Behind the Mic: “Scott’s Super Scheduler”

This week’s “Behind the Mic” blog is written by long time RCN personality Scott Barr. He has covered a wide range of sports, including kick boxing, track and field, lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, football, and baseball. Most of our viewers, of course, will know him for his work with District XI wrestling. Fans across the valley have heard him call “Give him six!” after a pin, while working with three legends of Lehigh Valley sports—Gary Laubach, Ray Nunamaker, and Jim Best. Outside of RCN, Scott helps small businesses set up retirement plans for their employees, and lives in Macungie with his wife, Melissa, and their four children.
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There can be no doubt, if there ever was, that the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference is the nation’s toughest wrestling league.   In the coal-stoked furnace that is PA High School wrestling, our own little geography is feared from here to the banks of the Youghiogheny River.  Our wrestlers are tough, talented, and fierce.  Our teams are packed with blue chippers who always win, and peppered with scrappers who always fight.  The dual meet season, outsiders must think, is a complete meat grinder of one terrific matchup after another.

But it’s not.

The past two seasons have “featured” long drives on school nights to see horrible mismatches, and a near complete absence of headline matchups between elite programs.  Packed gymnasiums, once a hallmark across District XI, have become an endangered species.  Saturday night marquee events were an excuse for all-day, armchair coaching by devout fans.  These, too, have nearly disappeared.

It’s hard to find any supporters of the newly aligned schedule of dual meets.  In private, coaches, wrestlers, and even referees have complained about the lack of intensity, the absence of close dual meets, and driving “up north” for a 72-0 dual meet punctuated by five or more forfeits.  Fans also complain, but not privately.  I hear, often, that the current offering is “killing wrestling”.  That’s an exaggeration, but it’s definitely not helping, either.

Selfishly, I want to broadcast two great dual meets every week.  Unfortunately, the past two years, I’ve only pointed to one or two great matchups in our entire broadcast season.  RCN is committed to bringing you the best that high school wrestling has to offer, but none of us wants to show a blowout.  Several times, I’ve said, “There has to be something better,” on a particular night.  Usually, there is not.

The good news is that a correction is pretty simple.  The alignment of the conference would have to change, but this would receive almost no resistance.  The coaches want it, and so do the fans.  So here is my off-season gift to you:  Scott’s Super Scheduler

  1. Division Rohrbach—Named for the first four-time champion in DXI history, Russ RohrbachBeca, Northampton, Parkland, Nazareth, Liberty, and Easton
  2. Division Oliver—Named for @that_dude_JO, Jordan Oliver: Freedom, Emmaus, Whitehall, Stroudsburg, ES South, and Pleasant Valley
  3. Division Nunamaker—For Nunny: Dieruff, PM West, ES North, PM East, Allen, and Central Catholic

Wrestle five dual meets within your division, plus anyone else you want.  At the end of the year, the last- place team from Rohrbach drops down to Oliver, and the top Oliver team moves up to Rohrbach.  Same between Oliver and Nunamaker.  This keeps the divisions aligned by strength, which is what we all want to see.

This gives us, without exception, the most competitive dual meets we can have, every single year, every single week.  If you want to have an EPC Championship day, with the #1 and #2 from each division, that’s fantastic.

Nobody wins when we have the need for a long caravan of parents driving to Swiftwater, PA to watch their son receive a forfeit, and getting home after 11:00 p.m.  My schedule fixes that.

Teams don’t chew up “points” on their schedule for mismatches that don’t even qualify as a decent workout.  We aren’t paying officials for 30 minutes of hand-raising.  We aren’t wasting money on staff for gymnasiums that are devoid of fans.

It works, and it’s simple.  It doesn’t cure everything, but it’s on the right track.  My final fix is to get us down to 10 or 11 weight classes.  Next time Laubach gives up his blog, I’ll let you in on that one. . .

 

Behind the Mic: Olympic Wrestling


Today’s “Behind the Mic” blog is written by long time RCN personality Scott Barr. Scott’s on-air career began in 1984 with the District XI Girl’s Tennis Championship, won by Monica Yurkonic. Since that debut, he has covered a wide range of sports, including kick boxing, track and field, lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, football, and baseball. Most of our viewers, of course, will know him for his work with District XI wrestling. The 2012-13 season was Scott’s 29th season covering “the nation’s best high school wrestling.” Fans across the valley have heard him call “Give him six!” after a pin, while working with three legends of Lehigh Valley sports—Gary Laubach, Ray Nunamaker, and Jim Best. Outside of RCN, Scott helps small businesses set up retirement plans for their employees, and lives in Macungie with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, ages 6 to 22!


 

Quick—without Google—name the five events in the Olympic Modern Pentathlon.

It’s a sport that may continue to be included in the 2020 version of this worldwide festival of competition. As you know by now, wrestling will not. There is plenty of finger-pointing, from FILA to the IOC, but the bottom line is that this decision is heinous, and reeks of politics.

The IOC stated, in their own report:

“The board voted after reviewing a report by the IOC program commission report that analyzed 39 criteria, including television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity. With no official rankings or recommendations contained in the report, the final decision by the 15-member board was also subject to political, emotional and sentimental factors.”

Allow me to interpret—they gathered the facts, but didn’t really use them. They had important numbers available, but made this decision based on “emotion and sentiment”. Does anyone else smell corruption? Maybe I’ve been listening too much to Glenn Beck.

Wrestling, as an Olympic sport, dates to 1896, and is responsible for some of the great Olympic memories. Local fans, of course, will remember Bobby Weaver running around the arena with his 8 month old son, celebrating his gold medal in 1984. I still get choked up watching that one. Some may recall Wilfred Dietrich’s amazing suplex of the 500 pound Chris Taylor in 1972—find it on YouTube—it is the most spectacular throw in wrestling history. Other moments, American and otherwise, are equally memorable. To remove this sport is a travesty.

Further, it’s not hard to imagine that the elimination of Olympic wrestling would cause a death spiral to the sport overall. Title IX has already damaged our sport dramatically, and the IOC decision could well finish it off. Since 1972, 669 colleges and universities have dropped their programs. Of the 79 Division I programs that remain, how many would fold if Olympic dreams were suddenly torn away? Once that happens, the high school programs can’t be far behind.

There are those who say that the sport is tough to watch, difficult to understand, and doesn’t translate well to television. For the casual viewer, clearly, these are valid. My response is equally clear—hogwash. All of these arguments can be made for dressage, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized diving, and other events that seem to be safe from Olympic cuts. That’s right—dressage—an event where, as near as I can tell, is best described as “horse dancing”.

The final vote has yet to be cast on this decision, as this will happen in September of this year. I do not have a good feeling about it. The IOC, above all, is a political group, and their intent is clear. Dan Gable, the great American champion, is hoping that a petition with 2,020,000 signatures can sway their opinion. I hope he is right. Gable is not a man accustomed to losing, but the battle of FILA vs IOC is lightweight vs super heavyweight.

I would love to tell you “here’s what we need to do” in order to save this sport. I truly fear that the die has been cast. FILA has changed leadership, and is campaigning with urgency, but it may be far too little, and smells of desperation. Certainly, the IOC is used to outrage, and expects a good amount in the face of this decision. Dan Gable is a competent ambassador, and a passionate leader. If a miracle is needed, he may be the only one capable of delivering.

By the way — the modern pentathlon? Pistol shooting, 200 meter freestyle swimming, horse show jumping, fencing, and cross-country running. A cool event, really, but unless you are from a formerly Communist-block country, you don’t care. In 2005, the IOC affirmed its place in the competition, but will vote again in September of this year. Somebody’s out.

The SportsTalk Shop – January 15th

First of all, I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday season.  There were certainly lots of things—sports related or not—going on in the Eastern Pennsylvania area over the holidays.  Among the surprises were some very impressive high school boys & girls basketball wins—and upsets—between Christmas & New Year’s Day.

 With the new calendar year, it’s customary to make “New Year’s” resolution. I usually try to make—and stick to—a few of them each year.  Among them, related to “RCN SportsTalk” are the following goals I have set for myself as the producer of the program:

1.    To be a little more diverse in the planning/scheduling of each “SportsTalk” show as we get deeper into the winter sports season. 

In the past, we would do shows during the winter sports season that were completely Basketball or Wrestling or even Super Bowl related.  I have had people come up to me at a basketball playoff game and ask “who’s going to be on the show this Thursday?”  When I answer with names not normally associated with basketball, the viewer might say something like, “well, maybe I’ll catch the show next week” or “well, I’ll give your trivia giveaway game a look, but I’m not really into listening about wrestling.”  I’m sure there’s grappling fans that feel the same way about HS hoops.  Therefore, as I plan some of the later shows for the winter season (closer to playoff time) I’m going to try to include guests that have backgrounds in several different areas. We can go in several different directions on some of our shows over the next few weeks—especially when it gets to post-season time. This makes the show much more difficult for the host to prepare and to moderate, but no one cares about that guy, right?

2.    To consistently have a trivia contest winner

In December, we had a record number of people guessing for our prize giveaways—yet didn’t have a winner during a few of our December shows.  It certainly makes for a more entertaining program when lots of people make educated guesses and we allwait the whole show to see what the correct answer is. However, I have to try to mix things up a bit more so that we don’t have too many people out in the cold (figuratively speaking, of course) when it comes to giving away an RCN On Demand certificate to watch the latest movie releases.

3.    Discuss some different sports here in the month of January

Before we get to the winter sports post-season I’m looking to change things up a bit.  Among our theme shows & things to watch for this month include:

+   Central Catholic Football Team (the last team standing in the Lehigh Valley)

+   HS Wrestling Head Coaches

+   Basketball Coaches/Teams

+   Local Media/Winter Sports Updates

+   More Giveaways & Local/National sports conversations

As always, I’m always looking for your suggestions & opinions on what we should do on our “RCN SportsTalk” show every Thursday live at 6pm so feel free to email me at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com with your thoughts and ideas for shows during the winter sports season.

Finally, I want to take a moment to thank all the ‘well-wishers’ for the Christmas cards and nice comments to Joe Craig & me about the program.  We are very glad we have made the show entertaining & informative for you.  My favorite was the card with Joe’s & my images digitally edited to wear “Santa” hats. We had it on display during on our Year-In-Review episode – feel free to check that episode out on RCN On Demand!