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.

 

 

 

The Sports Talk Shop: Summer Hoops – July 2021

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.

We continue to keep you posted on the local summer high school basketball leagues in the RCN viewing area.

On the one hand, a few of the regular league and tournaments have been held–some with the same number of teams as usual, others with dramatically lower turnouts.

The Holy Name girls tourney was held recently (a month later than “normal”) and Jim Thorpe came into the Lehigh Valley and surprised some very good teams by bringing home the championship.  Nazareth, Easton and hosting Allentown Central Catholic were the local contributors that played very well.

The Nazareth boys basketball team has come on strong of late and captured the “JamFest” title in Allentown the previous weekend.  The Blue Eagles had a very young team last winter and those underclassmen might just be hitting their stride.  Keep an eye on Nazareth this winter — they should be fun to watch once this upcoming season gets underway.

Also, the summer league in Forks Township had a good month.  Notre-Dame, Wilson, Lehigh Christian Academy and Bangor have been some of the top teams that I have seen so far.

Meanwhile, areas like Catasauqua, the Slate Belt, Stiles and other regions continue to struggle this summer–either having issues fielding teams and/or conducting their regular tournaments.

TOC Director Eric Snyder was just on RCN SportsTalk last week to provide an update on the struggles many squads are having this summer.  Eric, the longtime head basketball coach at Catasauqua High School, chose our program to announce some significant breaking and exclusive news concerning his career — along with sharing some controversial opinions on some key local basketball and baseball topics.

If you missed last week’s show, be sure to check it out (free for RCN customers) through our On-Demand services!

Also, checking back next month for our final update on the scholastic summer basketball scene!

Behind the Mic: Merry Christmas!

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.

 

and

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 10-6; OVERALL- 141-80-1 – 64%)

  • New Orleans
  • Tampa Bay
  • Arizona
  •  Miami
  • Kansas City
  • Cleveland
  • Indianapolis
  • Washington
  • Chicago
  • Baltimore
  • Houston
  • LA Chargers
  • Philadelphia
  • Seattle
  • Green Bay
  • Buffalo

The Sports Talk Shop: Chris’s “ALL-UNDERRATED” Football Edition (Part 1)

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, I did a blog entry here at “The Shop” reflecting back on the past basketball season that was well-received and seemed to generate some very positive comments.

The idea for that blog was not to single out the best players, teams and individual plays, but to spotlight student-athletes and coaches who did something great but perhaps didn’t get the attention he or she deserved.

As with the “All-Underrated Team” I did last spring, it’s completely arbitrary and was based solely on the games that I witnessed in person—either as a broadcaster or as a spectator. It did NOT include any games or videos I watched through RCN On-Demand, HUDL or any videos I saw on social media.

With that in mind, I wanted to single out some individuals who fit that same criteria during this past District XI high school football season.

The awards go to…

MOST UNDERRATED KICKER

Whitehall’s Alex Khouri.

The Zephyrs had a rare poor season and was one of the few Lehigh Valley teams that did not qualify for the playoffs this year.  However, Khouri was one of the most consistent extra point kickers in the area and had a strong leg on kickoffs in the few times we got an opportunity to see Whitehall this past season.

MOST UNDERRATED DEFENSIVE PLAYER IN A GAME

Southern Lehigh Linebacker LB Asher Smith. In a game I witnessed as a fan, the junior really stood out in a much-needed win over Palmerton after the Spartans were upset against Saucon Valley to open the season. Smith had a team-high nine solo tackles (10 total), five pass breakups and one pick-six….he also played well, was all over the place the previous week in keeping his team in the close game in the Panthers loss and also ended up with several returned kickoffs as one of the “up men.”

MOST UNDERRATED DEFENSIVE PLAYER/SEASON

Bethlehem Catholic’s Tavion Banks and Paul Carreras

Banks was one of the preseason “running backs to watch” in both local papers, however, he impressed me even more with his defense this past fall.  Banks is one of the top cover men in league—I kept reading in the high school football capsules each week that Becahi’s secondary was a weakness and that teams will look to exploit the Hawks’ ability to give up big plays.  However, the Hawks’ passing yardage was right in line with their opponents (153 yards per game vs. 158 at the end of the regular season).  I thought Banks did a great job keying on other teams’ top receivers and Becahi had just as many big players (if not more) than many other LV teams.

Carreras deserves extra mention because he was not only a standout linebacker all year long, but he was impressive offense (and both a running and a blocking back) and even excelled in the thankless role of a punter (averaging over 37 yards per punt during the regular season—one of the top marks in the area) and filled in kicker when Penn State-bound Anthony DeSilva went down with an injury (and did an admirable job in that role, too.)  All he did on defense was lead his team in tackles, tackles for a loss and sacks (77, 22 and 8, respectively, using his final regular season numbers).  Not too bad anchoring a defense that—for the third straight year—many people called the best “Front 6” in the entire Lehigh Valley.

MOST UNDERRATED IMPACT (IN THE LEAST AMOUNT OF TIME)
 
Parkland Running Back Isiah Rico.  Before last season started, I heard great things about Rico’s potential as a quality back in the Lehigh Valley.  When senior starter Joseph Guida went down with a major injury, the sophomore Rico had to step into the spotlight in what may have been the team’s biggest regular season game against Bethlehem Catholic—only to sustain several serious injuries himself in that contest.

But what impressed me the most about Rico’s season was not the numbers he posted during his brief varsity experience this fall, but rather the conversation I had with him the week after suffering the injury.  When I talked with him the before the Liberty game, he was very positive about the team’s ability to overcome losing its two top running backs (at a time when there was still much indecision about the Trojans’ quarterbacks as well).  He also was in great spirits and refused to say anything negative about the situation surrounding the injury (on a controversial hit) and really gave some great responses in what could have been a very tough situation for him.

I am sure he will go on to post great numbers in his junior and senior seasons, but I instantly became a fan of Rico going forward based on the maturity he displayed in an off-the-field conversation.
 
MOST UNDERRATED UPSET

The then-winless Zephyrs. They defeated a Central Catholic team that had won two of its first three games, including an impressive victory over a Nazareth team that was also feeling good about themselves following terrific performances the first few weeks of the season. Whitehall not only pulled the upset but did it by scoring 75 points (and several Vikings fans admitted they probably could have scored more than night if they wanted to).

Both Central Catholic and Nazareth proved to be playoff teams again this year, which further showed what a big win it was for the Zephs.  (Did I mention that I was the only Lehigh Valley football media member who had predicted that Whitehall would win that game in advance?  I won’t mention I also predicted their other upset win over another playoff team in Northampton.)

MOST UNDERRATED COMEBACK STORY

The Northern Lehigh football team. Not only did Head Coach Joe Tout and his coaching staff turned around last year’s dismal season by posting five wins, but would have easily qualified for the playoffs had the powers-that-be not reduced the 3A classification qualifiers from eight to four teams.

A playoff appearance for the always hard-working Bulldogs would have been the perfect cherry to top the dramatic turnaround, but this year’s team certainly laid the groundwork for what will probably be an even more impressive football squad for the 2019 campaign.

MOST UNDERRATED FAN BASE

Palisades. One of District XI’s smallest schools features one of the most passionate and classy fans—from students, players, parents and coaches.

We talked at length about how well this group handled the controversial situation involving the previous year’s state playoff game loss to Conwell Egan.  This year, the team was in the hunt for another Colonial League championship—yet had the dubious distinction of being in the 3A classification (which switched from eight playoff qualifying spots to just four) and faced a nearly impossible road to a potential post-season berth once the team picked up its first loss.

This group remained loyal when the team was struggling to get enough players on the field to play a few years back and have handled being one of the league’s elite teams the past few years with respect towards other schools.  It was very enjoyable to travel outside our coverage area to Kintnersville again this year to see the stadium (how can you go wrong with a pirates ship on the field?), to experience the warm hospitality I experienced and receive the nice comments they passed along to me regarding reading my blog.

More “awards” coming, next week….

Behind the Mic: A Much Different Weekend

If you recall, last weekend in the NFL, all of the underdogs won.  That’s right.  The teams that were favored to win did not.  And the thought by many was that the Colts, Cowboys, Chargers, and the Eagles all had a legitimate shot to do the same thing this weekend.  Perish the thought!

The Colts were never in the game with the Chiefs (31-13).  Dallas needed a late score to make the game look closer than it was against the Rams (30-22).  The Chargers were anemic against the Patriots (41-28).  The Eagles, on the other hand, came within an unfinished drive of beating the Saints, but they, too, did not prevail (20-14).

So, the divisional round games were basically a bunch of “yawners”.  But, that should not be the case this coming weekend.  Each match-up is extremely intriguing.

According to the lines on the games – 3 points for the Chiefs and 3.5 points for the Patriots – the only difference between the four appears to be the home field advantage.  The other interesting thing about the match-ups is each game involves high-scoring offenses.  Again the over/under line is 57 for the Rams and the Saints and 57.5 for the Patriots and the Chiefs.  The 114.5 combined number is the largest in 30 years.

Obviously, the Vegas odds makers don’t just take offense into consideration when they arrive at over/under numbers.  They also must look at the defenses.  The Chiefs’ defense is the worst of the bunch and the rest of the group have average defenses, at best.

The other huge asset for each of these four teams and, it may be the best predictor of a great Sunday of football, are the four coaches.  What announcer has not mentioned the Andy Reid tree in the last month?  Sean Payton has maintained excellence throughout his career and then (duh) – there’s Bill Belichick.  That leaves Sean McVay of the Rams, who is, by far, the most innovative mind of the young coaches.  This is an elite group, for sure.

Speaking of elite – there’s the quarterbacks – Brady, Brees, Mahomes, and Goff – two future Hall of Famers and the best young talent around.

Sunday promises to be a great day of NFL football!!

P.S.  Check Gary’s Guesses to see which teams make it to the Super Bowl at the end of the blog.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSING)

 

  1. As much as Eagles’ fans want to keep Nick Foles around (and why wouldn’t they?), it will not happen. Carson Wentz is their future and the Eagles cannot possibly carry the $20.5 million price tag attached to Foles.
  1. There are cries to fire Jason Garrett of the Cowboys. He certainly is one of the most apathetic appearing coaches on an NFL sideline.  He does not seem to be the type to light a fire under his team, BUT, in the last three years, only the Patriots, Steelers, and Chiefs have won more games.  And all the noise about firing him comes from the outside, not from within the locker room. So, wait and see.
  1. If either the Patriots or the Saints win the Super Bowl, will Tom Brady or Drew Brees call it quits? Both have contracts that run through 2019.  They are so competitive that this is a tough call.  Look for them both to return.
  1. Alshon Jeffery dropped three passes all season, but every Eagles fan will remember the last one. And that is a shame. Alshon Jeffery is a great receiver and certainly was one of the main reasons the Eagles overachieved this year.  It is more appropriate to feel badly for Jeffery than to condemn him.
  1. RCN-TV has been the home of a number of upsets this basketball season – Easton over Beca, Liberty over Emmaus to name a few. This week, it’s Easton at Northampton on Tuesday night, Navy men at Lafayette on Wednesday, Easton at Parkland wrestling on Thursday, and Allen at Emmaus on Friday followed by Wilson at Bangor.

 
Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 3-1)  (Overall: 165-82-2  67% )
 
NFL PLAYOFFS
 
NEW ENGLAND
RAMS

The SportsTalk Shop: HS Football: Week 6 Preview

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.

 

While Emmaus has been a perennial title holder for girls’ field hockey in Eastern Pennsylvania, the Easton squad finds itself undefeated through the first month of their scholastic schedule.   We preview this Friday’s big Eastern Pennsylvania Conference showdown between the Rovers and the Green Hornets on “RCN SportsTalk.”

You can see highlights and more field hockey interviews by watching “SportsTalk” this Thursday at 7pm live on RCN-TV or through RCN On-Demand.

Turning our attention to the high school gridiron, we had three football games last weekend on RCN…

It’s time for this week’s edition of our high school football polls for teams in the District XI region…

“Big” Schools Poll

1) Freedom
2) Emmaus
3) Easton
4) Parkland
5) Northampton

“Small” School Poll

1) Bethlehem Catholic
2) Saucon Valley
3) Palisades
4) Northwestern

Our poll remains with the same structure that we’ve utilized for many seasons.  We take the 400-male enrollment number as the cutoff for schools within the District XI/RCN-TV broadcast area.  All of the schools above that number qualify as “big schools” in our poll. These schools consist of Parkland, Liberty, Allen, Easton, Emmaus, Liberty, Dieruff, Pocono Mountain West, Freedom, Stroudsburg, Pleasant Valley, Northampton, Nazareth, Whitehall, Southern Lehigh, East Stroudsburg-South, and Pocono Mountain East.  The five schools receiving the most votes are listed above.

“Small schools” (below 400-male enrollment) consist of both Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and Colonial League teams — Bangor, Saucon Valley, Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Northwestern, Wilson, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.  The top four vote-getters are named.

The “PICK 4” Northampton vs. E. S’burg South Palisades vs. Notre Dame *on RCN-TV Dieruff vs. S’burg North Nazareth vs. Parkland
Gary Laubach Northampton Palisades Dieruff Parkland
Tony Cocca
 
Northampton Palisades Dieruff Parkland
Keith Groller
 
Northampton Notre Dame Dieruff Parkland
Chris Michael
 
Northampton Palisades Dieruff Parkland

Check back next week here at “The Shop” for more high school football notes, polls, video highlights and predictions.

Behind the Mic: Age is Just a Number

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 you get to be my age (and, trust me, it takes a while), and you are still doing what you love to do, it doesn’t hurt to find some inspiration from time to time. You know, some examples of those who could have packed it in and moved on, but decided to continue to give it a try.  Three of those stories played out this weekend.

I will start with Adrian Peterson, a running back for the Washington Redskins. At Oklahoma, in three seasons, he ran for 4,245 yards, 73 yards short of the career rushing record.  He did not play his senior year, opting to turn pro.  That was twelve years ago.  Adrian Peterson is 33 years old.

He was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. He stayed with the Vikings through the 2016 season.  In that time, he set or tied five NFL rushing records, and five Vikings’ records.

In the 2016 season, he needed knee surgery and he was released by the Vikings in 2017. The New Orleans Saints took a chance on him and signed him in 2017.  He played only four games and was traded to the Arizona Cardinals.  He injured his neck and did not finish out the season.   Great career, but it was time to retire, right?

Nope. The Washington Redskins took a chance and signed him this year.  This past weekend against the Packers, he rushed for 120 yards and scored two touchdowns.  He now has 102 touchdowns and it was his 52nd 100-yard game.  Thirty-three is old for an NFL running back, but, in this case, it’s just a number.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has played quarterback in the NFL for seven different teams. After graduating from Harvard, he was drafted by the Rams.  He has played for the Bengals, Bills, Titans, Texans, Jets, and now the Tampa Bay Bucs.  For most of these teams, he was the backup given starting opportunities from time to time.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is 35 years old.

This season began with the Bucs’ starting QB, Jameis Winston, suspended for the first three games. Fitzpatrick got the start.  In week one, he threw for 417 yards and four TD’s.  His team upset the Saints 48-40.  He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.  In week two, he led the Bucs to an upset win over the Super Bowl champion Eagles 27-21.  He was again named the Player of the Week.

This Monday the Bucs lost to the Steelers, but Fitzpatrick led a second-half comeback. They lost 30-27.  Perhaps the game time was too late for this “old” QB.  Some would say he should be in bed!

And then there is Tiger. Tiger Woods is 42 years old.  He has won 14 major championships, 18 World Golf Championships, and has a total of 80 career wins, trailing only Sam Snead by two. Due to the wear and tear on his body AND his age, he went through four back surgeries and had not won a tournament in five years. Since his departure from the game, golf has become a young man’s sport with the real stars being in their early 20’s.  He was, more or less, written off as a future winner.

But this weekend, Tiger won again. At 42, he won the Tour Championship.  The five- year drought ended and golf had a resurgence of viewers.  The broadcast on Sunday drew three times the audience the same championship had last year.  And it was an NFL Sunday.  Since Tiger’s return, the size of the viewing audience has soared.  He was in contention for the PGA championship in August and the telecast drew the highest ratings in nine years.

And I just bet the audience was made up of all ages – young people who want to get to see Tiger’s greatness for themselves and the older viewers who can tell themselves, no matter what their age, that it is just a number! There is always more to accomplish.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
 

  1. When the Bills beat the Vikings 27-6 this past Sunday, it was the largest NFL upset in the past 23 seasons. The Vikings were favored by 17 points. According to reports out of Las Vegas, one gambler bet $18,000 on the Vikings with a payout of just $1,000 if he won. He didn’t. Another person bet $9,000 on the Vikings to win $450. He didn’t either. And after the Lions beat the Patriots, the bookies had a good day.
  2. Carson Wentz did not have a great day for the Eagles on Sunday, but they won, he scrambled like old times, took some hits, dove for a first down, and came away healthy. That checked off a number of boxes!
  3. I’m sure Eagles’ fans who have been around for awhile remember Tommy McDonald, the small, but fast, sure-handed receiver from the 1960’s. He was part of the 1960 NFL championship team led by quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. McDonald passed away this past week.
  4. It’s officially over for the Phillies this year in terms of post-season play. The way this season is coming to a close puts a real damper on any enthusiasm the start of the year might have had on next year’s success. Here’s hoping…
  5. With the Celtic Classic part of the weekend schedule, RCN-TV will present one high school this Friday night, but it is a good one – Palisades at Notre Dame live at 7:00pm. Chris Michael and John Leone will have the game. Saturday, Mike Joseph, John Leone and I will bring the LafayetteCentral Connecticut State game to you at 6:00pm. You’re invited join us.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 8-8) (Overall: 26-20-2  57% )
 
Week FOUR
RAMS
NEW ENGLAND
INDIANAPOLIS
ATLANTA
GREEN BAY
DETROIT
JACKSONVILLE
CHICAGO
PHILADELPHIA
SEATTLE
CLEVELAND
CHARGERS
GIANTS
PITTSBURGH
KANSAS CITY

The SportsTalk Shop: All-Star Accomplishments

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

 

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

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

Boys

Girls

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

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

1st Team

Nate Lackman, Becahi

Matt Maloney, Liberty

Cameron Enriquez, Stroudsburg

Patrick Noonan, Stroudsburg

Patrick Gould, E. Stroudsburg South

Steven Storm, Pocono Mt. East

Cole Handlovic, Becahi

Luca Frinzi, Becahi

Caden Wright, Emmaus

Sammy Sasso, Nazareth

Adam Lizak, Parkland

Cade Wilson, Nazareth

Jacob Frank, Easton

Sami Khamis, Stroudsburg

2nd Team

Peyton Brown, Emmaus

Evan Gleason, Easton

Matt Lackman, Becahi

Kenny Herrman, Becahi

Jonathan Miers, Easton

Ryan Anderson, Becahi

Zach Ortman, Parkland

Lenny Pinto, Stroudsburg

Kevin Vrablik, Parkland

Tyler Delorenzo, E. Stroudsburg South

Tavion Banks, Becahi

Robert Spezza, Becahi

Damen Moyer, Liberty

Hunter Werkheiser, Northampton

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

…and the boys

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

Behind the Mic: MLB – Expected – Unexpected

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

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

The SportsTalk Shop: 2017 Year-in-Review

First of all, props to Morning Call sports writer Steven Gross—not only did he recently get married and treat his new bride to an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour at Yankee Stadium (yes, she’s a die-hard pinstripe fan!), he captured the “Best of RCN-TV” award by receiving the most votes for our “SportsTalk” program during a contest held recently on our website.

To see Steve’s “winning” appearance from this past year, tune in to RCN-TV on January 1st for the entire lineup of the top moments from our broadcasting schedule from this past calendar year!

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Speaking of holiday programming…

Morning Call Senior Sports Writer Keith Groller and I conducted our annual “Year-in-Review” show live last Thursday at 7pm on RCN-TV.

We’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback following the initial airing of the show and invite you to check out the show when it repeats again as part of the holiday’s special programming schedule coming up this week (check out the entire RCN-TV broadcast schedule over the next week here on the website).

Just to give you a little sample of what we talked about, here are a few “brief” responses to most of the topics we discussed on this program. Keep in mind, there was quite a bit of “cross-talk” and debate about a few of these issues, along with some interesting opinions and some “fun and games” we also had on the show, which we hope you will check out for yourself.

“Year-in-Review Topics for 2017”

    1. Best collection of sophomores?

Keith:  How about Carson Wentz, Doug Pedersen and the entire Eagles coaching staff? After some first-year mistakes, this crew has definitely avoided any notion of a sophomore jinx.

Me:  Nazareth Football, a team I got to see five out of six weeks in a row this year—and boy did they never disappoint! Anthony Harris (one of several great 10-th grade QBs in the area), Nate Stefanik (who made the catch of the year at BASD setting up a big win), Kyle Paccio (an underrated running back in a pass-happy offense), Jake Wilson (probably the most underrated two-way lineman among any under classmen) and more.  Definitely a team to watch for next year.

    2. 2017’s Sign the Sports Apocalypse was at hand?

Keith:  The Yankees firing Joe Girardi, who took the team within a win of the World Series and hiring Aaron Boone, who has no previous managerial experience

Me:  A parent attending a high school sports practice while watching a program (I “think” it was “The Walking Dead”) with the volume up while the coach was trying to teach his players

    3. Biggest sports embarrassment?

Keith:  The US team failing to qualify for the World Cup

Me:  Chip Kelly’s hiring at UCLA…not necessarily the move itself but one of the comments from their President saying that Kelly would restore “respect” to the program (he’s replacing, Jim Mora, who was a classy guy, while Kelly was on probation while at Oregon, had some major PR issues and a checkered past with Philadelphia and San Francisco and wasn’t really “respected” as an analyst this past fall)

    4. Worst story of 2017?

Keith:  The tragic way Roy Halladay died.

Me:  Continued issues of inappropriate hazing and multiple stories of disrespect between schools, including a few incidents when one football team ran out onto the field showing up another team—and one time an administrator got involved in the back-and-forth of school on Twitter

    5. Favorite Lehigh Valley story?

Keith:  The two nights the PPL Center rocked with high school or college sports fans – the District 11 6A semifinals packing the place for basketball and the Lehigh-Penn State match bringing all the wrestling fans out.

Me:  All the LV state champions we had this past year on our “SportsTalk” show …the fact we had zero this fall shows how rare and how special it was to have so many during the ‘17 school year

    6. Biggest “National” Question Mark of 2017?

Keith:  With the national anthem controversy taking hold and the continuing concerns about concussions and other major injuries, is the sport of football headed for a big dip in popularity – both from fans and participants

Me:  Phillies new manager and the “new direction of baseball”…trend is towards analytics and I love stats, but we’re losing the personality of baseball and some of the traditions of the sport (first time since 1970 the Phillies don’t have a former player on their coaching staff)

    7. Most underrated sports program?

Keith:  Southern Lehigh

Me:  Northwestern Soccer is one of the single sports programs that gets overlooked the most. If you look district-wide and across all sports… Bangor comes in second

    8. Most overrated team/personality?

Keith:  LaVar Ball. A poster boy for everything that’s wrong with sports parenting.

Me:  Roger Goodell…new deal/extension for over $25-million … acts like a czar one minute for things like over-inflating footballs by an ounce, then hides on other issues, including the awful brutality of NFL players against women

    9. Most underrated head coach?

Keith:  Freedom football coach Jason Roeder

Me:  Joe Stellato/Joe Arndt/Eric Snider – all three have issues they had to overcome this past year, yet all are overly welcoming when I come to their practices and games, year after year

    10. Best national sports story?

Keith:  The Houston Astros, just a couple of months after the city was ravaged by a hurricane, getting its first World Series title.

Me:  My answer to this was pretty descriptive and you really need to check out the show to hear my response to this in its entirety.

    11. Nicest Sports Group of 2017?

Keith:  Tie between three groups. Enjoyed our shows with the state champs from Moravian Academy field hockey, CCHS volleyball and Becahi girls basketball – all great kids as well as well as great athletes.

Me:  Pen Argyl girls soccer. A great turnaround story that made the district playoffs for the first time in a long time.  They were a very classy group and great to speak with when our cameras were up at their place to do a story on them—and it certainly was nice of them to promote us on their social media pages this year as well!

For more “year-in-review” comments, topics and opinions, make sure you watch the show on RCN-TV, on RCN On-Demand and our podcast, found here on the RCN-TV website!