Reflection #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.

BEHIND THE MIC:

It has come to this.  After months of sitting down to write a sports blog and having virtually no sports to write about, I have hit what you might call a virtual writer’s block.  There is little to write about.  The evidence is that even the local papers have reduced their sports sections to an average of 4-5 pages.  The stories remain basically the same everyday and can be summed up in one question, “Will they play or won’t they?”

So, I have decided to reflect back, when necessary, on some of my stories over the last 50 years of broadcasting.  I hopefully can still entertain you when there just doesn’t seem to be anything current to write about.  This week, I thought I would begin with the sport that was the most challenging over the years – soccer!

In 1975, I received a summer-time call from Twin-County General Manager, Don Berner.  He wanted to know if I could do play-by-play for soccer.  My mind immediately thought that this had to be a local tournament with kids, since it was not soccer season.  High schools played in the fall.  Being a teacher, I had the summer months off and I was always looking for some extra money.  I said, “Yes”.

Truth be told, I had never seen a soccer match.  I mean I knew that the object was to put the ball in the goal, but beyond that – nothing else.  But, these must be kids.  How hard could it be?

Mr. Berner then went on to say that Twin-County Cable had just signed a contract with the Philadelphia Atoms of the North American Soccer League and we were going to do the rest of their home games at Veterans Stadium, the home, at the time, of the Phillies.  He gave me a date:  two days later and a time to report to the stadium.  I hung up the phone and began to panic.  How was I going to broadcast a game being played at the highest level in this country, not knowing rules, positions, strategies, etc.?

The teacher in me kicked in.  I would learn by reading.  I went to my high school’s library and took out the three books they had on soccer.  I was actually teaching speed reading at the time and had no problem reading the three books in record time.  I took notes and, when I was finished, I felt comfortable that I had a basic understanding of the rules and the responsibilities of the positions on the “pitch” (I learned that was the word for “field” in soccer).  Using that term, I thought, would impress a listener right away.

Two days later, I gathered my notes, jumped in my car, and headed to Veterans Stadium.  I had my own parking space, was ushered into the stadium, and was escorted to the press room.  There, I found a nice Italian buffet awaiting and was joined by other members of the media.  I could get used to this and I liked the way things were going.

My color analyst was a British man who worked with my wife and said he knew soccer.  His name was Donald Hawksworth, which, in itself, gave him credibility.  He was from Europe and had an accent.  And I had no choice but to trust him.  Everything seemed to be going well.

At 7:00, we were taken to the broadcasting booth.  We had leather recliners, sat on the mid-field line, and had a perfect view of the action.  I was handed a press kit with the starting lineups.  I looked at the positions and they were ALL different (except for goalie) than the positions I had memorized.  The books I read were very old and the position names had all changed.  I was back to square one and kick-off was less than 15 minutes away.  I did not know the positions and I certainly did not know their responsibilities.  But, there was no turning back.

We did the game.  It’s all a blur today, but I got through it.  Hawkworth’s British accent did not hurt – he sounded very credible and he did know the game.  I’m sure I sounded like an idiot who did not know the game, but I knew enough to let the Brit do most of the analysis.  I tried not to get in the way.

This was a big moment for our company – a sports contract with a Philadelphia pro team.  The owner of the company, Bark Lee Yee, sat in the production truck the whole time and at the end of the broadcast he said in my ear that I did a good job.

It was quite apparent at that moment that he did not know soccer either.

No sport has caused me more television distress than soccer and I have more painful stories to tell, but let’s hope we can get back to real sports and I do not have to drag them out.  You probably hope the same thing.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The NFL has decided to drop two of the four scheduled preseason games. The players union would like them to drop them all.  This is a decision that I care absolutely nothing about.  I do not like any preseason game.  Next year, there will be three preseason games (down one) and 17 regular season games (up one).
  1. The Ivy League looks like they will be playing their football in the spring. Lafayette has already canceled their first two college football games.  Nothing on the horizon looks promising for any games in the fall.  The landscape changes every day and not for the better.
  1. A computer science college professor estimates that 50% of college football players could contract the coronavirus if the 2020 season is played. That would mean another 7,500 cases and a projection of 3-7 deaths.
  1. The five greatest Lehigh Valley Girls team was announced this week. The members are Laura Newhard (Northampton), Debbie Christman (Emmaus), Jackie Adamshick (Central Catholic), Nicole Levandusky (Palmerton), and Michelle Marciniak (Central Catholic).  Just like the boys’ team, I think the fans got them exactly right.  Wow – what a team!!
  1. Now that it appears the Washington Redskins will change their team nickname, how many other colleges, high schools, and pro teams will be forced to do the same? I played for the Wilson Warriors, but being called a Warrior was a good thing, right?  I am not sure.

 

Gary Laubach About Gary Laubach

Gary began his broadcasting career with Twin County in 1972. Twin County eventually became C-TEC and then RCN. Gary holds the dual role of Director of Media Services and Sports Director/Broadcaster. He currently broadcasts about 140 sports and entertainment broadcasts a year, and oversees the scheduling of all sporting events for RCN.

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