their season, two teams, the Tennessee Titans and the New England Patriots, have been fined $350,000 each by the NFL due to individuals not wearing masks.  New Orleans was fined $500,000 this week.  More and more games are getting postponed as the season progresses. Will they make it to the end?
  1. The Eagles did not have a first down in the first half against Seattle on Monday night.  Even though the defense played well, the offense again was awful until it was too late.  There are rumblings that Carson Wentz will be on the trading block.  But then what?  No QB can be successful with this offensive line.  So which came first – the bad QB or the bad offensive line?  Talk amongst yourselves.
  1. It seems college basketball grows on me as the season moves on.  Unlike college football, I do not get that interested early on and then it gradually grabs a hold.  By January, I start to get wrapped up in the matchups, the rankings, and the broadcasts.  I wonder what Covid will do to that process.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 10-5; OVERALL- 113-60-1 – 65%)

Pittsburgh (Thursday)

Seattle

Las Vegas

Chicago

Miami

Houston

Minnesota

Pittsburgh

New Orleans

Tennessee

Arizona

Green Bay

New England

Baltimore

Buffalo

 

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: James Stewart

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.

One familiar face on television screens this time of year is that of Jimmy Stewart in the annual holiday traditional airing of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

But many people do not know that this 1946 film was a commercial failure upon release and there were many other Stewart-led movies that received much greater attention.  The time period of the “Wonderful Life’s” release marked a low-point in this legendary actor’s career as he seriously considered retiring from film-making altogether, as Stewart found very few roles offered to him.

James Maitland Stewart, the son of a hardware store owner, initially did not want to become a movie star when he left home to attend Princeton University and was planning on returning to his hometown of Indiana Pennsylvania to take over the family business.

But future movie stars Margret Sullivan and Henry Fonda would play huge roles in his life and his decision to “play around” in the theatre while on the East Coast. 

According to his biography by Marc Eliot, Stewart had a crush on Sullivan and continued to pursue her from afar by continuing to act on stage with her in various theatrical productions.

Slowly, Stewart began the foundations of his lasting “everyman approach” to acting and started to get starring roles in the theatre.  This eventually led to a casting call in Hollywood. where he once-again roomed with Fonda and the two became life-long best friends.

Sullivan was well-aware of Jimmy’s shyness/lack of ego and desire for the spotlight, and would ask directors to cast Stewart opposite her in leading roles, in films like “The Shopworm Angel,” The Mortal Storm” and “The Shop Around The Corner” (later remade in the more contemporary “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan).

Other leading ladies like Katherine Hepburn, Marlene Deitrich and Ginger Rogers would also request the unassuming Stewart to play opposite of–guaranteeing them of top-billing.

But soon it was Jimmy that was becoming the major star, with featured performances in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,” “Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You,”  “Destry Rides Again” and “The Philadelphia Story,” in which he won the Academy Award for Best Leading Actor.

Stewart was well on his way to earning the title of the third greatest American Male Actor of all time as ranked by the American Film Institute.

But that’s when World War II broke out.

Stewart enlisted in the Air Force as a pilot and led several successful bombing raids in defeating the Axis Powers.  He eventually was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and was awarded the United States Air Force Distinguished Service Medal.

After becoming a decorated war hero, Stewart was anxious for his triumphant return to Hollywood to resume his acting career…but Hollywood wasn’t quite ready for him after the war.  We’ll have more on the life of James Stewart next week here at the Showplace.

In the meantime, you can see Stewart’s early work in films like “Made for Each Other” and more on RCN TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

“Thanks” Giving

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.


Below is a blog I wrote last year.  Since my feelings have not changed, it is still quite appropriate so I have decided to repeat it again
with some additions in italics because of 2020:

I heard two sentences this week that really hit home.  The words were even more poignant since this is Thanksgiving week.  

The first sentence came from a gentleman in his ‘80’s.   He said, “Growing old is good”.  I thought about that since I am getting up there or, as my younger friends constantly remind me, I have already gotten there.  It is good.  Every day is a new challenge but every day is welcomed.

Sunday night on 60 Minutes, a former NFL player who now suffers from ALS said that when others listen to his optimistic outlook despite being diagnosed with a shortened life, they very often end their encounter with him by saying, “God bless you”.  His response is always the same, “He already has”.

For some reason, these two sentences meant a great deal to me.  I know I often try to fill these pages with sports stories, but not this week.  I have plenty to be thankful for.  I, along with many others, I’m sure, rarely verbalize it.  Since I have this venue, this is as good a time as any to say “Thank you”.

Thanks to my wife of 57 years.  She has always been my rock.  I’m not so sure about me.  People who know me and then see her often say to her “You must be a Saint”.  I can tell you she is.  These past eight months have added to her sainthood resume.

Thanks to my children and grandchildren.  For my wife, Luba and I, they are our pride and joy.  They are all successful, caring, and nice people.  And they are happy.  What more could any parent or grandparent want?  Maybe getting together for Thanksgiving, but we all decided not to do it this year.

Thanks to RCN.  My occupational ventures have taken me from the classroom to the broadcasting booth.  The ride has been spectacular.  I started with Twin-County, stayed on with C-Tec, and continue the journey with RCN.  Vocationally, it is the best time of my life and the company continues to allow this guy to represent them in public.  I really appreciate that.  The company deserves special thanks this year – they have kept us all safe and employed.  They have allowed us to adapt to the new “normal” and, in doing so, have kept serving our customers with the highest standards.

Thanks to the viewers.  They are appreciative.  They complain when we do not games, but even that is a compliment in a way.  And when they offer criticism, we take it to heart and try to get better.

Thanks to the athletic directors, the coaches, and the statisticians.  This job would be a nightmare without their help.  Luckily they ALL help.  This Corona year has made their jobs even more of a nightmare, but they got through the ever-changing fall season by always looking out for the safety and well-being of the student-athletes under their domain.

Thanks to the student-athletes.  If you want to feel and stay young, hang around young people.  I know every time I interview a Lafayette student, I come away thinking these are the citizens who will fix the world.  I truly feel badly for all the athletes whose seasons were curtailed, postponed, or eliminated this past year.  Health priorities took precedence as they should have, but many memories cannot be captured.  Hopefully, we are all stronger and healthier because of those decisions.

Special thanks to the RCN television team.  There are so many workers (and, boy, do they work) who run the wires, set up the cameras, the audio, the graphics, and the booths for every game only to tear it down and do it all over again many times each week.  This year was like no other forcing us to adapt to a new way of doing things.  Due to the ingenuity of the RCN crew, we were able to bring you sports with a team that took every precaution to stay safe, even having us announce games without actually being at the event.  It wasn’t the same, but it worked. 

Thanks to Kristin Vitovitch and congratulations to her.  She recently was given a well-deserved promotion in our HR Department.  I have lost a valuable partner, but am ecstatic that her talents continue to be recognized! You go, girl!!

Thanks to Joanne G.  She has to read and edit this blog every week.  So at least I know one person has read it and corrected it.  She keeps me out of trouble and I thank her for that and feel a little sorry for her.  This is my 400th blog – 400th!  She continues to be my first line of defense from making a fool of myself.

Making this list felt good.  And, to review, – , “Growing old is good” and God has blessed me.

 Happy Thanksgiving to you!  

 ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The high school football season could not have had a better game to finish off this crazy year.  I hope you watched the FreedomNazareth game on Friday night.  Nazareth won their second straight 6A championship by a 37-29 score, but Freedom fought to the very end with an interception by Nazareth in the end zone ending the game.  Both teams deserve praise for their efforts.

  2. What has happened to Penn State football?  Iowa beat them this past Saturday 41-21 and they dropped to 0-5 for the first time ever.  They have allowed 30 or more points in every game this year and the offense looks just as bad.  Blue and White fans will not be pleased with head coach James Franklin.  Michigan is next and they are 1-3.
  1. The Eagles are a bad football team.  Their offensive line is just awful; Carson Wentz is overthrowing and underthrowing everybody except the opposition; the defense is tasked with making too many plays; and the coaching staff is at a loss how to overcome these problems. The Eagles play Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, and Arizona in the next four weeks and there does not seem to be a win there.  Wow!
  1. As we try to anticipate a winter season of basketball and football, some schools are already putting everything on hold.  Liberty, Freedom, and Palmerton are all holding off practices until the middle of January and games until the end of January.  It’s hard to imagine that others will not do the same.
  1. The Dream Come True Telethon will be virtual this year.  It will be aired on RCN-TV on Monday, December 7.  While this year is different, every day Lehigh Valley children are affected by life-altering illnesses. Now more than ever, we are counting on you to tune in, donate and help kids live their dreams.  Bid on YOUR dream items in our auction, or donate to help us make more dreams come true! Visit www.rcn.com/RCNTV for more information.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 6-8; OVERALL- 103-55-1 – 65%)

Houston

Dallas

Pittsburgh

Giants

Miami

Las Vegas

New England

Cleveland

Carolina

Indianapolis

Buffalo

New Orleans

LA Rams

Kansas City

Green Bay

Seattle

 

 

FINAL HS FB POLL 2020

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!

Honestly, back in August when I first heard the unofficial .. and then the “official”… plan for fall sports in the Lehigh Valley, I was skeptical.

The local administrators had put in a TON of time putting together an action plan for trying to play as many games as protocols allowed–limiting the amount of travel, the number of teams any one school would face and other modifications to try to keep kids safe.

By the third week of October, the playoffs had started for all fall sports but football, and only a handful of schools had to cancel more than one sporting event due to COVID.  Considering how the weather usually wreaks havoc with scheduling, this was really an amazing accomplishment to get in as many games as they did.

Then things changed.

The number of reported cases of the virus spiked and numerous schools across the region either closed or reverted back to “hybrid” learning strategies.  Sports teams either had to cancel their seasons or forfeit games–a few while in the running for championships.

Journalists in the area who have covered sports for many more years than I have agreed it was THE wildest ending to a fall sports campaign they had ever seen.  Games were canceled due to one school reporting COVID cases, then that school would be “OK” and the games were back on…only to have the OTHER school have to postpone or forfeit because THEY then had reported cases.

Some games were announced as “cancelled completely” one day, only to have that change and be played a few days later.  Some games were played on Mondays, Thursdays and even Sundays–days that were unheard of (and used to be ‘off-limits’) in previous years.

Sometimes there were different sets of rules even within the same school district.  Parkland had nearly all of its fall sports teams continue with state championship runs despite having the school closed due to the virus.  Meanwhile, the football team had to end their playoff hunt prematurely, even though they would have been heavy favorites to beat Stroudsburg and advance in the district playoffs.

So it is with just as much skepticism (and I sincerely hope I’m wrong) that we will be embarking on the winter sports season in a few weeks, and I’m hoping the number of cases can miraculously drop dramatically between now and then.

But before we do, it’s time to take our final look at our RCN high school football polls for our Lehigh Valley teams.

EPC-LV TOP 5
1) Nazareth

2) Freedom        

3) Emmaus  

4) Parkland

5) Central Catholic

Eligible Teams (in no particular order):
Allentown Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Easton, Freedom, Liberty, Dieruff, Allen, Parkland, Whitehall, Emmaus, Nazareth, and Northampton

COLONIAL TOP 5

1) Notre Dame-GP

2) Northwestern

3) Palisades

4) Northern Lehigh

5) Southern Lehigh 

Eligible Teams (in no particular order):
Bangor, Pen Argyl, Notre Dame – Green Pond, Wilson, Catasauqua, Salisbury, Saucon Valley, Northwestern, Northern Lehigh, Southern Lehigh and Palisades

There weren’t too many surprises for our Colonial League poll–four of the five teams finished the season in exactly the same spot they started in our pre-season poll back in mid-September.  The only exception was Northern Lehigh — the lone “honorable mention” team in our pre-season picks — moved up into the #4 spot, while the team that owned that spot back in September — Saucon Valley — had its season prematurely end because of the virus.

The EPC Poll had a couple wrinkles, with Nazareth (our pre-season #5 team) reaching and winning the district championship game (SportsTalk Co-Host Keith Groller had them much lower in his own personal poll–listing them fifth in their own division, let alone making our top five in the area–something that did not set well with many of our Blue Eagles’ viewers).  Central Catholic was another team that received pre-season votes but did not make our “Top 5” in September.  However, a playoff win over “our” #5 team, Bethlehem Catholic, and their subsequent win in the 4A District Title game gave the Vikings the credibility to move up over the Golden Hawks.

Traditionally, we have not done a basketball poll in the winter–with the sports seasons overlapping and the holiday season “interrupting” the winter season, it usually doesn’t provide the regular, weekly interest of a football poll.  However, 2020 is not your typical year.  With our high school football season ending nearly a month earlier than normal, it’s something I’m considering incorporating in our blogs and “SportsTalk” show for over the next few months.

Would you like a high school basketball poll this winter?  And, how would you like to see it laid out–EPC vs. Colonial?  Big schools vs. small?  Boundary vs. non-boundary?

Feel free to email me at Chris.Michael@rcn.net for your thoughts and check back in a couple weeks to see what the majority of our readers would like to see!

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Congratulations, It’s A Boy”

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. 

 

Congratulations, It’s A Boy may never be mentioned in the same breath as Citizen Kane, The Godfather, Vertigo or other all-time greats.

The plot is simple: a swinging bachelor has to grow up after his young 16-year-old illegitimate son he did not know about shows up and wants to spend time with him.

It is a light-hearted movie with some decent jokes and humorous moments and is a fine flick to watch if you’re in the mood for a feel-good film.

However, it is a significant vehicle to see five very special people involved in this production–three of them actors just before they embarked on other roles that would make them household names.

Bill Bixby plays the role of the bachelor and, prior to this film, was seen in small roles on some prominent television shows like My Favorite Martian.  He did have starring roles but on unsuccessful TV shows (The Magician), and had larger parts in rather mediocre film releases (The Apple Dumpling Gang.)

Shortly after starring in Congratulations, he would take over the role as Dr. Bruce Banner–the alter ego to the Incredible Hulk.  Bixby would end up playing this role throughout the remainder of his life, starring as the beaten down protagonist in search of a remedy for his experimentation with gamma ray radiation. His own “Hulk” television show and later television movies spanned three decades.

Congratulations also starred Jack Albertson, who had much greater success in films than Bixby at this point, but was a couple years away from starring in the role that he would be best remembered by – Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Tom Bosley was also featured in this film, just a few years before he would become “Mister C,” son to Ron Howard’s Richie Cunningham on the long-running sitcom Happy Days.  Bosley would also continue to star in popular shows like Murder, She Wrote and The Father Dowling Mysteries and had other prominent television guest starring appearances.

Last but not least, the film stars Ann Southern who had already made a name for herself in comedic films and television performances.  So good, in fact, that the Queen of Comedy, Lucille Ball, once referred to Southern as the “best comedian in the business, bar none.”

One more prominent name associated with Congratulations was its producer, Aaron Spelling.  Later in this same decade, Spelling would embark on creating shows like Love Boat, Charlie’s Angels, Fantasy Island, Dynasty and Hart to Hart and then Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Charmed, 7th Heaven and more.

To see the full listing of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

 

DMV Update/HS Football Poll

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.

Before we take a look at the high school football landscape in Pennsylvania, a quick update on scholastic sports down in the DMV.

As we mentioned a few months ago, most high schools in this region postponed their fall sports until the spring season and their winter sports will be starting later than normal.

This doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been any significant news from a local sports perspective.

One of the biggest noteworthy additions came at Maryland’s National Christian Academy, where former collegiate coach Kenny Johnson was named the school’s athletic director and the boys basketball head coach.

Johnson not only brings a wealth of experience in coaching at the scholastic, collegiate and AAU levels but also has great insights on the recruiting process, preparing kids to play at the next level and many other aspects of basketball. He’s also coached players that are now playing in the NBA and shared some great stories about them with me recently.

Here is a clip of our interview with Coach Johnson–one of several winter sports interviews featuring teams from both Eastern Pennsylvania and the greater Washington, DC region that will be on upcoming editions of RCN SportsTalk.

Many schools in the DMV have not had any “official” practices.  Others have had limited “skill sessions” on school grounds. However, early in the new year, expect the high school basketball action to heat up provided that the reported COVID-19 cases don’t increase too dramatically over the next month and a half.

That brings us to our second-to-last week for the SportsTalk pollsters — a random collection of local coaches, athletic directors and media members. We never announce nor release the names of our non-media voters to get their honest opinions on the local football landscape while avoiding any thoughts of retribution or potential “bulletin board” material.  Our media voters usually reveal themselves when we have the pleasure of having them on our weekly SportsTalk program, seen on Thursday nights on RCN TV and available through RCN on Demand.

This year, instead of having a big school and small school poll as in seasons past, we are going to break the two polls down into EPC and Colonial League schools, within the RCN broadcast area.  With the reduced schedules, this change for our poll will make things a bit more interesting since many of the top teams within the local conferences will not have the opportunity to actually face each other this fall.

Without the crowning of official Colonial League and EPC champions, our poll will be an intriguing barometer to who in fact is the best team in each conference (and, of course, bragging rights through the winter months).

So below we have high school polls for both leagues, along with the listing of all of the teams that are included in our respective categories.

Feel free to email me at Chris.Michael@rcn.net for your thoughts on this week’s poll and we might read and respond to your emails on this week’s SportsTalk show.

EPC-LV TOP 5 

1) Nazareth

2) Freedom        

3) Emmaus  

4) Parkland

5) Central Catholic

Eligible Teams (in no particular order):
Allentown Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Easton, Freedom, Liberty, Dieruff, Allen, Parkland, Whitehall, Emmaus, Nazareth, and Northampton

COLONIAL TOP 5

1) Notre Dame-GP

2) Northwestern

3) Palisades

4) Northern Lehigh

5) Southern Lehigh 

Eligible Teams (in no particular order):
Bangor, Pen Argyl, Notre Dame – Green Pond, Wilson, Catasauqua, Salisbury, Saucon Valley, Northwestern, Northern Lehigh, Southern Lehigh and Palisades

Wrestling and Basketball

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 we approach the final week and a half of high school football, the country continues to be in an even stronger coronavirus grip.  We have seen in the fall that many games never got played, that teams were forced to bow out of the playoffs, and that administrators battled with what decisions to make week in and week out.

Now that the football season is ending, it’s time to move indoors, which presents even greater challenges.  With those challenges in mind, the Colonial League, East Penn Conference, and the Patriot League all announced their plans for the winter season with mitigation plans in mind.  Here are the results of those meetings:

The Colonial League

With 12 teams that wrestle and 13 that play basketball, each team will play or wrestle all other teams one time.

The first scheduled basketball games will be played on 12/11/20 with wrestling starting the following day.  There will be no games from 12/24/20 through 1/10/21.  The schedule will pick up again on 1/11/21.

The EPC

The Conference will be divided into three divisions:

Lehigh: Allen, Central Catholic, Dieruff, Emmaus, Parkland, and Whitehall

Monroe: ESNorth, ES South, Pleasant Valley, PM East, PM West, Stroudsburg

Northampton: Bethlehem Catholic, Easton, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, Northampton

Wrestling – The schools will wrestle each team in their division twice for a total of 10 contests.

Basketball – Each basketball team would play each divisional opponent three times for a total of 15 games.

Much like the Colonial League, the basketball season begins on 12/15/20 and wrestling begins the following day.  There will be a schedule shutdown from 12/24/20-1/14/21.

The Patriot League

The Patriot League will be composed of three mini-conferences for both the men and the women, established by geographical locations:

North: Army, Boston University, Colgate, Holy Cross

Central: Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh

South: American, Loyola Maryland, Navy

Each team will play 16 games playing each conference opponent four times with Lafayette adding two games against American and two games against Boston University in order to complete a 16-game schedule.  Each team will play an opponent on back-to-back Saturdays and Sundays. No weekday games are scheduled.

Games will begin on 1/2/21 and go through 2/21/21 with no breaks scheduled.

As was the case in the fall, the major concern is to keep everyone as safe as possible while allowing competition to go on.  Time will tell if that is at all possible.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I thought I was watching Tin Cup on Sunday when Tiger Woods took a 10 on the 10th hole at Augusta National. He hit into the water three times and put his highest score on his card ever.  In a Masters practice round, Jon Rahm showed everyone how to play the water:

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/video/2020/nov/10/pond-to-pin-jon-rahm-hits-amazing-water-shot-at-masters-practice-video

  1. Dustin Johnson, who does not have the most sparkling personality, but does have one of the greatest golf games right now, managed to make the Masters a rather dull affair. I’m sure CBS was hoping that someone would challenge Johnson before the NFL games began and, early on, it looked like that would happen.  But by 1:00pm, when kickoffs were happening across the networks, Johnson held a commanding lead and never wavered.  I wonder how many switched the dial.
  1. Wow – the Eagles looked awful on Sunday. 0-9 on third down is incomprehensible; Carson Wentz is overthrowing everybody; the defense made very few plays; and coaching decisions were hard to justify.  The Eagles play Cleveland, Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, and Arizona in the next five weeks and should be underdogs in every one of those games.  Yikes!
  1. I was very excited last week when my #7 seed Wilson Warriors beat #2 seed Pottsville in the District football quarterfinals. That joy was eliminated this week when, due to Covid, the Warriors were forced to withdraw from the playoffs.  So they end the season with a terrific win and a disappointing withdrawal.  “The thrill of victory; the agony of defeat.”
  1. District playoff action comes to a conclusion this week in high school football. We think we have two really good match-ups for you on Thursday and Friday nights at 7:00 PM.  Central Catholic will take on Northwestern on Thursday night for the 4A title.  Freedom will play Nazareth on Friday night for the 6A championship.  Nazareth is undefeated and Freedom’s only loss was to Nazareth.  You’re invited to join us.


Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 9-5; OVERALL- 97-47-1 – 67%)

Seattle

LA Chargers

Philadelphia

Atlanta

Philadelphia

New England

Pittsburgh

Indianapolis

Cincinnati

Baltimore

Minnesota

Kansas City

Miami

Tampa Bay

 

 

The Toughest Opponent

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

This week the District XI was in the unenviable position of trying to play schedule a playoff football schedule. In the scope of things, I know that is not so important. And rest assured, I am not making light of what is happening here in Pennsylvania and across the nation.  In just this past weekend alone, Pennsylvania Covid case numbers skyrocketed to over 9,000 with no sign of diminishing.  The situation seems to worsen every day with daily tragic results.

And, yet we try to find ways to maintain some semblance of normalcy in our everyday existence.  In this environment, the District XI athletic committee has tried to put together a football championship tournament.  Knowing the powers that be, they must be literally pulling their hair out, what little they have (that’s for Jason and Bob).

For high school football, what transpired the past ten days or so has shown what this pandemic can do to any attempt at normality.  After a shortened regular season, the tournament brackets were put in place.  In all honesty, the bracketing looked quite like it has in past years.  It appeared that the season would continue towards champions being crowned in the six categories.

But this is 2020 – the year of chaos where nothing seems to go right.  The Covid scheduling nightmare all started in the 4A bracket.  Saucon Valley was forced to withdraw from the tournament.  They were replaced by Bangor, who a few days later, also, withdrew from the playoffs.   Central Catholic would advance without playing a game.

Next up was the 5A bracket – #1 seed East Stroudsburg South (4-0) said they were out.  They had their best team in decades.  Many thought they could challenge for a state title.   Now their season was over.  Pocono Mountain East (1-3) would automatically now play for the championship.

The 6A bracket followed the strangest path of all. Earlier last week, #4 seed Stroudsburg had to drop out of the 6A bracket, meaning Parkland would advance without playing their Friday game.  Then Stroudsburg said they could play this past Friday, but their opponent, Parkland, now said they could not play – Stroudsburg was back in; Parkland was now out.  Are you following this?  It doesn’t end there.

Friday, while I was on my way to do the EastonEmmaus game, I received word that the #1seed and undefeated Nazareth Blue Eagles were forced to drop out of the tournament.  But wait!  On Sunday, it was announced that Nazareth was back into the tournament if Pleasant Valley would agree to play them on Monday night.  PV graciously said they would.  Nazareth won and continues on.

We move into another week with championships to be decided in 1A, 3A, and 5A and semifinals due to be played in 2A, 4A, and 6A.  But with each day, what is obvious is that the toughest opponent for everyone right now is the Covid virus.  Stay safe.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. On Friday night, the 6A football game between Easton and Emmaus was one of the best of the year. Easton upset Emmaus 28-23 with the game coming down to the final minute.  Easton’s Marcus Williams put on quite a performance with 314 yards of total offense.  He scored on two kickoff returns of 94 and 96 yards.  He scored a touchdown on a 65 yard run and he caught a 21 yard pass for a touchdown.  That’s right – 4 touchdowns.  He finished the night intercepting an Emmaus pass inside the Easton 20 stopping a game-winning drive.  A performance for the ages.
  1. I haven’t mentioned any gambling stories this year, but with legal betting now happening all over, here is a good one: On Friday, a bettor in Las Vegas bet $4,000 that he could pick seven correct winners in college and pro games. The odds were 110-1.  His picks were: Maryland over Penn State (a 4 TD favorite), Liberty over Virginia Tech (a 17-point favorite), and favorites Oklahoma, Ohio State, Appalachian State, and Iowa State. He picked all 6 correctly.  The only game left was the Steelers (14-point favorites) over the Cowboys.  At the half, the Steelers trailed 13-9 and Ben Roethlisberger was being treated for a knee injury.  Roethlisberger returned and the Steelers won 24-19, knocking down a pass in the end zone by the Cowboys as time ran out.  The payoff for the bettor was $438,643!
  1. The Bills beat Seattle on Sunday. They are now 7-2, behind 8-0 Pittsburgh and 8-1 Kansas City, which makes their road to the #1 seed in the AFC a tough one.  Are they Super Bowl possibilities?
  1. You may not know that I went to Wilson High School. I say that because the biggest upset in the District XI tournament so far happened this past Friday night.  The #7 seed, Wilson beat the #2 seed and defending District champion, Pottsville, 18-14.  “Give me a W, give me an I, give me an L, etc”
  1. District playoff action continues 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 Freedom.  The two teams met in Week 2 with Freedom winning 21-14.  Freedom has since replaced their quarterback and Easton had to replace their top running back.  It should be a good one.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 10-4; OVERALL- 88-42-1 – 68%)

Tennessee

Pittsburgh

Detroit

Cleveland

Green Bay

Philadelphia

Carolina

Las Vegas

Buffalo

LA Rams

New Orleans

Baltimore

Miami

Minnesota

 

 

HS FB POLL: 11/10

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.

One of the great traditional football rivalry games that was able to be played in the Lehigh Valley this year was the battle for the Slate Belt title — Bangor versus Pen Argyl.

The game went right down to the wire with a last minute game-winning touchdown by the Green Knights, led by first year Head Coach Brady Mutton (a recent guest on SportsTalk–which you can view again through RCN on demand).  It was a great day for football last Saturday and terrific for football fans of that region to have this traditional rivalry game played, albeit with limited capacity, during the pandemic.

Here are the annual awards of the 101st meeting between these two teams:

Charles R. Sampson Award: Recognizes the outstanding lineman in the annual game.
Recipient:  Reese Karp

Bangor Most Valuable Player Award: (Sponsored by the Slater Football Alumni)
Recipient:  Jared Reto

Pen Argyl Most Valuable Player Award: (Sponsored by the Green & White Athletic Association of Pen Argyl)
Recipient:  Collin McKeague

Slate Belt Award: Awarded to the victor of this year’s Pen Argyl – Bangor game.
Recipient:  Pen Argyl Green Knights 28-21

That brings us to this week’s input from the RCN SportsTalk pollsters — a random collection of local coaches, athletic directors and media members. We never announce nor release the names of our non-media voters to get their honest opinions on the local football landscape while avoiding any thoughts of retribution or potential “bulletin board” material.  Our “media voters” usually reveal themselves when we have the pleasure of having them on our weekly SportsTalk program, seen on Thursday nights on RCN TV and available through RCN On Demand.

This year, instead of having a big school and small school poll as in seasons past, we are going to break the two polls down into EPC and Colonial League schools, within the RCN broadcast area.  With the reduced schedules, this change for our poll will make things a bit more interesting since many of the top teams within the local conferences will not have the opportunity to actually face each other this fall.

Without the crowning of official Colonial League and EPC champions, our poll will be an intriguing barometer to who in fact is the best team in each conference (and, of course, bragging rights through the winter months).

So below we have high school polls for both leagues, along with the listing of all of the teams that are included in our respective categories.

We actually didn’t have much movement this week.  The only EPC change was Emmaus’s loss teamed with Freedom’s win last weekend, causing the two schools to flip-flop positions.

The top three teams in the Colonial League all won last weekend. Our fourth and fifth ranked teams, Saucon Valley (forfeit due to COVID-19) and Southern Lehigh (lost to Whitehall), both had their playoff runs come to an end last weekend.

Feel free to email me at Chris.Michael@rcn.net for your thoughts on this week’s poll and we might read and respond to your emails on this week’s SportsTalk show.

EPC-LV TOP 5 

1) Nazareth

2) Freedom

3)  Emmaus  

4) Parkland

5) Central Catholic

Eligible Teams (in no particular order):
Allentown Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Easton, Freedom, Liberty, Dieruff, Allen, Parkland, Whitehall, Emmaus, Nazareth, and Northampton

COLONIAL TOP 5

1) Notre Dame-GP

2) Northwestern

3) Palisades

4) Saucon Valley

5) Southern Lehigh

Eligible Teams (in no particular order):
Bangor, Pen Argyl, Notre Dame – Green Pond, Wilson, Catasauqua, Salisbury, Saucon Valley, Northwestern, Northern Lehigh, Southern Lehigh and Palisades
 

Be sure to bookmark our high school football broadcast schedule here on the website and check it frequently as, with several games already postponed or canceled so far this season, there could be changes from day to day.

Tune in to this week’s SportsTalk show as RCN commentator John Leone will recap last weekend’s playoff games and look ahead to this weekend’s Class 5A/3A championship games and the 6A/4A/2A semifinal matchups this week.

We’ll also visit with members of the Parkland girls volleyball team, who last weekend captured their seventh straight District XI 4A championship–their 10th district title in the last 11 seasons–and will be competing in their first round of state competition this upcoming weekend.