To Punkin’ & Stan – Behind the Mic – March 4th

I lost a couple of buddies within the last few weeks: Punkin’ Miller and Stan Sutphen.

Both men were real sports enthusiasts and I really enjoyed talking and, many times, arguing with them.

Punkin’ and I would chat at least once a week. He was not shy about telling me what he liked and didn’t like in the sports world. He was certainly a friend of this RCN and would call me often to offer a logical and sensible opinion about my world. He loved football and basketball and he always wanted to know which team I thought was the best. However, baseball was his favorite. He loved to complain about coaching the Orioles in the Blue Mountain League, but he, also, loved to coach the Orioles. Make no mistake, his favorite sport was baseball. He was not nearly as happy during the off season.

My paths in life often intersected with Stan Sutphen. When I was in college, I was an English student teacher at Easton and one of the men who offered valuable advice was Mr. Sutphen. We maintained a friendship from that time on. I followed Stan’s team on the radio and vividly remember listening to Dick Hammer on WEST radio to the team’s run to the Final Four in the PIAA state playoffs. He and I would later serve on the board of directors for the Nor-Car Federal Credit Union and there I learned just how intelligent Stan was in so many areas.

Punkin’ and Stan were alike in many ways. They both loved sports. They both were very opinionated and, often, very right. They both loved baseball (Stan would travel to Florida to see his Dodgers up close in the winter). They both were intelligent men. Both had a great sense of humor (Punkin’ with jokes and Stan with a very wry wit). Both probably contributed to an earlier passing than necessary. Both were assets to many, many people while they were here, and both men were very easy to like and respect.

I miss them both.


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The Patriot League has a very good idea at the end of the season. Every team in the running for a tournament seed plays at the same time on the last Saturday of the regular season. All the men’s teams played at noon, with the exception of Navy-Bucknell. Those two teams had already solidified their seeds in the tournament. So, wouldn’t you know it, the standings all remained the same after Saturday’s games. The only teams who will repeat their Saturday matchup is Navy at Bucknell. Lafayette hosts Holy Cross, Lehigh hosts Colgate, and Army hosts American. The winners play Saturday, March 9, and the championship is Wednesday, March 13.
  2. The state basketball playoffs begin this weekend. Only one District XI top seed (A Girls) won the title. The titles were won by five #2’s, a #3, and a #6.
  3. RCN-TV produced 11 basketball games, 2 college games, and the regional wrestling tournament in 5 days this past week. We will have a college game, and 8 basketball games from Wednesday to Saturday this week. It’s the best time of the year.
  4. I see the temperatures will be in the 50’s this weekend. Time to clean the clubs.
  5. Are you ready for March Madness? Remember, the office pools are for “amusement only”.

Behind the Mic – February 26th

“The Thrill of Victory; The Agony of Defeat”

Ever since Jim McKay immortalized those words on the introduction to ABC’s Wide World of Sports, those eight words have perfectly described so many sporting events. They were the perfect words again on Friday night at around 9:10 PM. Let me explain:

The Wilson Warriors were playing the Salisbury Falcons in a high school PIAA District XI quarterfinal game. This is the only round where the loser sees their season come to an end. Win this one and you are guaranteed two more; win one of those and you enter the state basketball tournament.

Wilson was enjoying one of their greatest years in Warrior history. They finished the regular season 21-1 having lost their third game of the year in overtime. They then reeled off 20 consecutive wins, a school record. Among those victories were 3 wins over the same Salisbury team they would face on Friday. The Warriors won the three previous match-ups rather easily – 58-43; 63-50; 48-36, the latter just 10 days earlier in the Colonial League semi-finals. Wilson then played for the Colonial League championship against Bangor, a team they had also beaten during the regular season. Wilson lost the game and the championship in overtime (yes, that’s right). The bad news, no championship; the good news, their season was not over.

One week later was the fourth Salisbury game, do or die this time. It was a good game from the very start. Salisbury led 17-9 after one; 30-27 at the half; and Wilson led 42-39 after three. Wilson was able to tie the game in the final ten seconds of the fourth quarter at 50-50. The overtime was a tense affair with Wilson finally taking the lead 55-54 with 3 seconds to go. Wilson’s coach, Bob Frankenfield, a 32-year veteran, walked over to Salisbury’s coach, Jason Weaver, and said, “No matter what happens, Weave, this has been a great game. Unbelievable.” He would not know how perfectly his final word would describe the final 3 seconds. Salisbury’s Dan Reichenbach caught the inbounds pass at midcourt, turned, took two dribbles and fired up a jump shot from 35 feet away. Only the buzzer kept the absolutely silent crowd from hearing the swish of the basketball cleanly passing through the nylon net. Salisbury – 57, Wilson- 55! In overtime! Salisbury’s fans stormed the court to celebrate “the thrill of victory”. They would play a minimum of two more games.

For Wilson, the season was over. The Warriors won 87% of their games; 22 games, 20 in a row, and had very little to show for it. They lost just 3 games all year – every loss was in overtime. One foul shot made, one jump shot defended, one whistle not blown and they may have been undefeated. Instead, they did not win a League championship; they could not win a District championship; and they would not compete in the state playoffs.

A great season for sure, but on this past Friday night, there would be no “thrill of victory”, but, most certainly there was “the agony of defeat.”


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Remember the Tony Johnson story from last week? His father came in from California to watch his son, Lafayette’s point guard, LIVE at Lafayette for the first time all year. Tony hit the game-winning shot against first-place Bucknell! Well, last Wednesday, Lafayette traveled to Holy Cross to play the Crusaders. Lafayette never led in the game until, you guessed it, Tony Johnson hit a three-point shot to win the game with 1.3 seconds on the clock. His father stayed in town to watch Sunday’s Lafayette-Lehigh game. Tony Johnson had a career-high 29 points in that one and the Leopards knocked off second-place Lehigh for the second time. What a week for a son and his father.
  2. I watched the Lafayette-Lehigh game at the Kirby Sports Center yesterday and was just as interested in all the production people running around for CBS College Sports. I understand they put a great product on the air, but ours is pretty good considering we have 1/3 the staff and 1/10 the equipment. It took 7 people surrounding the announcers just for the pre-game.
  3. If I were an Academy member, I would have been hard-pressed to pick the Best Picture. I saw Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook, and Lincoln. They were all outstanding as I am sure Life of Pi, Amour, and Beasts of the Southern Wild were. When the movies are as diverse as these were, how do you pick a best ONE?
  4. The Academy awards show bored me. Daniel Day-Lewis had the best acceptance speech when he said he was signed to play Margaret Thatcher and Meryl Streep was signed for Lincoln and they decided to swap roles.
  5. It’s championship week on RCN Sports. AAAA, AAA, AA, and A District champions in both the boys and the girls classifications. And then on to states. March Madness starts Friday!