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.

Put Me In, Coach

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 pretty sure that every kid who plays sports dreams at one time or another of becoming a professional athlete.  I know I certainly did.  As you get older and compete against better and better athletes, reality, at some point, sets in and you realize there are much better players than you.  But it takes a while to sink in.

I do remember having those aspirations when growing up.  I played three sports – football, basketball, and baseball.  As a quarterback it was apparent from the very beginning that I was just average at best.  I enjoyed being part of the team.  I particularly liked being the center of the action.  The play only started when I said so.  It also was a very good place to watch the game.  Hand the ball off, throw a pass, or keep the ball and run meant I always had a good seat to observe.  Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts was my football hero, but I was never going to have his moxie and his ability and it was apparent early on that I had absolutely no future in football.

It became even clearer in the game of basketball.  You just cannot make yourself grow!  At 5’11”, I could play in the backcourt in high school and in college, but my basketball future would be playing in summer leagues on the playgrounds for as long as I wanted.  I went to many college and pro basketball games, but never thought that I could compete against those guys. They were too big, too strong, and too good.

Baseball was a bit different.  When my father and grandfather took me to see the Phillies or the Yankees, I always came away thinking there was a chance.  All I wanted to do when we came home from those games was grab my glove and go play catch with my dad.  I even felt that way when we returned home at midnight.  If I could talk my dad into it, I would have played pitch and catch right away.

As I got older, I had my most success, athletically, as a pitcher.  I did not lose a high school game in my last two years.  I was MAC pitcher of the year in college and pitcher of the year in the Blue Mountain League.  I played against good (probably not great) competition and, for the most part, I was better.  I even got a one-day look from the Pirates.  It was one day and led to nothing, but it certainly was nice to feel like “maybe there was a chance”.  It was not to be.  I accepted my limits and continued to play any sport for fun.

Imagine, though, the feeling of David Ayres this past Saturday.  He is the Zamboni driver at the Toronto Maple Leafs’ arena.  He is, also, the practice goalie for the Leafs.  And he was, on Saturday, the stand-by goalie for both teams in case a team had both goalies injured.  It happened.  The Carolina Hurricanes lost their starter in the first period.  Ayres got the call to get dressed.  Their backup got injured in the second period.  The 42-year-old became the next man up.  The first two shots went right past him.  The next eight, however, he stopped.  The Hurricanes won 6-3 and he became the oldest to win a regular season game.

Ayres had a kidney transplant 15 years ago and thought he would never play hockey again.  He not only played; he made history.  By the way, he got paid $500, got to keep his jersey, and, within hours, his replica jersey was being sold to fans.

Knowing that, I just might go try to find my baseball glove.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Do you believe the Phillie Phanatic is 42 years old? So, it stands to reason, he needed a little “plastic surgery”.  Much like many of us, his posterior got bigger, his tail turned blue, he got scales under his arms, and his nose got a little shorter.  Oh, the pains of growing old.
  1. Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott, Jameis Winston and 11 other quarterbacks are all free agents. There is a feeding frenzy, I’m sure, right now in various NFL board rooms.
  1. It is hard to believe, but last year’s NCAA Basketball champion, the Virginia Cavaliers, are not a lock to get into this year’s tournament. Three ACC teams will certainly get in – Duke, Florida State, Louisville.  Virginia is playing better now, but needs to continue their success.  You cannot defend your title if you don’t get in.
  1. How can the 76ers have the best home record in the league and a 9-20 record on the road? Same players, same game – different results.  Mind-boggling!
  1. Here are the TV games for this week:
  • Tuesday, Feb. 25: 6:00pm – Bethlehem Catholic vs Tamaqua; Central Catholic vs Wilson; Girls – Freedom vs Pocono Mountain West; Nazareth vs Parkland
  • Wednesday, Feb. 26: 6:00pm – Easton vs Northampton; Allen vs Freedom on Channel 4

7:00pm – American vs Lafayette women

  • Friday, Feb. 28: TBD
    • Saturday, Feb. 22: TBD

 

Play Ball! Differently!

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.

After all the conversation about much-needed rule changes in Major League baseball, finally something has been done. The changes were actually agreed to last spring by both the owners and the union. The announcement came as the teams reported for spring training. Here are the important ones:

THREE-BATTER MINIMUM
This was a much-needed rule in my estimation. Pitchers will now be required to face a minimum of three batters or finish the half-inning. Exceptions will be made for injury or illness. Obviously, this eliminates a manager bringing in a reliever to face one batter followed by another visit to the mound to again change the pitcher. To give you an idea of the impact, in the last three years, there was an average of 694 visits to the mound to change the pitcher that would no longer be allowed. Obviously both strategy and time will be affected by this change.

POSITION PLAYERS PITCHING
A player will now be designated as a pitcher, position player, or two-way player. This must be done the first day they are put on the active roster and it cannot be changed. A two-way player has to have pitched 20 innings and started 20 games as a position player, with three plate appearances in the current or previous year. Ninety position players pitched last year. One oddity in the rule interpretation is that players designated as pitchers can be position players so Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese star for the Angels, can both pitch and hit.

ROSTER SIZE
Active players on the roster will increase by one to 26 until August 31 and increase to 28 on September 1. Teams will be able to add a player for doubleheaders. Thirteen pitchers will be allowed until August 31 and then the number can increase to 14 on September 1. This is a great change eliminating the 40-man roster when the games were the most important to those teams in the post-season chase. Now teams will have to play with the roster they carried throughout the year.

INJURED LIST AND MINOR LEAGUE OPTIONS
These changes are minor for the average fan. Pitchers on the injured list will now have to miss a minimum of 15 days (was 10). Teams were manipulating the rule to rest a pitcher for one start. Pitchers must also now, if optioned to the minors, stay there for 15 days (it was 10). This rule, much like the “injured list” rule, keeps teams from rotating pitchers constantly, making more pitchers available and creating more pitching changes.

All these changes make sense in order to speed up the game, keep infielders from pitching, and create more stable rosters. I like the rule changes.

Now, “Play ball!”

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. Cleveland Browns’ defensive end Myles Garrett has been reinstated by the NFL. Garrett, you may recall, hit Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with Rudolph’s helmet during a melee. Garrett ended up serving a six-game suspension and some thought he should have been banned from the League. Garrett still claims that Rudolph called him the “N” word, but that has been disputed by almost everyone involved and the league found no proof of that despite microphones being nearby.

2. There is no word on the status of Tom Brady for next year. Most fans forget that he was the 199th pick in the 2000 draft and is now considered by many to be the greatest of all time. He won six Super Bowls and has been paid (so far) $235 million. The retirement party should be fun, whenever it occurs.

3. The Lafayette Leopards men’s basketball team was hit with a devastating injury this past week. Leading scorer and team leader Justin Jaworski suffered both an ACL injury and a torn meniscus and was lost for the season. This, of course, after leading returning scorer Alex Petrie was declared medically ineligible before the start of the season. The Leopards were playing very well and were the only team to beat League-leading Colgate twice. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out.

4. The PPL Center created an appropriate venue for the EPC semifinals and the championship finals. Congratulations to the Bethlehem Catholic girls and the Allen boys for their championship wins. And congratulations to the EPC committee for garnering the Center. The good news is that enough fans came out for the three nights to pay all expenses and (perhaps) make a little money.

5. Here are the TV games for this week:

Wednesday, Feb. 19:  7:00pm – Boston University vs Lafayette College (Men); 9:30pm – Pocono Mountain West vs Whitehall

Friday, Feb. 21: 7:00pm –Bethlehem Catholic vs Northwestern; Central Catholic vs Palisades (Boys); Easton vs Freedom; Nazareth vs Pleasant Valley (Girls)

Saturday, Feb. 22: 1:00pm – East Stroudsburg South vs Freedom; Easton vs Parkland (Boys)

Sunday, Feb. 23: 2:00pm – Loyola vs Lafayette

Thank Goodness

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 must admit that Sunday afternoon felt a little weird.  There was no NFL football and, to be honest, from my perspective, nothing to really interest me in the world of sports.

Rest assured, I was busy.  With two semifinal EPC basketball games on a Monday night, most of Sunday was taken up doing the preparation.  But by 3:00, I was ready to relax and spend the rest of the weekend watching something, anything that would hold my attention.  That almost always means a sporting event.

However, this is the “tweener” time for college and professional sports as far as I am concerned.  I see enough basketball that, until the conference championships roll around, I am not that interested.  Those tournament games do get me mentally ready for March Madness.

I just can’t seem to sit in the recliner to devote two or more hours to the NBA or the NHL.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy watching both, it’s just the games, for me, have very little meaning until the playoffs.

That leaves golf.  Who doesn’t enjoy mentally soaking up the sun, although it is a virtual pastime, and looking at the beautiful setting that is golf on the West Coast?  I did try that yesterday when the pros were playing at Pebble Beach in California.  I found I was more jealous than interested. They were playing and I could not; they were basking in sunshine (I was basking inside –can you even do that?); and they were not playing very well due to the extremely windy conditions.  Suffice it to say, even golf did not keep my interest.

So what’s the answer – high school sports on RCN-TV.  This is the BEST time of the year for high school basketball.  This week I will see the EPC boys’ semifinals and final and the girls’ championship games. And they will be played at a great venue – the PPL Center.

Due to the unmatched talent of our local wrestling teams, I will be able to watch the District XI individual championships on February 22.  Our local teams have had a spectacular year (Nazareth won the PIAA state championship) and the individual bouts should be outstanding.

I will get to call two Lafayette games on Wednesday and Saturday as the men and women’s teams battle for their respective Patriot League slot in the playoffs.

So, all is not lost for the next few weeks, nor should it be for you.  Get out to one of the great high school events this month or, if that cannot work for you, let us choose your virtual attendance.

So even though the NFL season is done and the college and pro sports are winding down, this is the best time for OUR sports.  Thank goodness.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. What are your thoughts on the local Catholic schools banning their wrestlers in team competition from wrestling a girl? It has now happened twice and both times the matches were decided because the Catholic school had to, by Diocesan rule, forfeit the match when the opposing team sent out a girl to wrestle.  Both times the Catholic team would have won the match and both times six points were awarded to the opponent due to forfeit (and the opponent knew that would be the case).  Both times, that bout was the difference in winning or losing.  Do you have a solution?

    P.S.  The Catholic school wrestlers can wrestle a girl in individual tournaments.

  1. What a year for the Nazareth Blue Eagles. First, they win the EPC South division and District XI football championships and this past week, they add a state wrestling title to go along with their District wrestling title.  They were 8-0 in the postseason, won 89 of 112 bouts and 62 with bonus points.  It was total domination.  Congratulations to Coach Dave Crowell and the team.
  1. Fran O’Hanlon, Lafayette’s men’s basketball coach, was honored at a reception on Saturday afternoon. He is coaching his 25th year at Lafayette, one of only five Division 1 college coaches who can make that claim.  You may know the others:

    Jim Boeheim – Syracuse
    Mike Krzyzewski – Duke
    Bob McKillip – Davidson
    Tom Izzo – Michigan State

    Coach O’Hanlon has won 340 games, has three regular season PL titles, three Patriot League championships, has made three NCAA appearances; has been in seven conference finals; and has been named Coach of the Year three  times.

  1. Will you watch the XFL? Did you know it was on?
  1. The schedule – All LIVE

    Monday – EPC Boys Semis – 6:00 PM

    Tuesday – Colonial League Semis – 6:00 PM

    Wednesday – Lafayette vs. Army WBB – 7:00  PM

    Thursday – EPC Girls and Boys championships – 6:00 PM

    Friday – Colonial League Girls and Boys championships – 6:00 PM

    Saturday – Lafayette vs. Holy Cross WBB – 6:00 PM

EPC Playoffs

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.

This past Thursday, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference announced that both the semifinals and the championship finals for the boys and the girls would be played at the PPL Center.  The dates for the semis and finals are February 10 – February 13.  This is, indeed, exciting news.

I am sure many of you recall that it was three years ago that the District XI 6A semifinals were held there before more than 7,600 fans.  It was a night that is now etched into the memories of every local high school basketball fan.  All four teams were outstanding – Allen, Emmaus, Parkland and Pocono Mountain West.  The games did not disappoint.

It is hard to imagine that this year can match the excitement generated three years ago, but it is certainly a fitting venue for the Conference playoffs.  What seems to be the mystery, however, and a question I get asked throughout the year is how the teams get there and how they are seeded.

So, before the quarterfinals are played on Feb. 7, let me try to clear up the process:

Selecting the eight teams:

  • Division Winners get automatic bid, BUT NOT automatic 1, 2, 3…

For example, East Stroudsburg South will be the Mountain Division champion, but will not be the #1, 2, or 3 seed because of their record.  Allen, Liberty, and Central will have better records and will fill those slots.

Seeding:

  • Overall EPC Record (16 games) is the first criteria.

As I write this seven of the eight slots are filled with the order yet to be determined (Allen, Liberty, Central, Easton, Parkland, Freedom, and East Stroudsburg South).  It appears right now that Bethlehem Catholic will be the 8th team.

  • If teams are tied:

Head to Head competition will be used, ONLY if ALL Tied Teams played one another.

If the teams did not play one another, District XI Ranking Points will be used (using ONLY EPC 16 Games).

There could be a coin flip if ALL of the above have teams still tied (This is a distinct possibility for Allen and Liberty to determine seeds #1 and #2).

Central Catholic could also finish with the same record, but the District XI Ranking Points could keep them from the top two spots.

Conclusion:

The final regular season games are played on Monday and Tuesday and then the brackets will all be determined.  This has been a very competitive year so every game promises to be extremely exciting.

I urge all fans to come to the games, but if you cannot, RCN-TV will have the boys’ semifinals LIVE on Monday, Feb. 10 and the boys and girls championship finals on Feb. 13.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. The first half of the Super Bowl may not have been as riveting as we expected, but the second half sure made up for it. I am bewildered that the 49ers did not attempt to score at the end of the first half.  They could have made life miserable for the Chiefs with two consecutive possessions (end of first half and beginning of second half) allowing them to put points on the board.  You defer when you win the coin toss just to set up that situation.  They had time-outs to use and did not use them wisely.  It was a good time to go for the jugular.  They did not.
  1. Patrick Mahomes, at 24, became the youngest QB to be named the MVP of the Super Bowl. Tom Brady had that spot before Sunday Night.  The irony is that Mahomes did it in his third season while it took his head coach, Andy Reid, 21 seasons to get it done.  And being on the cover of the Madden ’20 video game did not jinx Mahomes either.
  1. Andy Reid is now guaranteed a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame – he is 7th in regular season wins; he has won 222 total games; he is 4th in playoff runs and 4th in playoff appearances for coaches with 10 or more seasons. Even Philadelphia fans have to be happy for the 61-year-old.
  1. NFL draft pick spots are determined now that the season has come to a close. The Bengals, Redskins, Lions, Giants, and Dolphins have the first five selections.  The Ravens, Titans, Packers, 49ers, and the Chiefs have the last five.  The Eagles will pick #21.  Of course, all of those slots could be changed due to trades.
  1. The regular season of high school basketball comes to a close this week with games on Monday and Tuesday night. Easton takes on Freedom on Monday at 7:00 PM and on Tuesday night, rivals Wilson and Notre Dame finish out their Colonial League season on RCN-TV at 7:00 PM.  Lafayette men are off this week, but we will have the LafayetteLehigh University men’s game on Saturday, Feb. 8 LIVE at 2:00 PM.  And then it is on to the PPL Center starting Monday, Feb. 10.

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 1-0)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 175-90-1  (66%) 

I PICKED THE SUPER BOWL WINNER! 

KANSAS CITY

Then and Now

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 is Super Bowl week!  The 54th championship game has the Kansas City Chiefs taking on the San Francisco 49ers.  The game promises to be very entertaining with two exciting, yet contrasting, offenses – one, where the pass is the focal point; the other relies heavily on the running game.  All week, you will read about the match-ups on the offensive side versus the defensive side of the ball.  Special teams will be compared and pundits will dissect the two teams to the best of their abilities.

But, this week, I came across an article by ESPN staff writer Ben Baby, where he compares the first game played on January 15, 1967, (known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game back then) to this Sunday’s game.  His research was quite interesting.

Let’s start with ticket prices. Tickets for the ‘67 game were $6, $10, and $12.  In today’s dollars the cost would have been $93.73.  Parking for this week’s game costs more than that – an estimated $120 per vehicle.  The last he looked at ticket prices for this year’s game, the cheapest seats at the top of the stadium went for $4,750.  Club seats were selling for $31,200 on Ticketmaster.

Another startling comparison was made with linemen.  The very best back then weighed around 250 pounds.  The average size of an NFL lineman today is 313 pounds!  At the end of last year, there were 372 players listed at 300 or more pounds (352 pounds being the largest).  Every 49ers offensive lineman weighs over 300 pounds while no 1966 Green Bay Packer weighed more than 249 pounds.

Quarterback comparisons are even more shocking.  The numbers back then for yards per game, completion percentage, and passes thrown per game would be dead last in today’s game.

The first game cost CBS and NBC $1 million.  A 30-second ad today costs $5.6 million.  The Grambling State University band performed the halftime show, a far cry from J-Lo and Shakira.  The winners of game one received $15,000 and the losers got $7,500.  After this Sunday, the winners will each receive $124,000 and the losers will get $62,000.

There are no statistics on how much money was bet for game one, but billions of dollars are bet today, over one billion in Nevada alone.  Some estimate that Nevada represents only about 5% of the total amount bet on the game.  And it is believed, the “house” has suffered losses only twice in the 18 years since legal betting on the game has occurred.

I actually have watched every Super Bowl game since year one.  Trust me when I say, my weight, my income, and my energy have dramatically changed as well.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Kobe Bryant transcended the world of sports with his career and life. He was the greatest of his time, but that is little consolation today.  Eight families had their lives dramatically changed in a split second on Sunday morning.  Remember them all in your thoughts.  May they all “rest in peace.”
  1. As you know, Kobe Bryant played his high school basketball just outside of Philadelphia at Lower Merion High School. If my memory serves me right, we televised one of his high school games when his team played Whitehall in the state playoffs.  Regretfully, I did another game that day and left the broadcast to another team of announcers.
  1. The Chiefs are a one-point underdog in the Super Bowl. The over/under for points scored is 54.5.  The largest bet placed on the game right now is $684,000 on the 49ers +2 in New Jersey.  I’m sure that number will be surpassed as the week progresses.  With that said, so far, in Nevada, twice as much money has been bet on the Chiefs.
  1. Is there a more inconsistent team in the NBA than the 76ers? I know, I asked this same question last week.  They won five of six in the past week and beat the Lakers on Saturday by 17 points.  Ben Simmons looks like an All-League player and rookie Matisse Thybulle plays great defense.  Soon I may be able to drop the “in” in “inconsistent”.
  1. It is hard to believe that there is only a week and a half left in the regular season for high school basketball. RCN-TV will bring you Central at Whitehall basketball on Tuesday, and this Friday night, Whitehall at Parkland will be followed by Freedom at Liberty.  Our Lafayette schedule includes the Lafayette women taking on Colgate on Wednesday night at 7:00pm and the Lafayette men playing American on Saturday at 2:00pm.  The District XI wrestling championship will be held on Saturday. RCN will have the wrestling LIVE.

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 2-0)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 174-90-1  (66%)

SUPER BOWL WINNER

KANSAS CITY

 

The Statute of Limitations

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 feel rather confident that I cannot get into trouble with this blog.  After all, in legal circles, there is something called the “statute of limitations”.  This law sets the maximum time that a person can be charged with a crime.  I believe it is normally seven years, but, at my age, I don’t care if it is seventeen, or even fifty, for that matter.  Let me explain why I bring this up now.

In the news this past week, there have been many stories about cheating.  It seems like the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox cheated their way to World Series championships.  They have been accused of stealing signs and it has been confirmed that they did indeed do that.  Two managers have been fired and one player, who recently became a manager, was fired before he even managed a game.

Sports cheating is not a new phenomenon.  Who has forgotten – Lance Armstrong, the East German Olympic team, Tonya Harding, Deflategate, Rosie Ruiz in the Boston Marathon, the steroids era, – and the list goes on and on.

I can sit here at my computer and tell you why cheating is wrong, but you have heard those cries before.  It is wrong and, if caught, punishment must follow.  I firmly believe the Astros and the Red Sox should lose their World Series titles.  But… I say that with a guilty conscience.

I, too, have cheated.  Is there anyone reading this who can honestly say they haven’t?  If so, I admire your integrity.  You see, back in high school, I was in the advanced classes and in the science curriculum; one had to take chemistry and physics.

I looked very closely at the value of both – would I ever need the knowledge those two subjects offered?  After a week or so in class, my answer was a resounding – “Never!” In chemistry, I already knew “absolute zero” was cold, “barometric pressure” was for weathermen only, and “valences” had something to do with electrons, but since I did not know what an electron was, I couldn’t care less.  It would take a “quantum” (get it) leap to get me interested in this stuff.

Physics was no different.  Why call something “antimatter” – isn’t that just “nothing”?  I learned about the “Big Bang Theory” on CBS, not in class.  “Dark matter” is when the electric company fails me once again and “Critical Mass”, to me, is when I am twenty pounds overweight.  Suffice it to say this was not critical knowledge to me.  And the concepts seemed impossible to learn.  So what did I do – what every industrious grade-centered student would do – I cheated.

Luckily, I had a few things going for me in both classes.  We were seated alphabetically and, after L comes M (see, I learned my alphabet because I thought that knowledge would come in handy one day).  M was very, very smart.  He’s a doctor today.  The tests were all multiple choice and I had a good sight angle from my eyes to his answers.  We were together in both classes.  Add to that the fact that my chemistry teacher was the basketball coach (I was the starting point guard) and the physics teacher was the football coach (I was the starting quarterback) and, maybe, just maybe, they did not want to catch me.  All I know is that I passed both subjects with Bs (I was smart enough not to use all of the good doctor’s answers).

I may have gotten just payback, however, before entering college.  I took the Advanced Placement tests in English, math, and Spanish.  English and math came easy – Spanish, not so much.  The entire test was in Spanish including the directions – again, it was multiple choice.  I just guessed.  To my amazement, I scored so high, I was placed in Spanish 3 and Spanish 4 instead of the introductory courses in college.  No one ever spoke a word of English in either class.  I tried to talk my way out of it, but offered up my argument in English, which I am not sure the professor understood.  So for two semesters, I did not know what anyone was saying. I got Ds.

Lest you think I am stupid (and you probably do by now), I won the Shakespeare prize and was elected to the English Honor Society.  I also was Moravian’s Scholar-Athlete in 1968.  I did well when I thought I was learning important things.

Rest assured, with all the cheating that is in the news this week, I am happy to get this off my chest.  I feel better and, oh, yeah, what can anyone do now?  Remember, there’s the “Statute of Limitations”.  Ha! Ha! Ha!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Andy Reid is back in the Super Bowl. 15 years ago Reid’s Eagles took on the New England Patriots.  There were clock management problems in that game again for Reid, something Eagles’ fans never were willing to forgive throughout his stay in Philadelphia.  You may not remember that Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons three years ago when the Falcons gave up a 28-3 lead to the Patriots and ended up losing 34-28.  Articles will remind both coaches of those failed outcomes in the next two weeks.  The good news is one of them WILL win a Super Bowl.
  1. The Chiefs are in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1970 – that’s right – 50 years ago. Andy Reid was 11 years old.  The Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings that year 23-7.  It was Super Bowl IV.  Hank Stram was the coach.
  1. The 49ers won their first in 1982 when they beat the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21. Bill Walsh was the head coach.  They won four more after that in 1985, 1989, 1990, and 1995.  They lost to the Baltimore Ravens in 2013.
  1. Is there a more inconsistent team in the NBA than the 76’ers? They now have won three straight without Joel Embiid.  By next week’s end, I could be talking about a three-game losing streak – that’s just who they are.
  1. RCN-TV will bring you Allen at Liberty basketball on Tuesday and Easton at Allen followed by Central at Parkland on Friday night. Our Lafayette schedule includes the Lafayette men taking on Army on Wednesday night at 7:00pm and the Lafayette women playing Lehigh on Saturday at 2:00pm.  The EPC wrestling championship will be held on Saturday at 7:00pm.  We will have the wrestling LIVE.

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 2-0)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 174-90-1  (66%) 

SUPER BOWL PICK NEXT WEEK

The Transfer Portal

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.

Many of us who pay close attention to high school sports have complained vociferously about students transferring to other schools just for the sake of athletics.  Community boundaries did not make much difference for those who wanted to play for a particular program or leave a program that was not successful.  Many believed a son or daughter would get more exposure to college scouts by being a member of a winning team and that exposure could increase one’s chances of landing a scholarship.

This movement has caused the PIAA to try to find a solution to an ongoing problem.  There has been plenty of discussion about boundary vs. non-boundary competition; residence requirements; mid-year movement, etc.  Stay tuned for more rules followed by more complaining.

The NCAA which regulates college athletics thinks they have a solution – it’s called the “Transfer Portal”.  It started in October, 2018.  Any player in any sport who has interest in transferring from a school can now place their name into the transfer portal.  All the student needs to do is go to the compliance department of their current college and say they want to be entered into the portal.  Common courtesy would suggest a student-athlete should talk to their coach first, but that is not a requirement.  Once the request is made, compliance has 48 hours to enter that student’s name onto the portal.  Once the name appears on the list, colleges can contact that student with permission from the student.  A player does have the option of removing their name, but, for the most part, a coach will drop that student from their roster, or at the very least, retract their scholarship at the end of a semester as soon as they hear that student is looking to go elsewhere.

The idea behind it was that the student should have more power in the decision-making process.  It gives the athlete more options than they had before.  Previously, the student had to be granted permission to contact another school.  The list is supposed to remain private, used only by schools and student-athletes, but there most certainly have been leaks.

The concept has become very popular for the athletes.  It is speculated that there are over 500 Division 1 names in the portal right now.  More than 15,000 have entered their names in the Transfer Portal since its inception.  Compliance people love it because it eliminates a lot of paperwork.  Most athletes love it because they now have freedom of movement, which they did not previously have.  Coaches both love and hate it depending on whether they lose or acquire a player.

The transfer drawback of being forced to sit out a year still exists in major sports like football, basketball, baseball, and hockey.  There are waivers available which are treated on a case by case basis.

This actually seems like a rational plan.  And anything deemed “rational” in sports these days is a positive step forward.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Andy Reid has been to only one Super Bowl as a head coach and we know what team that was. But with the Patriots losing and the Ravens losing before Sunday’s ChiefsTexans, it sure looked like he was guaranteed to head there for a second time.  And then all “heck” broke loose and the Texans went up 24-0 into the second period.  The Chiefs made mistake after mistake.  But have you seen a team this year able to score points faster than the Chiefs?  He told his players to “keep playing, keep battling”.  It worked; boy, did it ever.  They scored the next 41 and ended the game with 51 points.  Is this the year Coach Reid wins a Super Bowl?
  1. Jeopardy is trying to pick the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) by pitting their three most successful players in competition against one another. The winner will be decided this week.  The NFL is trying to do it by position and obviously without competition.  An impossible task.  Just look at the quarterback position – Unitas, Brady, Elway, P. Manning, Montana?  Now move on to every position and start the argument. Please – no physical confrontations!
  1. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers exchanged jerseys after Sunday night’s game. Both played for the University of California in 2004 and almost became Packer teammates in 2010 when Buffalo traded Lynch.
  1. Kansas City is favored by seven in their game with Tennessee despite the Titans winning 35-32 during the regular season. If you are looking for a team of destiny, choose the Titans.  San Francisco is favored by seven over the Packers.  That’s odd since the 49ers led 23-0 at the half and won 37-8.  They sacked Aaron Rodgers five times and held him to 104 yards passing.  I cannot see any way the Packers win this one.
  1. RCN-TV will bring you Whitehall at Bethlehem Catholic basketball on Tuesday and Easton at Parkland followed by Central Catholic at Freedom on Friday night. Our Lafayette schedule includes the Lafayette men taking on Colgate on Wednesday morning at 11:00am and the Lafayette women playing Navy on Saturday at 2:00pm.  Northampton will wrestle Nazareth on Wednesday night at 7:00pm.  Plenty to choose from if you are so inclined.

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 3-1)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 172-90-1  (66%)

SAN FRANCISCO

KANSAS CITY

From Bucknell to Kentucky

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.

College basketball fans are well aware of the great tradition of Kentucky college basketball.  One rarely ever mentions the Patriot League in the same breath with teams like Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and others, including Kentucky.

On Sunday, I did the play-by-play of the LafayetteBucknell game and one of the players missing this year from the Bucknell roster was Nate Sestina.  He graduated last year, but due to an injury in his freshman season when he did not play, he still had one year of eligibility left. Most Patriot League schools do not offer many opportunities for post-graduate work so some players will find a program that allows them to continue their schooling and play one more year of college basketball.  This is not all that uncommon.  What is uncommon is to transfer from the Patriot League to a Top Ten basketball school.  What is even more unusual is that the player will actually play.

John Hale of the Louisville Courier Journal can tell the Nate Sestina story much better than I can:

The story behind Nate Sestina’s journey from Emporium to Kentucky 

LEXINGTON, Ky. – When Nate Sestina takes the Rupp Arena court for the first time at Big Blue Madness in October, the entire population of his hometown could fit in the stands.

More than 10 times.

That moment will mark the culmination of one of the more unusual journeys to the Kentucky basketball roster in recent memory. Sestina was not a high-profile recruit like Anthony Davis. He is not a Bluegrass State native like Dontaie Allen. He did not play at another high-profile university like Reid Travis.

Sestina’s alma mater, Cameron County High School in Emporium, Pennsylvania — student body less than 250 — had not produced a Division I player since the 1970s, but Sestina ended that drought with a scholarship from Bucknell. Three years later, without a single college start on his resume, few would have imagined Sestina attracting the interest of college basketball’s winningest program less than a year later.

“It’s crazy,” Sestina told the Courier Journal when reached by phone Sunday. “I’m waiting to kind of wake up from everything. It really is surreal, and it’s super humbling to have this opportunity. Coming from where I come from, this doesn’t ever really happen.”

Former Cameron County coach Jon Songer remembers Sestina as a talented high school freshman without a clear spot on a veteran squad. Sestina had yet to grow into the 6-foot-9, 245-pound frame that helped him rank second in the Patriot League in rebounds per game (8.5) last season, and the only open spot in the Cameron County starting lineup was at point guard.

So Sestina spent his freshman year as the team’s primary ball-handler, playing alongside older brother Andrew, then a senior who went on to play for Division III Allegheny College.

“He was just a baby-faced kid, about 6-2, 6-3,” Songer said. “… We wanted to get our five best guys on the floor, and even though maybe that wasn’t Nate’s true position at point guard, that was the void we needed to fill. He came in and played hard that summer going into his freshman year of high school, worked on his handle, worked on his ball skills and things like that. He did well for us. … He handled the pressure well.”

Having his brother to motivate him every day in practice made sure Sestina never lost sight of the ultimate goal. As Andrew was recruited by colleges, Nate became certain he wanted to play basketball at the next level too.

“He really helped me and every day in practice was competitive,” Sestina said. “He beat me up. I drove in for a layup, he’d borderline tackle me to the ground and be like, ‘Hey, finish through contact.’”

As Sestina grew, so did Cameron County’s success.

Sestina won 12 games as a freshman, 18 as a sophomore, 20 as a junior and 24 as a senior. In his last season at Cameron County, Sestina averaged 22 points and 14 rebounds per game to lead his team to its first state tournament victory since 1972.

His college career could have been derailed just four games into his freshman year at Bucknell when a torn labrum ended his season, but Sestina took the opportunity to refine his shooting mechanics. He returned to the court as a sophomore to serve a key reserve role on NCAA Tournament teams in 2017 and 2018, then stepped into the starting lineup last fall following the departures of former Patriot League Players of the Year Nana Foulland and Zach Thomas from the Bucknell frontcourt.

Sestina went on to earn second-team All-Patriot League honors after averaging 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He shot 53.6 percent from the field, 38 percent from 3-point range (41 for 108) and 80.8 percent from the free-throw line.

The Patriot League does not allow athletically motivated redshirt seasons, and while Sestina’s injury as a freshman likely would have qualified him for a waiver to that rule, there was no fit for him in the Bucknell graduate school, which admits only around 40 students per year. With the blessings of his Bucknell coaches, Sestina decided to pursue a graduate transfer.

“If I were to go pro, I would have some things I struggled with like moving my feet laterally, guarding people smaller than me,” Sestina said. “I just feel like there’s an overall confidence in my game I know I need going into a pro career. I talked with a couple of my coaches and my family, and I think taking an extra year and going after a graduate year and playing at a bigger school and having that opportunity to develop would really benefit me.”

The decision was perfect timing for Kentucky.

John Calipari had recently overcome his distaste for the graduate transfer rule after watching Travis and the Wildcats thrive together in one season. There was an obvious need for frontcourt options on the roster with Travis gone, PJ Washington all but certain to enter the NBA draft and no post players committed in the 2019 recruiting class.

Luckily for Sestina, he had no shortage of connections to the Kentucky coach.

After coaching a team of college players, including Brad Calipari, on an international trip last summer, Bucknell assistant Joe Meehan had developed a relationship with the Hall of Fame coach. Two of Sestina’s former AAU coaches (Daryn Freedman and Almamy Thiero) had played for Calipari at Massachusetts and Memphis, respectively.

All three coaches reached out to the Kentucky staff to clue them into Sestina’s availability.

“I’m super thankful for those guys for taking a leap of faith and reaching out,” Sestina said. “I’m pretty sure college coaches get it all the time — ‘We’ve got this guy, we’ve got this guy’ — but Coach Cal said when he saw Coach Meehan, Coach Al and Coach Freedman all reached out he was like, ‘I’m going to take a look at this kid.’ The next day he called me and said, ‘I heard from three different people and took a look for myself and I like the way you play; I like how hard you play; I like the veteran presence you have and the leadership you bring.’”

Freedman, president of the Basketball Stars of America AAU program, played for Calipari on the 1996 UMass Final Four team then worked on Calipari staffs with UMass, Memphis and the New Jersey Nets.

When Sestina’s father, Donald, told him Nate was about to enter the transfer portal, his first call was to Kentucky assistant Tony Barbee, his former colleague and fellow UMass alum.

“It’s basically like if you want to be a doctor and you go to Harvard Medical School,” Freedman said. “I consider my time under Coach Cal like that. … Coach Cal is the best at getting guys prepared for the next level. If he’s got the potential to do it, Coach will get that out of him.”

Despite receiving interest from close to 20 programs, Sestina held off seriously considering other options until he could complete a visit to Kentucky.

Both sides were impressed by the other, and on Thursday Sestina announced he would play his final season of college basketball in Lexington.

“Good things happen to good people, and you’re not going to find a better person than Nate,” Songer said. “I think he’s going to be tremendous not only to the Kentucky basketball but around the community. I think people are going to just love him. He’s got that personality that just attracts everybody.”

The message from Calipari was clear and one that will surprise few Kentucky fans: Nothing would be guaranteed to Sestina at UK, but Calipari was not interested in adding a graduate transfer just to sit on the bench and add depth in case one of his five-star recruits did not pan out. A conversation with Travis about his experience at Kentucky reinforced to Sestina that the challenge of helping lead young, talented squad was one he wanted to embrace.

He was ready to embark on the most unlikely chapter of his journey from Emporium to basketball stardom yet.

“I’m a big believer in God, I’m a big believer in things happen for a reason,” Sestina said. “I got hurt my freshman year, and if I hadn’t gotten hurt, none of this stuff would have happened. … If you go to a school like this you’re able to go for a national championship. … The guys they’re bringing in are super confident and super driven. I think by coming in and clicking right away we can make a run at it.”

To bring you up to date – Sestina has played in 10 of the 13 Kentucky games (he was injured for three of them).  He has started six and is currently a starter.  He is Kentucky’s leading rebounder and sixth on the team in scoring.  He led the team in scoring against Ohio State with 17 points making five 3’s.

What is typical for a Patriot League basketball player is that they are great scholar-athletes.  Perhaps, the best part of the story is that Nate Sestina is majoring in Kinesiology and Health Promotion.  I looked it up – it’s “the study of the mechanics of body movements”.  That, also, seems to summarize Sestina’s life.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Despite what everyone seemed to be saying after the VikingsSaints game ended with a Vikings touchdown in overtime, did you not think there was offensive pass interference? Tight end Kyle Rudolph created space by pushing off of the defender.  That space allowed the catch.  The Saints were bitten again by a “no pass interference” call, this time an offensive one.  Last year a “no-call” on the defensive side may have cost them a trip to the Super Bowl.  Replay on pass interference has not helped very much.
  1. Dallas fired Jason Garrett on Sunday. His contract would have expired anyway on the 14th.  It will be interesting to see where Garrett ends up.  He has always been a favorite of the Giants and they need a head coach.  So does Dallas.  There are plenty of good candidates – Mike McCarthy and Jeff Fisher to name a couple.  Fisher’s personality might be a welcome change to the stoic Garrett.
  1. Why do so many fans hate Tom Brady? I was in a gym full of people on Sunday and everyone seemed so elated that Brady finally lost a playoff game and they were ecstatic he threw an interception for his last pass, perhaps as a Patriot.  He is a free-agent now.  Would the haters want him on THEIR team?
  1. If anyone ever doubted that great dual meets in high school wrestling generate the biggest crowds and the greatest interest, then you did not see the Notre DameBethlehem Catholic match this past week? The crowd was immense and the atmosphere was the best.  I cannot imagine squeezing a crowd like that into the Notre Dame gym next year.  It was like the old days.
  1. RCN-TV will bring you Parkland at Freedom basketball on Tuesday and Northampton at Easton on Friday night. Both are LIVE at 7:00pm.  Our Lafayette schedule includes the Lafayette men taking on Holy Cross on Wednesday at 7:00pm and the Lafayette women playing Loyola on Saturday at 2:00pm.  Easton will wrestle Northampton on Saturday.  Plenty to choose from if you are so inclined.

 

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 2-2)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 169-89-1  (66%)

SAN FRANCISCO

GREEN BAY

BALTIMORE

KANSAS CITY

 

 

GARY’S GUESSES

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 11-5) (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 167-87-1 (66%)

BUFFALO
TENNESSEE
NEW ORLEANS
SEATTLE

Gary’s Guesses

GARY’S GUESSES (LAST WEEK – 13-3)  (YEAR-TO-DATE) – 156-82-1  (66%)

BUFFALO

CLEVELAND

GREEN BAY

KANSAS CITY

MINNESOTA

NEW ENGLAND

ATLANTA

NEW ORLEANS

DALLAS

DENVER

RAMS

PHILADELPHIA

KANSAS CITY

BALTIMORE

TENNESSEE

SAN FRANCISCO

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!