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

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

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 – February 19th

Another Day at the Office – Well, Not Quite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

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

Behind the Mic – January 30th

President Obama was inaugurated for the second time this past weekend and gave a challenging, competitive inaugural speech aimed at the opposition party. Everyone heard his words and had an opinion about what he said on “both sides of the aisle”, as they say. He also made a comment that did not garner nearly as much attention; however, as a sports and football fan, it warranted some investigation and thoughts.

“I’m a big football fan,” Obama told the New Republic, “but I have to tell you, if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football.” I still remember my own mother refusing to sign the permission form to let me play football. She finally relented when I went to high school and I played for four years.

This week, Rolling Stone magazine did a study: “This is Your Brain on Football” (Jan., 2013) which concluded that high school football is America’s most dangerous game.

The latest statistics indicate that 3.8 million Americans suffer a concussion on the playground or playing contact sports. The number is probably above 4 million because it is assumed that many concussions go unreported when they do not cause unconsciousness. As a result, the number could realistically be much, much higher. Many neurosurgeons are of the belief that no child should play tackle football until they turn 14. They report that concussive symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, inability to focus, memory failure and lightheadedness can linger indefinitely. These symptoms can affect school, activities, and future mental development.

Those of us who played sports wonder why this problem is much more serious than it used to be. Kids have, without a doubt, gotten bigger, faster, and stronger. Doctors say, however, that the development of neck muscles have not. Combining the two has created some devastating consequences.

If the past is a precursor to the future, parents need look no further than the current state of the NFL in the court system. 4,000 former players are currently pressing claims for permanent brain damage. Every week, we watch games where some hits are so vicious that we feel somewhat guilty about enjoying the game so much. We know that these men are being paid quite well to take those hits, so I suppose this helps us assuage our reservations about the game.

P.S.: Girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer concussions when you consider all of the sports played by both genders which may subject them concussions. These include: soccer, lacrosse, hockey, or the leader in head trauma – competitive cheerleading! Did you know 37,000 cheerleaders in the US were taken to ER’s in 2011 alone?

Only football results in more traumatic injuries.

The good news (if there is any) is that prevention of these injuries is being studied by the medical and athletic communities. However, the quandary for parents remains: Would you let your son play football?


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. This past weekend, the Lafayette women’s and the Lafayette men’s basketball teams both beat their archrival, Lehigh. This feat had not been accomplished since February 23, 2008. They did not just win – the women won by 16 at home and the men won by 21 at Lehigh. It all happens again on February 23 and 24.
  2. “I went to the Pro Bowl and a basketball game broke out”. NFC-62 AFC-35. I would like to comment on the game, but I did not watch it (again)!
  3. San Francisco vs Baltimore on Sunday. Can anybody prove they had these two teams in the Super Bowl this year before the season began? QB’s Colin Kaepernick vs Joe Flacco – no Brady, no Brees, no Manning or Manning – go figure. By the way, the over/under in Vegas is 47.5. I would lean towards the under. The 49’ers are favored in Vegas by 3 ½. Although I am picking the 49’ers, I would lean towards Baltimore with the points.
  4. Speaking of predictions, Vegas picked Alabama to win the BCS championship next year. Notre Dame came in 11th as a 25-1 long-shot.
  5. “60 Minutes” interviewed USADA on Sunday and the head said Lance Armstrong lied throughout the Oprah interview and if he does not testify truthfully in front of that group, he will never compete again in cycling. I wonder what Dr. Phil will learn from the man who pulled the hoax on Manti Te’o?

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(Last week – 1-1) (88-54 for the season – 62%)

SAN FRANCISCO – 24-21

Behind the Mic – January 4th

2013 is upon us, so I thought I would take one last look at the top 10 national sports stories, in my opinion, for 2012:

10.       Tiger Woods wins again, but not very often.

9.         Peyton Manning released by the Colts; he has a great year with the Broncos.

8.         Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Gabby Douglas make the London Olympic Games very special.

7.         Lance Armstrong stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

6.         Replacement refs in the NFL – How did that work out?  They were replaced after Week 3 debacle with Green Bay and Seattle.

5.         Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck become the most exciting rookies to play in the NFL in a long, long time.

4.         Notre Dame ends college football’s regular season #1, undefeated, and becomes a very relevant football program once again.

3.         Lehigh beats Duke in NCAA basketball (enough said).  Kentucky wins championship with freshmen and sophomores.

2.         College football playoffs in the BCS are approved for 2014. Top four teams  will compete.  You just know it will expand in the future.

And the #1 story:

  1. 1.      NCAA imposes on Penn State a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, a reduction of scholarships, imposes a five-year probation, and vacates all wins from 1998-2011.  Overkill?  Joe Paterno dies.         

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1.                  On Sunday night in Washington, do you think there was more interest in the “fiscal cliff” or the Washington-Dallas NFL football game?

2.                  All four Wild Card games this coming weekend look like tossups to me. 

3.                  Having done four high school basketball games before the holiday break, I think this might be a very, very competitive and exciting year.  Although, looking back, I think I say that every year.

4.                  Happy New Year to everyone, but especially to Mike Joseph, John Leone, Tom Stoudt, Scott Barr, and John Bowman!  I spend a great deal of time in the booths and at courtside with those guys and thoroughly enjoy their company each time!

5.                  In 2012, I lost my 97-year-old mother and my 96-year-old father-in-law.  There will be a large void in 2013.

 NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK

(Last week – 12-4 )  (  83-49 for the season – 64% )

HOUSTON

GREEN BAY

 

INDIANAPOLIS

WASHINGTON