Behind the Mic: Filling Out the Brackets

The 2016-17 school year is winding down and, therefore, so is the athletic season.  State titles still need to be decided in girls’ and boys’ lacrosse, tennis, track and field, and boys’ volleyball.  These championships are basically the same as in previous years with AA and AAA champions.

But this school year was a year of change for a number of sports in the PIAA due to the addition of two more classifications in many other sports.  In particular, the big three of football, basketball and baseball each added a AAAAA and AAAAAA class to the previous four.  District XI, our district, was no exception.  So, now that we have been through one year and with the knowledge that this format is already set in stone, allow me to give you some interesting facts, specifically concerning football, boys’ basketball, and baseball:

  • There were 19 teams in those three sports that got into the District XI tournament with losing records (in the past, you had to be at .500 or better to get in).
  • The justification for adding these teams is to “fill out the brackets” or allow the minimum number allowed for a district in the playoffs.
  • One team got into the football playoffs with a 1-9 record.
  • Nine teams got into the basketball playoffs with losing records and eight teams got into the baseball playoffs with losing records.

No team took more advantage of the “filling out the bracket” rule than the Whitehall baseball team.  They were placed in the AAAAA class to make a four-team bracket.  Blue Mountain was ranked first with a 15-4 record, Southern Lehigh was second with a 16-4 record, and Bangor was third with a 13-7 record.  No one would argue that they deserved to be in the playoff, but Whitehall got in with an 8-12 record.  This would not have been good enough in the past.

But, before you trash the system, Whitehall won the championship!  That’s right.  They upset the #1 seed in extra innings and went on to destroy the #2 seed in the championship.  So… there are questions:

  1. Should teams with losing records be allowed in?
  1. Is the goal to get as many athletes and teams involved in playoffs justifiable?
  1. Does a losing team winning the championship prove their right to admission?

And, the biggest question of all –

  1. Do we need six classifications?

I’m pretty sure they are here to stay, but you might have some fun debating their value.  We, in the media, do it all the time.  And you have all summer to discuss before the games begin again in September.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. No one was more skeptical than I was when the pundits were predicting that the Golden State Warriors would easily defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA playoffs. Some said they would sweep them in four straight.  Well, they have won the first two and are now 14-0 in the playoffs.  No team has ever gone undefeated throughout the entire playoffs.  Steph Curry and Kevin Durant more than balance out the talent of LeBron James.
  2. The NHL playoffs are just as entertaining as the NBA. When the Nashville Predators went down 2-0 in the series, and 1-0 in game three, it looked like a sweep might also happen in the NHL.  But Nashville went on to score the next five goals to win their first Stanley Cup game in history.  No sweep here and no heavy favorite either.
  3. As a kid, I remember reading “Fear Strikes Out” written by major league baseball player Jimmy Piersall. It was a very moving story.  The book dealt very realistically with Piersall’s mental illness which turned out to be a bipolar disorder.  It showed in Piersall’s furious arguments with umpires, a fistfight with Billy Martin, making pig noises in the outfield, etc.  This all culminated in a mental breakdown.  I honestly thought he had already passed away.  I was a bit shocked when I read he passed away this past week at the age of 87.  It is a book worth reading.
  4. Congratulations to Liberty, Parkland, Whitehall, and Wilson for making the PIAA state baseball championships. Each needs to win three games to get to the title game at Penn State.
  5. Next week on RCN-TV, we will start our Blue Mountain League baseball coverage. The Game of the Week will be on Tuesday nights at 9:30.  The McDonald’s All-Star Football Classic will be on Thursday, June 15, at 10:00.

 

Behind the Mic: Father’s Day

Due to a Monday commitment, which is the day I usually write my blog, I am sitting at my computer Sunday morning contemplating what to write about.  I have already been reminded that it is Father’s Day by my two daughters who have sent their well-wishes and will visit later in the day.  They have both made my wife and I very proud as both successful citizens, employees (one in hospital management and the other as an ultrasound technician), and, most importantly, excellent parents.  And they, for me, are what makes my Father’s Day enjoyable and special. They are the “end products” of what my wife did as a mother and, in some fashion, what I did as a father.

When we sit around the kitchen table, which we do quite often, conversation often turns to those moments when I did not do such a good job.  I vividly remember keeping Natalie from going to her first school dance because she could not find her music book when her instructor came to the house for weekly music lessons.  His trip was a wasted one, and it became obvious that Natalie had not practiced all week.  It also was the night of her first dance.  I laid down an ultimatum- if she didn’t find the book; she couldn’t go to the dance that night.  After hours of tears and frustration, the book was not found and she did not go to the dance.  I felt terrible, but I hoped that she learned a lesson.  The next morning the music teacher called to tell me that he had Natalie’s book in his briefcase – he had accidently taken it home with him the week before.

When Christine was working in banking, she was to go to a seminar in the Poconos.  She wanted to do what other employees were going to do, take her boyfriend with her because there was going to be time for socialization.  My wife and I were not comfortable letting our unmarried daughter go away for the weekend with this young man (my, how times have changed).  It created an uncomfortable moment for us with our daughter, the young man, and his parents.  And, of course, they stayed together and are now married.

These are just two examples of many where I screwed up as a father.  I am quite proud, however, that we made the girls work throughout high school, got them involved in extracurricular activities, and taught them to do the right thing.  They never let us down.

My own father died in his early sixties, but he worked hard to financially support his family, cheered his four children on in all that we did, and made us responsible for our actions.  He was certainly my role model.

So, as I sit here on Father’s Day morning, knowing that gifts are forthcoming and a nice card and a little more precious time to reminisce once again about fatherhood, I really believe that this day should be more about a father’s children.  They, more than anything, are the true measure of what Father’s Day is all about.

And, because that is my mindset, I will thoroughly enjoy this day.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The RCN-TV crew spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at Penn State this past week in order to do the statewide broadcast of the PIAA baseball championships for PCN. Due to the weather, two of the games scheduled for Thursday were postponed until Friday.  We normally would do all four games in one day.  This was one of the few times that the crew was glad to see rain.  Two games one day and two games the next is a much more enjoyable experience for all of us.  Four games in one day is not an enjoyable experience.
  2. Since we were at State College, we were not all that far away from Oakmont, where the US Open was being played in Pittsburgh. The USGA was faced with the same weather problems on Thursday, but somehow they logistically figured it all out to get everyone back on track by Sunday afternoon. Now that is a scheduling nightmare, but it got accomplished.
  3. If you do not like golf or golf broadcasts, you should, at least, respect the honesty of the players. Shane Lowry who was leading the US Open as I write this, called a one-stroke penalty on himself on Saturday because as he addressed his ball to putt on the 16th green, the ball moved ever so slightly.  He did not touch it, but it did move.  He stopped play, called over an official, explained the rule violation and took the one-stroke penalty.  If he doesn’t win, let’s hope he does not lose by a stroke.
  4. Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors has threatened to cut off the WiFi in his house to keep his wife Ayesha from tweeting. She tweeted that the NBA was rigged for money after Game Six, when her husband fouled out. I’m sure the NBA frowned on that.
  5. Watch Blue Mountain League baseball every Tuesday for the next six weeks on RCN-TV. It’s good baseball played by guys who play for fun and love the game.