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“Thanks” Giving

November 24, 2020 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

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.


Below is a blog I wrote last year.  Since my feelings have not changed, it is still quite appropriate so I have decided to repeat it again
with some additions in italics because of 2020:

I heard two sentences this week that really hit home.  The words were even more poignant since this is Thanksgiving week.  

The first sentence came from a gentleman in his ‘80’s.   He said, “Growing old is good”.  I thought about that since I am getting up there or, as my younger friends constantly remind me, I have already gotten there.  It is good.  Every day is a new challenge but every day is welcomed.

Sunday night on 60 Minutes, a former NFL player who now suffers from ALS said that when others listen to his optimistic outlook despite being diagnosed with a shortened life, they very often end their encounter with him by saying, “God bless you”.  His response is always the same, “He already has”.

For some reason, these two sentences meant a great deal to me.  I know I often try to fill these pages with sports stories, but not this week.  I have plenty to be thankful for.  I, along with many others, I’m sure, rarely verbalize it.  Since I have this venue, this is as good a time as any to say “Thank you”.

Thanks to my wife of 57 years.  She has always been my rock.  I’m not so sure about me.  People who know me and then see her often say to her “You must be a Saint”.  I can tell you she is.  These past eight months have added to her sainthood resume.

Thanks to my children and grandchildren.  For my wife, Luba and I, they are our pride and joy.  They are all successful, caring, and nice people.  And they are happy.  What more could any parent or grandparent want?  Maybe getting together for Thanksgiving, but we all decided not to do it this year.

Thanks to RCN.  My occupational ventures have taken me from the classroom to the broadcasting booth.  The ride has been spectacular.  I started with Twin-County, stayed on with C-Tec, and continue the journey with RCN.  Vocationally, it is the best time of my life and the company continues to allow this guy to represent them in public.  I really appreciate that.  The company deserves special thanks this year – they have kept us all safe and employed.  They have allowed us to adapt to the new “normal” and, in doing so, have kept serving our customers with the highest standards.

Thanks to the viewers.  They are appreciative.  They complain when we do not games, but even that is a compliment in a way.  And when they offer criticism, we take it to heart and try to get better.

Thanks to the athletic directors, the coaches, and the statisticians.  This job would be a nightmare without their help.  Luckily they ALL help.  This Corona year has made their jobs even more of a nightmare, but they got through the ever-changing fall season by always looking out for the safety and well-being of the student-athletes under their domain.

Thanks to the student-athletes.  If you want to feel and stay young, hang around young people.  I know every time I interview a Lafayette student, I come away thinking these are the citizens who will fix the world.  I truly feel badly for all the athletes whose seasons were curtailed, postponed, or eliminated this past year.  Health priorities took precedence as they should have, but many memories cannot be captured.  Hopefully, we are all stronger and healthier because of those decisions.

Special thanks to the RCN television team.  There are so many workers (and, boy, do they work) who run the wires, set up the cameras, the audio, the graphics, and the booths for every game only to tear it down and do it all over again many times each week.  This year was like no other forcing us to adapt to a new way of doing things.  Due to the ingenuity of the RCN crew, we were able to bring you sports with a team that took every precaution to stay safe, even having us announce games without actually being at the event.  It wasn’t the same, but it worked. 

Thanks to Kristin Vitovitch and congratulations to her.  She recently was given a well-deserved promotion in our HR Department.  I have lost a valuable partner, but am ecstatic that her talents continue to be recognized! You go, girl!!

Thanks to Joanne G.  She has to read and edit this blog every week.  So at least I know one person has read it and corrected it.  She keeps me out of trouble and I thank her for that and feel a little sorry for her.  This is my 400th blog – 400th!  She continues to be my first line of defense from making a fool of myself.

Making this list felt good.  And, to review, – , “Growing old is good” and God has blessed me.

 Happy Thanksgiving to you!  

 ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The high school football season could not have had a better game to finish off this crazy year.  I hope you watched the FreedomNazareth game on Friday night.  Nazareth won their second straight 6A championship by a 37-29 score, but Freedom fought to the very end with an interception by Nazareth in the end zone ending the game.  Both teams deserve praise for their efforts.

  2. What has happened to Penn State football?  Iowa beat them this past Saturday 41-21 and they dropped to 0-5 for the first time ever.  They have allowed 30 or more points in every game this year and the offense looks just as bad.  Blue and White fans will not be pleased with head coach James Franklin.  Michigan is next and they are 1-3.
  1. The Eagles are a bad football team.  Their offensive line is just awful; Carson Wentz is overthrowing and underthrowing everybody except the opposition; the defense is tasked with making too many plays; and the coaching staff is at a loss how to overcome these problems. The Eagles play Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, and Arizona in the next four weeks and there does not seem to be a win there.  Wow!
  1. As we try to anticipate a winter season of basketball and football, some schools are already putting everything on hold.  Liberty, Freedom, and Palmerton are all holding off practices until the middle of January and games until the end of January.  It’s hard to imagine that others will not do the same.
  1. The Dream Come True Telethon will be virtual this year.  It will be aired on RCN-TV on Monday, December 7.  While this year is different, every day Lehigh Valley children are affected by life-altering illnesses. Now more than ever, we are counting on you to tune in, donate and help kids live their dreams.  Bid on YOUR dream items in our auction, or donate to help us make more dreams come true! Visit www.rcn.com/RCNTV for more information.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 6-8; OVERALL- 103-55-1 – 65%)

Houston

Dallas

Pittsburgh

Giants

Miami

Las Vegas

New England

Cleveland

Carolina

Indianapolis

Buffalo

New Orleans

LA Rams

Kansas City

Green Bay

Seattle

 

 

Wrestling and Basketball

November 17, 2020 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

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 approach the final week and a half of high school football, the country continues to be in an even stronger coronavirus grip.  We have seen in the fall that many games never got played, that teams were forced to bow out of the playoffs, and that administrators battled with what decisions to make week in and week out.

Now that the football season is ending, it’s time to move indoors, which presents even greater challenges.  With those challenges in mind, the Colonial League, East Penn Conference, and the Patriot League all announced their plans for the winter season with mitigation plans in mind.  Here are the results of those meetings:

The Colonial League

With 12 teams that wrestle and 13 that play basketball, each team will play or wrestle all other teams one time.

The first scheduled basketball games will be played on 12/11/20 with wrestling starting the following day.  There will be no games from 12/24/20 through 1/10/21.  The schedule will pick up again on 1/11/21.

The EPC

The Conference will be divided into three divisions:

Lehigh: Allen, Central Catholic, Dieruff, Emmaus, Parkland, and Whitehall

Monroe: ESNorth, ES South, Pleasant Valley, PM East, PM West, Stroudsburg

Northampton: Bethlehem Catholic, Easton, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, Northampton

Wrestling – The schools will wrestle each team in their division twice for a total of 10 contests.

Basketball – Each basketball team would play each divisional opponent three times for a total of 15 games.

Much like the Colonial League, the basketball season begins on 12/15/20 and wrestling begins the following day.  There will be a schedule shutdown from 12/24/20-1/14/21.

The Patriot League

The Patriot League will be composed of three mini-conferences for both the men and the women, established by geographical locations:

North: Army, Boston University, Colgate, Holy Cross

Central: Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh

South: American, Loyola Maryland, Navy

Each team will play 16 games playing each conference opponent four times with Lafayette adding two games against American and two games against Boston University in order to complete a 16-game schedule.  Each team will play an opponent on back-to-back Saturdays and Sundays. No weekday games are scheduled.

Games will begin on 1/2/21 and go through 2/21/21 with no breaks scheduled.

As was the case in the fall, the major concern is to keep everyone as safe as possible while allowing competition to go on.  Time will tell if that is at all possible.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I thought I was watching Tin Cup on Sunday when Tiger Woods took a 10 on the 10th hole at Augusta National. He hit into the water three times and put his highest score on his card ever.  In a Masters practice round, Jon Rahm showed everyone how to play the water:

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/video/2020/nov/10/pond-to-pin-jon-rahm-hits-amazing-water-shot-at-masters-practice-video

  1. Dustin Johnson, who does not have the most sparkling personality, but does have one of the greatest golf games right now, managed to make the Masters a rather dull affair. I’m sure CBS was hoping that someone would challenge Johnson before the NFL games began and, early on, it looked like that would happen.  But by 1:00pm, when kickoffs were happening across the networks, Johnson held a commanding lead and never wavered.  I wonder how many switched the dial.
  1. Wow – the Eagles looked awful on Sunday. 0-9 on third down is incomprehensible; Carson Wentz is overthrowing everybody; the defense made very few plays; and coaching decisions were hard to justify.  The Eagles play Cleveland, Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, and Arizona in the next five weeks and should be underdogs in every one of those games.  Yikes!
  1. I was very excited last week when my #7 seed Wilson Warriors beat #2 seed Pottsville in the District football quarterfinals. That joy was eliminated this week when, due to Covid, the Warriors were forced to withdraw from the playoffs.  So they end the season with a terrific win and a disappointing withdrawal.  “The thrill of victory; the agony of defeat.”
  1. District playoff action comes to a conclusion this week in high school football. We think we have two really good match-ups for you on Thursday and Friday nights at 7:00 PM.  Central Catholic will take on Northwestern on Thursday night for the 4A title.  Freedom will play Nazareth on Friday night for the 6A championship.  Nazareth is undefeated and Freedom’s only loss was to Nazareth.  You’re invited to join us.


Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 9-5; OVERALL- 97-47-1 – 67%)

Seattle

LA Chargers

Philadelphia

Atlanta

Philadelphia

New England

Pittsburgh

Indianapolis

Cincinnati

Baltimore

Minnesota

Kansas City

Miami

Tampa Bay

 

 

The Toughest Opponent

November 10, 2020 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

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 the District XI was in the unenviable position of trying to play schedule a playoff football schedule. In the scope of things, I know that is not so important. And rest assured, I am not making light of what is happening here in Pennsylvania and across the nation.  In just this past weekend alone, Pennsylvania Covid case numbers skyrocketed to over 9,000 with no sign of diminishing.  The situation seems to worsen every day with daily tragic results.

And, yet we try to find ways to maintain some semblance of normalcy in our everyday existence.  In this environment, the District XI athletic committee has tried to put together a football championship tournament.  Knowing the powers that be, they must be literally pulling their hair out, what little they have (that’s for Jason and Bob).

For high school football, what transpired the past ten days or so has shown what this pandemic can do to any attempt at normality.  After a shortened regular season, the tournament brackets were put in place.  In all honesty, the bracketing looked quite like it has in past years.  It appeared that the season would continue towards champions being crowned in the six categories.

But this is 2020 – the year of chaos where nothing seems to go right.  The Covid scheduling nightmare all started in the 4A bracket.  Saucon Valley was forced to withdraw from the tournament.  They were replaced by Bangor, who a few days later, also, withdrew from the playoffs.   Central Catholic would advance without playing a game.

Next up was the 5A bracket – #1 seed East Stroudsburg South (4-0) said they were out.  They had their best team in decades.  Many thought they could challenge for a state title.   Now their season was over.  Pocono Mountain East (1-3) would automatically now play for the championship.

The 6A bracket followed the strangest path of all. Earlier last week, #4 seed Stroudsburg had to drop out of the 6A bracket, meaning Parkland would advance without playing their Friday game.  Then Stroudsburg said they could play this past Friday, but their opponent, Parkland, now said they could not play – Stroudsburg was back in; Parkland was now out.  Are you following this?  It doesn’t end there.

Friday, while I was on my way to do the EastonEmmaus game, I received word that the #1seed and undefeated Nazareth Blue Eagles were forced to drop out of the tournament.  But wait!  On Sunday, it was announced that Nazareth was back into the tournament if Pleasant Valley would agree to play them on Monday night.  PV graciously said they would.  Nazareth won and continues on.

We move into another week with championships to be decided in 1A, 3A, and 5A and semifinals due to be played in 2A, 4A, and 6A.  But with each day, what is obvious is that the toughest opponent for everyone right now is the Covid virus.  Stay safe.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. On Friday night, the 6A football game between Easton and Emmaus was one of the best of the year. Easton upset Emmaus 28-23 with the game coming down to the final minute.  Easton’s Marcus Williams put on quite a performance with 314 yards of total offense.  He scored on two kickoff returns of 94 and 96 yards.  He scored a touchdown on a 65 yard run and he caught a 21 yard pass for a touchdown.  That’s right – 4 touchdowns.  He finished the night intercepting an Emmaus pass inside the Easton 20 stopping a game-winning drive.  A performance for the ages.
  1. I haven’t mentioned any gambling stories this year, but with legal betting now happening all over, here is a good one: On Friday, a bettor in Las Vegas bet $4,000 that he could pick seven correct winners in college and pro games. The odds were 110-1.  His picks were: Maryland over Penn State (a 4 TD favorite), Liberty over Virginia Tech (a 17-point favorite), and favorites Oklahoma, Ohio State, Appalachian State, and Iowa State. He picked all 6 correctly.  The only game left was the Steelers (14-point favorites) over the Cowboys.  At the half, the Steelers trailed 13-9 and Ben Roethlisberger was being treated for a knee injury.  Roethlisberger returned and the Steelers won 24-19, knocking down a pass in the end zone by the Cowboys as time ran out.  The payoff for the bettor was $438,643!
  1. The Bills beat Seattle on Sunday. They are now 7-2, behind 8-0 Pittsburgh and 8-1 Kansas City, which makes their road to the #1 seed in the AFC a tough one.  Are they Super Bowl possibilities?
  1. You may not know that I went to Wilson High School. I say that because the biggest upset in the District XI tournament so far happened this past Friday night.  The #7 seed, Wilson beat the #2 seed and defending District champion, Pottsville, 18-14.  “Give me a W, give me an I, give me an L, etc”
  1. District playoff action continues this week in high school football. We think we have a really good match-up for you on Friday night at 7:00 PM when Easton travels to Freedom.  The two teams met in Week 2 with Freedom winning 21-14.  Freedom has since replaced their quarterback and Easton had to replace their top running back.  It should be a good one.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 10-4; OVERALL- 88-42-1 – 68%)

Tennessee

Pittsburgh

Detroit

Cleveland

Green Bay

Philadelphia

Carolina

Las Vegas

Buffalo

LA Rams

New Orleans

Baltimore

Miami

Minnesota

 

 

The (Ir)regular Season

November 3, 2020 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

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.

Well, we made it.  The Covid-19 “regular season” for high school football has come to a close.  I know that teams can still add to their schedules either by making the district playoffs or by adding games until the end of November, but the original schedules are complete.  So what have we learned from the league games going into the District XI playoffs:

  • Nazareth REALLY wanted to defend both their EPC South title and looks to be the favorite to defend their District 6A title.  Although there is no official champion designated this year in the Northampton Division, Nazareth was the only team to get through a very tough gauntlet of opponents undefeated.  Despite losing some very talented seniors, they still played at the highest level.  Credit must go to Coach Tom Falzone and his staff.
  • Whitehall is a much improved football team.  Kudos must go to Matt Senneca and his staff.  They took a team that did not win a game last year to a 3-3 record that included admirable performances even in their losses.  They scored 24 and 28 points against Parkland and Emmaus despite losing.
  • It’s very hard to replace your starting quarterback.  Both Freedom and Bethlehem Catholic were playing at their highest level when their starters went out – one by suspension and one by injury.  With a few weeks of practice, it will be interesting to see how far their replacements can help carry their teams.
  • If I had to pick an MVP (and I don’t, but I will) for the regular season, it would be Nazareth’s Matt Bugbee.  The quarterback/kicker has thrown for over 1000 yards and seven touchdowns; he has rushed for 186 yards, disregarding sacks and has scored seven touchdowns; he has scored 30 more points as the field goal and extra point kicker.  Add to that, Matt has become the quickest player to change shoes in the middle of a play countdown to go from a running shoe to a kicker’s shoe.  I’ve watched and it is not easy.
  • Four running backs have really impressed me: Matt Russin of Freedom, Brandon Camire of Emmaus, Nahjee Adams of Easton, and Isiah Rico of Parkland.  If I were a head coach (and I’m sure everyone is happy I’m not), I would have no idea which one I would start, nor any clear opinion what the rotation would be.  Suffice it to say, they are all exceptional.
  • Northampton deserves to be in Districts.  They were beaten out because of “power” points by Pleasant Valley.  PV was 1-2 beating only East Stroudsburg North, a team that did not win a game.  Northampton played five games; each one against a tougher opponent than PV faced and finished 1-4.  Their losses were against Freedom, Nazareth, Easton, and Whitehall.  Their win was against Liberty.  I feel confident that all five of Northampton’s opponents would have beaten PV.  So, Northampton plays a much tougher schedule and more games and pays the penalty.  Damn math!
  • Despite the fact that there were only five or six “regular” season games, the important thing is that there WERE games.  Athletic directors, principals, coaches, and players all need to be congratulated for maintaining safety precautions, along with the RCN-TV team who figured out the safest way to bring games to our viewers.

On to districts – the (ir)regular season is over. 

 ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. I hope you saw former Nazareth star Jahan Dotson in action on Saturday night against Ohio State.  Here is a recap of his night.  Watch until the end.  Two catches are almost indescribable. Take a look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBUh_Pj3voE

  1. Good news came out of Bethlehem this week when it was announced that Liberty and Freedom will do their best to play the rivalry game.  A date is dependent on Freedom’s success in the district playoffs, but there should be a place for the game sometime in November.  Along those same lines, Easton and Phillipsburg will play Thanksgiving Day at Phillipsburg.  All good news.
  1. Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson has to stop thinking he should go for it on 4th and short.  It has backfired too many times this year.  On Sunday night, he did it twice against the Cowboys and failed to make it, giving Dallas the ball close to midfield.  Both times, the opponent kicked a field goal.  Six of the Cowboys nine points came on those unsuccessful 4th down attempts.  Against an inept offensive unit like the Cowboys, this was not the time to go for it.
  1. The Bills beat the Patriots on Sunday.  So?  It was only the sixth time in the last 41 games that that has happened!!  It was the first time since 2016 and the first time for Bills’ head coach Sean McDermott and it put the Bills 3-1/2 games ahead of the Patriots in the standings.
  1. District playoff action begins this week in high school football.  We think we have a really good match-up for you on Friday night at 7:00 PM when Easton travels to Emmaus.  The two teams did not compete during the regular season and both played in different divisions.  

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 5-8; OVERALL- 78-38-1 – 67%)

San Francisco

Atlanta

Seattle

Tennessee

Baltimore

Kansas City

Minnesota

Giants

Houston

Las Vegas

Pittsburgh

Arizona

Tampa Bay

New England

 

Is Anybody Watching?

October 27, 2020 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

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.

With all the turmoil in sports this past year – will they play, won’t they play, who will play, who can’t play, where will they play, etc. – I wondered whether fans were still watching. This question is especially interesting since the seasons were overlapped and none had the stage to themselves. The news is not good.

I will start with the NBA finals. From 1987 to the present, the three lowest rated playoff games and the least watched for that 33-year period were the same. They all occurred in 2020. This year’s games 1, 2, and 3 had the lowest ratings in NBA history. To give you an idea of the decline, the most watched game was Game 6 of the NBA finals in 1998.  That game drew an audience of 35.9 million viewers. Game 3 of the NBA finals this
year drew 5.94 million viewers. That is an astounding 84% drop in viewership.

The average number of viewers for the six games of this year’s Final was 7.5 million – down 51% from last year and 67% from the 2018 championship series. The reasons given were the fact that the games were being played out of season and some pundits thought the players’ activism in the current climate turned some viewers away. More people were home due to Covid-19, but fewer were watching.

The NHL championship finals showed a decline of almost 38% from the previous year. On average 2.4 million viewers watched each game of the six-game Stanley Cup finals compared to an average of 6.1 million who watched the previous year. Game 7 in 2019 drew the second highest rating in NHL history. This year’s NHL final series was the least watched since 2007.

Major League Baseball’s World Series is not faring any better. The first three games in the Series are the three lowest rated games in history by a rather large margin. On average those three games have had an audience of 7.9 million viewers. Just to give you an unfair, but startling, comparison, the 1978 World Series which featured the Yankees and the Dodgers drew 44.3 million viewers on average. Closer to home, Game 6 of the 1980 Phillies-Royals series drew a startling 54.9 million viewers.

It certainly doesn’t help that college football and the NFL are also fighting for the eyes of American sports fans. Early reports on them, however, also show a decline. NFL viewership is down 10% through the first four weeks. College football has not generated much interest yet.

Even the US Open final golf round was down 56%.  Why has there been such a drastic reduction? I mentioned overlapping seasons earlier. It should also be noted that a number of fans are watching on streaming services and those numbers, as of now, are not counted. People love to talk sports, but socializing, one would suspect, is at an all-time low. And, maybe, between politics taking center stage and many being stuck at home, sports just aren’t all that important right now.

So, I ask – Are you one of those who is watching or has sports become less important?

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

1. Through seven NFL weeks, the NFC East is officially the worst ever in history to this point. No division has gone through the first seven weeks without one team in the division having three wins. The Eagles, Cowboys,
Giants, and the Washington Football Team have two or less wins. The Eagles are in first place with a 2-4-1 record.

2. Didn’t you think when Tom Brady went to Tampa, that the Patriots would be just fine when they acquired Cam Newton? Last week, the Patriots lost to Denver and this week the 49ers beat the Patriots 33-6. Newton did not even throw for 100 yards and was eventually benched. Tom Brady’s Bucs are 5-2 while New England is 2-4. Same coach; different QB – Hmm….

3. It is not often in football when a team does NOT WANT to score. But twice this weekend, a defensive unit allowed the opponent to score just to get the ball back with a chance to win the game. Both times it worked due to a poor decision by the offensive player. Penn State scored a touchdown late in the game when they could have run out the clock and won. Instead, they lost in overtime. In the NFL, the Falcons did the same thing, allowing the Lions to have enough time to beat them on the last play of the game. The moral: it’s not always in your best interest to score.

4. I hope you are at least looking in on the World Series (not many are) because the games are very entertaining, none more so than Saturday night’s last at-bat victory by the Rays when Brett Phillips got a base hit in the bottom of the ninth with two outs to win the game. No one was more shocked than Phillips. He needed an IV after the game because his heart was racing and he was dehydrated. Take a peek at the games and decide if you want to stay until the end.

5. The regular season for high school football comes to an end this weekend and we have two exceptional games for you. Undefeated Emmaus takes on undefeated Parkland on Friday night at 7:00pm. We will also do the game
across the state of Pennsylvania for PCN. Saturday afternoon at 1:00pm, Freedom takes on Liberty in their intercity rivalry. Records do not seem to matter when these two teams clash. The city championship is at stake.
District playoff action begins the following week.

Gary’s Guesses:
NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 9-5; OVERALL- 73-30-1 – 71%)

Carolina
Cleveland
Detroit
Baltimore
Buffalo
Kansas City
Green Bay
LA Rams
Tennessee
LA Chargers
New Orleans
Seattle
Philadelphia
Tampa Bay

 

 

I Miss People

October 13, 2020 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

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 been working since I was seven years old – that’s right; I had a paper route to call my own at that age.  My route was made up of only two long streets, Front and Second, but I had 101 papers to deliver every day, except Saturday and Sunday.  I earned my money by collecting personally from each house every two weeks.  I got to know my customers – all 101 of them plus members of the household and their pets. Each afternoon, I would see a lot of people. 

As an aside, some of the pets were far from friendly.  One cocker spaniel appropriately named “Inky” was particularly frightening to me.  The owners used to discipline him with a rolled up newspaper, and, it seems, Inky blamed me for bringing their weapon of choice to the house each day.  Each day Inky would wait on his porch to snarl, pull at his rope and try his very best to get a piece of me.  I would laugh at his effort to free himself, until the day he was left untied on his porch.  He attacked and managed to tear up my bag full of undelivered papers.

There was a parrot on my route who would announce my arrival each day.  He would shriek “Paperboyyy!  Paperboyyy!” as I arrived.  It was a bit bloodcurdling, but funny.  Adding this to the opportunity to meet and chat with people every day made me look forward to doing the job.

In school, I played on teams of people, both formally and informally – football teams, basketball teams, and football teams.  College allowed for an even greater circle of friends.  I became a teacher meeting hundreds and hundreds of students every year.  Many have kept in touch.  In other words, I have always been surrounded by many, many people.  I miss them.

My television job has exposed me to thousands of athletes, coaches, fans, parents, and fellow workers.  I continued to be surrounded by people, hundreds of them, and that made life fun and interesting every day.

Now, much of that is gone.  I sit in my office most days doing my work through emails, texts, or phone calls.  Most work-related outside human contact is done through ZOOM.  Make no mistake; I am impressed by this technical marvel that allows people to get together without ever leaving their space.  But… it is not the same.  The first request in the meeting is for all but the speaker to “mute” themselves.  The last thing I want to do is that.  

I find myself wanting to talk face to face with players and coaches.  I want to have spontaneous conversation prior to a game or a meeting.  At a meeting with a group, I want to insert a zinger into the back and forth and relish the laugh, the groan, or the surprised look that one can only get from a group.

I wonder how long it will be when people can comfortably get together with non-family members and just be themselves again.  I want to experience people again to the point where I will say that I would relish some “alone time”.  There is too much “alone time” right now.

I MISS PEOPLE!  

 ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. The Lakers won the NBA title.  Time to argue whether LeBron or Michael Jordan is the GOAT (Greatest of all Time).  Get together with friends and argue about something other than politics.
  1. It turns out that maybe the biggest loss to affect the Eagles on Sunday wasn’t losing to Pittsburgh.  The biggest loss could very well be the broken ankle suffered by Dak Prescott against the Giants.  The Cowboys won, but will they be able to win without their starting QB? 
  1. There is a part of me that is pulling for the Las Vegas Raiders to do well.  You may recall that head coach John Gruden’s son, Deuce, played for Lafayette and John and his wife came to a number of games while he was doing Monday Night Football.  He was always very accommodating to both our broadcasts and to the Lafayette coaching staff.  Sunday, they beat the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.  They previously beat the Saints, two teams considered Super Bowl contenders.  Deuce is on the Raider’s staff and John is making good things happen in Vegas.
  1. I’m sure there was plenty of disappointment when the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Yankees to get to the American League Championship Series to face the Astros.  The Rays have a tremendous bullpen (unlike the Phillies) and they came into the latest series 15-5 in one-run games.  Remember they won game five over the Yankees 2-1.
  1. Our scheduled high school football games this week are Nazareth at Freedom on Friday night at 7:00pm and Easton at Bethlehem Catholic (at BSD) on Saturday afternoon at 3:00pm.  Both are LIVE.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 9-4; OVERALL- 55-20-1 – 73%)

Tuesday, October 13

Buffalo

New England

Tennessee

Indianapolis

Minnesota

Giants

Baltimore

Pittsburgh

Chicago

Detroit

Miami

Green Bay

LA Rams

Kansas City

Dallas

 

 

 

How We Did It

October 7, 2020 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

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.

“From Bethlehem School District Stadium in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, RCN4 Sports presents…”  That is how it all began this past Friday night when we were set to begin the broadcast of the Northampton at Freedom football game.

But, it was a lie.  I wasn’t at Bethlehem School District Stadium and neither was color analyst, Mike Joseph.  Instead, we were comfortably sitting in the RCN TV studio.  In the 50+ years of doing high school and college sports, I have never called a game I was not attending in person (I know, a double negative in one sentence, but you try to say it differently).

I have announced two events that were played prior to “announcing” them.  In the days when we did almost everything “tape delay”, I once had to re-call a football game when the audio never made it to the tape.  After the game, I sat in our production truck and watched the video and called the game again from my notes.  I, also, once announced a District XI track meet after the meet was over and the results were known.  This was done because track events go on at the same time so we taped the events, edited them to show each event and, then, called the meet.  Since I knew the results, I looked like a genius as I announced favorites, who just so happened to win.

This was different.  Mike and I were being asked to call a LIVE game as it was happening without being at the game.  I was vehemently opposed to this strategy.  It was all being done because of RCN’s strict COVID policy.  Social distancing was not possible in our production truck if an audio technician and other personnel needed to be present at the game.  We even used two trucks to keep everyone separated. The audio person had to be in the studio.  Our studio manager devised the plan with great thought and experienced technical knowledge.  As stubborn and apprehensive as I was, I understood the safety concerns, and the challenge was accepted.

At the game, we had a crew of three camera people, a spotter, a replay person, a director, and an engineer to make sure things went well technically.  The studio personnel consisted of a studio director, an audio person, a cameraman, a graphics person, a standby engineer, and a contact with the spotter at the stadium.  Mike and I were at their mercy.

We were able to watch the game like those of you at home.  In addition, we had a camera shot of the stadium scoreboard.  Days, prior to the actual event, we rehearsed the process.

As a play unfolded, our stadium spotter relayed the ball carrier or receiver to our studio contact who relayed the information to me.  Turns out, it was pretty much instantaneous.  We got terrific shots with needed replays, but that is just normal for our talented crew.  In addition, the studio contact kept individual stats and I kept the team stats.  A play required me to call it, Mike to analyze it, and take a second look at the replay.  It worked about as smoothly as possible.

There were two drawbacks – it was hard to sense the atmosphere at the game, but with few fans allowed in attendance, I’m sure the atmosphere was minimal.  With COVID conditions, the bands are not performing as they normally would and that is a shame.  The Lehigh Valley has plenty of great bands to highlight.  I admire all of the high school band performers for continuing to put in the hours of work necessary.  Luckily, we have a treasure chest of halftime band performances which we will use for this year’s games.

So this old veteran of broadcasting high school football games needs to eat a bit of crow.  Because of the talents of our camera people, our audio person, our directors, our engineers, graphics, etc., it all worked.

The plan goes back into effect again next Friday and Saturday.  I didn’t think I would say it but, I CAN’T WAIT!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Guess which team is in first place in the NFC East? With one win and a tie, the Philadelphia Eagles are atop their division.  I mentioned every week how weak this division was.  Except for the Eagles, they all lost again this past week.  The teams are a combined 3-15-1.  The good news is an NFC East team WILL win the division.
  1. Speaking of standings, the two NFL surprises are the Bills and the Bucs. The Bills are 4-1 and the Bucs with Tom Brady have won three straight.  Let’s hope Covid doesn’t derail the season.  It is very entertaining already.
  1. Eight teams are left in the MLB playoffs. Who do you like?  Who do you hate?  The Rays against the Yankees and the Astros against the A’s promise to be very emotional match-ups in the ALDS.  There are plenty of grudges to go around.  The Dodgers look almost unbeatable in the National League.
  1. Parkland will finally get to play a game this coming weekend. The Trojans will take on Whitehall Friday night at Parkland.  Hopefully, there will be no more disruptions in either team’s schedule.
  1. Our scheduled high school football games this week are Bethlehem Catholic at Liberty on Friday night and Freedom at Easton (at BSD) on Saturday night. Both are LIVE at 7:00.

 

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 11-4; OVERALL- 46-16-1 – 74%)                  

Tampa Bay

Arizona

Dallas

Carolina

Kansas City

New England

LA Rams

Houston

Buffalo

Pittsburgh

Baltimore

San Francisco

Indianapolis

Seattle

New Orleans

 

 

 

 

 

The “Never” Normal

September 29, 2020 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

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 been doing football games for 50+ years.  There is a routine in the week of preparation.  

For football, it was always to prepare for Lafayette football on Monday (stats for both teams, projected starting lineups, pre-game notes, etc.) and Tuesday (press conference, read game notes, do trivia, and prepare game-day sheets).

Wednesday and Thursday were set aside for high school football with duties very similar to the Lafayette prep without the press conference and the game notes.  That information was my job to gather.

However, as you know, there is no Lafayette football to even prepare for.  And high school football is starting a month later than it usually does.  Many refer to this time as the “new normal”.  For me, this past week has been more like the “never normal”.  It has been a week like none other.  Allow me recap the six days:

Monday – First, I completed my blog for the week.  Knowing that our first game was 12 days away, I asked for and received the rosters of both Central Catholic and Parkland.  Those rosters were entered onto my game-day sheets.  I then requested from my various sources the stats from last year, with particular interest in those players returning.  I then read up on the prospects for both teams for the upcoming season.

Tuesday – I entered the stats from last year for Parkland, since they would not play until October 2.  I did the pre-game sheets and highlighted the impact players.  I sent those sheets off to our graphics person so he could get a head start.

Wednesday – This was a ZOOM day with one virtual meeting scheduled and one in-person meeting held at our studio.  The ZOOM meeting was a company gathering to bring everyone up-to-date on business operations.  Next, was a studio meeting to discuss how we would be doing the games in this environment.  The big difference, and it is big, is that the announcers would not actually attend the game.  Instead, my color analyst and I would announce the games from the studio watching television monitors.  In other words, we would call the game watching like our viewers at home.  This would be a career first and, despite trepidation, seemed doable.  We rehearsed everyone’s role and left both fearing and anticipating Friday’s broadcast.

Thursday – I began to gather starting lineups for our first game and organized all the information.  Another ZOOM meeting followed.  District XI held a meeting to go over the thoughts on the football playoffs.  They made a wise decision to forego state playoffs in favor of holding District playoffs (the two would have overlapped one another).  A vote would be upcoming, but there was quite a bit of certainty that the votes would be there to have Districts, not states.

Friday – I made plans to attend the Central Catholic-Nazareth football game that night in order to scout both teams.  A morning e-mail arrived from Whitehall saying that their game against Bethlehem Catholic was postponed.  No reason was given, but it was not hard to surmise the reason.  Within an hour, Parkland sent out an e-mail saying they were shutting football down until October 2.  Channel 69 reported the virus had infected a member or members of the team.  I attended the Central-Nazareth game that night, with the knowledge that Central-Parkland the following Friday night probably would not happen.

Saturday – I read that our scheduled first game Central at Parkland would not take place.  We would need to replace the game.

It was time to start the prep all over again for two new teams.  The “new normal” has become more like the “never normal”.  I look forward to the challenge.  Watch on Friday night, no matter who is playing.  Rest assured, we will do our best.

 ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. It turns out the Phillies needed to win just one game against the Rays in their final regular season series in order to make the playoffs.  They could not do that.  Season’s over as they lost seven of their last 10 games.
  1. There was poetic justice on Sunday when the Bengals took on the Eagles.  Both teams were so bad that the football gods decided neither should win so it was an appropriate 23-23 tie.  Both are now 0-2-1.
  1. As I suggested last week, the NFC East is not good.  This past weekend, the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, and the Washington Football Team all lost.  The division winner may very well not have a winning record.
  1. I decided to scout some high school football on Friday night so I went to Andrew Leh Stadium to watch Central Catholic at Nazareth.  The crowd was sparse, but maintained social distancing and wore masks.  Nazareth was very impressive in their win, showing emotion and speed.  They will be a tough opponent, for sure.
  1. Our scheduled high school football opener was affected by the virus.  Parkland was forced to postpone their game against Central Catholic.  We will bring you Northampton at Freedom LIVE on Friday night at 7:00pm. 

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 9-6-1; OVERALL- 35-12-1 – 74%)

Denver

Indianapolis

New Orleans

Arizona

Cincinnati

Dallas

Houston

Seattle

Tampa Bay

Pittsburgh

Baltimore

LA Rams

Kansas City

Buffalo

San Francisco

Green Bay

 

 

 

 

 

A Huge Success Story

September 22, 2020 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

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.

You know the brand name Snapple, right?  Did you know that when the product was introduced, it just tanked.  Quaker Oats paid millions for the product and, due to its lack of success, sold it for $300,000 to Triarc Companies in 1997.  That is where 1970 Lafayette graduate, Mike Weinstein, came into the picture as the CEO of Snapple and within three years orchestrated the sale to Cadbury Schweppes for $1.45 billion!

That story is now the first case taught at the Harvard Business School.  I interviewed Mike Weinstein this past week on Primetime PARDS.  He has a good story to tell starting at the 4:10 mark in this YouTube video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al2Y8kzw64A&feature=youtu.be

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. It is a rare sight when the average golfer can watch the PGA pros hack around a golf course, much like we do. The US Open challenge at Winged Foot this week looked eerily similar to shots hit in my golf league every week.  It is almost a pleasure to see the pros struggle one time a year and then, much like us, complain vociferously about the unfairness of the course conditions.  It’s music to my ears.
  1. As a kid, I used to try to emulate the swing and basket catch of Willie Mays, the passing and dribbling skills of Bob Cousy, and the passing style of Norm Van Brocklin. I am not sure any kid can emulate the golf swings of Bryson DeChambeau and Matthew Wolff.  Their swings are so unique; it will be interesting to see if anyone attempts to seriously mimic them.
  1. I wrote this last week: “Speaking of irony, New England QB Cam Newton looked terrific while former New England QB Tom Brady looked average for Tampa Bay (2 interceptions; 1 touchdown).” I would write just the opposite this week – Brady was exceptional in Tampa Bay’s win over Carolina and Newton could not lead New England to a win over Seattle.
  1. The Eagles now appear to be weak on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Their offense improved a bit and their defense deteriorated this past week against the Rams.  The good news is the NFL East does not look very strong so there is still hope.
  1. Check out “Gary’s Guesses” from the past week! That’s right, a record-setting week, only missing the Monday Night game: 15 correct out of 16 games!

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 15-1; OVERALL- 26-6 – 81%)                 

Jacksonville               

Pittsburgh

Minnesota

Atlanta

New England

San Francisco

Philadelphia

Cleveland

Buffalo

Indianapolis

LA Chargers

Arizona

Seattle

Tampa Bay

New Orleans

Kansas City

 

 

Let the NFL Begin!

September 15, 2020 By Gary Laubach Leave a Comment

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.

Despite not having any preseason games, all 32 NFL teams kicked off their official season this week.  Obviously, it remains to be seen if they can get through the season without having to shut down.  NHL hockey, NBA basketball, and MLB baseball have done a pretty good job so far, but nothing compares to the lack of social distancing in the game of football.

You should be aware that I am writing this Sunday morning before the games (I know the Chiefs won on Thursday, but I would have picked them to win anyway).  So before the first weekend and Monday night games are played, here is how I see the divisions unfolding:

AFC

East

  • Buffalo – They finished second to New England last year with Brady.  This is their year to shine.  QB Josh Allen is the key.
  • New England – It could be a big mistake to pick against Belichick.  There’s no Brady, but there is Cam Newton.  I’m guessing he will not stay healthy for the entire season.  If he does, you will continue to despise the Patriots.
  • Miami – This team is a work in progress and progress should happen this year.  Is Tua Tagovailoa (I hope I don’t have to type this again) their next Dan Marino?  He could be and the Dolphins might surprise.
  • Jets – They may as well plan a “Celebration” of their tenth anniversary of not making the playoffs.

North

  1. Baltimore – LaMar Jackson is the real deal.  He was the NFL MVP and the Ravens are very strong on defense.  The ingredients here could win them a Super Bowl. 
  2. Pittsburgh – They are always dangerous, but a bit old and injury prone.  Everyone says Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, but, at 38, can he remain healthy in this league?

  3. Cleveland – No team causes me more grief for Gary’s Guesses than the Browns.  It got to the point where I just picked them to lose every week.  That should not be the case this year.  Baker Mayfield makes them better and they might be better than the Steelers (am I really writing this?)

  4. Cincinnati – 2-14 last year says a great deal about this team.  They took LSU QB Joe Burrow as their top pick, but it should be a tough learning process for the rookie with this team.

South

  • Indianapolis – Philip Rivers is no longer in San Diego and is reunited with head coach Frank Reich and two of the Colts’ assistants.  The sooner he gets comfortable with his teammates, the better this team can become.
  • Tennessee – I’ll be honest – I was going to pick the Texans here, but their Thursday night showing was not impressive at all.  The Titans have an excellent ground game.  They were 9-7 last year and found a steady QB in Ryan Tannehill.
  • Houston – The Texans are better than what they showed on Thursday night.  Deshaun Watson at QB makes them a contender, but the offense did not look good against the Chiefs, especially in protecting their QB.  That has to improve.
  • Jacksonville – This team was just not good offensively last year.  QB Gardner Minishew made them better after replacing Nick Foles.  Jay Gruden (OC) and Ben McAdoo (QB coach) have the experience to make them better.

West

  • Kansas City – Based on Thursday night’s performance, the Chiefs look better than last year if that’s possible.  Patrick Mahomes now can rely on a running game and the defensive line looks awesome.  Andy Reid will be smiling again this year on his way to a second Super Bowl.
  • Denver – Take your pick from here on in this division.  Denver’s defense is not strong.  They could finish second or last.
  • San Diego – QB Philip Rivers is gone and Tyrod Taylor is inserted.  The receivers he has available to him are very talented.  Combine that with a strong defense and they could certainly jump over Denver.
  • Las Vegas – If you are a betting person, what better team to put some money on?  Jon Gruden moves his team to a new home and brings former Dallas great TE Jason Witten with him.  This team looks like a last place finisher to me.

NFC

East

  • Dallas – I know – it hurts me to write it, but I have felt the Cowboys only needed a coach that really motivates his guys and they have it in Mike McCarthy, formerly of the Packers.  He will make them better defensively and that will make them good enough to win the division.  I hope I’m wrong.
  • Philadelphia – They won the East last year, but their offensive line is certainly suspect due to injuries.  Carson Wentz needs time to pick out his receivers; if he has it, the Eagles might repeat as East champs.  Also, the linebacker corps looks somewhat suspect.  E-A-G-L-E-S! (Just practicing).
  • Giants – They have a new coach – Joe Judge.  He is tough and coached with Bill Belichick and Nick Saban.  I really want the Giants to do well because I want Saquon Barkley to have a great year.  For that to happen, QB Daniel Jones must be better this year.
  • Washington – Ron Rivera will make the team with no nickname better, but it takes time.  They could improve this year and the record might not illustrate that.  Rivera is now also fighting a cancer diagnosis and may not be at full strength during the season.

North

  • Minnesota The Vikings were not better than the Packers last year.  I think they are better this year.  QB Kirk Cousins is a veteran (9 years) with some outstanding receivers and the Vikings have a very strong defense. They will win the North.
  • Green Bay – 13-3 last year is certainly a great NFL regular season and much of the credit always goes to Aaron Rodgers.  He’s back and, if he stays healthy, he is as good as any QB in the league.  The Packers win close games.  If that trend continues, they will win the division again.
  • Chicago – I like the Bears; they should have been in the NFC Championship game last year (remember the Cody Parker missed field goal?).  Their defense should be better than last year and they were very good last year.  Yet they don’t seem to win the big games.
  • Detroit – 3-12-1 is bad.  The Lions were bad last year.  QB Matt Stafford’s injury caused him to miss half a season and the Lions defense is just not good.  The team needs to rally around HC Matt Patricia or he will be gone.

South

  • New Orleans – Are the Saints ever bad?  They were 13-3 last year and in the last three years, they have won more regular season NFL games than any other team.  Former Eagle Malcolm Jenkins is now a Saint and one of the best safeties in the league on the field and in the locker room.  He will motivate a team that is always ready to play.
  • Tampa Bay – They now have Tom Brady, right?  Enough said.
  • Atlanta – This team is just not good defensively and that means losses in the NFL.  They were 7-9 last year and I do not see improvement in their record.
  • Carolina – Talk about a one-man team – As Christian McCaffrey goes so goes the Panthers offense.  He can do it all, but can he do enough to win games for this team which really struggles on the defensive side of the ball?  No.

West

  • San Francisco – They won the NFC title last year (13-3) and had a 10-point lead on the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.  Coach Kyle Shanahan proved he was up to the job and QB Jimmy Garoppolo followed in the footsteps of successful QBs under Shanahan.  Garoppolo should be better in year two.  And that makes the 49ers better.
  • Seattle – Pete Carroll has eight  consecutive winning seasons.  Almost their entire team is back from an 11-5 season. Their defensive secondary is much improved and they still have QB Russell Wilson, a proven winner.  Coach Carroll gets his ninth consecutive winning season.
  • LA Rams – The Rams will play in a brand new stadium and, despite the absence of a big crowd, should have some extra incentive this season.  Sean McVay appears to be a very good young coach.  Their offensive line was decimated with injuries last year and they still finished 9-7.  Give QB Jared Goff some blocking and the Rams could surprise.
  • Arizona – At 5-10-1 last year, the Cardinals struggled.  They appear, however, to come into this season with a very potent offense with two excellent running backs, a stable of receivers, and Kyler Murray at QB.  This team will cause defenses many problems; they hope their defense does the same.

 ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. Isn’t it ironic (a nicer word than a Philadelphia fan would use) that neither the Phillies nor the Eagles can hold a lead?
  1. What was worse on Sunday watching an inept Eagles offensive line or the downhill performance of Carson Wentz?  Might the two be related?
  1. Speaking of irony, New England QB Cam Newton looked terrific while former New England QB Tom Brady looked average for Tampa Bay (two interceptions; one touchdown).
  1. Dustin Johnson won $15 million by winning the FedEx Cup last weekend.  That money used to be deferred into a retirement fund, but now the winner gets $14 million with $1 million deferred.  Rory McElroy and Tiger Woods are the only ones to win the Cup twice.  When they won, the prize was $10 million.  $9 million of Tiger’s winnings were deferred each time.  Just from that event, he has an $18 million retirement fund! 
  1. Congrats to the Notre Dame HS and Northwestern HS football teams.  They both won the first two football games of the 2020 season. 

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 11-5; OVERALL- 11-5 – 69%)

Cleveland

Tennessee

Buffalo

Pittsburgh

Dallas

Indianapolis

Green Bay

San Francisco

Chicago

LA Rams

Tampa Bay

Arizona

Kansas City

Baltimore

Seattle

New Orleans

 

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