The Transfer Portal

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.

Many of us who pay close attention to high school sports have complained vociferously about students transferring to other schools just for the sake of athletics.  Community boundaries did not make much difference for those who wanted to play for a particular program or leave a program that was not successful.  Many believed a son or daughter would get more exposure to college scouts by being a member of a winning team and that exposure could increase one’s chances of landing a scholarship.

This movement has caused the PIAA to try to find a solution to an ongoing problem.  There has been plenty of discussion about boundary vs. non-boundary competition; residence requirements; mid-year movement, etc.  Stay tuned for more rules followed by more complaining.

The NCAA which regulates college athletics thinks they have a solution – it’s called the “Transfer Portal”.  It started in October, 2018.  Any player in any sport who has interest in transferring from a school can now place their name into the transfer portal.  All the student needs to do is go to the compliance department of their current college and say they want to be entered into the portal.  Common courtesy would suggest a student-athlete should talk to their coach first, but that is not a requirement.  Once the request is made, compliance has 48 hours to enter that student’s name onto the portal.  Once the name appears on the list, colleges can contact that student with permission from the student.  A player does have the option of removing their name, but, for the most part, a coach will drop that student from their roster, or at the very least, retract their scholarship at the end of a semester as soon as they hear that student is looking to go elsewhere.

The idea behind it was that the student should have more power in the decision-making process.  It gives the athlete more options than they had before.  Previously, the student had to be granted permission to contact another school.  The list is supposed to remain private, used only by schools and student-athletes, but there most certainly have been leaks.

The concept has become very popular for the athletes.  It is speculated that there are over 500 Division 1 names in the portal right now.  More than 15,000 have entered their names in the Transfer Portal since its inception.  Compliance people love it because it eliminates a lot of paperwork.  Most athletes love it because they now have freedom of movement, which they did not previously have.  Coaches both love and hate it depending on whether they lose or acquire a player.

The transfer drawback of being forced to sit out a year still exists in major sports like football, basketball, baseball, and hockey.  There are waivers available which are treated on a case by case basis.

This actually seems like a rational plan.  And anything deemed “rational” in sports these days is a positive step forward.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Andy Reid has been to only one Super Bowl as a head coach and we know what team that was. But with the Patriots losing and the Ravens losing before Sunday’s ChiefsTexans, it sure looked like he was guaranteed to head there for a second time.  And then all “heck” broke loose and the Texans went up 24-0 into the second period.  The Chiefs made mistake after mistake.  But have you seen a team this year able to score points faster than the Chiefs?  He told his players to “keep playing, keep battling”.  It worked; boy, did it ever.  They scored the next 41 and ended the game with 51 points.  Is this the year Coach Reid wins a Super Bowl?
  1. Jeopardy is trying to pick the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) by pitting their three most successful players in competition against one another. The winner will be decided this week.  The NFL is trying to do it by position and obviously without competition.  An impossible task.  Just look at the quarterback position – Unitas, Brady, Elway, P. Manning, Montana?  Now move on to every position and start the argument. Please – no physical confrontations!
  1. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers exchanged jerseys after Sunday night’s game. Both played for the University of California in 2004 and almost became Packer teammates in 2010 when Buffalo traded Lynch.
  1. Kansas City is favored by seven in their game with Tennessee despite the Titans winning 35-32 during the regular season. If you are looking for a team of destiny, choose the Titans.  San Francisco is favored by seven over the Packers.  That’s odd since the 49ers led 23-0 at the half and won 37-8.  They sacked Aaron Rodgers five times and held him to 104 yards passing.  I cannot see any way the Packers win this one.
  1. RCN-TV will bring you Whitehall at Bethlehem Catholic basketball on Tuesday and Easton at Parkland followed by Central Catholic at Freedom on Friday night. Our Lafayette schedule includes the Lafayette men taking on Colgate on Wednesday morning at 11:00am and the Lafayette women playing Navy on Saturday at 2:00pm.  Northampton will wrestle Nazareth on Wednesday night at 7:00pm.  Plenty to choose from if you are so inclined.

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 3-1)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 172-90-1  (66%)

SAN FRANCISCO

KANSAS CITY

From Bucknell to Kentucky

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.

College basketball fans are well aware of the great tradition of Kentucky college basketball.  One rarely ever mentions the Patriot League in the same breath with teams like Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and others, including Kentucky.

On Sunday, I did the play-by-play of the LafayetteBucknell game and one of the players missing this year from the Bucknell roster was Nate Sestina.  He graduated last year, but due to an injury in his freshman season when he did not play, he still had one year of eligibility left. Most Patriot League schools do not offer many opportunities for post-graduate work so some players will find a program that allows them to continue their schooling and play one more year of college basketball.  This is not all that uncommon.  What is uncommon is to transfer from the Patriot League to a Top Ten basketball school.  What is even more unusual is that the player will actually play.

John Hale of the Louisville Courier Journal can tell the Nate Sestina story much better than I can:

The story behind Nate Sestina’s journey from Emporium to Kentucky 

LEXINGTON, Ky. – When Nate Sestina takes the Rupp Arena court for the first time at Big Blue Madness in October, the entire population of his hometown could fit in the stands.

More than 10 times.

That moment will mark the culmination of one of the more unusual journeys to the Kentucky basketball roster in recent memory. Sestina was not a high-profile recruit like Anthony Davis. He is not a Bluegrass State native like Dontaie Allen. He did not play at another high-profile university like Reid Travis.

Sestina’s alma mater, Cameron County High School in Emporium, Pennsylvania — student body less than 250 — had not produced a Division I player since the 1970s, but Sestina ended that drought with a scholarship from Bucknell. Three years later, without a single college start on his resume, few would have imagined Sestina attracting the interest of college basketball’s winningest program less than a year later.

“It’s crazy,” Sestina told the Courier Journal when reached by phone Sunday. “I’m waiting to kind of wake up from everything. It really is surreal, and it’s super humbling to have this opportunity. Coming from where I come from, this doesn’t ever really happen.”

Former Cameron County coach Jon Songer remembers Sestina as a talented high school freshman without a clear spot on a veteran squad. Sestina had yet to grow into the 6-foot-9, 245-pound frame that helped him rank second in the Patriot League in rebounds per game (8.5) last season, and the only open spot in the Cameron County starting lineup was at point guard.

So Sestina spent his freshman year as the team’s primary ball-handler, playing alongside older brother Andrew, then a senior who went on to play for Division III Allegheny College.

“He was just a baby-faced kid, about 6-2, 6-3,” Songer said. “… We wanted to get our five best guys on the floor, and even though maybe that wasn’t Nate’s true position at point guard, that was the void we needed to fill. He came in and played hard that summer going into his freshman year of high school, worked on his handle, worked on his ball skills and things like that. He did well for us. … He handled the pressure well.”

Having his brother to motivate him every day in practice made sure Sestina never lost sight of the ultimate goal. As Andrew was recruited by colleges, Nate became certain he wanted to play basketball at the next level too.

“He really helped me and every day in practice was competitive,” Sestina said. “He beat me up. I drove in for a layup, he’d borderline tackle me to the ground and be like, ‘Hey, finish through contact.’”

As Sestina grew, so did Cameron County’s success.

Sestina won 12 games as a freshman, 18 as a sophomore, 20 as a junior and 24 as a senior. In his last season at Cameron County, Sestina averaged 22 points and 14 rebounds per game to lead his team to its first state tournament victory since 1972.

His college career could have been derailed just four games into his freshman year at Bucknell when a torn labrum ended his season, but Sestina took the opportunity to refine his shooting mechanics. He returned to the court as a sophomore to serve a key reserve role on NCAA Tournament teams in 2017 and 2018, then stepped into the starting lineup last fall following the departures of former Patriot League Players of the Year Nana Foulland and Zach Thomas from the Bucknell frontcourt.

Sestina went on to earn second-team All-Patriot League honors after averaging 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He shot 53.6 percent from the field, 38 percent from 3-point range (41 for 108) and 80.8 percent from the free-throw line.

The Patriot League does not allow athletically motivated redshirt seasons, and while Sestina’s injury as a freshman likely would have qualified him for a waiver to that rule, there was no fit for him in the Bucknell graduate school, which admits only around 40 students per year. With the blessings of his Bucknell coaches, Sestina decided to pursue a graduate transfer.

“If I were to go pro, I would have some things I struggled with like moving my feet laterally, guarding people smaller than me,” Sestina said. “I just feel like there’s an overall confidence in my game I know I need going into a pro career. I talked with a couple of my coaches and my family, and I think taking an extra year and going after a graduate year and playing at a bigger school and having that opportunity to develop would really benefit me.”

The decision was perfect timing for Kentucky.

John Calipari had recently overcome his distaste for the graduate transfer rule after watching Travis and the Wildcats thrive together in one season. There was an obvious need for frontcourt options on the roster with Travis gone, PJ Washington all but certain to enter the NBA draft and no post players committed in the 2019 recruiting class.

Luckily for Sestina, he had no shortage of connections to the Kentucky coach.

After coaching a team of college players, including Brad Calipari, on an international trip last summer, Bucknell assistant Joe Meehan had developed a relationship with the Hall of Fame coach. Two of Sestina’s former AAU coaches (Daryn Freedman and Almamy Thiero) had played for Calipari at Massachusetts and Memphis, respectively.

All three coaches reached out to the Kentucky staff to clue them into Sestina’s availability.

“I’m super thankful for those guys for taking a leap of faith and reaching out,” Sestina said. “I’m pretty sure college coaches get it all the time — ‘We’ve got this guy, we’ve got this guy’ — but Coach Cal said when he saw Coach Meehan, Coach Al and Coach Freedman all reached out he was like, ‘I’m going to take a look at this kid.’ The next day he called me and said, ‘I heard from three different people and took a look for myself and I like the way you play; I like how hard you play; I like the veteran presence you have and the leadership you bring.’”

Freedman, president of the Basketball Stars of America AAU program, played for Calipari on the 1996 UMass Final Four team then worked on Calipari staffs with UMass, Memphis and the New Jersey Nets.

When Sestina’s father, Donald, told him Nate was about to enter the transfer portal, his first call was to Kentucky assistant Tony Barbee, his former colleague and fellow UMass alum.

“It’s basically like if you want to be a doctor and you go to Harvard Medical School,” Freedman said. “I consider my time under Coach Cal like that. … Coach Cal is the best at getting guys prepared for the next level. If he’s got the potential to do it, Coach will get that out of him.”

Despite receiving interest from close to 20 programs, Sestina held off seriously considering other options until he could complete a visit to Kentucky.

Both sides were impressed by the other, and on Thursday Sestina announced he would play his final season of college basketball in Lexington.

“Good things happen to good people, and you’re not going to find a better person than Nate,” Songer said. “I think he’s going to be tremendous not only to the Kentucky basketball but around the community. I think people are going to just love him. He’s got that personality that just attracts everybody.”

The message from Calipari was clear and one that will surprise few Kentucky fans: Nothing would be guaranteed to Sestina at UK, but Calipari was not interested in adding a graduate transfer just to sit on the bench and add depth in case one of his five-star recruits did not pan out. A conversation with Travis about his experience at Kentucky reinforced to Sestina that the challenge of helping lead young, talented squad was one he wanted to embrace.

He was ready to embark on the most unlikely chapter of his journey from Emporium to basketball stardom yet.

“I’m a big believer in God, I’m a big believer in things happen for a reason,” Sestina said. “I got hurt my freshman year, and if I hadn’t gotten hurt, none of this stuff would have happened. … If you go to a school like this you’re able to go for a national championship. … The guys they’re bringing in are super confident and super driven. I think by coming in and clicking right away we can make a run at it.”

To bring you up to date – Sestina has played in 10 of the 13 Kentucky games (he was injured for three of them).  He has started six and is currently a starter.  He is Kentucky’s leading rebounder and sixth on the team in scoring.  He led the team in scoring against Ohio State with 17 points making five 3’s.

What is typical for a Patriot League basketball player is that they are great scholar-athletes.  Perhaps, the best part of the story is that Nate Sestina is majoring in Kinesiology and Health Promotion.  I looked it up – it’s “the study of the mechanics of body movements”.  That, also, seems to summarize Sestina’s life.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Despite what everyone seemed to be saying after the VikingsSaints game ended with a Vikings touchdown in overtime, did you not think there was offensive pass interference? Tight end Kyle Rudolph created space by pushing off of the defender.  That space allowed the catch.  The Saints were bitten again by a “no pass interference” call, this time an offensive one.  Last year a “no-call” on the defensive side may have cost them a trip to the Super Bowl.  Replay on pass interference has not helped very much.
  1. Dallas fired Jason Garrett on Sunday. His contract would have expired anyway on the 14th.  It will be interesting to see where Garrett ends up.  He has always been a favorite of the Giants and they need a head coach.  So does Dallas.  There are plenty of good candidates – Mike McCarthy and Jeff Fisher to name a couple.  Fisher’s personality might be a welcome change to the stoic Garrett.
  1. Why do so many fans hate Tom Brady? I was in a gym full of people on Sunday and everyone seemed so elated that Brady finally lost a playoff game and they were ecstatic he threw an interception for his last pass, perhaps as a Patriot.  He is a free-agent now.  Would the haters want him on THEIR team?
  1. If anyone ever doubted that great dual meets in high school wrestling generate the biggest crowds and the greatest interest, then you did not see the Notre DameBethlehem Catholic match this past week? The crowd was immense and the atmosphere was the best.  I cannot imagine squeezing a crowd like that into the Notre Dame gym next year.  It was like the old days.
  1. RCN-TV will bring you Parkland at Freedom basketball on Tuesday and Northampton at Easton on Friday night. Both are LIVE at 7:00pm.  Our Lafayette schedule includes the Lafayette men taking on Holy Cross on Wednesday at 7:00pm and the Lafayette women playing Loyola on Saturday at 2:00pm.  Easton will wrestle Northampton on Saturday.  Plenty to choose from if you are so inclined.

 

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 2-2)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 169-89-1  (66%)

SAN FRANCISCO

GREEN BAY

BALTIMORE

KANSAS CITY

 

 

GARY’S GUESSES

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 11-5) (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 167-87-1 (66%)

BUFFALO
TENNESSEE
NEW ORLEANS
SEATTLE

Gary’s Guesses

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 13-3)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 156-82-1  (66%)

BUFFALO

CLEVELAND

GREEN BAY

KANSAS CITY

MINNESOTA

NEW ENGLAND

ATLANTA

NEW ORLEANS

DALLAS

DENVER

RAMS

PHILADELPHIA

KANSAS CITY

BALTIMORE

TENNESSEE

SAN FRANCISCO

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Looking Ahead

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 know this is the time of the year when most writers look back on the past year and reminisce on the highlights of the 2019.  You will be able to find plenty of those articles and opinions in the next week or so.  I am not much for looking back.  I tend to think except for the nostalgia value, not much is gained by it.  Instead, I like to look ahead – you know, have a reason to look forward to the next day and the one after that.

So, with that in mind, and since this will be my last blog for the year (“Gary’s Guesses” will continue, however), I thought I would offer up some of the questions I look forward to answering in the near future in 2019.  They are in no particular order:

  1. Can the Eagles actually get into the NFL playoffs and win a playoff game? (I think a Super Bowl win is out of the question).
  2. If the Eagles beat the Cowboys this week, will John Garrett get the ax; or if the Cowboys win, will his job be safe?
  3. Is it me or are NFL games becoming much like all NBA games in that the outcome comes down often to the last two minutes?
  4. Did the Patriots really cheat again by filming the Bengals sideline?
  5. Do you have a favorite yet to win the Super Bowl? I like the Ravens right now.
  6. Is there a more enjoyable college football game to watch than ArmyNavy? It just gives you a different feeling when you see the members of the academies both playing and cheering on their respective teams.  I hope there is a reasonable explanation for the hand gestures picked up by the TV cameras.
  7. With all Philadelphia sports teams seemingly on the rise (except maybe the Eagles), will the Phils and the Flyers and 76’ers all create year-round excitement in the City of Brotherly Love?
  8. Will the winter high school wrestling and basketball seasons be just as competitive as the past football season? I am guessing we are in for a great winter of high school sports?
  9. Do you agree with me that Match Play golf is the most entertaining golf to watch? The President’s Cup was great television (except for the fact it was played in Australia and the outcome was known before the TV broadcast)?  Even with that said, it was still exciting to see how it all ended.
  10. Can Lafayette maintain the excitement of their recent successes in all sports particularly football and men’s and women’s basketball?

Well, that’s enough to chew on for a while, with new questions cropping up every week.  Before I call it a year, I do want to thank all the people who made this past year so gratifying – the RCN-TV crew and management (they are an amazing group); athletic directors and coaches (their cooperation is essential); statisticians (they are SO important to me); the players (your dedication and effort inspires me every game); the Lafayette Sports Information Department (you make me feel like part of the team); and, especially, you, the fans.  Nothing makes our day than when so many of you take the time to tell us how much you enjoy our product.

I hope we all can spend 2020 together once again!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Aaron Clark of Easton knows how to return to a lineup. After getting a high ankle sprain during the second practice of the season, the sophomore missed the Red Rovers’ first two games.  He returned this past Thursday and, despite barely playing in the first quarter, he scored 26 points, was 8 for 8 from 3-point range, and blocked the final potential game-tying shot.  By the way he scored another 25 against Liberty on Saturday night.  He is certainly back.
  1. Imagine the poor bettors who had the Redskins and 6.5 points or those who had the Falcons49’ers in the “over/under” bet. The Eagles had a four-point lead when the Redskins fumbled.  The Eagles returned the fumble for a touchdown with no time left.  The Eagles won by 10 and those who bet on the Redskins lost.  The over/under for the Falcons game was 49.5 points.  The Falcons scored two touchdowns in the final 8 seconds to put the score “over” with a 29-22 win (51 points).  I’m sure there was plenty of wailing in the various betting parlors around the country.
  1. With all the analytics in all sports these days, you would think the easiest thing to get right would be the decision after you win the opening NFL coin toss. Not so.  The Cowboys really messed it up this past Sunday.  Dallas quarterback, Zak Prescott, actually gave three different answers to the referee and confusion reigned.  And the Rams actually thought they would receive the second half kickoff when they came out of the locker room.  They had already received the first half kickoff.  It turns out that the Cowboys eventually deferred, but caused plenty of confusion.  It is hard to imagine this is a hard decision.
  1. Nine weeks into the NBA season, and the 76’ers look like they could be in the title hunt this year. They just won 13 of their last 16 games and Joel Embiid seems to have taken the Charles Barkley criticism to heart. He is playing excellent basketball of late (38 points and 13 rebounds against the Celtics this past week).
  1. Plenty of high school action takes place this week on RCN-TV. In basketball, Allen takes on Bethlehem Catholic LIVE and Freedom plays Easton (9:30) on Tuesday with Liberty at Freedom (LIVE) and Nazareth at Northampton (9:30) on Friday night.  Our wrestling season begins with Emmaus at Parkland on Wednesday night.

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 11-5)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 143-79-1  (64%) 

HOUSTON

NEW ENGLAND

SAN FRANCISCO

ATLANTA

NEW ORLEANS

GIANTS

PITTSBURGH

MIAMI

INDIANAPOLIS

BALTIMORE

DENVER

CHARGERS

PHILADELPHIA

SEATTLE

KANSAS CITY

CLEVELAND

MINNESOTA

The Leopards Roar

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.

DREAM COME TRUE TELETHON RAISES OVER $100,000 – THANK YOU!

It’s not very often that I have a week with no broadcasts.  But, with the early exits of our high school football teams, that is exactly what happened last week.  So faced with either going cold turkey or finding a game or two to attend, I decided on Tuesday to accompany the Lafayette Men’s Basketball team to St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Coach Fran O’Hanlon was kind enough to allow me to ride the bus with the team.  Fran is well-known in the Philadelphia area, having grown up there, playing high school and college basketball (Villanova) there, and coaching there.  And friends like 76’ers coach, Brett Brown, and former Temple coach, Fran Dunphy, amongst many others, were there to welcome the coach and retell many stories.

Lafayette was going for their third straight win, but their first over the Hawks in 44 years.  They last beat St. Joe’s on December 3, 1975.  The Leopards were on fire from the very beginning and led by 23 at one point in the first half.  Then they went into a scoring drought and did not score the last 5½ minutes of the first half and the lead was reduced to seven.  They had no lulls in the second half and went on to win 94-71.

This past Saturday the same Leopards traveled to Ithaca, NY and, despite not playing very well, they beat their third Ivy League opponent with a last-second three to win by three over Cornell 62-59.  They had previously beaten Penn and Princeton.  Their record improved to 6-2 as the players head into final exams.

This got me thinking that Lafayette athletics are on a bit of a roll.  The football team beat Lehigh on November 23 and stopped a four-game losing streak to the Mountain Hawks.  It took a last-minute field goal to win the game 17-16, but it was a sweet victory in game # 155 of college football’s most played rivalry.  With the win, the Leopards finished second in the Patriot League.

The Women’s basketball team is off to a good start with a 4-4 record, having won three straight before losing this past weekend to Monmouth.

In fact, the entire Lafayette Fall athletic program jumped six places in the President’s Cup Fall Standings.  Their field hockey, men’s soccer, and football teams all finished in second place.  The men’s teams finished second overall and the women finished sixth.

The President’s Cup is awarded to the Patriot League program that earns the most points overall for the year.  There is no question the Leopards are “roarin’” right now and the athletic program is moving in the right direction.

Much like going to St. Joe’s this past Tuesday, I am glad that I am along for the ride, too.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. I know you know that New England lost at home this weekend to the Chiefs. But did you know that they had won 21 straight games (including playoffs) at home?  The loss, for the moment, took away their home field advantage for the playoffs.  The Pats are 10-3 while the Ravens are now 11-2 in the AFC.
  1. Despite all the replays and looks from every angle, it appears that there is still about five plays each game that have no clear-cut decisive outcome. If you watch game after game, I defy anyone to tell me what pass interference is.  Even when it goes to replay, the decision very often makes no sense.
  1. So which team is the best in the NFL right now? Is it Baltimore or is it the 49ers?  Is it still New England or maybe the Chiefs?  Do you like the Packers or the Saints?  I am not sure there has been a better example of “on any given Sunday” than this year.  With all the upsets, it appears anything can and will happen in the playoffs.
  1. You know by now, I have been a proponent of having an eight-team playoff for the college football championship. Ironically, it probably does not seem necessary this year.  LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson are certainly the best.  If there is any argument at all, it is whether Oklahoma should be #4 over Georgia or Oregon.  It hurts me to say this, but I think they got it right this year.
  1. High School basketball and wrestling begin this week and it appears, much like football, it is going to be a very entertaining year. Both the Steel and Skyline divisions look very competitive and the Colonial League is shaping up as interesting as ever.  Wrestling is always dramatic.  Get out to a gym, cheer your team on, or follow the action on RCN-TV.

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 11-5)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 132-74-1  (64%)

BALTIMORE

PHILADELPHIA

MIAMI

TAMPA BAY

GREEN BAY

NEW ENGLAND

HOUSTON

SEATTLE

KANSAS CITY

BUFFALO

OAKLAND

CLEVELAND

NEW ORLEANS

RAMS

MINNESOTA

NEW ORLEANS

 

 

“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:

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 80s. 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 56 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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. Once again the Lehigh Valley District football champions were subjected to the annual pounding by the Philadelphia Catholic schools. Nazareth was soundly beaten by St. Joe’s Prep, ranked #1 in the state and Southern Lehigh was beaten 41-7 by Archbishop Wood. This IS NOT a level playing field. Both of our teams were outstanding this year and yet they could not compete with the non-boundary schools. It is time for a change. Let our public schools compete against public schools.

2. It felt really good to finally call a Lafayette victory over Lehigh! The last time I was able to do that was in 2013. Even though I did a 2-hour pregame at Yankee Stadium in 2014 and Lafayette dominated Lehigh 27-7, I was not part of the broadcasting team.

3. Speaking of Lafayette, their athletic program had quite a week. On Tuesday, the men’s basketball team upset Ivy League favorite Penn (and they had already beaten Princeton); the women beat LIU on Wednesday and won again with a win over Albany on Saturday. The men beat a very good Fairleigh Dickinson team on Sunday and, did I mention, that the Lafayette football team beat Lehigh 17-16 on Saturday. I may have mentioned that.

4. I came home on Saturday and watched the Penn StateOhio State game. I thought that Penn State at least made Ohio State look vulnerable before losing 28-17. One player who is not vulnerable is Chase Young, the defensive end for the Buckeyes. He is spectacular and is being mentioned as the #1 NFL draft choice. It would be a good choice.

5. The Eagles’ offense was awful again this past Sunday. Until their wide receivers get healthy, they will continue to struggle scoring. Hopefully, they will be able to win their games in the next few weeks against weaker opponents. That would leave the Dallas game in Philadelphia as a must win.

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 8-6) (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 117-57-1 (67%)
DETROIT
DALLAS
NEW ORLEANS
GREEN BAY
CAROLINA
SAN FRANCISCO
INDIANAPOLIS
PHILADELPHIA
KANSAS CITY
JACKSONVILLE
JETS
RAMS
CHARGERS
CLEVELAND
NEW ENGLAND
MINNESOTA

 

 

Addicted to Competition

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 job allows me to watch competition every single week. I have always loved to compete myself and my family has, at times, accused me of being somewhat ruthless in any game I play. I do not like to lose.

In my career, I have probably worked, conservatively speaking, 5000+ sporting events. It never gets old. There was no better example than the  ParklandNazareth football game on Friday night for the District XI championship. It took overtime to decide the champion.

I was treated to another great competitor this past week – James Holzhauer. If you do not recognize the name, you must be under 50 and would never watch a television game show (I get it –you’re probably texting or tweeting). This past week, Holzhauer appeared on the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions, which pits the past year’s best players against one another in a two-week competition (there’s that word again).

I am a regular Jeopardy watcher. I TiVo the show every night and manage to find the twenty minutes necessary to watch it. What is great about the show is you can sit in the recliner and compete yourself by offering up correct or, in many cases, incorrect answers. Some nights, I feel pretty good about my cache of pretty useless knowledge. Other times, I don’t do well – you know on the “Lakes of Europe” or “Architectural Design” type categories.

I had a good laugh this year when the category was The NFL. None of the contestants offered up a correct answer – they were 0-5 (those nerds!) I could have won that night (but probably not since there were other categories – “French Artists”, for example).

Back to James Holzhauer. When he was on in the spring, he captured the Top-16 money totals of all time. On April 9, he won $131,127 in one night, the highest ever. His total winnings in the spring were $2,462,216. During that time on the show, he became a cult hero and Jeopardy garnered their highest ratings ever.

For his latest victory this past week (yes, he won again), he got the top prize of $250,000 bringing his total winnings to $2,712,216. It is the third highest total in show history.

I guess it is appropriate that he lives in Las Vegas. They gave him the key to the city after his initial appearance. And it is also appropriate that he is a professional gambler. He often would bet his entire pot on the Double Jeopardy questions. Now he says he is very busy making bets on the NFL.

I’m sure Jeopardy will find a way to bring him back on the show again. After all, who doesn’t like high ratings and, in my case, a great competitor?

P.S. It was just announced after I finished writing the blog that “Jeopardy James” will face Ken Jennings, who won the most games, and Brad Rutter, who has won the most money, in a Greatest of All Time Jeopardy tournament in January in prime time. I know I will watch.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. I hope you saw the Nazareth- Parkland game on Friday night. Two very different teams – one, a strong, physical, in-your-face squad (Parkland); the other, loaded with skill position talent, speed, and creative plays (Nazareth). It was tied in regulation and that was appropriate. Parkland led by seven in overtime. Nazareth scored; they went for two; got it and won by one! It was high school football at its best. Congratulations to both schools.

2. It seems like every week, I have a “what are you thinking” segment directed towards athletes who make millions of dollars and risk it all acting like idiots.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2SJYya3hyc

Should Myles Garrett be allowed to play in the NFL again? I vote “no”.

3. If you had to bet on a Super Bowl winner today, would you take New England (way to go out on a limb), San Francisco (great offense), Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers), the Seahawks (Russell Wilson), the Vikings (Cousins looks good) or might it just be the Ravens (beat New England)? Notice I did not list the Eagles – no wide receivers.

4. There appears to be at least nine teams better than the 76ers right now. They are not consistent and their coach says it may take them until December to jell. He better make sure they do jell or he might be looking for a job.

5. The PIAA 6A quarterfinals start this Friday on RCN-TV at 7:00pm. The game features Philadelphia powerhouse, St. Joe’s Prep, taking on the Nazareth Blue Eagles. Saturday afternoon at 12:30pm, it’s Lafayette Lehigh on RCN-TV. This is college football’s most played rivalry – game number 155. As always, you are invited to join us.

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 10-3) (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 109-51-1 (68%)

HOUSTON
PHILADELPHIA
GIANTS
OAKLAND
CLEVELAND
BUFFALO
CINCINNATI
NEW ORLEANS
ATLANTA
DETROIT
TENNESSEE
NEW ENGLAND
SAN FRANCISCO
BALTIMORE

 

 

 

Boring or Not?

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.

If you watch our high school and Lafayette College football games, you realize that my announcing analyst REALLY knows his football. Mike Joseph loves the game and is an avid fan of all levels, including the NFL. He is slowly becoming disenchanted with the professional game. I should let him explain:

“College offenses are ruining NFL football.  If you’re a true fan of the NFL, there is no doubt that most offenses are struggling to move the football. Turnovers are up, penalties are up and there is a widening gap between the elite QBs in the NFL and the rest of the league.  My advice is to enjoy the likes of Brady, Brees, Rodgers, and Roethlisberger as long as you can. These QBs have accounted for more playoff wins than all other QBs starting in the NFL combined. Mahomes, Wilson, Wentz, and Newton are the closest things to successful spread offense QBs because they have learned to throw first and run second.  The majority of college QBs are ill-equipped to navigate treacherous NFL waters. The spread offense is in simplest terms, basketball on field turf. These no-huddle, up-tempo offenses are NOT training QBs to take snaps under center, read defenses properly, understand progressions, and have a full understanding of what it takes to succeed in the NFL. Most college offensive coordinators control every aspect of play calling up to the second the ball is snapped. Plays are so scripted that QBs are instructed to read one defender and place that defender in conflict based on the RPO (run, pass, option). This is becoming a common term amongst players, coaches and now even commentators.  The RPO, along with the Zone Read, are major contributing factors to the inability of QBs to drop back and throw from the pocket, because they lack the training of reading basic coverages. “Get the ball out,” are common terms used by all coaches in today’s game. Thus the increase in teams throwing the ball sideways in lieu of pressing the ball down the field on intermediate routes. We have all heard the terms bubble screen, speed sweep, 3 over 2, the 50/50 ball, and of course the Zone Read option. Plain and simple, running QBs don’t last in the shark-infested waters of the NFL. Case in point: RG III, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Carson Wentz, Alex Smith, Teddy Bridgewater, and so many others have been victims of incredible, out of the pocket hits that led directly to injury.

Lasting offensive success in the NFL is and always will center on the ability of a quarterback to throw from the pocket. Developing the unique talent to obtain pre-snap reads and understanding the nuances of defenses, so complex nowadays, must become part of the learning curve for future QBs. Overall viewership of the NFL is down and in college football is up. Why? Because audiences want speed and tempo and scoring.

I love football and that will never change, however it is becoming increasingly boring for me. Show me all the Super Bowl trophies from Zone Read, Dual threat quarterbacks and tomorrow I will sell you a bridge leading to the Hall of Shame.” Who am I to disagree?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. Joe Girardi should be a great fit for the Phillies. He won as a player, as a coach and as a manager. He has the perfect temperament for both the team and the town. Now, can he bring a championship to Philadelphia?

2. On Sunday, Tiger Woods tied Sam Snead for the most career PGA wins ever when he won in Japan. Both now have 82. You may be wondering who are the next three – #3 is Jack Nicklaus with 73; #4 is Ben Hogan with 64; and #5 is Arnold Palmer with 62. Byron Nelson (52) and Billy Casper (51) are the next two.

3. Penn State has jumped to #5 in the College Football rankings. The magical spot is to get to #4 or better. They might just get there with a win this week over undefeated Minnesota. Both teams are 8-0. Ohio State is #3 right now.  Penn State plays them on November 23.

4. I had a good week with my picks, except for those darn Eagles. I only missed two games – the Bears and they missed an easy field goal to win the game at the end. I, once again, missed on the Eagles. I do not think I have made a correct pick on their game this year. They really looked good this week against the Bills after really looking awful the previous week against the Cowboys. I was wrong on both games.

5. Emmaus travels to Freedom on Friday to begin the District XI playoffs and RCN-TV will bring the game LIVE at 7:00PM. That game will be followed by the Easton-Northampton match-up at 9:30PM. It has been a long time
since Northampton has been in this position. They have won nine straight. Lafayette takes on Fordham on Saturday at 12:30PM.

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 13-2) (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 84-35-1 71%)

SAN FRANCISCO
HOUSTON
BUFFALO
CAROLINA
PHILADELPHIA
KANSAS CITY
JETS
INDIANAPOLIS
DETROIT
SEATTLE
DENVER
 GREEN BAY
NEW ENGLAND
DALLAS

 

 

District XI HOF

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. 

On Sunday night, the second class was inducted into the District XI Hall of Fame.  Fourteen inaugural members were welcomed last year and 17 new members were inducted in this, the second year.  Since I have been around a long time (hopefully, not too long), I was very familiar with almost all of the 17 new members.

I covered Jackie Adamshick at Central Catholic where she scored 1,848 points and led her team to two state championships in 2001 and 2002.  She was 1st team All-State in 2002.  She went on to Villanova where she scored 1,372 points, with 703 rebounds.  Villanova was in the NCAA tournament during her time there.

The late Mike Lisetski was the coach for Northampton baseball for 32 years and was an assistant football coach at Northampton for 24 years.  He won nine baseball championships and three District championships.  He was just as well known for being a PIAA official and later an NFL official for 18 years.  Mike officiated the first Super Bowl in 1966.

Anyone who knows Lehigh Valley basketball knows the name Pete Lisicky of Whitehall.  He still is their all-time leading scorer with 1,974 points.  His teams won three EPC titles and two District championships.  He was voted one of Pennsylvania’s top 150 high school players of all time.  Pete went on to an outstanding career at Penn State and 11 years playing professional basketball overseas.

Bill Paulik was the very first basketball coach at Salisbury and remained in that capacity for 30 years.  His teams won 539 games, 20 league titles, and four District championships.  His 1992-93 teams were undefeated.  His 1983 team won 26 games.

The most intense coach I came across was Don Rohn.  As a wrestler, Rohn won two PIAA state championships.  He went on to win an AAU National Championship and was a three-time NCAA All-American.  I best remember him, however, as the wrestling coach at Northampton.  His teams won eight straight EPC titles; three MVC championships; five District dual meet titles; and six state team titles.   He was named coach of the year a total of 12 times by three different groups.

Speaking of intense coaches, Dick Schmidt ranks right up there.  He coached at Dieruff for 15 years and switched to coaching the Bethlehem Catholic girls for eight years.  He won at both places – in one, four-year stretch at Dieruff, his teams won four consecutive EPC titles and four consecutive District titles making it to the PIAA semifinals twice.  He went on to win four District titles with the Beca girls.

I was very familiar with some of the others even though they were not part of  television coverage – Chanelle Price, a track star at Easton and Tennessee; Jack Wabby, a 19-year chairman of the District XI: and Betsy Wilson, the First Lady of District XI female athletics.

The District XI Hall of Fame was a long time coming, but much needed.  Whitehall Athletic Director Bob Hartman deserves much of the credit for getting it all started.  The good news is we have just scratched the surface of those who deserve admission to this prestigious group.  Certainly, there are many, many more to come.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. How about the atmosphere at State College on Saturday night? The “white-out” was extremely impressive and the football game was equally thrilling.  A dropped pass in the end zone by a Michigan wide receiver would have tied the game.  Penn State has moved into the #6 spot in the national polls.  Michigan State is next.  Ohio State is November 23. 
  1. Have you watched Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers this year? He and Tom Brady are the calmest quarterbacks in the pocket you will ever see.  They are so experienced it is as if they know exactly where the onrushing defensive players are all the time.  Rodgers threw for five TDs on Sunday and ran for one.  Some players are worth every penny the team pays them. 
  1. Baseball needs to find a way to shorten the games, particularly in the post season. It was not unusual for the YankeesAstros to go four hours or more in what should have been a riveting series for the television viewer.  It is hard to convince any fan to set aside 4-5 hours to watch a baseball game.  The sad part is the games were outstanding, but how many missed the end? 
  1. The Eagles are fortunate that they are in the NFC East. The Giants and the Redskins are not good so the race will be between the Cowboys and the Philadelphia.  Even though the Cowboys outplayed them badly on Sunday night, there are plenty of games left.  Dallas has a bye this week while the Eagles take on the 5-1 Bills.  This might just be a “must win”. 
  1. Emmaus travels to Parkland on Friday and RCN-TV will bring the game across the state on PCN. The game will be broadcast LIVE at 7:00PM.  That game will be followed by the Easton-Nazareth match-up at 9:30PM.  A Nazareth win and they will be the EPC South Division champs.

Lafayette takes on Bucknell on Saturday at 3:30PM.  Then, it’s Freedom-Liberty for bragging rights in Bethlehem.  Tune in at 7:00PM.


GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 10-4)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 71-33-1  68%)
 

MINNESOTA

DETROIT

TENNESSEE

CHICAGO

SEATTLE

JACKSONVILLE

BUFFALO

RAMS

NEW ORLEANS

HOUSTON

SAN FRANCISCO

INDIANAPOLIS

NEW ENGLAND

 GREEN BAY

PITTSBURGH