Behind the Mic: Filling Out the Brackets

The 2016-17 school year is winding down and, therefore, so is the athletic season.  State titles still need to be decided in girls’ and boys’ lacrosse, tennis, track and field, and boys’ volleyball.  These championships are basically the same as in previous years with AA and AAA champions.

But this school year was a year of change for a number of sports in the PIAA due to the addition of two more classifications in many other sports.  In particular, the big three of football, basketball and baseball each added a AAAAA and AAAAAA class to the previous four.  District XI, our district, was no exception.  So, now that we have been through one year and with the knowledge that this format is already set in stone, allow me to give you some interesting facts, specifically concerning football, boys’ basketball, and baseball:

  • There were 19 teams in those three sports that got into the District XI tournament with losing records (in the past, you had to be at .500 or better to get in).
  • The justification for adding these teams is to “fill out the brackets” or allow the minimum number allowed for a district in the playoffs.
  • One team got into the football playoffs with a 1-9 record.
  • Nine teams got into the basketball playoffs with losing records and eight teams got into the baseball playoffs with losing records.

No team took more advantage of the “filling out the bracket” rule than the Whitehall baseball team.  They were placed in the AAAAA class to make a four-team bracket.  Blue Mountain was ranked first with a 15-4 record, Southern Lehigh was second with a 16-4 record, and Bangor was third with a 13-7 record.  No one would argue that they deserved to be in the playoff, but Whitehall got in with an 8-12 record.  This would not have been good enough in the past.

But, before you trash the system, Whitehall won the championship!  That’s right.  They upset the #1 seed in extra innings and went on to destroy the #2 seed in the championship.  So… there are questions:

  1. Should teams with losing records be allowed in?
  1. Is the goal to get as many athletes and teams involved in playoffs justifiable?
  1. Does a losing team winning the championship prove their right to admission?

And, the biggest question of all –

  1. Do we need six classifications?

I’m pretty sure they are here to stay, but you might have some fun debating their value.  We, in the media, do it all the time.  And you have all summer to discuss before the games begin again in September.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. No one was more skeptical than I was when the pundits were predicting that the Golden State Warriors would easily defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA playoffs. Some said they would sweep them in four straight.  Well, they have won the first two and are now 14-0 in the playoffs.  No team has ever gone undefeated throughout the entire playoffs.  Steph Curry and Kevin Durant more than balance out the talent of LeBron James.
  2. The NHL playoffs are just as entertaining as the NBA. When the Nashville Predators went down 2-0 in the series, and 1-0 in game three, it looked like a sweep might also happen in the NHL.  But Nashville went on to score the next five goals to win their first Stanley Cup game in history.  No sweep here and no heavy favorite either.
  3. As a kid, I remember reading “Fear Strikes Out” written by major league baseball player Jimmy Piersall. It was a very moving story.  The book dealt very realistically with Piersall’s mental illness which turned out to be a bipolar disorder.  It showed in Piersall’s furious arguments with umpires, a fistfight with Billy Martin, making pig noises in the outfield, etc.  This all culminated in a mental breakdown.  I honestly thought he had already passed away.  I was a bit shocked when I read he passed away this past week at the age of 87.  It is a book worth reading.
  4. Congratulations to Liberty, Parkland, Whitehall, and Wilson for making the PIAA state baseball championships. Each needs to win three games to get to the title game at Penn State.
  5. Next week on RCN-TV, we will start our Blue Mountain League baseball coverage. The Game of the Week will be on Tuesday nights at 9:30.  The McDonald’s All-Star Football Classic will be on Thursday, June 15, at 10:00.

 

Behind the Mic: If Only…

In my very first blog, I warned you that there would be times when I just did not feel like writing about sports. This is one of those times.

After this week’s tragic events in Boston and in West, Texas, it is hard not to think of the people who saw their family members and loved ones go off to watch the Boston Marathon, socialize with friends, or go to work and never return. Tragedy struck, without warning, and without any opportunity to offer any final words. It gave me pause to consider things we all should say or would say if we only knew we would never see some people again:

1. Hopefully, we all would take the time to thank our parents for their discipline, their support, and their love.

2. We would tell our “significant other” how much they have enriched our lives and have made every day better.

3. We would tell our children how proud we are of their accomplishments, but more importantly, how proud we are that they are good people and good citizens.

4. We would inspire our grandchildren to continue to work hard, persevere, and treat people as they would want to be treated.

5. We would offer hearty handshakes and hugs to our siblings.

6. We would find the time to thank teachers and coaches who taught us to push harder to become more than we thought we could.

7. We would thank our employers for finding and matching our talents to their needs.

8. We would tell friends and fellow employees their time spent with us makes our days better.

9. We would show appreciation to those individuals whom we come in contact with on a regular basis, treat us respectfully, serve our needs, and thank us for our patronage and loyalty.

10. We would make amends to those we have slighted, treated poorly, and made to feel badly.

Make this your “bucket list”. Do the best you can to take the time to check off the conversations, the messages, the thoughts and feelings. This past week tells us we do not know how much time we have. Don’t be left thinking, “If only…”


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. LeBron James (NBA), Mario Balotelli (soccer), and Lindsey Vonn (Alpine ski racer) are the three athletes mentioned by Time magazine as 3 of the 100 most influential people in the world. I know 2 of the 3 and spend very little time following any of their sports. However, I liked what I read about them. Zola, an Italian soccer star, wrote about Balotelli. Derek Jeter wrote the piece on LeBron and Danica Patrick wrote about Lindsey Vonn. I know the latter two writers. I have to broaden my horizons.

2. Tiger Woods received a two-stoke penalty during the Masters when a fan called in to say he had broken a rule. The fan was proven to be correct. In a more serious vein, as evidenced this week, with today’s technology, it is hard to get away with anything.

3. The Boston Red Sox are in first place right now in the AL East just ahead of the Yankees. Even a die-hard Yankee fan might not be too upset about that.

4. I will not be blogging the next two weeks, but this space will be in the able fingers of Scott Barr and Randy Kane. Scott will talk about the elimination of wrestling from the Olympics and Randy will look at auto racing. Enjoy!

5. I want to thank Jim Best for being a guest blogger last week. He talked about his trip to the National Wrestling Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. His passion for the sport just oozed out of the computer screen.