The SportsTalk Shop: 4 Spring Observations

Most weeks, when I sit down to write my weekly blog, there’s one issue or topic that rises above all others, making my writing discussion decisions rather easy. However, as I sat down to started brainstorming (insert your own jokes here) about which topic to delve into this week, I found myself getting pulled in a few different directions. So instead of an in-depth commentary on just one issue, I have thoughts on four topics of conversation going on in the Delaware and Lehigh Valley areas.

1. The Flyers DO have a chance to advance.
I’ve been riding an emotional roller coaster with this team all season. From the coaching change early in the year…to weeks of spectacular play…to Craig Berube calling out his players for lackluster play right before the playoffs commenced…I really wasn’t sure what to expect for the Flyers’ postseason. I was leaning towards a Flyers series win over the Rangers in six games, but then I heard the ominous report on Steve Mason and was skeptical of any advancement. However, Ray Emery’s 31 saves in net on Sunday gave me and all Flyers fans hope and, just as importantly, tied the opening round series at one game a piece. Unless the Flyers sweep at home, they would have to win at least one more game at Madison Square Garden (Sunday’s victory was their first at MSG since 2011). However, the way Philadelphia was skating in game two and the quality shots they’ve been taking has made me a believer in this team, and I think they can win the series in seven games.

2. The weather is severely affecting the high school baseball season.
I know, the weather has made a mess for everyone over the last five months. During any given week, practice schedules change numerous times, game planning sessions are drastically shortened and young athletes are playing games at a rate in which the professional sports’ unions would be protesting in earnest if it was suggested they play a similar schedule. It hasn’t been fun for all the scholastic sports. However, in high school baseball, rules limit the amount of innings a pitcher can throw in a given week and the weather does give bigger schools and teams with more pitchers an inherent advantage. With most teams having to play four, five or even six games in a seven-day stretch, there are teams that simply don’t have enough quality pitching to compete. It addition to an uneven playing field, the games themselves are also affected. A “regular” pitcher may throw the first five innings of a game, but then may reach his innings limit, forcing someone who normally doesn’t pitch into emergency duty. The result? A 2-1 pitchers’ dual turns into a 15-13 slugfest (and then games that run too long might be cut short because of daylight issues early in the season). It’s not a fun way to play, but the local coaches and athletes have done their best under horrible circumstances.

3. It wasn’t pretty, but the 76ers’ season came to a merciful end.
It isn’t often that a professional sports team can guarantee how their season will unfold and then deliver on its promise. Armed with the “together we build” mantra and the preseason objective of trying to lose on purpose in order to enhance its lottery draft chances, the 76ers tied an all-time record for consecutive losses this past season. After stunning the world with a season-opening win against the Heat, the season quickly went south and the trade-deadline purge helped push the franchise to all new levels of futility. Ironically, their season closed out with a pair of wins – against Boston and a short-handed Miami team.

There were a few bright spots on the court: Michael Carter-Williams delivered some tremendous single-game performances and looked like he can run the point when/if the team ever makes a playoff push. Amongst the rubble of this horrific season, Henry Sims emerged as a serviceable big man who could be a key man off the bench for the team going forward. Tony Wroten also had more good games than bad, and role players like James Anderson and Hollis Thompson gave gritty performances throughout the season. The upcoming NBA draft will be key for the program to move forward, but even with a good draft, the Sixers will probably not be any better than a 30-win team one year from now.

4. High school lacrosse is finding its niche in Pennsylvania.
After becoming a sanctioned PIAA sport several years ago, the sport of lacrosse is gaining momentum. I have announced scholastic games in New Jersey where the sport has been around for decades. At many schools in the Garden State, lacrosse is as popular as basketball, wrestling or even football is at Pennsylvanian schools. While it will probably never ascend to that level in this state, the quality of play has drastically improved in eastern Pennsylvania. Most existing programs now have little trouble getting enough players to complete a quality team, and the skill level is definitely better than the first few seasons when lacrosse was labeled as a “club sport.” Finances and low enrollment numbers will keep many schools from starting a lacrosse program for the foreseeable future, but for the schools that have a team, the game is fun to watch and will continue to get better with improved competition.

How do you feel about some of these issues? What other sports events going on now should be discussed? Post your comments below or email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com to continue the sports conversations!

 

Behind the Mic – December 26th

The NFL is considering expanding the regular season and/or expanding the number of playoff participants.  Is this really necessary?  The great thing about the NFL as opposed to the NHL, the NBA, and Major League Baseball is that the regular season games have tremendous importance.  A 16 game schedule puts greater importance on an NFL regular season game than any of the regular season games of the other three major sports.  Should the consideration be about the quality and importance of the games or the quantity and the financial gain of the product?  I would like to think it is the former.

By expanding the regular season to 18 games or allowing 16 teams into the playoffs, the quality of play will most likely decrease and, certainly, the quality of the teams making the playoffs will certainly decrease.  Do we really want half of the league in playoff games, with some carrying a .500 or lower record?  Last year, the Cardinals, Titans, Bears, and Chargers would have gotten in.  Three of the four did not have winning records.

Isn’t this really the problem with the college football bowl system?  There are currently 35 Bowl games allowing 70 college football teams into the postseason – 70!!  That is a ridiculous number and has watered down the interest to almost nil until the major bowls are played.  Sure, it works for ESPN, but does it really create more interest from the average fan?  It does not.

There is no better sports product in the world than the NFL.  Why?  The regular season games are important; the playoff games and the way they are scheduled are perfect; and the Super Bowl is the “greatest spectacle in sports”.  Diluting the product will undoubtedly make more money, but in the long run, it will, also, dilute interest.

I know the only constant is change, but it is not always for the better – Leave the NFL alone!

 


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. With the Newtown shooting, it was very difficult to watch the news this weekend and then try to enjoy regular programming.  The topical shows like Saturday Night Live, David Letterman, Jay Leno, etc. just did not seem right for the moment.  Laughing was difficult.
  2.  I taught school for almost 30 years and was on the school safety committee.  About 15 years ago, I was asked to go into a classroom, ask a young man to come out in the hallway with his gym bag, and search the bag for a weapon.  Bringing a weapon to school back then was unthinkable.  I thought this was a total waste of time.  In the bag was a REAL gun and the police were called.  The student was being bullied and brought the gun to school to feel safer.  That was 15 years ago. I never forgot that day!  This week made that memory more vivid again.
  3. I mentioned last week that our playoff football teams all lost to bigger, stronger Philadelphia private schools.  I said we, therefore, needed to get bigger and stronger.  Well, none of the schools that beat our schools won the state championship playoff games (some did not even get there).  Our schools need to get MUCH bigger and MUCH stronger.
  4. High school basketball started last week.  Two of our four games went overtime.  An exciting start to what should be an exciting year.  Lots of parity.
  5. No blog next week so HAVE A WONDERFUL HOLIDAY WEEK!  (I will make my NFL picks, however).
 

 

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK
(Last week – 11-5 )  (  94-84 for the season – 64% )

  • CINCINNATI
  • ATLANTA
  • HOUSTON
  • GIANTS
  • BUFFALO
  • TENNESSEE
  • PITTSBURGH
  • NEW ORLEANS
  • CHICAGO
  • SEATTLE
  • SAN FRANCISCO
  • SAN DIEGO
  • DENVER
  • GREEN BAY
  • NEW ENGLAND
  • WASHINGTON

Behind the Mic – November 29th

I am not a die-hard hockey fan.  But, I miss the NHL!  More than two months of the season have already been lost due to the labor dispute and the lockout.  Hockey, to me, although it does not have the stature of NFL football, major league baseball, or NBA basketball, is still one of the major professional sports in America.  It did bring in $3.3 billion last year.  In addition, take away the NFL and I think hockey has the most rabid fans in all of professional sports.

I do not watch or attend hockey on a regular basis, but there is something about the sport that always intrigues me when going around the dial.  It is one of the few sporting events that causes me to pause and watch, no matter which teams are playing.  There is the anticipation of the potential for violence and an almost surreal curiosity in the skills that the players exhibit.    It is an excellent television event.

And yet, if you go to a hockey game, the sport becomes, for me, at least one of the few competitions that is better to view LIVE than watching on TV.  A great deal of action takes place away from the puck that a viewer at home might miss.  There is a unique “silence” as the players skate around the rink to an almost inaudible “shooshing”.  Throw a big bang into the boards and the intensity of the action has you enthralled.  And the fans!!  The decibel level is incredible; the intensity shocking; and the involvement without compare.

So why are we left with no hockey?  The issues are division of revenue, salary arbitration, and free-agency.  These terms are not new to professional sports.  The NFL, NBA, and MLB have all dealt with the same issues.  And they have resolved them!  It seems that the NHL is very, very close to not having a season at all.  The New Year’s Day Winter Classic is gone, over 450 games gone, and there is no resolution in sight.  Still, January hockey would be better than no hockey.  Owners and players need to return to the table.  They owe it to the fans!

As the famous philosopher, Larry the Cable Guy, says – “Get ‘er done!”

 


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Parkland, Central Catholic, and Pen Argyl all won their first round state football games this past weekend.  Two of the three (Parkland and Pen Argyl) now take on the dreaded Philadelphia Catholic schools out of District
  2. History shows that this is the end of the line for our AAAA and AA football.  Central would face Archbishop Wood next week if they win.  They put up 70 points on the Vikings last year in a similar scenario.  Can we finally reverse the trend?  Tune in.
  3. Did we watch Andy Reid’s last game as an Eagles coach this past week?  An awful team beat an awful team.
  4. I was going around the dial the other night and a Joan Rivers stand-up comedy special was on Showtime.  It was hilarious, irreverent, and, at times, filthy.  I was just amazed by her energy, her ability to deliver the lines, and her captivating style.  How old is she?  Really, how old??  It did not matter.
  5. Notre Dame vs either Alabama or Georgia for the national championship in college football.  The ratings will be record-breaking for this one as far as college football is concerned.  The games got it right this year – no computer, no old men in a room, and no playoff needed.
  6. Is there anyone right now who thinks they have a good handle on not only the Super Bowl champion, but which two teams will even get to the game?  With injuries, upsets, and poor coaching decisions, it is anybody’s guess unless, of course, you just know it will be YOUR team.

 

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK

(Last week – 7-9)  (53-31 for the season – 63%)

  •  ATLANTA
  • CHICAGO
  • GREEN BAY
  • SAN FRANCISCO
  • JETS
  • CAROLINA
  • DETROIT
  • BUFFALO
  • NEW ENGLAND
  • HOUSTON
  • DENVER
  • BALTIMORE
  • CLEVELAND
  • CINCINNATI
  • DALLAS
  • WASHINGTON