Behind the Mic: Lafayette-Lehigh: A Gag Order!

45,000 tickets have been sold for the 150th edition of the Lafayette-Lehigh football game to be played on November 22 at Yankee Stadium. Yes – that Yankee Stadium. There may be a few more tickets available, but from an interest standpoint this is a bonanza already. It’s a sell-out for all intents and purposes; buses have been reserved; hotel rooms have been taken for the weekend; parties are planned; alumni gatherings are already in the works, etc. You get the picture – excitement is overflowing.

BUT… can we agree to just stop talking about THE GAME now until both teams are ready for the 11th game on their schedule? Let me explain why:

1. The most important football game is always the next game. That is where the focus should and needs to be for these two programs. Lehigh and Lafayette open their season September 6 (not Nov. 22), against James Madison and Sacred Heart respectively.

2. Lafayette is the defending Patriot League champion and every team in the league will be after them. None of the other teams care at all about Yankee Stadium.

3. Lehigh has had a chance to win the Patriot League championship the past two years by winning their last home game of the season. They lost both. Lehigh may want to concern themselves with winning all their games at Goodman Stadium before being concerned about Yankee Stadium.

4. Trust me. Fordham, the team everyone believes will win the Patriot League, would love for Lafayette to be thinking about the other game in the Bronx and not their match-up in the Bronx on October 3. This is the opening game of the Patriot League for Lafayette. The Leopards beat then-undefeated Fordham (10-0) 27-14 last year. Revenge will be in the air. The Leopards better not be looking ahead when this one rolls around.

5. Lehigh has Fordham at home on October 25. Win this one and their last home game of the year (Colgate) could again be very, very important – See #3.

6. Lafayette is fortunate to have a bye week before the Lehigh game. They will have plenty of time to think about the Mountain Hawks then. No need to do it before then.

7. Lehigh’s bye week comes before their Patriot League opener against Bucknell on October 11. Much like Lafayette, their bye week should allow them to focus only on the next opponent.

8. A bad year by both teams leading up to the 150th would take a lot of the interest away.

9. This game deserves to take on added importance and that means playing for a League championship by one or both. That will only happen if both teams stay focused on the next opponent.

10. CBS Sports Network is televising the game. My streak of doing play-by-play for the game will end. So, I am NOT looking ahead to this one and neither should anyone else!

Tune in this Saturday night at 6:00pm from Fairfield, Connecticut, for the Lafayette-Sacred Heart game LIVE on RCN-TV. I may mention the Lafayette-Lehigh game as a promo, but you might notice that my heart’s not in it – YET!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. The NFL Giants have a new offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo. During the pre-season the starters and especially Eli Manning looked like they were totally lost in this offense. One of the most interesting things to watch this first week of the NFL is how the Giants’ offense fares against the Lions.

2. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Penn State-Central Florida game on Saturday morning. It was a great finish and ended around noon, leaving the rest of the day to do other things. I like morning sports.

3. Neither #1 Florida State nor #2 Alabama looked unbeatable in their wins over Oklahoma State and West Virginia, respectively. An Oklahoma State fumble and plenty of West Virginia dropped passes proved to be the difference. It could be a great year in college football.

4. There were no upsets in the first week of Lehigh Valley high school football. The closest to being called an upset was Stroudsburg beating Nazareth, but the Mounties look like the best team from the old Mountain Valley Conference.

5. It’s Emmaus at Easton LIVE on Friday night on RCN-TV at 7:00pm. Both won easily the first week. Emmaus beat Easton 14-7 last year. The game is at Cottingham Stadium and should be one of the top match-ups of the year. See you there.

Gary's Picks
NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK
(Last Year 174-92-1 65%)

SEATTLE
NEW ENGLAND
CLEVELAND
NEW ORLEANS
KANSAS CITY
CINCINNATI
JETS
ST. LOUIS
PHILADELPHIA
CHICAGO
HOUSTON
TAMPA BAY
SAN FRANCISCO
DENVER
DETROIT
ARIZONA

The Real March Madness – Behind the Mic – March 18th

The brackets are out!! Everyone starts the week with high expectations to be the best in their various investments into the various pools (for amusement only, of course). I have been invited to participate in nine and the list could still grow. After all, it’s only Monday. So I have started my research and I have come to the conclusion that research will most likely do me absolutely no good.

This was probably the most unpredictable college basketball season in recent history. First of all, a tell-tale sign that this is the “Year of the Whaaatt?” is that the defending national champions, the Kentucky Wildcats, are not even invited. Add to that, there were six teams that were #1 at some point during the season. So if you think you are knowledgeable about college hoops this year, you are probably going to be a loser. This will be the year of the upsets. If there was ever a time to actually get your wife, girlfriend, nerdy husband, or boyfriend involved in your selections, this is the year. If you happen to go that route, prepare yourself for the “I like their colors”, “Their nickname is cute”, “What state are they from?”, “I like teams that begin with B”, etc. I know for those of us who are purists, this kind of babble can make one wretch. But, mark my words; this year might be that year! You can wretch now while making your picks or wretch later when you are tearing up the sheets with your picks on them.

The #1’s are Louisville, Kansas, Indiana, and Gonzaga. My basketball brain tells me to go with Louisville. They are the hottest team right now, just won the Big East tournament, and seem to be in a very favorable bracket. So, should you pick them to win it all? Don’t do it!! Too obvious. This should not be the year to pick the favorite.

Of the #1’s, I kind of like Gonzaga. Their schedule made them a mystery team, but I find it fun to root for them in the post-season. The #2’s look strong – Duke, Miami, Ohio State, and Georgetown. But, can one of them go all the way? Flip a coin, throw a dart!

So, who do I like?

Midwest – Memphis as a sleeper, but I pick Louisville.

West – Still like Gonzaga; don’t like Ohio State; New Mexico has a shot.

South – Michigan led by Trey Burke; Georgetown, maybe.

East – Bucknell!! (Just seeing if you are still with me). It should be Indiana, but don’t count out Miami.

Do I have to pick a national champion? Wait until I call my wife.


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I am beginning to get the sense that teams that know they are in the tournament don’t care much anymore about their conference championships. Plenty of #1 seeds did not make the tournament finals.
  2. I mentioned Bucknell, the Patriot League champion, up top, but how do I think they will really do? Mike Muscala is the best offensive and defensive player in the League. If he gets backcourt help, they can shock Butler. However, Butler already has beaten Indiana and Gonzaga. This is a very tough draw for the Bison.
  3. 40 years ago, Allentown Central Catholic became the first parochial state champions in the PIAA. They beat four undefeated teams in their last five games. It is really strange this year not seeing them in the state playoffs.
  4. As I write this, the Bethlehem Catholic Golden Hawks are the last Lehigh Valley team alive in the state playoffs. To me, they look like a state champion. They have size, speed, intensity, and, most importantly, talent. Go Hawks!!

PS – Don’t bother me until after April 6. I will be checking my NCAA pool! I want to see how my wife did.

Behind the Mic – February 19th

Another Day at the Office – Well, Not Quite

Walking into the Kirby Sports Center this past Saturday to do a basketball game seemed no different than the other hundreds of times I have made a similar trip to the many venues around the Lehigh Valley. I was there to do a game, and like all the other games I do, I anticipated a storyline that John Leone and I would develop before and during the contest.

This storyline did not have a great deal of optimism attached to it. The Lafayette men were playing the league – leading the Bucknell Bison. Lafayette was coming off an 85-68 loss to Army just three days prior, would not have their starting center for the second straight game, and had already lost to Bucknell by 14 points just a month ago.

My realistic expectation was that somehow Lafayette could keep the game close, but the storyline that I mentioned earlier gave little hope that this was going to be a competitive contest. Bucknell’s center, Mike Muscala, is the best in the Patriot League and, some propose, the second best in the country. He leads the League in scoring and rebounding. And, as noted earlier, Lafayette’s starting center was injured and unavailable.

The atmosphere was electric! Bucknell brought the most fans of any visiting team so far. The Leopard fans, student body, and pep band certainly added to the energy in the building.

The game was good right from the start, except for Muscala. He was great!! He had a double-double by the half: 21 points and 10 rebounds. Lafayette trailed by 7. A single digit deficit is still a game.

In the middle of the second half, Dan Mowdy, our sideline reporter tracked down Tony Johnson’s father. Tony is the senior point guard and co-captain of the Lafayette team and hails from Folsom, California. Suffice it to say, his father does not get to see him play LIVE very often. I believe this was his first visit to Kirby this year. Now, Tony’s mother, Karen, and his stepfather, Michael Witt, do come in from California on a number of occasions to see Tony perform. Tony, also, has a great support group of friends and relatives who make a point of making the cross-country trek to see Tony in his element. I am sure the trip is always worthwhile.

The Leopards kept it close throughout the second half. Muscala had just 8 more points and 5 rebounds, and, with 45 seconds to go, Bucknell led by one and had the ball. The Lafayette defense forced Bucknell to throw up a desperation shot before the shot clock expired. The shot missed – ten seconds left – and the ball in the hands of, you guessed it – Tony Johnson!

Tony Johnson, with his friends and family watching our telecast back in California, and his father watching in a gym that was ready to blow the roof off, dribbled the length of the court, gave the defender his now familiar crossover dribble, added a step-back and drained the 10-foot jumper!! 63-62! The Leopards win! The Leopards win!

Johnson’s Game Winner Lifts Lafayette Over Bucknell – Lafayette Leopards Official Athletic Site

Tony scored 17 points, gave out 5 assists, had 4 rebounds, and garnered 2 steals.

My pre-game storyline – worthless; the cost of that cross country ticket for his father – priceless!


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Besides the basketball win over Bucknell, this was a good Saturday to be a Lafayette Leopard – the Lafayette women’s basketball team beat Bucknell at Bucknell in overtime after being down by 16; the Lafayette men’s lacrosse team beat highly touted Georgetown in overtime 11-10; and the Lafayette women’s lacrosse team beat Marist 12-8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RR2z_uvXFlE
  2. The Lafayette-Lehigh rivalry is intense, to say the least, in every sport. As an announcer, I look forward to doing any Lafayette-Lehigh matchup, particularly in football and basketball. For the third year in a row, CBS Sports Network has taken the men’s basketball game away from our production schedule. Do I sound bitter? I mean to.
  3. The Philadelphia Flyers are certainly not making the Philadelphia sports fan forget the Phillies’, the Eagles’, and the ‘76’ers’ dismal seasons. The Flyers have just added to their misery. Maybe next year?
  4. When I was a kid and went to a major league baseball game, I wanted to get my glove and ball out as soon as I came back home from the ballpark. I feel the same way now when I watch these golf tournaments from California and Hawaii. Where are my clubs?? And then, I look outside.
  5. Have you checked out the TV show, “Elementary”? It is ”House” as a crime-solver instead of a doctor? Give it a look. I like it.