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: …Had a Great Fall

Tiger Woods played at the Memorial this past weekend.  He just made the cut on the very last hole.  This was a man who did not miss a cut for seven years!  On Saturday, he shot the worst score of his competitive career, an 85!  He hit seven fairways, nine greens in regulation, hit four balls into the water, and missed three putts inside of five feet.  Zac Blair (who?) played with Tiger on Saturday and beat him by 15 shots!

And, perhaps, that was not the most embarrassing part of the weekend for Tiger.  Because there were an odd number of players who made the cut, Tiger played the final round as the first one out for the day and he had to play by himself!!  He shot a 74 and finished in last place.  I know there are “Tiger-haters” out there and they are probably happy to see him fail.  I, for one, thought that this was a sad moment for one of the greatest ever in his profession.

This got me to thinking about some of the great “falls” in professional sports.

Pete Rose
I just loved watching the way he played the game of baseball.  He just exuded energy and enthusiasm for the game, became the career hits leader, and was destined for the Hall of Fame.  And then, there was the betting scandal, tax evasion, and imprisonment.  And still no Hall of Fame.

Lenny Dykstra
All his problems began after his baseball career – there was bankruptcy, concealing baseball gloves and other souvenirs that were supposed to be part of the bankruptcy, imprisonment, grand theft auto, and filing a false financial statement.  He was never able to “hustle” his way to success after baseball.

Lance Armstrong
He won the Tour de France seven times.  He beat cancer.  He was an American icon.  Turns out, he was a cheater who finally admitted to doping.

Marion Jones
She won five medals in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and an NCAA basketball championship at North Carolina, but she used performance-enhancing drugs.  She spent six months in jail for lying to a grand jury.

Michael Vick
Football was not enough competition for him.  He decided to finance a dog fighting group.  That turned out to be a serious crime and a public relations nightmare.  He, too, went to prison.

These are just a few of the great falls from grace.  There are plenty of others – baseball’s Ryan Braun, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, remember Tonya Harding, Oscar Pistorius, etc.

After thinking about these infamous athletes, I come away thinking Tiger’s problems with the “sticks” are not so bad.  Let’s hope that he thrills us a few more times in his career.

When I have a bad round of golf, I always use the excuse that “I’m working on things.”  At least, Tiger can continue to “work on things”.  You can’t say that for the others.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. As everyone knows, American Pharoah broke the 37-year Triple Crown jinx by winning the Belmont Stakes. The race took two minutes and 26 seconds.  The broadcast took two hours and 45 minutes!  NBC did an outstanding job with all the back stories, the atmosphere, and the actual race.  Jockey Victor Espinoza became extremely likable as the story unfolded and I’m sure was forgiven for his expletive right after winning.  Great story!
  2. Since this blog talks about the demise of some of the greatest athletes, how about the amazing success of Serena Williams. She won the French Open even though she was not physically at full strength.  This was her 20th Grand Slam singles victory of her career.  She, arguably, is the best women’s player ever.
  3. For the first time in NBA history, the first two games in the finals went overtime. Two great teams with great players.  I actually watched both and was thoroughly entertained and awed by the talent.  And both teams played defense!
  4. On Saturday night, the NHL playoffs continued and Tampa beat Chicago 4-3 to even that series at 1-1. There was an allowed goal that should not have been, a goaltender who left the game twice, a rookie goaltender who had five saves on five shots, and hockey at its best.
  5. The RCN-TV crew will be heading to Penn State and Labrano Park for the PIAA state baseball championships to be played on Friday. The broadcasts will be LIVE on PCN beginning at 10:00 AM.

 

 

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: Zander Hollander

If you can imagine a time before ESPN, the NFL Network, the MLB Network, the NHL Network, CBS March Madness, etc, etc., then you might know the name Zander Hollander. Before college football and basketball came into your living room on pretty much a daily basis and before there were television channels singularly devoted to professional hockey, baseball, and soccer, there was Zander Hollander. Many of you probably do not know the name. He was called “the official king of sports paperbacks” by Sports Illustrated in the 1960’s. That was my era for childhood sports development. I knew Zander Hollander and I knew his work. He died on April 11 of Alzheimer’s disease.

Zander Hollander wrote approximately 274 books, many with “The Complete Handbook of …” as the beginning of the title and ending with a particular sport in a particular year. Amazon.com lists 23 pages of his book titles in a very large price range with some carrying a $1,000 price tag. Hollander would focus on a given sport in a given year, listing statistics, records, team rosters, and even making predictions for that year. He was extremely prolific, publishing a book almost every three months or so.

Even though he specialized in the “Big Four” of national interest sports, he also wrote or co-wrote The American Encyclopedia of Soccer, Bud Collins’ Tennis Encyclopedia, Lake Placid 1980: The Complete Handbook of the Olympic Winter Games, a tome on Madison Square Garden, and more and more.

I could ill-afford to buy the Hollander books, but luckily, our high school library did have many of them. I was introduced to them while teaching in high school and would use the information often when broadcasting a sport like soccer about which I knew very little. The books would offer up rules, how a game was played, the position responsibilities, stories and anecdotes. The Hollander books also allowed me to keep track of my favorite players and teams, and, more importantly, would settle plenty of arguments or, even better, create some.

I have such fond memories of the detail, the numbers, the tidbits and the trivia that was found in the writings of Zander Hollander. I also find it quite ironic and quite sad that the man who supplied so many memories for sports fans for decades was stricken by a disease that took those memories from him and hid them away somewhere in his brain. Although it strikes me that present-day technology has diminished the joy and the importance of the works of Zander Hollander. There is also something very ironic and very sad about that.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. Actual baseball attendance seems to really be suffering early this season. Is it the weather, the price of tickets and concessions; is it the attention span of the youth of today; is it the competition of other sports; is it all of the above? Something to chew on, though, is that the Baseball Almanac says that baseball attendance is statistically up based on tickets sold, but down based on how many fans really come to the games. Why are there so many fans who can afford to NOT go to the games?

2. I watched the LPGA Lotte Championship late Saturday night (I know, get a life!) as much because of the beautiful Hawaiian scenery as my interest in seeing if Michelle Wie could win a championship. When she first came on the scene, she was supposed to be the female Tiger Woods. That certainly never materialized, but boy did she play well on Saturday, shooting five under par and winning by two strokes. It was only Wie’s third tournament win and her first on US soil. She is 24 and has plenty of time to still be a dominant force in women’s golf. If she plays like she did this past weekend, she will be.

3. The NFL Draft is on May 8. Quarterbacks Blake Bortles (Central Florida),Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) will all go early (top 5?). The Eagles will probably take a defensive secondary player (much needed).

4. Between the Easter dinner and the Easter dessert this past Sunday and, thanks to TiVo, my family watched the Flyers beat the Rangers in Game Two of the NHL playoffs. To me, hockey is a great television sport and NBC and NBCSN are starting to reap the rewards of higher television ratings. They really do hockey well and deserve the rising success.

5. For both your sake and mine, this blog will be manned by guest writers for the next three weeks. Randy Kane of Grandview fame will offer up his thoughts next week, followed by fitness guru Scott Barr, and then onto a very opinionated John Leone. Enjoy!

 

Behind the Mic: Top Searches of the Year

 

BEHIND THE MIC:  Top Searches of the Year

Within the past week, Yahoo released its lists for 2013: Top-Searched Teams; Top-Searched Athletes; Top-Searched Girlfriends. Let’s take a look (not at the girlfriends – I’ll leave that up to you).

Top-Searched Sports Teams on Yahoo in 2013:
1. Dallas Cowboys
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Green Bay Packers
4. Los Angeles Lakers
5. Detroit Tigers
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
8. New York Yankees
9. Denver Broncos
10. Milwaukee Bucks

What’s wrong with these people? The Steelers appear to be the most popular team in Pennsylvania. Where are the Eagles, the Phillies, and the Flyers? In fact, where is any hockey team? And why Dallas – are they still really “America’s team” despite their recent failings? The Yankees at #8 is a surprise to me. Aren’t they loved AND hated enough to be higher? And to be beaten out by three spots to the Detroit Tigers and four spots by the Dodgers! Is the temperature dropping in Hades? The Milwaukee Bucks over the Miami Heat – what’s up with that?

Maybe I can make more sense out of the Athletes searched this past year:

Top-Searched Athletes on Yahoo 2013:
1. Tim Tebow
2. Tiger Woods
3. Danica Patrick
4. Lindsey Vonn
5. Ronda Rousey
6. Lamar Odom
7. Tito Ortiz
8. Serena Williams
9. Maria Sharapova
10. Gina Carano

What? Obviously, I cannot make more sense out of this list, either. Tim Tebow has an offer to play football in Italy, but he can’t make a team in America. He’s #1?? Wouldn’t it have been nice to put Lindsey Vonn and Tiger Woods next to each other? They are a couple, you know, and I don’t like seeing Danica Patrick come between them. Lamar Odom – seriously – his personal life and Kardashian connection create interest – his 2013 athletic achievements – not so much? Serena and Maria: I would not have guessed that women’s professional tennis would create such interest. Perhaps, it’s not the tennis.

I had to look up Ronda Rousey, Tito Ortiz, and Gina Carano. Who are they? It turns out that they are all associated with the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). And by looking them up, I have added to their popularity. Go figure.

And to satisfy your curiosity, the top-searched athletes’ girlfriends on the list are:

Top-Searched Girlfriends on Yahoo in 2013:
1. Tim Tebow’s girlfriend
2. Tiger Woods’ girlfriend
3. A J Mccarron’s girlfriend
4. Colin Kaepernick’s girlfriend
5. Johnny Manziel’s girlfriend

It appears that the road to finding that special someone is to be a quarterback or the world’s best golfer. Glad I could help!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
1. The Sunday snow sure made for some interesting NFL watching. The Eagles game was just plain fun to watch. It could foreshadow the possible weather conditions for this year’s Super Bowl. Is that a good thing?

2. Did you take notice that of the eight teams that will vie for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state football championships in four classes, six are private schools and just two are public schools. Eventually, there will be an outcry from the public school sector.

3. It looks like Auburn vs. Florida State for the NCAA BCS National Football Championship. It should be a high-scoring, entertaining game.

4. The scene: Golf’s World Challenge: Par 4 – Final Hole – $1,000,000 prize – tied for the lead with Tiger Woods. That’s what faced Zach Johnson on the 18th hole on Sunday. He hit his second shot in the water. Tournament over? Not so fast – put the ball in the drop area – one stroke penalty – and hit the fourth shot 58 yards in the hole – easy par! Tie Tiger. Beat Tiger in the playoff. Have a nice day.

5. Nelson Mandela was rarely mentioned in a sports story. In his autobiography there is no mention of sports, but no event in South Africa symbolized what he spent his life fighting for than the rugby World Cup in 1995. South Africa won and, as president of the country, he embraced the blond captain of the traditionally white team, and symbolized his desire to unite the country and put an end to apartheid. It’s all there in the movie Invictus.

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK
(Last week – 11-5) (131-76-1 overall – 63%)

DENVER
JACKSONVILLE
INDIANAPOLIS
PHILADELPHIA
SAN FRANCISCO
CAROLINA
GREEN BAY
TENNESSEE
CHICAGO
PATRIOTS
SEATTLE
ATLANTA
KANSAS CITY
NEW ORLEANS
CINCINNATI

 

 

Behind the Mic: What Were They Possibly Thinking?

I am not dumb enough to think that terrific athletes or sports personalities are necessarily, also, intelligent people. But, all too often these days, there are incidents that force average “Joes” like me to wonder, smart or not, what were they possibly thinking?

Let’s start with Ozzie Guillen who recently managed the Miami Marlins. One of the reasons he was chosen was because he related well to Spanish-speaking citizens in and around Miami. So what does he do? He talks about his respect and admiration for Fidel Castro in a city where many Cubans have fled Cuba because of their hatred for the Cuban leader. What was he possibly thinking?

Dennis Rodman visits the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, who runs death camps and oppresses his people. Rodman said, “He’s a good guy to me. He’s my friend.” Rodman totally disregarded all of the tragic history of the country and the man. Rodman’s statement implies that those who have suffered have earned their suffering. Otherwise this “good guy” would not have done these evil things. Dennis, what were you possibly thinking?

Sergio Garcia, one of the most recognizable members of the PGA tour and loaded with product endorsements, attacks Tiger Woods for an unsportsmanlike incident which turned out to be totally inaccurate. He not only doesn’t retract what he said, but he also doesn’t apologize and further tarnishes his image with a racist comment about serving “fried chicken” if he had Tiger over for dinner. All he had to do was ascertain the facts about the incident and keep his mouth shut. He didn’t do either! Instead of continuing to be a popular golfer, he will lose future endorsements and constantly hear a chorus of boos from the galleries. He goes from good guy to bad guy because of an incorrect interpretation. What was he possibly thinking?

Notre Dame went to College Football’s National Championship game last year with freshman quarterback, Everett Golson. Golson was looking at three more years playing the most glorious position at college football’s most historical football institution and the adulation that comes with THAT territory. All he had to do was just stay in school. However, Everett Golson is no longer enrolled because of “poor academic judgment.” We do not know what he did – cut classes, cheated on tests, had someone take his tests, failed too many courses – the list could go on and on. The bottom line and most obvious question is, “What was he thinking?”

I could certainly give you more examples – NBA’er Andrew Bynum bowling on a bum knee, causing him to now have two bum knees; NBA’er Amare Stoudamire punching a glass fire extinguisher following a loss to Miami; Lance Armstrong’s arrogance in denying his use of illegal substances when he knew he had been caught; etc., etc. I wish I could understand what they were thinking. But, alas, I cannot!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. I have tried to watch the Phillies, but their pitching is bad and the hitting is worse. They are getting to be an old baseball team and it is showing.

2. Heartbreak occurred at the Indianapolis Speedway again for the Andretti family (Mario, Michael, Marco). Marco was right there, kept all the locals in front of the TV, and, once again, fate dealt a stunning blow with a caution flag that cemented defeat and a fourth place finish for Marco. The family says there is no curse; I do not believe in curses; but, if I did, the Andretti history at Indianapolis would certainly qualify as one.

3. Tiger Woods, whose golf schedule is certainly limited, has agreed to play in the Turkish Airlines Open in Europe. Why there, you may wonder. There is a $7 million purse. Still wondering?

4. I needed to prepare for the District XI baseball championships over the holiday weekend. It is very difficult to get information when schools are not in session. I finally got everything I needed Monday night at @ 10:30 (after numerous phone calls to coaches). I worked all day Sunday with what I had. Guess what? The games were rained out on Tuesday and one of the games (already done) was moved and will not be televised. I am not complaining; just a little venting. Thanks for listening.

5. I am hosting Sportstalk next Thursday (June 6) and the panel will be discussing the best 5 high school football players at various positions. Dick Tracy, Dennis Laub and Joe Craig will offer their lists. Join us with your opinions. I am sure there will be many.

Behind the Mic: If Only…

In my very first blog, I warned you that there would be times when I just did not feel like writing about sports. This is one of those times.

After this week’s tragic events in Boston and in West, Texas, it is hard not to think of the people who saw their family members and loved ones go off to watch the Boston Marathon, socialize with friends, or go to work and never return. Tragedy struck, without warning, and without any opportunity to offer any final words. It gave me pause to consider things we all should say or would say if we only knew we would never see some people again:

1. Hopefully, we all would take the time to thank our parents for their discipline, their support, and their love.

2. We would tell our “significant other” how much they have enriched our lives and have made every day better.

3. We would tell our children how proud we are of their accomplishments, but more importantly, how proud we are that they are good people and good citizens.

4. We would inspire our grandchildren to continue to work hard, persevere, and treat people as they would want to be treated.

5. We would offer hearty handshakes and hugs to our siblings.

6. We would find the time to thank teachers and coaches who taught us to push harder to become more than we thought we could.

7. We would thank our employers for finding and matching our talents to their needs.

8. We would tell friends and fellow employees their time spent with us makes our days better.

9. We would show appreciation to those individuals whom we come in contact with on a regular basis, treat us respectfully, serve our needs, and thank us for our patronage and loyalty.

10. We would make amends to those we have slighted, treated poorly, and made to feel badly.

Make this your “bucket list”. Do the best you can to take the time to check off the conversations, the messages, the thoughts and feelings. This past week tells us we do not know how much time we have. Don’t be left thinking, “If only…”


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. LeBron James (NBA), Mario Balotelli (soccer), and Lindsey Vonn (Alpine ski racer) are the three athletes mentioned by Time magazine as 3 of the 100 most influential people in the world. I know 2 of the 3 and spend very little time following any of their sports. However, I liked what I read about them. Zola, an Italian soccer star, wrote about Balotelli. Derek Jeter wrote the piece on LeBron and Danica Patrick wrote about Lindsey Vonn. I know the latter two writers. I have to broaden my horizons.

2. Tiger Woods received a two-stoke penalty during the Masters when a fan called in to say he had broken a rule. The fan was proven to be correct. In a more serious vein, as evidenced this week, with today’s technology, it is hard to get away with anything.

3. The Boston Red Sox are in first place right now in the AL East just ahead of the Yankees. Even a die-hard Yankee fan might not be too upset about that.

4. I will not be blogging the next two weeks, but this space will be in the able fingers of Scott Barr and Randy Kane. Scott will talk about the elimination of wrestling from the Olympics and Randy will look at auto racing. Enjoy!

5. I want to thank Jim Best for being a guest blogger last week. He talked about his trip to the National Wrestling Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. His passion for the sport just oozed out of the computer screen.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury – Behind the Mic – March 25th

I had aspirations to become a lawyer when I was younger. Circumstances interfered with that goal and I certainly have no regrets about the path that life took me. However, I still love reading courtroom dramas, a la John Grisham, and shows like “Boston Legal” and “The Good Wife” have always captured my interest. So, this week I am going to practice law (with no background, other than reading about and watching Perry Mason as a kid).

The background: many of you have probably never heard of Royce White and you most certainly have never rooted for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Royce White was the 16th selection of the 2012 NBA Draft. He was selected by the Houston Rockets and signed a $1.7 million two-year contract. He has not played a game for the Rockets. His only professional basketball has been with the Vipers, the Rockets entry into the NBA Development League.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury:

In defense of Royce White:

Royce White suffers from serious mental illness, an obsessive-compulsive disorder and an anxiety disorder. As a ten-year-old during a basketball practice, he saw his best friend collapse, drool from the mouth, and be rushed to the hospital for cardiac abnormality. His fears began then.

Since that incident, he has had an aversion to conditioning runs. Among other areas of concern, he cannot get on an airplane. Avoiding conditioning exercises and not flying (the Rockets schedule would include 98 flights) have caused much consternation for the NBA Houston Rockets. Mr. White firmly believes that it is the responsibility of the Rockets to accommodate his mental health issues. They signed him to a contract knowing his mental disorder and, therefore, should be at the forefront in helping him accommodate his illness with his ability to play basketball. His claim is that mental illness is no different than a physical ailment that would keep one from playing basketball. He has been willing to take a 68 hour bus ride in order to play two games for the Vipers. He wants to play for the Rockets, but he will not risk his physical and mental health to do so. He, rightfully so, listens to his personal doctor and does not trust the advice offered by the Rockets’ medical personnel. Through cooperation and understanding, it is up to the Rockets to make it work.

In defense of the Rockets:

The Houston Rockets drafted Royce White because he was the only player in the nation to lead his team (Iowa State) in 5 major statistical categories. His talent and his achievements at the NBA Scouting Combine made him a very attractive selection for our organization. The Rockets, also, knew he had endured 20 flights for travel during the season at Iowa State. Houston was made aware, early on in negotiations, that Mr. White would require some special accommodations – a personal bus being one of them so he could avoid flying. We made the accommodations requested and he signed the contract. It was Mr. White who decided that we were not doing enough to handle his anxiety disorder and he became absent from the team. He just stopped coming to work. The Rockets assigned him to the Vipers in order to reintegrate him into the organization. He has now quit the Vipers and returned to Houston for the rest of the season on the advice of HIS physician. The Houston Rockets have done all they can do to accommodate Royce White’s condition. It is up to him to make it work.

Who is right here – Royce White or the Houston Rockets?

You decide and since I defended both, I, happily, cannot lose my first case!


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I find the only way to avoid getting caught up in all the March Madness games is to just not watch. Every time I go to a game, I find myself staying with it until the outcome is decided and checking the scoreboard at the top of the screen to see where I should be focusing my attention. It is addicting, for sure. CBS has really adapted the tournament to the fan – every game in its entirety!
  2. I do have one complaint about the NCAA broadcasts, however. If you are a basketball junkie like me, I just can’t take watching the same commercials over and over again.
  3. Tiger Woods distracted me from basketball at times on Saturday, playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He is starting to look even better than he was before all the problems. Sunday’s round was rained out. Good. No distraction.
  4. My former announcing buddy, Dick Tracy, is hawking hot dogs for Potts’ in Northampton just to keep busy. Last week, when a customer asked what he recommended, he said, with that glint in his eye, “Go to Yocco’s!”.
  5. Passover, Good Friday, and Easter are all this week. Spend some quality time with your family.

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 – January 4th

2013 is upon us, so I thought I would take one last look at the top 10 national sports stories, in my opinion, for 2012:

10.       Tiger Woods wins again, but not very often.

9.         Peyton Manning released by the Colts; he has a great year with the Broncos.

8.         Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Gabby Douglas make the London Olympic Games very special.

7.         Lance Armstrong stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

6.         Replacement refs in the NFL – How did that work out?  They were replaced after Week 3 debacle with Green Bay and Seattle.

5.         Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck become the most exciting rookies to play in the NFL in a long, long time.

4.         Notre Dame ends college football’s regular season #1, undefeated, and becomes a very relevant football program once again.

3.         Lehigh beats Duke in NCAA basketball (enough said).  Kentucky wins championship with freshmen and sophomores.

2.         College football playoffs in the BCS are approved for 2014. Top four teams  will compete.  You just know it will expand in the future.

And the #1 story:

  1. 1.      NCAA imposes on Penn State a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, a reduction of scholarships, imposes a five-year probation, and vacates all wins from 1998-2011.  Overkill?  Joe Paterno dies.         

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1.                  On Sunday night in Washington, do you think there was more interest in the “fiscal cliff” or the Washington-Dallas NFL football game?

2.                  All four Wild Card games this coming weekend look like tossups to me. 

3.                  Having done four high school basketball games before the holiday break, I think this might be a very, very competitive and exciting year.  Although, looking back, I think I say that every year.

4.                  Happy New Year to everyone, but especially to Mike Joseph, John Leone, Tom Stoudt, Scott Barr, and John Bowman!  I spend a great deal of time in the booths and at courtside with those guys and thoroughly enjoy their company each time!

5.                  In 2012, I lost my 97-year-old mother and my 96-year-old father-in-law.  There will be a large void in 2013.

 NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK

(Last week – 12-4 )  (  83-49 for the season – 64% )

HOUSTON

GREEN BAY

 

INDIANAPOLIS

WASHINGTON