High School Football Polls Returns

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.

Believe me, there were plenty of times over the last few months where I thought this day would never come.

At least, not in the year 2020.

With high school sports shut down until 2021 in many of the RCN viewing areas, including the Delaware Valley and in the DMV, scholastic football and other fall athletics are back in session this week for the Lehigh Valley and District XI.

The official kickoff for the Colonial League football season was last weekend but this Friday marks the return of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference games and, with it, RCN-TV’s first broadcast this fall.

With it, marks the return of RCN SportsTalk High School Football Poll, with a few new wrinkles for this season.

The first and most obvious one is that we will be conducting the poll for fewer weeks this season and we will only be doing it for as long as teams in our coverage area are still playing (if all goes well, that should be through the end of November this year.)

Secondly, with EPC league games limited to teams playing each other within their own county and the Colonial League teams altering their schedules, aka playing opponents based largely on availability and “clean bills of health,” we have altered our two sets of poll.

Instead of having a big school and small school poll as in years past, we are going to break the two polls down into EPC and Colonial League schools.  With the reduced schedules, this change for our poll will make things a bit more interesting since many of the top teams within the local conferences will not have the opportunity to actually face each other this fall.

Without the crowning of an official Colonial League and EPC champion, our poll will be an intriguing barometer to who is, in fact, the best team in each conference (and, of course, bragging rights).

So below we have our first week of high school polls for both leagues.

Feel free to email me at Chris.Michael@rcn.net for your thoughts on how you like our new setup for the high school football season and your thoughts on whether this is something we should continue for future years. 

Also, if you have any opinions or suggestions on how we might improve our polls for the future, feel free to express those thoughts to me as well.

Let the games begin!

EPC-Lehigh Valley TOP 5

Other schools receiving at least one vote: Emmaus

COLONIAL TOP 5

Other schools receiving at least one vote: Northern Lehigh

RCN-TV Programming Notes:

Coming up on this week’s “SportsTalk” show, our guest will include Easton Athletic Director and EPC Football Chair Jim Prokivsak. Jim will update us on the league’s latest news, the ever-evolving fall football schedules and reasons behind altering the schedules the way they did (which some people, including many in the Allentown School District, are not thrilled with).  He’ll also give updates on his Rovers continuing its Thanksgiving Day rivalry game with Phillipsburg, an update on the renovations at Cottingham Stadium and thoughts on being one of the first schools in Pennsylvania to start an organized girls high school wrestling program.  

We’ll also have members of the defending District XI girls soccer champions from Freedom High School, whose season kicks off later this week.

And be sure to catch our high school football coverage this weekend.  On Friday at 7:00 p.m. we’ll have live coverage of Freedom vs. Northampton.

 

Win One For…Me

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 have to be honest with you. It has not been a good year for those trying to be a solid proponent for sports.

The professional ranks, the collegiate levels … heck, even at the scholastic and youth levels, there have been a lot of ugly conversations, controversies and questionable decisions – to say the least – that have made it extremely difficult to try to advocate its role in society.

I’ve heard more people say over the last few years and even many more fans over the last several months that say they are giving up sport “X” or are no longer following a league or a specific level of play.  Unlike in the past, when say, Major League Baseball went on strike and people said they were never going back, but many did … I think we are in a much different territory right now.

Here are a few examples….

Approximately half of Pennsylvania residents are upset that scholastic sports were approved by the PIAA and by a majority of school districts in the Commonwealth.  One of the most telling statements I’ve heard from a local Lehigh Valley resident recently was, “I hope I’m wrong, but if I’m right, and the coronavirus can be spread by playing sports and people could die…I’m not alright with that.”

A couple weeks ago, a D1 college football player (BJ Foster) at a major university (Texas) quit his team MID-GAME because he was upset at his lack of playing time during a BLOWOUT win, and was mad because his rarely used backup was actually getting a chance to play for a few minutes.  So much for being a good team player!

I’ve also heard many people say extremely negative thoughts about the top leaders in different professional sports. One more comical line I heard recently from someone who has sworn off attending/following sports said that “being clueless” must be a new requirement to be a major sports commissioner.

I have tried to rebut angry fans’ arguments and look to promote that there are still great attributes found in the various levels of athletics.  Sportsmanship, character building, socialization and building teamwork are just some of the things that I have mentioned to make cases for the wonderful side-effects that sports offers.

Then I opened up my laptop and read a headline I saw recently about a professional athlete…

“Jason Peters to Eagles: Pay Me More to Play Left Tackle

You know, nothing really destroys an argument of trying to build unity, teamwork and unselfishness than a sports article that mentions dollar amounts throughout the first five paragraphs.

For those who don’t follow the Eagles closely, here’s the skinny on the situation.

A rash of injuries at the left tackle position made it clear that Peters would be the most logical choice to play the position.  He has had the most experience than anyone else – by far – currently healthy on the roster.  But in order to do so, the offensive lineman wants to be paid more money by lining up ten feet to the left of his current position.

Granted, when you have a right-handed quarterback, the left tackle position is more crucial than other offensive line positions in that it is the most common place where a defensive end or linebacker will try to blindside the quarterback.

But here’s a summary of what Peters’ argument sounds like:

     I’m all in for this team and really want them to win games but even the slightest adjustment by me that would dramatically make our team better for the next couple months is only worth my time and effort if you are going to reward me monetarily and give me more money than what’s on the contract that I have already signed.  Otherwise I’m perfectly fine with a far less capable person left to try to defend our franchise quarterback and not have our team do nearly as well.

Not exactly a quote you’d hear from Vince Lombardi or Walter Payton.

I have always been a proponent of athletes trying to earn as much money as they can during their playing careers. They put their bodies … and sometimes their lives … on the line.  Despite coaches, owners, league presidents and everyone else involved in sports, none of it can happen without players.

But responses and actions like Foster and Peters are becoming more and more commonplace in all of sports. As a beat reporter I have covered Former Eagle Greats like Brian Dawkins, Reggie White and others that would be absolutely ashamed of a direct quote above like the one above and the subsequent sediments that would linger in their locker room.

And while I hear many solid reasons for playing scholastic sports this fall, one of the most frequent that really turns me off to this position is a parent saying that his son must play football this fall because his son needs “better highlight reel material” than what he got last year so he can attract more lucrative college offers.

Honestly, it’s becoming harder and harder to those who are trying to promote the positive aspects that athletics can provide when the anti-sports debaters are constantly getting more and more evidence that debunks its very value in society.

Or maybe being a team player and doing what’s right, isn’t very important in life anymore?

 

It’s “Miller’s Time”

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

When the “RCN SportsTalk” show launched over 15 years ago, one of my first ideas was to brainstorm a list of people I thought that were extremely popular sports celebrities from the Lehigh Valley – which, when the program started, was the only place that the program aired – and would make for a very special night of television viewing.

That initial list consisted of about 55 people.  Through the great work of the show’s producer (and perhaps an even greater amount of luck and good fortune), within a few years we had nearly all of those people from that list on our program.  

A few ‘stragglers’ who either had time conflicts with being at our studio on a Thursday night or guests who were only available at a time when our studio was occupied with other projects kept those individuals from being on SportsTalk.  However, by year six of the program, we had all but two of those people from the list on our show at least once.

One of them was Larry Miller – widely regarded as THE greatest basketball player to ever come out of the Valley.

(Incidentally/ironically, the only other person from that original list who has not been on the show and I began a very special friendship a number of years ago when I contacted him and he told me why he did no longer does any public appearances.  It is actually a wonderful story about why he has NOT been on the program – one that we still have fun with to this day. But that’s a story for another blog entry.  After all, it is “Larry Miller’s time,” which is the name of his new book that is being released this month.)

I have actually been close to having Larry on the show several times, although, up until recently, he has rejected every single media request offered to him over the last 40 years, from sports newspapers, radio stations and major television networks from all across the country.

A couple times over the last 15 years, we thought we had a commitment from him to appear, only to have him change his mind.  One such occurrence was actually through a mutual friend of Larry and myself – Joe Murphy, who was also an RCN employee who just passed away around this time a year ago.

Larry had also allegedly agreed to appear at special nights for his high school alma mater – Catasauqua High School – only to again, change his mind and be a no-show.  While he’s always been easy to find at local Catty establishments, he has shielded himself from the limelight – a trait that has stayed with him even when he was playing professional basketball in the late 1960s and early 70s.

But now with a new book out, he is looking to make the media rounds and discuss some very revealing experiences about his playing days, from the reason why you started playing basketball in this area and the pride he feels for this region, through his days at the University of North Carolina, the ABA and the highs and lows he’s gone through following his playing career. I literally have 15 years worth of questions that I have stored up for him and can’t wait to address as many of those topics as time will allow.

At least, I’m hoping to get a chance to ask those questions. Tune in this Thursday at 7 p.m. on RCN TV to find out if I finally got that chance … and if the “time” is finally right for Miller.

Reflections & Upcoming Shows

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.

As we talked about last time here at “The Shop,” the long-running tradition of The Great Allentown Fair was canceled this year due to precautions caused by Covid-19.

RCN has sponsored a number of popular events at the Farmerama Theater, including two of our “RCN SportsTalk” shows each year for over a decade now.

Like we did this summer with the canceled basketball tournaments, we present some of the never-before-seen pictures that were taken at some of the previous “SportsTalk” shows at the Fair that were never published.

Enjoy the memories! I’m very much looking forward to creating new ones at the Fairgrounds in 2021.

PROGRAMMING NOTE:

If you missed last week’s edition of RCN Sports Talk (which is now available for free to RCN customers through RCN on demand), we had sports doctors and athletic trainers from school districts within the RCN viewing area discussing the pros and cons of playing sports during the pandemic. Additionally they had tips for student-athletes to stay in shape during lockdowns, ways parents can help their kids adjust physically and mentally to getting back into regular sports practices, truths and myths about COVID-19, ways to help kids returning to more normal socialization events and many more important facts and information during this critical time. It was a very topical conversation and already I’ve gotten quite a bit of positive feedback about the show and their opinions. Be sure to check it out!!!

And coming up…

… Our guests will include Frank Majikes, District 2 Chair for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area and PIAA Board President, to talk about current scholastic sports issues and the return to play.

We’ll also have Larry Miller – widely regarded as the greatest basketball player to come out of the Lehigh Valley area – discussing his tremendous playing career and extremely private life over the last four decades.

Hall of Fame boxing announcer and ESPN broadcaster Al Bernstein will be on to talk about current sports topics, his legendary career and his new show that is debuting on RCN TV this fall.

Our upcoming guest list also includes the league presidents from the East Penn Conference and Colonial League to explain the decision to play high school sports this fall and talk about the ways school districts are trying to keep people safe at these events.

Plus, a few more very special guests, including local coaches and players, discuss their return to participation in full-time athletics during the Coronavirus pandemic. Keep checking back to “The Sports Talk Shop” for more details.

The Fair is a fair…

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 week is, without a doubt, one of the most hectic weeks of the year for me…

…traditionally.

For over a hundred years The Great Allentown Fair usually starts at some point this week and runs through Labor Day and into early next week.

I usually host/emcee a number of events during the week from the Fair’s Farmerama Theater that RCN has proudly sponsored for decades.  In addition, I produce at least two of our “RCN SportsTalk” programs from the Fairgrounds, featuring special guests, cheerleaders, marching band and sometimes dog trainers, lumberjacks, high-wire acts, Fair queens and a whole host of other colorful personalities over the years that have been a part of our shows.

Trying to get all of these people  — successfully — onto the fairgrounds, accounting for ridiculously limited parking spaces, accounting for people losing their credentials, security guards claiming they weren’t told to allow guests in to be on a show that day and a whole host of other potential things that could go wrong, has always made this week very… interesting, to say the least, each and every year.

My family usually sees very little of me during this week – the most they’ll see of me is when they stop by and watch some of the shows that I am hosting at the Farmerama.

It is also not a very easy week as, on top of putting these shows together, it also happens to be the opening for the high school football season, which is perhaps the most watched entity for our viewers during the entire year.

I’m usually in contact this week with coaches, athletic directors, administrators and other personnel, scrambling to put all the football teams’ information together, like rosters, correct uniform numbers – with the emphasis on “correct” – and much more information needed to maintain our usual high quality for broadcasts.  Another whole host of things that usually goes wrong during this week, does, and it is without a doubt, the most hectic week trying to prepare for that weekend’s football games … more than any other regular season game.

And both events happen in the exact…same…week!

But not in 2020. 

It’s safe to say that I won’t be simply putting my feet up on my desk this year and taking it easy this week, as we are putting together a busy and exciting month coming up for the “RCN SportsTalk” programs in September, as scholastic sports go through an interesting transition from lockdown to a staggered return over the next few weeks.

I attended the Great Allentown Fair as a kid and it holds a very special place in my heart.  I enjoy the experience tremendously each year and, although the entire week of activities has been canceled this year due to the pandemic, I’m very much looking forward to the challenges that will await me for 2021.

That being said, I have to be completely honest with you and say that my blood pressure will probably be a little lower this Labor Day weekend, and the next seven days will not be nearly as stressful and as frantic for me as they usually are. But again, I sincerely hope to be working just as frantically 12 months from now when both the Fair and the traditional start of high school football season return to their normal time slots as well next year.

In celebration of the Great Allentown Fair – a tradition over 160 years in the making – check back to “The Shop” next week for a special surprise!

PROGRAMMING NOTE: With high school sports now officially back on for all sports in the Lehigh Valley, we will have a timely look at some of the fall sports teams as they prepare for their 2020 campaigns.  Our guests will include the defending District 11 champions from girls field hockey and the girls and boys cross-country squads on this Thursday’s show.

Tune in to hear more about the upcoming season!

 

“Anatomy Of A Decision”

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 other agency, organization, employer or company.

Anatomy of a Murder” is one of my favorite films from the 1950s and is a harrowing look at some of the awful decisions human beings can possibly make. But this isn’t the “Classic Video Showplace” blog – we’re here to talk about sports.

So instead, I would like to begin the ugly post-mortem on what has been a five-month long journey by the elite decision-makers in charge of high school sports that has led us to the ambiguous state of affairs that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is in right now.

I may be wrong, but when I am entrusted with making a serious decision, my thought process involves the following prerequisites:

  • Do your research
  • Communicate with everyone involved
  • Ask questions and interview knowledgeable people
  • Critically review all the facts
  • Make a clear and decisive ruling to EVERYONE while thoroughly explaining my position.

I know not everyone might agree with this set of procedures nor have the time or energy/resources to participate in all of these steps for every serious decision one makes in life.

But the decision on what to do with scholastic sports in Pennsylvania for this fall – something that has been looming since mid-March – has turned into a complete farce among some of our most trusted individuals among various aspects of the educational and political systems.

Let’s recap some of the ‘highlights”…

  • A color-coded system was put in place to give guidance to citizens in Pennsylvania in regards to multiple ways of life for its citizens – including instructions on how and when to participate in youth sports.
  • Once PA went “in the green,” local high school teams, along with youth organizations, some tournament coordinators and high school coaches – some acting independently from their local school districts – start playing games, conducting drills and practices while trying to follow CDC protocols.
  • Then, an ambiguous statement was made by the governor’s office stating that additional guidance (and more colors) would be forthcoming to further help give guidance in the above areas (no such color “scheme” has been announced to date).
  • In mid-July the PIAA announced that (unless the governor objects) high school sports would be going forward as scheduled, with the caveat that individual school boards and districts outline the correct procedures. This would be followed by local school administrators asking the PIAA and Pennsylvania Department of Education help to develop specific protocols to follow – a plea that, according to some local administrators, has gone unanswered.
  • In early August, leagues around the state voted on how and when they’ll start their fall sports seasons–with different conferences all selecting different start times for their fall sports, leaving teams’ “Opening Day” ranging anywhere from August 24th to October 2nd.
  • Next, individual school districts vote on whether they agree with what their league has approved and, in a few cases, schools vote to suspend their fall sports entirely.
  • On August 4th, the governor’s office announces that they will be giving protocols for schools to use for fall sports later that day–according to several journalists on the scene in Harrisburg, those guidelines never materialized that day.
  • On August 6th, when responding to a question on whether spectators will be allowed to attend scholastic sports in the fall, Dr. Rachel Levine defers the question to Governor Tom Wolf, who responds by saying he strongly recommends continuing a ban on all youth sports.

Wait, what???

On the one hand, there were some municipalities that have continued to restrict kids from playgrounds and removed hoops from basketball courts.

But many more organizations were stunned when hearing that a recommended “ban” on sports was in place, one that many schools and organizations have very publicly and seemingly were ignoring, has set off a firestorm of controversy over the state.

Within 24 hours officials in the city of Allentown frantically went around re-closing parks, forbidding use of athletic fields and announcing that all future permits are cancelled indefinitely.  Reports of similar activity happening in SOME other regions around Pennsylvania ensued.

Clearly, youth sports have been going on for the last several months with various baseball and softball tournaments held across the Commonwealth and in neighboring states–a few finding negative publicity when pictures were posted with people not adhering to CDC protocols. Many little league programs started in late June and ran through a modified but completed schedule. If you drive by many high schools you can clearly see teams running drills on the school grounds.  On our “RCN SportsTalk” show the last several weeks, local coaches have openly talked on-air about how they have been conducting practices.  There was even a highly publicized AAU basketball tournament that was held in the western part of the state that we mentioned a few weeks ago here at “The SportsTalk Shop.”

All the while there apparently was a formal “ban” that was in place that many local directors say they weren’t aware of. (By the way, the Lehigh Valley High School Baseball Tournament that was playing last week, featuring 32 HS teams, continued without pause until its natural completion with its championship this past Monday.)

There was certainly a failure to communicate here somewhere.

(In defense of the governor’s office, his website indicates that this policy was issued on June 10th. The website also says policy was updated on August 6th – the same day as Wolf’s response to the question about fans – but does not specify what exactly was updated on 8/6/20).

Politically, Wolf made a brilliantly shrewd move by taking himself off the hook (at least officially) by quietly slipping in his “ban” in responding to another question.

When it looked like the PIAA was setting Wolf up to be the fall guy, their plan backfired on them as the final decision on when/if kids can play continues to get shuffled around between different administrators across Pennsylvania for a few more weeks.

Meanwhile, student-athletes that already began officially preparing for their fall season now have to wait to hear if their season was really supposed to start in the first place.

And while amateur sports are stopped, money-making organizations like the NFL, MLB and major college teams play on, despite continuing reports of positive Coronavirus test results for athletes, coaches and staff.

Let me be clear in my analysis of this catastrophe. I am not giving my opinion on whether I think fall sports should be played, cancelled or whether a staggered or delayed start to the fall season should occur.  We are certainly in uncharted waters and there are serious ramifications in whatever is decided.

I’m not trying to target any one particular group, nor am I picking sides politically in this escalating, emotional battle that is taking place across Pennsylvania over the rights of kids’ ability to play sports.  I’ve talked to several local athletic directors and assistant principals and they clearly are not the ones at fault here.  Every single one that I have talked with has been working very hard trying for months trying to follow the rules they receive from above — although those instructions seem to shift radically on an almost weekly and sometimes daily basis.

What I AM singling out here is a clear lack of communication and the utter breakdown of this process to properly prepare student-athletes to be ready – one way or the other – on what to expect for their fall seasons.

 

The leaders of the major groups involved who are now posturing their stances in the media should have all set down long before we got ourselves to the first official day of fall practices – which has now since passed.

 

Instead, it’s become a grand political game of “pass the buck” while our young people suffer through an extremely emotional time period.  And after an extremely tough spring and summer of indecision, one would think that some sort of plan would have been in place already by the fall that would have incorporated all the necessary people involved.

 

The result?

 

Reports are emerging of the anxiety kids are experiencing–not by whether they are going to play or not but by the indecision that is taking place.

 

In an August 7th article on Triblive.com, several parents expressed concern over the extreme stress and mental anguish their kids are going through while caught in limbo as to their immediate athletic futures.

 

The latest development which took place last Friday was the PIAA putting the fall sports schedule on hold for two MORE weeks while they get further direction from the governor’s office as they begin to work together for “clarity” on how everyone should proceed…something that probably could have taken place as much as three to four months ago.  Once again, our young people suffer…due to politics.

 

Whatever the final decision will eventually be on when and if fall sports occur in 2020, we have enough evidence to close the book on the anatomy of their decision making process and can properly evaluate how the uppermost people in charge of our youth handled preparing for the fall season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HS Sports: Early August Update

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 have the honor of interviewing two special guests for this week’s RCN Sports Talk show: PIAA Board of Directors Vice-President/District XI Chair Bob Hartman and District XI Treasure/Catasauqua HS Athletic Director Tom Moll.

As we have been doing the last few months here at “The Shop” and on our television show, we’ve been keeping you apprised of the latest news and rumors regarding scholastic sports in our coverage area. These two gentlemen agreed to be on the program to discuss the current status of high school sports and also address the many rumors that are flying around about the upcoming football season and all of the fall sports issues.

Here are the topics of discussion:

  • Opinions on the latest directives from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the PIAA
  • Reactions from coaches and students on the COVID-19 protocols in place
  • Alternate possibilities for fall sports being scheduled if the number of coronavirus cases spike or additional directives come from the state or federal government
  • Deadlines for scheduling for football and all other fall sports
  • Addressing the mental impact on students and allowing for a “transition period” to get kids back in playing shape
  • Financial ramifications of the spring sports shutdown and potential impact for any interruptions of the fall sports playoff season
  • Rumors of switching sports to different seasons (i.e., baseball to the fall, football to the spring) and other “hot takes”

Two additional teases for this particular program – Bob and Tom tackle an issue that I have not seen nor heard of until last Friday when Norristown High School made headlines. That is addressing the issue of an individual school district (or a specific community or local government) taking exception to the directives implemented by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the PIAA…how would that affect a team’s potential ability to play?

Another hotly contested debate: will some sports like golf and tennis be able to start on time or will those sports be included with soccer, field hockey and football if the latter sports are forced to postpone or cancel their seasons?

Tune in to find out!

My thanks to both of these administrators for their time and insights and, if you want to hear their responses to these issues and the latest news regarding the possibilities of fall high school sports action, make sure you tune in to the “RCN Sports Talk” show on RCN TV and catch it through RCN “On Demand.”

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “The Beverly Hillbillies”

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.

For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation. 

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances. 

Whether you’re a fan of rural comedy or not, you can’t argue that The Beverly Hillbillies was one of the most successful television comedies of all time.

Spawning two other successful shows, a “return” episode over a decade after its cancellation, and a major motion picture, “Hillbillies,” its low-brow comedy set a high standard (along with boffo ratings) throughout the 1960s.

The plots were simple: take a backwaters family who strikes oil and inherits a fortune, and dump them in the ritziest area of the country, while having Beverly Hills’ greediest banker be their guardian while watching over their money. “Fish out of water” hijinx always ensued, complete with memorable special guest star performances, and big- named actors often portraying themselves.

Heading the creative team was Paul Henning, who had worked as a writer on other TV classics, including the “Burns and Allen Show,” which had a 10-year run on television after a lengthy radio run.

The cast was anchored by veteran song and dance man, Buddy Ebsen, who was ready to retire before reading the pilot episode and deciding to put those plans on hold.

Veteran radio and television character actress, Bea Benaderet, who had wanted to play the part of “Granny,” saw Irene Ryan’s screen test and insisted Ryan take that role.  Benaderet ended up with a recurring guest starring role as Jethro’s mother before starring in “Hillbillies”’ first spin-off, “Petticoat Junction” (more on this show in a future blog entry).

Ryan brought interesting dynamics to the program as she had both played as, and starred in front of, hillbillies in summer stock theater.  (On EmmyTVLegends.org

Henning tells a humorous story about Ryan’s early career and also recalls how the banker Milton Drysdale was based on a real character he knew.)

According to “Variety’s” article, “The Top 100 Television Shows of All-Time,” The Beverly Hillbillies was the number one show in its first two years and finished in the top 20 in the Nielsen ratings in eight of its nine-year run.

The only year the show was not among the top ranked shows was its last year, when CBS made the bizarre decision to drop the show out of its primetime lineup and air the program at what is an extremely unusual (for a network show) timeslot of Tuesdays at 7:30pm.

“Hillbillies” never lost a ratings battle within its timeslot against any other program during its entire run.

Several of its individual shows are ranked in both the most-watched and the critics’ choice for the greatest 100 television episodes of all time, including 16 of its episodes ranked among the top 100 programs watched in television history.

It captured many Emmy Awards in multiple categories during its production and has remained on TV in syndication to this day.

“Hillbillies”’ network run came to an end, not because of declining ratings, nor did the cast nor creative team run out of ideas, nor did viewers want to see the series end.  It, along with several other very successful TV programs, were cancelled because CBS executive Robert Wood decided to cancel every successful show that had a tree in it (according to actor Pat Buttram.)  This was part of the great “rural purge” of 1971, in which CBS jettisoned many of its feel-good, rural shows in lieu of comedies that tackled serious social and cultural issues. 

You can relive the hilarity of “The Beverly Hillbillies” on Wednesday mornings at 9:30 a.m. on RCN TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

 

 

New/Old Faces

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 other agency, organization, employer or company. 

While there hasn’t been much action on the fields this summer, it has actually been a pretty busy last 6-8 weeks in terms of the amount of turnover for some pretty big head coaching and athletic director positions in the Lehigh Valley.

The area said goodbye to three head coaches, each with incredible longevity at their respective schools:

Mike Grasso at Bethlehem Catholic – 45 years

Doug Snyder at Allen HS – 24 years

Chad Landis at Liberty HS – 20 years (12 as a head coach, 8 more as an assistant)

All three were on our RCN SportsTalk show this spring (each one had their own show) and told stories of their careers, their programs’ highlights, lessons learned and the many student-athletes their teachings impacted. (RCN customers can see these exclusive interviews for free through RCN On Demand).

Likewise, over the last month, we’ve also talked to a number of new head coaches and athletic directors – some with some pretty big shoes to fill (their stories also were told on SportsTalk to hear them in their own words).

One person who I did want to focus on today was the new Hurricanes Boys Basketball Head Coach, Nigel Long.

Nigel was a great student and basketball player at Freedom High School. After one year playing college ball outside of the area, he transferred back to the Valley to have a very successful playing career at Muhlenberg College.

Since then he has been a great AAU head coach, an assistant coach at Bethlehem Catholic and a mentor to a lot of young people in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Nigel was on a Freedom team that wasn’t the tallest team, nor a squad with what the basketball experts would call a top-tier, talent-laden team “on paper.” However, his Patriots squads always battled hard and made for competitive games, even when being the underdog.  I believed his teams installed a work ethic that continued after Nigel’s graduation – one that culminated in his school’s first District XI championship in decades, this past winter.

I made a point of mentioning on our sports program that I believe Long may be the most significant hiring, in a summer in which so many great names and qualified basketball individuals were given new positions.  This includes Long’s mentor, Darnell Braswell, who takes over the William Allen basketball program.  The former Canary great  — another local product who had an outstanding playing career locally — took over the Allen head coaching position just a few days after Long was approved by the Bethlehem Area School District School Board to take over at Liberty.

The Hurricanes are no doubt a team in transition as they lost one of the most underrated and best all-around players to graduation.  Long will be responsible for cultivating a new leader after the departure of Will Harper, who played varsity basketball for his entire four-year career.

Likewise, Liberty has a number of freshmen and sophomores who will be responsible for stepping up their games and keeping the program playing at a high level.

Furthermore, I’ve heard from insiders in the Bethlehem community that there’s a number of very talented 7th and 8th graders coming into the program this year and Nigel will be responsible for implementing his hard-working and aggressive, defense-driven style of play that he was so well-known for during his playing days.

It should also be noted that with the hiring of Long, Braswell and Dieruff High School’s Marlon Randall, the Lehigh Valley tripled the number of African-American head basketball coaches within a 10-day span.  As far as I can remember, this number had never been more than one at any given time during the same calendar year.

Each of these head coaches discussed the cultural significance of this fact and other ways their hiring will positively impact their respective communities. I enjoyed my conversations with each of these men on our most recent shows.  I am very much looking forward to working with them and hope I have the opportunities to announce their games this winter.

Thanks to all of our local coaches and administrators for being on our show and best of luck on the new chapter in your careers!

Summer Hoops ’20 (Round 1)

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. 

Normally by this time every year, I have annually made my way out to at least a few dozen of the summer basketball league games and to two or three (or more) different tournaments that feature teams from the RCN coverage areas in Lehigh Valley, the Delaware Valley and even teams from the Washington, DC area.

Obviously, those plans have been put on hold, with a number of spring and summer tournaments canceling their usual events.

In speaking to several of the local summer basketball organizers, there remains some optimism that, while the full slate of “summer league” games will not be played, there could be some events over the next two months to give the kids a little bit of outdoor basketball activities in late July or August.

Thinking of these games made me look through my computer and discover there were quite a bit of “new” pictures that I took at last year’s summer games that never saw the light of day because of space and never made it to our website.

As fate would have it, I’d like to present a whole batch of these never-before-seen summer basketball pictures as we reflect on last year’s outdoor basketball action.  I will continue to be in contact with summer basketball league organizers over the next several weeks.  I very much hope that I will be able to pass along some positive news soon for summer hoops fans on “SportsTalk” and here at “The Shop.”

In the meantime, we look back on the action from last year…

Keep checking back to the “SportsTalk Shop” for the latest news – positive or negative – regarding summer basketball, or any other local sports, returning to action in the RCN viewing areas this year.