Behind the Mic: Beca-Nazareth Wrestling

It seems that every year the question on every District XI wrestling fan’s mind is, “Can ANYONE beat Bethlehem Catholic?”  The answer this year is a definitive “maybe.”

This past weekend the Golden Hawks dropped two dual meet matches to #4 in the nation Lake Highland Prep out of Florida and then lost to Malvern Prep, ranked #8 in the nation.  They will wrestle #9 Wyoming Seminary on Thursday, before moving on to the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference “championship day”.

This Saturday on RCN, the #14 Nazareth Blue Eagles will take their shot at the Golden Hawks, in the Eastern PA Conference Championship match.  The teams are each champions of their divisions, and will meet at 7:00pm on Saturday night at the Easton Middle School.  The atmosphere should be much like the old days when fans looked forward to three or four outstanding dual meets each year.  That environment has been missing for a few years, but rest assured the Middle School gym will be rocking, especially if Nazareth can give the Hawks a battle.

Both lineups are peppered with nationally ranked talent, and both offer plenty of balance throughout their squad.  There is a very good chance that Beca, banged up with injuries, can be in the throes of a three-match losing streak by the time Saturday rolls around.  Granted—all three losses are to top-tier academies – but the losses are not something that Jeff Karam’s team is used to.  How will they react?

Nazareth, under legendary coach Dave Crowell, will have their hands full.  They will need bonus points from their blue chippers, and will need to grab at least two tossup bouts.  Even if this all goes the way of the Eagles, they may need one more upset.

If Beca prevails, as I suspect they will, fear not Blue Eagle fans.  This may be the first of three consecutive Saturdays that feature these squads.  There is nothing that can stop a rematch for the District XI Team Championship, and both are favored to make the PIAA State Championship finals.

Scott Barr (who assisted with this blog) and Jim Best will be there along with the RCN television crew to bring you these two powerhouses.  It will certainly take us back to the days when Easton-Northampton, Easton-Nazareth, Nazareth-Northampton, etc. were on every wrestling fans’ calendar.

Those were the good old days of Lehigh Valley wrestling!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Tom Brady of the Patriots and Matt Ryan of the Falcons text each other regularly during the NFL season. Matt Ryan played his college football at Boston College and Tom Brady always followed him.  Two good friends will try to beat the other in the Super Bowl.
  2. Up this way, we do not get to see the Falcons very often, but they were sure impressive yesterday against the Packers. No player was more impressive than Julio Jones – 15 catches, 247 yards, and 3 TDs.  Bill Belichick always says he wants to stop the opponent’s best player, but seven Falcons caught passes on Sunday.
  3. How do the Patriots do it? They draft Chris Hogan, a Penn State lacrosse player, and they make him a star wide receiver.  No organization is better at resurrecting careers and finding obscure players.
  4. During the Lafayette at Lehigh men’s game on Saturday, Lehigh honored the team that stunned Duke in the first round of the NCAA playoffs in 2012. The star of that team, C. J. McCollum, could not be there because he was preparing to play the Celtics as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.  He did send a recorded message that was played in the arena.  He went on to score 35 points against Boston and Portland won the game.
  5. Only Allen remains undefeated in high school basketball as Bangor suffered their first defeat to Stroudsburg this past weekend. And then there was one.  Allen has Liberty and Stroudsburg this week – two tests for the Canaries!

Gary's Picks

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (Last week – 1-1; Overall – 168-95-2 – 64%)
SUPER BOWL PICK NEXT WEEK
 

Behind the Mic: NFL Odds

Since there were so many upsets the first two weeks in the NFL, I got to wondering how the Las Vegas odds makers were faring.  Las Vegas is one place with a legal US sports book for gamblers.  There are, also, legal online sites…OR you could choose a local guy, but you should understand that doing that is illegal.

I am certainly aware that no one throws an “illegal procedure” flag on the millions of people who play fantasy football, NFL “tickets” or get into “survivor” pools.  There is no question that being involved in these weekly competitions makes watching the NFL that much more fun and interesting.

But what if we lived in Las Vegas where gambling on the NFL is legal?  Just out of curiosity, I wondered how the gamblers and  the Las Vegas bookies fared in the first two weeks of the NFL season.  According to my research, in week one, the Sunday night game between the Patriots and the Cardinals was the “make or break” match-up for each side.  80% of all the money wagered on that game was on the Cardinals.  After all, Tom Brady was out, Rob Gronkowski was out, and other key players would not play.  Four times as much money was bet on the Cardinals to win and the Cardinals were, also, seven times more likely to be on wagers that included more than one team.

As you know, New England won the game 23-21 on a field goal and many a bettor’s ticket was torn up and thrown away.  As a matter of fact, six underdogs won on the first Sunday, including the Miami Dolphins who were 10.5 point underdogs.  It was a good day for the casinos.

Week two proved even more profitable for Las Vegas.  With the unlikely wins by the Falcons over the Raiders and the Rams beating the Seahawks, Sunday afternoon created a windfall for the sports books.  That scenario got even better when gamblers in Vegas took the Packers over the Vikings in the Sunday night game six times more often than vice versa.  The Vikings won and Sunday became a spectacular day for the “bad guys”.

There was, however, one “feel-good” story for the guy who tries to beat the “house” (and, rarely, if ever does).  One Nevada gambler won $179,940 betting on college football when he placed three separate bets in three different locations.  Believe it or not, he picked twelve out of twelve – TWELVE – college games correctly against the point spread.  Although his name was not divulged, he did say he had made a similar bet every week during college football season for years and this is the first time he has ever won.  I hope that, with his win, he has at least broken even now.  Why do I doubt it?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. It probably isn’t news to you if I tell you that you can buy a University of Florida Tim Tebow jersey. It is news if I tell you that you can also buy a Tim Tebow Mets jersey.  He has signed a $100,000 bonus contract with the Mets and was sent to their instructional league at Port St. Lucie, Florida.
  2. What is the story with the Seattle Seahawks offense – 15 points in two weeks and to Miami and the Rams? They do not have a healthy running back and QB Russell Wilson can’t run on a bad ankle.
  3. If Bill Belichick’s Patriots beat Houston this week with their #3 quarterback, then you must admit, even though you may hate him, that he is the best coach in the NFL.
  4. Five years ago, Lafayette traveled to North Dakota State (where Carson Wentz played) to play the Bison. That team has won the national FCS championship every year since 2011.  This past Saturday, they beat #13 Iowa 23-21 of the FBS (those are the big boys).  You can use permanent ink when you pick them to win the FCS title again this year.
  5. On Friday, September 23, RCN-TV offers up undefeated Saucon Valley at Southern Lehigh (7:00pm) followed by Celtic Classic highlights. Lafayette will host nationally ranked Villanova on Saturday.  The live broadcast begins at 6:00pm.

 Gary's Picks

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (Last week – 11-5; Overall – 21-11 – 66% )
Week Three

Houston
Cincinnati
Oakland
Arizona
Baltimore
Miami
Giants
Green Bay
Carolina
Seattle
Tampa Bay
Pittsburgh
Kansas City
San Diego
Dallas
Atlanta
 

Behind the Mic: Remember Deflategate?

As I write this on January 18, 2016, I am reminded that exactly one year ago today the New England Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts by a 45-7 score in the AFC Championship.  Prior to the start of the game and during the game, the Colts accused the Patriots of underinflating the footballs.  Tom Brady was at one point suspended for four games to start this season, only to have the punishment upheld twice on appeal and then have it eventually rescinded because a judge found that there was an absence of “fairness and due process”.

“Deflategate” became the center of fans’ attention and media controversy for months on end.  Nothing similar has caused a stir this year, but that doesn’t mean the NFL has been without its share of on and off-field problems.  It’s just that the microscope has not been as focused on team and player conduct.  The Cincinnati-Pittsburgh debacle during the Wild Card weekend may have changed that as rule violation after rule violation occurred.  Lest you think this has been a very quiet year for the NFL as far as conduct is concerned, let me give you some interesting facts:

There have been 16 players suspended this year for a total of 49 games.  The common infractions were labeled as “violation of league’s personal conduct policy”, but they also included punching and breaking the jaw of a teammate, domestic violence, vehicular assault, poking an eye, helmet-to-helmet contact, and repeated violations of safety-related playing rules.  Vontaze Burfict of the Cincinnati Bengals was recently accused of the latter and was suspended for three games next season.  He was certainly no angel in the Pittsburgh game.

Violations of the NFL drug policy are considered separate from the previous infractions.  That is a separate category.  Substance infractions fall under two headings – 1) those that improve performance; 2) those that are for recreational use.

Fifty-three players were suspended for these infractions this year accounting for 189 games. Not included in that number are the four players who were suspended for the entire season and two who are listed as “indefinite suspensions”.

And, by the way, two coaches were suspended for 1) punching a teenager and 2) an undisclosed violation.  In addition, the league suspended a general manager for texting his personnel during a game, two equipment handlers, and an official for his failure to catch an 18-second mistake on the clock.

That is a total of 108 individuals associated with the NFL who required severe discipline by the league.  It is a shame we do not hear more about the exemplary players who do a great deal for their community and various charities.  Those players do not seek out the headlines, nor do their stories garner much attention.  But then there are those who proclaim that they “are not role models”. I hope young people take those athletes at their word.  Because, obviously, too many of them are not.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I’m sure that Eagles fans saw “déjà vu all over again” as Yogi used to say, when they watched the horrible clock management by Andy Reid on Saturday night when the Chiefs lost to the Patriots. If you watched the end of each half, I’m sure you were appalled at the total ineptness to control the clock in obvious scoring situations.  That is, unless you remember how the Eagles used to do it.
  2. I invite you to read Greg Joyce’s highly entertaining piece in the Express-Times on former Liberty player Greg Noack, whose basketball season at Monmouth was curtailed due to concussions. He and some teammates, known as the Monmouth Bench Mob, have become nationally known for their sideline antics.  It’s a great story.  Click here to read it.
  1. The Eagles hired Doug Pederson on Monday to be their new head coach. He was a career backup quarterback (3-14 in 17 games).  As the offensive coordinator in Kansas City, he did not call the plays.  His head coaching experience was in high school with the Calvary Baptist Academy.  Keep your fingers crossed!
  2. All the home teams won in the NFL this past weekend. I hope you got to see the end of the Packers and Cardinals overtime game.  Just amazing!!
  3. It’s the first match-up of the season Saturday when the Lafayette men play Lehigh in Patriot League basketball. If you are snowed in (which might be the case), give the game a look.  It’s LIVE on RCN at 2:00pm.

Gary's Picks

NFL PICKS LAST WEEK – 10-6; OVERALL 160-96 (63%)
NFL PICKS (WILD CARD) – 3-1
NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS – 3-1; PLAYOFFS (6-2)
 

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP PICKS
NEW ENGLAND
CAROLINA

Behind the Mic: The NFL – Pre-Season Best and Worst

BEHIND THE MIC:
The NFL – Pre-season Best and Worst

I realize it is only July, but the summer seems to be flying by. I am already thinking about high school and college football. It will be here soon. And since I am writing this week’s blog and, in the fall, my blog includes my weekly NFL picks, it seemed like a good time to consider (in my estimation), which NFL teams will be the BEST and which teams will be the WORST.

Let’s start with the worst, since when these teams play (unless it’s against each other) my predictions should be easier. The five worst teams in the NFL for the upcoming season will be the:

Jets – Tim Tebow goes; Geno Smith comes in so the Jets still have a quarterback controversy (5 on their roster including Mark Sanchez) and they have gotten worse overall as a team.

Raiders – This team just does not have the talent to contend at all.

Bills – QB position is really questionable. 6-10 last year and they will probably struggle to surpass that win total.

Jaguars – They were awful last season and did very little in the draft to think they got better. Remember a 3-win season will be an improvement over last year.

Browns – They traded away draft picks in Rounds 4 and 5 so they had only 2 picks in the first five rounds and they find themselves in a division where everybody is better.

Titans – In case I’m wrong, the Titans should improve on their 6-10 record, but most of that responsibility rests on the QB Jake Locker.

Now that I have upset the Jets and Browns fans, I wish the Eagles, Steelers and the Redskins (my boss’s team) would now show up in my top 5. But, alas, that will not be the case. To me, the very best will be the:

 • 49ers – They were outstanding last year; had a decent draft and will have a new starter at safety (Eric Reid).

Broncos – Peyton Manning and a talented stable of receivers (including Wes Welker) make this team extremely strong offensively, but they, also, have one of the top defenses. They could win it all.

Falcons – They just needed to improve their defense and they did that with great improvement at the cornerback positions. They were 13-3 last year and, if possible, they could be better.

Seahawks – They have a great coach, terrific chemistry, and improved in the draft on both sides of the ball. They are one of the very best and will battle the 49ers for the Division title.

Packers/Patriots – Both of these teams have outstanding quarterbacks who could carry them to a win every weekend. The Packers got better at the running game. The Patriots did not do much with the draft and lost Welker so time will tell if they will be better this season.

 Oh, by the way, the Redskins and Giants should finish in the upper half, the Steelers in the middle, and the Eagles in the lower half.

Please, please don’t blame the messenger.