Gary Laubach

About Gary Laubach

Gary began his broadcasting career with Twin County in 1972. Twin County eventually became C-TEC and then RCN. Gary holds the dual role of Director of Media Services and Sports Director/Broadcaster. He currently broadcasts about 140 sports and entertainment broadcasts a year, and oversees the scheduling of all sporting events for RCN.

Athletes – Lehigh Valley

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. 

I picked up the paper this morning and read that Sage Karam, former Nazareth wrestler and son of Liberty wrestling coach, Jody Karam, qualified for his sixth Indianapolis 500 race next Sunday.  That is quite an achievement.

Just last week, I was having lunch and in walked Larry Holmes.  Larry Holmes lived and grew up in Easton and became the heavyweight champion of the world.  He never left the area, invested money here, and has always been a good example of what hard work and perseverance can accomplish.

Current conversation about great local athletes now centers on Saquon Barkley, not only as a football player for the New York Giants, but also as an ambassador for the best qualities in a person.  Just this past week, he returned home to the Whitehall area, made a number of appearances and was patient enough to give admirers his time and focus.

Holmes, Karam, and Barkley made me realize that the Lehigh Valley has produced a number of outstanding athletes who prospered at the top of their game.  There are certainly too many to talk about in one blog, but here are a few that came to mind, in no particular order:

Mario, Michael, and Marco Andretti: For racing fans, this is THE family in the Lehigh Valley.  Mario and Marco still live in Nazareth.  Michael now is an owner and will again have a team in the Indy 500 this coming weekend.

Matt Millen: The former Whitehall and Penn State graduate won four Super Bowls, became an outstanding analyst for NFL broadcasts and is now the top analyst for BIG 10 football.  He recently had a heart transplant and will return to the broadcasting booth in the fall.

The Nasty Boys:  Brian Yandrisovitz (“Knobbs”) and Jerry Saganovich (“Sags”) were THE top WWF wrestling tag team in the ‘90’s.  Both are Whitehall High School grads.

Michelle Marciniak: The Central High School grad is a former college basketball All-American.  At Tennessee, she competed for two national championships and won one in 1996 and was named MVP.  She went on to play five years in the WNBA.

Ed McCaffrey: A phenomenal basketball and football player at Central Catholic, Ed had a great college and pro football career at Stanford and the NFL.  He won three Super Bowls as a 49er and a Denver Bronco.

Marty Nothstein: The Emmaus graduate was an Olympic gold and silver medalist in cycling.

Dan Koppen: Another Whitehall grad who centered the ball to Tom Brady for eight NFL seasons and to Peyton Manning for one year.  Koppen won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.

Andre Reed: This Dieruff grad is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after an outstanding career with the Buffalo Bills and the Washington Redskins.  Andre always returns back to Allentown and has done so much for the community.

I could go on and on – Chuck Bednarik, Tom Brennan, Pete Carril, Billy Packer, Curt Simmons, etc.  The list goes go on and on.  And I know you could add to the list and you would certainly be right.

Is it any wonder that I have enjoyed so many years following local high school and college sports right here in the Lehigh Valley?  And the numbers will continue to grow.


ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
 

  1. Before going to Mississippi State as the head football coach, Joe Moorhead was the offensive coordinator at Penn State. He was very familiar with the Lions’ back-up quarterback, Tommy Stevens.  Now Stevens will have an opportunity to play for Moorhead again after transferring to the Bulldogs.  It will be interesting to follow his success after getting beaten out of the starting role this spring at Penn State.
  1. The Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, and the Cubs are all hot and all starting to occupy places that were expected in the standings. The Phillies are still the best in the NL East with the Braves chasing them.
  1. I picked the Bucks and the Warriors to make it to the NBA final. It appears that prediction will be correct by the end of the week.
  1. Congratulations to the Northampton baseball team and coaching staff for winning the EPC baseball championship. To do it, they had to beat undefeated Liberty in the final 3-1.  Liberty was the third #1 seed to go down to defeat in the championship game.  It was Northampton’s first title since 1998.
  1. District championship baseball will be LIVE from Coca-Cola Park this coming week on RCN-TV. The games are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, May 28 and 29. But it always seems to rain!

 

 

Sibling Rivalry

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.

Anyone “lucky” enough to have a brother or sister or multiples of both certainly knows what sibling rivalry is.  It is defined as a competition or animosity among your siblings.  It starts according to studies at the age of one when children become sensitive to the way they perceive their parental treatment.  It is also affected by personality and experiences outside the family.

I grew up with an older brother and two younger sisters.  My brother was not very kind to me.  He often thought of things that I felt he should get punished for, but he did not.  I remember him throwing darts in my leg instead of handing them back to me.  I remember my parents telling us to settle arguments by putting the boxing gloves on.  He was six years older than me!  Had we used the stat chart they use on TV for boxing, you would see that he weighed more, had a longer reach, a powerful punch, and a mean streak.  I thought this showed very bad parenting skills.

I suppose my sisters would tell you that I was not always kind to them either.  I would scare my one sister as often as I could and my brother and I used to tell my youngest sister she was adopted.  We thought it was very funny.  They had a different opinion.  And, because they were girls, I always felt “Mom loved them best”.

Happily, as we get older, siblings tend to become a bit more understanding and relish the relationships with their brothers and sisters.  Although, according to statistics, about one-third of adults describe their relationship with siblings as distant and still thought of as a rivalry.

I bring this up for two reasons: 1) I am actually watching the NBA playoffs.  I guess the Sixers are responsible, but I find I am enjoying the games.  2) Steph Curry and Seth Curry will be playing against each other in the NBA Western Conference Finals.  It is the first time in NBA history that two brothers will play against each other in a conference or NBA final.

Their parents, Dell Curry and Sonya Curry, will be in the position of rooting for no one or rooting for everyone.  They need to be careful not to favor one or the other.  Both brothers said their mother gets very stressed out when they play each other.  But both are very supportive having traveled to Oakland, Portland, Los Angeles, Houston, and Denver. They have missed just two games.  Mom says one parent will wear Blazers colors and the other will wear the Warriors.

The two have played against each other nine times and Steph has won seven, but both losses came this year. This is sibling rivalry at its best – nothing like catching darts!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Speaking of the NBA, Lehigh University’s CJ McCollum is the hero for the Portland Trail Blazers as he scored 37 points and had nine rebounds in the Game 7 win over the Denver Nuggets. He also had a huge block to stop a layup late in the fourth quarter.  Now they take on the Warriors in the conference finals.  It’s the first time for the Blazers in 12 years.
  1. The Sixers were eliminated on an unbelievable shot at the buzzer by Kawhi Leonard. I find this hard to believe but it was the first Game 7 buzzer-beater in NBA history.  The game was really lost when, in the final three minutes, the Sixers were called for three shot clock violations.  Three straight possessions by the Sixers ended without a shot.
  1. After poor starts, the Red Sox and the Cubs have rebounded dramatically to win as expected. The Cubs are 24-14 as of Monday morning after a 2-7 start.  And the Red Sox started 6-13 only to be at 22-19 now.  “The cream rises…”
  1. Aaron Rodgers was in this past Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones. He has been a fan since day one and shot a promo for the show.  He was hoping to be killed off or be in a steamy scene.  Neither happened.
  1. The Eagles signed a fourth quarterback this week. Cody Kessler, who has been with the Browns and the Jaguars, joins Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson, and Carson Wentz on the roster.  It makes you wonder if there is even a greater concern about Wentz’s health and stamina.

 

 

 

 

Bad Officials

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.

If you watch any sporting event anymore with other people, the topic of bad officiating cannot be avoided. It has reared its ugly head in the NFL, the NBA, college basketball and, now even horse racing.

Let me confess up front that I know very little about horse racing. I did, occasionally, over the years go to the track for dinner and a night of very minor betting. It was just a night out. I have never studied the horses. My betting and knowledge is based on virtually nothing but whim.  In fact, the first time my wife and I went to the races with other couples, we decided to bet every other race; my wife would pick a winner for one race and I would pick a winner
for the next race. We each threw in a whopping $2.00 per race.

I remember winning a few bucks. For my wife’s last bet she picked a horse who was a 40-1 shot to win. I would always place the bet for her and as I headed toward the window, I felt by placing that bet I would just be throwing $2.00 away. So, without telling her, I bet a different horse to win.  Her horse won! She thought she had won $80.00 on her $2.00 bet. I had to tell her she did not because I messed up. It was not pretty. Suffice it to say, I would not do that again.  Lesson learned. I know no more to this day about the sport, but like many ignorant fans, I still have an opinion.

I watched the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. I was both fascinated and confused.  Fascinated by the turn of events and confused by the controversy. It was somewhat obvious that Maximum Security did move out to his right, but it was just as obvious that that movement, no matter what the cause, did not affect the winning horse, Country House, at all. In other words, the horse that won was not impeded by the horse that was disqualified. The horses that were affected finished back in the pack and it appeared they would have finished that way anyway.

To me (remember I know nothing about horse racing), it would be hard not to have some bumping. I’ve read that this race has the largest number of competitors (20) of any race and I have seen it described as “demolition derby”. It appears to this viewer that the penalty here did not fit the “crime”.  For the first time in 145 runnings, a winner was disqualified. A winner was denied the $3 million purse. A new winner was declared. That horse was never fouled the entire race.
It appeared to me that this was just another case of bad officiating. This was the non-interference call that cost New Orleans a win in the NFL playoffs. This was a missed call at the end of almost every NBA playoff game. This was the biggest of all horse races with 150,000 people in attendance. This was another bad call.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The payouts for the Derby were as follows:
    First Place – Country House: $132.40 (Win), $56.60 (Place), $24.60 (Show)
    Second Place – Code of Honor: $15.20 (Place), $9.80 (Show)
    Third Place – Tacitus: $5.60 (Show)
    The $2.00 Exacta paid a whopping $3,009.60
  2.  Jordan Hicks, a closer for the St. Louis Cardinals, has thrown the 20 fastest pitches in the major leagues this year. His fastest pitch was 104.2 mph.  Aroldis Chapman has recorded a 105.1 mph fastball which seems to be the
    accepted record.
  3. Max Homa won his first PGA tournament on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Championship. He won $1.4 million. His father, John Homa, went to high school at Marian Catholic.
  4. I know that Jeopardy is not a sport, but it is a contest. And right now, it is worth watching. James Holzhauer, a professional sports gambler from Las Vegas, has won 22 games and $1,691,008. He averages $76,864 won for each
    show, a record. He is in second place for most consecutive wins and total money won. Ken Jennings won 74 times and $2.5 million. He has a two-week break now before returning on May 20. His style is different and
    exasperating to his opponents. Set your DVR.
  5. The EPC playoffs start next week. RCN-TV will have the semifinals (5/14) and the championship (5/15) LIVE next week. The games will be played at DeSales University for the first time. Join us.

“The Magic Ball” by John Leone

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.

Gary Laubach: While I am away from my desk for a week, guest blogger and announcing partner, John Leone, offers his thoughts on the meaning of The Game:

The longer I live, the more I realize how desperately futile my attempts at originality have been. That’s not to say that those attempts have been in vain, it’s just that I’m
finding more and more that there truly is nothing new under the sun. Any successful person never lacks for an appreciation of what is good about life. But I think a complete and truly self-aware person never fails to express it, so in at least that regard, the struggle continues.

With time running short at a recent post-season basketball banquet, (or long, depending on your experiences at such events) our Coach, Fran O’Hanlon, closed the ceremony by referring to the glass-enclosed basketball to his right, one that was about to be presented to his most recent 1000-point scorer.

As he glanced over at it, his words seem to trail off just a bit. It seemed to me that he was no longer addressing the audience, but rather indulging himself in some sort of high prayer or mediation.

“There’s magic in that ball,” he said. “It connects us.” I wanted more, and having known Fran for as long as I have, I knew that there was more in there. But there was that time thing. I walked out into a cold and rainy evening feeling tied, with no chance at an overtime period.

Fran succeeded me here at Lafayette some 24 years ago as the Men’s Basketball Coach.  One thing is certain and that is that Fran never needed my help with anything related to The Game. He certainly chose his predecessor wisely. That said, I hope he won’t mind – just this once –  if I take a stab at what he may have explained to us all had time allowed.

There is magic in that ball. It connects us. Through generations and different eras and even through its evolution, names and faces change but the shared experiences of playing The Game keep it as its constant and recurring focal point. If you’ve played the game, you almost certainly remember someone by name – someone who wasn’t necessarily a close friend or even someone you’d ever see again beyond those endless summer nights on the playground courts – someone with whom you discovered a synergy in playing the game right. And you were always glad to have him on your team when choosing up sides.

Even in the most rudimentary pick-up games, I can remember the feeling of connectedness I’d experience when receiving a pass – or making one – in a key moment.
It was visceral. It was a non-verbal way of saying, “I trust you” or “I respect you”; a heartfelt exchange with someone you may have only just met. And those moments made you want to raise your game a level or two if only to enhance that sense of accomplishment and strengthen the developing bond with a basketball soul mate. It’s a
rare thing. It’s the stuff of which upsets are made at any and all levels of The Game.

Successful coaches are those who are able to get their players to do what they want them to do. X’s and O’s are overrated by comparison. They make great fodder for pundits and fans, but remember: there is nothing new under the sun. There are few – if any – silver bullets on a play sheet or a chalkboard. Imagine striving – and succeeding – over time in building for your team a oneness of spirit that brings the magic. Culture trumps strategy every day of the week. What Coach O was reminding us of that night was the link to not only the men of his program, but to all of those who came before and anyone who’s tried to play the game right.

I’ve had good and well-intentioned friends suggest to me – and wish for me – more balance in my life. All things come back to The Game for me, and Coach O’Hanlon did
me no favors that night by reinforcing in me this ongoing and arguably growth-stunting personal worldview. The Game is a metaphor for living well, and that ball surely does have magic in it.

When we share it, it enhances us. When we dominate it or hoard it, it punishes us – sometimes, embarrassingly so. When we treat it carelessly, we lose it. When we value it, it rewards us. There are times we need to work hard to gain possession of it, risking pain and even injury.

There’s a love of The Game – not unlike the love of art, or music, or dance – that engenders a physical and emotional investment. The magic does not happen without it,
and without it, we are blinded from seeing the game for all that it can offer. The magic in that ball can bring out the best in us, or it can reveal our deepest flaws. When five people can function as a single entity, a single brain and heart – subverting in some cases our own individuality for the greater good – the results can be not just magical, but sometimes legendary. My friend and former Princeton coach, Pete Carril, once said, “Let me watch a kid play for 15 minutes, and I’ll probably be able to tell you all you need to know about him as a person.”

I left the banquet that night thinking of teammates I have had throughout the years and how – despite the distance in time and place – we are and have been inexorably
connected. But even more than that, I thought of the handful of guys from those pickup games of my youth and thought that – if they showed up today after 50 years – I’d still pick them, or still want them to pick me.

John Leone

150 Years of Baseball

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. 

Lafayette Lehigh is college football’s most played rivalry.  The two teams first met in 1884.  This coming season, they will play their 155th game.  They celebrated #150 in grand style with the game being held before a huge crowd at Yankee Stadium.

The Lafayette-Lehigh baseball rivalry is even older, although it is not the oldest collegiate rivalry.  Williams played Amherst in 1859, ten full years before the Lafayette Nine took on Lehigh.

This past Wednesday, the two teams played each other at Kamine Stadium to celebrate 150 years of intercollegiate baseball for the two teams.  They first competed on the diamond in 1869.  It was the first intercollegiate baseball contest for Lafayette.  The game ended, mercifully, I guess, in a 45-45 tie.

Lafayette became the first winner of the series when they defeated Lehigh 31-24 in the next meeting.  That game was played at Lehigh.  The two teams have met 395 times and will hit the 400 mark next year.

Here are a few facts about the rivalry:

  • The most lopsided victory in the rivalry came on May 4, 1874, when the Leopards won the game in Bethlehem 88-20 in just four innings.
  • In 2007, the Leopards finished the year with an overall record of 32-17 en route to their first Patriot League title. During the regular season, the Leopards went 17-3 in the Patriot League.
  • Few men can claim to having played on championship teams on the collegiate and professional levels, as can Lafayette’s two-sport great, Mike Gazella. Upon graduation, Gazella played for the Yankees World Championship teams in 1923, 1927, and 1928 as a utility infielder, and played on the Yankees American League championship team in 1926. He enjoyed his finest season in 1927 when he hit .278 while playing third base behind the great Joe Dugan.
  • As a baseball standout and catcher, Joe Maddon played three years of baseball under Norm Gigon and helped the Leopards to a 49-28 record during that span. Initially recruited to play football, Maddon played one season as a quarterback on the team. In his final game, he completed 14 of 17 passes for four touchdowns in a win over Lehigh. Following his tenure at Lafayette, Maddon spent four seasons as a catcher in the Anaheim Angels’ minor league system. After his playing career ended, he remained with the organization in several roles, including minor league manager and bench coach for the Angels, who advanced to the postseason three times and captured the 2002 World Series title. His second World Series title came as Manager of the Chicago Cubs in 2016 when he led the team to their first tile in 108 years.
  • 1953 was the year of Lafayette’s first College World Series team. The 1953 Lafayette baseball team finished with a 20-6-2 mark with wins over Pitt and Penn State in the NCAA District 2 Playoffs in Easton, PA to qualify for the College World Series.  At the College World Series, the Leopards beat Colorado State College, Stanford and Boston College while losing twice to Texas, which later advanced to the title game. Lafayette finished third in the CWS. The 1953 Lafayette squad managed a 12-game winning streak midway through the season, and Ronnie Owen set a program record for victories in a season with 12.
  • Lafayette has had four home fields. The third home field for the Lafayette Nine was Fisher Stadium. The Leopards began playing on Fisher in 1926 and saw a great deal of success during this time. Fisher was the home field for all four College World Series Teams in 1953, 1954, 1958, and 1965.  They currently play at the Metzger Field complex at Kamine Stadium.
  • Starting with the first game in October of 1869, the Lafayette Nine hold an impressive 231-160-3 record over rival Lehigh.
  • Lafayette College is the only NCAA Division I athletic department to feature a Leopard Mascot. The new 2019 throwbacks are the only uniforms at Lafayette to say Leopards across the chest.

    Lafayette-Baseball

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. You may have missed it, but Albert Pujols passed Babe Ruth for career RBIs this past weekend. He hit his 636th home run and got to 1,993 RBIs. He is now in fifth place in MLB history. Ahead of him are Lou Gehrig (1,994), Barry Bonds (1,996), Alex Rodriguez (2,086), and Hank Aaron (2,297).
  1. Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers is the reigning NL MVP and he has not slowed down to start this season. As of Saturday, he has hit 13 home runs in April and tied the team record.  There are plenty of days left in the month.
  1. I don’t know if this will make umpires more or less appealing to the fans, but umpire Jeff Nelson in a Blue Jays-Athletics game on Saturday literally tackled a fan who had come out of the stands. Coming from left field, the fan was met by Adams at second base and flung to the ground.  I wonder if he will get additional security service pay.
  1. On Saturday, Joel Embiid scored 31 points, had 16 rebounds, seven assists, six blocks, and two steals in the Sixers’ win over Brooklyn in game four. He became only the sixth player since 1974 to have at least 30 points, five rebounds, five assists and five blocks in a playoff game.  And he played just 32 minutes.
  1. Lafayette’s spring football practice officially came to a close with the Maroon-White game this past Saturday. Twenty players sat out due to preseason injuries so not much could be gleaned from the showing.  There are plenty of questions remaining, most notably who will be the starting quarterback in August when the Leopards open their season. That answer did not appear either.

 

 

Unlike Any Other

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.

Unless you have absolutely zero access to anything that resembles news or social media, you know that Tiger Woods won the Masters on Sunday afternoon. The event not only produced great golf drama, but it also always produces some of the most unusual announcing, and artistic scenery.

I also believe the 9:00 AM start probably helped viewership. Knowing that Tiger was in the championship hunt, even a West Coast fan of golf would either get up early or DVR the program just to watch it when they arise. I personally loved the early start which led to an early finish. I had to emcee a function Sunday night and I would have missed the finish.

While watching the golf telecast, I am always amazed at the amount of wires, production people, and announcers that need to be coordinated throughout the four days. With ESPN involved on Thursday and Friday, the telecast must use some of their announcers (Scott Van Pelt and Curtis Strange) during those broadcasts despite their reports being somewhat awkward. They appear to be just filling contractual space until the CBS announcers take over the actual four-day golf coverage.

I’m sure you, also, notice the absolute reverence in the voices of the announcers when they describe anything – none more than Jim Nantz, who often sounds like he is offering up a eulogy instead of describing the golf.

There is no question that the Masters is different and it is required to be by the Masters committee (why else would it be called “a tradition unlike any other”?). Take note of some of the oddities:

• An announcer must refer to the fans as “patrons”. One is not to use the word “fan” or “spectator”.
• The “rough” MUST be called the “second cut”.
• Only four minutes of commercials are allowed every hour of the CBS broadcast.
• Caddies MUST wear a white jumpsuit and a green Augusta hat.
• Patrons may bring collapsible chairs, but they cannot have armrests.
• Patrons may not wear hats backwards.
• No running.
• Augusta membership is around 300. You cannot apply – you must be nominated.
• The course is actually closed in the summer.
• The green jacket won by Tiger Woods is the same jacket he wore when he won his first Masters. He may only keep it for this year and then must return it.
• Each player gets a brand new Mercedes for their use during the week.
• It may be the toughest ticket in sports, but it is not expensive to be there – $325 for the week and, if you bought everything on the food menu, it would cost you less than $57.00.
• There are 125 different styles of hats in the pro shop.
• There is a fence around the entire course which keeps out ALL animals. It is said that no one has ever seen a squirrel on the grounds.

If you would like to see it LIVE, you can enter a lottery for tickets at https://tickets.masters.com/en_US/ticket_info.html . I know people who have gotten tickets this way.

Me, I enjoyed an early breakfast, an early finish, and the comfort of my recliner. That is my “tradition unlike any other”.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. Tiger Woods wasn’t the only winner on Sunday. A bettor on a sports book in Las Vegas placed his first bet ever. He bet on Tiger Woods to win the Masters. He bet $85,000 and received 14-1 odds. With Tiger’s win, he won $1.19 million, not quite the $2.02 million Tiger won, but he never hit a shot. The last three seven-figure winners at this sports book came when the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2018.

2. If you are a NL MLB East fan, buckle up for a great ride. Of the five teams, four of them are .500 or better. The Phils, Mets, Braves, and Nationals could stick around in the race for a long, long time. By comparison in the AL East ONLY Tampa Bay has a winning record. The Yankees, Orioles, Red Sox, and Blue Jays are all under .500 which might make their division just as interesting.

3. Whitehall product Matt Millen returned to the broadcast booth on Saturday to broadcast the Penn State Blue-White game. Matt, a former Penn State and NFL all-star, received a new heart on Christmas Eve. He waited 98 days for a match to be found. The native of Hokendauqua is back and ready to work in the booth.

4. The Lafayette College Spring Maroon and White spring game will be played on Saturday and televised on RCN-TV at 11:00 AM. Mike Joseph and I will be there to make the call.

5. Morning Call sports’ reporters Paul Reinhard and Keith Groller were honored this past Sunday. It seemed like every notable Lehigh Valley sports personality was there (well over 250 people attended). The two have combined for almost 100 years of tireless sports reporting. I was proud to be able to emcee the affair at DeSales University.

I WON!

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.

My hope here is that you never get past the title and you have the impression that I actually won something.  That is so far from the truth.  I not only lost.  I lost badly.

With all of the upsets in the NCAA tournament, I can write this BEFORE the final game is played and tell you, once again, I was embarrassed by my results in the RCN bracket pool (for entertainment purposes only).

The problem is, because I am the Sports Director, everyone expects me to do well and everyone seems to take great pleasure in beating me.  There are some (mostly women) who take even greater pleasure in my inability to appear to know anything about college basketball.

Against the RCN employees, I finished 17th out of 48.  I know that doesn’t sound so bad, but you have to understand, I was doing quite well up to the quarterfinals and could not keep my mouth.  I felt this was a good time to brag.  I sent out a blanket email to all the female nemeses (yes, that is the plural of nemesis – I looked it up) who berated me throughout past tournaments to rub in the fact that I was beating them all.  And then the quarterfinal games were played.  My drop in the standings was a freefall.

I ended up being beaten by Lori, the head of HR (what do they know about sports?); by Alyssa from the studio, who almost treats me with respect (I need to keep her away from the others); by Sandy of the business department, who to her credit, is almost too nice to belittle my ineptness; and Laura who beats me every year and cannot wait to literally rub as much salt into the wound as possible and tends to announce her superiority to anyone who will listen.  Thank goodness I am at the studio and do not have to withstand what would be constant ridicule by the entire office staff in our other building.

Speaking of the studio, on the good side, I finished second among the players from the RCN studio.  On the really bad side, there were only two players from the studio (remember Alyssa), so second, also, turns out to be dead last.

Maurice won the pool even before the championship game was played.  No one came within 20 points of him.  He beat me by a whopping 53 points.  I do not know Maurice very well, but here’s hoping he has no interest in becoming the RCN Sports Director.

So if you read this far, you now know that, for this particular blog, the title was very misleading and I became part of the FAKE NEWS movement.  I won nothing!  Usually I would thank you for reading my blog, but for this particular one, thanks for nothing! 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. I am anticipating a sleepy day on Tuesday. With the NCAA championship game starting at 9:20pm, it will be a late night for most sports fans.  Now, I usually stay up to @11:30pm anyway and arise at 6:25am.  I will probably lose about an hour sleep if I want to watch the award ceremony and wait for “One Shining Moment”.  Plus, Charles Barkley makes me want to watch the postgame analysis.  He just makes me laugh.  So, unlike the other half of the country, the rest of us must suck it up on Tuesday morning.
  1. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Women’s National Championship game on Sunday between Notre Dame and Baylor. For one thing, the game started at 6:00pm and was over by 8:30pm (see #1 above).  For another, the talent level was amazing, and, just like the men, the game came right down to the end.  Both coaches were a treat to watch.  Good for the women!!
  1. With gambling now legal, more stories come out, usually from Las Vegas,concerning the big sporting events. It seems in November, a man who did not want to be identified, placed a wager at the Superbet for $1500 for Texas Tech to win the NCAA National Championship.  The odds were 200-1.  He wanted to place more money on the game, but the site would not take any more, limiting their risk.  If Texas Tech wins, he will win $300,000.  The Cowboys’ Dez Bryant offered to buy his ticket before the game is played for $125,000.  The offer was not accepted.
  1. Every baseball fan knew the NL East was going to be super competitive and the early results bear that out. The Phillies, the Mets, and the Nationals are all off to a terrific start.  The shocker so far is how badly the Red Sox are faring.  Remember, it’s a marathon!
  1. On Sunday, April 14, I will be emceeing a night of recognition for two great Lehigh Valley Morning Call sports’ reporters, Paul Reinhard and Keith Groller. The two have combined for almost 100 years of tireless sports reporting.  And, on the same night, RCN’s Scott Barr will be inducted into the Lehigh Valley Wrestling Hall of Fame.  I wish I could also be there.

“Sidd” Finch

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. 

I am writing this on April 1st which, as you know, happens to be April Fool’s Day.  I have had some fun on this day in the past.  While teaching George Orwell’s 1984 and trying to convince my students that “truth is whatever you believe to be true”, I invented a student.  I faked his registration at school, gave him a personality, a visual, and, obviously, a name.  I had my class talk about this “person” to other students just to spread the word in order to prove my lesson.  It did not take long for curiosity to take over.

Girls would stand around outside my class room just to get a glimpse of this young man, who many had said was quite good-looking.  Of course, I had to create excuses for why he was not in my class.  I would say he was called to the office, had a doctor’s appointment, etc.  I even went so far as to get him placed on the absentee list.

My literature class could not believe the excitement generated by this non-existent person.  He became real to so many that my point about “truth” became self-evident.  In fact, I had to curtail the experiment when someone had set up a blind date with a girl.  Not wanting to embarrass anyone, I exposed the ruse.

One April Fool’s Day fell on a Monday and I appeared as a guest on WZZO as I always did every Monday morning in the Bearman and Keith’s studio.  I tried to bring interesting sports stories to their morning show every Monday.  So on this morning, I reported that one of the Phillies greatest players, Mike Schmidt, had been traded right before I got to the studio.  This was well before you could do instant fact-checking on Google.  Bearman and Keith and the audience bought in.  The report generated the most interest and the most phone calls of any of my appearances.  Fans were angry, perplexed, and bewildered.  I had a good time with it right up until the moment I revealed the lie. The groans could be heard throughout the Valley.

My escapades were minor compared to what George Plimpton did in 1985 for Sports Illustrated.  The managing editor noticed that the magazine would hit the newsstand on April 1.  He asked Plimpton to right about jokes in sports.  Plimpton could not find anything he liked so he asked if he could create his own hoax.

Plimpton created Hayden Siddhartha “Sidd” Finch, a baseball pitcher for the New York Mets.  Plimpton hired a stand-in, Joe Berton, to play the part, invented an entire biography, posted photographs, got the Mets to go along with the story, and foisted #21 onto the national scene.

Mets fans were thrilled with their newfound talent.  Editors of other publications were angry with the Mets that they gave the story to Sports Illustrated.  Finch got his own locker and media flocked to get more of the story.  A press conference was announced and, on April 2, Finch (Berton) announced his retirement.

The press release read: “He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent lifestyle, Sidd’s deciding about yoga—and his future in baseball.”  The first letters each of these words spell out “Happy April Fool’s Day – a(h) fib”.

The magazine officially announced the hoax in the April 15 issue.

If you are so inclined, you can read the entire article at this site:

https://www.si.com/mlb/2014/10/15/curious-case-sidd-finch

I hope you got through the day without any repercussions. 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. The one #1 seed in the NCAA bracket that I thought would falter was Virginia. And now, they are the only #1 seed going to the Final Four.  #3 Texas Tech, #5 Auburn, and #2 Michigan State will join them.  It was reported this past weekend that the one perfect bracket left in all the various submissions (tens of millions) throughout the country faltered by picking Tennessee over Purdue.  A neuropsychologist had correctly picked a record 49 straight games until the Purdue loss in overtime.  The odds of getting 49 correct were 1 in 562,949,953,421,312.
  1. You may be wondering what the conferences make financially from the NCAA in the tournament. Every conference (32 of them) earns at least $282,100.  The more teams you advance, the more money you get.  The SEC with Auburn in the Final Four gets $32.1 million; the Big Ten gets $35.5 million; the ACC gets $33.8 million.
  1. With all the appropriate excitement about the Phillies’ start to the season, did you notice the start by last year’s MVP, Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich – home runs in each of the first four games. And he added a two-run double in the ninth on Sunday to give his team a 5-4 win.  He is looking like an MVP all over again.
  1. Bryce Harper, who hit two home runs this past weekend as the Phillies swept three games from the Braves, now travels to Washington where he signed his original contract in 2010. The atmosphere there should be electric.
  1. Lafayette College baseball is celebrating its 150th year of intercollegiate competition this season. The Leopards have throwback uniforms which they will wear when they play Lehigh to commemorate the anniversary on April 17 at 3:30pm.  RCN-TV will bring you the game.

October Madness

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.

In the middle of March Madness, it’s time to consider October Madness.  Since I now believe that with analytics running (perhaps, ruining) baseball, I could probably be a major league manager.  After all, there is no more arguing calls (replays take care of that); pitching changes are determined by computer; and even lineups can be best created by what the statistics tell us.  So with all the human element being taken out of the game, there will still be baseball played this week and, therefore, the need (after all, I have to fill my blog) with a human prognostication.  Here is how I see the teams finishing in their divisions with no help from any superhuman source:

American League 

West

  1. Houston – They Astros did not repeat as World Series champions last year because the Red Sox knocked them out in the ALCS. Again, much like last year, most of their lineup returns.  They win the West again.
  2. LA Angels – Mike Trout is now the highest paid athlete in sports history and will be an Angel until 2030. Japan’s Shohel Ohtani had Tommy John surgery and will be out for part of the season and that hurts them on the mound and in the lineup since he pitches and  They did improve their pitching staff.  So at the very least, this team will be fun to watch and could surprise.
  3. Oakland – This team was in the Wild Card game and lost to the Yankees. They are young, had a great end-of-season last year, and are loaded with confidence.  Only an “iffy” pitching staff could keep them from a successful year.
  4. Seattle – The Mariners do not raise expectations much anymore and they seem to be beginning to realize it. They made nine trades in the off season and are beginning their climb back.  It will take awhile.
  5. Texas Rangers – A new manager, very young players, and an absence of strong pitching will put the Rangers in the basement.

Central

  1. Cleveland – This is a team with a little less power than last year, but they will win this Division again. Now the question is whether they can compete with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros in the postseason. Plus, they are very, very strong in the pitching department.  Cleveland fans can’t wait for the NFL, but should have fun in the meantime.
  2. Minnesota – Rocco Baldelli at 37-years of age is the youngest manager in the majors. They also have a very young baseball team.  There is certainly potential here and they could actually challenge the Indians.  This will be one of the more interesting teams to watch.
  3. Chicago White Sox – They tried and lost. No Machado; no Harper. They have had six straight losing seasons.  They have a very exciting player in Eloy Jiminez who will break into the majors on opening day.  They are looking to improve and, perhaps, have a winning season. This team has potential and could surprise.
  4. Kansas City – They got rid of most of the older players and have lost 100 games each of the last two seasons. There is some enthusiasm about improvement and the Royals do look like they will be better.
  5. Detroit – 98 losses each of the last two years. This team is not good and rebuilding.  Enough said.

East

  1. Boston – They won the World Series last year and still everyone is picking the Yankees to win the East this year. The Red Sox have the same team back and if they can overcome complacency, I am picking them to beat the Yankees again.
  2. New York Yankees – Can they hit enough homers to win it all? They hit 267 last year and that was a major league record.  Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez will continue to bash the baseball.  They have plenty of injuries to start the season.  I can’t pick them to win the division.
  3. Tampa Bay – They won 90 games a year ago to everyone’s surprise, and still did not make the playoffs. That could happen to them again.  Remember, they won 41 games after the All-Star break. If this team gets off to a much better start this year, they could be the surprise of the majors.
  4. Toronto – They are rebuilding and are enthusiastic about their future. Their future is not this year.
  5. Baltimore – Major rebuilding going on here. Their better days are way ahead of them.

The Red Sox will win the American League pennant. 

National League 

West

  1. LA Dodgers – No World Series again last year. It was the Astros two years ago and the Red Sox last year.  The Dodgers are still loaded with talent.  Their pitching is second to none in the National League.  The only deterrent might be history – the Dodgers have never made it to three World Series in a row.
  2. Colorado – This team experienced back-to-back playoff appearances. They have a stable lineup and a manager who will be around at least until 2022.  If the Dodgers suffer a letdown, the Rockies are ready to pounce on them.  They have been in the postseason two years straight – 2019 will be three.
  3. San Diego – Can Manny Machado bring the first major sports championship ever to San Diego? The fans think so.  Ticket sales skyrocketed after he signed.  The rest of the team is young and talented.  The Padres are a sleeper and Machado might just be the key to awakening them.
  4. Arizona – This might be the best 4th-place division team in the majors. They did lose four of their top players and one would have every right to think they will struggle.
  5. San Francisco – This is manager Bruce Bochy’s last year and the players will play extra hard for him, one would think. Injuries killed the Giants last year, but Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey start the season healthy so that makes the Giants much better.  Cinderella year for Bochy?

Central

  1. Chicago Cubs – Joe Madden is in the final year of his contract and the Cubs have not yet offered an extension. The players love Joe and love what he has created in Chicago.  They did not make any major moves over the winter, but they are still a very good team.  They will win the Central Division again.
  2. St Louis – There is a buzz about the Brewers, but I like the Cardinals again in this spot. They did get better in the season acquiring Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller.  This team will give the Cubs a run for the title.
  3. Milwaukee – What am I doing? The Brewers won the Division last year and Christian Yelich was the NL MVP.  This is a very tough division all the way down the line.  I am not feeling good putting them third.
  4. Cincinnati – The Reds picked up the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig and that is a nice addition. They, also, got Matt Kemp and Alex Wood.  So their rebuilding came quickly.  The Reds will be better in a tough division.
  5. Pittsburgh – The Pirates had a winning season last year. Their pitching staff has talent and youth.  Excitement in Pittsburgh has waned, however.  This is a decent team in with better than decent teams.

East

  1. Philadelphia – No excuses this year. The Phils spent the money and put the pieces in place.  The six years of consecutive losing seasons should come to an end in a big way.  Harper, Realmuto, McCutcheon, and Robertson make them a much better team and, most feel, the best in the East.  Is manager Gabe Kapler the only real question mark?
  2. WashingtonNo Bryce Harper! And they missed the playoffs last year with him. With that said, they still have one of the best pitching rotations in baseball.  This team would like nothing better than to win the East without Harper.  Great incentive.
  3. Atlanta – They were a total surprise last year winning the East. Now, no one is talking about them again because of what happened in the division with the other teams.  The Braves won 90 games last year and they firmly believe they are even better this year.  I really misjudged them last year.  I hope I’m right this year.
  4. NY Mets – I don’t know – Don’t the Mets have high expectations every year, only to falter? They added five former All-Stars and have a strong starting rotation.  But they are the Mets, after all!
  5. Miami – Derek Jeter’s problems continue. The Marlins have had 10 losing seasons in a row.  Their pitching staff is very young, but talented.  They will lose games because they cannot score.  That problem will continue.

The Phillies will win the N L pennant. 

The Red Sox will win it all, again! (Although I hope the Phils win).

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. I bet your bracket-busting heart stopped in the final seconds of the Duke-UCF game on Sunday. How did Aubrey Dawkins miss the tip-in?  He made almost every shot all day, but not that one.  Is that the win Duke needed to go all the way?
  1. Okay – Tacko Fall is a freak of nature. The 7’6” center for UCF made my jaw drop.  I have seen plenty of basketball in my life, but nothing like him.  If not for four fouls and a phantom call, perhaps UCF wins the game.  I just could not believe how he dunks the ball without getting more than a couple of inches off the floor.  Marketing people should get him to change his name to Tacko Bell and show him next to the Chihuahua while eating tacos.  Genius, right?
  1. Zion Williamson of Duke is the best player in college basketball and should be the #1 pick in the NBA draft. He had 32 points on Sunday and his last field goal was over Tacko Fall and, also, fouled out the giant.  He, too, is a phenom.
  1. The #2 pick in the NBA draft should be Ja Morant of Murray State. He is a great shooter (24.4 points per game) and an even better passer (10.2 assists per game).  No college player has ever achieved double digit points and assist averages for a season.  In the first-round game against Marquette, he had a triple double – points, assists, and rebounds.  He was responsible for 63% of his team’s points.
  1. Congratulations to the Bethlehem Catholic girls, head coach Jose Medina, and the assistant coaches. They won their second state championship in three years and are heavy favorites to do it again next year!  No one could represent our area any better.

 

 

 

 

The Madness Begins

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.

It’s here.  After all the regular season games and the grind of trying to win a conference championship, it’s time to play for all the marbles.  The NCAA Basketball tournament begins officially on Thursday with 64 teams in the race for a National Championship.

Four teams will vie to get into the 64-team bracket when Temple plays Belmont and Fairleigh-Dickinson plays Prairie View  in play-in games.

Without a great deal of time to study, here are my thoughts on the regions:

EAST – Duke 

Zion Williamson is back for Duke and that makes ALL the difference.  If he stays healthy throughout, Duke should win the East playing Michigan State.  I like Yale in a first-round upset and I would love to see Fran Dunphy in his last season at Temple get into Thursday’s first round.

WEST – Gonzaga 

Even though Gonzaga lost the West Coast conference championship game, when Gonzaga is at its best, they are as good as anybody.  Remember, they beat Duke and Williamson played in that game.  Michigan looks like they could be upset before getting to the West final.  Nevada could be troublesome especially on offense.

SOUTH – Tennessee 

It just seems to me that every year Virginia finds a way to lose – no one will forget their first-round loss last year to UMBC.  I do not see them losing early, but I also do not see them winning their region.  Tennessee has been as good as any team in the nation at times this year.  If they put it all together here and get a monster effort out of Grant Williams, they will get to the Final Four.

MIDWEST – North Carolina 

I wish I could have more shocking news for you this year, but it looks like the #1’s are the best.  I even think Virginia is the best, but I cannot in good conscience think all four #1’s will get through.  Carolina’s road to the Final Four looks fairly certain.  Perhaps, Kentucky can give them a game if Kentucky gets to the Elite Eight.

My National Championship pick is forthcoming after I screw up my own bracket.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSING) 

  1. Bryce Harper is still hitless (if you don’t count getting hit by a pitch). Anyone getting nervous?  He is 0-8.  There are still 10 days until opening day.
  1. I am starting to feel badly for Saquon Barkley. The Giants just seem to be making themselves worse and worse with their trades and anyone who watched them last year knew that their real problem was the offensive line.  Remember how great running back Barry Sanders was on a very bad team – the Detroit Lions?  He never achieved team success.  Is Saquon the next Barry?
  1. One team’s displeasure can cause great anticipation from another team. For example – Odell Beckham to the Browns; Le’Veon Bell with the Jets; Joe Flacco to the Broncos; Michael Bennett to the Patriots; etc.  There’s excitement in the air, particularly in Cleveland where the air seems to disappear around the fifth game every year.
  1. I am not that familiar with “Fortnite”, but I know it’s the rage with younger people. Well, I heard it was also the rage in the Phillies locker room last season to the point where some players were playing it during the game.  Veteran Carlos Santana took care of that problem by taking a bat to the TV to make sure no one would play again.  Good for him!
  1. The Southern Lehigh and Bethlehem Catholic girls are in the PIAA state semifinals. Congratulations to the teams and their coaches.  Here is hoping they play for the PIAA state championship this weekend.  Go Spartans!  Go Hawks!