Behind the Mic: Age is Just a Number

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.
 

When you get to be my age (and, trust me, it takes a while), and you are still doing what you love to do, it doesn’t hurt to find some inspiration from time to time. You know, some examples of those who could have packed it in and moved on, but decided to continue to give it a try.  Three of those stories played out this weekend.

I will start with Adrian Peterson, a running back for the Washington Redskins. At Oklahoma, in three seasons, he ran for 4,245 yards, 73 yards short of the career rushing record.  He did not play his senior year, opting to turn pro.  That was twelve years ago.  Adrian Peterson is 33 years old.

He was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. He stayed with the Vikings through the 2016 season.  In that time, he set or tied five NFL rushing records, and five Vikings’ records.

In the 2016 season, he needed knee surgery and he was released by the Vikings in 2017. The New Orleans Saints took a chance on him and signed him in 2017.  He played only four games and was traded to the Arizona Cardinals.  He injured his neck and did not finish out the season.   Great career, but it was time to retire, right?

Nope. The Washington Redskins took a chance and signed him this year.  This past weekend against the Packers, he rushed for 120 yards and scored two touchdowns.  He now has 102 touchdowns and it was his 52nd 100-yard game.  Thirty-three is old for an NFL running back, but, in this case, it’s just a number.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has played quarterback in the NFL for seven different teams. After graduating from Harvard, he was drafted by the Rams.  He has played for the Bengals, Bills, Titans, Texans, Jets, and now the Tampa Bay Bucs.  For most of these teams, he was the backup given starting opportunities from time to time.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is 35 years old.

This season began with the Bucs’ starting QB, Jameis Winston, suspended for the first three games. Fitzpatrick got the start.  In week one, he threw for 417 yards and four TD’s.  His team upset the Saints 48-40.  He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.  In week two, he led the Bucs to an upset win over the Super Bowl champion Eagles 27-21.  He was again named the Player of the Week.

This Monday the Bucs lost to the Steelers, but Fitzpatrick led a second-half comeback. They lost 30-27.  Perhaps the game time was too late for this “old” QB.  Some would say he should be in bed!

And then there is Tiger. Tiger Woods is 42 years old.  He has won 14 major championships, 18 World Golf Championships, and has a total of 80 career wins, trailing only Sam Snead by two. Due to the wear and tear on his body AND his age, he went through four back surgeries and had not won a tournament in five years. Since his departure from the game, golf has become a young man’s sport with the real stars being in their early 20’s.  He was, more or less, written off as a future winner.

But this weekend, Tiger won again. At 42, he won the Tour Championship.  The five- year drought ended and golf had a resurgence of viewers.  The broadcast on Sunday drew three times the audience the same championship had last year.  And it was an NFL Sunday.  Since Tiger’s return, the size of the viewing audience has soared.  He was in contention for the PGA championship in August and the telecast drew the highest ratings in nine years.

And I just bet the audience was made up of all ages – young people who want to get to see Tiger’s greatness for themselves and the older viewers who can tell themselves, no matter what their age, that it is just a number! There is always more to accomplish.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
 

  1. When the Bills beat the Vikings 27-6 this past Sunday, it was the largest NFL upset in the past 23 seasons. The Vikings were favored by 17 points. According to reports out of Las Vegas, one gambler bet $18,000 on the Vikings with a payout of just $1,000 if he won. He didn’t. Another person bet $9,000 on the Vikings to win $450. He didn’t either. And after the Lions beat the Patriots, the bookies had a good day.
  2. Carson Wentz did not have a great day for the Eagles on Sunday, but they won, he scrambled like old times, took some hits, dove for a first down, and came away healthy. That checked off a number of boxes!
  3. I’m sure Eagles’ fans who have been around for awhile remember Tommy McDonald, the small, but fast, sure-handed receiver from the 1960’s. He was part of the 1960 NFL championship team led by quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. McDonald passed away this past week.
  4. It’s officially over for the Phillies this year in terms of post-season play. The way this season is coming to a close puts a real damper on any enthusiasm the start of the year might have had on next year’s success. Here’s hoping…
  5. With the Celtic Classic part of the weekend schedule, RCN-TV will present one high school this Friday night, but it is a good one – Palisades at Notre Dame live at 7:00pm. Chris Michael and John Leone will have the game. Saturday, Mike Joseph, John Leone and I will bring the LafayetteCentral Connecticut State game to you at 6:00pm. You’re invited join us.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks (Last week: 8-8) (Overall: 26-20-2  57% )
 
Week FOUR
RAMS
NEW ENGLAND
INDIANAPOLIS
ATLANTA
GREEN BAY
DETROIT
JACKSONVILLE
CHICAGO
PHILADELPHIA
SEATTLE
CLEVELAND
CHARGERS
GIANTS
PITTSBURGH
KANSAS CITY

Behind the Mic: Youth Must Be Served

Even if you are not into golf, by now even you know of the amazing rally by Jordan Spieth at the British Open on Sunday. He played the final five holes five under par after losing the lead in the tournament for the very first time in four days.  In doing so, he, along with Jack Nicklaus, became the second player to win three of the four Grand Slam tournaments by the age of 23.  If he wins next month’s PGA Championship, he would be the youngest to win the Grand Slam.

So I now know what Spieth has accomplished at such a young age. It made me curious about some of the accomplishments of other young athletes in other sports.  Who were some of the others to make an early name for themselves as a youngster?

Baseball: Julio Urias (19 years old) – Became the youngest starting pitcher to pitch in the major league for the Dodgers in 2016. He lasted 2-2/3 innings.

Tennis: Michael Chang (17 years old) – Won the 1989 French Open, becoming the youngest winner of a tennis grand slam singles event by beating #1 Ivan Lendl in a four- hour match.

NFL: Amobi Okoye – (19 years old) – Played college football for the Louisville Cardinals at age 16; drafted in the NFL at age 19 and played in an NFL game at the age of 20.

NBA: Andrew Bynum (18 years, 6 days) – Played for the Los Angeles Lakers alongside Kobe Bryant (who at 18 years, 158 days became the youngest ever to start an NBA game), made an All-Star team and was a member of two championship teams.

Soccer: Freddy Adu (14 years old) – Became the youngest athlete to sign a professional contract, the youngest to appear in an MLS game, and the youngest to score a goal in the MLS.

NASCAR: Joey Logano (18 years old) – Became the youngest to win a NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

Men’s Golf: Guan Tian Lang (14 years old) – The youngest golfer to qualify for the Masters. He made the cut and became the youngest to do so.

Women’s Golf: Michelle Wie (10 years old) – The youngest player to qualify for the US Amateur; later she became the youngest to make an LPGA cut and the youngest to play in a PGA event.

“Children should be seen and not heard” is a phrase I heard often as a child.  I am assuming all of the teenagers who I just mentioned rarely heard that idiom.  Instead, “youth must be served” seems much more appropriate in these remarkable examples of early accomplishments.

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

 

  1. Chicago Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman used the Heimlich maneuver to save a man’s life in a Texas airport on Sunday. The man was choking while Freeman was enjoying a brisket sandwich. His quick action probably saved the man’s life.
  2. The Cubs had a mediocre start to the MLB season prior to the All-Star break and were five games out of first behind the Milwaukee Brewers. Since the break, they have won eight of nine and moved into a tie for first place in the NL Central. Is the magic back?
  3. The British Open featured two of the easiest players to get behind and root for – Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar. So Spieth’s win was not a disappointment for this fan, but one had to feel for Kuchar who was trying to win his first major. Kuchar did win $1,067,000, however, to ease his pain.
  4. A golfer who made the cut in the British Open and finished dead last (70th) earned $23,600 for his efforts. Still not a bad paycheck for a week at the office.
  5. Mark your calendar – Freedom takes on Central Catholic in our opening football game of the year. Tune in at 7:00pm on Saturday, August 26.

Behind the Mic: Ho-Hum!

Now what?  The Super Bowl has been played so there will not be any football for quite awhile.  The NBA and the NHL are in full swing, but for my interest is limited to the playoffs.  College basketball is heading to March Madness with league and conference championships right around the corner, but that’s still a few weeks away.  I do watch Villanova when I can and I pick up a Michigan game here and there just to watch former Allentown Central Catholic and Michigan starter, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, play.  Villanova was on this weekend and so was Michigan.

So, for me, that leaves golf.  There is nothing like the scenery offered up this past weekend at Pebble Beach in California.  With the sun shining brightly, there was beautiful green grass surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.  Even if you were not a golf fan, like my wife, the sight of beaches and whales and yachts and sailboats even drew her in.  For me, when Jordan Spieth is near the top, I will watch.  He has become my new “Tiger”.  I used to watch any tournament that had Tiger in contention, but, as I am sure you know, his back surgery has kept him away and “contention” is a long way off.

Spieth took a six-shot lead into Sunday and for that reason there was little excitement.  Now I would be thrilled if I could move from hole to hole and just get pars, which is what Spieth was doing.  He was playing “prevent defense” and there was no one in the field who could produce a New England Patriots comeback.  Spieth just moseyed his way around the course, had an early and late birdie, and settled for the victory, his ninth on the PGA tour.

Tiger won nine times in 61 starts.  This was Jordan’s 100th pro start.  But does that matter?   Spieth is now the measuring stick.  Tiger bowed out of the last two events he was scheduled for after coming back.  He was able to play just seven rounds before his back forced him to stop again.  He may never be back.

The good news is there are plenty of terrific, young golfers on the tour and they will make each week a true crapshoot.  My problem is I tend to latch on to a favorite and follow that golfer.  The good news is, for me right now, that golfer is Jordan Spieth.  He is polite, seems to have good family values, has ties to Saucon Valley, and is very competitive.  And, if he is not having a good week, the scenery is still beautiful!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. 76ers center Joel Embiid has been on the sideline with a torn meniscus in his left knee, yet he was caught dancing shirtless on stage at a concert this past weekend. He missed the entire 2014-15 season with a broken bone in his foot and went on to miss the entire 2015-16 season.  He played this season until February 11 when he tore his meniscus.  It just doesn’t sound like he should be dancing.
  2. You probably would not be surprised to learn that the Tom Brady NFL jersey is the #1 seller. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is #5.  His jersey accounted for more than 50% of all Eagles’ jerseys sold.  Fletcher Cox is #2 among the Eagles, but #3 will surprise you.  The third highest selling Eagles jersey belongs to Brian Dawkins who has not played for the team in almost ten years.  You now have a good trivia question.
  3. Since 2001, the New England Patriots have a 196-60 regular season record. No team is within 30 wins of that record. They have played in seven Super Bowls in that time span and, surprisingly, every one has been decided by one score or less.  In fact, their average point spread in all seven games is 3.7 points.  Remember, they beat the Eagles in 2005 by a 24-21 score.  Sounds like they could have won them all or lost them all.
  4. Most people around here are Villanova fans and they are currently ranked #2 in the country after spending the early part of the season at #1. Gonzaga has that spot right now and they are 26-0.  It does not appear, looking at their schedule, that the Bulldogs will lose a regular season game.  Villanova should get a #1 seed in the tournament and then prove they deserve the #1 spot overall.
  5. Don’t ask me why, but I watched the Grammys on Sunday night. Thank goodness there were excellent performances during the BeeGees and Prince dedications because almost everyone else was bad or chose a bad song, including Queen Bee (yet no one will say it!); Lady Gaga who killed at the Super Bowl but not so much with Metallica; and even Adele when she sang the George Michael tribute song.  Some great talent wasted.

 

 

 

Behind the Mic: Mano A Mano

Now that the NFL has completed play and with college basketball, the NBA, and the NHL moving to their respective championships, I find I am desperate for some intense competition.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching the serenity and landscape of golf, but it does lack the “mano a mano” aspect that the aforementioned sports offer up.  But, I am happy to say I have found a new “blood sport” – the Republican Debates!

I was for many years the Debate coach at Wilson High School and I am proud to say that we competed quite well against the bigger schools like Allen, Dieruff, Easton, and others.  I remember the parameters quite well.  There was the debate topic (an issue or resolution), the two sides – one supporting the issue and one opposing it, and the judges who would decide who won.  In other words, both teams formulated their arguments and presented them in a formal way and then the arguments were rebutted by the opposing side.  There could be no interruptions and each speaker must wait their turn.  There were very formal rules of procedure to follow. The debate was to be only about the issue, not about the personalities making the presentation.

As I mentioned, I have watched both the Republican and Democratic debates when my schedule allowed it.  The Republican frays are much more interesting even though they should not be called “debates”.  I watched the last one this past Saturday night.  There were virtually no rules.  Personal attacks abounded; interruptions were commonplace; and disparaging comments were the norm.  The clashes between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, between Cruz and Marco Rubio, between Trump and Jeb Bush are as good as any hockey fight.  And the passivity of Dr. Ben Carson in that environment is quite interesting.

Some of the phrases thrown around were, “You are the single biggest liar”; “He’s a nasty guy”; “I am sick and tired of him going after my family”; “He’ll moon anybody”, and one candidate even attacked another candidate’s mother, his mother!!  There are many, many other examples.

I am not taking any sides here, but I do think there is a much better way for these candidates to conduct themselves and conduct their debates.  What would be so wrong, since there are so many so-called “debates” now, if each debate focused on one, two, or three issues – immigration, foreign policy, taxation, the economy, abortion, Planned Parenthood, wages, the Supreme Court and so on and so on?  And wouldn’t it be fair if for each question, each candidate had an opportunity to give their answer without interruption?  And wouldn’t it be better and refreshing if the moderators had enough knowledge of the few issues for each night to challenge the candidates if, indeed, they contradicted either their past words or their actions?

Even though we all seem to like a good fight, physical or verbal, it would certainly seem that it would be better for our democracy if the “debate judges” (the people) would be able to see the true differences between those running for the most powerful office in the world.

Then and only then, we would have the candidates’ positions to judge who would be the better president, not who is the best at name-calling.

I’m not taking any sides here, just wondering if Presidential debates should actually be more like debates and not free-for-alls. In other words, more “Presidential”.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Remember the footage of Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens dragging Janay Palmer out of the elevator in Atlantic City? It was revealed this week that a Revel employee was paid about $105,000 for the video by TMZ
  1. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is due out soon and already some unveiling, literally, is happening. It is reported that Tiger Woods’ former girlfriend and Olympic skier, Lindsay Vonn, and MMA star Ronda Rousey will be in the issue wearing only body paint.  Rumor has it Rousey is on the cover.
  1. A really good story came out of the PGA tour at Pebble Beach this week. Vaughn Taylor (who?) won!  He last won in 2005, and only got into the tournament as an alternate. He took a carry-on bag on the plane to California just to save baggage fees.  He was ranked #447 in the world.  But he won and made $1.26 million for the victory, $165,000 more than he made the last three years combined.  By the way, Phil Mickelson missed a five-foot putt on the 18th hole that would have tied him with Taylor.  Taylor now qualifies for his first Masters.
  1. If you want to see one of the best high school games we have ever had on RCN-TV, go to Video-on-Demand to watch Allen play Parkland. Imagine scoring 27 points and being the third leading scorer in the game.  The game goes overtime and two other players score more than 30 points.  It’s a special game – one of our very best.
  1. Mark your calendar on February 27. The District basketball and wrestling finals are that day with the Lafayette men playing Colgate starting the day at noon.  We will finish up very late into the evening.  We will certainly be ESPN-ish that Saturday!

 

 

Behind the Mic: Golf Without Tiger – Not So Bad After All

Another major golf tournament and another missed cut by Tiger Woods. And by Saturday, the popularity of golf lessens even more. Eighteen years ago, a young Tiger stepped into the professional golf limelight and became the center of attention for the sport. It seemed like a whole new audience joined golf fanatics around the world to anoint this athlete as one of their favorites ever. And now, Tiger cannot make the cuts. His body is breaking down and he has played hurt for the last seven years. Sadly, he has become just another player. He has suffered and, ergo, golf is, also, suffering.

But, in my opinion, there is hope on the horizon – perhaps, not in finding the next Tiger, but in finding great drama week in and week out. And that was never more prevalent than this past Sunday during the PGA Championship. The recipe was blended to perfection. Take a dash of the recent past (Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk); throw in an American young gun (Rickie Fowler); add a sprinkle of foreign notoriety (Henrik Stenson and Ernie Els); mix in the current favorite ingredient (Rory McIlroy) and you have the drama great golf produces.

This major had it all. Rory McIlroy won and became only the fourth player in the last century to win four majors at 25 or younger. The others were Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. He has won the last two majors of the year (only 7 players have done that). He had to overcome falling behind, waiting on almost every shot after the rain delay, watching his closest opponents, Mickelson and Fowler play directly in front of him and experiencing their outstanding moments and, at times missed opportunities. Added to that was the possibility that he may not be able to finish the round because darkness was engulfing Valhalla Country Club. The final hole was played in a mysterious “foursome” setting just to get the championship settled. It had an almost Hollywood feel to it.

It was the best golf had to order for sure. And it was “Tiger-less”. I must admit that I was one of those who did not take as much interest in a tournament if Tiger was not playing or missed the cut and was not around for the weekend. Sunday changed that. I do not say that Rory McIlroy is the next Tiger. There is almost too much talent out on tour right now for just one player to be as dominant as Woods was. But, the drama has been instilled again and the characters are fascinating enough to draw me back.

The spectacle of golf needed a shot in the arm. It needed to overcome Tiger’s lack of competitiveness due to a bad back, bad knees, and a sore Achilles. Tiger Woods had become golf’s Achilles heel. His success raised golf to new heights; his failures were sending it to new lows. That “heel” ironically is beginning to heal! Who would think that it would come in Kentucky in the dark on an August summer afternoon?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. Did you hear that Ryan Howard is building a $5.8 million house in Florida? It is being built near Clearwater where the Phillies have spring training. It will have 8 bedrooms, 10+ baths, a two-story library, 2 kitchens, 3 laundry rooms, 2 elevators, a wine room, a bowling alley, and a trophy room (I hope he can fill it). The doorknobs alone reportedly cost $80,000. When you have a contract worth $180 million, you can do this.

2. A friend of mine told me that while he and his wife were watching the Eagles lose their first preseason game (they are both huge Eagles fans), she asked which six Eagles he would like to have as his pallbearers. He wondered why she would ask such a strange question. She said she thought that when he died, it would be appropriate for the Eagles to let him down one last time!

3. Speaking of the Eagles, they practiced this past Sunday at Franklin Field, the football home of the Penn Quakers. The Eagles played there from 1958-1970. It was built in 1895. Why there you might ask. Well that was the site of their last NFL championship in 1960 when they beat the Packers 17-13. That was 54 years ago. 28,000 people showed up to watch.

4. Andre Reed did himself, his family, his high school (Dieruff), and his community proud at the NFL Hall of Fame ceremony in Canton, Ohio last week. His speech was straight from the heart, especially his thoughts on Jim Kelly, his quarterback. I have a helmet in my office with both their autographs on it. That helmet was always special to me; now it is even more so.

5. I want to thank John Leone for filling in for me last week. If you haven’t read his blog, please take the time, especially if you are as passionate a sports fan, as John is. You can feel his pain and suffering. Give it a look.

 

Behind the Mic: Free Admittance is so Much Cheaper

 

One of the really nice perks about my job is the free admittance to sporting events. Granted, I have to “work” once I get there, but purchasing a ticket to an event is pretty foreign to me. Add to that the fact that I have a good seat; I get to talk to the players and the coaches; I can converse with the fans; and, sometimes, I even get free food. It’s all good.

There are some sporting events, however, I would like to attend ONCE in my life and to do that, I would probably have to buy a ticket like any other fan. So I investigated the price (in 2013) to attend some of the events on my list (obviously, in the manner I am accustomed to):

1. The Masters golf tournament – a four-day pass would cost me $4,486. I would need to travel to Augusta, Georgia, find lodging, eat for four days, and pay exorbitant prices on the grounds. I am guessing a total price around $6,000.

2. The Super Bowl – the average face-value price for a ticket for the Ravens vs the 49ers in 2013 was $1,210. Tickets were sold, it was reported, for as much as $316,000.

3. The BCS College football championship – For this one, I think I would like to sit in a luxury box suite. After all, I am used to broadcasting college football from a nice suite with free food and drink available. The best price I could find was $250,000 for the accommodations. I would be able to invite some friends – maybe I could get a half dozen to kick in $50,000 each. I am not against making a profit here.

4. Game 7 of the NBA Championship – that happened in 2010 when the Lakers met the Celtics. To sit at courtside (why would I want to sit anywhere else?) required that I purchase two tickets minimum for a cost of $115,000.

5. Major League Baseball’s All-Star game – Another event where if you wanted to sit behind home plate, you needed to purchase two tickets. That would set you back $7,200. I wonder what a hot dog and soda would cost me. Maybe I could sneak in my own peanuts.

My list may differ greatly from yours. So allow me to quickly give you some “ballpark” figures for some other major events:

Championship boxing – ringside – $30,940.
Stanley Cup Final – average price in 2013 – $1,380.
Wimbledon Championship Finals – If you are “unfortunate” to have a British finalist
(Andy Murray in 2013), and decided to buy a ticket the day of the final, it would set you back $65,000.
Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics – only $4,000.

AND, if you got caught up in the World Cup this year and were wondering what it cost to attend the championship final – a mere $990. The problem here is you have to get to Brazil – from my house, it was @$3,000 for flight and hotel!

My top five would cost me around $375,000 or so just for the tickets. My air-conditioned house, comfortable recliner, hi-def TV, and easy access to snacks and drinks have me reconsidering attendance. With the money I’ll save, I think I’ll Google the nearest Porsche dealership.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. The Derek Jeter All-Star salute last Tuesday night was very special. I particularly loved the late Yankee PA announcer Bob Sheppard’s introduction of Jeter. It was the perfect touch, along with allowing Jeter to run off the field in the fourth inning.

2. An interesting side note on Jeter’s career. Dan Szymborski of ESPN has created a formula called ZiPS (sZymborski Projection System) which takes the first three years of a player’s career and projects his career numbers (here are Jeter’s projection numbers followed by his actual numbers as of July 19 in parentheses). For Jeter, he would have projected a .289 batting average (.311); 2,947 hits (3,411); 418 doubles (534); 114 triples (66); 263 HR (258); 1,287 RBIs (1,287); 336 SB (355). Very impressive projection system if you ask me.

3. I love the British Open. Links golf is just different; the TV time is done to allow you to do other things on the weekend; and it is a Major. It was great to see Rory McIlroy play so well again and even his fellow players were happy for him. Sergio Garcia finished second, but now has played in 64 majors without a win. He and Lee Westwood (66 majors) endure the title of “best players to never win a Major”.

4. It was a sponsor’s dream on Sunday at the British Open when the top three golf corporations were so visibly represented – Rory McIlroy represents NIKE; Sergio Garcia represents Adidas; and Ricky Fowler represents Puma. Pretty much equal time for all.

5. Two more interesting British Open tidbits – 1) McIlroy’s former fiancée, Caroline Wozniacki, also won her WTA tennis championship in Istanbul on Saturday. They were to be married in November. Rory broke off the engagement with a three-minute phone call. 2) A fan kept yelling “Sergio is going to catch you” at McIlroy after every shot. McIlroy had a fan removed by security at the 15th hole. No one was sure if it was the same fan.