The SportsTalk Shop: NFL Draft Thoughts/Sports Interviews

We had some great analysis and insights for this week’s NFL Draft on the most recent “RCN SportsTalk presented by The Morning Call” which you can see on RCN On-Demand or hear the podcast: rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk.

Here are a few more insights/observations that either didn’t make it to air or should be emphasized as we approach this week’s Draft:

1.  Neither the Eagles nor the Redskins should be picky: take the best available player!
Both teams have multiple holes to fill and are not any one position player away for making a major jump to becoming a Super Bowl contender. Take the best option / most talented player at the spot you pick — whether you move up or down — and find a place for him to utilize his talents!

2.  Stay away from Christian McCaffrey.
Unless you move down later into the first round he’s not going to be your best available player. Durable running backs can be found much later in the draft and NFL beat writers are mixed as far as how well McCaffrey will hold up as a between-the-tackles rusher. He’s a great talent and will be a great compliment player to a team that is already close to Super Bowl contention but neither the Redskins nor Eagles find themselves in that position right now and, although he’d be a great storyline for us in the media, avoid people that encourage picking up this Stanford back.

Our beat writers on this week’s “SportsTalk” discussed in more detail some areas that should concern fans that are going “all-in” for McCaffrey that you need to hear.

3.  Although not necessarily all flashy names, there are some outstanding talents both the Redskins and/or Eagles could pick up throughout the draft who could go a long way in helping each organization. 
Some of my top names for round one who could be available “mid-round” include:

  • LB Reuben Foster, Alabama  (although he’s MY pick, word is Arizona is heavily in on him) 

On our program, Al Thompson and Rock Hoffman also had an interesting rumor regarding a certain team’s interest in the controversial but ultra-talented running back Joe Mixon, along with some great insights on “diamonds in the rough” among later round draft picks that you can hear on the podcast.
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In addition to our pro sports coverage, our “SportsTalk” cameras have also been busy keeping up with local high school sports, including this past weekend’s Colonial League “Play Day” tournament…

We’d also like to thank Lehigh Valley track-and-field Chairs Bob Hartman and Brian Geist (EPC & Colonial League, respectively) for sending me the updated “performance list” for us to highlight the top male and female track athletes and their performances to date:

4-21-17 girls top 60
4-21-17 girls relay
4-21-17 girls frosh
4-21-17 boys top 60
4-21-17 boys relay
4-21-17 boys frosh

Colonial League Boys Week 4 Link: http://www.colonialleague.org/sports/boys/boys-track-field/
Colonial League Girls Week 4 Link : http://www.colonialleague.org/sports/girls/girls-track-field/

You can catch high school sports videos and interviews on this Thursday’s program, live at 7pm on RCN-TV, including a feature on the Saucon Valley track team that posted a major tri-meet win for both its girls and boys teams last week.  We’ll also have coverage a big girls lacrosse battle—tune in for details!

The SportsTalk Shop: NFL Draft Preview

The commencement of the NFL Draft 2014 is almost upon us.

Before you settle in for all the festivities and start price shopping for jerseys of your favorite team’s newest players, I want to provide you with the latest rumors, insights and possibilities on who’s going where, what team is doing what, and any surprises that might be lurking for this year’s three-day event.

First, here are insights from some of the NFL beat writers who joined us on our most recent “RCN SportsTalk” show, discussing the Eagles’ draft direction, DeSean Jackson’s departure and the top pick in the draft overall (the entire program is available to watch for free on RCN On-Demand).

Now, here are a few more bits of information from our sources on what to watch for in this year’s draft:

1) Don’t expect the Eagles to “stand pat.”
They’ve already made several incredibly risky moves—the biggest of these in releasing their most dynamic player, DeSean Jackson—so don’t be surprised if they make a move. The Eagles do have some depth on the line and rumors continue to swirl that Brandon Graham, who never quite fit in comfortably to the Birds’ new defense, might be one piece that gets swapped in order for the team to move up in the draft.

2) Expect to hear all-Manziel, all-the-time on Thursday.
Right or wrong, the NFL, ESPN and all the national media outlets love to overexpose someone at the NFL draft, and “Johnny Football” will be the guy this year. Rumored to be drafted anywhere from third to twenty-third, the former Aggies quarterback will be talked about early and often in Thursday’s “Day One” events, and probably even more so in the weeks and months to follow, regardless of whether he succeeds or not.

3) Look for the SEC to do some gloating.
While they will no doubt lose a ton of talent—again–due to this year’s draft, the SEC will be able to brag about having as many as nine players from their conference selected in the first round. I figure Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina and Auburn’s Greg Robinson go in the first five selections, and Manziel, along with fellow Texas A&M standouts Jake Matthews and Mike Evans, are next to go, with plenty more talent from this conference left for other teams to pick up before the draft’s second round gets underway.

Who do you think will be drafted #1 this year, and where do you think Manziel will end up? Post your opinions in our comments section or send an email to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Questions Surrounding DeSean’s Departure

 

OK. I’m going to try my best not to make too big a deal of this issue…for the rest of the year. But you have to admit, the departure of DeSean Jackson, whether you agree with the move or not, has raised a ton of unanswered questions.

The initial release of the Philadelphia Eagles’ most electric player has been debated for several weeks, and there are more pressing on-field issues that this organization, and its fan base, need to start addressing. But before we turn the page—or at least try to, since this topic will resurface if and when the current receivers have a bad game—there are specific questions I still have. For myself and for many football fans in the Delaware County and Lehigh Valley areas, these questions must be answered before we can even think about moving forward–from an emotional standpoint.

Since the Eagles themselves continue to be tight-lipped and refuse to address this issue, here are the questions I’m going to be asking the Eagles’ beat writers when they are our guests on this Thursday’s “RCN Sports Talk” show (live at 6pm).

1) The timing of the release?
Once the initial shock subsided, this was my biggest question. Why now? Why not at the beginning of free agency when you could have explored bringing in another receiver? Why wait until all free agent options are now gone before opening up that spot? And if you weren’t going to do it earlier, why not wait until you get close to the NFL draft? Maybe someone gets desperate, wanting a receiver or looking to maneuver for a different pick, and becomes a willing trade partner so that you get something…anything…for him in return. Since the Eagles didn’t immediately pursue another option, nor have they in the weeks that followed, I’m left to wonder if they really had a plan to replace him at all.

2) Why a release?
I’ve been told by my football contacts that they would not have gotten very much —at the time they released him—in return for Jackson through a trade. A seventh-round pick? A journeyman linebacker who wouldn’t make the team? What would be the point?

My beef is, by releasing him, they left themselves open for the real possibility that any team, including their divisional rivals – Giants, Cowboys and Redskins – could swoop in and pick him up.

Remember the dreadful Cliff Lee deal, in which the Phillies traded Lee to Seattle for three prospects who have yet to taste major league success? At least the Phillies traded him to a team that could not come back to haunt them in their own league. By releasing Jackson and making his salary more flexible for a team to pick him up, they’ve allowed for a team (aka Washington) that can—and will—use Jackson against the Eagles in their two meetings this year. Do you think fans will forget the release if Jackson has a big game against them and keeps them from making the playoffs this year? You’d have a better chance of the national media forgetting the Santa Clause-snowball incident from decades ago. If the Birds only win two games this year, they better hope and pray it’s against the Redskins, if only to avoid a huge public relations nightmare.

3) Is Chip Kelly’s ego really at the heart of the matter?
I would hope that the Birds’ second-year head coach is man enough to realize that you can’t let your personal feelings get in the way of achieving success for your franchise. Times have changed and coaches can’t make whimsical decisions with millions and millions of dollars—including taxpayer-designated money—just because their feelings are hurt. I keep coming back to this question and want to believe that it did not. There are certainly enough allegations to speculate there’s more to the story than anyone is admitting.

However, the fact that Kelly refuses to publicly address this issue , and the fact that a positive response to this question would nicely satisfy the first two queries, continues to make me wonder.

It also helps to know if DeSean’s style of play influenced the Eagles’ decision and if they would like to go in a different direction at his position. If they want to replace Jackson’s pure-speed ability with a big, physical receiver, they might have to trade up for a higher draft pick before next week’s NFL draft in order to get a quality player they may covet.

What do you think of DeSean Jackson’s departure from the Eagles? Will it ultimately help or hurt the team this season? Send your comments and questions to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and we’ll address them on this Thursday’s program, along with a complete preview of next week’s NFL draft and insights on the Eagles’ 2014 schedule. Plus, remember to bookmark our page and check back in with our blog next week for exclusive insights on next Thursday’s NFL Draft and the latest rumors swirling around the Eagles.

 

Behind the Mic: Zander Hollander

If you can imagine a time before ESPN, the NFL Network, the MLB Network, the NHL Network, CBS March Madness, etc, etc., then you might know the name Zander Hollander. Before college football and basketball came into your living room on pretty much a daily basis and before there were television channels singularly devoted to professional hockey, baseball, and soccer, there was Zander Hollander. Many of you probably do not know the name. He was called “the official king of sports paperbacks” by Sports Illustrated in the 1960’s. That was my era for childhood sports development. I knew Zander Hollander and I knew his work. He died on April 11 of Alzheimer’s disease.

Zander Hollander wrote approximately 274 books, many with “The Complete Handbook of …” as the beginning of the title and ending with a particular sport in a particular year. Amazon.com lists 23 pages of his book titles in a very large price range with some carrying a $1,000 price tag. Hollander would focus on a given sport in a given year, listing statistics, records, team rosters, and even making predictions for that year. He was extremely prolific, publishing a book almost every three months or so.

Even though he specialized in the “Big Four” of national interest sports, he also wrote or co-wrote The American Encyclopedia of Soccer, Bud Collins’ Tennis Encyclopedia, Lake Placid 1980: The Complete Handbook of the Olympic Winter Games, a tome on Madison Square Garden, and more and more.

I could ill-afford to buy the Hollander books, but luckily, our high school library did have many of them. I was introduced to them while teaching in high school and would use the information often when broadcasting a sport like soccer about which I knew very little. The books would offer up rules, how a game was played, the position responsibilities, stories and anecdotes. The Hollander books also allowed me to keep track of my favorite players and teams, and, more importantly, would settle plenty of arguments or, even better, create some.

I have such fond memories of the detail, the numbers, the tidbits and the trivia that was found in the writings of Zander Hollander. I also find it quite ironic and quite sad that the man who supplied so many memories for sports fans for decades was stricken by a disease that took those memories from him and hid them away somewhere in his brain. Although it strikes me that present-day technology has diminished the joy and the importance of the works of Zander Hollander. There is also something very ironic and very sad about that.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. Actual baseball attendance seems to really be suffering early this season. Is it the weather, the price of tickets and concessions; is it the attention span of the youth of today; is it the competition of other sports; is it all of the above? Something to chew on, though, is that the Baseball Almanac says that baseball attendance is statistically up based on tickets sold, but down based on how many fans really come to the games. Why are there so many fans who can afford to NOT go to the games?

2. I watched the LPGA Lotte Championship late Saturday night (I know, get a life!) as much because of the beautiful Hawaiian scenery as my interest in seeing if Michelle Wie could win a championship. When she first came on the scene, she was supposed to be the female Tiger Woods. That certainly never materialized, but boy did she play well on Saturday, shooting five under par and winning by two strokes. It was only Wie’s third tournament win and her first on US soil. She is 24 and has plenty of time to still be a dominant force in women’s golf. If she plays like she did this past weekend, she will be.

3. The NFL Draft is on May 8. Quarterbacks Blake Bortles (Central Florida),Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) will all go early (top 5?). The Eagles will probably take a defensive secondary player (much needed).

4. Between the Easter dinner and the Easter dessert this past Sunday and, thanks to TiVo, my family watched the Flyers beat the Rangers in Game Two of the NHL playoffs. To me, hockey is a great television sport and NBC and NBCSN are starting to reap the rewards of higher television ratings. They really do hockey well and deserve the rising success.

5. For both your sake and mine, this blog will be manned by guest writers for the next three weeks. Randy Kane of Grandview fame will offer up his thoughts next week, followed by fitness guru Scott Barr, and then onto a very opinionated John Leone. Enjoy!