Run For the Roses/Dollars

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.

Let me preface my blog by saying I DID NOT bet on the Kentucky Derby.  Also, I have never placed a bet on any online betting site.  Suffice it to say, it is not because I am unaware of how to do it.  How could I be?  Is it my imagination or is every other commercial on TV these days an enticement to get you to gamble online?  The ads make it look so easy.

Draftking, Parx Casino, Fanduel, BetMGM, and BetRivers are just some of the sportsbooks available to anyone who wants to place a bet from the comfort of their couch.  This practice has always sounded very, very dangerous to me.  Since gambling is both fun and adrenalin-pumping, doing it on my phone and in my house seems as easy as grabbing some beverage and chips.  I do not believe either activity is good for you.

This Saturday, like millions of others, I watched the “run for the roses” – the Kentucky Derby.  A once-a-year horse race, obviously the most popular in the US, is the perfect enticement for an average person to lay down a few dollars just to create a bit more interest.  Known as “the fastest two minutes in sports” and costing just $2 to place a bet, it is the perfect combination to watch the race, get your heart pumping, and scream at your TV as the horses come down the home stretch.

I can also assume it is a mecca for gamblers.  Take the case of Jim McIngvale who is the founder of Gallery Furniture and known as “Mattress Mack”.  He placed $2.4 million on Essential Quality to win the race.  Essential Quality was the favorite with 3-1 odds.  Ironically, it was the massive wager by McIngvale that created the low odds.  His reasoning for such a large bet was because he had offered to a free mattress to any of his customers who purchased a $3,000 or more mattress if his horse won.  His horse did not win.  In fact, the horse did not even finish in the money – Essential Quality was fourth.

Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby.  The horse was a big underdog at 12-1 odds.  If you bet $2 on him, you would have won $26.20.  If “Mattress Mack” would have bet on that horse with similar odds (even though I know the odds would have been less with his money on the horse), he stood to win $14.4 million.

Medina Spirit was a great story.  He was a huge underdog, took the lead from the very beginning (normally a sure sign that the horse would lose), and held on to the very end.  That’s right – wire to wire.  It was trainer Bob Baffert’s seventh Derby winner, the most of any trainer in the 147-year history of the race.  Baffert was honest afterward that he never thought his horse would win.  The story gets better when you realize the horse was purchased for around $1,000 and sold to the current owner for $35,000.  By winning the Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit won $1.86 million.

That is a lot of roses!!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The Eagles appear to have had a good draft. They got a quality wide receiver, offensive lineman, a cornerback, a running back, a defensive tackle, and a defensive end.  By position, these were necessary picks – let’s hope that the personnel filling those spots prove to be worthy.
  1. If the trend continues, the Phillies can win or lose half their games and still finish in first place in the National League East. As I write this, they are 13-13 and currently in first place.  That seems like a rather low bar to me.
  1. As I write this, the 76ers have nine games left in the regular season (72 games this year as opposed to the normal 82). They are ½ game behind the Brooklyn Nets.  Winning the division could prove to be huge.  They do not play the Nets again.
  1. Congratulations to Jevin Muniz, Brendan Boyle, Tyson Thomas, and Liam Joyce. All were named to the Pennsylvania All-State basketball first team.  Central Catholic coach Dennis Csensits was named Coach of the Year.  This is exceptional representation from our area.
  1. I will be attending a press conference this week concerning tickets for the US Senior Open for 2022 at the Saucon Valley Country Club. The dates are June 20-26, 2022. Hopefully, we should be able to enjoy this great event with no restrictions.  Mark your calendar.

My Draft

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.

Did you know there are many definitions of the word “draft”?  It’s a preliminary version of a piece of writing; compulsory recruitment for military service; a beer drawn from a keg; a current of cool air in a room; and, finally, a group or individual selected from a larger group.  As you may have surmised, I have been thinking about the word “draft” a great deal the past week – the “selection” kind.

My last blog was about Lafayette’s Natalie Kucowski being “draft”ed by the WNBA as the 35th choice overall in the nation.  This week on Thursday, all NFL fans are aware that there will be an NFL “draft”.  Then, there is the NBA “draft” and the MLB “draft”.  And as I sit here in my office with an open window, I feel a “draft” (okay, I’ve gone too far).

I bring this up (again) because I think it must be both exciting and nerve-wracking to be a general manager and owner when it comes time for your team’s draft.  There are so many talented players to choose from and there will be plenty of criticism when you make your choices.  You know, everybody has an opinion.

With that in mind, I decided to make myself the General Manager of the Lehigh Valley High School basketball draft.  There, obviously, is no such thing, but this is my blog and I can do what I want.  If I had five picks to start my team from this year’s crop of players that I had a chance to see this year, then here are my choices by position (in no particular order);

CENTER – Christian Fermin – 6’9” Junior – Pocono Mountain West

Every great team needs a center and a big one is even better. Christian had great numbers (17.5 points; 12 rebounds; 6.8 blocks) and is being highly recruited by multiple Division I programs.

FORWARD – Jevin Muniz – 6”3” Senior – Executive Education Academy

1,512 career points says most of it, but not all.  He was both the VIA and Morning Call player of the Year.  Who am I to doubt those experts?  He has my pick.

FORWARD – Nick Coval – 6’1” Freshman – Parkland

I know he is not truly a forward, but he has such great range (41-3’s at 42% in a shortened season); rebounds like a forward; passes like a guard; and was one of three MVPs in the EPC.  Plus, he has such great basketball IQ that I figure I could play him anywhere.

GUARD – Nate Ellis – 5’9” Junior – Allen

Nate became a 1,000 point scorer this year, becoming only the second Allen player in history to accomplish that feat before being a senior (and this was a shortened season).  He averaged 17.3 points a game.  He led Allen to three titles in his three years.  He, too, was an EPC MVP.

GUARD – Tyson Thomas – 6’1” Junior – Central Catholic

Another co-MVP in the EPC, Tyson led his team to a PIAA state championship title.  He averaged 15.5 points a game, while running the Central offense.  The ball was in his hands for the winning basket in the 41-40 state championship win over Hickory.

I know there were other very talented players and I know there will be differing opinions about my choices, but I am the mythical GM here.  Argue amongst yourself.  Now, if I drank beer, I would go have a “draft”.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The news came out this week that Bethlehem Catholic’s Taliyah Medina will transfer from Villanova to Lafayette College to play basketball this coming season. She was the 2020 Pennsylvania Player of the Year in 4A.  Taliyah was All-State in both her sophomore and senior years, after being injured her junior season.  Her teams won two state titles.  I can’t wait to see her in a Leopard uniform.
  1. So who will the Eagles pick in the draft this week? They certainly need an outstanding wide receiver (Jeffery and Jackson are gone).  I like Jalen Hurts at quarterback so I do not think there is a critical need there.  The defense needs some shoring up.  A solid linebacker would help.  We’ll find out this week.
  1. Many experts believe that three quarterbacks will be the first three players selected in the NFL draft on Thursday – Trevor Lawrence by Jacksonville, Zach Wilson by the Jets, and Justin Fields or Mac Jones by the 49ers. The first non-QB will be TE Kyle Pitts or OL Penei Sewell.  The most interesting part of the draft will be the trades that allow teams to move up the board.
  1. When you throw a no-hitter for a team that has never had one in their 50+ years of existence, there are rewards. The San Diego Padres’ pitcher, Joe Musgrove, did just that and in his hometown.  He went to high school in San Diego.  He now has been promised free beer for life at Point brewing and free sandwiches for life at two San Diego restaurants.  The no-hitter also significantly helped his parents’ coffee shop business located just outside San Diego.  He’ll probably get free drinks there.
  1. Finally, on a personal note, I am writing this blog on Sunday, April 25. That happens to be my 75th  I can’t believe it either!

Koo-Kowl-Ski!

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.

Read the title with emphasis, please!  That’s the way I would announce her name when Natalie would do something spectacular in a game.  I said it that way often in the past four years (3.4 years since the coronavirus cut this year short by 60%).  I am talking about Natalie Kucowski of the Lafayette women’s basketball team.

I was able to scream it to myself once again this week when she accomplished something no other women’s basketball player in Lafayette history could.  She is the first to be drafted by the WNBA, the women’s equivalent to the men’s NBA.  With the 35th pick (that’s right – the 35th player chosen in the entire nation), Natalie was selected by the Seattle Storm.  Seattle is the team that has won four WNBA titles.

Despite Natalie’s accomplishments, this came as a shock.  It was not because I did not think she was talented enough for it to happen.  After all, she became the 4th leading scorer in Lafayette history in a season shortened by 16 or more games this year.  Based on her 2020-21 average, she would have ended up #2 had the Leopards played a full season.  The same goes for points in a single season.  She moved to #2 all-time in career scoring average.  Natalie led the team in scoring all four years.

She could, also, rebound!  Boy, could she rebound – better than anyone at Lafayette and better than anyone in Patriot League history.  She finished with 1197 rebounds, led the team all four years, and became the first Lafayette player to score over 1,000 (1415) points and garner over 1,000 rebounds.

And… yes, there is more – Natalie was named the PL Player of the Year and PL Defensive Player of the Year (for the second consecutive year).  Only one other player in PL history has earned both awards in the same season.

So, you ask, why am I so shocked?  It is because she went to Lafayette.  This is not to be a negative comment about Lafayette basketball.  It is more about praising Lafayette’s academic programs.  Students and athletes go to Lafayette for the education – one of the best in the nation.  Natalie would attest to that.  She did not choose what we used to call “cake” courses – easy classes that athletes would take to lessen the challenge of playing college and navigating the rigors of college learning.  Natalie majored in Chemical Engineering at Lafayette and excelled.  I am fairly certain when she stepped on campus as a freshman back in 2017, her career plans centered

around engineering.  She came with the expectation that playing the game she loved would help her reach her vocational goals.

Natalie’s life is going to change in the next few months – she will graduate from Lafayette, leave her parents, Kenneth and Kathleen and siblings Anthony and Charlotte, and “head west, young woman”.  Life and basketball have taken her from Philadelphia to Seattle via Lafayette College and Easton, PA.  It is a “road less traveled by” (and in this case, never).

I wish Natalie the very best.  I have thoroughly enjoyed watching her development at Lafayette, as a player and as a person.  And now, I will spend some time following her career in the WNBA.

I am hoping to sit on my couch and scream, “Koo-Kowl-Ski” a few more times – for old times’ sake! 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Speaking of Patriot League basketball players, former Lehigh great, CJ McCollum, continues to play at the highest level for the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers. He is averaging 23.4 points a game and scored 29 points this past Friday.  He was the 10th pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
  1. The 76ers’ Joel Embiid is back and advancing his place in the MVP category. This past Friday night, he scored 36 points and had 14 rebounds.  The Sixers beat the LA Clippers, who had won seven straight – 106-103.  When Embiid is healthy, he is as dominant as anyone in the league.
  1. I know the NFL is still five months away, but the gambling houses are already taking bets on your team’s over/under win totals. In other words, they predict the win total and you bet on whether your choice will win more or less games.  If the team wins the predicted total, you lose.  The Eagles and Giants are picked to win seven games, the Washington Football Team eight and the Dallas Cowboys nine.  Wanna bet?
  1. It’s nice to see the high school baseball season is moving along rather smoothly so far. Playoffs have been scheduled and postponements have primarily been weather-related and NOT Covid-related.  It’s nice to be outdoors.
  1. My buddy and co-announcer, John Leone, received the best and worst possible gift from his children recently – golf lessons! Oh, make no mistake, he needed them, but everyone from the professional to the hacker can attest to the fact that changing your golf swing can be catastrophic for awhile.  John shot the highest score in the history of our golf league this past week.  He had a lesson!

A “Vent” Needs a Fan

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 wife and I are usually on vacation around this time.  March has ended and, so too, the basketball season.  May offers up the high school baseball playoffs – leagues and districts.  April is normally the perfect time to get away.  I get to spend more time at home and we get to enjoy some quality time together.  It is also the perfect time to bring in a guest blogger.

Well, my wife and I are NOT vacationing quite yet due to you know what, and we may be overdoing the “quality time” a bit for the same reason, but, like other Aprils, there is a guest blogger ready to unload and vent.

John Leone helps me out every year with a “Guest Blog” while I am away.  He volunteered to do it again because he wanted to get something off his chest.  Who am I to deprive him of the opportunity?  In the interest of John’s mental health, here is his blog:

Baseball is back and we are thrilled, right? Ahhh, the sights and sounds of spring. The crack of the bat and the chatter of vendors creatively barking out the irresistible lure of their wares. I was feeling great – until about the third inning of the second game.  

Everything was green again and hope sprang eternal, as they say. Well, almost and for only some. You see, I am a Pittsburgh Pirate fan – hopelessly and forever attached to a small market team, a bond formed many, many years ago and well before I was old enough to know better.  

So what is wrong with baseball? Where to begin! Full disclosure – I absolutely love the game. And I always will. But my devotion to a team that needs to – almost literally- catch lightning in a bottle to win in the long run, tests the limits of my loyalty.  

As baseball injects itself – misguidedly, I believe – into politics, the irony is unmistakable.  

Talk about an income gap! The rich get richer and the poor get another top-of-the-first-round-draft pick – a bonus baby who will take an average of five years to make it to the majors. And only then, the rising star will have a brief stay in Pittsburgh (or a similar city) to further hone his skills. When he is at his major league-ready optimum, he’ll invariably sign with New York (or a similar franchise).  

Joe Musgrove pitched a no-hitter for San Diego last night, adding insult to injury once again for fans of The Bucs. He should still be in Pittsburgh. Major League Baseball is peppered with names of others like him – all now with big market contenders, purchased or “pirated” from the likes of The Tigers, The Reds, The Orioles, The Mariners, and so on.  

I’m not talking about engineering equality of outcomes. This is purely about creating equality of opportunity. Whatever the issues are with the NFL, they’ve gotten one thing right. Salary caps and rules that level the competitive field seem to be working. I have no idea whether those in the front office of The Pirates know what they’re doing or not. How could I? Their resources limit them to acting as a mere developmental program for teams with deeper pockets and a willing ownership.  

The debate continues. I’ve even heard the ridiculous suggestion that franchises from smaller markets be eliminated! So much for “The National Pastime”!! Then again, cancelling things seems to have permeated the culture to a disturbing degree these days. I’d rather fix things. But let’s not go there now.  

To be sure, the game has evolved and on the whole, probably for the better. But I’m reminded of baseball’s lovable Cub, the great Ernie Banks, who once famously said, “It’s a beautiful day, let’s play two.” Doubleheaders are largely a thing of those forgone days, but for those of us caught in the quagmire of fandom for a small market team, “make mine a double” is probably more apropos.   

So, set ‘em up, Joe. First pitch is at 6:35pm tonight at PNC Park and, woe is me, I’ll be tuned in.

I hope John feels better!!  

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Even though it was April and even though there were about 12,000 fewer fans in the stands, and even though I had to announce the game from the RCN-TV studio, the 156th LafayetteLehigh rivalry game was still played at the highest level, generating the same kind of on-field intensity. I commend both head coaches, their staffs, and the players for their effort to make it feel like November.  Lafayette won 20-13 as the game appropriately was not decided until the final play.  It felt really good to be a part of this rivalry once again, even remotely.
  1. It was certainly an exciting day for Japan on Sunday when Hideki Matsuyama won the Masters to become the first Japanese male to do so. However, as a spectator, I did not find yesterday scintillating television.  No one made a move to create great interest and tension.  It all came to an end when Xander Schauffle hit his ball into the water and triple-bogeyed the 16th.  The finish was guaranteed at that point.
  1. The Phillies looked more like the Phillies this week – bullpen problems and defensive gaffes had them lose two straight and go 0-2 away from home. They were 5-1 at home to start the season.  Anxious to see if they are still in first place after this week.
  1. Speaking of 1st place, the 76ers are currently tied with the Brooklyn Nets in the Atlantic Division. The two teams play this week and both Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid are back from injuries.  I may just turn my attention to the NBA.
  1. Our golf league started this week and it felt great to tee it up and hit the ball – a bit too often for my liking, however. Don’t call me after 4:30pm on Wednesdays.  I’m busy trying to save a double bogey!

Basketball at Its Best

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 hope you had a chance to watch the GonzagaUCLA NCAA March Madness semifinal game.  It was simply basketball at its best.

It featured what appeared on paper to be David vs. Goliath.  UCLA came into the tournament seeded 11th, but they still had to play Michigan State in the “play-in” game just to get into the top 64 in the bracketing.  They had lost their last four games of the regular season.  No one had high expectations for the Bruins.  They beat Michigan State in overtime.

Then they needed to beat the #5 seed BYU – they did that 73-62.  They had no trouble in the second round knocking off Abilene Christian by 20 points.  But now the mountain to climb became very high.

On to #2 seed Alabama and another upset and overtime win 88-78.  The Bruins scored 23 points in a five-minute overtime period.

In the Regional final, they would face the #1 seed, Michigan.  They won that one too – 51-49 to get to the national semifinal.  David didn’t prevail over Goliath once; UCLA did it three times!

The next Goliath, I mean Gonzaga, took a totally different route to the semis.   They won easily by an average of 24 points!  Going into the semis they had won 30 straight games this season (34 in a row); been ranked #1 in the country the entire year and won every game but one by double digits.  They appeared to be invincible and, in fact, had been all season.

However, in sports, nothing is guaranteed.  As the cliché goes, “That’s why you play the game”.  And play they did!  UCLA vs. Gonzaga was a game no true fan who saw it will forget it.

It was basketball at its best.  The pace was almost incomprehensible.  It appeared no one got tired.  The skill level of both individuals and the teams as a unit was breathtaking.  The game was close throughout and that’s an understatement – there were 19 lead changes!  UCLA had led by as many as six and Gonzaga by as many as seven.  Yet it still could not be decided in the 40 minutes of allotted time.  Justifiably, it had to go overtime.

And that led to the shot!  With 3.3 seconds on the clock and the game tied at 90-90, Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs dribbled past mid-court, shot the ball from 55 feet away, banked it off the glass as the buzzer sounded and the ball raced into the net, never touching the rim.  93-90 Gonzaga over UCLA.  It was the perfect finish (except for UCLA) to what was a perfect game.  It was college basketball at its very, very best.

And, yet, there is still the championship game to be played, which, in itself, is a perfect ending to an imperfect season – #1 Gonzaga vs. #2 Baylor.  It is the first time since 2005 the two top teams in the 68-team tournament face each other for the national championship.

It will be hard to top the semifinal, but this one could be equally as good.

So don’t bother me on Monday night.  I will be in front of the TV watching basketball, hopefully, again at its very best!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Finishing up with March Madness, let’s not forget the Patriot League’s Colgate Raiders, seeded #14 in the tournament, led Arkansas for quite awhile in the first half. It was a good showing and the last game for League MVP Jordan Burns.  Other PL teams will not miss him.
  1. Notre Dame wrestler Brett Ungar (143-5) competed this past weekend at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic. The 120-pounder took on the #1 ranked wrestler in the country, Richard Figuero (123-2).  Ungar won 5-2. Ungar had recently won the PIAA 2A title.  He now can claim to be the best 120-pound wrestler in the country.
  1. Are you aware that the 76ers are 20-4 at home going into Sunday’s game? They lead the Eastern Conference and have played 11 games without their star, Joel Embiid.  Doc Rivers looks like the Coach of the Year to this point, but there is a long way to go.
  1. I do not want to get too excited, but the Phillies look like a much better team than last year.  The most observable difference is their bullpen which was awful in 2020.  So far, there has been excellent starting pitching, timely hitting, and outstanding relief pitching.  That is a true formula for success.
  1. Lafayette finally gets to host Lehigh this weekend as the two teams will play for the 156th time in college football’s most played rivalry. The game was postponed from this past weekend due to Covid protocols on the Lafayette team.  Both Lafayette and Lehigh will complete their shortened season having played three of the four games scheduled.  Watch the game LIVE on RCN-TV this Saturday, April 10, starting at 12:30pm.

Baseball (Yawn)

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 grew up loving baseball.  I played Little League, teeners, high school, Legion, college, Blue Mountain League and, finally, succumbed to the “rigors” of slow-pitch softball.

My grandfather’s job gave him access to great seats at Phillies games played at Connie Mack Stadium and I would be crazy with excitement when my dad, my grandfather, his boss and I would jump in the car and head to a Phillies game.  I always brought my glove because our seats were so close to the action that I could envision a foul ball coming my way or even a player tossing me a ball that was no longer usable.

Often, we would be right next to the opponents’ dugout and we actually talked to players before the game.  Add to that, my grandfathers’ boss had a Cadillac with leather interior, power windows, and something called “cruise control”.  Even the trip to and from was exciting.  For a young boy, it just couldn’t get any better.  When we arrived back home, I just wanted to play catch with my dad and just prolong the day.  The fact that it was usually around 11 PM curtailed all of my dad’s desire to cooperate.  To me, this was a perfect day.

But something happened to the game.  I no longer have ANY desire to take three hours (3:07 was the average length of a major league game last year) out of a day to watch baseball.  It appears, according to attendance and viewership statistics, many people feel the same way.  What happened?

The game changed.  Today, it is a game of strikeouts, long balls, pitching changes, unfair defense, and little action.  Batters cannot get into or stay in the batter’s box; pitchers take forever to throw the ball; strategy has been taken over by computers (I’m sick of the word “analytics”); fielders overload one side of second base making even a base hit that much more difficult; the excitement of a real close play is diminished by instant replay.  Did you know that nearly four of every 10 plate appearances ends with the baseball never being put into play?  It just is not the same game.  And everyone knows it!

I think I write every year that changes are coming, but few ever make it to the majors.  Here are some changes being proposed – most for the minor leagues only, which I, also, have pretty much never watched:

  • Automated ball-strike calls
  • Restrictions on a pitcher throwing to first base
  • Increasing the size of the bases by three inches
  • In fielders must keep both feet on the infield dirt
  • Two infielders must be on either side of second base
  • Putting a runner on second base to start an extra inning

Again, these changes will occur in the minor leagues.  The majors, for now, will not be affected.

So forgive me if when the cry is given to “Play ball!”, I will, at best, watch some late innings to catch the outcome because too much of the “play” part is left out of the game.  And, if that doesn’t change, I will continue to, also, be left out of the game – a game I once loved!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Congratulations to the Allentown Central Catholic Vikings for winning a PIAA 4A basketball championship on Thursday night. It was the first Lehigh Valley boys’ basketball title in 35 years.  It wasn’t easy – after leading by 19 in the second half, they found themselves trailing by one with 90 seconds left.  The Vikes scored with 21 seconds left and fought off two Hickory bucket attempts to win 41-40.  Head coach Dennis Csensits, his staff, and team ended the Lehigh Valley drought!
  1. Despite all the upsets and a deplorable office pool, I am really enjoying March Madness. I am in awe of the amount of basketball talent on all these teams.  College football playoffs always seem to have the same teams fighting for the overall championship, but, in contrast, a basket here, a free throw there, a missed call by the officials seems to decide so many games at the very end with so many upsets.  The tournament has been as exciting as ever.
  1. Did the signing of QB Joe Flacco this week excite the Eagles’ fan base? The reaction is probably luke-warm, at best.  He should be able to offer much needed seasoned advice to Jalen Hurts, who now appears to definitely have the job of starting QB.  The Eagles have also through trades really helped their chances to significantly upgrade their draft picks, not this year, but next year.  I guess the best advice for an Eagles’ fan is to be patient, two words that never seem to be used together-“patient fan”.
  1. If you are ready to watch baseball again, the Phillies should make a run at the NL East title, but the competition is very stiff.  Every team in the division, the Mets, Braves, National, and the Marlins have all improved.  This division should be a battle to the end.
  1. Lafayette hosts Lehigh this weekend as the two teams will play for the 156th time in college football’s most played rivalry. The Leopards stumbled badly this week losing 38-13 to Bucknell, but a win over archrival Lehigh brightens up any season, even in the spring.  Watch the game LIVE on RCN-TV this Saturday, April 3, starting at 12:30pm.

Spring Football?

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.

Last Saturday, for the first time since 1882, the Lafayette football team played a regular season game in the spring.  Oh, there has always been spring football, but Lafayette always played Lafayette.  It was a tune-up after weeks of spring practice to gauge where the team was and where they needed to be.

Last week was different.  After 476 days for Lafayette and 483 days for Colgate, the two opponents were going to play a football game.  Ironically, Colgate’s last opponent was also Lafayette.  And about twenty miles away, arch-rival Lehigh would take on Holy Cross to “open” their Patriot League season.  As you might expect, during the Covid era, one game – Fordham vs. Bucknell had to be postponed.

Lafayette had lost five straight to Colgate and had not even scored a point against the Raiders in the last three games.  Besides playing an actual Patriot League game in the spring, this game would be different.  Not only did Lafayette score, they scored first and second and won the game 24-10.  The Leopards looked like they were going to make the best of the season and, perhaps, challenge for the Patriot League title, even though only four games would be played.  There was a championship game scheduled for April 17.

Game two was to be against Bucknell.  On Wednesday, due to Covid circumstances (this time on the Lafayette campus), the Saturday game was postponed.  It turns out, by Wednesday afternoon, both the Lehigh-Colgate and the Fordham-Holy Cross games would also be postponed.  In other words, by week two, the entire second weekend schedule had been scrapped.

The Patriot League foresaw that there might be problems and had inserted a make-up week in the schedule.  The emphasis here is on “make-up week”, not weeks.  Fordham and Bucknell had already missed two weeks.  What happens now?  I can only surmise that teams will try to play their divisional opponents first.  In Lafayette’s case, that means they need to play Bucknell and Lehigh.  Does a four-game schedule become a three-game schedule?

And there is a Lehigh game.  It is scheduled for April 3.  It would be the 156th meeting between the schools and continue their series as “college football’s most played rivalry”.  If Lafayette and Lehigh are going to play any game, it would most certainly be this one.

Lafayette is scheduled to play Fordham this Saturday in New York at 1:00pm.  Will they?  You have to wait until Wednesday – that is Covid testing day, which has become, for the football teams, the most important day of the week.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Lafayette College grad Beth Mowins was the main announcer for the Cubs’ spring training game this past Saturday. She will call her first regular season game for the Cubs on May 8.  She will announce a select number of regular season games for the Cubs, filling in for their main announcer.  Beth has been a part of a number of firsts for female announcers in her career at CBS and ESPN.
  1. Who had the better feeling on Sunday, the winning coach or the winning coach’s son? The Hall of Fame coach got to his 20th Sweet Sixteen win behind his son’s 25 points.  Buddy Boeheim continued his great season under his father, Jim, as #11 seed Syracuse upset #3 seed West Virginia.  Father praised son and son praised father, as it should be.
  1. The Central Catholic boys had the comeback of the year on Friday night when they trailed by 17 points to Archbishop Carroll, a Philadelphia Catholic district champion. Central, behind Tyson Thomas, outscored AR 33-12 the rest of the way to pull out a 55-51 win.  The win carries them to this week’s semifinal and, hopefully, the state championship game on Thursday.
  1. The issue of athletes being paid for their services continues to be a major focus of college athletes.  The hashtag  #NotNCAAProperty is gaining momentum as the NCAA basketball tournament unfolds with the organization collecting billions of dollars for the television rights.  This issue will not go away.
  1. Who hasn’t ripped up their NCAA bracket sheet? With the way the past year has gone, did you expect anything different?

Not Normal, But Closer

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.

Last year, March was far from normal.  One year ago, this week, the RCNTV crew was at Martz Hall for the FreedomReading state playoff game.  During the game, we heard that March Madness had been canceled and at the final buzzer of our game, everyone in the press box looked at one another and came to the conclusion that we had done our final basketball game for this year.  We never thought that would include the rest of the high school athletic season.

Here we are in March of the following year.  For me, March is all about sports.  There are the wrestling championships in Hershey, the District basketball championships, the state basketball playoffs, and the Patriot League basketball tournament.

It is the busiest time of the year, but also the best.  More importantly, this past week felt almost normal.  The basketball playoffs were held (even that is an important statement) at the PPL Center and we were there to cover them just like years past.  We had two games on Monday, three games on Tuesday, and four games on Thursday.  We watched, described, and congratulated seven championship teams.

We saw the Central and Allen boys’ teams win their 20th district championship.  The Bangor boys won their first District title in 33 years and the Executive Education Academy won for the third consecutive year (every year since their founding).

On the girls’ side, Nazareth won for the second straight year; Bethlehem Catholic won for the fifth year in a row; Central Catholic won for the first time since 2012 when they had won for 13 straight years; and the Notre Dame girls won for the second time in the last three years.

It all sounds pretty normal, right?  Especially in the Covid era.  And it was – great competition at a great venue.  There was even a sprinkling of fans allowed to watch the games LIVE at the PPL Center, primarily family and some students.

Congratulations are in order for the players, coaches, administrators, and organizers for a job well done.

And then, to top off the week, we sprinkled it a bit of abnormality.  On Saturday, on a beautiful fall-like Saturday afternoon, the Lafayette football team took the field to play their first game in 476 days.  Lafayette has been playing football since 1882.  They had never played a meaningful football game in the spring.

Their opponent, Colgate, had not played for 483 days.  Ironically, Colgate’s last game was against Lafayette on November 16, 2019.  Colgate had beaten Lafayette five years in a row, but this past Saturday, the Leopards won 21-10.  They will play three more games in the next three weeks, if Covid stays away.  One game, of the three scheduled this week in the Patriot League, was postponed due to Covid protocols.  Let’s hope that the season gets played in its entirety.

With vaccinations, social distancing, and mask-wearing, it appears we are slowly moving towards the life we remember.  Normal?  Probably not the same, but right now, March is beginning to look a little bit like…oh, I don’t know – March?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. So you are not surprised, the state basketball playoffs this year will be significantly reduced. The playoffs will only have the District champions participating.  The number of playoff participants was significantly reduced due to the pandemic. In the past, many districts would have multiple teams in the state brackets.  Not this year.  Champions will be crowned the weekend of March 26 and 27.
  1. Speaking of championships, there was a time when I would bring the District swimming finals; I vividly remember the first time I was asked to do it. I had never seen a swim meet, so I wore my customary coat and tie to the event, not knowing that a natatorium is much like a sauna.  In addition, I was positioned at the highest point in the venue, which is, also, the hottest.  I think I lost about twenty pounds that day.  I never dressed up for that event again (nor did I ever lose twenty pounds again).
  1. The Phillies home opener is April 1 vs. the Braves. Approximately 8,600 fans will be allowed to attend the games at Citizens Bank Park.  There will be seating pods of two, three, or four people and limited groups of five or six.  Only the first 19 games will be available for now.
  1. I wish you all well in your NCAA pool.  The brackets came out this weekend.  This is the time of the year I usually am embarrassed by the RCN office staff, particularly the women, who somehow end up beating, berating and belittling me.  It’s all in fun (I keep telling myself that).
  1. PIAA state basketball playoffs begin this week. We will bring as many games as we can, considering the Covid protocols we have put into place.  Check our website for dates and times of the games.

Two Months in One

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.

February is Black History Month.  March is Women’s History Month.  Both months “commemorate and encourage the study, observance, and celebration of the vital role of blacks and women in American history”.

In February, I interviewed Lafayette graduate Kyara Gray-Uqdah, class of 2011, who embodies what both February and March are about.  She is both a successful entrepreneur and a champion of fairness and equality for the black community in Baltimore.

Here is her story.  The interview begins at 4:52.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdXMg7rhhFY

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. On Friday night, Chris Michael and John Leone were broadcasting the CentralWilson district basketball playoff game. Central won rather easily, but the best story came at the very end when a 4-year manager and beloved member of the Wilson team wore a uniform for the first time.  Izayah Close was put in at the end of the game and, after missing a shot, he got the ball back and made a jumper from the foul line.  Both teams celebrated the special moment.  No one could miss the smile on the face of Zay.  Central won the game, but no one lost that night.  We will replay the moment next week during championship week.
  1. The 76ers’ Joel Embiid, who is certainly making a huge contribution to the success of the 76ers this year, made a big contribution this week outside of basketball. He will donate $100,000 (his cut from the NBA All-Star game) to several homeless shelters in Philadelphia.  The 76ers ownership matched that contribution to the same groups.  The donations will provide 15,000 meals; 4,000 essential clothing items; care and treatment for 1,000 homeless people receiving COVID-19 vaccines; support for more than 30 previously homeless families; funding for a six-week summer camp for more than 50 homeless and at-risk youth; and shelter and essential needs for over 300 teens facing either homelessness or home insecurity.”
  1. The District basketball brackets came out on Saturday amid some surprises. Both the Easton girls and Easton boys opted out of the playoffs.  Both had very good records – the girls were 7-2 and the boys were also 7-2.  Both would have been seeded quite high.  The Stroudsburg girls team also declined to play.  Covid continues to rear its ugly head.
  1. One note on the Eagles – they are looking for and in need of a talented wide receiver. Experience at the position in the NFL would, obviously be a big asset.  If the Eagles want Jalen Hurts to be successful, he will need help at that position.  Look for a signing soon.
  1. The District basketball championships will be decided this week at the PPL Center. We will have high school games on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.  On Saturday, Lafayette will play football against Colgate to start their 4-game spring football schedule.  The game starts at 3:30pm.  RCN-TV will bring the games to you.

I Tried

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.

When I wrote my “New Year’s resolution” blog, one of my goals was to not ask the question, “What’s for dinner?”  I truly understood how difficult and irritating it must be to come up with something to eat EVERY single night.

Since writing that, I have discovered this is almost a universal irritant for both sexes – most men really look forward to eating a good meal and most spouses hate to constantly have that responsibility.  Therefore, I sought a solution.

There are many complete meal services out there.  They deliver a set number of meals every week.  Some just send the ingredients and preparation instructions; others send complete meals with microwave instructions.  I chose to try the latter.  I will not give the company name for reasons that will become obvious.

I placed an order for six meals to be delivered on February 1.  That would take care of three dinners for the two of us that week.  You use their packaging; pop the dinners in the microwave for three minutes; let it sit for two minutes and eat.  No fuss and no muss – perfect!

On Monday, February 1, we had a major snowstorm.  I was informed that our meals would not arrive until the following day due to road conditions.  I understood the problem.  They credited my account for $10.50 and apologized.

On Tuesday, February 2, I received word that our meals would not be delivered that day either.  Again, the problem was weather-related.

On Wednesday, February 3, via email, we were asked to pick out our meals for the following week.  I called customer service to explain that we still had not been able to try our first order and that I was apprehensive to order again until I was satisfied that this was a good idea.  They understood and put us on “Pause” for the following week.

Later that day, just before dinner, our six meals arrived.  We were excited to open the package and dine.  We did and the two meals we chose for that night were quite good.  I then received the following email which said, in part,

“We’re sorry to say we won’t be able to deliver your order in time this week. Because of this delay, your meals will have been unrefrigerated for an amount of time that makes them unsafe to eat. To not further inconvenience you, we have asked the carrier to discard your package, although there’s a chance it will still arrive. If this happens, please dispose of the meals without eating them.”

We certainly could not abide by the “without eating them” part; we had already eaten one.  The other meals looked fine so for the next two days, we ate the rest of them.  We are still alive.  They refunded our money for those meals.

We scheduled our next delivery for Monday, February 15.  They arrived.  The problem this time was that two of the six were meals we did not order.  And, we did not care for the substituted meals at all.  I, again, went on their chat site.  They again apologized, refunded some money and promised to do better.

Monday, February 22, was up next.  We ordered six meals again.  Two emails arrived confirming two separate orders of six meals each!  Twelve meals were scheduled to arrive on February 22.  Back to the chat room I went, explaining that I had only ordered six meals.  They said I had been assigned two memberships and they chose the other six meals for me.  I saw they had billed me twice and they promised to credit my account.  I said I would accept the meals we had ordered.

At that point, I canceled my subscription.  Or should I say, subscriptions, since they sent me two emails to say Goodbye for now

On Monday, February 22, our meals arrived – not six, but 12!!  Two that I had ordered, but the steak dinners were not included.

I wanted desperately to make life a bit easier for my wife.  It did not work out.

No one can say that I didn’t try.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. As the Phillies and MLB starts their spring training, it is apparent that the Phils find themselves in one of, if not, the toughest division in baseball – the NL East. The Mets are revamped under new ownership; the Braves are the defending champs; the Washington Nationals won the World Series two years ago; and the Miami Marlins made the postseason last year.  All five teams look like contenders.
  1. The 76ers’ Joel Embiid scored 42 points in a game this week against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is averaging 30 points a game and 11.4 rebounds.  If he stays healthy, along with Ben Simmons, the Sixers should contend for a championship.
  1. The District basketball brackets came out on Saturday amid some surprises. Both the Easton girls and Easton boys opted out of the playoffs.  Both had very good records – the girls were 7-2 and the boys were also 7-2.  Both would have been seeded quite high.  The Stroudsburg girls team also declined to play.  Covid continues to rear its ugly head.
  1. The Colonial League opted to have basketball championships this year, even though the EPC decide against it. The Colonial League crowned the Northwestern girls and the Bangor boys after their wins on Friday night.  Congratulations on not only winning the title, but maintaining Covid protocols that allowed your teams to play.
  1. The District basketball tournament begins this week with Pigtail and quarterfinal rounds. We will have high school games on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  On Saturday, the Patriot League playoffs begin.  The Lafayette men play on Saturday in a quarterfinal game.  RCN-TV will bring the games to you.