Behind the Mic: Saquon Barkley

October 17th was a rare Saturday for me.  Campus Insiders, an internet sports streaming group affiliated with the Patriot League, was granted the rights to the Lafayette-Harvard game.  There were slim pickings among the high school match-ups, so we all took the day off, a circumstance usually unheard of at this time of the year.  So what did I decide to do – WATCH football, of course. Specifically, I wanted to watch Penn State freshman “phenom”, Saquon Barkley of Whitehall High School, go up against the #1 team in the nation – Ohio State.  This, as many know, is the same Saquon Barkley who thrilled us on RCN-TV last year.  The 18-year-old is a true freshman and playing Big Ten football.  Watching him on Saturday night and putting it mildly, he did not disappoint.

Saquon had sat out the previous two games due to an ankle injury and his availability for Saturday’s game was not known prior to game time.  Trust me, he was available. Saquon rushed for 194 yards on 26 carries, an average of 7.5 yards per carry.  And he had a 44-yard touchdown run called back in the first quarter.  He did have a season-long 56-yard run in the fourth quarter.  He had four runs of over 14 yards.  He has now rushed for over 100 yards in three games and combined with the 195 yards rushing against Rutgers, he now ranks third and fourth in all-time rushing games at Penn State by a freshman.

His runs were dazzling and included another leap over a potential tackler, his second of the season.  He is spectacular at “putting his foot into the ground” and making cuts that leave defenders grasping at air or just watching him run by them.  To me, he has instincts that match some of the greatest to ever play the game.

Barkley is shredding college defenses much like he did at Whitehall.  In his senior year, he rushed for 1851 yards, 8.6 yards per carry and scored 24 rushing touchdowns.  He added another three receiving and a punt and kickoff return for touchdowns.  Take a look at his high school highlight tape:

When his Penn State highlight tape is put together at the end of the season, it should look almost as impressive.

Add to that, he is a great young man who distinguished himself both as a student and an athlete at Whitehall.  He played basketball, even though he was not a great basketball player and could have easily walked away from the team his senior year after acquiring the full scholarship at Penn State.  He played hard in every game and used all the basketball ability he had.  Then, he went on to be a track star and gave away one of his gold medals to a young lady whom he felt deserved one after a bad break cost her a victory.

For me, it is always special to follow the players who were part of the RCN broadcasts in high school.  I relish their success.  Liberty High School product and Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard comes to mind as he gets ready to launch an NBA career.  I want the same kind of success for Saquon.

Here’s hoping Saquon stays injury-free and continues to create exceptional highlight reels.  He has moved well beyond local television in the Lehigh Valley to national exposure on the major networks. For the next 3 ½ seasons, I will be yelling, like all the Nittany Lions fans,

“We are – Penn State!!”

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Cleveland QB Johnny Manziel got into trouble again this past week when he was stopped and questioned by police following an argument with his girlfriend. He was stopped in his car and admitted to drinking prior to the incident.  He was not arrested and did not play in the Cleveland-Denver game.
  2. In case you did not believe Yogi Berra when he said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”, take a look at the Michigan State-Michigan game this past Saturday:

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/10/michigan-state-stuns-michigan-by-returning-punters-fumble-for-td-on-final-play

  1. If you watched the Colts self-destruct against the Patriots on Sunday night, this might be what they really wanted to do:

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/10/university-of-maine-ran-a-similar-play-to-colts-trick-play-but-it-actually-worked#cx_ab_test_id=17&cx_ab_test_variant=cx_blend&cx_art_pos=4&cx_navSource=arttop&cx_tag=trend&cx_ctrl_comp_grp=true&cxrecs_s

  1. If you are an Eagles’ fan, you must constantly be bewildered. How can they make so many mistakes on offense and still win?  If “defense wins championships”, the Eagles can still have a good season.
  2. The EPC South picture could become clearer on Friday night when Freedom (5-0; 7-0) visits Parkland (4-1; 6-1). You can watch the game LIVE on RCN-TV.  Saturday’s games are Lafayette at Holy Cross LIVE at 1:00 and Wilson at Pen Argyl at 7:00.

Gary's Picks

NFL PICKS LAST WEEK – 9-5; OVERALL 61-30 (67%)

NFL PICKS (WEEK SEVEN)
SEATTLE
BUFFALO
WASHINGTON
ATLANTA
INDIANAPOLIS
DETROIT
PITTSBURGH
BROWNS
HOUSTON
NEW ENGLAND
SAN DIEGO
GIANTS
CAROLINA
ARIZONA

Behind the Mic: No “Foot-Ball”

Did you ever wonder why our favorite sport is called “football”?  After all, it is a game that is played primarily with your hands.  Soccer, on the other hand, deserves the name “futbol” because it is played with, well, you can guess.  So why do we call it “football”?  According to Wikipedia:

There are conflicting explanations of the origin of the word “football”. It is widely assumed that the word “football” (or “foot ball”) references the action of the foot kicking a ball. There is an alternative explanation, which is that football originally referred to a variety of games in Medieval Europe, which were played on foot. There is no conclusive evidence for either explanation.

In other words, no one seems to know.

There is one high school coach, however, who knows the name should definitely not be “foot-ball”.  He could appropriately call it “No-foot-ball”.  Kevin Kelley is the coach of Pulaski Academy in Arkansas.  He has been the coach since 2003.  He took over a struggling program and in the past 11 years his team has won three state titles.  His record is 124-22.  AND, except in very special situations, he never punts.  That’s right.  He never punts!!

Why?  Because he has statistically proven that there is no advantage to giving the other team the ball.  Even if you have the ball on your own 5-yard line, Kelley says you should not punt.  If you make the first down, there is no problem.  If you do not, the opponent’s chance of scoring is 92%.  If you punt the ball, statistics show the other team will get the ball around your 40-yard line.  Again, statistics show the opponent still has a 77% chance of scoring.  That’s only a 15% difference.  More numbers – Pulaski gets the first down 50% of the time.  California University professor David Romer agrees.  He said high school punters are very unreliable and therefore high school teams should never punt.  And your chances of making ten yards in four downs as opposed to three are dramatically increased.  The only time Kelley does punt is near the end of a half or at the end of a game when he feels time does not permit the other team to score.

When Kelley’s teams score, he adds another ripple to his unconventional style.  He ALWAYS onside kicks.  His team is successful 20% of the time in recovering the kick.  That is not a very high percentage, but once again, statistics prove his point.  The average drive after a kickoff starts on the 33-yard line.  The average field position after an onsides kick is the 47-yard line, a difference of just 14 yards.  Pulaski will cause a turnover one in five kickoffs – well worth the 14-yard risk.

How do you think Lehigh Valley fans would react to this decision-making?  We all know that fans’ patience with high school coaches’ decisions is far from tolerant.  Going for and failing to make a first down inside your own five-yard line on fourth down would definitely create, to put it mildly, disgruntlement. One of Kevin Kelley’s fellow coaches succinctly explained why he is not a disciple of the Pulaski philosophy, “I like my job, and I would like to keep it.”

This would, however, bring the “foot” back to football, I suppose, because the coach would get “booted” from his job!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I returned from vacation Saturday morning to the devastating news that my friend and fellow announcing buddy for so, so many years, Dick Tracy, had passed away on Friday. My last visit with him suggested it was time.  More on Dick next week.
  2. I was off the ship Saturday morning, got home, and back in the broadcasting booth on Saturday night for the opening game of the 2015 football season – William and Mary at Lafayette and now in high definition. It was great to start another season, but my make-up budget just increased dramatically!
  3. Friday night football went as expected with the Lehigh Valley teams destroying the teams from up north in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference OUTSCORING THEM 359-132 (47 by Stroudsburg in a loss). I wonder if I will see the day when the Pocono teams become formidable opponents.
  4. Congratulations to Liberty for their win on Saturday night. Bethlehem Catholic took a bit too long to get over opening night jitters; Liberty, not so much.  Despite the outcome of game one, Beca will have a terrific season.
  5. I hope you didn’t spend Labor Day “laboring” at the computer like I did.

Gary's Picks

NEW ENGLAND
GREEN BAY
HOUSTON
CLEVELAND
INDIANAPOLIS
MIAMI
CAROLINA
SEATTLE
ARIZONA
SAN DIEGO
TAMPA BAY
CINCINNATI
DENVER
DALLAS
PHILADELPHIA
MINNESOTA

Behind the Mic: A Great (Between) Game

I think you would have to agree that Super Bowl XLIX (I like that they use Roman numerals because it helps me when I do crossword puzzles – I always confuse fifty and five hundred) was terrific.  And that was just the commercials!  The game was one of the best, but you can read about the game anywhere.  It’s the commercials that need to be discussed.  I thought there were some classics among the many and very few real duds.  Here were my top five:

  1. The Fiat 500X Blue Pill – I hope I just didn’t select this one because I’m old, forgetful, and, well, because I’m old. I just thought this was the most creative of all the ads.  It certainly kept you watching as the mini-drama unfolded and went right to the (dare I say climax) end until you realized the Fiat was promoting a newer and bigger crossover vehicle.  It was ingenious.
  2. Settle It the Usual way by Skittles – This one was a classic. Everyone in town – men, women, children, babies, and dogs all had, obviously, “settled it the usual way” by arm-wrestling.  I wonder, too, if there was a little NBC arm-twisting with Skittles since the candy got so many free plugs during the playoffs.  You know Skittles are Marshawn Lynch’s favorite pre-game snack (he ate some on camera right before game-time).  I laughed throughout the commercial.
  3. The Tortoise and the Hare by Mercedes – I both liked and disliked this one. I really thought the animation was excellent and, again, told a good story from beginning to end.  I really dislike the fact that I certainly cannot afford this beautiful Mercedes sports car.  Much like the tortoise, I felt like a loser after watching this one.
  4. First Draft Ever by Avocados From Mexico – This was a great concept for an NFL game – First Draft Ever. Doug Flutie and Jerry Rice were really good, the spot was humorous, and the choices were even funnier. However, I am not sure how I can help the company, Avocados from Mexico.  I do put avocado on my burrito and now feel it’s my way of helping Mexico.
  5. Loctite Glue –I never heard of the product, but I know it now and I would think that’s what a commercial is supposed to do. This featured very ordinary people dancing, gluing, and saving their marriage.  I now think Loctite!

There were certainly many others that were outstanding – “Like A Girl”, the Budweiser dog, the Jurassic Park promo, etc.  I would have probably loved the Kim Kardashian, Kate Upton and Victoria’s Secret commercials, but I was probably discussing the “Daddy” ads with my wife.  I may just have to go online to check those out.

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Just when it looked like the Patriots would be done in again by a spectacular catch, the Seahawks coaching staff outsmarted itself by calling a pass play on the one-yard line. Marshawn Lynch is nicknamed “The Beast” because of the way he runs.  It was second down.  Give him the ball twice and then get clever.  Oh, well.
  2. It figures that right at the beginning of the Super Bowl there is a call that is questionable and NBC, unlike CBS and FOX, does not have a former official to call upon for an interpretation. Was it “roughing the kicker” or “running into the kicker”?  I believe Chris Collingsworth, but an official would have had more credibility.
  3. Be honest – Did you know who Malcome Butler and Chris Matthews were before the game? I never heard of Butler and only knew Matthews because he recovered the onsides kick in the Green Bay NFC title game.  They were the least likely to be the stars of the game, but each was.
  4. Are the Patriots’ four Super Bowl victories tainted by the cheating accusations? Think Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and A-Rod.  More to come on “Inflate-Gate”.
  5. I have basketball games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. And NFL football is over.  Any suggestions as to what to do on Sundays, Monday nights, and Thursday nights?

 NFL PICKS FOR THE YEAR     (Last week – 0-1)  (179-85-1 overall – 68%)   

 

Behind the Mic: The NFL – AFC Spoiler Alert!

I really do not want to ruin the NFL season for you. The regular season begins on Thursday, September 4, when Green Bay visits Seattle, the defending Super Bowl champion. The final regular season games will be played on Sunday, December 28. And I do think you should watch as many games as you possibly can. AND, if you have no favorite team playing on a given Sunday, then by all means, tune in to the NFL Red Zone and you can pretty much follow EVERY game. You can order it at 1-800-RING RCN (I thought I would put a commercial in here – it makes our marketing people happy when I do that).

With that said, I am going to tell you (some say predict) how the regular season will turn out in terms of AFC Division winners. I would go further – you know, playoffs and AFC champion plus the Super Bowl winner, but I do not wish to spoil all your fun. That will come later, anyway. So – SPOILER ALERT! – Do not read this if you want to enjoy the AFC regular season. The following is how the AFC will end up (this year’s projected record is in parentheses):

AFC SOUTH
1. Indianapolis Colts (10-6) – They beat Kansas City in the playoffs last year and lost to New England. They are not really better this year, but will win their division.
2. Houston Texans (7-9) – The Texans were 2-14 last year, so I obviously think they will be closer to the team that won their division in 2012. Quarterback is a problem.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10) – They, too, are better than last year, just not “better” enough (did I used to teach English?)
4. Tennessee Titans (4-12) – They were 7-9 last year; lost some key players; are just a mediocre team.

AFC EAST
1. New England Patriots (13-3) – They are in a weak division so their record will improve, primarily because their defense has improved.
2. Miami Dolphins (7-9) – They will not match last year’s record, so they will miss the playoffs again.
3. Buffalo Bills (6-10) – Did very little in the off-season to make a fan believe they will be better than their 6-10 record last year. Recent Hall of Fame inductee, Andre Reed, will be their hero, but he no longer plays.
4. New York Jets (6-10) – No media circus this year (remember the Tebow year and the Sanchez year?). But there is no offense either.

AFC NORTH
1. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) – The Bengals finished 11-5 last year and lost in the first round of playoffs. Head Coach Marvin Lewis got a one-year extension on his contract. He has never won a playoff game. The Bengals should make the playoffs. Lewis needs to win a playoff game or he will go. They are capable of saving his job.
2. Baltimore Ravens (9-7) – Their season looks like it needs some kind of boost – WR Steve Smith may be the boost; defense looks solid; Ray Rice should add even more spark upon his return.
3. Cleveland Browns (8-8) – The Browns have a new coach (again), new management (again), and a new QB (again) which has created new excitement for the fans (again). It has been seven years since they last won more than 5 games. This could be the year.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) – Even I can’t believe I am picking the Steelers last in their division and worse than the Browns. They’re getting old and, for now, the glory days are over.

AFC WEST
1. Denver Broncos (13-3) – Seattle embarrassed them in the Super Bowl. Denver only improved in the off-season and they will play better competition this year in the regular season. This could be a special year for Mile High.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) – 9-0 start for Andy Reid’s team certainly opened many eyes. But they finished the year 2-5 and lost to the Colts in the Wild Card round of playoffs. If they can diversify their offense, they could be better.
3. San Diego Chargers (9-7) – They have a great offense (thanks to Philip Rivers), but no defense. If defense wins championships (right, Seattle?). The Chargers’ defense is awful. Ergo – no championship (I learned this way of proving things in Philosophy class).
4. Oakland Raiders (6-10) – They were very busy in the off-season spending lots of money. The Raiders will be better (they almost have to be – 4-12 last year).

The NFC season standings will come your way next week. Remember, these thoughts are for amusement only and do not represent the opinion of management (most of them are Redskin and Eagles fans, anyway).

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. The PGA Championship last week produced the highest golf TV ratings in five years. It was the “perfect storm” for CBS – great golf, four big-name players tied or in the lead on the back nine, a rain delay that threw the finish well into prime time (60 Minutes viewers may have tuned in by accident), and darkness falling to add to the suspense. A network’s dream.

2. Speaking of golf, I am glad Tom Watson did not have to decide if he should pick Tiger Woods for the Ryder Cup team. Had he picked him or not picked him and the US lost, he would have been criticized. I respect Tiger Woods for taking that decision away from Watson.

3. I am wrapped up in the Little League World Series when the Taney Dragons are playing. Their comeback win on Sunday was great TV and with Mo’Ne Davis pitching to get to the championship final this week, the drama only increases. Go, Dragons!

4. Congratulations to the Northampton Giants of the Blue Mountain League for winning their first championship since 1994. Manager Ed Wandler has been with the BML since 1977 (37 years), and the team gave him all the credit for the championship run. It was a great season!

5. All of us associated with Lehigh Valley sports were shocked when we heard that former Allen and current Moravian Academy coach John Donmoyer died on Saturday morning at St. Luke’s Hospital. I last saw John at the VIA Hall of Fame ceremony (he was a member) and had a very nice conversation with him. I was unaware, as I think most people were, that he was ill. John coached 1,047 varsity games winning 624 of them, both Lehigh Valley records. Last December, Allen named their basketball floor for Coach Donmoyer. He took his teams to the PIAA state championship finals in 1979 and 1980. I never heard a harsh word said about John by anyone and, amazingly, that included fans. His players always stressed the life lessons that John espoused while winning games and titles year after year. He was a giant in Lehigh Valley sports. May he rest in peace.

 

Behind the Mic: New Year’s Resolutions

 

BEHIND THE MIC:

Since this is my final blog for 2013 (Scott Barr and Jim Best will fill in for the next two weeks), I thought this would be a good time to look at New Year’s resolutions. Early research indicates that 52% of people want to lose weight; 43% want to improve their general health; 18% want to start a fitness program; and 15% want to curb stress and anxiety.

That all sounds like a great start to a healthy 2014, doesn’t it? However, only 11% of people polled thought they would actually stick to their resolution; 68% would abandon them in January; and 11% said they did not think they could even get through the first six days of the New Year.

Let me offer up 10 possibilities that you may WANT and actually BE ABLE to achieve:
1. Travel
2. Socialize more; Facebook a little less
3. Buy less expensive coffee on your way to work
4. Talk more than text
5. Watch less reality TV
6. Read a good book
7. Save more money
8. Leave work on time more often
9. Learn to use Twitter; it can be fun
10. Walk more

Trying to do the things on this list should improve both your physical and mental health (weight loss is optional). Plus, they all seem very doable. So by this time next year, you might actually get a little self-gratification, too. And that’s not a bad thing.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. Can anyone figure out the NFL? San Diego beats Denver; Miami beats New England; Minnesota beats Philadelphia; St. Louis destroys New Orleans; Pittsburgh over Cincinnati. If you need a reason NOT to bet on NFL games, this weekend should prove that to you.

2. We know that CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) has been found in football and hockey. Now they have found it in baseball. One year after the suicide death of Cincinnati player, Ryan Freel, the Boston University School of Medicine has diagnosed Freel with Stage 2 CTE. Stage 2 CTE caused by concussions is associated with erratic behavior and memory loss. This year alone, 18 baseball players were placed on the disabled list after concussions – 10 of them were catchers.

3. Did you notice that the Eagles played Green Bay when the Packers did not have Aaron Rodgers (a win!); they played Detroit without Reggie Bush (a win!); they played Minnesota without Adrian Peterson and the Vikings only won three games with him (48-30 loss! What??).

4. Remember Liberty’s Darrun Hilliard? The junior scored 21 points this past Sunday to lead #9 Villanova to their 10th consecutive win this year without a defeat. I saw two of our best local high school players last Friday night – Central Catholic’s Muhammad Ali Abdur Rahkman and Dieruff’s Tyler Kohl. They scored 57 points – Rahkman: 32; Kohl: 25. They should both be playing major college basketball this time next year. Get out and see them play!

5. Finally, I want to thank all of you for the kind comments throughout the 2013 sports season and I want to wish you and your family a wonderful holiday and a very Happy and Healthy New Year!! See you in 2014!

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK
(Last week – 9-7) (140-83-1 overall – 63%)
MIAMI
CAROLINA
CINCINNATI
DENVER
TENNESSEE
KANSAS CITY
JETS
ST. LOUIS
DALLAS
DETROIT
SEATTLE
GREEN BAY
SAN DIEGO
NEW ENGLAND
PHILADELPHIA
SAN FRANCISCO

Behind the Mic: Dream Come True Telethon

 

Dream Come True Telethon

I love my job. Make no mistake about it. In the past few weeks, I have been able to watch our local high school football teams compete for a conference championship, a District title, and make a run for a state championship. In addition, I was able to broadcast the 149th edition of the Lafayette-Lehigh football game and begin the college basketball season with the Lafayette men’s team. Right around the corner is another season of high school and college basketball which will quickly take me through the winter and into March Madness. It’s the best.

There is one night a year, however, that is even better. It is the night that I co-host the Dream Come True Telethon. On Monday, December 9, we will do the Telethon for the 28th year. I have not hosted all of them, but in the early years, I made sure I was a guest on the show. The Dream Come True organization, in case you did not know, was founded in 1984 by Kostas Kalogeropoulous, a local businessman. The goal of the organization is simple – fulfill the dreams of children who are seriously, chronically, and terminally ill and reside in the greater Lehigh Valley area. Children are referred by family, friends, clergy, doctors, social workers, etc. and the dreams usually fall into three categories – trips, contact with celebrities, and special gifts (computers, shopping sprees, for example).

Scott Barr and I have been hosting together for many, many years. He handles the auction area and, boy, is he terrific! If you watch Home Shopping Network or any of the other all-day shopping TV channels, just watch Scott do his thing during the four-hour night. He is as good as, if not better, than the professionals.

There is always a variety of unique items donated by local businesses as well as our friends from the cable TV networks. If you want something really unique and not found in any store, tune us in and bid on the items. You’ll make Scott’s night.

Ann Savkova, our excellent parade announcer, will do many of the interviews with the children who have had their dreams fulfilled. She is a pleasure to have as part of the team.

We will, once again, be at The Outlets at the Sands. They were wonderful hosts last year as we broadcasted for the very first time from this venue. It is an exciting location and we enjoyed the new “digs”. You certainly are invited to stop by, say hello, and, hopefully, make a donation. It is a great place to shop and giving to Dream Come True will certainly get you into the holiday spirit.

The important facts are:
The Date: Monday, December 9
The Time: 6:00 – 10:00 PM
The Location: The Outlets at the Sands
The Television Dial: RCNTV channels 4 and 1004 (HD)
The Purpose: To fulfill as many hopes, dreams and fantasies for seriously, chronically,and terminally ill children as possible.
The Phone Number to Make a Donation: 1-800-749-8099

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. I know that this past Friday is known as Black Friday, but since I would never shop that day, it means very little to me. However, I did suffer through Black Saturday when all of our local football teams went down to defeat – Lafayette lost 45-7 to New Hampshire; Parkland lost 21-10 to St. Joe’s Prep and Catty lost 49-0 to Imhotep Charter. It was a “black” day indeed.

2. There were some amazing college football games on TV this past weekend. Penn State was a 24-point underdog to #15 Wisconsin and beat them 31-24. I watched as #17 LSU needed to go 99 yards in the final minute to beat Arkansas 31-27. Arkansas did not win an SEC game all year. And the best of all was watching Auburn’s Chris Davis return a missed field goal 107 yards with no time left to give #1 Alabama their first loss in 16 games. Can we actually have a BCS championship game without an SEC representative? We can and probably will, but I still think Alabama and Auburn are the two best teams in college football. Again, no true championship decided on the field.

3. Dare I forget that Ohio State beat Michigan 42-41? Michigan coach, Brady Hoke, decided to go for two points in the last few seconds. It failed. Speaking of that rivalry, Sunday Night’s 60 Minutes did a feature on a young boy who is an avid Ohio State fan. He has brain cancer but hates the word “cancer”. He calls his tumor “Michigan”.

4. Speaking, again, of good football, 10 NFL games were decided by seven points or less this past weekend – two went overtime and NOTHING changed in the standings or the Wild Card scenarios.

5. The Lafayette women’s basketball team is off to a very impressive 5-2 start with wins over Rider, Brown, Columbia, Pit, and Loyola of Chicago. RCN-TV will broadcast the first women’s game of the year on Sunday, December 8, LIVE at 2:00pm. Join us.

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK
(Last week – 11-5) (120-71-1 overall – 63%)
HOUSTON
BALTIMORE
CINCINNATI
NEW ENGLAND
JETS
PHILADELPHIA
PITTSBURGH
BUFFALO
KANSAS CITY
ATLANTA
DENVER
ARIZONA
SAN DIEGO
SEATTLE
NEW ORLEANS
CHICAGO

Behind the Mic: PBS – “League of Denial”

 

PBS – “League of Denial”

Brett Favre said this week that he is suffering memory loss. He was sacked in the NFL a record 525 times. Brett Favre has now become the most high-profile football player to put the spotlight on head injuries in the NFL.

I love football. I have played it, coached it, and now broadcast it. I venture to guess that I have sat in the booth to broadcast over 1,000 football games. I still love the big play, the good block, the perfect pass and catch, and the big hit. I must admit, however, that I was shocked watching League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis on PBS Frontline several weeks ago. The hits that are shown are eye-popping. The medical descriptions and the traumatic effects are devastating. And the reaction by the NFL to the players of the past who have suffered both physically and mentally from these collisions is close to being “criminal”.

The documentary  focuses on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) resulting from head injuries in NFL players. CTE is a degenerative brain disease that has been diagnosed in former players, who have developed dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which research suggests is the result of constant hits to the head. Research is now being conducted on current, active players.

A great deal of criticism is levied at the NFL in this documentary for their denial of the issue and even covering up and controlling the research. The suicide death of Owen Thomas, graduate of Parkland High School and University of Pennsylvania student, is discussed in depth as a warning of the dangers of the game even for younger players. He was only 21 years old.

Former and active NFL players have weighed in on the program:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sports/league-of-denial/what-nfl-players-are-saying-about-league-of-denial/

Here is a small sampling:

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints:
“I think certainly there were mistakes made in the past in regards to what people knew or how it was handled. But as we think about moving forward here, and especially when we talk about youth sports, there are protocols that need to be in place and that need to be followed to a T because obviously it’s very serious stuff.”

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers:
“I will not be watching. I know the risks that I take when I step on the field. I’m risking future health, future physical health and future mental health. I understand that.”

Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys, 1989-2000:
“I do not have a son. If I had a son, I wouldn’t necessarily discourage him from playing football, but I don’t know that I would encourage him to play either. I don’t know what the data show, but I haven’t sensed there’s been a reduction in head injuries. With that in mind, that’s concerning. As long as we’re having contact and as long as there are collisions, there’s going to be head injuries.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he does not plan to watch the program and that the NFL just settled a $765 million lawsuit over this issue with past players. Part of the settlement, however, kept some information from getting out to the public.

There is no question that the documentary will make any fan think about their allegiance to the game. It will certainly make a parent think twice about encouraging their son(s) to play. Take a look at the program and come to your own conclusions.

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. In case you missed it, Lafayette freshman quarterback Drew Reed started his first collegiate game ever on Saturday at Holy Cross. He completed 21 of 22 passes (the last 20 in a row) for 283 yards and 5 touchdowns. He became the first freshman to win the Patriot League Offensive Player of the week award and the first to win both the Offensive Player and Rookie of the week awards concurrently. He also won the College Football Performance Award FCS National Player of the Week. His passing efficiency rating was 278.5, the second-highest single-game mark recorded this year. In his two appearances this year, he has more touchdowns (7) than incompletions (6).

2. No touchdowns by the offense again this week for the Eagles. There does not seem to be any fix for this mess either. Oakland up next in Oakland. Ugly!!

By the way, I saw the Eagles offense at its most bizarre when we traveled to Princeton to do the Lafayette game. The Tigers run Chip Kelly’s Oregon offense with no huddle, hurry-up, multiple formations, and wild personnel. On the first play of the game there was a center and one lineman on each side of him. The others were over five yards away AND there were THREE quarterbacks in the game! They do a great job of communicating the plays to the players. Only players who get admitted to Princeton would comprehend this offense. Princeton beat previously undefeated Harvard this past weekend 51-48 in triple overtime. That offense is still working.

3. If you really want to learn some of the intricacies of football, visit Inside The Huddle on www.goleopards.com . Mike Joseph does a great job explaining various aspects of the game.

4. This is the last week of the high school football regular season. League and conference champions will be crowned after this weekend and then the attention turns to Districts. Right now East Stroudsburg South is the #1 seed in AAAA; Southern Lehigh in AAA; Pine Grove in AA; Williams Valley in A. Don’t be shocked if none of the top seeds win the District title. Stay tuned.

5. RCN TV will broadcast Emmaus at Parkland Live on Friday night at 7:00 PM.  Mike Joseph and I will call the game.  Parkland is tied with Whitehall for first place in the LVC. Whitehall has what looks like an easy matchup with Northampton this week.

 

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK (11-2: Last week; 78-42 overall 65%)
CINCINNATI
CAROLINA
DALLAS
NEW ORLEANS
TENNESSEE
KANSAS CITY
SAN DIEGO
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
CLEVELAND
NEW ENGLAND
INDIANAPOLIS
GREEN BAY

Behind the Mic: NFL Parity – A Worthwhile Goal?

 

NFL Parity – A Worthwhile Goal?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
“Parity” is defined as “the quality or state of being equal or equivalent.”

“Competition” is defined as “the act or process of trying to get or win something that someone else is also trying to get or win.”

The NFL prides themselves on creating a league where parity is the goal; therefore, taking competition to the highest level – where, well, you know… “On any given Sunday…”

The NFL is designed to help those teams that are struggling, and vice versa to put up roadblocks to those teams that are always successful. They do it by a draft system, which allows those with the least success the previous season the opportunity to take the best college players first. There is free agency, where teams can negotiate with players from other teams when their contracts have expired, and a salary cap where there is an agreed upon limit that a team can spend on players. The ultimate goal is to give every team a fair shot at success. This, of course, gives every fan the feeling at the start of the season that their team can, not only compete, but win. And, it seems to be working.

This past week, New England lost to Cincinnati (what?) and Tom Brady did not throw a TD pass for the first time in the last 53 games. The Cleveland Browns have won three games in a row (what?). No one in the NFC East has a winning record (what?). Pittsburgh is 0-4! Kansas City is 5-0 (they won two games last year)! Based on the Vegas odds, there were six upsets this past week out of 13 games, and one game where the point spread was not covered. In almost half of the games, the underdog won.

Parity has arrived, but is it good? Well, it does appear that the “On any given Sunday…” adage has been achieved. However, it also appears to this fan that mediocre football has also been achieved. I cannot believe how inept the Giants look; how awful the Steelers are; how very average the Patriots appear to be; how bad the Eagles (who are currently tied for first place in their division) have looked, and so on and so on. Perhaps the best example is how Dallas now deserves to be only Dallas’ team, not America’s.

I have spent the first few Sundays watching NFL Red Zone and I love it. This week, however, I watched a game from start to finish and I was shocked. NFL Red Zone, for the most part, shows teams moving down the field as they are about to score; in other words, at their most successful moments. When I watched only two teams play one complete game this weekend, I saw what Red Zone does not show me – how bad teams are MOST of the time.

To this NFL football fan, parity has been achieved – almost every team now plays MEDIOCRE FOOTBALL!

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK (8-6: Last week; 48-29 overall 62%)
 
CHICAGO
KANSAS CITY
PHILADELPHIA
GREEN BAY
CLEVELAND
MINNESOTA
HOUSTON
JETS
CINCINNATI
SEATTLE
DENVER
SAN FRANCISCO
NEW ORLEANS
DALLAS
INDIANAPOLIS

 

Behind the Mic: Week One in the NFC East

 

Week One in the NFC East

The 2013 NFL season kicks off on Thursday, September 5 at 8:30 PM on NBC. The defending Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens, will visit the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. NFL fans will be a “mile high” anticipating the start of professional football. This should be a ratings giant for NBC and deservedly so.

As a division, however, it is the NFC East that will really be spotlighted in Week One. Whether that is justified certainly remains to be seen. On Sunday, September 8 at 8:30 PM, the New York Giants will play at Dallas, airing on NBC. Then on Monday, September 9 at 7:00 PM on ESPN Monday Night Football, the Eagles will play at Washington against the Redskins. Fans’ expectations are at their highest since no one has suffered a loss yet. Let’s analyze these two matchups:

Giants at Cowboys
The Giants usually play well in September, but in the first six weeks of the season they go to Dallas, Chicago, and Kansas City, then play the Broncos at home. Their offensive line is banged up and the preseason offense has been non-existent. They may struggle early. If they do not struggle early, they will be set up to have an outstanding season. Late in the season, they play either at home or close enough to home to avoid road weariness. That equates to 57 days without air travel.

After being 8-8 the last two years, the Cowboys on paper look much improved. The expectations are for improvement on that record (9-7; 10-6 being the best they could hope for). This is the year for Tony Romo not to just move the football, but actually put points on the board. The defense looks solid. The Cowboys should return to the playoffs.

Eagles at Redskins
Your guess about the Eagles is as good as mine. Chip Kelly seems like a good fit for the Eagles, but will his high-velocity offense work in the NFL? Even if it does, will the Eagles stop anybody from scoring? Can Michael Vick stay healthy? He’s the best fit for their offense. The defense could not stop the run or the pass last year and there does not seem to be new talent on that side. They were 4-12 last year – the record will improve, but by how much? No idea!!

The Redskins, on the other hand, will be the favorite to win the division. They ended the regular season riding RG3 to a seven-game winning streak. They can run, throw, and defend the run. Can they defend the pass? That seems to be their weakness. A healthy RG3 could make them a Super Bowl contender.

 

Behind the Mic: The NFL – Pre-Season Best and Worst

BEHIND THE MIC:
The NFL – Pre-season Best and Worst

I realize it is only July, but the summer seems to be flying by. I am already thinking about high school and college football. It will be here soon. And since I am writing this week’s blog and, in the fall, my blog includes my weekly NFL picks, it seemed like a good time to consider (in my estimation), which NFL teams will be the BEST and which teams will be the WORST.

Let’s start with the worst, since when these teams play (unless it’s against each other) my predictions should be easier. The five worst teams in the NFL for the upcoming season will be the:

Jets – Tim Tebow goes; Geno Smith comes in so the Jets still have a quarterback controversy (5 on their roster including Mark Sanchez) and they have gotten worse overall as a team.

Raiders – This team just does not have the talent to contend at all.

Bills – QB position is really questionable. 6-10 last year and they will probably struggle to surpass that win total.

Jaguars – They were awful last season and did very little in the draft to think they got better. Remember a 3-win season will be an improvement over last year.

Browns – They traded away draft picks in Rounds 4 and 5 so they had only 2 picks in the first five rounds and they find themselves in a division where everybody is better.

Titans – In case I’m wrong, the Titans should improve on their 6-10 record, but most of that responsibility rests on the QB Jake Locker.

Now that I have upset the Jets and Browns fans, I wish the Eagles, Steelers and the Redskins (my boss’s team) would now show up in my top 5. But, alas, that will not be the case. To me, the very best will be the:

 • 49ers – They were outstanding last year; had a decent draft and will have a new starter at safety (Eric Reid).

Broncos – Peyton Manning and a talented stable of receivers (including Wes Welker) make this team extremely strong offensively, but they, also, have one of the top defenses. They could win it all.

Falcons – They just needed to improve their defense and they did that with great improvement at the cornerback positions. They were 13-3 last year and, if possible, they could be better.

Seahawks – They have a great coach, terrific chemistry, and improved in the draft on both sides of the ball. They are one of the very best and will battle the 49ers for the Division title.

Packers/Patriots – Both of these teams have outstanding quarterbacks who could carry them to a win every weekend. The Packers got better at the running game. The Patriots did not do much with the draft and lost Welker so time will tell if they will be better this season.

 Oh, by the way, the Redskins and Giants should finish in the upper half, the Steelers in the middle, and the Eagles in the lower half.

Please, please don’t blame the messenger.