Behind the Mic: America’s Guest (The Saga Continues)

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.

In my previous blog, I spoke of having played seven of the top 20 golf courses in Pennsylvania.  The caveat of doing that was that I had not paid to play any of them.  Due to RCN, Lafayette, and a couple of “Joes”, I had managed to be a guest at all seven.

You can find the courses listed on this site: Golf Magazine’s 20 Best PA Golf Courses and the ones I played on my previous blog.

I bring this up, because on July 2, I was supposed to play my 8th – the Philadelphia Cricket Club, which is #4 on the list.  Once again, this was as a guest.  I was prepared to put another checkmark on my bucket list.  That morning (7:31 AM) I received this e-mail – “There are no carts out today due to the week’s heavy rains.  Any issues or concerns?”

For me, there were both “issues” and “concerns”.  I had no idea if this would be a difficult walk and, at 75, the last thing I wanted to do was hold up my three playing partners, all of whom were much younger and had lower handicaps.  I did not wish to spoil their enjoyment.  As disappointed as I was, I told them to play without me and enjoy the day.

At 8:49 AM, this email arrived: “Good news- Joe bailed us out with a tee time at Saucon/Old Course at 12:30 today.  Let’s meet around noon and hit a few balls.”  This great golf course has been the venue of many PGA events with the Senior Open coming up next year.  I have played it before, but it is a golfing treasure.  Any opportunity to play it is certainly special.  This past Friday was no exception.  The course was in magnificent condition; the golf was good; and the camaraderie and the friendly insults were flying.  It was what a day of golf should be.

More importantly, I continue to be amazed by friendships that offer benefits far beyond my ability to reciprocate.  The best I could do here was to give my hosts Saucon Valley Senior Open golf hats as a token of my appreciation.  Naturally, however, they gifted, not a sleeve of golf balls, but a BOX of golf balls (of course, they were Titleists).  As you can see, it’s hard to balance their generosity.

The final line of the last email said, “I will circulate some alternate Cricket dates and we can reschedule that visit, too.”

In conclusion, I WILL get to play the Philadelphia Cricket Club (#4 on the list of Pennsylvania’s best courses) this summer.

I think you would agree that the early disappointment caused by the “no carts” rule at the Cricket Club was more than overcome by what transpired the rest of that Friday and what is certain to be another memorable round of golf in the future.  I am not sure why I am so fortunate and I am not sure how I will ever repay their generosity, but the list of things I am thankful for is constantly growing – friendships being near the very top of the list.

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

 

  1. Did you watch golf’s The Match – Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson vs. Aaron Rodgers and Bryson DeChambeau? On the second hole, Mickelson made the comment, “We’re not in a rush”.  And they were not.  The round was not good television – little drama, with few great shots by the pros, and much, much too long.  Thank goodness for Aaron Rodgers.  His shots, especially his putts, made for some enjoyment.
  2. It was announced this week that there will be no fans at the Olympics in Tokyo. Does this mean that those who have the rights to broadcast the events are disheartened or secretly smiling?  Now the only way for anyone and everyone to get their Olympic “fix” is by watching the events on television.  And, ironically, it is because of television that the Olympics will go on.  75% of the IOC’s income for the Olympics comes from television rights estimated to be worth $3 to $4 billion.
  3. It has been a long time since I set aside the time to watch the MLB All-Star game and an even longer time set aside for the Home Run Derby. But this Monday and Tuesday, I want to watch because of the LA Angels’ Shohei Ohtani.  He is a two-position All-Star (pitcher and DH) and the modern day Babe Ruth.  He will be in the HR Derby and he will also pitch in the game.  He is worth watching.
  4. Speaking of All-Star games, 50 years ago, the All-Star game featured 22 Hall of Famers – Rod Carew, Brooks Robinson, Luis Aparicio, Frank Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Jackson, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Jim Palmer, Johnny Bench, Willie McCovey, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Willie Stargell, Lou Brock, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Ferguson Jenkins, Juan Marichal and Roberto Clemente, who would sadly be there for the final time. The managers, the Orioles‘ Earl Weaver and the Reds‘ Sparky Anderson, are also in the Hall of Fame. This was the greatest collection of baseball talent on one field ever.

 

 

 

Name, Image, Likeness

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.

In October of 2019, I wrote a blog entitled, “What Happens Now?”  It concerned the battle that student-athletes were waging against the NCAA to have the right to market themselves and share some of the revenue.  That battle is finally coming to the forefront now as soon the courts and legislators will consider this issue.  I wrote then:

The quandary: Today, if you go into any store and buy a jersey, a poster, a mug, etc. with a player’s name, number, or face on it, the team or university derives some sort of royalty for that purchase.  The student-athlete receives nothing.  Obviously, the case can be made that the athlete is, in most cases, receiving a full scholarship and a complete education for his efforts.  Does the athlete deserve more or are they getting enough? 

All students have the ability to work after school hours in order to make some money.  Should we now consider athletes who “work” every day as a member of a team someone who should have the right to make money, if there is a demand for their wares directly associated with the university? 

Sports agents at the college level are often portrayed as sleazy people who sneak around in the shadows of NCAA athletics.  Now, a student-athlete risks everything if they are lured into an illegal arrangement with an agent to gain financial rewards.  Often, these stories center around students who come from poor backgrounds and the lure of financial gain is quite enticing even at the risk of losing eligibility and their scholarship.  Should they now openly be allowed to hire an agent to help them get the best deal for their talent? 

Colleges, universities, and the NCAA make billions of dollars on their product.  Coaches get paid millions at major sports institutions. Shouldn’t the athletes have the opportunity to share in those funds? 

And, finally, will this law make these young people more athlete than student?  Will they spend more time setting up appearances and endorsement opportunities that they spend in the classroom?  Will academics take a back seat to the now legal lure of making as much money as one can in the short time available to a student-athlete?  

These questions still need to be answered, but answers are on the way because the ability for student-athletes to market themselves is coming sooner rather than later.

This past week, the Patriot League and INFLCR entered into a partnership to aid student-athletes in sharing and managing their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL).  The Patriot League became the first NCAA Division I conference to provide league-wide support to their institutions and their student-athletes.  This partnership will provide tools to the student-athletes to manage their brands.

They said, “By providing each Patriot League institution with a department-wide INFLCR Verified solution, the conference is leading from the front and empowering all Patriot League student-athletes to grow their brands and educate themselves on the new opportunities that are coming soon from NIL.”

Granted the Patriot League is not the Big Ten, the SEC, or the Pac-Ten, but theirs is the first step towards fairly giving a student-athlete the opportunity to share in some of the vast amounts of money that fill the coffers of colleges and universities brought on by their athletic programs and, more importantly, by their athletes. In the near future, my original question will also be answered: What happens now?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. It was nice to see the maturity of Jon Rahm come to fruition on Sunday at the U. S. Open. There was a time when his anger over a poor shot would get the best of him.  Something, whether it is marriage, a new baby, or maturity, has caused him to change for the better.  Not only did he win on Sunday, but his interviews afterwards showed him to be very likable.
  1. Oh, those poor Philadelphia fans! Their hopes rested on the 76ers winning an NBA championship and then on Sunday night, those hopes were dashed by Atlanta.  The 76ers were the more talented team and blew big leads in three of their four losses. They managed to lose game 7 at home in front of their people.  This one was hard to take, except for the fact the Philadelphia fans are used to it.  But it still hurts.
  1. Now the attention of the Philadelphia fans turns to watching the Phillies. They show no signs of being able to put together a winning streak to excite their following.  The Flyers had a bad year preceded by a terrible Eagles’ season.  We know what happened to the Sixers.  It does not look like the Phillies can be the cure.
  1. It was great to see a big crowd at the 50th McDonald’s All-Star Football Classic. Fans meant money for this great charity and seemed to inspire the players to play a very entertaining game.  There is nothing better than a beautiful night, sitting outdoors, and experiencing the great efforts of young athletes.  Congratulations to all who were a part of the game.
  1. Speaking of congratulations, Bethlehem Catholic’s and Penn State’s Joe Kovacs is going to the Olympics. He finished second in the shot put at the Olympic Trials this past Friday in Oregon.  Joe is the former gold medalist at the World Championships and a 2016 Olympic silver medalist.

 

Right Place – Right Time

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 are old enough to remember the names of some famous Yankees – Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, and Joe Dimaggio.  Now imagine that Phil Rizzuto is your next door neighbor.  Imagine as a 7-year-old that Phil Rizzuto would take you to the Yankee games and you would ride home with him and Yogi and “Joltin’ Joe”.  That is exactly how the childhood of Lafayette grad Mark Holtzman was spent.

Now imagine that as a 1980 graduate you worked for sports agency, ProServ, went on to Reebok, the NFL, and finally fulfilled your lifelong dream of working for the Yankees.  Yup, that happened to Mark Holtzman, too.

I interviewed Mark this past Thursday on Primetime Pards.  Trust me; he has plenty of stories with a great deal of name-dropping, claiming to always be in the right place at the right time.  I think he also possessed a great deal of marketing skills.  You be the judge:

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The Phillies had three consecutive “walk-off” wins this week and one was against the Yankees. The Phillies win on Saturday was before a crowd of 38,450, the largest since 2019.  Many Yankee fans went home disappointed especially after tying the game in the ninth inning with a 3-run home run.  The Phils beat the Yanks again on Sunday taking the series.
  1. The 76ers have enticed me to watch their NBA games from the opening tip-off. It has been a long, long time since that has occurred.  They play defense, share the ball, and are coached to take advantage of the other team’s weaknesses.  In a nutshell, that is the way basketball should be played.  I expect them to win the Atlanta series and face the Brooklyn Nets next.  I will be watching!
  1. Being an American sports fan, I discovered, to my amazement, that the top two most Google searched sports were Soccer (39%) and Cricket (8%). Basketball, football, and golf rounded out the top five, but those three only accounted for a total of 20% of the searches.  What???
  1. Congratulations to the Central Catholic Viking lacrosse team for being the first District XI team to capture a PIAA state title. On Saturday, they beat undefeated Mars by a 14-5 score to win the AA championship.  Central outscored their opponents in the state playoffs 65-18 and finished with a 23-1 record.
  1. This week features our first Blue Mountain League Game of the Week. The games will be on Tuesday nights LIVE at 6:00pm.  The McDonald’s All-Star Football Classic is on tap Thursday, June 17, at Nazareth’s Andrew Leh Stadium.  We will have the game on a tape-delayed basis at 10:00pm.  Support a great cause and get out to the game.

 

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

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.

Thankfully, the coronavirus appears to be on the decline as millions get vaccinated.  As the virus wanes, the prospect of actually announcing games from the venues in which they are being played appears closer.  That has not happened since March 18, 2020 – 16 months ago.

This past year, like so many other things in our everyday lives, has been like no other.  I know I have never had a broadcast year anything like this one.  With that said, through great forethought and adaptation, we were able to still bring you the major high school events in football, basketball, and baseball.

As a high school student myself, I played them all.  Unlike the high school specialist of today, I felt each sport offered up unique lessons about life and, thus, were equally important in one’s adult development.

Football was the ultimate team sport where you had to count on 22 or more players to gel as a unit.  No sport brought more attention, both good and bad and, therefore, the wins were more meaningful and the losses were tougher to take, but there are lessons in both winning and losing.

The focus was greater in basketball on your individual skills and meshing those skills with those of your teammates.  Individual offensive and defensive challenges were present throughout the game.  Basketball, also, forced you to learn plays as a unit and each basket or defensive stop was contingent upon the group doing their job.  Sounds much like the work environment, right?

Baseball was much more individualistic.  It was a simple game on paper – a pitcher faced a batter; a fielder waited to react when needed; and everyone had to do their job, within the framework of a team game, when called upon.

Announcing football, basketball, and baseball, much like playing the sports, had their own set of challenges.  Those challenges increased dramatically when you were not there.

Football – Who has the ball?  What yard line is the ball on?  How many yards were gained or lost on a given play?  Who made the tackle? These were the questions that needed answers on every play.  I feared looking like a fool trying to call this game.  But help was offered – eyes at the stadium that could instantaneously get information to me; a scoreboard shot that would tell me where the ball was; and a close-up view of the teams as they ran their plays.  My fears were unwarranted.  Much like the game of football, the broadcast of football required all parts of the team to work together.  No one was more surprised than me, but it worked.

Basketball – A new sense of trepidation crept in as I anticipated doing play-by-play for this fast-paced sport.  Could we follow the ball?  Could I see the numbers?  Could I determine who made the shot, blocked the shot, made the pass, got the rebound, committed the foul, etc.?  The answer was, “Yes, we could and did.”  This was tougher.  We may have been a split second late with the call, but the correct call was made.

Baseball – This past week, it was baseball’s turn.  I arrived at the studio (not the baseball field) hoping that somehow I would know where the ball was hit.  We would not have a camera shot of the scoreboard so calling balls and strikes might be a challenge.  But we proved, once again, that we are a team, too.  The camera work was superb.  I could call balls and strikes just like the umpire because I had a terrific view of the pitch and the plate.  I could tell where the ball was hit because our camera guys were flawless and our director pushed all the right buttons.  We did not miss a play.

I can’t wait to get back to the actual venues again, but until that happens, I can guarantee you our “team” will do the very best to make you believe you are at the stadium, the court, and the ball field.  We will “take you out to the ballpark” even if I cannot join you there.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I am predicting that it will be the Brooklyn Nets versus the 76ers in the NBA Eastern Finals. The Sixers need to get by the Wizards and, I’m guessing, the Knicks in the second round.  That should happen and create a thrilling Eastern Conference final.
  1. In the NBA West, I like the Jazz over the Grizzlies; the Lakers over the Suns; the Trail Blazers upsetting the Nuggets; and the Clippers over the Mavericks.
  1. The Phillies have lost four in a row and they are doing it with poor fielding, poor hitting, and poor pitching. That combination will get them absolutely nowhere.  They are now under .500 and sinking fast.
  1. Congratulations to Emmaus for winning the EPC baseball championship, their first league title since 2005. Pleasant Valley, the other finalist, deserves some accolades, too, for knocking off #1 seed Liberty in the semis.  District baseball starts this week.  We will have the 6A championship game on Tuesday, June 1.
  1. With the holiday weekend coming up, I will be taking a break from blogging next week. Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.

 

What is a Great Game?

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

The answer is Jeopardy!

I have always been very competitive.  I want to win at pretty much everything that is a form of competition.  With that said, I am not a sore loser.  When that happens, I do congratulate my opponent, appreciate their skill, and look forward to the next time when I have a chance to gain some possible revenge.

I believe this is why I am a huge Jeopardy fan.  I tape it every night.  I just love the battle and, knowing that ten million people on average watch the show each night, I am not alone.  That interest is created because every viewer at home can play along – every viewer can compete.  I am sure we all test our knowledge, subliminally become a contestant, and self-determine whether we won the night.  It is so easy to sit in your recliner and bet it all on Final Jeopardy and hope for the best.

But first, I need to do well during the first and second round and that depends so much on the categories.  Here are the Top Ten Jeopardy categories and my reaction to each of them when they are announced:

#1) Before & After – I have a fighting chance here having lived long before many contestants and continuing to live after.

#2) Science – Boy, I hope this just skims the surface of the category – E still equals MC2, right?

#3) Literature – As an English teacher, I should know the answers to these questions.  But just think of the added pressure attached when you SHOULD know these answers and the embarrassment when you do not.

#4) American History – Well, I live in America; I am old; I read the newspaper; I watch the news – bring it on!!

#5) Potpourri – I have always known a great deal about stuff that has very little importance until now when this category comes up.

#6) World History – This one ranks right up there with Geography for me.  By ranks, I mean as one of the worst categories.  I should have paid better attention in class.

#7) Word Origins – See #3 “Literature”.

#8) Colleges & Universities – I went to a college and two universities; I have degrees; I broadcast college sports – I have a fighting chance.

#9) History – Not “World” or “American” – what else is there?

#10) Sports – Now we’re talking.  I better know this (the embarrassment factor is, also, at work here if I miss).  And most of the contestants are knowledge geeks, but not sports geeks. I remember on one show when all the contestants missed all five answers when the category was “The NFL”.  I knew them all – so, there!

So each night, I give it my all.  I hope the Final Jeopardy category gives me a fighting chance.  I always bet it all.

I confidently yell out the answers and, for some reason, my wife takes great satisfaction when I am wrong.  I do not know why she has to laugh so hard at my ignorance.  I certainly do not think it is funny.

There is added interest in the game right now as various guest hosts have come on to stand in for the late Alex Trebek.  I have my favorites already, but that may be a blog for another time.

For now, the answer is “Jeopardy”.  The question, “What is my favorite game show?”

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The 76ers have earned the #1 seed in the NBA Eastern Conference. It is their third #1 seed in 44 years.  They last did it in 2000-01.  They did it in 1982-83 when they won their last NBA title.  They will have home court advantage throughout the playoffs.  They will start by playing the #8 team after #7 – #10 play-in round.
  1. There will be no Triple Crown winner in horse racing this year. Medina Spirit “won” the Kentucky Derby but failed the post-race drug test.  He finished third in the Preakness, which probably casts more doubt on the legitimacy of his Derby victory.  Rombauer won and paid 11-1.
  1. I have complained before that Major League baseball is hard to watch, primarily because of the pace of the game and the lack of action. More proof came out this week with1/5 of the season completed.  There is little offensive production.  There have been 1,000 more strikeouts than hits.  In April, the combined batting average was .232, less than one hit for every four at bats.  No team looks exceptional with only five teams just barely winning 60% of their games with the best being the Chicago White Sox at 62%.
  1. With the Covid mandates easing up, it may not be too long before I can actually announce a game from the venue. It was way back in March of 2020 that I actually attended an event that I broadcast.  I can’t wait to emerge myself into the atmosphere of a LIVE game again.
  1. The top four teams are left in the EPC playoffs after the quarterfinals – 1) Liberty, 2) Parkland, 3) Emmaus, and 4) Pleasant Valley. We will have the championship game for you LIVE on Wednesday at 4:30pm on RCN-TV.

You Men Have It So Easy

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 am writing this on Mother’s Day morning and it just did not feel right to write another blog about sports, especially when I was thinking about what this day means to me.  My wife and, I am sure, many other wives and mothers, have said many times: “You men have it so easy”.  Honestly, by comparison, I cannot even whimper a mild protest.  As a tribute to the mothers I have known in my life, let me offer up evidence that my wife and other women like her are 100% correct.

My mother – She raised four children, first as a stay-at-home mother and, then by necessity, both a mother and a full-time wage earner.  Both my brother and my father contracted tuberculosis, sending both away at different times in their lives (my brother in high school; my father after my brother came home from the sanitarium).  It became my mother’s burden to care for the four of us, keep the house, earn enough money to pay the bills, and visit my father as often as possible.  He was four hours away in Altoona. She found a job within walking distance because after experiencing a car accident early in her twenties, she never wanted to drive again.  So she walked to work every day.  We all survived until we lost my sister to cancer; my father eventually was cured; and my mom more than persevered.

My mother-in-law – If you can, imagine leaving the country of your birth, settling in Germany during wartime, and then making the decision to leave it all behind and come to America with your husband and baby daughter for the opportunity to create a better life.  That opportunity required two years of labor on a farm to pay off the cost of passage paid by the farm owner.  Once the debt was paid, uproot again and come to Easton to start another new life.  She kept the house; she worked full time on a sewing machine in a clothing factory; had another daughter; and was the best cook you could imagine.

My wife – We had two children very, very early in life.  Being a mother should not happen during the teenage years, but it did.  Despite her youth, my wife never abdicated any of the responsibilities of being a mother.  She raised our two daughters to be responsible beings while working as a dental assistant, an executive assistant, and finally as an entrepreneur owning her own business.  She was successful doing it all, but being a mother was always her primary responsibility and her greatest accomplishment.

Our two daughters – We have three grandchildren and our daughters have good reason to be proud of all of them – one taking on the challenge of a life in the theater; another working in higher education; and another working for the state government in Harrisburg.  Both daughters are successful in the medical field and happily married.  They have always worked full-time while raising their children.  They were certainly role models for their kids.  So far, motherhood goals have been accomplished.

All are close enough to keep tabs on everybody and get together many times during the year.  Until now.

Our grandson has found a mate.  She is a doctor of veterinary medicine specializing in equine medicine.  Her new job will take her to Chicago and, therefore, our grandson will follow.  He is uprooting to a place that is rather far away and visiting in person will be rare.  He will work at Loyola of Chicago University and has made a major career advancement.  All we can do is be happy for them and wish them great success.  (And be sad for their absence).

We will all do that today as we celebrate Mother’s Day with the family and have a chance to send the new couple off to their new life.

It is obvious that the jobs assigned to mothers are many and varied – keep the house, make the meals, work to help support the family, accommodate one’s mate, raise the children, and send them off into the world.  As I write this, we are all getting together today to honor the mothers of the family. They deserve more than one day.

And…I can only come to the conclusion that my wife is right – We men have it so easy!!

Happy Mother’s Day!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. My boyhood hero, Willie Mays, turned 90 this past week and was honored by the San Francisco Giants. I remember trying to bat like him, catch a ball like his famous basket catch, and acquire his mannerisms.  He was a New York Giant then.  The “Say Hey Kid” looked spry when he was honored this week even though he is the oldest living Hall of Famer.
  1. Get familiar with the term NIL (name, images, and likenesses). College athletes are closing in on being able to sell those three entities in order to capitalize on what they bring to a college and university athletics.  Legislation is occurring in both the state and national branches of government.  It will happen.
  1. What “might or might not” happen are the Tokyo Olympics. Opposition to holding the Olympics in Tokyo is rising among the citizenry (300,000 signatures in three days to cancel), yet the IOC continues to insist the Olympics will take place and the athletes will be safe.  The event is scheduled for July.
  1. It appears Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, may be disqualified due to doping allegations. If so, Mandaloun would be declared the winner.  Medina Spirit would forfeit the $1.86 million purse, but the bettors would not be affected.  Those payouts have already been made.  Mandaloun would have paid $50 for every $2 bet on him to win.
  1. High School conference and District playoffs begin in the next two weeks. Hopefully, we will be there to crown the champions.

 

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!