Behind the Mic: …There Were Six

Agatha Christie, the mystery writer par excellence, once penned a terrific “whodunit”, which was considered her masterpiece – And Then There Were None.  In that book ten characters (all of whom were part of someone else’s death) are brought to an island and one by one they are killed.  Over 100 million copies of this book were sold and it still remains the world’s best selling mystery.

No one was killed, injured, nor in any way harmed when the PIAA Board of Directors was brought to the “island” in Mechanicsburg on Wednesday, October 7, to ostensibly vote to increase the number of classifications for high school football from four to six.  But that is where this mystery begins.

There was supposed to be some serious opposition to this proposal despite the fact that the rest of the country has been classifying their schools this way for many years.  However, that opposition did not happen.  The final vote was 26-4.  Not surprisingly, the three voting members from District 7 (WPIAL) and the District 8 chairman voted against the proposal – that’s it, just those four.  Primarily, their fear was the loss of their one-day football championships played at Heinz Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the opposition by 66% of the district’s 123 schools. Obviously, they could not garner any support from the rest of the state.  Even Philadelphia, which as late as September said they would oppose the proposal, voted unanimously in favor.

Now, the plot thickens.  The Board proposed a second vote to the surprise of all who expected this topic to occur later in the year which would have followed the PIAA protocol.  Girls and boys basketball, baseball, and softball would also move to six classifications and girls volleyball, boys soccer, and girls soccer went to four classes, field hockey to three, and boys and girls lacrosse to two.  This whole process took fifteen minutes and was passed by a 23-7 vote.

So, football will lose a week (from 16 to 15) at the end of the season, but will probably make up for that week by scheduling one less scrimmage at the beginning and starting their season one week earlier. The leagues will make that decision. More high school athletes will have more opportunities to play in state playoff games and more communities and schools will be able to rally around their respective teams throughout the playoffs.

Where schools actually fall will be known by November 15, one month after the enrollment figures are due.  Forty-six schools are a part of the District XI.  It appears the 6A would have 12 and 3A 12 with smaller numbers for the other classes.  So the final chapter is yet to be written.

Agatha Christie’s mystery was 272 pages.  The document penned by the Strategic Planning and Football Steering Committee was around 230 pages.  One diminished the participants one by one until they were all gone – the other dramatically increased the number of participants.  That’s a happy ending to be sure.

Re-title it And Then There were Six.  It, obviously, can be sold!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I watched the entire last round of the President’s Cup from South Korea. It ended at 2:45 AM on Sunday and came down to the last putt.  I lost a great deal of sleep, but no one bothered me.
  2. Chase Utley’s slide which broke Ruben Tejada’s leg in the Mets-Dodgers series was a dirty slide. The best revenge by the Mets would be to win the series.
  3. With all the technology used in the NFL these days, it was ludicrous that in the Monday night game, 18 seconds ran off the clock after a touchback in the fourth quarter with the Chargers leading 20-17. 2:56 was on the clock after the Chargers took the lead over Pittsburgh.  When the Steelers snapped the ball after the touchback, there was 2:38 on the clock.  The Steelers won the game with no time left.  Otherwise, another official’s costly mistake could have changed the outcome.
  4. The Eagles looked good in the second half again after a dismal first half performance. Imagine if they would play good football for four quarters!  Maybe it will happen soon.
  5. Important doubleheader high school football action this Friday night on RCN-TV. Easton hosts Parkland and Whitehall visits Freedom.  There are really great match-ups the rest of the season.  Should be fum!

 

Gary's Picks

NFL PICKS LAST WEEK – 12-2; OVERALL  52-25 (68%)

NFL PICKS (WEEK SIX)
NEW ORLEANS
DENVER
CINCINNATI
MINNESOTA
JACKSONVILLE
DETROIT
JETS
ARIZONA
TENNESSEE
SEATTLE
GREEN BAY
BALTIMORE
NEW ENGLAND
PHILADELPHIA

The SportsTalk Shop: Phillies and the PIAA

We had the opportunity to speak with several important guests on last week’s “RCN SportsTalk,” discussing a number of issues relevant to sports fans in the RCN viewing area.  For this week’s entry in the “SportsTalk Shop,” I’d like to share some of my opinions on these topics and add a few more bits of information that we didn’t have a chance to address.

The first topic of conversation with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jake Kaplan focused on spring training for the Phillies and also the comparisons between the current Nationals’ starting rotation and the “4 Aces” that the Phillies featured a few seasons ago.

Now, there are several other issues regarding the Phillies exhibition season.  As we close in on the final two weeks of spring training, the Phillies roster is starting to come into focus—and there’s actually some good competition for the remaining roster spots.  The most competitive battle is for the three remaining bullpen spots, with several southpaws standing out.   Andy Oliver, Elvis Araujo, Mario Hollands, Adam Morgan, and Joely Rodriguez all have been throwing well with most of these pitchers not allowing a run so far this preseason.  Oliver (a Rule 5 player who the Phillies risk losing if not on the MLB roster this season) and Hollands (who pitched last year) probably have the edge, but the fact that so many of the young pitchers have looked impressive is an encouraging sign for the future.

The potential starting lineup is also intriguing.  If this team was battling for a playoff spot, the overabundance of left-handed bats would be a definite concern.  Since the Phillies are more in “talent retrieval mode,” the fact that the lefty-hitters are all making contact and squaring the ball up the last few days is worth noting.  Here’s my view of what an Opening Day lineup—especially if an opposing right-handed pitcher is throwing—might look like as of now:

CF – Ben Revere (L)
LF – Odubel Herrera or Grady Sizemore (both L)
2B – Chase Utley (L)
1B – Ryan Howard (L)
C – Carlos Ruiz (R)
3B – Cody Asche (L)
RF – Dom Brown (L)
SS –Freddy Galvis (S)

Also, with Ruiz getting older and coming off another season with an injury, he probably will only start three to four games per week.  This means his backup, unless they do add a significant name, will bat lower in the lineup, and will make the upper half of the lineup even more left-handed.

* * *
The other big subject on last week’s show dealt with the ongoing talk that the PIAA (the governing body for high school sports in Pennsylvania) could realign the classifications for high school football in the Keystone state.  The biggest issue with the new proposal is that it would change the current four classes format (based on male student enrollment numbers) to six classifications.

Here are a few thoughts on the proposal and how it could affect the football landscape in Pennsylvania.

As for District XI fans in the RCN viewing area, here’s a look at the current alignment and the potential breakdown—as of now—for what a six classification format would look like:

Class 4A— over 493 male students
Allen, Dieruff, Easton, East Stroudsburg South, Emmaus, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, Northampton, Parkland, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, Stroudsburg, Whitehall.

Class 3A—300-49
Bangor, Bethlehem Catholic, Blue Mountain, Central Catholic, East Stroudsburg North, Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Pottsville, Saucon Valley, Southern Lehigh.

Class 2A—175-299
Catasauqua, North Schuylkill, Northern Lehigh, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Palisades, Palmerton, Panther Valley, Pen Argyl, Pine Grove, Salisbury, Tamaqua, Wilson.

Class A—1-174
Mahanoy Area, Marian Catholic, Minersville, Nativity, Pius X, Schuylkill Haven, Shenandoah Valley, Tri-Valley, Williams Valley.

Six-class proposal
Class 6A—608 male students and above
Dieruff, Easton, Emmaus, Freedom, Liberty, Northampton, Parkland, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, Stroudsburg, William Allen.

Class 5A—410-607
Bangor, East Stroudsburg North, East Stroudsburg South, Nazareth, Southern Lehigh, Whitehall.

Class 4A—301-409
Blue Mountain, Central Catholic, Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Pottsville, Saucon Valley.

Class 3A—210-300
Bethlehem Catholic, North Schuylkill, Northern Lehigh, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Palisades, Palmerton, Pen Argyl, Pine Grove, Salisbury, Tamaqua, Wilson.

Class 2A—148-209
Catasauqua, Mahanoy Area, Minersville, Panther Valley, Schuylkill Haven.

Class A—1-147
Marian Catholic, Nativity, Pius X, Shenandoah Valley, Tri-Valley, Williams Valley

My thoughts on this…I’m honestly not so sure it’s a good idea.  I think there are some positives (I’m all for shortening the season) along with some concerns.  There are some major hurdles that different sections of Pennsylvania would have to overcome (the biggest would be scheduling) in order for this to happen.  I also think it would put a strain on some of the newspapers and website outlets that cover high school football, to make the leap from covering (at most) two championships per night to potentially four or more—especially with newspaper staff numbers dwindling.

However, I have known District XI Football Chair Jason Zimmerman and several other proponents of this proposal for quite some time. I believe that Jason and the people he is working with genuinely care about the scholar athletes’ best interests and believe in doing what’s right for the kids in Pennsylvania.  If he feels strongly enough to invest his and other administrators and coaches’ time and energy into exploring this proposal, then I think we should all take a serious look at the ideas presented.

Behind the Mic: There’s No Clock in Baseball

I have heard many times from baseball fans that the reason they love the game is that “there is no clock in baseball”. That has never been more evident to me than this past Friday when RCN-TV was producing for the 14th consecutive year the PIAA Baseball Championships for the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). The games are played at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park in University Park. Yes, the same location where Penn State fans enjoy watching the Nittany Lions play football at nearby Beaver Stadium. So, for me and the crew, it is a three hour ride on Thursday to the motel so that we can prepare for the four-game marathon on Friday. We discovered the next day that “marathon” was not a strong enough description of the day.

Friday begins with a RCN team breakfast at the hotel. Up at 7:00, meet at 7:30 AM. Everyone is to be ready to head to the venue at 8:00 AM. Game One is to begin at 10:30. The crew worked meticulously the day before to have everything ready to go when they arrive. They must confirm that everything is working Friday morning. I organized all the materials that I had gathered during the week from the coaches on Thursday in the motel and gave packets of that information to my fellow announcers to go over prior to the games. Upon arrival at the ballpark, our job is to meet with the coaches of the first game, confirm lineups and pronunciations, and become familiar with their teams. All is normal at this point and we are ready for Game One. We all agree that it is imperative that this game moves along in normal fashion to help the time frame for the rest of the day. That did not happen. Game one featured eight hit batsmen and five walks. Throw in only two “1-2-3” half innings and the first game and post-game festivities ended at 1:20 PM.

Game Two was scheduled to start at 1:00 PM! It was pushed back to 2:00. This game featured the big schools – labeled as the AAAA schools and usually featured the most talent. We needed a quick game from these guys. That was not to be. This game went extra innings! It took them eight full innings to decide a winner. It concluded at 5:00 PM. Game three was supposed to start at 3:30 PM. Are you beginning to get the picture?

The 3:30 game was announced that it would begin at 6:00 PM. Twenty minutes later, the stadium personnel decided that a rain storm was on the way. They would cover the field with a tarp and delay the start of the next game. The delay was approximately one hour and game three began at 7:00 PM. We could only pray that this one would have no delay again, just cruise along and we could get to Game Four as quickly as possible. Not a chance! Game Three went two extra innings and was won in the bottom of the ninth on an error. I think the whole crew wanted to hug the kid who did not catch the ball!! That just wouldn’t be right!

The 6:00 game, it was announced would start at 9:40 PM – over 3 ½ hours later than scheduled. Those two teams had been at the ballpark since mid-afternoon. This one moved along rather nicely, took only seven innings and the final medal ceremony and the awarding of the trophies ended at midnight. We just finished on the same day we started!

So, you say, you only worked a 16-hour day. No. No!!! The crew now had to pack up all the wires and the equipment that it takes to do this event. Imagine the amount of wire to run cameras to first base, third base, up high behind home plate, down low on the field for the ceremonies, and way, way out into center field. Imagine carrying very, very heavy cameras from those locations. Another hour or more for sure.

And me? Well, I always figure the games will end at 9:00 PM so I do not make arrangements to stay another night like the crew does. I always just jump in the car and drive home. Which I did. The 185-mile drive took another three hours. I finally pulled into my garage at 3:00 AM Saturday morning. My day ended after 19 hours!!

So, at least for a couple of months, please don’t tell me you love baseball because “there is no clock”. I may just punch you in the mouth and, after hearing my story, I don’t think any judge would convict me of assault.

Check out some of the game highlights below:

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
No musings this week. I’m catching up on my sleep!

 

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!

 

The SportsTalk Shop: State Playoff Recaps

It was another exciting high school playoff season on RCN-TV, filled with outstanding teams and athletes, and a few surprises along the way. Before we transition to the spring sports season, I wanted to highlight some of the top moments during this year’s PIAA state basketball playoffs. Keep in mind, these observations are based on the teams I had a chance to see and didn’t include the teams from the western part of Pennsylvania.

BEST TEAM I SAW—BOYS
Neumann-Goretti was not just an athletic and talented team, they were QUICK! Quick when passing, playing defense, leaping ability…even on the break. Central Catholic played a great game and is loaded with fast players themselves, but I really don’t know if there’s another team in the state that could play with Neumann-Goretti in an up-tempo style game.

Central Catholic also had a great playoff run, and I can shamelessly mention that my early January prediction that the Vikings would make it to the state quarterfinals proved correct. (RCN basketball experts Tom Stoudt and Joe Craig said I was crazy for saying that, but you can see for yourself by checking out “RCN SportsTalk” for free On-Demand). Central posted two solid wins in states before seeing their season come to an end and have a lot of to be proud of what they accomplished in 2014.

BEST TEAM I SAW—GIRLS
North Penn not only had the best overall defensive team I saw all year, but they had multiple players who could score. Against Northampton, they were the only team I saw—boys or girls—that had FOUR players score 11 or more points in a game. They also brought in players off the bench that could play with most teams in the state. They have an excellent Head Coach in Mary DeMarteleire and have a ton of talent coming back next year, so I would expect their dominance in the state playoffs to continue for at least the next several years.

BIGGEST SURPRISE—GIRLS
Bethlehem Catholic’s loss to Scranton Prep in the PIAA’s 2nd round. There’s no question that the “upper bracket” of the 3A girls state playoff tournament had some incredibly good teams playing each other before you even got to the state semifinals. Becahi, Scranton Prep, Villa Maria, Archbishop Wood, Abington Heights, West Perry and Holy Redeemer all had legitimate chances go to deep, if not win, the championship—and all of those teams faced off against each other in the first three rounds. The fact that Scranton Prep completely held one of the top players in the state, Kalista Walters, in check for three-and-a-half quarters before fouling out while holding the high-powered Hawks offense (who came in averaging 59 ppg) to 21 points was a major, if not shocking, accomplishment.

Becahi returns nearly everyone for 2015 and should be one of the top teams again in the state a year from now and had an impressive showing in an earlier round game against Bonner-Predergast.

BIGGEST SURPRISE—BOYS
Delaware Valley Charter is also one of the top teams in the state, but I was impressed by how Notre Dame stayed with this team for almost a full half. The Crusaders had some tough shots bounce out that would have kept it closer, but Del Val is just loaded with talent and kept Notre Dame at arms’ length the entire second half. Dashon Giddings, Shahid Adams and CJ Wolfe are all great ball players who look to continue playing at the next level and they were a fun team to watch.

TEAMS TO WATCH FOR 2015
Two teams on the rise this year that will continue to get better next year are Emmaus and Abington. Both teams battled each other in the opening round and have a number of returning underclassmen, and should be back in states a year from now.

THE “TROJAN TAKEOVER”
Both the Parkland boys’ and girls’ basketball teams won the 4A District XI final and entered the state playoffs as #1 seeds (they’re one of only six schools to accomplish this in the same season since 1985). Both the boys’ and girls’ teams will be guests on this Thursday’s “RCN SportsTalk” show live at 6pm to talk about their successes in the state playoffs. To tease the appetites of the “Trojan Takeover” fans in the meantime, here’s some of Parkland’s highlights in the PIAAs.

Which teams do you think were the best in the state this season? Which players stuck out in your mind and which teams will be back for the 2015 state tourney? Post your comments below or email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and join us this Thursday as we read and respond to your questions and comments on our final “winter sports” show of 2014.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: State Basketball Preview 2014

The Pennsylvania state basketball playoffs will be commencing this weekend. It’s an exciting time of year—no more safety nets, as it’s a single-elimination tournament and the most talented players in the state might have their season, if not their scholastic careers, come to an end on a given night. We’re going to be broadcasting a number of exciting PIAA playoff games over the next few weeks and it’s going to be fun seeing the top players and teams across the state on RCN-TV.

We’re coming off of a thrilling District XI playoffs season in our RCN viewing area. In preparation for the state games, here are notes and video highlights of some of the teams we’ve had the pleasure of seeing over the last few weeks in postseason action.

PARKLAND (girls and boys teams)
Both teams are playing their best brand of basketball of the season as they head into the PIAAs. The boys team is incredibly deep and have been getting solid performances from all their starters, but what makes them even more dangerous are the players coming off the bench contributing without missing a beat. They pretty much dismantled all their opponents in the district playoffs and made this year’s district championship look easy.

Parkland has momentum and really has not shown any glaring weaknesses, save a slow first-half stretch to Stroudsburg in the semifinal game (the Mountaineers also got a gritty performance from Jacob Battle in the consolation game, which hopefully will propel them to a few wins in states).

The Parkland girls team also has a multitude of talent among both their starters and role players. Olivia Brown led her team in the girls district championship with a great all-around game and a clutch basket down the stretch run.

Erin Bross, Erica Bross, Aubrey Beidelman, Sarash Stagaard and Kristen McCarty are all solid ball handlers who can shoot, and the Trojans have a strong inside presence anchored by Brynne Brouse, Nadine Ewald and Brooke Robertson. They have a very formidable opponent in Central Bucks East, a team known this year for a stifling defense (allowing just 33 ppg) and an offense led by a double-double threat, Courtney Webster.

CENTRAL CATHOLIC (boys and girls)
The Vikettes battled state championship contender Bethlehem Catholic, but lost for a third time to the Hawks in the District XI Final. However, I was very impressed by the efforts of Olivia Roseman, Ashley Bross, Alyssa Mack and Emma Redding in their last two meetings with the Hawks, and they all made big plays again keeping the district title game close. They draw a tough opening round opponent in Abington Heights, a squad RCN SportsTalk guest Dave Troxell labeled a tremendous team on last week’s show. However, they have played—and defeated—a number of teams still alive in the state playoffs. They have solid balance and show great ball handling ability, and I see no reason why they can’t advance at least a couple rounds in states.

The boys team continues to dominate. Everyone knew they were going to be a great team this year, but to have the focus, night-in and night-out and be as solid a team throughout an entire season (they still haven’t lost a game all year) is truly a remarkable accomplishment. In addition to being outstanding athletes, the tandem of Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Jean Lee Baez has guided a steady ship with no noticeable blemishes, on or off the court, this season. We debated on SportsTalk last month (the show is available on RCN On-Demand) about their state title chances, and I’ll stick with my prediction that, at worst, they reach the state quarterfinals.

EMMAUS (Boys)
I finally got a chance to see Emmaus in person last week, and I was tremendously impressed with their win over Liberty. I knew Nate Feirertag was a great all-around player who plays with as much heart as anyone in our coverage area. Fellow senior forward Joe Nicolini stepped up big time with 19 points (17 in the 2nd half) for the Hornets to advance to the district championship.

This team has lots of talent on the way up and should be vying for state playoff spots for the next several seasons. I know Emmaus fans were disappointed by their loss to Parkland in the district final, and face a tough matchup in District I power Abington, a team loaded with size, speed and several players looking to play at the quality college programs. But Emmaus has bounced back from a tough loss on more than one occasion this year and I would expect a hard fought game this weekend.

NORTHAMPTON (Girls)
The K-Kids shook off a tough loss to Parkland in the semifinals to beat a quality Pleasant Valley team and earn a state playoff bid.

Leandra Sterner is quietly having one of the top all-around performances of the entire high school sports year. Coming off an historic performance on the soccer field this fall, she currently leads the team in points per game, assists and steals. Ali Reppert has a smooth-looking jump shot and Aja Blount might become the best center in the area in the very near future. I think they have a favorable matchup facing Wallenpaupack this weekend and see no reason why the Kids can’t advance into the next round.

NOTRE DAME (Boys)
If you like “shoot-out” games, you would have loved the performances of Tannor Reed, Vicent Eze and the Notre Dame boys team in their District XI 2A Boys Championship.

I think the Crusaders will be the first to admit that their defense needs to play better to defeat Delaware Valley Charter this weekend, but their game might be the most entertaining of all the contests on RCN Saturday night. The Crusaders play extremely well as a team, have a balanced attack and come in with plenty of momentum (they’ve won 13 consecutive games). Tuning in just to see Reed shoot should be worth your time and Eze has improved all facets of his game (he’s averaging 14 points, 17 rebounds and 5 blocks per game), including his ability to score when given the ball outside the paint.

BETHLEHEM CATHOLIC (Girls)
The reigning LVC and District XI 3A Champs will be our guests on RCN SportsTalk this Thursday (live at 6pm), so you can tune in for in-depth conversations with their coaches and players. We’ll also showcase some of their awesome highlights so far this season, and get their expectations on the state playoffs. You can also email us comments and questions to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and we’ll read and respond to your opinions live on the air!

Be sure to check back for more highlights and notes on the teams playing in this year’s state playoffs. Also, feel free to email us or post your feelings about the schools competing for titles this winter.

 

The Real March Madness – Behind the Mic – March 18th

The brackets are out!! Everyone starts the week with high expectations to be the best in their various investments into the various pools (for amusement only, of course). I have been invited to participate in nine and the list could still grow. After all, it’s only Monday. So I have started my research and I have come to the conclusion that research will most likely do me absolutely no good.

This was probably the most unpredictable college basketball season in recent history. First of all, a tell-tale sign that this is the “Year of the Whaaatt?” is that the defending national champions, the Kentucky Wildcats, are not even invited. Add to that, there were six teams that were #1 at some point during the season. So if you think you are knowledgeable about college hoops this year, you are probably going to be a loser. This will be the year of the upsets. If there was ever a time to actually get your wife, girlfriend, nerdy husband, or boyfriend involved in your selections, this is the year. If you happen to go that route, prepare yourself for the “I like their colors”, “Their nickname is cute”, “What state are they from?”, “I like teams that begin with B”, etc. I know for those of us who are purists, this kind of babble can make one wretch. But, mark my words; this year might be that year! You can wretch now while making your picks or wretch later when you are tearing up the sheets with your picks on them.

The #1’s are Louisville, Kansas, Indiana, and Gonzaga. My basketball brain tells me to go with Louisville. They are the hottest team right now, just won the Big East tournament, and seem to be in a very favorable bracket. So, should you pick them to win it all? Don’t do it!! Too obvious. This should not be the year to pick the favorite.

Of the #1’s, I kind of like Gonzaga. Their schedule made them a mystery team, but I find it fun to root for them in the post-season. The #2’s look strong – Duke, Miami, Ohio State, and Georgetown. But, can one of them go all the way? Flip a coin, throw a dart!

So, who do I like?

Midwest – Memphis as a sleeper, but I pick Louisville.

West – Still like Gonzaga; don’t like Ohio State; New Mexico has a shot.

South – Michigan led by Trey Burke; Georgetown, maybe.

East – Bucknell!! (Just seeing if you are still with me). It should be Indiana, but don’t count out Miami.

Do I have to pick a national champion? Wait until I call my wife.


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I am beginning to get the sense that teams that know they are in the tournament don’t care much anymore about their conference championships. Plenty of #1 seeds did not make the tournament finals.
  2. I mentioned Bucknell, the Patriot League champion, up top, but how do I think they will really do? Mike Muscala is the best offensive and defensive player in the League. If he gets backcourt help, they can shock Butler. However, Butler already has beaten Indiana and Gonzaga. This is a very tough draw for the Bison.
  3. 40 years ago, Allentown Central Catholic became the first parochial state champions in the PIAA. They beat four undefeated teams in their last five games. It is really strange this year not seeing them in the state playoffs.
  4. As I write this, the Bethlehem Catholic Golden Hawks are the last Lehigh Valley team alive in the state playoffs. To me, they look like a state champion. They have size, speed, intensity, and, most importantly, talent. Go Hawks!!

PS – Don’t bother me until after April 6. I will be checking my NCAA pool! I want to see how my wife did.

March Madness – Behind the Mic

It’s March. If you are a college basketball fan, you know this is the week when many of the conference championships will be decided and the automatic NCAA bids are assigned. Then, every fan waits to see if their team will be part of the 64 that get in. Let the “madness” begin.

For me, however, March Madness has already begun. The high school “madness” began this past weekend, not with 64 teams in the state of Pennsylvania, but 256 teams. Pennsylvania has 4 classifications in both the boys’ and girls’ brackets – AAAA, AAA, AA, and A. Your classification is determined by the gender population in your school – the larger the school, the more A’s.

On Friday and Saturday of last week, we had 12 teams enter the state playoffs from our local viewing audience. We chose to do 8 games in the two days, based on the teams and the logistics of the games. Friday night, there were two venues, each with a doubleheader and Saturday, one venue with a quadruple header. This meant that ~60 workers would be needed to staff the games, along with 4 announcers. The crew set up at Freedom High School and Nazareth High School on Friday night and tore down after the games. They then met on Saturday to set up again at Allen High School and tear down again that night. This is a process that goes on 4 nights a week during the entire regular season. Trust me, these “behind-the-scenes-people” work very hard. They are the heart and soul of every production.

My work begins days before the actual games. This past weekend, I split the games with the other announcing crew and we each scheduled four. The process works like this for a Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday schedule:

  • Monday: I will contact all the schools and let them know our intention to televise their game. The local schools know the drill. For the schools out of the area, I will ask for the following: the coach’s contact information; a roster; a starting lineup; season statistics; background information on the coach, the school, and the players. I also ask for any “human interest” stories they may want to share. Usually, I can begin to prepare the local teams as the out-of-area information trickles in. I, inevitably, will have to put out reminders to the schools to send the information I had already requested.
  • Tuesday: I will compile everything I have gotten and organize it so the information is quickly available to me for the broadcast. This means transferring the roster, stats, details, background, etc. on to my scoring sheets. I will share all that I have been able to gather with my color analyst. Depending on the site, I will leave in the afternoon in order to get to the gym 2 hours prior to tip-off. I will do the game or games.
  • Wednesday: Contact all the Tuesday winners’ schools who will now play on Friday and repeat what I did on Monday. I will, also, repeat everything done on Tuesday for Wednesday’s games. Now, it’s off to the venue. Do the game or games.
  • Thursday, Friday, and Saturday: Repeat Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
  • And Sunday: Contact the schools again for next week.

That’s my “March Madness”. It’s intense, it’s stressful, at times, and it is the best time of the year!!


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Speaking of March Madness, Dick Vitale, the voice of college basketball for 34 years, will work his FIRST NCAA semifinal and championship game this year. By the way, he is 73 years old. ESPN just told him he has “a job for life”. He added, “I am never going to retire.”
  2. The Patriot League champion, crowned on March 13, gets an automatic bid to the “dance”. The League certainly earned credibility for that bid last year when Lehigh beat Duke in the first round. Can either Lafayette or Bucknell send a similar shock through college basketball’s elitists?
  3. I don’t know about you, but losing an hour’s sleep seems to have a much greater effect on my life than gaining an hour. Perhaps, this year, it had something to do with watching Lafayette-Lehigh on TiVo until 3:15 (DST) in the morning.
  4. Tiger Woods won this week because he putted so well. Steve Stricker finished second because he gave Tiger a putting lesson this week that caused Tiger to putt so well! Woods won $1.5 million and Stricker won $880,000! Sportsmanship or stupidity??
  5. I shined the clubs and cleaned out the bag. Now, it’s all about finding the time.

Behind the Mic – December 12th

I know this blog is called “Behind the Mike”, but this week it would be better titled, “Behind The Computer”.  I thought you might be interested in how news and sports people find some of the stories that they report.  You probably often wonder how a reporter went out and found some of the unique stories and people that make up their columns, their TV reports, their radio interviews.  Well, many times, those stories just come to them.

Each week, I am offered some “wonderful opportunity” (their words, not mine) to interview a person on a variety of subjects.  Since I am basically a play-by-play broadcaster and our local programming is limited in scope, those anonymous press agents are seeking out the wrong person.  However, I always find their proposals quite interesting.  Let me share the last ten I have gotten and, by the way, these have come in just this past week.  The comments in parentheses are mine:

  1. Undercover Agent’s Life Made into a Movie  (I have seen this movie many times)
  2. College Basketball Returns  (I never thought it wouldn’t)
  3. Freshman Wins Heisman  (This would be the same person who wanted to discuss the return of college basketball – see #2.  Like me, he, also, reads the paper and watches TV)
  4. A Legend’s Journey – The Life of Jake “The Snake” Roberts – Former Professional Wrestler   (Is “The Snake” really a legend?)
  5. Top 12 Amusement Parks for the Holidays   (I would rather know how to afford them)
  6. Life Threatening Results of Concussions   (I already knew head injuries could be dangerous).
  7. Thuzio – The Ultimate Fan Experience – With Tiki Barber   (Play flag football with a football player; have dinner with an NFL player, etc. – Doesn’t this sound like it would be very, very expensive?)
  8. Sports From a Woman’s Perspective   (I get this message from my wife EVERY weekend!)
  9. New Year’s Revolution – What You Were Born To Do   (So this person was born to tell others what they were born for?  Huh?)
  10. Non-surgical Facelift Uses Sound, Not Scalpel, To Help Smooth Away the Years… in Minutes   (My personal favorite)

So, in conclusion, #10 is my favorite.  I think, before I entertain the idea of having this person on my show, I will hold an iPod up to my face for a week.  I wish I knew what sound works the best.

Let me get back to you on this one!!


 

 ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Our local football teams were all eliminated from the state playoffs by the Philadelphia Catholic schools.  This has been happening with very few exceptions every year since the Catholic schools became part of the PIAA.  The big difference seems to be the linemen.  We need to get bigger and stronger to compete.
  2. Would it be wrong if Penn State played Ohio State in a Bowl game and the money would go to charity?
  3. It sure looks like there will be a Manny Pacquiao-Juan Marquez #5 after Pacquiao was knocked out cold this past weekend.  Just let these two fight every six months.  By the way, the replay is on HBO this Saturday.
  4. The Phillies, with this week’s trades, seem quite serious about contending again.  The deals look very good right now (but it is December).
  5. Got this offer this week -Jan. 7–BCS National Championship Bowl (Notre Dame-Alabama). Tickets start at $1,450.00. I also have a 20 Person Suite!  Interested??

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK
(Last week- 9-7)  (73-43 for the season – 63%)

  • CINCINNATI
  • GREEN BAY
  • GIANTS
  • NEW ORLEANS
  • ST. LOUIS
  • WASHINGTON
  • MIAMI
  • DENVER
  • HOUSTON
  • SAN DIEGO
  • SEATTLE
  • DETROIT
  • DALLAS
  • OAKLAND
  • NEW ENGLAND
  • JETS