Behind the Mic: The NFL – AFC Spoiler Alert!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Behind the Mic: Dollars and Sense in the Age of Major College Athletics

Gary will be returning with a new blog on May 19.  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.


Pay college athletes. There, I said it. Of course, it’s certainly not nearly that simple, and after a long discussion with my lawyer daughter, well, there are more than just a few minor wrinkles that would need to be ironed out, not the least of which are legal and ethical. But it can – and many believe should – be done. Time and space preclude a detailed discussion here, but I’d like to offer a starting point. After all, dealing with a few legal and ethical details should hardly distress the NCAA. Their rulebook, after all, makes the Affordable Care Act read like “The Cat in the Hat.” I say that with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, careful to not upset them too much. My plan will require their support. And in fact, it may make life a good deal easier for them.

My high school math teacher is somewhere, cringing as I write this. But even I can calculate that the money is there to support a more palatable system. Consider that the first television contract with CBS paid the NCAA $1 billion for the rights to the national tournament. Yes, that’s with a “B.” And did I mention that was a generation ago? The latest deal (2010) was a 14-year agreement for $10.8 billion, generating $771 million per year for the NCAA. And, bear in mind that is for the tournament only. And you thought that “March Madness” referred only to the action on the court! Factor in the revenues generated throughout the regular season from concessions, parking, gate receipts, sponsorships, and yes, even more TV money, and suddenly we are talking about serious capital. That’s big business. That’s a professional system.

The true crux of the issue here lies with the NBA and the NFL and their inability, unwillingness, or more likely their lack of incentive to create a viable minor league system. But then, why should they? They have the major college programs serving the same function, and doing so free of charge. In the meantime, the impulses created by mega dollars have littered the straight and narrow pathway of college athletics with all kinds of land mines, exploding notions of academic integrity, amateurism, and in far too many instances, the broader college experience. The stories of young athletes lured to a campus where they may not belong, nor would they want to be but for the promise of an athletic proving ground, read like so many proverbs. Many colleges housing major basketball and football programs are little more than athletic incubators for youngsters whose primary – if not sole – aim is to make it to the professional level. If, as in most cases, those aims fall short of the intended target, the youngster is left with little on which to fall back. It has become a false promise, and far too many academic institutions, enticed by the exposure and tempted by the potential financial windfall for their schools, have become compliant in this charade.

The time, talent, and treasure now spent by the NCAA in its attempt to herd the cats of big- time programs into their amateur cages and preserve the slightest element of academic integrity has become the epitome of throwing good money after bad. My apologies to Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova, and the scores of other major programs for whom the pun applies, but it may be time to rethink the approach, and take some creative steps to save these major sports at the college level. If not, the college game as we know it will soon cannibalize itself at the altar of its own largesse. The advent of the “made for TV” sports of college basketball and college football have given the NCAA an opportunity to take real and effective action in the best interests of the games, the interests of its own mission, and most important, in the interests of so many young men and women misplaced on campuses throughout the country.

Of course, not every college would desire – or for that matter be required – to follow the new blueprint. The NCAA already has different rules for its different divisions, so why not simply establish one more classification? Clearly, there will be some hard decisions for those major college programs that still cling to the “student athlete” ideal. But within the parameters and rules governing the new division, schools will have the flexibility to do more or less – depending on their own interests and philosophical stance. Disparities will exist, but will they be any more pronounced than those which now separate, say, Prairie View A&M and Kentucky or Cornell and Georgetown?

For whatever system to work in favor of intercollegiate athletics and in the best interests of the young people involved, there will have to be serious and honest cooperation between the institutions and the governing body. The fallacy of academic integrity has permeated too many programs. Who among us thinks first of “academic learning or achievement” when we hear the word “scholarship”? On the contrary, the word has come to preclude most notions of higher education for so many of the athletes in question. A CNN.com article published in January underscored just how pervasive the problem might actually be.

Still, the college athletes will have to be tethered to their respective schools in some fashion. This is not only possible, but perhaps it tills fertile ground for real creative thinking. Would they be “employed” as independent contractors? Might they take courses for which they pay out of their own pocket, thereby having some “skin” in their own academic future? Perhaps some would benefit most by taking courses in basic life skills and money management. Possibly pursue a trade? In short, a system could be established to fit the needs and skill sets of the athlete, as opposed to the square-peg-and-round-hole paradigm now in play.

It is no secret – or it shouldn’t be – that the financial windfall from major college athletics largely supports all programs along the vast food chain of intercollegiate athletics everywhere. It’s an honorable end, but the means have caused significant angst and drawn more than a little well-earned cynicism from intellectually honest observers.

It may be time – especially with the kinds of dollars now pouring into the system – to take a lesson from my friends at The Rotary Club and build a system that meets their four way test. Create a system that is truthful, fair to all concerned, builds goodwill and better friendships, and is beneficial to all involved.

That’s an exam that anyone can pass.

 

Behind the Mic: “Have I Got a Deal for You…”

The teams are set for Super Bowl XLVIII – Denver vs. Seattle.

I would not think there is a tremendous number of people here on the East Coast who are passionate fans of either of these two teams. However, I would think there are a number of fans who put attending a Super Bowl on their “bucket list”. And with the game being played on the “right” coast this year at MetLife Stadium, wouldn’t this be the perfect opportunity to check this one off your agenda?

Before you jump at the chance, there is one very important item you need to consider: THE COST! The cheapest seat (and probably the worst) costs $500. About 39% of the 77,500 tickets will be priced under $1,000 at face value (try to find those). By comparison, the first Super Bowl ticket cost $6; in 2001 the ticket cost $325. And, to be honest, you will probably not be able to get any of these tickets anyway. The NFL controls 25% of the tickets. These end up in the hands of their corporate sponsors. 35% of the tickets go to each of the participating teams.

And making the remaining 5% of tickets available to fans may be a myth. Josh Finkelman of New Jersey believes the NFL only makes @1% of the tickets available for purchase at face value. He feels so strongly that the NFL is gouging the average fan that he has sued them in court. He complains that about 99% of the tickets must be purchased through a middleman. He is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

Even if you get a ticket, you also must consider the price of parking. That should be a little less than staying in a New York hotel. The absence of tailgating (forbidden this year) means you should be prepared to pay a week’s wages just to eat and drink inside the venue.

So, if you are still interested and really want a ticket, you can get a $2,600 ducat for the club level and this, too, will give you access to the indoor restaurants. There are $1,500 tickets that do not give you the restaurant access (so see above for additional food costs).

If this all sounds like a hassle and you are reconsidering your “bucket list”, you might want to just literally “go for broke” and consider a VIP Package. Allow me to entice you:

• (4) Upper Level Corner End Zone Super Bowl Tickets
• (4) VIP Pregame NFL Players Party Tickets which includes Hand- Passed Appetizers; Five Gourmet Food Stations prepared by a Legendary Super Chef; Multiple Top-Shelf Open Bars staged throughout the Event; Over 20 Current NFL Players introduced by our Event MC, ESPN Sports Center Anchor Lindsay Czarniak, for Sunday Chalk Talk with our Guests; and VIP Round trip Transportation to Metlife Stadium on Game day!
All-Inclusive Price for Four Guests: $14,500

If you’re like me, you have decided to invite a few friends over for some good food, good drink, and good conversation. Sit back, turn on the TV, enjoy the commercials, the game, go to bed at a decent hour, and sleep knowing you might need to revise your “bucket list” in the morning.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. I do not think the high price of a seat has anything to do with it, but Commissioner Roger Goodall will not be sitting in a luxury box for the Super Bowl. His seat will be outside in the stands. By the way, the coldest Super Bowl in history was 39 degrees for Super Bowl VI at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. That record will be broken this year.

2. With one NFL game left to pick (you’ll have to wait until next week), I finished the season guessing 66% of the games correctly. The last four weeks, I have gone 23-3 and have picked the winner the last six games. It was a good year.

3. “Omaha! Omaha!” Am I the only fan who finds Peyton Manning’s skills to be so good that they are boring? He rarely gets sacked, rarely runs, rarely throws an incomplete pass, rarely looks like he is confused by a defense, rarely throws for less than 350 yards, rarely has fewer than three TD passes, and rarely loses. He’s so consistent; it takes all the fun out of the game.

4. In contrast, I thoroughly enjoy watching Colin Kaepernick play quarterback for the 49’ers. He runs like a running back, avoids sacks like a magician, and sometimes loses. If I was a general manager, I’d rather have Peyton.

5. Ironically, the NFL Network is looking to give up its own Thursday night game broadcasts. They say their viewing audience wasn’t large enough. So ESPN, NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC and Turner Sports are expected to bid @ $800 million for the eight games.

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK
(Last week – 2-0) (174-91-1 66%)

SUPER BOWL PICK COMING NEXT WEEK!

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Would Eagles Trade Nick Foles?

 

Would Eagles Trade Nick Foles?

I have a ton of respect for the Philadelphia Eagles beat writers. From the time I covered the team on a regular basis to the times where we are fortunate to have them on our “RCN SportsTalk” show, they always provide valuable insights on the team and on the NFL. They don’t buy in to starting wild or ridiculous rumors to try to sell their papers, nor do they start controversies just to put themselves in the news. They base their stories and opinions on solid facts and, whether you agree with their commentaries or not, they’re always thought-provoking, using logic and reliable gut instinct.

It is with this in mind that I mention comments raised by the Morning Call’s Eagles beat writer Nick Fierro on last week’s “SportsTalk” show…

At first, I was stunned at the thought of the Eagles trading arguably the most popular personality in Philadelphia right now (for the record, co-host Dennis Laub wholeheartedly agreed with him). When Nick offers his sage wisdom, I’ve learned to consider his observations and think long and hard before disagreeing with him. So let’s consider the upside to trading your starting quarterback:

• Foles’ stock will never be higher than it is right now, and he’s not likely to continue playing at this high a level going forward.

• Trading Foles now would get you two or three other quality pieces (with one being a draft pick that could be packaged in a deal to get you a new starting QB or a stud pick for another position).

• There are some quality signal callers available in the draft that might be closer to Chip Kelly’s “ideal” quarterback to run his spread offense. (Although Kelly has said publicly and repeatedly that Foles is his guy, there are indications that Foles is not the typical back to run this offense).

Would this be enough reasoning for the Eagles to trade Foles after the season? It would open the door for a possible return of Michael Vick, perhaps as a stop-gap starter and mentor to the quarterback you’d select in the draft. Even though most fans and critics have called the 2013 a success on many levels, the next few weeks might just determine what the front office decides to do with Foles and their plans going forward. One would think it’ll be harder from a PR standpoint to trade Foles if he leads the team to multiple playoff victories…or would it only enhance the value Philadelphia could get in return for him?

For the record, Nick did not say he would a proponent of trading Foles, nor did he say it was a done deal once the season concludes. But recent Eagles history indicates they’re not a team that stands pat very often, and if Kelly’s coaching style this year has taught us nothing else, it’s proven that he is not afraid to take risks.

What would you do if you were Eagles GM Howie Roseman? Would you ‘stick-with-Nick’ and make him your quarterback for the future? Or do you sell high and try to solve other issues with more proven players at other positions and take your chances on drafting a young QB? Send your comments to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com or post your views in our comments section. Have fun debating Foles’ fate in Philadelphia as the Birds look to continue Swinning games this winter.

 

Behind the Mic: New Year’s Resolutions

 

BEHIND THE MIC:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Mic: Incognito – I Think Not

 

Incognito – I think Not

You often hear people talk about “living up to your name”. That usually implies you come from a famous, over-achieving family and your life will be scrutinized to determine if you are carrying on the successes. I suppose that if your name is Incognito, you live up to that moniker by simply not doing anything of notoriety.

Richie Incognito is certainly NOT living up to his name. Even before the incident that got him suspended from the Miami Dolphins, he was ejected from games in college, charged with assault after a fight at a party, voted the dirtiest player in the NFL in 2009, let go by the Rams because of a disagreement with the coach, and heavily fined for altercations on the field. He has done just about everything but remain incognito in his football career. But even those incidents pale in comparison to the latest firestorm he has created in the NFL.

If you are reading this and you are not a sports fan (first of all, thank you), Incognito has been publicly accused of ruthlessly bullying a Dolphins teammate, fellow offensive lineman Jonathan Martin. The bullying came in the form of racist remarks, threats (real or in “fun”), and other hazing practices. Incognito, Dolphin players and, in some ways, even Martin blame the culture that envelops pro football as the true culprit. In the near future, more and more information about the relationship of these two men will certainly surface, but if you want to have a lively and, hopefully, educational conversation with others ask, some of these questions:

1) Is this situation more about an individual or more about a culture?
2) Should Jonathan Martin have simply stood up to the bully, like many of us were taught as kids, or simply walk away like HE was probably taught as a kid?
3) Are the Dolphin teammates who came out in support of Incognito as much responsible for the culture that created this problem?
4) Isn’t there one person in an NFL locker room who believes “rookie hazing” has gotten out of hand (read about Cam Cleeland’s 1998 initiation with the New Orleans Saints where he had to run a gauntlet with a sheet over his head, was hit by a sock filled with coins, and shattered his eye socket)?
5) If we love football because of the violence and the aggression, should we really be shocked that the players are violent and aggressive?
6) Are you leaning towards putting more of the blame on Incognito, Martin, or the NFL?
7) How would you rule in this case if you are the NFL commissioner?

Answer the questions as a group or for yourself now and then compare them to the answers that should be coming soon from the NFL.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. We often hear that this or that competitive contest is a “game of inches”. Lafayette had a third and one, followed by a fourth and one and gained only inches. They did not gain 36 inches, however, and any chance to beat Colgate and guarantee themselves a share of the Patriot League title was lost…by mere inches!

2. Did you ever wonder about those people who enter eating contests (hot dogs, wings, etc.)? Bill “El Wingador” Simmons is one of those guys. He is a five-time champion of the 94 WIP (Philadelphia radio) Wing Bowl. In his last attempt to win again, he devoured 250 wings, well short of the 337 wings eaten by the champion. “El Wingador” did not get the $20,000 first prize. He needed the money. On June 12, 2012, he was arrested for selling cocaine and in October 2013 was sentenced to seven years in prison. He will miss Wing Bowl 21 in more ways than one.

3. Word is that the Phillies actually would like to sign both Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz for next year. Because Halladay is coming off shoulder surgery, the chances are much greater that he could remain a Phillie than they are for Ruiz. Carlos is testing the free agent market and quite a few major league teams are in need of a good, everyday catcher. It probably is good-bye to Chooch.

4. District football action continues this weekend and the AAA and AA champions will be crowned, with the winners moving into the state playoffs. RCN-TV has Parkland at Whitehall LIVE on Friday night at 7:00pm followed by Palisades at Catasauqua for the AA championship at 9:30pm. The AAA title will be decided Saturday night when Southern Lehigh hosts Bethlehem Catholic LIVE at 7:00pm on RCN-TV.

5. Lafayette takes on undefeated (10-0) Fordham (#6/7 in the FCS polls) Saturday at 3:30pm. Catch that game LIVE also.

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK (6-8: Last week; 92-55 overall 63%)
INDIANAPOLIS
JETS
CHICAGO
CINCINNATI
HOUSTON
ARIZONA
PHILADELPHIA
DETROIT
TAMPA BAY
SAN DIEGO
NEW ORLEANS
SEATTLE
GIANTS
DENVER
CAROLINA

Behind the Mic: PBS – “League of Denial”

 

PBS – “League of Denial”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a small sampling:

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

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

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

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

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

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Behind the Mic: Our (Not ESPN) Game Day at Harvard

 

Our (Not ESPN) Game Day at Harvard

Harvard Game images (2)

When I arrived at Harvard Stadium on Saturday, October 19 at 11:00 AM for the 1:00 PM Lafayette Harvard game, I took an immediate look at our broadcasting location high atop this national historic landmark. I was well aware the only way to the top was by climbing (in this case, “historic” means “old” which also means “no elevator”). I knew I could get an answer to my question, “How many steps to the top?” The crew members, within hearing distance, in unison shouted, “150!” Before I let out a big moan, I considered THEIR plight in setting up to do the broadcast.

The crew of 13 left Bath at 7:00 AM on Friday and headed to Boston. It took the RCN caravan a good six hours to get there. Then their day really began. Over 1,000 feet of video cable and more than 500 feet of audio cable needed to be run. The 150 steps (that I previously alluded to) needed to be climbed at least 10 times. The wire needed to be run to every vantage point to bring the game to the viewers the next day. It took approximately 65 man hours before they could confidently head to their hotel for the day.

NBCSN-Camera-Map-Harvard-Lacrosse-Danmeyer-03302013-VER1-jpg

Saturday morning, the crew awoke at 6:30 AM to grab some breakfast and head to the stadium for an 8:00 AM arrival. Remember those 150 steps? Now they had to be traversed with five extremely heavy cameras. The cameras were then hooked to the cables that had been put in place the previous day. Over the next four hours, satellite coordinates needed to be captured. Contact with RCN, WBPH, ESPN and MASN needed to be established. Audio and video needed to be checked. All graphics needed to be inserted, and the production electronics (fades, camera punches, replays, etc.) needed to be tested. All of this so our viewers on RCN, WBPH, and the internet can enjoy 3 ½ hours of football coverage!

Harvard-Game-images(3)

Once the broadcast comes to its conclusion, the past two days of work are all reversed. Everything that was placed in the stadium now must be returned to the truck. Yep – those 150 steps again (for about the 30th time). That breakdown was completed around 5:30 PM. The estimated time of arrival in Bath was six hours later, which held true because everyone was back at the studio at 11:30 PM Saturday night.

I was going to tell you about MY weekend. I studied my game notes on Friday afternoon in a beautiful hotel room. I sighed when I realized I had to climb the 150 steps ONCE. I thought I would complain about being outside under a tent to do the broadcast. I was going to whine about the wind gusts that kept trying to blow all of our notes all over the place. I was going to tell you that by the end of the game, it got a little chilly. I was going to do all those things, but then I thought of the work the crew did. I had a great day by comparison.

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. The preseason prognosticators (me included) felt the Eagles would have one of the worst defenses in the NFL this season. Well, this past week, they played pretty well against the Dallas Cowboys only to see their offense look just awful. Poor throws, dropped passes, no running game, and an inexperienced quarterback all led to a 17-3 defeat. It was the first time Chip Kelly coached a college or professional team that did not score a touchdown. It was hard to watch. One writer referred to it as, “The stink at the Linc.”

2. If all three Eagles’ quarterbacks are healthy for the Giants this week, which one would you start? To me, it has to be Michael Vick.

3. It was fun being in Boston this past weekend for the Harvard-Lafayette game. Boston is one of the greatest sports towns in the U.S. and Boston fans love their Red Sox. They proved worthy of that love by heading to the World Series with a dramatic grand slam home run by Shane Victorino (oh, that hurts the Phillies fans). The Head of the Charles Regatta attracted 9,000 athletes and over 300,000 spectators on Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile in the NFL, the New England Patriots played the Jets in New Jersey. Suffice it to say, the city was alive and I spoke with more Regatta crew members than I ever imagined.

4. Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs are now the only undefeated team in the NFL. They play Cleveland, Buffalo, Washington, Oakland, Indianapolis, and will play Denver and San Diego twice. They will not win the rest. However, since the Super Bowl began, 31 teams have started 7-0 and all 31 qualified for the playoffs. 15 of those advanced to the Super Bowl and nine won it all.

5. Whitehall won a hard-fought game against Emmaus on Friday night. The Lehigh Valley Conference logjam is now down to three teams – Whitehall, Easton, and Parkland. That number will be reduced to two after Friday night as Whitehall plays at Easton at 7:00 PM (live on RCN TV). I will be traveling to Worcester, Massachusetts to cover the Lafayette – Holy Cross game and will miss some good high school games this weekend. However, I’ll be back to cover the Emmaus at Parkland game on Friday, November 1 (live on RCN TV at 7:00 PM).

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK (10-5: Last week; 67-40 overall 63%)
CAROLINA
SAN FRANCISCO
GIANTS
DETROIT
KANSAS CITY
NEW ORLEANS
NEW ENGLAND
CINCINNATI
PITTSBURGH
DENVER
ATLANTA
GREEN BAY
SEATTLE

The SportsTalk Shop: Nick or Vick?

 

NICK OR VICK?

The most frequently asked question over the next week will not be about the government shutdown. It will have nothing to do with The Voice, Breaking Bad, or any kind of regular television show. And the most frequently asked question will have nothing to do with the NHL, the MLB playoffs or even the Halloween season. No, the most frequently discussed–and debated– question over the next several days in Eastern Pennsylvania will be: Who should be the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles–Michael Vick or Nick Foles?

The question is an old one, posed by fans in many NFL cities each year, every year, in the modern football era. It’s sometimes even discussed with regards to your favorite collegiate or scholastic teams. But Philadelphia is not your ordinary sports town, and sports fans in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys are the most passionate fans in the world. The fact that the Eagles find themselves tied with their NFC East rival Cowboys with a 2-0 division record, combined with Nick Foles’ solid play in Vick’s medically-induced absence this past Sunday against Tampa Bay, will push this question to the forefront of everyone’s mind.

While I’m not going to try to persuade you to root for one player over the other, there is a very important decision you have to first make before arriving at your pick:

“What should be the Eagles’ goal this season?”

There’s many reasons why people choose one quarterback or the other, but you first must answer that question before you consider whom Chip Kelly should select for this Sunday’s key game against another division opponent.

When a high school or college coach takes over a program, I usually encourage fans to give a new head coach at least three to four years to implement a system, and to establish their “type” of players. In the NFL, there’s not as much room for patience. However, Eagles fans must have expected 2013 to be a honeymoon year for Kelly, with no realistic expectations better than seven or eight wins–even in the incredibly inept NFC East. That being said, there is absolutely NO SHOT the Birds win more than one playoff game this year–AT BEST.

If you think this team, with its pathetic defense and insufficient wide receiving corp (without Jeremy Maclin), has any shot of exceeding that goal, your thoughts on the quarterbacks shouldn’t even be considered. The team could resign Vick at season’s end, so simply naming Foles as the guy because he’s younger and under contract for next season does not give you the best answer.

The Eagles have to worry about who will be the best signal caller for 2014 and beyond, and that’s what you need to consider. It’s not about winning this Sunday, or next Sunday, or the week after that. It’s not about dog-fighting, money or race. Foles’ age, his decision making, and his accuracy should be factored into your decision. For Vick, his dynamic presence, laser-arm, his favorable relationship with his teammates and his mobility are his assets. But which of these attributes will best lead this team a year or two from now? That should determine who you want to see start the rest of this season.

Unless you want the Birds to lose–and lose often–to enhance their draft selections in the offseason. A deficiency in this year’s quarterback could actually help Philadelphia’s rebuilding process by giving them the ability to draft a blue chip prospect–maybe even a quarterback–for next year and beyond.

But this constant battle that will be stimulating talk shows (and yes, we’ll be addressing this–briefly–on Thursday’s RCN SportsTalk at 6pm) over the coming days and weeks, will largely be a waste of time.

Besides, whichever quarterback doesn’t start for the Eagles this season could always play shooting guard for the 76ers.

 

Behind the Mic: NFL Parity – A Worthwhile Goal?

 

NFL Parity – A Worthwhile Goal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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