Behind the Mic: Bryce Harper – Enough Already!

Easter Sunday was a really nice day.  The whole family was present with everyone making it to the house.  Once again, my wife put together an extensive dinner, maintaining the traditions of a Ukrainian Easter; paska (Ukrainian bread); one egg shared by all to start the dinner; and a Ukrainian hymn signifying that Christ had risen.  It was sunny and warm outside and inside.  Even sports took a respite for the day.

And then at 11:00pm, I watched the news which has become the most dramatic program on TV these days.  And I always check out the Phillies results.  The Phillies lost.  Bryce Harper hit his second home run of the day on a 3-2 count with the Phils leading 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and two on to Washington.    Do the math – a 6-4 loss.  It was Harper’s 18th home run against the Phillies in his five years with the Nationals.

If you root for any team other than the Nationals, Bryce Harper is not your favorite player.  He just seems to have a way of ruining one’s day.

But, let’s face it – Bryce Harper is REALLY, REALLY good.  He is a baseball superstar who truly lives up to the description every day he steps on the field.  I knew a bit about his journey to the major leagues, but I decided to investigate a bit further.  Wikipedia is always a good place to start.

  • He received his GED after his sophomore year in high school so he could begin his path to professional baseball career at the age of 17.
  • He played one season for the College of Southern Nevada as a catcher with his older brother pitching on the team. Harper was the Player of the Year in the conference.  He topped that honor by being named the best amateur player in the country.  And he played only one collegiate season.
  • He was drafted #1 by the Nationals in 2010; signed a 5-year, $9.9 million contract with 26 seconds left before the signing deadline. His signing bonus was $6.25 million.
  • He struggled early in his minor league career because as an optometrist told him, “You have some of the worst eyes I’ve ever seen.” Once he received contact lenses, he hit an amazing .480.
  • His major league debut occurred on April 28, 2012; he was an All-Star that year; and he was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year.
  • Including this season, he has hit a home run on opening day every year in the majors.
  • His longest career home run (461-feet) is, naturally, against the Phillies.
  • He is a Seventh Day Adventist and drinks no alcohol.

A 4-3 Phillies win at the end of a nice Easter Sunday would have been a perfect way to end the day, but now that I know more about Bryce Harper and his road to the majors, it’s very hard not to respect his talents and his work ethic.  I wish he just wouldn’t be so hard on the Phillies.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. The Eagles might want to consider hiring the “Easter Bunny” as a linebacker. Take a look.

https://twitter.com/Nationals/status/853686707555840000/photo/1

And it was a legal hit – the bunny did not lead with his EARS!!

  1. Image, either good or bad, is so important for professional athletes. It often determines their future once they decide to leave the game they play.  Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning always appeared to be one of those squeaky clean guys, much like his brother Peyton.  Now we hear he may be involved in a memorabilia scam to sell items advertised as game-used when they were not and is being sued.  I have never been enamored with sports mementos, but this should be an interesting story.
  2. Last week, I spoke of some potential rule changes to shorten baseball games. The first report is out for this season and the games are averaging over five minutes longer than last year.
  3. The Chicago Cubs passed out their championship rings this past week. 108 white diamonds, 33 custom-cut red rubies and 46 blue sapphires make up the face.  The inner band features the infamous goat.

Cubs Rings        5.  Our first look at Lafayette’s new head coach, John Garrett, will take place on Saturday, April 29, when we televise the Lafayette Maroon-White game. The action is LIVE at 1:00pm.

Behind the Mic: Winter Bye-Bye

The season of 2016-17 officially came to an end this past weekend with the VIA All-Star basketball games being played.  Outstanding seniors donned their school’s uniforms for the last time and Lehigh Valley basketball was officially over.  There is no better time to reminisce…  Here are my top ten memories of this past season.

  1. The RCN TV team – I have spent more than 40+ years with this group and they never cease to amaze me with their work ethic, their dedication and their skills. Imagine over 100 winter productions laying wire, setting up cameras at the top of arenas, preparing the announcers’ booth, working the game and reversing the whole process when the game ends.  Now imagine doing that over and over and over again.
  1. East Stroudsburg North – This team had to put together a winning streak down the stretch just to get into the EPC playoffs and districts. They lost to Bethlehem Catholic in the EPC semis on a last second shot but came back to beat Whitehall, Central Catholic, and Pottsville to win their first District championship in school history.  The icing on the cake was their first-round state win (also, the first in school history) before finally falling.  It was a memorable season to say the least.
  1. Lafayette women win at home – On February 25, the Lafayette women were playing Colgate in the final home game of the year. They had not won a game at home all season.  In as entertaining game as you could see, the Leopards prevailed by a 90-85 score.  I’ll never forget how happy the women were along with their staff that they got this win on Senior Day.  Then, despite winning only two league games all year, they went on to win the first round game in the Patriot League Tournament.  More smiles.
  1. Lafayette hires new head football coach – Despite the winter sports season being about basketball and wrestling, the news that Lafayette hired a new head football coach makes my top ten. I loved working with former head coach Frank Tavani and, obviously, was saddened by his departure.  John Garrett was named the new head coach on December 21.  He enters Lafayette with a tremendous resume with both college and NFL experience.   Having attended some spring practices, there is a renewed energy in the staff and the players.  I’ll take that same energy into next season.  Go Leopards!
  1. Tom and John – All the respect and praise I feel for the RCN staff carries over to my color analysts for high school and college basketball, Tom Stoudt and John Leone. Obviously, the three of us spend a great deal of time together and it is full of conversation, joking, ribbing, and good times.  The winter goes very quickly when you are around these guys!
  1. Allen’s fan base – Many of us in the media have been lamenting the absence of good crowds for the high school basketball games in the past few years. Interest just seemed to lag.  Not this year.  Gyms were filled, for the most part, and the Allen fan base wins the award for the greatest support.  I think interest was up throughout the Valley, but no team had more support, both adult and student-based than the Allen Canaries.  There is nothing better than a high school gym filled with two good teams and an enthusiastic crowd.  There were plenty of both this season.
  1. Emmaus’ run in the PIAA state playoffs – This team went in as the #4 seed from District XI – a seed we had never had before the increase in classifications. In other words, before this year, they would not have even gotten into the playoffs.  They sure made the opportunity pay off.  No boys’ team from the Lehigh Valley went further into the playoffs.  They beat Cheltenham and Harrisburg before losing in double overtime to Carlisle in the most exciting game of the year.  Talk about seizing the moment.
  1. The individual talent – I have never experienced a year with so much talent on so many teams, both boys and girls. It did not seem to matter which gym you would walk into. You knew that there would be two or three or sometimes eight great players.  One night a doubleheader featured eight 1,000 point scorers (unheard of).  Martin, Williams, Iorio, Kachelries, Kachelries, Johnson, Singh, etc. on the boys’ side, and Blount, Brugler, Cyr, Luma, Zamolyi, Medina, Bloshuk, etc. on the girls’ side.  Most graduate but, hopefully, the next group is ready to make history as well.
  1. The Bethlehem Catholic state championship – This team won a school-record thirty games, breezed through the PIAA state playoffs and won their first state title in history. They were led by Jose Medina, who has won 75 games in three years as their head coach.  His team won the five state games by an average of 21.2 points (oh, my!!).  I just loved the way they played and the demeanor of the entire staff.  You can feel good about rooting for this team.
  1. I think #1 on every fans’ list this season was the amazing crowd (8,000 +) at the PPL Center for the EPC semifinals.  It featured four great teams – Allen, Parkland, Emmaus, and Pocono Mountain West.  The games did not disappoint, the venue was spectacular, and the crowd was awesome.  When I think back to my playing days (no snickering here, please), we had to travel to the State Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg to handle the crowd for a Lehigh Valley District semifinals and finals. Going to the PPL Center may have been one of the best nights ever for Lehigh Valley basketball.  It’s my #1!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. How about Mississippi State stopping the Connecticut women’s basketball winning streak at 111 games. Last year, UCONN beat Mississippi State 98-38.  The tables were turned in overtime this year 66-64.  UCONN was going for their fifth straight NCAA title.  They started their streak on December 23, 2014.  Look at the recap:

http://pmd.cdn.turner.com/ncaa/big/2017/04/01/1337884/1491026111912-uconn-missst-v3-mov-1337884_960x540_2104.mp4

  1. Sunday marked the 31st anniversary of the three-point shot (19’ 9”) in college basketball. It is perhaps the most dramatic change in modern basketball.
  2. The Flyers will not make the NHL playoffs. They were finally eliminated after losing on Sunday.
  3. The Dodgers and the Indians are the favorites to win the National and American League pennants with the Cubs and the Red Sox close behind.
  4. The Phillies won 71 games last year. Manager Pete MacKanin said he hopes to win ten more this season or one-half of the 162 games they play.  Based on last year, 81 wins would have put them in third place in the NL East behind the Mets and the Nationals.  A fan can only hope.

 

Behind the Mic: Roots

Gary will be returning with a new blog on May 2.  This week, he’s asked RCN’s John Leone to guest blog.  RCN-TV viewers should recognize John from the Lafayette College basketball broadcasts on the Lafayette Sports Network.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________R

When a college has been around for nearly two centuries as Lafayette has, it stands to reason that it not only bears witness to significant historic milestones, but that it also has a hand in producing them. Francis March, for example, occupied the chair of English language and comparative philology at Lafayette College from 1857 to 1907. It was the first post of its kind. March was one of the first professors to advocate and teach English in colleges and universities. Over the years, Lafayette graduates have pioneered the use of laparoscopic surgery, orchestrated cyber-security breakthroughs, and built new companies from scratch. And of course, we loyal Leopards love to trumpet the fact that the use of “The Football Helmet” and “The Huddle” originated on College Hill.

Indeed, innovation – academic and otherwise – has been a staple of the place seemingly forever. But as the calendar turns and we close the book on a dynamic college basketball season, I’m reminded of yet another. It was the spring of 1951 when Lafayette’s former coach, player, and then-Athletic Director, Bill Anderson ’19, reached out to Butch Van Breda Kolff and brought him in as “The Coach.” He was immediately introduced to his senior point guard-in-waiting, Pete Carril, who’d someday carve his own niche among the game’s greatest coaches. That introduction was not only the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship, it spawned a style of play that would impact the game for decades to come.

VBK and Pete saw the game through a different lens as early as the late 40’s. And while the evolution of the game cannot be denied, its basic tenets remain. The pick and roll and the give and go (well, maybe not the give and go so much these days – unless it happens by accident) are still pervasive in today’s game. There is also no denying the fact that the best coaches still manipulate talent to fit into an offensive system. They plug their respective pieces into places on the court where they can be most productive – and, sadly in many more cases, where they can do the least damage. It’s called “good coaching,” and to be sure, it has its place. But too often, that process can devolve into basketball’s version of a Rube Goldberg machine – parts and pieces plugged into spaces with rigid, pre-determined roles and little opportunity for the participants to see and think and do things creatively – and in concert with the four other guys.

I’m struck by the similarities in so many of the offenses that I see these days. What made Butch’s offense so difficult to defend was the fact that it was virtually impossible to prepare for in any conventional way. After all, how could the defense predict what an offense would do if the guys running it didn’t know themselves – that is, until they saw it develop spontaneously? Even Coach Carril’s use of Butch’s basic movement and its principles took on much more structure as he developed his great Princeton teams.  Still, the fundamental premise was for players to see, think, and do – in precisely that order. After all, “the smart do take from the strong”, as Coach Carril points out in his book.

Butch would be the last to use flowery metaphors to explain his offensive philosophy. But watching him implement and grow it virtually every day for the four years we spent together gave me a special window into his genius. He called it “organized confusion”. It was jazz, not classical. And he was the ultimate maestro. Yes, it has its principles and parameters – primarily floor balance and spacing – but what makes it great is its capacity for improvisation, not necessarily off the dribble, but as much without the ball as with it.  Every move is predicated on “seeing” the guy in front of you, reading the defense, and playing “smart”. Each possession becomes a kind of snowflake – virtually never the same as anything that came before it. Put guys in the right spots on the floor, give them a template for intelligent movement, and a coach can create spontaneity. An oxymoron? For sure, but not surprising, since Butch’s life was a paradox. This, after all, was the fun stuff. Butch and Pete would simply call it “playing the game right.”

On the eve of his national championship in 1987, Bob Knight was asked by a reporter which coaches had the greatest influence on him. After invoking the names of guys like Hank Iba and Pete Newell, he told the Times-Picayune in New Orleans that “Butch Van Breda Kolff’s offense at Princeton (1962-66) always mesmerized me.”

In the four years that I worked with Butch at Lafayette, a different position player led us in scoring each year: a center, a forward, a point guard, and an off-guard. Butch refused to put numbers on players. It was no accident, but rather the product of playing the game in a way that allowed the ball to find the right guy at the right time. It would always take a little more time. But around mid-January to early February, the music and the voices would begin to harmonize.

There are plenty of folks who watch the game, whether sitting in packed arenas or flipping channel to channel to witness the thrills and upsets of March Madness.  There are far fewer who see the game. Still fewer have the unique ability to translate and convey what they see into the kind of choreography that allows five bodies to move to the rhythm of a single brain. It’s a different way to coach and teach the game, but the rewards are – at least in my view – infinitely greater.

This point was driven home to me again just last December when I had lunch with Coach Pete. Whenever we meet, we invariably talk basketball – even if not in the same language that most others might understand. I’m not nearly as wise as The Coach, but I always sense that I can “see” what he’s thinking. Pete’s record at Princeton is now the stuff of college basketball legend. But I was struck when the “Old Professor,” an icon in his own right, glanced away wistfully and suggested, “Nobody saw the game like Butch.” High praise from the guy who gave us the Princeton Offense. But Pete still calls him “Coach,” and that’s good enough for me.

Behind the Mic: Ultimate Rivalry

“The LehighLafayette game is an integral part of a college education. The game provides thrills and excitement and instills an attitude that is essential to succeed in all walks of life. Traditions, pregame hype and celebrations are all as important as the game itself. No other football rivalry is quite like Lehigh-Lafayette. The traditions are pure and the festivities are genuine. Sportswriters are afraid to predict the winner, oddsmakers shy from a point spread and coaches don’t have to worry about getting their players up for the game. Previous records, scores and games against common opponents are meaningless. It’s one game—all or nothing.”

Preface Legends of Lehigh-Lafayette  by Todd Davidson and Bob Donchez D&D Publishing Company, 1995

As college football’s most-played rivalry is set to be played this Saturday at Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium, the quote continues to ring true.  It was probably just as true on October 25, 1884 when the two teams took the field for the very first time.  Who would have guessed back then that 150 more games would take place prior to this Saturday?

Here are some facts about the rivalry:

First Meeting: Oct. 25, 1884; Easton—Lafayette 56, Lehigh 0

Last Meeting: Nov. 22, 2014; Yankee Stadium—Lafayette 27, Lehigh 7

Series Record: Lafayette leads, 78-67-5 (.537) (150 games)

In Easton: Lafayette leads, 41-29-5

In Bethlehem: Lehigh leads, 37-36

Neutral Site: Series tied, 1-1

Lafayette won 27-7 in Bronx, N.Y. (Yankee Stadium) on Nov. 22, 2014 Lehigh won 16-2 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. on Nov. 25, 1891

Largest Margin of Victory (Lafayette): Nov. 18, 1944; Easton—Lafayette 64, Lehigh 0

Largest Margin of Victory (Lehigh):Nov. 24, 1917; Bethlehem —Lehigh 78, Lafayette 0

Last Shutout: Nov. 22, 1980; Easton—Lehigh 32, Lafayette 0

Last Tie: Nov. 21, 1964; Easton, Lafayette 6, Lehigh 6 (100th meeting)

Points Scored in Series: Lafayette 2,670; Lehigh 2,202

Longest Lafayette Win Streak: 10 wins, 1919-28

Longest Lehigh Win Streak: 7 wins; 1995-2001

Miscellaneous Facts: The schools played each other twice per season from 1884-1901. They met three times in 1891 and did not meet in 1896, due to a player eligibility dispute between the two schools.

Neither team is playing for a championship this year.  In fact, Lehigh has a 5-5 record while Lafayette is a dismal 1-9.  But, it does not matter to the players, the alumni, or the Lehigh Valley fans.  This is Lafayette-Lehigh and that is all that is important.  16,000 fans will attend and half will leave ecstatic and half will leave dissatisfied.

If you do not have a ticket, tune in at 12:30 Saturday afternoon to RCNTV channels 4 or 1004; WBPH Channel 60, or GoLeopards.com on the internet.

Because…it is the ultimate rivalry!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. It all started with the Jets losing to Buffalo on Thursday night. The NFL has become totally unpredictable.  On Sunday, Bears killed the Rams, the Redskins beat the Saints, the Dolphins beat the Eagles, the Bucs beat the Cowboys, the Jaguars beat the Ravens, and, (wait for it) the Lions beat the Packers.  What!!!  I bet (pun) they are dancing in Las Vegas!
  2. As I write this, the Flyers have won two of their last 10 and are 6-8-3, and the 76’ers are 0-11, and the Eagles now have a losing record of 4-5. It continues to be tough to be a Philadelphia fan.
  3. We covered our first college basketball game this past Sunday and it is hard to imagine seeing a better game the rest of the year. Lafayette took on St. Peter’s and went up by 17 in the first half, only to have the Peacocks come back to tie the game in regulation.  In overtime, St. Peter’s went up by 11 and, as people were filing out, Lafayette kept forcing turnover after turnover and came back to win 87-86.  Check it out:

  1. The high school football games did not disappoint this past weekend. Easton avenged a loss to Freedom by winning their first round Subregional AAAA game over Freedom.  Saucon Valley (11-0) pulled off the biggest surprise by beating Bethlehem Catholic, a team that “mercy-ruled” them last year.  Parkland beat District Two’s Delaware Valley and Liberty beat Stroudsburg.  Notre Dame and Northwestern both won at the AA level.
  2. More great football match-ups are in store this weekend. In addition to Lafayette-Lehigh this Saturday at 12:30, you can watch the Easton – Parkland game on Friday night at 7:00 and the Saucon Valley – Lehighton game at 9:30 on Saturday.

Gary's Picks

NFL PICKS LAST WEEK – 4-10; OVERALL 85-61 (58%)
NFL PICKS (WEEK NINE)

JACKSONVILLE
CAROLINA
DETROIT
DALLAS
ATLANTA
BALTIMORE
JETS
GREEN BAY
PHILADELPHIA
DENVER
ARIZONA
SEATTLE
KANSAS CITY
NEW ENGLAND

Behind the Mic: Go, Villanova (Maybe…)

I would think any of us who covered the Darrun Hilliard era at Liberty High School became Wildcat fans the minute he accepted his scholarship at Villanova to play basketball there.  He has had a terrific career and is now looking forward to the start of the NCAA tournament after winning the Big East and getting a #1 seed in the East Region.  Darrun is the Wildcats leading scorer on a team where balanced scoring is the norm and defense is their greatest strength.  I have watched many of Darrun’s games throughout his career and the “I knew him when” thoughts constantly crept into my psyche.

But on Sunday at 6:20pm, he suddenly became the enemy.  His Villanova team was paired up in the NCAA bracket with #16 seed Lafayette!  The game is scheduled for Thursday, March 19, in Pittsburgh at 6:50pm.  For this one game, I will root against Darrun Hilliard and cheer on the underdog Lafayette Leopards.  I am not alone.

Imagine how Lafayette head coach Fran O’Hanlon feels.  Fran played at Villanova under Jack Kraft, who died this past August at the age of 93.  The Villanova players remember Coach by wearing his initials on their uniforms.  Fran is a 1970 graduate.  He was the team co-captain for the 1969-70 Wildcat team that reached the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.  Fran averaged 13.1 points per game and still holds the record for assists in one game (16).  He is a true Philadelphia guy, having gone to St. Thomas More high school, being named to the Villanova Hall of Fame in 1992, and coaching at Monsignor Bonner High School and assisting under current Temple head coach Fran Dunphy at the University of Penn.  When you are in Fran’s company in Philadelphia, the stories flow and the fun is non-stop.

All of those good feelings will change for two hours on Thursday night.  This is Fran’s third trip to the NCAA tournament, having made the tournament in 1999 and 2000, losing to Miami, Fla. and Temple.  Lafayette will be a huge underdog again.  No #16 team has ever beaten a #1 team since the tournament began.  Then again, look what had to happen for Lafayette to even get to this game:

(1) Lafayette needed to beat Army in the last regular season game in order for Lafayette to qualify for a quarterfinal home game (they did);
(2) Holy Cross needed to upset Boston University in the final game played in the regular season in order for Lafayette to actually get a quarterfinal home game (they did);
(3) #4 seed Lafayette needed to beat #5 seed Boston University, a team that beat them by 14 at home in their previous match-up (they did);
(4) #6 American University needed to beat #3 seed Lehigh at Lehigh (they did);
(5) #4 seed Lafayette needed to upset #1 seed Bucknell at Bucknell, a feat NEVER accomplished before in the Patriot League semifinals (they did);
(6)  #6 American University needed to beat #2 Colgate in the following game for Lafayette to get a home championship game (they did);
(7) #4 Lafayette needed to beat #6 American after losing to them twice during the regular season for the Patriot League Championship (they did!)

Are they a team of destiny on Thursday night in Pittsburgh?  My head says, “No”.  My heart says, “Maybe”.  Go, Leopards!!

P.S. If Villanova wins, I will jump on the Wildcats wagon.  Go, Darrun!!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I like Virginia, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Duke in the Final Four for the tournament. Kentucky beats Duke in the final.
  2. The Eastern Washington Eagles will upset Georgetown and be the lowest seed to go the deepest in the brackets.
  3. Look for my reports from Pittsburgh this week on goleopards.com.
  4. As I write this, District 12 out of Philadelphia is dominating the PIAA playoffs again in boys’ basketball. Out of the 16 teams remaining in the four classifications, District 12 has eight of them.  They do the same in football.  Time to investigate?
  5. Enjoy the NCAA Tournament. Don’t forget to get some sleep!

 

 

Behind the Mic: Mondays are for Research

This time of the year, Mondays are Lafayette football days. Due to the availability of college information so early in the week and the lack of high school information until late in the week, I try to get as much Lafayette game day work done as I can on Monday. The statistics are already updated; the game notes from the previous game are available; rosters can be created; and story lines are sought. Story lines are normally about the match-ups, the offensive playmakers, and the defensive studs. Once you gather the information, the next task is to organize it.

But… sometimes I come across a story that has very little to do with the game, but a great deal to do with human interest. That was the case this past Monday when I started my research for the Lafayette-Wagner football game coming up this Saturday at 6:00pm in Easton.

The Wagner football coach is Walt Hameline. As usual, I found out the basics on him – 34 years as head coach at Wagner – 217 wins – one of only five FCS active coaches with over 200 wins. This is the usual stuff. Then I saw this article by Ralph Russo:

NEW YORK (AP) — You think fall weddings are inconvenient for college football fans? Imagine being a coach with a daughter who has her heart set on a Saturday in late September.

That was Wagner College coach Walt Hameline’s dilemma, when his youngest daughter, Kelly, told him last fall the place she chose as the site of her big day had few dates available — and the one she picked was Sept. 20, the same day Wagner was scheduled to play Monmouth University.

“How can you do this?” Hameline said was his reaction. “What are you thinking about? It’s football season. Ever since she was a baby she went to every football game.”

Hameline is in his 34th season as head coach at Wagner and is also the school’s athletic director.

Sometimes it pays to be your own boss.

Last fall, Kelly Hameline, 28, let her father know that she had found the perfect place to have her wedding — “The most expensive place you can find,” Walt Hameline said — on Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

Turns out, the bill was only Hameline’s second-biggest problem.

“There was only like, one or two dates (available),” he said.

Still, Hameline could hardly believe what his daughter was asking. “There’s always been a golden rule in our family,” he said. “Once football season starts, my wife, my family, they go to the games and we do nothing else.” Not this time.

After last season was over, Hameline reached out to Monmouth coach Kevin Callahan. The two had crossed paths and become friends as young assistant coaches in the late 1970s, and when Hameline became head coach at Wagner, Callahan was the first coach he hired.

“It was kind of funny,” Callahan said, recalling the conversation with a laugh. “In typical Walt fashion he goes, ‘Hey, hey, hey, you gotta help me out.’ My first thought was, what’s he up to here? Let me figure this out.”

Callahan was in the process of filling Sept. 20 on Monmouth’s schedule, but was able to move the Wagner game, lock it in and build the team’s remaining schedule around it.

“We had the flexibility to make it work. I was more than happy to do it,” said Callahan, who has been coach at Monmouth for 22 years.

So while Callahan won’t be attending the wedding — the Hawks play at Duquesne that day — he’s covered for a gift.

As for Hameline, he’s just happy his daughter’s wedding didn’t conflict with Wagner’s game last week at Florida International, an FBS school. He said Wagner was paid $240,000 for that trip to South Florida.

“Let’s get this straight,” Hameline said, “I wasn’t calling FIU up.”

And CBSSports did the following video on the story:

I will get to interview Coach Hameline this week during our media luncheon press conference. I usually center my questions around the previous week’s events. However, this time I don’t think I will ask what color the bridesmaids wore or what the centerpieces were. It just doesn’t seem right to ask those questions of a football coach in the fall. I’m sure Coach agrees.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. Alessandro Florenzi plays international soccer for Roma. When he scored his first goal of the season this past week, he ran into the stands to hug his 82-year-old grandmother. She said she would only come to see him play if he would come to her and say, “Hi”. He did that and more. The referee gave him a yellow card for the infraction. Neither he nor his grandmother cared. Alessandro’s team won.

2. DeSean Jackson returned to Philadelphia on Sunday and caught an 81-yard touchdown pass. His celebration was as expected, but at least with the Eagles winning the game, he pretty much had to keep his mouth shut after the game.

3. Ray Rice is supposedly claiming that the video showing him punching his fiancé while in an elevator was edited. Edited from what to what? And dragging her unconscious from the elevator was the result of Emmy award-winning acting? Hard to accept his defense as credible.

4. Over 20 NFL players suffered injuries this week, many season-ending. It seems to me that more and more players are being hurt while the rules are being changed to protect them. Is there a correlation between changing the ways players are allowed to hit one another and the number of injuries that are occurring? Illogical? Only the players know.

5. I spent the weekend in Williamsburg, VA to do the Lafayette-William & Mary football game. It’s a beautiful place, loaded with history and great weather. Some days, going to work are better than others.

Gary's Picks
(Last Week 10-6; Seasonal Record 25-23: 52%)

WASHINGTON
MIAMI
CHICAGO
HOUSTON
INDIANAPOLIS
BALTIMORE
DETROIT
PITTSBURGH
SAN DIEGO
SAN FRANCISCO
ATLANTA
DALLAS
KANSAS CITY

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

Behind the Mic: “Accadeemics and Ashletics”

No, this is not a “typo” and yes, I do know how to spell. I can read, too. I was also a college athlete. And from what I have read of a recent analysis of college football and college basketball by CNN’s Sara Ganin, there are too many athletes with very limited ability to read and/or write representing academic institutions:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/07/us/ncaa-athletes-reading-scores/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

A career learning specialist, Mary Willingham, researched the reading levels of 183 University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill athletes who played football and basketball from 2004 to 2012. 60% read between 4th and 8th grade levels. Between 8% and 10% read below a third grade level!!

How can these athletes possibly earn a college diploma? Well, that answer lies in cheating on tests, having papers written for them, getting passing grades for classes they never attend, and so on. And why do colleges turn a blind eye to many of these practices – MONEY!!

According to Ganin, the Louisville Cardinals basketball program made a profit of $26.9 million and the University of North Carolina made $16.9 million last year on their men’s basketball programs alone. This is the justification for admitting students with abysmal SAT scores and reading levels below fourth grade (estimated to be @10%). Student-athletes were admitted with SAT scores between 200 and 300 and the lowest possible score on this test is 200 (the highest is 800).

And, perhaps, the first question we should ask is, “How did they ever get a high school diploma?” The system of “rewarding” outstanding athletic talent by not requiring academic success begins here and is perpetuated at the next level.

My collegiate broadcasting experience is with the Patriot League and Lafayette College. Their goals are summed up in their Mission Statement (the underlines are mine):

Mission
The Patriot League promotes opportunities for students to compete in Division I intercollegiate athletics programs within a context that holds paramount the high academic standards and integrity of member institutions, and the academic and personal growth of student-athletes.

Vision
The Patriot League will be the exemplary intercollegiate athletics conference in the country for student-athletes who demonstrate success both in academic achievement and athletic competition.

• Offering broad-based and diverse athletic programs, the League schools are dedicated to shared values of integrity, character and the personal development of all students.
• Student-athletes are provided the opportunity to achieve their athletic potential and compete successfully at the NCAA Division I level.
• The Patriot League will be recognized nationally for the effective integration of Division I athletics into the educational mission of the institution.
• Student-athletes are prepared to become leaders and to make meaningful contributions to society.

If colleges would begin to raise the academic standards required to be admitted and public education would stress those standards at the elementary and high school levels, wouldn’t everyone benefit? If the most motivating goal for some high school athletes is to play at the next level, wouldn’t they raise their bar if the institutions raised the requirement bar? The question remains, however, who is willing to take the first step? My guess is – No One!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. Chris Wheeler and Gary “the Sarge” Matthews were dismissed from the Phillies broadcast booth this past week by Comcast SportsNet. Comcast SportsNet signed a 25-year, $2.5-billion contract with the Phillies and, thus, now have control over the TV broadcasting team. What’s done is done. I personally enjoy the radio team of Scott Frantzke, Larry Anderson, and Jim Jackson. Frantzke has said he is not interested in doing television.

2. In other Phillies news, the games that used to be on Channel 17 will now be on Channel 10 which is owned and operated by Comcast.

3. DeSean Jackson’s home was robbed this weekend and the burglars made off with $125,000 in jewelry and $250,000 in cash. He also lost two semi-automatic handguns. I’m having a little difficulty relating to his loss!

4. Speaking of outrageous money, did you see where A-Rod paid $12,000 a month for Performance Enhancing Drugs? His ultimate goal was to hit 800 home runs. He has 654 and will miss all of next season. He will still make $3 million for the year. And, at least, he’ll save $144,000 in “medical” expenses.

5. Did you see that in the last three weeks, I was 21-3 on my picks? 4-0 this past weekend. The NFL matchups this coming weekend could not be much better. So, please don’t bother me on Sunday.

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK
(Last week – 4-0) (172-91-1 65%)

SEATTLE
DENVER

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: Drew Reed and “Opportunity”

 

Drew Reed and “Opportunity”

Good writers often refer to clichés as “unoriginal thoughts”.

Allow me to illustrate. The scenario: The starting quarterback suffers a concussion and cannot return to action. The backup quarterback performs adequately, but not up to the standards set by the head coach. The head coach makes a change. His next choice and third choice is a freshman who has played one down of college football (he was sacked, by the way, on that play).

So the “door of opportunity” or “a golden opportunity which comes by once in a lifetime” was accepted by Lafayette freshman quarterback, Drew Reed. He did not let “yet another golden opportunity slip away”. And, by now, I have used up my litany of “unoriginal thoughts”. So, just let me tell you about Drew Reed.

He played high school football for Arlington High School in Lakeland, Tennessee. He threw for over 6,000 yards and 70 touchdowns. In his senior year alone, he threw for 1,470 yards, completed 63% of his passes, and threw 15 touchdowns by the sixth game! Then he broke his collarbone. This ended his season and, in essence, ended some of his attractiveness to big-time college football programs.

It took a phone call from an assistant coach at Georgia Tech to Lafayette’s offensive coordinator to put Drew on the Leopard radar screen. The coach said that Drew would be a perfect fit for the Patriot League and for Lafayette – excellent academics, model teenager, and outstanding potential. All he needed was the “opportunity”.

The “door of opportunity” came at the start of the second half against Harvard. Lafayette had scored just three points in the first half. On Drew’s first play he threw an interception. His career statistics at this point were: one run for -9 yards; 0-1 passing with an interception. Was “a golden opportunity slipping away”? Far from it. Drew went on to complete 17 of his next 21 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. That performance earned him a starting nod for the next game against Holy Cross.

His passing numbers for the Holy Cross game were even more astounding – 21 completions in 22 attempts with 20 completions in a row (tying a Patriot League record) to end the game for 283 yards and five touchdowns! He was named the National FCS Player of the Week and the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week and the Rookie of the Week, an achievement that had never been done before. At this point, he had more touchdown passes (7) than incompletions (6)! This past week against Georgetown, he was 18 for 24 for 275 yards and four more touchdowns! To date, he has completed 82% of his passes (unheard of) for 11 touchdowns in just 10 quarters of college football. More importantly, he has helped to put Lafayette in sole possession of first place in the Patriot League.

“Opportunity knocked”, Drew Reed answered, and he has certainly “made the best of the situation”. Enough! I am clichéd out!!

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. The Eagles destroyed the Oakland Raiders this past Sunday. Ironically, the Raiders’ quarterback, Terrell Pryor, was recruited heavily out of high school by Eagles’ coach, Chip Kelly. Kelly believed Pryor would be the perfect player to run his Oregon offense. There are rumors that Chip Kelly would love to draft Oregon’s Marcus Mariota for next season. After Nick Foles’ record-setting seven touchdowns pass performance this past week, perhaps Kelly has found his “perfect” quarterback.

2. The New York Jets have alternated wins and losses through the first nine games this season going 5-4. I’m sure they will count this week’s bye week as a loss. The last team to alternate wins and losses through nine games was the New England Patriots. They finished 10-6 and made the playoffs.

3. Lafayette can guarantee themselves a share of the Patriot League Championship on Saturday at 3:30pm with a win over Colgate. You can watch the game LIVE on RCN-TV. Should Lafayette win and Lehigh lose to Holy Cross, Lafayette would be the Patriot League Champions. It would be their first outright championship since 1994. They shared the title is 2004, 2005, and 2006.

4. District football action begins this weekend. RCN-TV has Stroudsburg at Parkland LIVE on Friday night at 7:00pm followed by Pleasant Valley at Whitehall at 9:30pm. Bethlehem Catholic will host Lehighton on Saturday night LIVE at 7:00pm on RCN-TV.

5. Believe it or not, college basketball begins LIVE on RCN-TV on Tuesday, November 9, when Lafayette hosts Robert Morris at 7:00pm. Robert Morris had 24 wins last year, including an NIT first round victory over Kentucky – yes, that Kentucky. The Kirby Sports Center, by the way, is completely renovated.

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK (8-5: Last week; 86-47 overall 65%)
WASHINGTON
TENNESSEE
GREEN BAY
BUFFALO
GIANTS
INDIANAPOLIS
SEATTLE
CINCINNATI
DETROIT
SAN FRANCISCO
ARIZONA
DENVER
NEW ORLEANS
MIAMI