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The Real March Madness – Behind the Mic – March 18th

March 18, 2013 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

The brackets are out!! Everyone starts the week with high expectations to be the best in their various investments into the various pools (for amusement only, of course). I have been invited to participate in nine and the list could still grow. After all, it’s only Monday. So I have started my research and I have come to the conclusion that research will most likely do me absolutely no good.

This was probably the most unpredictable college basketball season in recent history. First of all, a tell-tale sign that this is the “Year of the Whaaatt?” is that the defending national champions, the Kentucky Wildcats, are not even invited. Add to that, there were six teams that were #1 at some point during the season. So if you think you are knowledgeable about college hoops this year, you are probably going to be a loser. This will be the year of the upsets. If there was ever a time to actually get your wife, girlfriend, nerdy husband, or boyfriend involved in your selections, this is the year. If you happen to go that route, prepare yourself for the “I like their colors”, “Their nickname is cute”, “What state are they from?”, “I like teams that begin with B”, etc. I know for those of us who are purists, this kind of babble can make one wretch. But, mark my words; this year might be that year! You can wretch now while making your picks or wretch later when you are tearing up the sheets with your picks on them.

The #1’s are Louisville, Kansas, Indiana, and Gonzaga. My basketball brain tells me to go with Louisville. They are the hottest team right now, just won the Big East tournament, and seem to be in a very favorable bracket. So, should you pick them to win it all? Don’t do it!! Too obvious. This should not be the year to pick the favorite.

Of the #1’s, I kind of like Gonzaga. Their schedule made them a mystery team, but I find it fun to root for them in the post-season. The #2’s look strong – Duke, Miami, Ohio State, and Georgetown. But, can one of them go all the way? Flip a coin, throw a dart!

So, who do I like?

Midwest – Memphis as a sleeper, but I pick Louisville.

West – Still like Gonzaga; don’t like Ohio State; New Mexico has a shot.

South – Michigan led by Trey Burke; Georgetown, maybe.

East – Bucknell!! (Just seeing if you are still with me). It should be Indiana, but don’t count out Miami.

Do I have to pick a national champion? Wait until I call my wife.


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I am beginning to get the sense that teams that know they are in the tournament don’t care much anymore about their conference championships. Plenty of #1 seeds did not make the tournament finals.
  2. I mentioned Bucknell, the Patriot League champion, up top, but how do I think they will really do? Mike Muscala is the best offensive and defensive player in the League. If he gets backcourt help, they can shock Butler. However, Butler already has beaten Indiana and Gonzaga. This is a very tough draw for the Bison.
  3. 40 years ago, Allentown Central Catholic became the first parochial state champions in the PIAA. They beat four undefeated teams in their last five games. It is really strange this year not seeing them in the state playoffs.
  4. As I write this, the Bethlehem Catholic Golden Hawks are the last Lehigh Valley team alive in the state playoffs. To me, they look like a state champion. They have size, speed, intensity, and, most importantly, talent. Go Hawks!!

PS – Don’t bother me until after April 6. I will be checking my NCAA pool! I want to see how my wife did.

March Madness – Behind the Mic

March 12, 2013 By Gary Laubach 1 Reply

It’s March. If you are a college basketball fan, you know this is the week when many of the conference championships will be decided and the automatic NCAA bids are assigned. Then, every fan waits to see if their team will be part of the 64 that get in. Let the “madness” begin.

For me, however, March Madness has already begun. The high school “madness” began this past weekend, not with 64 teams in the state of Pennsylvania, but 256 teams. Pennsylvania has 4 classifications in both the boys’ and girls’ brackets – AAAA, AAA, AA, and A. Your classification is determined by the gender population in your school – the larger the school, the more A’s.

On Friday and Saturday of last week, we had 12 teams enter the state playoffs from our local viewing audience. We chose to do 8 games in the two days, based on the teams and the logistics of the games. Friday night, there were two venues, each with a doubleheader and Saturday, one venue with a quadruple header. This meant that ~60 workers would be needed to staff the games, along with 4 announcers. The crew set up at Freedom High School and Nazareth High School on Friday night and tore down after the games. They then met on Saturday to set up again at Allen High School and tear down again that night. This is a process that goes on 4 nights a week during the entire regular season. Trust me, these “behind-the-scenes-people” work very hard. They are the heart and soul of every production.

My work begins days before the actual games. This past weekend, I split the games with the other announcing crew and we each scheduled four. The process works like this for a Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday schedule:

  • Monday: I will contact all the schools and let them know our intention to televise their game. The local schools know the drill. For the schools out of the area, I will ask for the following: the coach’s contact information; a roster; a starting lineup; season statistics; background information on the coach, the school, and the players. I also ask for any “human interest” stories they may want to share. Usually, I can begin to prepare the local teams as the out-of-area information trickles in. I, inevitably, will have to put out reminders to the schools to send the information I had already requested.
  • Tuesday: I will compile everything I have gotten and organize it so the information is quickly available to me for the broadcast. This means transferring the roster, stats, details, background, etc. on to my scoring sheets. I will share all that I have been able to gather with my color analyst. Depending on the site, I will leave in the afternoon in order to get to the gym 2 hours prior to tip-off. I will do the game or games.
  • Wednesday: Contact all the Tuesday winners’ schools who will now play on Friday and repeat what I did on Monday. I will, also, repeat everything done on Tuesday for Wednesday’s games. Now, it’s off to the venue. Do the game or games.
  • Thursday, Friday, and Saturday: Repeat Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
  • And Sunday: Contact the schools again for next week.

That’s my “March Madness”. It’s intense, it’s stressful, at times, and it is the best time of the year!!


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Speaking of March Madness, Dick Vitale, the voice of college basketball for 34 years, will work his FIRST NCAA semifinal and championship game this year. By the way, he is 73 years old. ESPN just told him he has “a job for life”. He added, “I am never going to retire.”
  2. The Patriot League champion, crowned on March 13, gets an automatic bid to the “dance”. The League certainly earned credibility for that bid last year when Lehigh beat Duke in the first round. Can either Lafayette or Bucknell send a similar shock through college basketball’s elitists?
  3. I don’t know about you, but losing an hour’s sleep seems to have a much greater effect on my life than gaining an hour. Perhaps, this year, it had something to do with watching Lafayette-Lehigh on TiVo until 3:15 (DST) in the morning.
  4. Tiger Woods won this week because he putted so well. Steve Stricker finished second because he gave Tiger a putting lesson this week that caused Tiger to putt so well! Woods won $1.5 million and Stricker won $880,000! Sportsmanship or stupidity??
  5. I shined the clubs and cleaned out the bag. Now, it’s all about finding the time.

To Punkin’ & Stan – Behind the Mic – March 4th

March 4, 2013 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

I lost a couple of buddies within the last few weeks: Punkin’ Miller and Stan Sutphen.

Both men were real sports enthusiasts and I really enjoyed talking and, many times, arguing with them.

Punkin’ and I would chat at least once a week. He was not shy about telling me what he liked and didn’t like in the sports world. He was certainly a friend of this RCN and would call me often to offer a logical and sensible opinion about my world. He loved football and basketball and he always wanted to know which team I thought was the best. However, baseball was his favorite. He loved to complain about coaching the Orioles in the Blue Mountain League, but he, also, loved to coach the Orioles. Make no mistake, his favorite sport was baseball. He was not nearly as happy during the off season.

My paths in life often intersected with Stan Sutphen. When I was in college, I was an English student teacher at Easton and one of the men who offered valuable advice was Mr. Sutphen. We maintained a friendship from that time on. I followed Stan’s team on the radio and vividly remember listening to Dick Hammer on WEST radio to the team’s run to the Final Four in the PIAA state playoffs. He and I would later serve on the board of directors for the Nor-Car Federal Credit Union and there I learned just how intelligent Stan was in so many areas.

Punkin’ and Stan were alike in many ways. They both loved sports. They both were very opinionated and, often, very right. They both loved baseball (Stan would travel to Florida to see his Dodgers up close in the winter). They both were intelligent men. Both had a great sense of humor (Punkin’ with jokes and Stan with a very wry wit). Both probably contributed to an earlier passing than necessary. Both were assets to many, many people while they were here, and both men were very easy to like and respect.

I miss them both.


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The Patriot League has a very good idea at the end of the season. Every team in the running for a tournament seed plays at the same time on the last Saturday of the regular season. All the men’s teams played at noon, with the exception of Navy-Bucknell. Those two teams had already solidified their seeds in the tournament. So, wouldn’t you know it, the standings all remained the same after Saturday’s games. The only teams who will repeat their Saturday matchup is Navy at Bucknell. Lafayette hosts Holy Cross, Lehigh hosts Colgate, and Army hosts American. The winners play Saturday, March 9, and the championship is Wednesday, March 13.
  2. The state basketball playoffs begin this weekend. Only one District XI top seed (A Girls) won the title. The titles were won by five #2’s, a #3, and a #6.
  3. RCN-TV produced 11 basketball games, 2 college games, and the regional wrestling tournament in 5 days this past week. We will have a college game, and 8 basketball games from Wednesday to Saturday this week. It’s the best time of the year.
  4. I see the temperatures will be in the 50’s this weekend. Time to clean the clubs.
  5. Are you ready for March Madness? Remember, the office pools are for “amusement only”.

Behind the Mic – February 26th

February 26, 2013 By Gary Laubach 1 Reply

“The Thrill of Victory; The Agony of Defeat”

Ever since Jim McKay immortalized those words on the introduction to ABC’s Wide World of Sports, those eight words have perfectly described so many sporting events. They were the perfect words again on Friday night at around 9:10 PM. Let me explain:

The Wilson Warriors were playing the Salisbury Falcons in a high school PIAA District XI quarterfinal game. This is the only round where the loser sees their season come to an end. Win this one and you are guaranteed two more; win one of those and you enter the state basketball tournament.

Wilson was enjoying one of their greatest years in Warrior history. They finished the regular season 21-1 having lost their third game of the year in overtime. They then reeled off 20 consecutive wins, a school record. Among those victories were 3 wins over the same Salisbury team they would face on Friday. The Warriors won the three previous match-ups rather easily – 58-43; 63-50; 48-36, the latter just 10 days earlier in the Colonial League semi-finals. Wilson then played for the Colonial League championship against Bangor, a team they had also beaten during the regular season. Wilson lost the game and the championship in overtime (yes, that’s right). The bad news, no championship; the good news, their season was not over.

One week later was the fourth Salisbury game, do or die this time. It was a good game from the very start. Salisbury led 17-9 after one; 30-27 at the half; and Wilson led 42-39 after three. Wilson was able to tie the game in the final ten seconds of the fourth quarter at 50-50. The overtime was a tense affair with Wilson finally taking the lead 55-54 with 3 seconds to go. Wilson’s coach, Bob Frankenfield, a 32-year veteran, walked over to Salisbury’s coach, Jason Weaver, and said, “No matter what happens, Weave, this has been a great game. Unbelievable.” He would not know how perfectly his final word would describe the final 3 seconds. Salisbury’s Dan Reichenbach caught the inbounds pass at midcourt, turned, took two dribbles and fired up a jump shot from 35 feet away. Only the buzzer kept the absolutely silent crowd from hearing the swish of the basketball cleanly passing through the nylon net. Salisbury – 57, Wilson- 55! In overtime! Salisbury’s fans stormed the court to celebrate “the thrill of victory”. They would play a minimum of two more games.

For Wilson, the season was over. The Warriors won 87% of their games; 22 games, 20 in a row, and had very little to show for it. They lost just 3 games all year – every loss was in overtime. One foul shot made, one jump shot defended, one whistle not blown and they may have been undefeated. Instead, they did not win a League championship; they could not win a District championship; and they would not compete in the state playoffs.

A great season for sure, but on this past Friday night, there would be no “thrill of victory”, but, most certainly there was “the agony of defeat.”


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Remember the Tony Johnson story from last week? His father came in from California to watch his son, Lafayette’s point guard, LIVE at Lafayette for the first time all year. Tony hit the game-winning shot against first-place Bucknell! Well, last Wednesday, Lafayette traveled to Holy Cross to play the Crusaders. Lafayette never led in the game until, you guessed it, Tony Johnson hit a three-point shot to win the game with 1.3 seconds on the clock. His father stayed in town to watch Sunday’s Lafayette-Lehigh game. Tony Johnson had a career-high 29 points in that one and the Leopards knocked off second-place Lehigh for the second time. What a week for a son and his father.
  2. I watched the Lafayette-Lehigh game at the Kirby Sports Center yesterday and was just as interested in all the production people running around for CBS College Sports. I understand they put a great product on the air, but ours is pretty good considering we have 1/3 the staff and 1/10 the equipment. It took 7 people surrounding the announcers just for the pre-game.
  3. If I were an Academy member, I would have been hard-pressed to pick the Best Picture. I saw Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook, and Lincoln. They were all outstanding as I am sure Life of Pi, Amour, and Beasts of the Southern Wild were. When the movies are as diverse as these were, how do you pick a best ONE?
  4. The Academy awards show bored me. Daniel Day-Lewis had the best acceptance speech when he said he was signed to play Margaret Thatcher and Meryl Streep was signed for Lincoln and they decided to swap roles.
  5. It’s championship week on RCN Sports. AAAA, AAA, AA, and A District champions in both the boys and the girls classifications. And then on to states. March Madness starts Friday!

Behind the Mic – February 19th

February 19, 2013 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

Another Day at the Office – Well, Not Quite

Walking into the Kirby Sports Center this past Saturday to do a basketball game seemed no different than the other hundreds of times I have made a similar trip to the many venues around the Lehigh Valley. I was there to do a game, and like all the other games I do, I anticipated a storyline that John Leone and I would develop before and during the contest.

This storyline did not have a great deal of optimism attached to it. The Lafayette men were playing the league – leading the Bucknell Bison. Lafayette was coming off an 85-68 loss to Army just three days prior, would not have their starting center for the second straight game, and had already lost to Bucknell by 14 points just a month ago.

My realistic expectation was that somehow Lafayette could keep the game close, but the storyline that I mentioned earlier gave little hope that this was going to be a competitive contest. Bucknell’s center, Mike Muscala, is the best in the Patriot League and, some propose, the second best in the country. He leads the League in scoring and rebounding. And, as noted earlier, Lafayette’s starting center was injured and unavailable.

The atmosphere was electric! Bucknell brought the most fans of any visiting team so far. The Leopard fans, student body, and pep band certainly added to the energy in the building.

The game was good right from the start, except for Muscala. He was great!! He had a double-double by the half: 21 points and 10 rebounds. Lafayette trailed by 7. A single digit deficit is still a game.

In the middle of the second half, Dan Mowdy, our sideline reporter tracked down Tony Johnson’s father. Tony is the senior point guard and co-captain of the Lafayette team and hails from Folsom, California. Suffice it to say, his father does not get to see him play LIVE very often. I believe this was his first visit to Kirby this year. Now, Tony’s mother, Karen, and his stepfather, Michael Witt, do come in from California on a number of occasions to see Tony perform. Tony, also, has a great support group of friends and relatives who make a point of making the cross-country trek to see Tony in his element. I am sure the trip is always worthwhile.

The Leopards kept it close throughout the second half. Muscala had just 8 more points and 5 rebounds, and, with 45 seconds to go, Bucknell led by one and had the ball. The Lafayette defense forced Bucknell to throw up a desperation shot before the shot clock expired. The shot missed – ten seconds left – and the ball in the hands of, you guessed it – Tony Johnson!

Tony Johnson, with his friends and family watching our telecast back in California, and his father watching in a gym that was ready to blow the roof off, dribbled the length of the court, gave the defender his now familiar crossover dribble, added a step-back and drained the 10-foot jumper!! 63-62! The Leopards win! The Leopards win!

Johnson’s Game Winner Lifts Lafayette Over Bucknell – Lafayette Leopards Official Athletic Site

Tony scored 17 points, gave out 5 assists, had 4 rebounds, and garnered 2 steals.

My pre-game storyline – worthless; the cost of that cross country ticket for his father – priceless!


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Besides the basketball win over Bucknell, this was a good Saturday to be a Lafayette Leopard – the Lafayette women’s basketball team beat Bucknell at Bucknell in overtime after being down by 16; the Lafayette men’s lacrosse team beat highly touted Georgetown in overtime 11-10; and the Lafayette women’s lacrosse team beat Marist 12-8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RR2z_uvXFlE
  2. The Lafayette-Lehigh rivalry is intense, to say the least, in every sport. As an announcer, I look forward to doing any Lafayette-Lehigh matchup, particularly in football and basketball. For the third year in a row, CBS Sports Network has taken the men’s basketball game away from our production schedule. Do I sound bitter? I mean to.
  3. The Philadelphia Flyers are certainly not making the Philadelphia sports fan forget the Phillies’, the Eagles’, and the ‘76’ers’ dismal seasons. The Flyers have just added to their misery. Maybe next year?
  4. When I was a kid and went to a major league baseball game, I wanted to get my glove and ball out as soon as I came back home from the ballpark. I feel the same way now when I watch these golf tournaments from California and Hawaii. Where are my clubs?? And then, I look outside.
  5. Have you checked out the TV show, “Elementary”? It is ”House” as a crime-solver instead of a doctor? Give it a look. I like it.

Behind the Mic – February 12th

February 12, 2013 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

JUST GIVE ME 5 SECONDS:

No, I am not asking you to give me 5 seconds of your attention.  I can’t get my wife to do that.  And if you are going to read this, it will take considerably longer than 5 seconds.  I am asking for the NCAA to give women’s basketball five more seconds on the shot clock.

In 1954, the NBA decided to go to a “shot clock” to increase interest in the pro game by forcing teams to shoot more and foul less.  The NBA certainly needed the rule.  There were reports of fans walking out of games.  The final straw may very well have come on November 22, 1950, when the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons beat the Minneapolis Lakers 19-18.  Murray Mendenhall, the Pistons coach, decided to hold the ball until the end of the game in an attempt to score the winning points.  The result was a fan base that threatened never to return to another game.

The debate for the shot clock ended when Danny Biasone, the owner of the Syracuse Nationals franchise, convinced the league it was time to keep a team from holding the ball, waiting to be fouled or for time to run out.  It was time to make both teams play at a faster pace.  The number “24”was used, not because of the hours in a day, but because of a mathematical formula using 2,880 seconds in a 48 minute game and dividing that number by the average number of shots taken (120) in a game.  Do the math.  With that, the “24 second clock” was invented (run by an official using a stopwatch on the sideline and yelling, “Time!”).

The NCAA instituted the 30-second clock in women’s college basketball in 1971.  The men were not restricted by a shot clock until 1986, when they were allotted 40 seconds to take an initial shot.  That time was changed to 35 seconds in 1993.  The intent of the rule was simple – create more offense, avoid inactivity, and guarantee the fans more action.  It, also, intensified and rewarded defensive efforts.

It is time to unify the “shot clock” for both men and women.  College offenses today require crisp passes, subtle (and not so subtle) screens, back-cuts, and constant movement.  Execution is critical.  Why must the women be forced to do all of that using 17% less time?

It just seems illogical that the women would have less time to create an offensive set than the men.  Giving the women 5 more seconds would allow them to utilize their skills to the utmost.  It would put a premium on passing, cutting, team play and coaching.  Teams, which are not as big as the opponent, nor physically as strong as the opponent, would be able to be more deliberate and use the attributes and skills they have to compete.  It should cause a decline in sloppy basketball and isolated basketball.  It would reward more individual skills.  It would make women’s basketball a better game.

AND…. It’s just five seconds!!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I hosted Lafayette National Signing Day on the internet this past Wednesday (noon-6:00).  This was the first year for football scholarships in the Patriot League.  I could not help but feel thrilled for the young men who were offered a scholarship worth @$250,000 that allowed them to play a game they loved and attend a quality educational institution like Lafayette.  I wondered if the student-athletes were as happy as their parents.  Sweet!!
  2. It’s championship week on RCN-TV.  By Friday, the Lehigh Valley Conference and the Colonial League will crown their boys and girls champions.  16 teams vie for the 4 titles and the games promise to be exceptional.  We have 10 games in 5 days.
  3. Athletic performances always amaze me.  The Lafayette women, beaten by Navy 62-44 on January 13, took the Mids to overtime this past Saturday.  They lost, but raised the level of their game through emotion and hard work.  It was Senior Day and it just seemed like everyone was playing as hard as they could to make the seniors proud to be a Leopard.  They succeeded.
  4. I finally saw “Argo” this past week.  I do not know how Ben Affleck was left off the Best Director list for an Academy Award.  It is a very, very good movie – a true story – happy ending.
  5. Men – Don’t forget Valentine’s Day!  P.S.  “Argo” is not a “date movie”.

Behind the Mic – February 4th

February 4, 2013 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

SUPER BOWL XLVII OBSERVATIONS:

  1. How can anyone possibly watch the pre-game shows, which started at 11:00 AM? I watched from 6:00 and that was more than enough pre-game for me!
  2. The Sandy Hook Elementary School choir was outstanding and Jennifer Hudson only added to the beautiful rendition of “America the Beautiful”.
  3. Alicia Keyes is REALLY, REALLY talented, BUT can’t anyone sing the National Anthem anymore without drawing it out and adding words or notes at the end? The pace was too slow and the ending was unnecessary.
  4. I just cannot accept the sincerity of Ray Lewis or forget his past. He seems to know when the camera is on him and “acts” accordingly.
  5. Off-sides, illegal formation, interception, fumble – These early mistakes were disastrous for the 49’ers. They did not seem ready to go in the playoffs until things got desperate. Then they really turned it on.
  6. We would really be talking about the fake field goal on 4th and 9 by the Ravens if they had lost.
  7. Look closely at the missed field goal by David Akers and the subsequent penalty for “roughing the kicker”. I watched it many times. Akers fell on his own and I do not think he was even touched.
  8. Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick’s Super Bowl performances just added their names to the list of some great, young quarterbacks in the NFL right now. Kaepernick’s accuracy and arm strength are amazing. Flacco’s demeanor and skills are equally impressive.
  9. Everyone, including the CBS announcers, seemed to blame the power outage for the 49’ers comeback. Perhaps, San Francisco made some defensive halftime adjustments to limit the effectiveness of the Raven offense and figured some things out on the offensive side to combat the Raven defense.
  10. I wonder how many people turned the game off (28-6) when the outage occurred?
  11. Colin Kaepernick is adopted. His parents lost two children shortly after they were born before adopting him. It is quite a story. Check it out.
  12. The Harbaugh parents must have loved and hated the game. How could they enjoy the success of one son at the expense of the other? I hope they enjoyed Beyonce!
  13. Speaking of Beyonce, everyone at the gathering I attended to watch the game agreed her halftime show was terrific. I really liked the stage rising up from behind her and the graphics and special effects that went along with the song. She did not seem to give much acknowledgement to her roots, Destiny’s Child, however.
  14. Is pass interference pass interference no matter when it occurs during the game? Do you agree with the adage that you let the players win or lose the game? I believe non-calls often decide who does win or lose a game.
  15. With all the millions spent on Super Bowl ads, the big winner this week was TCCD International. They distribute BuckPower Antler Velvet legally to vitamin stores and Walgreens. Ray Lewis allegedly used the deer antler spray to recover from a torn bicep. And all their publicity was free!!
  16. My top five commercials were, in no particular order were:
    1. GoDaddy geek-supermodel kiss
    2. Budweiser Clydesdale reunion
    3. Audi prom story
    4. Best Buy with Amy Poehler
    5. Taco Bell’s nursing home rebellious clients
  17. I was not impressed with the:
    1. Coke Chase
    2. GoDaddy’s other commercial about coming up with new ideas
    3. E-trade’s baby spot
  18. The beer that is poured from black bottles looks like beer poured from regular glass bottles.
  19. CBS cleverly added their #1 new show, “Elementary”, to their program lineup to follow the Super Bowl. Not so clever with the power outage adding a half hour to the Super Bowl broadcast and the new show ending well past midnight. Even TiVo could not anticipate the late start. I’m sure it seemed like such a good idea at the time.
  20. XLVIII is being held outdoors at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and it will be in February! I’m sure it seemed like such a good idea at the time.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

SEE ABOVE. I AM ALL “MUSED” OUT!


 

FINAL SUMMARY OF NFL PICKS

(Last week – 0-1)

(88-55 for the season – 62%)

Behind the Mic – January 30th

January 30, 2013 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

President Obama was inaugurated for the second time this past weekend and gave a challenging, competitive inaugural speech aimed at the opposition party. Everyone heard his words and had an opinion about what he said on “both sides of the aisle”, as they say. He also made a comment that did not garner nearly as much attention; however, as a sports and football fan, it warranted some investigation and thoughts.

“I’m a big football fan,” Obama told the New Republic, “but I have to tell you, if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football.” I still remember my own mother refusing to sign the permission form to let me play football. She finally relented when I went to high school and I played for four years.

This week, Rolling Stone magazine did a study: “This is Your Brain on Football” (Jan., 2013) which concluded that high school football is America’s most dangerous game.

The latest statistics indicate that 3.8 million Americans suffer a concussion on the playground or playing contact sports. The number is probably above 4 million because it is assumed that many concussions go unreported when they do not cause unconsciousness. As a result, the number could realistically be much, much higher. Many neurosurgeons are of the belief that no child should play tackle football until they turn 14. They report that concussive symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, inability to focus, memory failure and lightheadedness can linger indefinitely. These symptoms can affect school, activities, and future mental development.

Those of us who played sports wonder why this problem is much more serious than it used to be. Kids have, without a doubt, gotten bigger, faster, and stronger. Doctors say, however, that the development of neck muscles have not. Combining the two has created some devastating consequences.

If the past is a precursor to the future, parents need look no further than the current state of the NFL in the court system. 4,000 former players are currently pressing claims for permanent brain damage. Every week, we watch games where some hits are so vicious that we feel somewhat guilty about enjoying the game so much. We know that these men are being paid quite well to take those hits, so I suppose this helps us assuage our reservations about the game.

P.S.: Girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer concussions when you consider all of the sports played by both genders which may subject them concussions. These include: soccer, lacrosse, hockey, or the leader in head trauma – competitive cheerleading! Did you know 37,000 cheerleaders in the US were taken to ER’s in 2011 alone?

Only football results in more traumatic injuries.

The good news (if there is any) is that prevention of these injuries is being studied by the medical and athletic communities. However, the quandary for parents remains: Would you let your son play football?


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. This past weekend, the Lafayette women’s and the Lafayette men’s basketball teams both beat their archrival, Lehigh. This feat had not been accomplished since February 23, 2008. They did not just win – the women won by 16 at home and the men won by 21 at Lehigh. It all happens again on February 23 and 24.
  2. “I went to the Pro Bowl and a basketball game broke out”. NFC-62 AFC-35. I would like to comment on the game, but I did not watch it (again)!
  3. San Francisco vs Baltimore on Sunday. Can anybody prove they had these two teams in the Super Bowl this year before the season began? QB’s Colin Kaepernick vs Joe Flacco – no Brady, no Brees, no Manning or Manning – go figure. By the way, the over/under in Vegas is 47.5. I would lean towards the under. The 49’ers are favored in Vegas by 3 ½. Although I am picking the 49’ers, I would lean towards Baltimore with the points.
  4. Speaking of predictions, Vegas picked Alabama to win the BCS championship next year. Notre Dame came in 11th as a 25-1 long-shot.
  5. “60 Minutes” interviewed USADA on Sunday and the head said Lance Armstrong lied throughout the Oprah interview and if he does not testify truthfully in front of that group, he will never compete again in cycling. I wonder what Dr. Phil will learn from the man who pulled the hoax on Manti Te’o?

NFL PICKS FOR THIS WEEK

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SAN FRANCISCO – 24-21

Behind the Mic – January 22nd

January 22, 2013 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

The Bible says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This past week, the passage from John 8:32 was put to the test by two outstanding athletes, who exhibited less than stellar actions in their athletic pursuits.

In the case of Lance Armstrong, he admitted to Oprah Winfrey that his career as the premiere cyclist in the world was a fraud. Armstrong rose to the top of his profession and deservedly garnered the adoration, admiration and acclaim of cycling fans and those of us who admire any athlete who seems to accomplish the impossible. In addition, after his bout with cancer, Armstrong was seen by virtually everyone as someone who not only overcame this setback, but worked tirelessly to help fight for a cure with one of the greatest charitable organizations, Livestrong. We, then, discovered that these accomplishments were won with the aid of performance enhancing drugs. The situation was compounded by years of lying to the governing bodies of cycling and to the adoring public, who so much wanted to believe him.

He admitted those lies in an interview with Oprah this past week. Did the “truth set him free”? Based on the reaction from the media, the admission came much too late. The overwhelming response is that Armstrong is still arrogant, barely repentant, and bitter.

In my opinion, the passage from John 8:32 should be two affirmative sentences: “You will know the truth. The truth shall set you free.” Armstrong knew the truth all along and took much too long to admit it. Going on Oprah years later will not and did not set him free.

Manti Te’o is one of the best college football players in the nation and played for Notre Dame University. By now, you know he claims to be the victim of an on-line hoax that established a relationship with a non-existent girlfriend, who later supposedly died. Here the Bible wins out. It is said Te’o found out the story was a hoax in late December and notified the University. Wasn’t this the perfect time to disclose to everyone that this was a hoax perpetrated on an unsuspecting athlete? Particularly, since Notre Dame was playing in the national championship game the first week of January. To paraphrase the Bible, “now the truth WAS known, so let it set you free”. Sure, there would have been questions, but there, also, would have been timely and, hopefully, appropriate answers.

Now those questions, we have been told will be asked by Katie Couric. The answers did not work so well for Armstrong.

We are left in both situations to believe that both these athletes and Notre Dame are not really upset with what they did, but that they got caught. They all need to read more passages from the Bible to get it!!

 


 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. My Super Bowl pick at the beginning of the year was San Francisco. There is hope.
  2. Some pundit called the Super Bowl the “Har-bowl” (Harbaugh vs Harbaugh). Clever. By the way, SF’s Jim Harbaugh was last year’s coach of the year. Should it go to brother, John, this year? It would keep peace in the house.
  3. Is San Francisco’s QB Colin Kaepernick in the same category as RG III and Andrew Luck or is he better? By the way, I would start my NFL team with Atlanta’s WR Julio Jones. He is amazing.
  4. There is a new sport that is catching on – it’s called the Tough Mudder. There are no winners and contestants help one another get through the course. It is a 12-mile extreme obstacle course which includes walking through a vat of ice, a crawl through thick mud with barbed wire hovering over your head, and another walk through more mud with live electrical wires (10,000 volts) dangling overhead. There are 53 events in 47 cities and 13,500 people signed up for a Tough Mudder event in Sarasota in early December. Up for it?
  5. The Lance Armstrong story this week made me think of an incident I had on a vacation cruise. My wife and I were invited to dine with the captain and other officers and guests. I asked the purser (the only American officer) to find out why and was told the captain had heard I was a sports announcer and he was a big sports fan. I was seated right next to him and all he wanted to talk about was Greg Lemond, the great American cyclist and an international icon. I had virtually no knowledge of cycling or of Lemond. I faked the conversation as best I could. Perhaps, the “truth would have set ME free.” Oh well, the escargot was good.

 

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Behind the Mic – January 15th

January 15, 2013 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

I have been an observer of sports almost all of my life.  I choose “observer” in order to make my point.  I spent much of my youth watching the NFL, rooting for the Colts; the NBA, cheering on the Celtics; and MLB, as a Willie Mays and New York Giants supporter.  Notice I did not say fan.  As I remember back to those days, I can say that I truly enjoyed watching the games.  I now realize if I TRULY ENJOYED the games, I was not TRULY a fan.  You see, I have come to the conclusion that if you are a rabid, color bleeding, screaming, remote throwing FAN, you CANNOT enjoy the game.

For example, suspend your passion for the Eagles or the Steelers or any other NFL team and, for a moment, assume you are a Seattle Seahawk FAN this past Sunday.  First, you must suffer (the natural disposition of a true FAN anyway) through a 20-0 halftime deficit.  You have watched your team move the ball up the field only to come up short on two “4th and ones” and to have the clock run out at the half when you are in a position to score a touchdown or a field goal.  You end up with neither.  You are feeling a sickness in your stomach that beverage, wings, chips, dips cannot dissipate.  However, a true FAN believes a 20-0 deficit can be overcome – right?  GO SEAHAWKS!

In the third quarter Seattle exchanges touchdowns with Atlanta, so the Seahawks do not eat into the 20 point lead at all.  Your agony just gets worse!  Pass the Maalox.

You know your defense is good.  You just need a break and an Atlanta “choke” (something they are known for in the playoffs).  The Seahawks intercept a pass (the break).  Russell Wilson runs for a TD, throws for a TD, and hands the ball off to Marshawn Lynch for an apparent score, but he did fumble at the goal line (how is your blood pressure, heartbeat, pounding headache doing now, Seattle FAN?).  The ruling is a TD and an extra point is all that is necessary to complete the greatest fourth quarter comeback in NFL playoff history!  The extra point is good and the Seahawks lead 28-27 with 31 seconds to play.  You, Seattle FAN, have tossed aside the “agony of defeat” and are now experiencing the “thrill of victory”.  This rollercoaster of emotions cannot be good for the body, but 31 ticks of the clock stand between you and another excruciating week of playoff football.

Atlanta ball.  Matt Ryan to Harry Douglas for 22 yards – timeout- Matt Ryan to Tony Gonzalez for 19 yards – timeout – 13 seconds to go.  Matt Bryant kicks a 49 yard field goal.

Falcons – 30    Seahawks – 28

Well, Seattle FAN – How did you enjoy the game?  Feeling sick again?  Get used to it. It is a feeling you will now have for 8 months.

P.S.  You know and I know it is all worth it!!

   

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

 1.                  Although I am not always in favor of all the graphics, sound effects, and commentary offered up by the network football coverage, I really do like the addition of Mike Pereira as a rules interpreter for Fox.  He is an expert on the rules and, on a number of occasions this year, has truly enlightened the viewers on some rulings.  I wish I could say the same for the sideline reporters.

2.                  The Notre Dame – Alabama game was the second highest rated program in cable television history with over 26 million viewers.

3.                  I think hockey fans will find the shortened season to actually be more exciting since the regular season games will take on much greater importance than they have in the past.  Hockey fans are rather rabid in their support and will come to the arenas to support their teams, despite their disappointment in the prolonged negotiations.

4.                  The Ravens double overtime win over Denver and the Falcons dramatic win over the Seahawks were two of the best games ever!  San Francisco and New England made it look easy, by comparison.

5.                  Well, I picked San Francisco to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the season, had my doubts in the middle, but I am feeling pretty good about that choice right now.

 

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