Behind the Mic: Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 12-4; OVERALL – 155-84 – 65%)
 
Week Seventeen
 
BALTIMORE
DETROIT
BUFFALO
CAROLINA
NEW ORLEANS
TENNESSEE
NEW ENGLAND
INDIANAPOLIS
PITTSBURGH
WASHINGTON
MINNESOTA
PHILADELPHIA
CHARGERS
SEATTLE
KANSAS CITY
RAMS

The Sports Talk Shop: Summer Hoops: Final Report

We hope you enjoyed our coverage here at the “SportsTalk Shop” and on our TV show over the last several weeks of summer basketball action in the Eastern Pennsylvania and Washington, DC regions.

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Here are some of my final thoughts along with observations and predictions involving the teams and athletes in our coverage area, along with pictures of local competitions.

  • The Catty basketball team was one of the smallest schools—in terms of both school enrollment and height—last season. But this summer the returning players are all getting bigger and stronger. Isaiah Graves is among the players who has an increased wing span and looked solid on the court the last few weeks. The word is the Bangor will once again be the team to beat in the Colonial League, but the Rough Riders, who just missed the league playoffs a year ago, look like they will definitely be in post-season contention for the upcoming scholastic year

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  • I was very encouraged by what I saw and heard from the Dieruff players. They seem very mature regarding what they need to do, and are very enthusiastic about making a name for themselves, and putting the Huskies back in the competitive field. Fortunately, a number of their players (as of now) are back in the fold and seem genuinely excited to prove people wrong during the scholastic season. I believe they certainly can hang with some of the top teams in the area and I’m excited to see if the Huskies can achieve some of the lofty goals that they have set for themselves.

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  • It was great to see some former high school standouts return for the summer league action—among them Matt and David Kachelries (from Emmaus) and Northampton’s Aja Blount. Those players got quite a bit of publicity (and rightly so) during their high school playing days and to see them back and supporting their former schools, along with local Lehigh Valley sports, speaks volumes about how many quality people we had the pleasure to experience the last few years.

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Don’t forget to catch the final game of the Catasauqua “Tournament of Champions” event to be seen on RCN-TV. This year’s “TOC” finale will be played at the Catty Playground near the Catasauqua Middle School next Thursday. Check back to the RCN-TV website for more details on air dates and times.

Behind the Mic: When Worlds Collide…

One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes (and there are many) is the one where Elaine becomes friends with George’s girlfriend, Susan.  George has a theory that it is just not good if these two separate worlds collide intermingling his friendship world with his romantic world.  Take a look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koUGfRumE1k

I bring this up because I wanted to watch the episode again and because it made me think about the upcoming Pay-per-View event – Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor.

In case you do not know, Conor McGregor is a mixed martial artist and professional boxer with the MMA and the UFC. He is the biggest Pay-Per-View attraction in MMA history.  His rematch after a loss against Nate Diaz became the highest selling pay-per-view in UFC history with 1,650,000 purchases.

Now, McGregor is moving into the boxing world of Floyd Mayweather. McGregor can box (it’s considered his greatest skill).  As a UFC fighter, he would often insult the skills of Mayweather.  Mayweather heard enough and announced he would come out of retirement for a boxing match with McGregor.

Floyd Mayweather is considered to be one of the greatest boxers of all time, undefeated and a winner of fifteen world titles. He is an accurate puncher with outstanding defensive skills both on display in his biggest win over Manny Pacquiao.  His record going into the McGregor fight is 49-0.

On August 26, the two will meet. The match will be held under boxing rules.  Ten-ounce gloves will be used.  No kicks or takedowns will be allowed.  Each round will be three minutes and it is scheduled for 12 rounds.  All of these rules, one would think favors the professional boxer – Mayweather.

The expectation is that this will create the biggest LIVE gate in history surpassing Mayweather-Pacquiao which earned over $72 million. Ticket prices begin at $3500.  The Pay-Per-View audience is also expected to break records with prices in the $90-$100 range.  Mayweather-Pacquiao created 4.4 million buys.

The pre-match hype has featured bombastic challenges using the most profane language. Most experts feel that Mayweather’s boxing skills give him a great advantage, but McGregor certainly possesses tremendous knockout power.

Mayweather is a huge favorite to win, but rest assured, MMA fans will back their man, who promises to win by knockout in less than four rounds.

So, on August 26, the two worlds will be colliding. Is it good for boxing? Is it good for the MMA?  And, as George says, “There’s going to be trouble” and could cause both to “cease to exist” as we know them.

You have a few weeks to decide how interested YOU are in the outcome.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

 

    1. Monica, Ed, and Billy McCaffrey were all great athletes at Allentown Central Catholic. Ed’s son, Christian, was a great player at Stanford and a Heisman runner-up, and was selected eighth in the NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers. He is both a running back and a receiver. Early word out of the Panther camp is that no one can cover him one-on-one out of the backfield and linebackers can’t tackle him. If his career is anything like Ed’s with the Denver Broncos, I may become a Panther fan.
    2. An eating disorder, depression and thoughts of suicide are not descriptions often associated with a college placekicker, but Penn State’s #99 Joey Julius suffers from all of these psychological problems. So, he has checked himself into a treatment center in St. Louis and will not be part of the Penn State roster this season.
    3. The NFL has eased the rules on touchdown celebrations. Group celebrations will be allowed and the ball can be used as a prop, but no obscene gestures, throat slashing, gun or bow and arrow shooting. How creative will the players get?
    4. With high school and college football practices set to begin, I reflected back to the three-a-days we went through in the heat of August – morning, afternoon, and evening practices to get ready for the season. The NCAA now restricts formal practice to one, three-hour session, live contact only three days a week, and one day off. All in the interest of safety. Good idea!
    5. No blog next week. One more break before football!

The SportsTalk Shop: Summer Hoops 2017 (Part 4)

We’re continuing our look at high school summer basketball news, notes and interviews with local athletes this week here at the “Shop.” A few teams that had some major question marks entering the summer have had some happy news of late, along with clips of interviews from three teams that are looking to make some major noise this winter—although each has some unique hurdles to overcome, along with talented teams to compete with in order to do so.

  • Nazareth’s Johan Dotson’s return is huge news for both the football and basketball programs. While his future is probably on the gridiron, when I spoke with him he seemed genuinely excited to help out a basketball squad that lacked experience last season. However, the returning players look much more comfortable—with some nice size up front—and Dotson’s court savvy and ability to distribute the basketball instantly makes the Blue Eagles a team to be reckoned with for the upcoming season

  • Whitehall lost no less than eight players to graduation, but don’t expect a lengthy rebuilding period—especially with the team playing at the 5A classification. Their kids have been working hard—and working well together-on the court. I saw them play several games this month—their players played with great tenacity and their on-court chemistry might end up being better than last year…

    

  • The Emmaus boys’ basketball team deserves some props for working hard this offseason and filling some very prominent shoes in their backcourt. After graduating probably the greatest pairing of guards in East Penn School District history and losing their first two games of this summer, the Hornets’ returning players have not lost a step and looked solid against some very strong teams this summer. Everyone knew standout big men Josh Artis and Zack Sabol were going to be back, but I’ve been impressed by how well the team has worked together and is sharing the ball. Forget using the term “rebuilding” for the Hornets, as Emmaus will probably find themselves among the upper echelon once again this season.

Don’t forget to catch our final “SportsTalk Gets Wild” show of the summer, broadcasting live from Buffalo Wild Wings (on Grape Street in Whitehall) this Thursday, when our featured guests will be organizers, coaches and players who participate in the annual Catasauqua Summer Basketball Tournament. We’ll share memories of preview’s year’s “TOC” games along with top moments, players and special games, along with previewing this year’s event which will commence next week.

Behind the Mic: Youth Must Be Served

Even if you are not into golf, by now even you know of the amazing rally by Jordan Spieth at the British Open on Sunday. He played the final five holes five under par after losing the lead in the tournament for the very first time in four days.  In doing so, he, along with Jack Nicklaus, became the second player to win three of the four Grand Slam tournaments by the age of 23.  If he wins next month’s PGA Championship, he would be the youngest to win the Grand Slam.

So I now know what Spieth has accomplished at such a young age. It made me curious about some of the accomplishments of other young athletes in other sports.  Who were some of the others to make an early name for themselves as a youngster?

Baseball: Julio Urias (19 years old) – Became the youngest starting pitcher to pitch in the major league for the Dodgers in 2016. He lasted 2-2/3 innings.

Tennis: Michael Chang (17 years old) – Won the 1989 French Open, becoming the youngest winner of a tennis grand slam singles event by beating #1 Ivan Lendl in a four- hour match.

NFL: Amobi Okoye – (19 years old) – Played college football for the Louisville Cardinals at age 16; drafted in the NFL at age 19 and played in an NFL game at the age of 20.

NBA: Andrew Bynum (18 years, 6 days) – Played for the Los Angeles Lakers alongside Kobe Bryant (who at 18 years, 158 days became the youngest ever to start an NBA game), made an All-Star team and was a member of two championship teams.

Soccer: Freddy Adu (14 years old) – Became the youngest athlete to sign a professional contract, the youngest to appear in an MLS game, and the youngest to score a goal in the MLS.

NASCAR: Joey Logano (18 years old) – Became the youngest to win a NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

Men’s Golf: Guan Tian Lang (14 years old) – The youngest golfer to qualify for the Masters. He made the cut and became the youngest to do so.

Women’s Golf: Michelle Wie (10 years old) – The youngest player to qualify for the US Amateur; later she became the youngest to make an LPGA cut and the youngest to play in a PGA event.

“Children should be seen and not heard” is a phrase I heard often as a child.  I am assuming all of the teenagers who I just mentioned rarely heard that idiom.  Instead, “youth must be served” seems much more appropriate in these remarkable examples of early accomplishments.

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

 

  1. Chicago Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman used the Heimlich maneuver to save a man’s life in a Texas airport on Sunday. The man was choking while Freeman was enjoying a brisket sandwich. His quick action probably saved the man’s life.
  2. The Cubs had a mediocre start to the MLB season prior to the All-Star break and were five games out of first behind the Milwaukee Brewers. Since the break, they have won eight of nine and moved into a tie for first place in the NL Central. Is the magic back?
  3. The British Open featured two of the easiest players to get behind and root for – Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar. So Spieth’s win was not a disappointment for this fan, but one had to feel for Kuchar who was trying to win his first major. Kuchar did win $1,067,000, however, to ease his pain.
  4. A golfer who made the cut in the British Open and finished dead last (70th) earned $23,600 for his efforts. Still not a bad paycheck for a week at the office.
  5. Mark your calendar – Freedom takes on Central Catholic in our opening football game of the year. Tune in at 7:00pm on Saturday, August 26.

The SportsTalk Shop: Summer Hoops 2017 (Part 3)

July continues to be a big month for local basketball action in the RCN-TV viewing area. This week, we have more interviews and video of local tournaments along with insiders’ thoughts on the action so far.

First, we had a chance to speak with legendary DeMatha Head Basketball Coach Mike Jones to talk about his summer camp, top players he’s seen in the DMV, and his thoughts on former Stag standout Markelle Fultz, who was selected by the 76ers with the #1 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

(More of this interview can be found through RCN On-Demand or on our podcast: rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk)

Also, we had a chance to catch up with Basketball Guru Toomey Anderson of LVBasketballRankings.com to get his thoughts on the summer league action and the top teams and standout performers that he has seen so far. Here’s a sample of his “teams to watch for.”

Last but not least, we had a chance to catch up with some of the local athletes in the RCN viewing area participating in summer leagues and regional hoops tournaments.

Check back to the “SportsTalk Shop” for the next weeks and we’ll have news items, rumors and my observations of the action I’ve seen so far this summer, along with more videos and pictures from local games and tournaments.

Behind the Mic: Oil and Water

One of the great benefits of sports is that, for a few hours, one gets away from the trials and tribulations of everyday life and watches cars go around an oval, a pass being thrown, a homerun being hit and, … well, you get the picture.

And one of the focal points of everyday living certainly has become politics.  There has not been anything more polarizing in our society since this last election.  Everyone not only has an opinion, they have very strong opinions and they do not particularly want to hear yours!

So it is probably best if the sports worlds and the political worlds are kept separate.  It certainly didn’t help Chris Christie’s popularity in New Jersey when he attended the Dallas Cowboys game against Detroit as the guest of the Cowboys’ owner.  Seems Christie does not root for the Jets, the Giants, or the Eagles – the three closest NFL teams to New Jersey – he roots for the Cowboys.  He would have been better off politically if he had just stayed home.

The sports and politics worlds collided again this past weekend.  The LPGA held the U. S. Women’s Open at Trump National in Bedminster, NJ.  This did not sit well with a large number of protesters, both at the course and around the country, who felt the women should not be playing at a course owned by the President whom they feel has sexually harassed women.  To make matters a bit worse (if that’s at all possible), there was video of Trump driving across a Trump National green a few weeks ago.  Driving across a green – this violates all rules of golf etiquette (unless you own the course, I guess).

And the players got caught in the middle.  This is the most important championship in women’s golf.  It has the largest purse and is the most prestigious.  To ask them to skip the tournament in protest against the host seems unfair.  During the week, the players went out of their way to stay out of the controversy because they are well aware that any answer would be seen as the wrong answer by so many.

So they played.  And the President showed up.  To the President’s credit, he did not get too involved other than watching from his temporary bungalow.

There were some peaceful political demonstrations, but the tournament took center stage and it was a great one.  An amateur almost won and the three-day leader couldn’t hang on until the end.

Politics and sports came together, but much like oil and water, they did not mix and that’s the way it should be.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. At the MLB All-Star break, two rookies are making the most impressive news.  In the National League, the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger has 22 home runs in 52 games and hit 10 homers in 10 games, a record.  On Sunday, he hit for the cycle.  In the American League, the Yankees’ Aaron Judge has set the Yankees record for home runs by a rookie (30) and leads the majors in six categories.  And, he was the first rookie to win the Home Run Derby.
  2. Speaking of the MLB, the games so far this year are taking longer than ever – three hours and nine minutes.  This is five minutes longer than last year.  ESPN’s 18-inning game lasted six hours and five minutes.  Rule changes to speed up the game are on the horizon.
  3. What has happened to the Cubs?  As I write this, they lag five-plus games behind the Brewers.  They are in the bottom third in the league in runs scored and hitting.  Their pitching is giving up almost five runs per game.  Joe Maddon will need some second-half magic.
  4. Jeongeun Lee played in the US Women’s Open but was listed on the board as Lee Je6.  On the Korean LPGA tour, she is the sixth player with the exact same name.  There was another Jeongeun Lee in the Open and she was, as you might expect, Lee Je5.
  5. We finish up our Blue Mountain League game of the week next Tuesday, July 25.  It has been a great year in the BML with very competitive teams and games.  The playoffs should be terrific.  If you’re a baseball fan, get out to a game or a series.  Thanks to the League officers and the managers for all their help.

Behind the Mic: Where Do I Sign?

In case you missed it, Saturday was the first day of NBA free agency and some rather large contracts were signed. The big names caused a big stir. Stephen Curry signed for $201 million (5 years); Blake Griffin for $175 million (5 years); and the 76ers got JJ Redick for a mere one-year $23 million contract. Curry’s deal was the biggest in NBA history and, it seemed to me, that it had to be one of the biggest of all time.

I knew there were bigger contracts over longer periods of time, but how did this one stack up on a per-year basis? I investigated. According to Wikipedia, only boxer Floyd Mayweather made more in a year than Curry – $72 million-plus in 2015. Kobe Bryant in his last year made $20 million. Five players in the NBA currently make more per year than Bryant ever did.

Is it justified? It would certainly be hard to argue the value of Curry or Griffin to their respective teams. Some things would seem to be obvious – they put people in the arenas; they therefore add to the concession dollars; they play up to their potential; and, most importantly, the owners think they are worth it. To me, that’s enough said. Unless the owners are willing to greatly reduce the price of a ticket (which they are not), I have no problem with the players getting a large piece of the pie that would otherwise go to the owners.

By the way, of the top 25 sports contracts on the Wikipedia list, 22 were signed by baseball players. Curry, Griffin, and Mayweather were the only ones to crack the list.

Where are the NFL players? This is interesting because when you look at their per-game paychecks from last year, they do just fine (not that anyone thought they were hurting financially). Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts made $1.4 million per game; Jay Cutler $1.1 million; Colin Kaepernick, Matt Ryan, and Aaron Rodgers made $1.3 million. Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady is not in the top 125 considering overall contracts.

So what do we take away from this? These are very talented people who are, obviously, highly valued financially in our society, rightfully or wrongfully. They are making more money for an event or a season than almost every American household will make in a lifetime. When it comes to the concerns of most Americans – putting food on the table, clothing the children, the economy, worrying about Obamacare vs Trumpcare, or Medicaid and Medicare, most cannot relate to their income.

However, we also create their value by buying the expensive tickets, the over-priced beer and food, and their jerseys. When we say they are not worth getting paid what they make and then buy tickets to their games, we deflate our own argument.

Bottom line – in our society, we are all worth what someone is willing to pay us!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
 

  1. Speaking of NFL contracts, Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr will make $25 million this season, but that’s not the point here. In 2019, the Raiders will move from California to Nevada. California has the highest income tax in the nation and Nevada has no state income tax. Carr will save $8.7 million in taxes!
  2. Yankees’ rookie Aaron Judge has put up home run, RBI, and batting average numbers to warrant being named both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP. Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki are the only players to win both awards in the same year. By the way, Fernando Valenzuela is the only player to win the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award in the same year.
  3. If you follow the PGA, you know that Phil Mickelson and caddy “Bones” MacKay split after 25 years together. Mickelson’s brother, Pete, will take on the caddy role. So what does MacKay do? He signed a multi-year contract with NBC/Golf Channel to be an on-course announcer. His insights should be somewhat different from all the former players who have become announcers.
  4. It’s not just our President who gets in trouble with his “tweets”. Rory McIlroy had problems this past week himself. Fellow golfer Steve Elkington suggested that McIlroy, with “100mill in the bank”, was so rich he is “bored” with golf and that is why McIlroy missed the US Open cut. McIlroy tweeted it was more like “200mill, not bad for a ‘bored’ 28-year-old.” He regrets that tweet and has turned his Twitter account over to his wife. Is there a lesson here for our President?
  5. Our “first-time ever” broadcast of the Men’s Senior Baseball League continues to get postponed due to weather. We will get it done at some point. But the Blue Mountain League Game of the Week continues on Tuesday, July 18, when the Orioles visit the Limeport Bulls. Watch at 9:30pm.

The SportsTalk Shop: Summer Hoops 2017 (Part 2)

Continuing our update on local summer time hoops in the Eastern Pennsylvania region, here are some interview clips and pictures (below) featuring various teams and tournaments in the RCN-TV viewing area.

 

Coming up on the July 6th edition of “SportsTalk” we’ll have local basketball coaches and instructors in studio to talk about the top summer basketball action so far and preview the second half of the summer Hoops season.

We’ll also be joined by ESPN Radio’s Devon Givens to recap the NBA Draft and to give his thoughts on how the DeMatha HS and Washington product, Markelle Fultz, will fit in with his new 76ers team.

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Also, check back to the “SportsTalk Shop” again soon and we’ll have additional updates and more interviews and video highlights of the summer league basketball action involving teams in the RCN-TV viewing area.

 

 

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Summer Hoops 2017 (Part 1)

With area schools now out of session, high school summer league basketball action has been picking up speed this past week.

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The “SportsTalk​” cameras were out and about covering several different local tournaments in the RCN viewing area the last few days and caught up with a number of coaches and players to get their thoughts on summertime basketball thus far.

(For more of these interviews, plus additional video highlights of summertime basketball action, check out last week’s “RCN Sports Talk presented by the Morning Call” program available through RCN On Demand as well as this Thursday’s show.)

A few notes/observations on the summer basketball action…

*The Central Catholic girls basketball team looks to return to form this year. After a rare under-500 regular season last winter, the Vikettes have added both height and depth to a young but talented team. With an extra year of experience under their belts, Central’s players looked extremely confident (and efficient) in running Coach Kopp’s motion offense to near perfection in the Holy Family Tournament last week—claiming the #1 ranking heading into the final day of action with their scrappy style of play.

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*Northampton, Nazareth and Easton are three of a number of girls teams that lost significant players to graduation, but each has lots of talent coming up through its system. The K-Kids probably have the biggest gap to fill, replacing Aja Blount (who averaged over 20 points and almost 20 rebounds per game).

Easton has shown a strong back court presence, led by Jah’nel Oliver, who had 13 points in the Holy Family Championship game, and boasts several outstanding forwards as well, including Hanna Doell—who is back after missing last season with an injury.

Nazareth also some big shoes to fill and is still looking to establish its back court combination (and have a TON of unselfish ball distributors), but the Blue Eagles have lots of depth at every position (and even more height coming in) and no doubt will be among the top teams in the 6A classification once again this year.

 

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*Before I saw the Patriots last weekend, several parents (from opposing schools, no less) advised me to keep an eye on both Whitehall and Freedom girls teams—programs that were not considered about the elite teams last winter. Both squads have a number of young players coming up, and one player from a rival school that I talked with said she’s not looking forward to facing either of those teams again during the regular season.

We’ll have more interviews, video highlights and packages, both on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” program (7pm, LIVE) and here in the next installment of the “SportsTalk Shop.”

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Also, don’t forget to stop by Buffalo Wild Wings (Grape St., Whitehall, PA) this this Thursday night for this week’s show as we broadcast LIVE on location. Check out the “SportsTalk Gets Wild” page here on the RCN-TV website for more details on this show and for ways to help out a local organization!