HS Sports: Early August Update

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 have the honor of interviewing two special guests for this week’s RCN Sports Talk show: PIAA Board of Directors Vice-President/District XI Chair Bob Hartman and District XI Treasure/Catasauqua HS Athletic Director Tom Moll.

As we have been doing the last few months here at “The Shop” and on our television show, we’ve been keeping you apprised of the latest news and rumors regarding scholastic sports in our coverage area. These two gentlemen agreed to be on the program to discuss the current status of high school sports and also address the many rumors that are flying around about the upcoming football season and all of the fall sports issues.

Here are the topics of discussion:

  • Opinions on the latest directives from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the PIAA
  • Reactions from coaches and students on the COVID-19 protocols in place
  • Alternate possibilities for fall sports being scheduled if the number of coronavirus cases spike or additional directives come from the state or federal government
  • Deadlines for scheduling for football and all other fall sports
  • Addressing the mental impact on students and allowing for a “transition period” to get kids back in playing shape
  • Financial ramifications of the spring sports shutdown and potential impact for any interruptions of the fall sports playoff season
  • Rumors of switching sports to different seasons (i.e., baseball to the fall, football to the spring) and other “hot takes”

Two additional teases for this particular program – Bob and Tom tackle an issue that I have not seen nor heard of until last Friday when Norristown High School made headlines. That is addressing the issue of an individual school district (or a specific community or local government) taking exception to the directives implemented by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the PIAA…how would that affect a team’s potential ability to play?

Another hotly contested debate: will some sports like golf and tennis be able to start on time or will those sports be included with soccer, field hockey and football if the latter sports are forced to postpone or cancel their seasons?

Tune in to find out!

My thanks to both of these administrators for their time and insights and, if you want to hear their responses to these issues and the latest news regarding the possibilities of fall high school sports action, make sure you tune in to the “RCN Sports Talk” show on RCN TV and catch it through RCN “On Demand.”

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “The Beverly Hillbillies”

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.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation. 

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances. 

Whether you’re a fan of rural comedy or not, you can’t argue that The Beverly Hillbillies was one of the most successful television comedies of all time.

Spawning two other successful shows, a “return” episode over a decade after its cancellation, and a major motion picture, “Hillbillies,” its low-brow comedy set a high standard (along with boffo ratings) throughout the 1960s.

The plots were simple: take a backwaters family who strikes oil and inherits a fortune, and dump them in the ritziest area of the country, while having Beverly Hills’ greediest banker be their guardian while watching over their money. “Fish out of water” hijinx always ensued, complete with memorable special guest star performances, and big- named actors often portraying themselves.

Heading the creative team was Paul Henning, who had worked as a writer on other TV classics, including the “Burns and Allen Show,” which had a 10-year run on television after a lengthy radio run.

The cast was anchored by veteran song and dance man, Buddy Ebsen, who was ready to retire before reading the pilot episode and deciding to put those plans on hold.

Veteran radio and television character actress, Bea Benaderet, who had wanted to play the part of “Granny,” saw Irene Ryan’s screen test and insisted Ryan take that role.  Benaderet ended up with a recurring guest starring role as Jethro’s mother before starring in “Hillbillies”’ first spin-off, “Petticoat Junction” (more on this show in a future blog entry).

Ryan brought interesting dynamics to the program as she had both played as, and starred in front of, hillbillies in summer stock theater.  (On EmmyTVLegends.org

Henning tells a humorous story about Ryan’s early career and also recalls how the banker Milton Drysdale was based on a real character he knew.)

According to “Variety’s” article, “The Top 100 Television Shows of All-Time,” The Beverly Hillbillies was the number one show in its first two years and finished in the top 20 in the Nielsen ratings in eight of its nine-year run.

The only year the show was not among the top ranked shows was its last year, when CBS made the bizarre decision to drop the show out of its primetime lineup and air the program at what is an extremely unusual (for a network show) timeslot of Tuesdays at 7:30pm.

“Hillbillies” never lost a ratings battle within its timeslot against any other program during its entire run.

Several of its individual shows are ranked in both the most-watched and the critics’ choice for the greatest 100 television episodes of all time, including 16 of its episodes ranked among the top 100 programs watched in television history.

It captured many Emmy Awards in multiple categories during its production and has remained on TV in syndication to this day.

“Hillbillies”’ network run came to an end, not because of declining ratings, nor did the cast nor creative team run out of ideas, nor did viewers want to see the series end.  It, along with several other very successful TV programs, were cancelled because CBS executive Robert Wood decided to cancel every successful show that had a tree in it (according to actor Pat Buttram.)  This was part of the great “rural purge” of 1971, in which CBS jettisoned many of its feel-good, rural shows in lieu of comedies that tackled serious social and cultural issues. 

You can relive the hilarity of “The Beverly Hillbillies” on Wednesday mornings at 9:30 a.m. on RCN TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

 

New/Old Faces

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 other agency, organization, employer or company. 

While there hasn’t been much action on the fields this summer, it has actually been a pretty busy last 6-8 weeks in terms of the amount of turnover for some pretty big head coaching and athletic director positions in the Lehigh Valley.

The area said goodbye to three head coaches, each with incredible longevity at their respective schools:

Mike Grasso at Bethlehem Catholic – 45 years

Doug Snyder at Allen HS – 24 years

Chad Landis at Liberty HS – 20 years (12 as a head coach, 8 more as an assistant)

All three were on our RCN SportsTalk show this spring (each one had their own show) and told stories of their careers, their programs’ highlights, lessons learned and the many student-athletes their teachings impacted. (RCN customers can see these exclusive interviews for free through RCN On Demand).

Likewise, over the last month, we’ve also talked to a number of new head coaches and athletic directors – some with some pretty big shoes to fill (their stories also were told on SportsTalk to hear them in their own words).

One person who I did want to focus on today was the new Hurricanes Boys Basketball Head Coach, Nigel Long.

Nigel was a great student and basketball player at Freedom High School. After one year playing college ball outside of the area, he transferred back to the Valley to have a very successful playing career at Muhlenberg College.

Since then he has been a great AAU head coach, an assistant coach at Bethlehem Catholic and a mentor to a lot of young people in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Nigel was on a Freedom team that wasn’t the tallest team, nor a squad with what the basketball experts would call a top-tier, talent-laden team “on paper.” However, his Patriots squads always battled hard and made for competitive games, even when being the underdog.  I believed his teams installed a work ethic that continued after Nigel’s graduation – one that culminated in his school’s first District XI championship in decades, this past winter.

I made a point of mentioning on our sports program that I believe Long may be the most significant hiring, in a summer in which so many great names and qualified basketball individuals were given new positions.  This includes Long’s mentor, Darnell Braswell, who takes over the William Allen basketball program.  The former Canary great  — another local product who had an outstanding playing career locally — took over the Allen head coaching position just a few days after Long was approved by the Bethlehem Area School District School Board to take over at Liberty.

The Hurricanes are no doubt a team in transition as they lost one of the most underrated and best all-around players to graduation.  Long will be responsible for cultivating a new leader after the departure of Will Harper, who played varsity basketball for his entire four-year career.

Likewise, Liberty has a number of freshmen and sophomores who will be responsible for stepping up their games and keeping the program playing at a high level.

Furthermore, I’ve heard from insiders in the Bethlehem community that there’s a number of very talented 7th and 8th graders coming into the program this year and Nigel will be responsible for implementing his hard-working and aggressive, defense-driven style of play that he was so well-known for during his playing days.

It should also be noted that with the hiring of Long, Braswell and Dieruff High School’s Marlon Randall, the Lehigh Valley tripled the number of African-American head basketball coaches within a 10-day span.  As far as I can remember, this number had never been more than one at any given time during the same calendar year.

Each of these head coaches discussed the cultural significance of this fact and other ways their hiring will positively impact their respective communities. I enjoyed my conversations with each of these men on our most recent shows.  I am very much looking forward to working with them and hope I have the opportunities to announce their games this winter.

Thanks to all of our local coaches and administrators for being on our show and best of luck on the new chapter in your careers!

Summer Hoops ’20 (Round 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. 

Normally by this time every year, I have annually made my way out to at least a few dozen of the summer basketball league games and to two or three (or more) different tournaments that feature teams from the RCN coverage areas in Lehigh Valley, the Delaware Valley and even teams from the Washington, DC area.

Obviously, those plans have been put on hold, with a number of spring and summer tournaments canceling their usual events.

In speaking to several of the local summer basketball organizers, there remains some optimism that, while the full slate of “summer league” games will not be played, there could be some events over the next two months to give the kids a little bit of outdoor basketball activities in late July or August.

Thinking of these games made me look through my computer and discover there were quite a bit of “new” pictures that I took at last year’s summer games that never saw the light of day because of space and never made it to our website.

As fate would have it, I’d like to present a whole batch of these never-before-seen summer basketball pictures as we reflect on last year’s outdoor basketball action.  I will continue to be in contact with summer basketball league organizers over the next several weeks.  I very much hope that I will be able to pass along some positive news soon for summer hoops fans on “SportsTalk” and here at “The Shop.”

In the meantime, we look back on the action from last year…

Keep checking back to the “SportsTalk Shop” for the latest news – positive or negative – regarding summer basketball, or any other local sports, returning to action in the RCN viewing areas this year.

 

 

 

HS All-Stars 2020 (Round 2)

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.

A few weeks back here at “The Shop,” we started to bring you all the All-Stars for the past sports season involving teams in the RCN-TV viewing area.

We continue to honor those student-athletes this week. We’ll start in the DMV area by taking a look at those recognized for high school basketball.

First, here’s the DC State Athletic League releasing their girls and boys list, followed by teams identified by “Major Moves” spotlighting players from Virginia.

Next, here are the scholar-athlete award winners for District 11 for this past school year:

2A Scholar Athlete Winner
Harrison Bernhard- Northwestern Lehigh HS

3A Scholar Athlete Winner
Kenny Herrmann- Bethlehem Catholic HS

2A Essay Winner
Andrew Cerniglia- Notre Dame Green Pond HS

3A Essay Winner
Caden Wright- Emmaus HS

Here are the wrestling student-athlete award winners from each school in both the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and the Colonial League:

2019-20 DXI WCA Scholar Athlete Information

And last but not least, the EPC girls and boys Sportsmanship Award Winners for the 2019-20 school year:

Avery Francis (Stroudsburg)
&
Sheamus McConnell (Pocono Mountain West)

Remember to keep checking back here at “The Shop” for more recognition of our local high school student-athletes’ achievements throughout the year and congratulations to this year’s honorees!

SportsTalk’s Top 10 — Part 2

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 other agency, organization, employer or company.

As part of the 15-year anniversary of the RCN SportsTalk program we are celebrating this month, I started compiling a list of the top 10 shows that come to mind when looking back at the show’s history (see our previous blog for entries #1-#5).

Here are entries #6-#10, in no particular order:

6) Joe Craig, Gary Laubach & Dick Tracy – the pilot show

You never forget your first show…although, it seemed if you blinked, this one was over in a flashAlthough a lot has evolved since that first program, one of the first — and biggest — changes since the first few shows was that the program was only 30 minutes long back then.  With these three legendary sports personalities on for just a half hour, this program seemed to end shortly after we started.  Subsequent weeks revealed that, because of the outstanding talent we have as guests each week, the show had to expand to a 60-minute format, which we have continued to this day. Unlike most television shows now-a-days that are reducing their shows’ length to try to improve their pacing to meet people’s shortening attention spans, I’m proud to say that when our hour is up, guests and viewers alike always say, “Hey, I wish we had another hour to talk more.” 

7) Olympian Joetta Clark Diggs

I’m cheating here as we have been honored to have this international star on a few times over the years. She has discussed everything from her time in the Olympics to raising her daughter, Talitha, to topical social issues, to her story with her dad’s career, on which the movie “Lean On Me” was based. If I find out in advance that Keith Groller will not be with us and we’re discussing a topic I know she feels strongly about, she’s the first person I call to see if she’s available to fill in as a co-host.  Joetta is always a joy to speak with about all of her areas of expertise.

8) The Lumberjack Show at the Fair

SportsTalk Executive Producer Rick Geho has had some very good suggestions for me and the show over the years. One idea that I didn’t think was so great at the time involved one of our shows from the Allentown Fair. We were sharing the Farmerama Stage with a gentleman from Minnesota who performed a lumberjack show and Rick suggested that we have him on as a guest.

A lumberjack show…really?

But not only did this gentleman produce some wonderful stories and made for an entertaining show, but he bid me — live on the air — to participate in some of his show activities.  This included me throwing an axe over my head to try to hit a target 40 feet away.  Without any practice, I hit the target – a feat Mr. Craig and our RCN crew members still say to this day was one of the most shocking things they’ve seen in their careers (I tried to think of that as a compliment from them, but I’m not so sure).

9) The Dick Tracy “surprise” tribute show

This is actually the first show that came to mind when I sat down to do this … and will probably be one of the greatest SportsTalk episodes that I will ever be a part of. Coach Tracy was a mentor to me – I looked up to him as a kid watching Whitehall HS basketball games, he was my journalism and yearbook teacher as a high school student and a colleague and the most helpful person to me when I started announcing games in the Lehigh Valley as a radio announcer. Then later I had the honor to announce games with him for RCN-TV. When Coach “retired” from broadcasting I remembered a conversation from years earlier in which I asked him: if there was one day in which he could relive any of the great experiences in his life, what would it be?  His response was that he would actually enjoy a couple hours sitting around with his state championship Zephyr basketball team and just shoot the breeze with them.  I contacted everyone on that team along with some other special people in Dick’s life who came in and surprised him live on the air. Coach HATED tributes and the fact that we were able to bring his entire team back and keep this a secret from him while pulling off a successful show on LIVE TV is truly one of the most amazing accomplishments I will ever have achieved as producer of this program.

10) ???

Now I’m really taking an easy way out. Probably even if I had the rundown of all of our shows in front of me I couldn’t name a final entry in this list.  I’ve been blessed to have so many wonderful people volunteer their time to come in and share their stories and opinions with us. I’d like to think every show is a little unique from the previous ones so I am just going to keep the spot open for now and call it a tie between practically every other show we’ve done.

Thanks to all for the memories!!!

 

 

 

 

“Breaking Exclusive” News

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 other agency, organization, employer or company.

 I know this week I had teased part two of our SportsTalk Top 10 list, but I really think it is imperative I address something else in this week’s blog entry.

From time to time I feel called upon to blow our own horn just a bit. Yes, it may be self-serving and, to be completely honest, it’s not one of my strengths. But as I do represent a talented and hard-working group of people who work on the RCN Sports staff, I do feel the need, from time to time, to point out a few truths to sports fans.

For the record, I don’t do this every single time I notice, but there are some occurrences where I do feel obligated to point some things out and set the record straight.

And this is one of those more extreme examples that I often see.

Back in mid-April when I did my first “all remote access” edition of RCN SportsTalk, Notre Dame Head Baseball Coach Mike Bedics was on our show and revealed that nearly all of the local high school baseball coaches in the RCN viewing area – 32 of them – had gotten together and put a plan in place to participate in a high school baseball tournament in August.

Granted, there were still a lot of unknowns at that time as everyone – including our state government – had no idea how long the coronavirus would last.  Nor did anyone have any idea on what the “return to normalcy” and resulting regulations would look like.

Still, it was noted that a solid plan was in place, along with locations that would host games. All of them would be able to accommodate spacing out issues in cooperation with social distancing, Bedics explained, that if it was all possible and permissible under Department of Education regulations, the tournament would be played. It was also explained this was a way to give seniors who missed out on their final high school season a chance to play the sport they love one more time.

It was a great scoop we had, as the meeting had just taken place a few hours before we recorded the interview and it was an opportunity, once again, to let the RCN viewers in on something before anyone else in eastern Pennsylvania had any idea about it.

Fast forward to this past weekend.

Another local news agency came out with “breaking exclusive news,” citing local high school coaches have put together a plan to have a high school baseball tournament in August.  The story then pretty much repeated everything that was on our program – TWO MONTHS PRIOR – with of course the repetition of the phrase “breaking exclusive story” a few more times.  It ended with a codicil noting that it still needed local and state government approval (as we had stated on our program) but that local coaches were optimistic the games could be played.  Again, the exact same information that was on our show … over 8 WEEKS before.

I realized that not every single person in eastern Pennsylvania watches the RCN SportsTalk Show every week.  I also know that people may not be able to see every single episode … even though all of our shows are available to RCN customers through video on demand and/or DVR or TiVo the show.

However, if you do want to stay ahead of the curve and find out information before it is revealed elsewhere, you might want to schedule watching the show – in some way, shape or form – each week, so that you are not left out  nor have to wait a couple months to get local sports news.

*******

Speaking of RCN SportsTalk, we have some great new programs coming your way over the next several weeks…

… Former playing great & retiring Allen Head Basketball Coach Doug Snyder, stepping down after 24 years

Washington Nationals Beat Writer Jesse Dougherty with the latest on MLB’s attempt to restart their season

… Retiring Liberty Head Basketball Coach Chad Landis, stepping down after 12 years as head coach and eight more years as an assistant

… This fall’s incoming class of head football coaches in Easton, Pennsylvania

… New Allen High School Athletic Director Randy Atiyeh and new Head Basketball Coach Darnell Braswell

… New Dieruff High School Athletic Director David Stout and new head basketball coach Marlon Randall

… This fall’s defending District XI champions (in multiple sports)

… League and district administrators to talk about the Department of Education’s guidance and protocols for high school sports regarding the Coronavirus

… & more!!!

SportsTalk’s Top 10 — 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 other agency, organization, employer or company.

I thought I had a really cool idea for this week’s SportsTalk Shop blog entry.

Since this week marks the 15th anniversary of our first ever RCN SportsTalk program, I thought it would be interesting to go back and pick out the top SportsTalk shows that come to mind when I think about our 15 years on the air.

I really got excited when I started brainstorming all the great shows that came to mind, the wonderful people we’ve had on, and the tremendous conversations and stories we’ve heard. I thought it would be best if I put a cap on the number of episodes I recollect, otherwise we might be taking up far too much bandwidth than we’re allotted on the website.  But before I got too deep in the process, I thought I better check my files to make sure I don’t leave off an important show that might be slipping my mind.

I could say my memory is not what it used to be – although since I’m constantly writing things down, I could also argue my memory has never been as good as it should be.

So I went to my computer to get the full rundown of all the shows we’ve done and, as bad luck would have it, the link to the file that stores all of our show episodes is not available. So I’m going to continue with my original thought (for now) of writing down the first SportsTalk shows that come into my mind when I look back on the history of the program. Keep in mind this is purely based on my recollections and no statistics or official barometer was used in its compilation.

I do want to apologize in advance if I’m missing an obvious choice that should make this list and I reserve the right to do this list again to make changes or to insert something that should be on this list in the first place.

So here we go, in no particular order:

  • Saquon Barkley
    He only gets one spot on our list but the New York Giants star running back has actually made a few appearances on our program over the years.  As I’ve said frequently over the last ten years — since he was a sophomore in high school, his tremendous work ethic is amazing and it’s paid off, making one of the biggest personalities currently in sports.

  • Dick Tracy & John Donmoyer
    I have no shame in admitting that sometimes our best shows are the ones in which I say very little, and this show was certainly one of them.  They are arguably two of the biggest high school basketball coaching names in the Lehigh Valley, and I didn’t have to do much prodding to get these two sports geniuses to start recalling stories of their heydays – both great memories playing against each other and other wonderful recollections brought back from decades of coaching excellence.

  • Doug Snyder & John Donmoyer
    Another show where I didn’t have to ask too many questions…the wonderful stories flowed freely as the 25-year head coach of the Allen boys basketball team and his prodigy-turned-successor recalled the Canaries basketball program’s greatest moments, some very personal moments and rarely told recollections of the school’s most triumphant victories over the last four decades.  Incidentally, Snyder just retired after his 24th year (out of respect he quit one year before Donmoyer did) and we will have an entirely new show with Doug coming up on SportsTalk later this month.

  • Freedom football team
    I knew the basic idea for Sports Talk would be a success, given the popularity of sports in this area. However, I’ve frequently been shocked at times by the outpouring of feedback that I receive, and this particular episode was one that really blew my mind.  Head Coach Jason Roeder, starting Quarterback Joe Young (now playing at Harvard) and his teammates had some great stories recalling the hurdles they had overcome four seasons ago, the challenges students face and on turning their program around while overcoming massive injuries in this particular year (at that time, they set a school record for wins in a season – recently surpassed by the team from two years ago). Furthermore, I remember the people who contacted me for WEEKS after the show aired, thanking me for having them on – I’m pretty sure the number of IN PERSON responses from Freedom fans alone were well over 300!
  • Nazareth girls & boys basketball & wrestling teams
    I’m cheating here because we’ve had the pleasure of having several Blue Eagles teams on SportsTalk over the years.  The student-athletes have always impressed me — not only being great on-camera speakers but also in revealing some wonderful personalities. Head Coaches Dave Crowell, Joe Arndt and Rich Bickert have not only won a lot of sporting events but have produced some great kids which is always evident when they make an appearance on our show to talk about, literally, everything. From discussing their love of classic movies to the Bridgeforth twins singing “Roll Out The Barrel” live on air, these Nazareth teams always make for incredibly entertaining TV.

We’ll continue our look back at some of the top moments in the history of the RCN SportsTalk program next week!

 

ATHLETES SPEAKING OUT

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 other agency, organization, employer or company.

I very rarely discuss controversial topics publicly…and I don’t think I’m going to be providing much issue for debate here.

I won’t state any talking points that can entice an argument, and I truly don’t think anything I’m about to say would be something that anyone would seriously question.

Clearly the injustice in the killing of George Floyd last week is unacceptable.  Anyone who would even think about debating that has some serious mental issues.

I’m also not going to debate the issue of whether physical violence is the appropriate response. Clearly, something needs to be done in our society and I don’t think I have the aptitude to solve this divisive topic all by myself.

I’m not even going to open up the can of worms as to whether athletes should be social role models or not. Charles Barkley declared several years ago that he is not a role model and kids shouldn’t follow his lead because he’s an athlete…but I spoke with him many times during his playing days and he’s very well aware that millions do.  He’s proven to be a remarkable spokesperson of his generation both as a player and now as a broadcaster.

And unless you want to overturn the First Amendment’s right to Freedom of Speech, I don’t think you can argue the fact that people have a right to voice their own opinion, whether they’re a pro athlete or otherwise.

But I would like to offer a bit of advice to sports personalities, or for anyone for that matter, who seeks out a microphone to call for social change:

Know your facts before you speak and speak of what you know…you only hurt your own argument by using incorrect information.

I lost track of the celebrities over the weekend who made statements in which their arguments were based on things that weren’t even true, and/or mangled facts so badly that their talking points couldn’t be taken seriously.

In the past I have seen firsthand compelling arguments completely fall apart, just because people had no idea about the subject they were arguing for or failed to research a topic thoroughly enough to properly argue a theory.

Some examples…

My first year covering the Philadelphia Phillies, young outfielder Wes Chamberlain (who concurrently wanted more money and a new contract for himself) went on a rant before a game that society was unfairly discriminating against blue collar workers and the government should take a more active role in properly distributing income to low income families.

While it was a veiled attempt at trying to popularize himself with fans to put pressure on the front office to give him more money, he appeared to be making a very compelling argument…at first.

That was until he said he would have trouble just being able to put food on the table if he had to live on a blue-collar worker’s salary.

When one member of the media asked him, “What do you think an average blue-collar worker makes per year?”

His hesitant response.was, “About $400,000?”

(…and this was over 20 years ago).

Chamberlain didn’t get a new contract.

A few years ago, I was on hand for a general media gathering in which Will Smith, one of my favorite all-time performers, was available for questions as he became a new part owner of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The discussion evolved into Smith giving his thoughts on the nation’s economy and his suggestions that the U.S. Government should transition the country to embrace socialism.

Again, Smith started with some strong points before claiming that the United States would be better off if we adopted the exact same government system as Sweden…until someone asked if he would be okay with the government taxing his income at 50% or more.

Smith stepped back aghast and retorted, “Whoa, is that really how much the tax rate is in Sweden?”

The 76ers have never allowed media accessibility with Smith since.

Listen. I don’t pretend to have all the answers and I am certainly not right with my responses 100% of the time.

I am also not discouraging any athlete – local, regional or national – from speaking out and doing or saying what they believe is right.

Clearly, more action needs to be done, which includes having more vocal leaders and less passive followers.

What I AM suggesting is for people who hear the call to speak out, do so for the right reasons and be sure of your facts when you try to make an argument.

If you listened long enough…and patiently enough…this past weekend, there were some brilliant calls to action and solid points made by famous people both inside and outside of the sports world.

But far too many of those positive messages were drowned out by people clearly having no clue of what they were talking about. Too much time was spent quibbling about the inaccuracies of rants, pointing fingers on which facts were right and what words were politically correct to use at which times … along with flat out ignorant statements … all that clouded the main problem.

And let’s not forget NBA writer Chris Palmer who, one minute last Saturday, encouraged riotous acts, destruction of random property and to let cities burn to the ground … only to demand that an out-of-control mob shut everything down less than 24 hours later after they attacked a community in which his sister happened to live.

Similar acts of hypocrisy ran rampant the last few days, and nothing undermines a coherent thought more than completely reversing your opinion hours later.

Too often there’s a rush to get something on social media, whether it’s accurate or not, to ignite a feeling of hate, or simply to be the first to say something.  What IS needed are feelings to invoke inspiration for trying to make our society better and equal for ALL people.

Not enough time has been spent on addressing the real issues in our society and what could — and should — be done to finally solve racial tensions and police brutality.

If you take a pause and really look around, there’s plenty of celebrities who provide the inspiration in what they say and how they do it.

I would encourage people to do their homework in subject matter and learn a little from those positive people who you feel best inspire you, before becoming a great leader yourself and bringing about the change that’s sorely needed right now.

Once you are sure of your direction…BE THE CHANGE!!!

 

 

 

FORGOTTEN HOLIDAYS

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

When I first embarked on a career in communications, I was fully aware that I would have to work most holidays.

While I have met a lot of people in this industry who feel the complete opposite, I also happily acknowledged that as the low man on the totem pole when I first started out, I would probably be working ALL holidays.

And I did…for nearly ten years. And didn’t complain once.

My family has always been completely understanding that work may sometimes infringe on the normal “family times.”  Shortly after I got married, I negotiated a completely fair and reasonable arrangement for all the times I would have to spend away from home (aka, on the first day that I did NOT have to work, I am completely obligated to do whatever my wife tells me to do.)

Hey, whatever it takes.

One of my many benefits for working at RCN is that I don’t miss nearly as much time around the holidays as I used to. And even when I do, I usually get the chance to work from home for most of them, so I can at least be near some of the fun family activities that are going on.

For example, Labor Day traditionally coincides with the first Monday of the high school football season, which is the day to start gathering rosters, putting requests for information in with the coaches, athletic directors and support staff. Experience shows that you cannot simply wait until Tuesday to get started preparing for that weekend’s football game.  My experience has also helped in that I have developed great relationships with local football head coaches, so a call later Labor Day afternoon to these gentlemen is not looked at as an intrusion on their time either, but usually a friendly conversation in which I also get the information needed.

If New Year’s Day falls on a day before a high school basketball game, it’s also imperative you start working on getting your information BEFORE New Year’s Eve (most teams have a holiday tournament between Christmas and New Year’s, so it’s difficult to “cheat” and work too far ahead in advance) and then get in a quick conversation with coaches on New Year’s Day before putting the finishing touches on my game prep and disseminating the information to the graphics operators, statisticians, replay operators and other members of our production crew before truly settling in and enjoying that holiday.

Not the most festive way to ring in the New Year, but again, I wouldn’t trade my job for anything.

Perhaps the most hectic working holiday tradition has been the Memorial Day weekend.  Normally that Saturday/Sunday/Monday features several (and starting last year with the new expanded playoff system, no less than eight) high school baseball semi-final games.  In addition to running around the area to watch and make notes on these games and making contacts for accumulating the team’s info (since it’s the playoffs you can’t work ahead), the fun REALLY starts Monday afternoon and night.  This is when you have to compile/follow-up/edit/reproduce all the information to send it out to the crew to prepare for the district championship games, which sometimes start as early as the very next day.

Again, not complaining…just stating the facts, and I relish the challenge each year.

When people who don’t know me very well ask what my plans are for these holidays, especially Memorial Day, I simply say I have some work commitments and kiddingly refer to these working days off as my “forgotten holidays.”

Like a lot of the athletic directors and coaches who I have been speaking with over the last two months during the pandemic, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reflection about the situation we are in and taking stock of the time NOT spent running around frantically during these traditionally busy times…like what normally happens this week.

Coming from a military family, my father and grandfather instilled in me a very deep sense of loyalty and honor for Memorial Day and Veterans Day in remembering what is the true meaning of what these holidays.

One of my proudest early moments in my television career –  one that helped me win an award  – included being a host and producer of a public affair television show.  And one of the most memorable moments from that show included a feature I did on a group called the “Sons of the Revolution.”

Each year on Memorial Day weekend, these groups of dedicated individuals travel around to known cemeteries in Eastern Pennsylvania that house veterans of any war and perform a ceremonial service, complete with Taps and a 21-Gun Salute.

While each individual service never takes more than 30 minutes, it’s hard not to be moved by the experience and is something I feel everyone should experience at least once.  When I did the story, most of the participants were well past the retirement age, yet featured so much palpable energy, I would find it difficult for any witnesses not to be inspired by their efforts.

We followed this group around to three different cemeteries before compiling more than enough interview and b-roll footage to make for a very compelling video package.

Following our third service and after thanking the gentlemen for their hospitality and their own tremendous service, I left feeling an incredible sense of pride for my country, along with an obligation that it would not be the last time that I attended one of these events.

This year I did some research and was happy to find that this group is not only still fully operational but continues to perform services in Eastern PA–albeit limited somewhat this spring due to the Coronavirus and social distancing constrictions.  Included in this year’s event was with a special tribute to two World War II veterans on the 75th anniversary to the end of that conflict.  While I don’t think my twelve-year-old son got as much out of the experience as I did, I sincerely hope it’s something that sticks with him for a while and an event that he will not soon forget.

It also made me realize that 15 years had passed between me making that initial commitment to return to see these special people’s ceremonies and returning to witness another one in person.

While we have a whole new brand of modern day heroes keeping us safe during this pandemic, Memorial weekend is also a time for reflection and a reminder that, no matter what else we have going on, we should set time aside in our lives to honor and salute the brave men and women who courageously gave the ultimate sacrifice in serving our great nation.

Shame on me for sometimes forgetting this message.