“SportsTalk Gets Wild 2018”

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.

 May 4 BWW

 May9

With the warm weather here and the Memorial Day weekend (and unofficial start to summer) nearly upon us, it’s time to talk about the start of the “remote” season for the “RCN SportsTalk” show and our first “wild” episode coming up this week.

For the past several years, we’ve done a number of broadcasts live from “Buffalo Wild Wings” on Grape Street in Whitehall.

May1

 May2

We’ve had great shows featuring special guests and we have an exciting lineup of guests for this summer as well.

But first things first.

Our 2018 debut will have members of this year’s Lehigh Valley high school All-Star football team, including Head Coaches Kevin Ronalds and Tom McCarroll.

Both coaches had outstanding fall campaigns (which we’ll be talking about on this Thursday’s show), but we’ll also talk about the top moments of some great football players from this past season, along with their thoughts on the upcoming All-Star contest and next step in their careers.

May 3 BWW

 May 5 BWW

You can pose a question to our guests and make a comment if you come out to see the show in person and be part of the fun.

Those of you who attend will have a chance to win prizes, but more importantly, you will help a local charity. For this show, proceeds raised in our “patio section” of Buffalo Wild Wings (10% of your total food bill) will go to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of the Lehigh Valley.  Find more information on this Thursday’s event here on the RCN-TV website.

Hope to see you there!

Announcing

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.

After a week of preparing for a Tuesday doubleheader of baseball, postponed to re-preparing for a Wednesday doubleheader, postponed again to re-re-preparing (probably not a word) for a Thursday tripleheader, only to have all the preparation in the end mean nothing.

On Friday the baseball games were moved to the University of Scranton because they had a baseball field with an artificial surface, a necessary requirement after a week of downpours. Other commitments did not allow us to go north to bring the EPC baseball semifinals and finals. The crew had to go fetch all the wire they had laid and the scaffolding that they had constructed and I could tear up all the research done during the week.

And, the weekend continued the bad weather pattern so outdoor activities were non-existent. So what’s a person to do?  Well, luckily, my wife was attending a “sprinkle” (I guess that’s a “shower” for a second child) for our niece, so my TV viewing was unencumbered.  I could watch what I wanted without guilt.

Obviously, that meant watching sports. There was plenty to choose from – baseball, golf, NHL hockey, and NBA basketball.  I had no true rooting interest in any, so I decided, thanks to my 6-tuner TIVO, to simply hop around from sport to sport.  This led me to analyzing the announcing challenges of doing various sporting events at the professional level.

Baseball is a game with plenty of non-action. After a week of preparation for games that were never played, I appreciated the necessity of baseball announcers to fill in the long gaps between pitches, pitching changes, visits to the mound, etc.,  with somewhat interesting stuff.  Plus, there is no clock in baseball, so, at times; a game can seem like an eternity.  The challenge here is to have things to talk about.

Golf is full of completely new challenges – who will talk, what’s the distance to the hole, what club is being used, what analysis needs to be made, what human interest story can be recalled during a lull, how to make plenty of inaction interesting – the list is endless. The salvation is that you have plenty of announcers you can rely on during play.  The key here seems to be organizing what the viewer will see and choreographing the crew of people who want to describe the scene to you.

I noticed with NHL hockey, the challenges are so different from the previous two sports. Here the action is constant.  The puck is always moving at a very rapid speed and the ability to memorize every player on the ice is essential.  There is no hesitation in calling passes, defensive plays, penalties, rule violations, etc.  Everything happens instantaneously and the announcer must be completely focused and well-versed on rosters and tactics.  The color analyst gets in and out when he can, hoping to add a piece of interesting information.

My final sport on Saturday was watching the NBA playoff game between the Celtics and the Cavaliers. This turned out to be a rout.  The Cavs won by 30!  The game was over early with the Cavs leading by 15 after one period and 20 at the half.  So what do the announcers talk about?  There’s nothing worse than a game where the outcome is pretty much a foregone conclusion early on. The announcers talked about anything and everything, including a rather lengthy discussion of the royal wedding that morning. Their knowledge of the British monarchy was sketchy at best, but you need to talk about something. When the game doesn’t warrant much analysis and the scoreboard is your enemy, you better find a way to earn your money and that means keeping the viewer somewhat interested.

So, in a week, where my announcing duties were taken away by Mother Nature, I spent one afternoon and evening analyzing the craft. I learned what I already knew; every sport presents different challenges to the crew and to the announcers.  The one constant is preparation.  I have some unused baseball sheets for you if you are interested in unused preparation.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Believe it or not, there is a move afoot in western Pennsylvania to look into separating boundary (public) and non-boundary (private) schools for state athletic competitions. The New Castle superintendent is polling schools across the state to see if there is interest in changing the current playoff system that pits public and private schools together into a single competition. Early reports indicate that something needs to change and public schools want change. The PIAA says legislatures need to change the system; legislators hint that it is strictly a PIAA decision. Interesting.
  2. I usually watch one auto race a year – the Indy 500. I especially enjoy the race when I have a rooting interest and, once again, Marco Andretti and Sage Karam – both of the Lehigh Valley – will be racing. I’ll be watching.
  3. Another week, another school shooting. Ten people, nine students and a teacher, were killed this week at Santa Fe High School. Houston Texans’ defensive end J. J. Watt said he will pay for the funerals of those killed. He is the same J. J. Watt who has raised more than $37 million for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
  4. As I write this, the Phillies are in first place. In case you missed it, the Phillies are in first place.
  5. Lafayette had their yearly Pardees (a takeoff of the ESPYs) this week, thanking and honoring their senior athletes for four years of classroom and athletic dedication. Their achievements are quite impressive. It has become a really fun night for parents, coaches, and student-athletes. Congrats to all involved. 

The SportsTalk Shop: All-Star Accomplishments

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 time to time we like to honor the young athletes in the RCN viewing area when they are named to special teams or reach accomplishments.

First, here are the current Track & Field performance results for boys and girls student athletes in the Lehigh Valley’s Colonial League:

Boys

Girls

Here are the final results from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conferences Cheering competition: Congrats Easton!

Here is the All-Star list for the EPC wrestling team (Nazareth’s Sammy Sasso was named the league’s MVP).

1st Team

Nate Lackman, Becahi

Matt Maloney, Liberty

Cameron Enriquez, Stroudsburg

Patrick Noonan, Stroudsburg

Patrick Gould, E. Stroudsburg South

Steven Storm, Pocono Mt. East

Cole Handlovic, Becahi

Luca Frinzi, Becahi

Caden Wright, Emmaus

Sammy Sasso, Nazareth

Adam Lizak, Parkland

Cade Wilson, Nazareth

Jacob Frank, Easton

Sami Khamis, Stroudsburg

2nd Team

Peyton Brown, Emmaus

Evan Gleason, Easton

Matt Lackman, Becahi

Kenny Herrman, Becahi

Jonathan Miers, Easton

Ryan Anderson, Becahi

Zach Ortman, Parkland

Lenny Pinto, Stroudsburg

Kevin Vrablik, Parkland

Tyler Delorenzo, E. Stroudsburg South

Tavion Banks, Becahi

Robert Spezza, Becahi

Damen Moyer, Liberty

Hunter Werkheiser, Northampton

Last but not least, the Colonial League basketball All-Star teams for the girls

…and the boys

As we get closer to the end of this scholastic school year, don’t forget to send us your lists and/or encourage your school’s athletic directors to pass honors and accolades along to us here at the “SportsTalk Shop” by email at chris.michael@rcn.net and we’ll try to mention them in an upcoming post.

Behind the Mic: MLB – Expected – Unexpected

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 ended last week’s blog with a “Go, Phillies!” sign-off. Well, they are indeed playing well. As teams approach the completion of the first quarter of the season, they are, unexpectedly, rising in both the standings and in admiration.

But, I digress. The team that was really expected to do very well was the Yankees and they have not disappointed. They are tied with the Red Sox for the best record in baseball. They have won 19 of their last 22 games; average six runs per game and are carrying a team ERA of 2.88 which happens to be the third best in baseball. With those stats, they win most games by three runs!

Everyone expected them to have one of the best, if not the best, offenses in baseball, but I do not think fans expected their pitching staff to be this good. If the pitching and the bats continue as they have, they can certainly claim to be one of the best teams in baseball history.

The Phillies, on the other hand, were not expected to be one game out of first place and winning 60% of their games at this point or at any point in the season. They still trail the Braves by a game, but have been winning 73% of their home games and have won seven of the last 10.

Odubel Herrera is batting .360 and leading the National League in hitting. And that is a shock! The last Phillie to lead the NL in hitting was Richie Ashburn 60 years ago! Manager Gabe Kapler seems to be pushing the right buttons (the three-run homer by pinch-hitter Nick Williams in the sixth inning on Sunday to beat the Mets is a good example).

Last year, they were 6-22 in May and ended up losing 96 games. With the additions of Rhys Hoskins for a full season, Scott Kingery from the minors, Carlos Santana, and Jake Arrieta via the trade route, they are greatly improved. Aaron Nola’s ERA is 1.99. It is a team with good starting pitching and an adequate offense. Their bullpen remains suspect with two saves blown last week.

Talent-wise, the Nationals and the Braves could stand in the way of the Phillies making the playoffs. The Nationals look like the best team in the division and are making their climb to the top. The Braves are obviously in first place as I write this. But the Phillies ARE sandwiched between the two.

The Yankees, on the other hand, appear to be, as expected, the best team in baseball. However, it is always exciting to look forward to the unexpected – Go, Phillies!

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. New York Giants QB Eli Manning will be in court this week defending himself against a lawsuit that says he sold fake helmets to collectors. The plaintiff wanted “game-used” helmets and claims the ones he received were “bogus” and Manning knew they were. Interesting case. Stay tuned.
  2. This might make Ripley’s Believe It or Not, but some sportswriters are claiming that the NFL Cleveland Browns may have improved the most through the draft. Of course, if the Browns win three games, the writers can claim that they were right. The bar is not set very high here.
  3. It was obvious the Yankees were probably going to have the best offensive team in baseball. They have not disappointed. For the first time in their exulted history, they had four players hit 10 or more home runs by the 40th game. They had never had that distinction in 50 games before! By the way, the Texas Rangers did it in 2003.
  4. The Celtics crushed the Cavs by 25 points in the first game of the NBA Eastern Finals and held LeBron James to just 15 points. Despite not receiving one Coach of the Year vote from his peers, Brad Stevens has shown in the playoffs that he is already one of the top coaches in the league. It was his formula that stopped Ben Simmons and the Sixers in the Eastern semifinals.
  5. Speaking of the NBA, I unexpectedly have really enjoyed the playoffs. There is plenty of defense, intensity, and some spectacular offense. I have become a fan!

Philly Karma – Gone?

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 hope is that by next Monday you look back on this blog and happily point out what a pessimist I was. My hope is that everything you read here about the 76’ers is all wrong.  My hope is that by the time you read this, the Sixers have come back from a 3-0 deficit against the Celtics and have moved into the Eastern finals.  My hope is that the ecstasy every Philadelphia fan felt when the Eagles won the Super Bowl would reemerge as the Sixers fought for an NBA title.  My hope is that the amazing run by Villanova in winning the NCAA basketball championship would just continue to carry over.

But, alas (I like using this word), I believe the Philadelphia Karma may have quickly come to an end. I only have to look at the Philadelphia Flyers who took some of the luster off the city when they lost four of six to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs.  To be honest, they just looked awful.

The Flyers gave up six goals per game in the four losses and an average of 4.7 goals in all of the games. The defense was bad and the goal tending just as bad.  During the regular season, the Flyers gave up just 2.9 goals per game.  They could not come close to matching the speed and offensive skills of the Penguins.  I am sure the fans thought this could be a charmed playoff for their beloved hockey team, but it was not to be.

But, all was not lost. The Sixers were coming off a terrific regular season. They did away with the Miami Heat in a very physical series and looked very strong doing it. The Celtics were coming in to the second round with a number of injuries to key personnel. Everything looked good for the home team.  But, after a long layoff after the first round, they looked like they were in a funk in game one and were beaten soundly.

Game Two was a winnable game, but Philly cannot win if Ben Simmons scores one point. Simmons was the goat in Game Three, also, when he made mistake after mistake down the stretch which cost the Sixers the game.  Poor passes and poor decision making (shooting when he should have pulled the ball out late in the game), along with missing an uncontested dunk have exposed weaknesses which were not apparent during the regular season.  All year, he played like a veteran, but, in the playoffs, he looks very much like a rookie.

I am convinced that the 76’ers are better than the Celtics. But, I am also convinced the Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens has figured out how to beat them.  A major part of their strategy is to let Ben Simmons shoot, but not let him pass.  Simmons is reluctant to do that and his passes have been defended.

I hope I am completely wrong and the next four games (if there are four) belong to the team from Philadelphia. Otherwise, go Phillies!!


ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. It’s good to be a quarterback in the NFL. Matt Ryan of the Falcons reportedly signed a contract that guarantees him $100 million and gets him $30 million a year. He joins Kirk Cousins ($28 million), Jimmy Garoppolo ($27.5 million) and Matthew Stafford ($27 million) as the highest paid NFL quarterbacks.
  2. Speaking of making a good living, Saquon Barkley signed with the Giants for @ $31 million, the second best ever by an NFL running back (Adrian Peterson got $36 million). Barkley’s agent, by the way, was Roc Nation which was founded by Jay-Z.  Saquon will make the Giants offensive line much better and offer Eli Manning a great receiving option out of the backfield.
  3. The Yankees are as hot as everyone thought they would be. Their lineup is just awesome and they have won 15 of their last 16 games. But the Red Sox look like the second best team in baseball. The two teams play each other this week. The Phillies are 18-15 and faltering a bit. But, they are in a weak division unless the Nationals start putting it all together.
  4. No Celtic has caused more problems for the Sixers than Terry Rozier. When Kyrie Irving went down with a knee injury that necessitated surgery, Rozier not only stepped into the vacated position, but he also stepped into Irving’s shoes (and not just figuratively). Irving gave him eight pairs of sneakers and Rozier is wearing them in the playoffs. Rozier is filling Irving’s shoes literally.
  5. I want to thank Scott Barr and John Leone for “blogging away” while I was on vacation. 

Spring Regular Season Highlights

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.

There have been some wonderful stories to follow for local sports fans so far this spring that we have covered on our “RCN SportsTalk” program.  Here are just a few of the Lehigh Valley highlights over the last two week’s worth of shows.


One of the area’s nicest and most skilled coaches took over the reins of the Northampton boys volleyball team this spring.  Sue Arndt has been a successful head coach at Emmaus and Catasauqua high schools, a local AAU program, and with an assistant at Dieruff when that program made a strong turnaround.

The K-Kids have a strong core of now senior players who have had great scholastic careers.  Now led by these 12th graders, the team has already posted some impressive wins this season.  With their aggressive, take-no-prisoners style on and off the court, they are looking to be major players in the post-season.


Speaking of volleyball, the Whitehall squad has gone underrated, in my opinion, for the last couple of seasons.  The Zephyrs were the 2017 runner-ups in both the EPC and the District XI championship games, but didn’t receive much mention in the local preseason previews.

Like Northampton, Whitehall is playing well and is looking to take the next step in the playoffs.


We talked a few years ago about the outstanding job Saucon Valley has done turning around its girls lacrosse program.

Now, defending District XI 2A champs seem determined to stay among the elite teams in the Lehigh Valley.

We caught up with the Panthers, currently undefeated, following another win over a bigger, EPC school and they seemed determine to keep their squad playing at a high level.


The Easton baseball team is once again having a fantastic season under head coach Carm LaDuca.

In addition to posting yet another EPC victory last Saturday, the Red Rovers also took the opportunity to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Easton team that advanced in the state playoffs, featuring both LaDuca and long-time assistant Greg Hess.

The Rovers will see some tough competition in the Class 6A district playoffs again in a few weeks, but another run in the PIAA tournament should certainly not be ruled out for this year’s squad.

With the playoffs upon us, there’s just a few weeks left in the high school sports spring season. If you have an idea for a feature, a team you’d like our cameras to stop by and visit or high school athletes who deserve a “Shout-out” on the show, email me at chris.michael@rcn.net

For more on the above stories and additional interviews with high school teams in the RCN viewing area, you can check out “SportsTalk” through RCN On Demand.

Programming note: we’ll be rebroadcasting our interview with Saquon Barkley (drafted by the Giants in last Thursday’s NFL Draft) on this week’s “SportsTalk” program.

Also, be on the lookout for more information on our first “remote” edition of “RCN SportsTalk” presented by ‘The Morning Call’” out on location. We’ll have several “remote” shows coming up over the next few months.

See more details coming soon here at “The Shop” and on the RCN-TV website.

Phillies One Month In

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’s been one month into the “Great Experiment” known as the “Gabe Kapler Era” (aka “Be Bold.”) Time to take an objective look at how things have fared so far.

In full disclosure, I am not “heavy” into the analytics that have made their way into every corner of professional baseball. I have always been a fan of stats and using statistical information when analyzing players, but I was not a big fan of being “all-in.” While I enjoyed the movie “Moneyball,” I don’t believe you can use the philosophy started by the Oakland Athletics several years ago and base most/all aspects of building a team on numbers.

Also, (and again being completely honest), I admit I was very critical of Kapler with some of his experiments in spring training and several gaffs that took place during the first week of the regular season.

I was worried.

But I always try to have patience when making my analysis. I had an opportunity to speak with the Phillies Manager during the team’s first home stand at Citizens Bank Park, and I have to admit, he did impress me—for several reasons.

Firstly, he answered all of the questions and issues through the first week of the season (including his outfielder Nick Williams openly questioning his decision and another anonymous player saying his manager should “stay out of their way”).

He didn’t skirt the question or try to say that it was made up. Instead, he said he talked with Williams and addressed those and other issues with the respective players. He was firm in his decisions, addressed them privately but was still open in admitting that everything he has done has not worked out.

This in itself is quite different from previous Philly managers—among them Terry Francona (who later went on to win a World Series). When “Tito” was questioned early in his career (ironically, for not starting his best player on Opening Day—something Kapler also did), Francona starting whining about the media being out to get him and tried to make himself out to be victim, something that will never endear a person to the baseball fans in the Delaware Valley. (I believe he learned his lesson and is much more responsive in media interviews since his departure and not coincidently, had much better success as a manager).

Secondly, Kapler has cut back a bit with making in-game decisions solely based on numbers. He’s left his starting pitchers (who have pitched surprisingly through the first three weeks) in longer than he initially said he was going to do and has rarely gotten caught without available players—even while working with a shorter-than-typical bench.

These things have paid off with an impressive record (albeit against playing some of the worst teams in baseball during the season’s first four weeks).

However, Kapler has won over one skeptical observer so far with the way he has handled his club. I’m still not 100% convinced that they are playoff contenders this season, but I haven’t been impressed with very many other teams so far this year, and I’m certainly more confident of the Phillies’ direction than I was a month ago.

For more insights and Phillies interviews with manager Gabe Kapler, pitcher Vince Velasquez, Maikel Franco, Hector Neris and more, look back through recent episodes of “SportsTalk” through RCN On-Demand and here in previous “SportsTalk Shop” blog entries.

We’ll continue to talk baseball on this week’s “SportsTalk” show with Oakland Athletics pitcher Lou Trivino. Lou was born and grew up in the RCN of Pennsylvania region and just made his MLB debut last week. He will have some great stories to tell about his rise to the Big Leagues and what his first few games in the Majors have been like.

Also on this Thursday’s program, we’ll bring in beat writers from different areas to recap the NFL Draft, with an emphasis on the teams most popular with fans within the RCN-TV viewing area.

Summer School

 BEHIND THE MIKE: (With John Leone)

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

The old Syracuse “Parochial League” of the late ‘60s and ‘70s has long since faded into nostalgic veneration. But once upon a time, ten vibrant high schools representing neighborhood enclaves separated by various Catholic parishes and sometimes ethnicity dotted the city. These schools – too small to field football teams – spawned basketball rivalries that became year-long affairs, extending well throughout the summer on the city’s playgrounds and across the demilitarized boundaries that separated them during the school year. Personal rivalries often became friendships, the former combatants ultimately bound by the shared experience of that unique time and the emotional investment they made in such a consequential part of their youth.

With all apologies to Robert Fulghum, I think everything I ever really needed to know I learned as a teenager growing up on those summer courts. Those fortunate enough to have grown up in a similar time and place know what I mean.  The summer months spent on the playground were as important as the long winter season itself. Every park had its regulars – a core group of maybe 15 guys who seemed to live there. Our parents would certainly agree, but never seemed to mind. From one night to the next, we found a way to construct teams among ourselves in a fashion that, as I recall, would make today’s professional GMs proud. “Next” needed no further clarification as the universal term for the random group of five waiting to take on the winners of the game in progress. The increasingly large group surrounding the court who watched the games also waited. There were nights when “next” went two and three games deep.

There were no coaches to choreograph plays and patterns or to distribute playing time. Being on time was mandatory if you wanted that first game, and even then it wasn’t guaranteed. The six o’clock church bells would tell you if you were late. And you were late if you weren’t there early – especially if you were unsure of your skill level. If 11 guys showed up and you were the one left off of one of the two teams “choosing up” sides, you had two choices: work on your game or work on your personality. Your peers delivered the message in a way that seemed to be perfectly natural – so matter-of-fact and without malice or judgment. And it was understood and accepted by all. Besides, as the 11th man sitting out, you’d have the pick of the best of the new arrivals to join you for “next.”

There was a beautiful balance to that basketball community. The occasional “outsiders” were tested but given their chance. And if they happened to improve the quality of play, all the better – it could only help the reputation and regard for the “home” park. “Did you hear, so-and-so was at Sunnycrest last night. Let’s go there and play.” Some rules were universal, but like different languages, there was always nuance and you adapted to the rules of the home park for good order.

But for the most part, a typical evening brought back the regulars. Team compositions would change from night to night, and one night’s fiercest competitor would be the next night’s closest teammate. Not only were sport-specific skills developed, but more importantly, athletic instincts were honed. On a successful night, a team would learn to play to its strengths and compensate for its weaknesses. On the tougher nights, a loss could mean a wasted opportunity and an early walk home. It was almost too painful to stay and watch, knowing that your night was over.

I don’t remember – ever – asking about anyone’s politics or religion at the park. If a guy could shoot it, there had to be a spot for him; if he could rebound, all the better. We came to know who was selfish, who was smart, and who was steady. Some guys made their mark as dependable role players, though we never referred to them that way. Such terms were far too sophisticated and complex. We seemed to know things instinctively, even if we couldn’t define them – at least those of us who had a sense of what we were after.

And what we were after was pretty simple at the time – a win and a chance to hold the court and play on. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve gained perspective. Perhaps what we were really after was something altogether more important, more valuable, and more substantive, though we couldn’t have known it at the time.

As I look back now, I realize what an education that park provided. Leaders emerged. Rules were developed – sometimes on the fly – to create some level of equity, not in outcome, but in opportunity. The only prize from evening to evening was the honor of being part of a team that would hold the court after a win. But eventually, you lost. And those of us lucky enough to realize it began to discover something about ourselves in the way we reacted to losing. The very first vestiges of self-awareness may well have emerged on those courts. After all, the pain and frustration of having to wait three games – or worse – a whole day for another chance had to be dealt with, and how we did so was like holding a mirror to our faces. But tomorrow, we’d be there again. And the next night, and the next. The park gave you the test first and the lesson later.

I think that by and large, the evolution and growth of competitive youth sports has been a good thing. Today, there are better facilities, better equipment, and indoor spaces. Bleachers are full of parents, families, and friends – some, albeit, with less-than-healthy rooting interests. But the structure and organization afforded to kids today comes at a price beyond just the hit to mom and dad’s pocketbook. On some level, we seemed to have stripped the game of its ability to impart lessons that are best discovered and not necessarily taught. Tell a kid something, and he or she may forget it. Show them, and they may remember it. Get them involved, and they will learn it. But have them discover it, and they will own it. The park games were organic. They had an equilibrium that could only be understood and managed by us – the players.  And though we didn’t know it at the time, we were forging and shaping much more than our basketball skills.

Summer programs now are engineered to ensure structure and visibility. Referees are always present to adjudicate disputed calls, removing the need for the spontaneous and bristly negotiations we’d conduct on our own. There is no need to listen for church bells. Schedules and game clocks determine start times, and no one has to keep score; there are scoreboards to do that. Very little is missing or left to chance. Everything, that is, except for the experience of having young people create something of consequence completely on their own and outside of the constraints of teachers, parents, and coaches. On those summer courts of Syracuse, it was ours, and we owned it.

To this day, my 95-year-old mom recalls those days when I’d come home from the park. She knew immediately what kind of night it had been from my demeanor. “It’s only a game,” she would say. Now, in her later years and after all this time, we look back and laugh. And having raised three sons who attended “summer school” on those city courts, I think she’s finally coming around. Still, whenever I hear someone say “it’s only a game,” I think of those parks, those courts, and those kids who created and represented something so much more.

Cruise TV

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 just returned from vacation. I was on a cruise.  My wife and I love to cruise.  There’s plenty of great food whenever you want to eat, high-level entertainment, comedians, bumping cars, rock-climbing, surfing, simulated sky-diving, and beautiful weather.  You wake up when you want; a room steward cleans up your room and bathroom three times a day; and there is even a spot on the ship away from all children to relax by the pools and hot tubs.  So what’s NOT to like?

I’ll tell you what’s not to like – Cruise ship television!

There are @ 20 channels to watch – five or six are for children, 10 are basically cruise ship commercials selling jewelry, tours, and future cruises. One channel simply reminds you to constantly wash your hands by playing a consistently annoying song and one channel is a live shot of the front of the ship (I’m not sure why).  That leaves MSNBC and FOX as a way to get any news and ESPN for “sports”.  The problem is all sports are SOCCER!!  That’s right, soccer.  My room steward thought it was a nice gesture to leave soccer on our TV every time he finished up his work in our room.

But I do not like soccer (apologies to all the soccer fans). I have just had too many bad experiences over the years with the game.  As an example, allow me to relate to you my very first soccer broadcast:

In the summer of 1975, I received a phone call from the station manager of Twin-County TV asking me if I knew the game of soccer. I surmised, since this was the middle of summer, he was asking because we were going to do some local youth soccer.  Who else played in the summer?  So I said, “Yes”.  Truth be told, I had never actually watched a game of soccer – oh, I knew that the object of the game was to put the ball into the net and I knew that did not happen very often, but that was the extent of my “Futbol” knowledge.  I was told the game was the next day and it was at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.

It turns out the station acquired the rights to do the Philadelphia Atoms games. The Atoms were part of the North American Soccer League, the highest professional level of soccer in America and I was going to do the play-by-play of a game I had never watched.  To add to that pressure, the opponent was the New York Cosmos and that night after the game they were going to sign Pele, the greatest soccer player of all time, to a contract.  He was there and interest in this game could not have been any greater.

Being a teacher, I decided to take the advice I gave to my students – before taking on a task, do your research. I went to our high school library and took out all the books they had on soccer (there were no computers yet).  There were three.  I was also teaching speed reading at the time so it was not hard for me to devour the three books, take notes, memorize position responsibilities, and do my best to understand the rules.  After a day and a half of study, I left for the Stadium confident I could get through this.

When I got to the Stadium, I was led to the press area where a nice full-course meal was served. I talked to some of the reporters about the strengths and weaknesses of both teams.  Twenty minutes before the LIVE broadcast I ventured up to the booth on the 50-yard line.  Leather reclining chairs were there for my comfort.

However, discomfort set in as soon as I was handed the starting lineups. When I left my house, I knew positions and their roles.  When I got the starting lineup, the names of the positions I had learned had changed.  Except for the goalie, every position had a different name.  Defenders became fullbacks, wing-backs and sweepers.  Forwards were now midfielders and forwards.  There were wingers and strikers.  What there actually was – was confusion.  I was lost.

I did the game; did the best I could. When I finished, the owner of Twin-County came on the headset and in his heavy Chinese accent said, “You do god job!  You do good job!”  I figured he didn’t know anything about soccer either.

I could tell you more career soccer horrors (15 overtimes that took 6 ½ hours to play and still ended in a tie; a 1 ½ hour pre-game due to a youth preliminary match that would not end; a high school game with green numbers on a green shirt that were impossible to distinguish, etc., etc.)

So no one was happier to return to the RCN TV lineup than I was on Saturday. Cruising IS wonderful; cruise TV is not!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Finally, after all the hype, predictions, and recommendations, the NFL draft is this week starting on April 26 at 8:00pm on FOX. We will finally find out where Saquan Barkley will play. The Eagles have the 32nd and last pick of the first round and not again until the 30th and 32nd pick of the fourth round.
  2. I will continue to remind you to keep your eyes on Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese sensation, who is now part of the LA Angels roster as both a pitcher and hitter. He is currently hitting .342 with three home runs and 11 RBIs and is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA. He’ll be fun to watch all season.
  3. With all the talk of speeding up baseball, someone needs to talk to San Francisco Giant first baseman Brandon Belt. He had a 21-pitch at bat on Sunday, fouling off 16 two-strike pitches. The time at the plate – 12 minutes and 45 seconds. It is believed to be a record. By the way, he lined out to right. He later homered in the game.
  4. The NBA playoffs are mean, nasty, and ugly. I thought hockey was vicious, but the NBA may be getting worse. The saying now should be, “I went to a mugging, and an NBA game broke out.”
  5. Next week’s blog will be guest-written by our basketball nut, John Leone. His blog will relate to anyone who grew up playing basketball on the summer playgrounds. It’s terrific reading.

 

Lafayette’s New Era

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.

There’s a great story involving sports fans in both the RCN DC and Pennsylvania viewing areas.

A new beginning got underway at Lafayette College as standout DMV player and coach Caitlyn de la Haba is completing her first year as the school’s head softball coach. 

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As a player, de la Haba posted some ultra-impressive numbers in both high school in Virginia and at Villanova University:

  • HS team compiled an overall record of 82-1 (she was a four-year starter, three as a pitcher)
  • Team Ranked #1 in the country by USA Today
  • As a pitcher, registered 65 shutouts, 26 no-hitters and 13 perfect games
  • Earned Back-to-back Gatorade Player of the Year honors
  • Led Villanova in appearances during all four years, winning 55 games
  • Finished on the Wildcats’ all-time leader with 75 complete games and 3rd with 660 strikeouts 

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We had the opportunity for “RCN SportsTalk” recently to talk with Coach de la Haba and three of her key players.

Two of the senior leaders include Sam Sweigart and Miranda Skurla.

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Samantha has been a constant for the team as the starting second baseman for the last three seasons.

Miranda has also been a key member of the team handling both first base as well as the hot corner for Lafayette the last several years.

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Both have been key in bridging the gap between the gap to the “next generation” of players and have been part of a solid defensive infield. The Leopards have played a number of tough games late in the season but stressed that they were excited to be at the forefront of an exciting new era for their program.

We also spoke with junior shortstop Brooke Wensel, the Patriot League’s defending “Defensive Player of the Year,” who looks to lead the “next generation” towards more success for the 2018-19 campaign.

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Brooke (2)

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De la Haba said that the new direction of the team will be to build on solid pitching—a tried and true formula in this sport. With the renewed interest and excitement generated from the first year at the helm, it’s easy to see why there’s so much optimism on the horizon for this program’s future.

For more on the Lafayette softball program’s “new era,” check out their “SportsTalk” feature on RCN’s Video On Demand!