BLOG #440

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.

BEHIND THE MIC:

An “I” in Team

This is Blog #440 and I am no longer counting. This is my final Blog. I cannot believe that 8 ½ years ago some marketing “genius” (Kim, you know who you are) said that I should write a blog. I’m not sure I knew exactly what a blog was, but I agreed. It’s been 8 ½ years of doing them weekly (or, some would say – weakly). Joanne had the task of reading them all to check my grammar, spelling, and material. I feel for her, not because I made many mistakes, but because she HAD TO READ THEM ALL.

So here are some final reflective thoughts (please forgive all the “I”’s) on this journey:

I have been a paperboy, a factory welder, a rent collector, a house painter, a mail sorter, a lithographic stripper (it’s not what you think), a playground supervisor, a summer basketball supervisor, a chief negotiator, a teacher, a sports director, and a sports broadcaster. Lest you think I could not hold onto a job, I enjoyed them all and left all of them voluntarily.

I have worked for at least 25 bosses. I respected and liked most of them, but I did not care for all of them, but I will assume each one taught me something about responsibility and work ethic. I am ending my career working for the best one (Sanford, you know who you are).

I “guesstimate” that I taught @5,800 classes to my high school English students. I still remember the really good students and the really not-so-good ones. I still get a bit nervous when one of them runs up to me and says, “Do you remember who I am?” I hope they remember me because I taught them some valuable life lessons.

I have broadcast over 5,000 shows. I have the paperwork to prove it and, so far, I am having difficulty parting with it (anyone interested in box scores?).

I have done play-by-play for football, basketball, baseball, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, tennis, ice hockey, boxing, wrestling, Celtic competitions, auto racing, and truck racing (I’m sure I am forgetting something). I didn’t always know what I was talking about, but I tried not to distract from the efforts exhibited by the athletes.

I have hosted talk shows, presidential inaugurations (three at Lafayette), the Dream Come True Telethon, and I have interviewed Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders, the world’s fattest woman (her description, not mine), the world’s ugliest man (his description, not mine), the world’s youngest snake charmer, 4H Club goat winners, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Liza Minnelli, Tony Orlando and Dawn, etc., etc.

I have eaten over 8,000 hot dogs – 2 at almost every game I have done. Throw some pizza or cheeseburgers in there and you come to the conclusion that my diet has suffered over the years. However, I have come to realize that I just love refreshment stands at the various stadiums and gyms. In case you are wondering, my cholesterol is pretty good.

I always needed the cooperation of coaches, athletic directors, District personnel, officials, statisticians, and student-athletes to help me prepare for all of these events. Their input to any broadcast was invaluable. The Covid year made me appreciate those relationships even more. I didn’t see them and I missed the personal face-to-face contact and conversation.

I, more than anyone, realize there is no “I” in “team”. This journey has been a real team effort. Directors, engineers, camera, graphics, and audio people are all behind the scenes putting together the tapestry of a broadcast. They are so dedicated and so talented. They are my lifelong friends and I thank them for the many years we have spent together. You made me look good and I hope I returned the favor.

I, finally, want to thank the viewers who have been so kind over the years to both praise and criticize our work. The criticism made us better and since, much of it was complaining that we did not do this or that game; it was almost a backhanded compliment. You wanted us to do more. I’ll accept that with a smile.

In conclusion, I have arrived at the point where I will no longer be doing high school sports and no longer writing a blog. Both were a labor of love – I will both miss it and, yet, will not. Lafayette football and basketball will keep me busy for awhile and I am so grateful that stopping “cold turkey” was not necessary.

To all who have guided me through this career journey, I say – Thank you, thank you, thank you!

BLOG #439

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.

BEHIND THE MIC:

Faux (Clueless) Announcer

Over the years, I have always been proud of the fact that I prepared myself for any broadcast. I tried to learn as much as I could before any event. That does not sound like a difficult goal, but there have been moments – doing a soccer game without ever seeing one; ditto for field hockey; interviewing 4-H club goat winners not knowing what that entails (it entailed goats chewing on my sport coat); doing a swim meet never haven’t attended one, etc., etc. I’m sure you get the idea. I was clueless.

And speaking of clueless, there is one event that truly sticks out in my memory, probably because of the anguish it caused. Take a look:

Pocono Raceway: Bad Memories

Last weekend, the local papers were full of stories about the return of Indy Car racing to Pocono Raceway. The last time Indy cars raced there was in 1989. There were plenty of stories written about the history of the venue and local nostalgia about the Andretti family (Mario, Michael, and now Marco) at the race track. It turned out that Sunday was not a good day for the Andretti racing team. It was another bad memory for them. Ironically, it, also, brought back a very bad memory for me.

I really do not know the year, but it was a long time ago when I was asked to be the main announcer for the GATR 400 at Pocono. GATR was an acronym for The Great American Truck Race. The draw was to take truck cabs off the highway and have the drivers race them for 400 miles, you know, much like truckers do on Route 22 every day.

Now, let me be up front here – I was not and am not a racing fan. My sole auto sport interest, in the past, centered around the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day, especially if a local driver was involved. I know very little about cars, their engines, and how they work. That’s what mechanics are for. To make matters worse, I knew virtually nothing about trucks!

I did not want this announcing job. I figured rather than just saying, “No, thank you”; I would offer to do it for an exorbitant price. I asked for three times my normal fee, thinking that would get me a “Sorry, we’ll look for someone else.” That did not happen. The company agreed to my “demand” (ploy) and I was now doing a broadcast about which I knew nothing.

The race was on a Saturday with time trials and practice on Friday. I decided to go to practice to watch and learn. I went into the pits, struck up conversation with the participants, and took notes. I was honest with the drivers and they were cordial in divulging information. One suggested I should ride with him around the track to get a sense of the speed and the experience. Every brain cell said, “Don’t do this”, but my pride (stupidity) took over and I accepted the offer. I jumped in the cab and off we went. It was not long before we were going down a straightaway at 90+ miles per hour. I tried not to look frightened, but I was afraid my underwear would tell a different story. Trust me, it was frightening! I was convinced we would fly over the retaining wall and that would be it! The headline would read – “Young Local Announcer Dies Covering Sport He Knew Nothing About!” I, also, have the fear that same headline might be written about every sport I have covered over the years. But, I digress. Obviously, I did not die.

Instead, the next day I found myself high atop the track in the announcer’s booth ready to fake interest and knowledge and hope my color analyst was the best race announcer ever to take the microphone. To make matters worse, ten minutes prior to the start, we were informed our words would, also, serve as the PA sound to the thousands who had gathered to watch the race live – you know, the people who REALLY KNEW the sport.

The broadcast began (I still have nightmares about my scared voice “booming” out throughout the track), the race started, and I talked! It was exactly as I suspected – long, confusing (no truck should be allowed to lap another), and intense. Just like “all good things must come to an end”, it is also true of all “bad things”. I got through it.

On the way home, I wondered how much money I should ask for the next time I am offered a job to announce a race. For some reason, another offer never came.

And, trust me that was good for everyone concerned!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

There is no better “sit-on-your-recliner” golf spectacle than the Ryder Cup. Every drive, every approach, every putt by every player creates some drama until the final team score is accomplished. Add to that the emotions from the crowd, the players, and the coaches and you have great television. And at the end, the cheers of “USA! USA!” finally rang out from the crowd.

The Phillies just cannot stop driving the fans crazy. This week, they win 5 games in a row (one after trailing 6-0), and draw to within 1 ½ games of first place. Then on Sunday, they lose to the woeful Pirates while first-place Atlanta wins putting Atlanta 2 ½ games in front. The Phils have done this time and time again this year. They play the Braves three straight this week. Will they find a way to win the NL East? Of course not. P.S. The Eagles do not look very good, either.

Penn State’s win over Villanova this weekend, coupled with some losses by ranked teams has them moving up to #4 in the rankings. That’s an amazing climb! The extremely tough Big Ten schedule awaits, but, for now, the Nittany Lions are in position to vie for the BCS championship.

I sure cannot figure out the NFL yet this season. My guesses have been awful – yesterday the Bucs (Super Bowl champs) and the Chiefs both lost. When was the last time that happened? The Giants are 0-3, losing on the final play of the game in the last two weeks. The Packers looked awful in week one and now have won two in a row. My advice – don’t gamble on the NFL and, by all means don’t bet on me.

Our Lafayette football coverage continues this Saturday at 3:30 when the Leopards take on the Rams of Fordham University in their first Patriot League contest of the season. Lafayette got their first win in an upset victory this past Saturday over Penn 24-14. It was a great team effort with the offense, defense, and special teams all scoring points. The Leopards, also, came up with three interceptions. Watch to see if they can start the League campaign with a win.

Gary’s Guesses

NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 10-6; OVERALL- 26-22 54%)

WEEK FOUR

Cincinnati
Tennessee
Kansas City
Dallas
New Orleans
Minnesota
Detroit
Buffalo
Miami
Atlanta
San Francisco
Rams
Green Bay
Baltimore
Tampa Bay
Chargers

BLOG #438

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.

BEHIND THE MIC:

Winding Down

You may have read in Keith Groller’s column that I have stepped away from high school sports and I am focused on Lafayette football and basketball only. So, I am soon to be semi-retired. I love the word “semi” because it allows me to wean myself away from the microphone and not go cold turkey. After all, I have gotten used to hearing myself talk and it would be very hard to just stop.

In addition, I am down to my final four blogs. That’s right – I will stop after my 441st one. I cannot believe there have been that many, nor can I believe I was able to find that much to write about. I have been going through some of them and decided this week to bring out one I wrote back in 2012. It just proves the adage that “the more things change, the more they remain the same”. In nine years, nothing in this blog has changed.

Blog #12

Since I offered up my sports highlights for 2012 last week, I decided to venture into the world of New Year’s resolutions this week. Since I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile other than play more golf, I decided to check on the most common resolutions and see if I could fulfill those. In no particular order, I found these:

  1. Drink less alcohol. Check! No problem for me. I drink some red wine because I heard it is good for you, but only in moderation and not very often. Mixed drinks once in awhile. That’s it.
  2. Eat healthy food. Impossible! If you went from gym to gym and stadium to stadium, I defy you to find healthy food. By my count, I have devoured @ 8000 hot dogs on the job, 4000 Diet Cokes, and a 1000 or so candy bars.
  3. Get a better job. Unnecessary! If you exclude the eating problems (see #2), there is no better job.
  4. Get fit. See #2 (again).
  5. Lose weight. Ha! Have you seen #2?
  6. Save money. I can do that.
  7. Manage debt. Check! It’s managed.
  8. Manage stress. I was fine until I started to think about #2!! Now I am hoping to live through 2013.
  9. Quit smoking. Can’t. Never started.
  10. Take a trip. If you insist.

Wow! My resolutions could all be resolved if I would just eliminate the hot dog! No hot dog – no need for the Diet Coke – no need to take a trip to the snack bar – therefore, no candy bars.

I have four games this week – I’ll get back to you on that NO hot dog thing!

These resolutions are as true today as they were back then only now I have the opportunity to cut back on the hot dogs (I’m guessing I must have eaten around 4000!), the diet sodas, and the candy bars. The result could be that I could accomplish #2, #3, #4, #5, and #8. That would mean I would not only be semi-retired, but, also, only semi-happy.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The Eagles had many opportunities to win Sunday’s game against the 49ers and didn’t. The Birds were not able to score touchdowns. They moved the ball and they defended, but in the Red Zone, they were totally ineffective. Let’s hope this game does not come back to haunt them. They should be 2-0.
  2. The Phillies are doing it to their fans again this week. After a dismal previous week, they are winning again and building up the hopes that they just might win the NL East. Bryce Harper is playing MVP baseball right now and the Braves are not having a very good week. As I write this, the Phils are two games out of first place. They have two games with the Braves on September 28 and 30. Those two games might decide their post-season fate.
  3. I suffered a bit of déjà-vous on Saturday night watching Penn State beat Auburn. The SEC officiating crew cost Penn State a down on an offensive series when they inadvertently took two downs away on an intentional grounding penalty. When it should have been third down, they said it was fourth and Penn State punted. The same thing almost happened in the 2019 LafayetteLehigh game, but after a punt and a 15-minute delay to discuss it, the officials got it right. It was not corrected in the Penn State-Auburn game.
  4. Speaking of Penn State, in the first poll out on Sunday, they moved up from being ranked 10th to #6. Nazareth’s Jahan Dotson was the best player on the field against Auburn (78 yards receiving and a TD, a 22-yard pass, and a 16-yard punt return).
  5. Our Lafayette football coverage continues this Saturday at 3:30pm when the Leopards take on the University of Pennsylvania. Lafayette has yet to win against three very formidable opponents, but they are playing good football. Join us.

Gary’s Guesses

NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 10-6; OVERALL- 16-16 50%)

WEEK THREE
Carolina
Giants
Denver
Tennessee
Kansas City
Pittsburgh
Cleveland
Baltimore
New England
Arizona
Buffalo
Las Vegas
Seattle
Rams
San Francisco
Dallas

BLOG #437

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.

BEHIND THE MIC:

Covid Cruising
After 17 months of waiting, my wife and I were able to take a vacation that did not include staying home and cutting grass. Along with our daughter and granddaughter (my son-in-law still had to work), we booked a Royal Caribbean cruise. That was the good news – the bad news was that it was out of Florida on the brand new Odyssey of the Seas.

Florida was and is experiencing the worst Covid case numbers in the country and, unlike the other ports in the US, the state would not allow Royal to limit their passengers to “vaccinated only”. So the ship would have both vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers.

The four of us met three times prior to the cruise to decide if we should go or not. Finally, with all of us vaccinated, we decided to take the trip. We were notified about one week before that we all had to be tested for Covid within 48 hours of boarding the ship. Here is how the “week” progressed:

Friday – I went on the internet in the morning, only to discover that the Bahamas had made a rule that ships with unvaccinated passengers would not be allowed to dock in their ports. The highlight of our trip was going to be a day at Coco Cay, RC’s private island which happens to be in the Bahamas. That was not news we wanted to hear, but the four of us went to LVHN to get tested for the virus anyway. Within a half hour, we were notified we were all negative and given an affidavit to prove it. We could get on the ship.

Saturday – Once again, the internet updated cruising information. It turned out that the “Bahamas rule” would not go into effect until September 4, one week after our return. The packing continued with a bit more pep in our step.

Sunday – We boarded an Allegiant flight to Miami a half hour late due to a mechanical problem with our plane. Allegiant switched us to another plane. The plane was full; everyone was masked up; and the trip was uneventful. We arrived at Ft. Lauderdale and took an Uber to the port. Check-in was a breeze with all documents being checked – affidavit, vaccination documentation, and passports. Vaccinated passengers were given a green bracelet to designate their status. We discovered that the ship only had 1400+ passengers, about 38% of capacity. We sailed @ 6. The rules were very simple – masks indoors; no masks necessary outdoors.

Monday – We spent the day at seas, relaxing and learning that unvaccinated passengers were not allowed in our dining room, in the lower level of the theater, nor were they allowed in the casino. Our bracelets were checked in all of these places to allow admittance.

Tuesday – Our first port was Cozumel, Mexico. Again, unvaccinated passengers could only leave the ship as a group and must be part of a tour group controlled by the cruise line. It was becoming obvious that the company was making it somewhat unpleasant for the unvaccinated. Cozumel was always one of our favorite spots, but the virus and a hurricane had changed the dynamic. The town was virtually empty with tourists and the shop owners desperate for your business. We did not stay off the ship for long. We did manage to buy some tee-shirts and vanilla.

Wednesday – Our next stop was Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico. We had never been there before and found it to be quite nice. There was a shopping area that you could walk to, off the ship, with quality shops, nice, but not pushy attendants, a swimming pool, bar, restaurant, and a dolphin show. It was a great experience.

Thursday – We spent a day at seas, relaxing by the pool. Trust me, that’s not a bad vacation day.

Friday – This was the highlight of the cruise. We docked at Coco Cay, RC’s private Island, which is like an island Disney World. There is a waterpark, a hot air balloon ride, three beaches, 3 dining areas, the largest freshwater pool in the Caribbean, 5 bars, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, and shopping. We opted to not do any of those, but instead chose to pay a bit extra to spend the day at the Coco Beach Club. We were on a private beach, with an infinity pool, and a very exclusive restaurant. The down side was that we were only there for eight hours – we all felt we could stay there for days. Again, unvaccinated people could only go on a tour by themselves.

Saturday – We were back to reality as we made our way off the ship, with memories of great entertainment every night, exceptional meals, plenty of relaxation, and a week away from the everyday.

I know cruising is not for everyone – I just do not know why.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)
Do you know the name – Matt Minister? I didn’t either. He is pro golfer’s Patrick Cantlay’s caddie. Patrick Cantlay is the golfer who just won the FedEx Cup. The previous week Cantlay won the BMW Championship. Cantlay won $1.7 million for his BMW win and $15 million for the FedEx title. If Minister received the normal “cut” that a caddie makes he got 10% of those winnings or $1.67 million. Minister wanted to be a pro golfer, but eventually switched to being a caddie. The 47-year-ol seems to have made the right decision.

You know the adage – “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” I watched Tom Brady lead the Bucs to a final possession field goal to win the game against the Cowboys on Thursday night. It was typical Brady – less than a minute to go; down by a point; no timeouts. Brady and the Bucs win 22-20 with last second field goal. Ho-Hum…

The Eagles certainly played well against Atlanta. They were extremely efficient in all aspects of the game – the total opposite of the way the Atlanta Falcons played. I’m sure the fan base is pleased for now.

The Phillies are fading very fast. With less than 20 games to go, they are 4 ½ games out of first. They have been unbelievably inconsistent this year. Every time they would get the fans’ hopes up they would go into a tailspin. It happened again this past week.

Our Lafayette football coverage begins this Saturday at 12:30 when the Leopards take on the University of New Hampshire. The independent schedule is a very tough one. The Leopards looked good in the first two weeks, but still lost the games. Join us for the game.

Gary’s Guesses

NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 5-11; OVERALL- 5-10)

WEEK TWO
Giants
New England
San Francisco
Denver
Buffalo
Rams
Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Cleveland
New Orleans
Arizona
Tampa Bay
Seattle
Dallas
Kansas City
Green Bay

Gary’s Guesses 9/7/21

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.

BEHIND THE MIC: Gary’s Guesses

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 0-0; OVERALL- 0-0)

WEEK ONE

Tampa Bay

Jacksonville

Minnesota

Indianapolis

Tennessee

Buffalo

San Francisco

Washington

Carolina

Atlanta

New England

Green Bay

Kansas City

Giants

LA Rams

Baltimore

“Sideline” Advice

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.

A few weeks back, I was surprised and thoroughly enjoyed a blog entry written by RCN’s Gary Laubach here on our website giving advice for broadcasters based on his years in the announcing business.

It was ironic to me because I had just come from a meeting involving some people who are relatively new to the broadcasting profession and I was sharing with them some of my own experiences and things I have learned.

At the risk of repeating some of Gary’s sage advice (and I would suggest any future broadcaster go back and read his article if you have not done so already), I wanted to focus on one aspect of broadcasting that I actually have a little more experience doing…that of sideline reporting.

Reporting from the sidelines (or “courtside” for basketball, “mat-side” for wrestling, et al), involves some distinct differences from broadcasting from a press box or a scorer’s table.

One big difference is paperwork. I have a reputation for bringing “the kitchen sink” when it comes to information, stats and stories for our broadcast. When I was roaming the sidelines, I didn’t have the luxury of carrying a bunch of papers or even putting a ton of information down on a cell phone, because often there wasn’t time to “page” through everything while giving reports.

Another big difference is being flexible. You can have several reports all lined up, prepared and ready to go when you have your opportunity, then an injury occurs, a fight breaks out, a couple quick turnovers and scores occur, and everything that you thought you were going to talk about just goes right out the proverbial window.

One’s personality also has a lot to do with sideline reporting. Because you are down on the field and are more visible to everyone at the arena, you, by nature, are interacting with people throughout the game. It’s important to be personable both while on-camera and while talking with coaches, players, athletic trainers, officials and anyone else who happens to be there (and you never do know who may show up from time to time!)

So without being overly preachy, here are a few of my general recommendations for new sideline reporters–with one important caveat.

It’s important to develop your own style! Go into a broadcast with a game plan, but mix in your own thoughts, opinions, suggestions, and also experiment a little from time to time. Re-evaluation is also important in ALL aspects of broadcasting, and going back to re-examine what works and what doesn’t is an absolute necessity.

Things to do pregame:
1) Develop a couple storylines and things to watch for (this may change during the game, but it’s always good to have something prepared going into the broadcast)
2) Talk to the head coach, assistant coaches, players (if available) and athletic trainer (more on this person later)
3) Go over your first couple talking points with the announcing team. Nothing is more frustrating than to be all ready for your first report only to hear exactly what you were just about to say coming in through your headsets just moments before the camera turns to you–TRUST ME!

During the game:
1) Follow your own storylines and keys to victory. Analyze appropriately as the game evolves. If you’re correct–say it–but don’t go overboard praising yourself. If you’re wrong or something changes, don’t be afraid to talk about why something changed–even die-sports fans might learn something from a perceived “mistake” on your part.

2) Give a brief and accurate but considerate injury report — if possible — and try to be very sympathetic to the players. Some trainers will be very accommodating, helpful and have told me they think it’s wonderful to highlight that aspect of sports. Others in more emergency situations will frankly tell you to get out of the way (which is why you try to set up a nice rapport with them BEFORE the game starts!). You’re not a doctor, but just give a few basics and let people know the playing status that the trainer gives you without giving your own speculation in this particular area. One of the most frequent types of emails I have received throughout my career is from the injured players’ parents, expressing thanks for my genuine concern talking about their child’s condition–sometimes if they’re watching from home, YOU will be the first person to give them news!

3) Look for emerging storylines, unique efforts and other positives for both teams.

4) At half-time ask the coach who is leading for a few thoughts on the first half going into the locker room. Then get to the trailing coach coming out of his half-time locker room and ask for a few things he’s looking to improve upon in the second half. When ready early in the third quarter, report your findings from both coaches. Anyone who has played any sport knows that the coach who is losing will not be in a better mood than the coach who is winning, and experience has told me you’ll get a much better response (and sometimes a more therapeutic experience for the coaches themselves) by talking with them in this order.

5) At the end of the game, interview the winning head coach with two or three questions about his team’s performance. Asking more takes away from the “moment” and most coaches are anxious to talk with the players, so limiting yourself to the most important and relevant questions works best (unless you’re talking about a championship game-which is a completely different experience.) Also, don’t get too bogged down in talking strategy at this moment and devote at least one question to focus on outstanding and/or underrated performances by his/her players.

6) Have fun! Nothing translates quicker to an audience if you are not having a good time–and this is even more evident when you are working the “sidelines.” Enjoy the experience and the audience will enjoy hearing/being with you, too!!

The Road Not Taken

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.

One of the most famous poems by Robert Frost is “The Road Not Taken”.  It is about coming to two roads in the woods and trying to decide which one to take – the more conventional one or the road less traveled. In other words, in life we often face many choices, not knowing the consequences until the choice is made.

Last week, I told you how I started working in this business for the first time. I was teaching English at Wilson High School when I took on the TV role of color analyst for basketball on a part-time basis for Twin-County. It was a great second job. I made the promise to myself that I would never let announcing interfere with teaching and always stuck to that promise. I prepared my lessons, returned tests and papers on time, and looked out for my students.

It was not always easy to do both, having to gather pre-game information from coaches, newspapers, and, without computers back then, writing lineups out every single time for every single game. But because both jobs were labors of love, I was willing to do what needed to be done.

About 25 years ago, I heard about a job in the Pennridge School District that I was qualified for –English Curriculum Coordinator. Pennridge had been looking to fill this position for two years. They had trouble finding educators with the proper degrees. I had the degrees – a Master’s degree in English and a Master’s degree in Education Administration. Many people had one of the degrees; few had both.

My primary reason for applying was not to get out of teaching, but to raise my salary so my retirement pension would increase somewhat dramatically. It was strictly an economic move. I was not proud of the motive.  However, I gave my four weeks’ notice to my current district and prepared for my departure.  However, fate burst in again. The cable television company, C-Tec at the time, was negotiating with the minor league baseball team, The Ambassadors, and with Lafayette College to broadcast their games. I was the primary negotiator with the company’s blessing and we were able to bring both aboard. That was the good news. The bad news was I could not promise my availability if I took on this new job.

After three weeks had passed, both contracts were in place. With adding more responsibility to doing high school sports, I mentioned to C-Tec management that it might be to their advantage to hire me full-time as a sports director so that I could guarantee my presence at the broadcasts. Knowing that this would completely take me out of education, I told them what I needed to accept the position. Time was of the essence – the following Wednesday, six days later, I was to begin working for Pennridge.

That Monday, I was broadcasting the District XI tennis championships when the director said into my headset that C-Tec called to tell me that I got what I asked for. I could not respond, nor ask a question, since I was on the air. Following the match, I rushed to the truck to get the information. All the director knew was that I was to stop in the office the next day to work out all the details, but, in essence, the job was mine. More importantly, my family supported the move.

Following the Tuesday meeting, it became official. The problem, however, was that Pennridge was expecting me to report to work for them the next day. Remember, this was a job that they had been unable to fill for two years!

As soon as I got home, I made the call to Pennridge that I would not be coming to work for them. I explained what had transpired, but the gentleman on the other end was, rightfully, very, very angry. I was “chewed out” like I had never been yelled at before. I had a tough father and even tougher coaches. This was worse. I tried to explain that I was extremely sorry, but this was something I always aspired to do. My reasoning fell flat. The parting, to say the least, was not congenial.

It is only fair to tell you that I received a call from the same individual about one week later apologizing for his reaction. He understood my decision, and wished me the best in my new position. I immensely appreciated the call.

I became the Sports Director for C-Tec and continue in that position with RCN up to this day. I know I made the right decision. In “The Road Not Taken”, Robert Frost said it much better than I ever could:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. I know this is an understatement and not news, but Kevin Durant is a spectacular basketball player. He just led the US to an Olympic gold medal, his third as an Olympian. He has scored more points than any other Olympian in history. I love watching his passion for the game. No player was better at the Games.

2. Speaking of basketball, Lafayette’s Justin Jaworski is on the NBA Summer League roster of the Atlanta Hawks. He is one of 14 players to make the roster. The Lafayette 1000-point scorer is smart and he is deadly shooting the three-ball. Here’s hoping he can impress the management.

3. The USA won gold medals in both Men’s and Women’s golf. Nelly Korda won this week for the women and Xander Schauffle won last Sunday. There is talk of making golf an Olympic team
competition instead of an individual one. This year seems to prove the individual format is the best and the most exciting.

4. The Phillies are in first place! I don’t think I have ever typed that before.

5. I will be on vacation the next few weeks so there will be no blogs for a bit. I appreciate all of you who take the time to read my ramblings. For awhile, you can certainly find something better to do.

$15 Made All the Difference

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 I begin to contemplate my retirement from high school athletics, I find myself looking back on how it all began.  Being a firm believer in “right place, right time”, I am struck by the circumstances that got me started on a 50-year journey of sports broadcasting.

I was teaching at Wilson High School.  It was late in the day on a Friday in November when I checked my mailbox and found a note from Dick Hammer of radio station WEST asking me to call him.  School was still in session and I was on my way to monitor a pep rally for the football team as they were preparing to face their arch rival the next day.  There was no time to make the call.

Ironically and, as it turned out fortuitously, when I returned from the pep rally and the students had been dismissed, I found yet another note in my mailbox.  This one was from Bob Gehris of Twin-County TV.  He asked me to call him.  I noted that the calls came in about 20 minutes apart.

I knew both of these men – Dick Hammer was renowned in the area as a radio sports announcer and we had crossed paths many times when I was playing and coaching.  I respected him so much both for his broadcasting skills and his personal traits.  He called me first so I called him first.

Dick Hammer asked me to be his color analyst for the upcoming basketball season.  I was thrilled.  I was confident in my ability to fulfill the position – I was an English teacher so I was certain I could do justice to the English language. I played and coached basketball so I knew that I could analyze the game.  After a good conversation, I asked about the pay.  I would get $15 a game.  That seemed fair and I really wanted to do it.  Before accepting, I mentioned that I needed to talk to my wife and that I had received a call from Bob Gehris of Twin County TV which I should return.  So, despite my intense interest and excitement, I said I would get back to him.

I next called Bob Gehris.  I had known him since I was in elementary school.  He was the principal of my grade school and was my sixth grade teacher.  I had a love of sports back then and he shared that same passion.  I looked forward to just speaking with him.

After catching up with one another, he asked me if I would be his color analyst for the upcoming basketball season.  Yup, you heard right – same request, same job, television, not radio.  I could not believe it.  Within 20 minutes, both men had me on their radar to be their co-announcer.  Once again, the conversation turned to the pay.  It was $30 per game.  It was double what WEST was offering.

I told Mr. Gehris that I truly appreciated the offer, needed to talk to my wife, and I would get back to him.

The rest became my history.  My wife was fine with me accepting and, in fact, was convinced I would do a good job.  She felt, as I did, that television was the future here and earning twice the money was a no-brainer.  It would be difficult to say “no” to one and exciting to say “yes” to the other.

I called Dick Hammer and explained that I appreciated the offer and would have loved to work alongside him, but the Twin-County offer was, as The Godfather once implied, “one I could not refuse.”  I called Bob Gehris and accepted the position.

That moment changed my whole life, as I eventually left teaching, became Sports Director, and did the job for 50+ years.

Who would have ever thought that a mere 20 minutes and $15 would mean so much?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

Olympic Golf was played at the Kasumigaseki Country Club and won by American Xander Schauffele. One interesting aspect of golf at the club was the dress code for the players.  According to James Colgan of Golf, the code there was very, very strict:

  1. Blazers and jackets are required upon arrival.
  1. Shorts can be worn on the course, but only with knee-high socks. Cargo shorts, jeans, mini-skirts, tights, leggings, and “hot pants” are strictly forbidden.
  1. Collars can be worn up on shirts on the course, but must be turned back down in the clubhouse.
  1. If you wear a long-sleeved underlayer shirt, you MUST wear a long-sleeved overlayer.
  1. No metal spikes may be worn and sneakers, sandals, and golf shoes are forbidden in the clubhouse.
  1. Loud colors and “conspicuous designs” may not be worn.
  1. James Colgan leaves us with this thought, “The crown jewel of KCC’s dress code rules. In the summer months, members and guests are asked to change their shirt and trousers before entering the dining room to prevent from leaving a damp seat for future guests.”

This makes me wonder if I have EVER left a damp seat!  I sure hope not.

 

 

 

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: David Niven’s Early Years

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.

As we approach the anniversary of the passing of one of cinema’s classic actors, we salute the talented career of David Niven.

If a movie watcher was asked to identify one of the most suave and sophisticated actors in the first 100 years of cinema, the name David Niven most certainly would have to be included in the conversation.

Although he claimed throughout his life that he was born in Scotland, records indicate that James David Graham Niven was born in Grosvenor, London on March 1st, 1910.

Losing his father before his seventh birthday, Niven was kicked out of school at the age of 10 because of the incessant practical jokes he would play on his schoolmates.  According to his autobiography, “The Moon’s A Balloon,” he received many acts of corporal punishment throughout his childhood, but finally found some solace while attending the newly created public Stowe School, due to the kindness of its headmaster.

He then enlisted in the British Army but quickly grew tired of the experience.  His ultimate decision to resign came after a lengthy lecture on machine guns, which was interfering with his plans for dinner with a young lady. At the end of the lecture, the speaker (a major general) asked if there were any questions. Showing the typical rebelliousness of his early years, Niven asked, “Could you tell me the time, sir? I have to catch a train.”

After being placed under close-arrest for this act of insubordination, Niven shared a bottle of whisky with the officer who was guarding him and was allowed to escape from a first-floor window and set sail for America. After failed attempts at being a whisky salesman and a rodeo promoter, David tried his hand at acting.

Niven’s acting career quickly grew with bigger and bigger roles in “B films” and then a few small parts in major motion pictures.  His early highlights in the mid-1930s included Mutiny On The Bounty, Barbary Coast, Palm Springs and The Charge Of The Light Brigade, starring Errol Flynn.

From there, David began receiving larger roles in films and soon became a major star with flicks like Bachelor Mother, Wuthering Heights, Eternally Yours, Raffles and The Real Glory…all in 1939 alone!

And then…World War II broke out.  Like many in Hollywood — and around the world, Niven’s career was put on hold. And, like a good number of soldiers, he didn’t have the smoothest return to a “normal” life after the war.

We’ll explore the roller coaster that made up David’s “second act,” next week here at The Showplace.

In the meantime, you can see David Niven in one of his earliest leading roles in Eternally Yours on RCN-TV.  To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

Announcer 101

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 believe most sports fans believe they could just jump behind a microphone and do an announcer’s job.  Most do not realize the preparation and skill it takes to present the product for the enjoyment of the viewer.  It only looks easy because of the work that goes into knowing the players, their teams, and the game itself before you even go on the air.  It also helps to surround oneself with a great crew and outstanding fellow announcers.  In the many years I have been behind the microphone (50+), I have been blessed with outstanding color analysts – the ones who create additional information as the action unfolds.

It all started with Dick Tracy, who probably was the quirkiest of all, but so highly respected that he could say almost anything, never look at the camera, and be received as the true authority of the high school football, basketball, and baseball scenes.  He was not television “savvy” but that was part of his charm and mystique and it worked!

When Dick retired, it left a huge void that needed to be filled and it was my job to find the replacements.  I decided that, prior to any interview, I would create a blueprint for the job.  Here are the suggestions (in bold type) I tried to instill in my potential recruits:

MY TOP 10 ANALYST TIPS

BE PREPARED:
Follow all the games each week so you get a feel for the top players, the teams, and the conference. 

BE NATURAL:
Try to stay conversational and relaxed. With TV, the pictures can speak for themselves – just try to add interest to the game. Relax and respond to the situation and the play-by-play guy.

KNOW THE NAMES:
Learn the proper pronunciation prior to the game.  Take time to find the names before talking about a play.  It is not a panic situation.  There is time to find the number and the name in the program.  This will become second nature to you with experience.

DON’T HESITATE TO BE HUMOROUS:
The only caution is try not to demean a player; you certainly can point out a mistake (but it is still better to give the player who did the right thing more air time). Instead of saying someone badly missed a tackle, give credit to the runner.

IF YOU THINK YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN’T SAY SOMETHING – DON’T!

POINT OUT AND CLARIFY:
You can truly add to the game by pointing out things – emphasizing a player’s skills, clarifying why a play worked, etc.

DON’T RESPOND TO THE DIRECTOR IN THE HEADSET – THE PEOPLE AT HOME CAN’T HEAR HIM:
If a question is asked by the director, work the answer into the conversation.

P.S. – the crew will always try to test a rookie and make him answer a question on the air.  You’ve been warned.

DON’T TALK OVER THE PLAY-BY-PLAY MAN:
There is ample time to get your analysis in after the play has been called.  Relax and jump in at the appropriate time.  Remember – “Dead ball is you”; “Live ball is not you”.

LISTEN:
To coaches, sportswriters, players, and play-by-play announcers.  Their insights become YOUR insights.

BE READY FOR THE NOTORIETY:
People will eventually get to know you and talk to you at the mall, on the street, at the corner store like you are their friend.  I have found that a simple “Thank you” for a compliment and an “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I hope not to do that again” for a valid criticism works pretty well. Remember – you are a representative of RCN. 

I fortunately found Mike Joseph (football), John Leone (college basketball), Tom Stoudt (basketball) and Scott Barr (wrestling and baseball) as the four who fit the bill.  I could not have surrounded myself with better people over the years, and for that, I am grateful.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I did watch the All-Star game because of Shohei Ohtani. I do not know which is better for the game – his exploits or his personality.  He may hit 60 or more home runs this year and win 15 games as a pitcher, but the story I found to be the best was that he donated the $150,000 he won for the Home Run Derby to a couple of dozen members of the LA Angels’ support staff.
  1. The NBA Finals have demonstrated the immense shooting ability, especially from beyond the arc, that exists in the pro game today. These players are amazing in both their accuracy and their ability to shoot despite being guarded so closely.  There is certainly defense in the NBA, but, man, there is plenty of offense!
  1. The San Francisco Giants have the best record in baseball and they are managed by Gabe Kapler – yes, that Gabe Kapler who managed the Phillies in 2018 and 2019. The fans couldn’t wait for him to leave town.  He loved analytics – the Phillie fans did not.  It appears right now that Kapler knows what he is doing – analytics says so!
  1. It was nice this weekend to root for any of the top three as the British Open unfolded – Oosthuizen, Morikawa, and Spieth are all difficult to root against. It became one of those – “May the best man win” kind of competitions.  That turned out to be Collin Morikawa.
  1. Blue Mountain League baseball is back on Tuesday this week LIVE at 6:00pm. The game features the the Limeport Dodgers vs. the Northampton Giants.  The Limeport Bulls and the Egypt Orioles are on tap next week.  Join Chris Michael and me.