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The Sports Talk Shop – January 22nd

January 22, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

“SportsTalk Shop: HS Basketball Parody vs. Mediocrity”

Every few years, we have a high school basketball season like the one we have this year – lots of teams with similar records and “common opponents” knocking each other off with seemingly no single team, or even a couple squads, distancing themselves from the rest of the pack. Inevitably, we, as local sports fans, start to debate. Do we have a lot of really good teams this year, or are most teams merely average?

I actually feel we have more of the former. Here are some of the reasons why: field goal percentage, defensive points allowed, average, and turnovers.

First, field goal percentage. I don’t recall so many teams in recent memory that were shooting near 50-percent as a unit (no, I’m not going to bring up the woeful free-throw shooting percentage—that’s a whole other issue). The solid “FG” numbers indicate a good deal of high percentage shots being taken, which is a direct result of good execution. We’re seeing quite a bit of quality passes, good pick & rolls (yes, it’s back in style again), solid picks and some all-around good play. You could argue that this is a result of shoddy defense, but when you look at the points allowed, most teams’ numbers are down from a year ago, indicating an improvement in defensive performance. As for teams that are giving up more points than normal, like Easton, the Rovers have played in four overtime games, including two that went into double overtime. With the extra periods, it inflates their per game averages. However, if you look at quarter by quarter numbers, you’ll find nearly every team is playing better defense.

Secondly, the turnover numbers. Local teams are bucking the trend of actually cutting down on the number of turnovers per game. This despite a few teams trying to play a more up-tempo style of basketball. Most teams over the last few years averaged in the mid-teens, but I’ve seen quite a few teams averaging ten or 11 turnovers per game, which also supports the theory that teams are taking better control of the basketball, and, therefore, the quality is up from recent years.

One other point that supports more quality basketball in both the boys and the girls basketball teams, is that of depth. We’re seeing quite a few teams, shall we say “missing” players for various reasons (let’s just say I’ve heard a number of stories why players are not available to play this winter). Injuries or otherwise, teams are having to use their bench quite a bit more. In fact, both the Bangor girls and boys teams were without key players last weekend. Yet they got outstanding efforts from their reserves & younger players, and even members of their JV squad, that stepped up and battled some very strong teams last week. With more and more teams going deeper to their bench and getting quality efforts, it’s clear that there is an upswing right now in the level of play here in the Lehigh Valley. (Bangor, by the way, will be guests on “SportsTalk” this Thursday at 6pm to talk about their season).

Do I see any one Lehigh Valley team knocking off the powerhouse programs from the Philadelphia area, or even some of the top teams from the western part of the state? Probably not. But it has made for an entertaining season thus far. Do you think high school basketball is improving, or are we continuing down a trend of playing more of a ‘playground’ style that a number of long-time local sports fans have been lamenting the last several years? Send your comments to us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com & we’ll discuss on our upcoming shows.

The SportsTalk Shop – January 15th

January 15, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

First of all, I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday season.  There were certainly lots of things—sports related or not—going on in the Eastern Pennsylvania area over the holidays.  Among the surprises were some very impressive high school boys & girls basketball wins—and upsets—between Christmas & New Year’s Day.

 With the new calendar year, it’s customary to make “New Year’s” resolution. I usually try to make—and stick to—a few of them each year.  Among them, related to “RCN SportsTalk” are the following goals I have set for myself as the producer of the program:

1.    To be a little more diverse in the planning/scheduling of each “SportsTalk” show as we get deeper into the winter sports season. 

In the past, we would do shows during the winter sports season that were completely Basketball or Wrestling or even Super Bowl related.  I have had people come up to me at a basketball playoff game and ask “who’s going to be on the show this Thursday?”  When I answer with names not normally associated with basketball, the viewer might say something like, “well, maybe I’ll catch the show next week” or “well, I’ll give your trivia giveaway game a look, but I’m not really into listening about wrestling.”  I’m sure there’s grappling fans that feel the same way about HS hoops.  Therefore, as I plan some of the later shows for the winter season (closer to playoff time) I’m going to try to include guests that have backgrounds in several different areas. We can go in several different directions on some of our shows over the next few weeks—especially when it gets to post-season time. This makes the show much more difficult for the host to prepare and to moderate, but no one cares about that guy, right?

2.    To consistently have a trivia contest winner

In December, we had a record number of people guessing for our prize giveaways—yet didn’t have a winner during a few of our December shows.  It certainly makes for a more entertaining program when lots of people make educated guesses and we allwait the whole show to see what the correct answer is. However, I have to try to mix things up a bit more so that we don’t have too many people out in the cold (figuratively speaking, of course) when it comes to giving away an RCN On Demand certificate to watch the latest movie releases.

3.    Discuss some different sports here in the month of January

Before we get to the winter sports post-season I’m looking to change things up a bit.  Among our theme shows & things to watch for this month include:

+   Central Catholic Football Team (the last team standing in the Lehigh Valley)

+   HS Wrestling Head Coaches

+   Basketball Coaches/Teams

+   Local Media/Winter Sports Updates

+   More Giveaways & Local/National sports conversations

As always, I’m always looking for your suggestions & opinions on what we should do on our “RCN SportsTalk” show every Thursday live at 6pm so feel free to email me at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com with your thoughts and ideas for shows during the winter sports season.

Finally, I want to take a moment to thank all the ‘well-wishers’ for the Christmas cards and nice comments to Joe Craig & me about the program.  We are very glad we have made the show entertaining & informative for you.  My favorite was the card with Joe’s & my images digitally edited to wear “Santa” hats. We had it on display during on our Year-In-Review episode – feel free to check that episode out on RCN On Demand!

The SportsTalk Shop – December 18th

December 18, 2012 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

With the holidays approaching, it’s only natural to take a look back at the past twelve months and do some reflecting, and for the 3rd straight year we’re going to be doing just that on December 20th’s “RCN SportsTalk” with our ‘year-in-review’ program.

The show is live and you’re welcome to participate with your memories of the 2012 sports calender year.  Our panelist on the program will reveal their top moments, players, teams, games and quite a few other topics and favorite moments from the year gone by.  Even though the Lehigh Valley had slightly less success in terms of state team metals, there was still plenty of great memories from the team, players and coaches in the area.  A few of mine include: 

 – Easton’s boys basketball amazing come-from-behind win over Emmaus to clinch the last playoff berth, and then to put a state playoff run together and be the ‘last team standing’ from the Lehigh Valley

 – Another amazingly competitive baseball & softball season and some very highly attended games.  The spring sports teams don’t even get close to the attention the fall and winter sports receive, but the games I saw had great turnouts (my favorite scene with Pen Argyl’s athletic director directing traffic because of so many people driving up ‘the hill’ to see the Salisbury/Pen Argyl baseball game

 – The championship season of the Blue Mountain League’s Hellertown Royals under the direction of long-time Skipper Bob Zerfass.  The team didn’t seem as dominating as in their previous championship seasons but always found a way to win, including an incredibly exciting championship series come-from-behind win after being down 2 games to none in a best of five series

 – The Central Catholic football team (who we’ll honor on “SportsTalk” on January 3rd) once again being the last football team standing this fall.  No one had them in their ‘top 5’ in the preseason predictions, but one of the smallest schools in the LVC once again dominated in districts and in the first two rounds of the PIAA and turned in a remarkable season by 5’11 running back Colin McDermott and assisted by an amazing effort by the blockers in front of him.

We’ll be recapping even more great moments on our December 20th show.  You’re welcome to give your opinions and thoughts on the 2012 sports-year by emailing us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com & we’ll try to read your comment on the air.  Happy Holidays!

The SportsTalk Shop – December 7th

December 7, 2012 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

This is one of the best (and busiest times) of the year.  Aside from the Christmas and holiday shopping (I wait until December 20) and everything else going in December, it’s incredibly exciting to follow the teams in our coverage area of the HS State Football Playoffs (when we can root—at least quietly—for teams).  It’s also hectic for everyone involved as the winter sports season is gaining momentum and league play gets underway.  I think it’s tremendous that the winter sports coaches are not only patient in having to put their season’s plans on hold while the football teams continue to play, but they genuinely look to cheer on their players on the football field—even if it does put certain teams well behind the eight-ball.

Both Parkland and Pen Arygl were a bit “un-herald” by some media personalities during this season.  Our “SportsTalk” preseason poll had those teams #2 and #1 respectively in their respective classes, but both schools received some grief—Parkland started the year 0-2 and Pen Argyl unexplainably was overlooked by some in both pre-season and post-season expectations.  Both the Trojans and the Knights lose some special kids, but return a ton of talent and look to be among the top teams once again in 2013.  And Central Catholic—once again—was the last team standing from the Lehigh Valley in 2012.  John Cupples and his tremendous coaching staff really deserve credit when not much was expected from them by outsides…but certainly not by the list of talented players headed up by Colin McDermott, who will go down as one of the premiere running backs in the area.

One other great note about the fall sports season—a special shoutout to the Parkland volleyball team for getting to the state championship round for the second consecutive year.  It was very enjoyable to stop by their practices this fall and interview them for “SportsTalk” and, after winning their firstever title a year ago, they have now established themselves as one of the premiere programs in Pennsylvania.

Now, with the winter sports season underway, it’s time to turn the page and look ahead to playing/wrestling/swimming indoors.  What were your top moments from this past football season and which other teams deserve credit for their work?  And don’t forget to share your picks for the top players and coaches during the fall sports season.  Email them to RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com or leave a comment on this post and we’ll read and respond to them on our next show.

SportsTalk Shop Salutes Local AD-s & District Officials

November 2, 2012 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

First of all, I’d like to offer a sincere wish and hope that all of our local customers and neighbors are all safe and secure and have survived the ravages of the “Sandy” storm…it could have been worse, and yet, there were many scary moments this past week and we lost a few local citizens due to yet another unusual Halloween-time weather event.

Secondly, athletic directors are similar to officials and referees—you don’t notice all the great work they do and only recognize them when things go awry (regardless if it’s their fault or not). I think we are very fortunate here in Eastern Pennsylvania to have some incredibly efficient people running our local sports program, but, and perhaps more importantly, you will frequently hear these men and women giving explanations why things are done “for the kids’ sake.”

The past week was a rather typical one for “AD-s” in that they had numerous events taking place and had to shuffle things around due to bad weather, power outages, schools’ requirements over practice times et al. As usual, they made decisions with the local students safety and well-being being the paramount concern, and took the initiative to reschedule events well in advance of the hurricane hitting the coast, and were also proactive in moving sports events from their regular Friday night and Saturday afternoon slots, to alternate times (including Monday night for HS football).

The PIAA also allowed schools to move games past their standard deadline of when games are to be played. (As luck would have it, the playoffs start next week and schools in the past have had to make decisions to play or have the games not count towards the postseason). Otherwise, because of many schools’ regulation that a team cannot practice when school is closed, some teams would have had to play with no “official” practice time, which includes studying film and injury treatment.

Do you think the local administrators made the right calls with their postponements and, in some circumstances, “unusual” game starting times? Post your comments below or let us know your sports opinions on our next live “RCN Sports Talk” show on Thursdays at 6pm.

The “SportsTalk Shop” Talks Non-Football Sports

October 26, 2012 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

So much of the time, the emphasis for the sports world is on football…football and then, some more…football.

On Nov. 1st, our “RCN SportsTalk” takes a week off so that we may highlight some of the other hard working individuals in the Lehigh Valley region. I have the pleasure of announcing the District XI boys soccer championships for RCN-TV, and for that reason, I’d like to discuss some amazing facts and accomplishments among our local athletes in that sport that I’ve begun to uncover in preparing for our broadcasts. It should be noted that we did spend a good deal of time and attention on all of the sports on our show this fall season, and every team’s accomplishments deserves a solid round of applause (insert applause sound effects here).

Southern Lehigh has dominated the 2-A district playoffs, winning 14 of its 16 appearances in the championship. Salisbury is 2nd in that classification with 5 titles and, like the Spartans, have been playing at a high level again this fall. Northwestern and Moravian Academy have both won multiple championships in this sport, and the latter school was playing well when we stopped by their practice field with our camera a few weeks ago for “SportsTalk.”

The 3-A classification is always an interesting tournament, and while Emmaus has won the most titles (14), its Parkland that most people believe is the team to beat this year. Freedom and Liberty had to play each other in the opening round of the tourney, which was a tough match-up out of the game and it’s unfortunate one of those team would have to be eliminated in round one. In an autumn season in which very little positive sports publicity has fallen on ASD because of the struggles of the football team (although congrats to the Canaries for getting their first win over Lehighton), it’s refreshing to see the Allen soccer team in the mix and a chance for their students to cheer-on a playoff team.

One other sport I wanted to give special props to, as I did during our broadcast of the Emmaus/Whitehall football game, is a special “congrats” to the continuing dominance of the Green Hornets girls field hockey team. They captured their 9th straight league title last week (the only nine in the LVC’s history), and have won more state titles (5) than any other school in our coverage area. When Liberty defeated them this year, they celebrated like they just won the greatest game of their lives—as well they should have. There’s only a couple teams in the state that ever get an chance to do that each season, and it was years—literally—since a local team had defeated them in the regular season.

Who’s your favorite non-football local sports teams and which teams would you like to recognize? Post a comment here or email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and we’ll read and respond to it on our next live show, which will be November 8th!

 

Who’s Number 1?

October 18, 2012 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

“Who’s #1” is the thing that everyone wants to be each season … and the drive to be numero uno is especially excessive in high school football.

With Easton remaining undefeated, the co-owners of the best record and the almighty “power point” leaders in our RCN coverage area, they sit atop all of the playoff standings. However, RCN sideline reporter Tony Cocca (and other coaches and media members) have said that with the way Parkland has been playing, they’d label the Trojans as the best team–right now–in the Lehigh Valley area. Although they are a much smaller school, Catasaqua also can claim that they deserve more attention as one of the best teams in this area, and they certainly should after a completely dominating performance against the reigning champions last weekend. On last week’s “RCN SportsTalk” show there were grumblings from some Rough Rider supporters that their team wasn’t listed earlier as a “2A team to watch” in the frequently reprinted Harrisburg Patriot News statewide poll.

There’s lots of polls out there: some for the leagues’ top spot, some for districts, some for the Eastern PA region and some for even a broader scope. I’ve never been a fan of the “state poll,” which I personally find ridiculous since the voters for this poll normally only get to see teams in only one part of an area in Pennsylvania. How in the world can you compare, contrast and rank the teams in your neck-of-the-woods with most of the rest of the state’s teams that you’ll never see in person or on TV, until, of course, you get to the end of the playoffs, when it’s clear to everyone at that point who the best teams are?

We stopped doing a weekly poll on our program as it seemed a waste of airtime to spend a chuck of our show comparing and arguing who’s the better teams each week, only to have things completely change around after witnessing a couple “upsets” week in and week out. I’m very proud to say that, for what it’s worth, our own “RCN SportsTalk” pre-season predictions correctly named the 10 teams that are now the current owners of the 10 best records in our coverage area. The only thing that proves at this point is that the teams have handled the higher expectations and endured the closer scruntiny of the media. Those same Trojans that Cocca & Company have dubbed the best team in the Lehigh Valley will get another chance to test their mettle as the featured guests on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” as they talk about their season to date, preview the road ahead to the playoffs, and respond to your questions and comments about the current football landscape. We might even see if they themselves believe they are number one in the league, the district, or beyond?

Is Parkland the best team in the Lehigh Valley right now? If and when Easton plays Parkland again in the playoffs, who do you think would win? And could Catty outlast all other local teams in the PIAA playoffs? Give us your opinions here on our blog, or email them to rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and we’ll be able to read and respond to your comments this Thursday at 6pm on RCN-TV.

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