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The SportsTalk Shop: Previewing the “Classic”

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I have many fond memories of the Celtic Classic and really enjoy when this time of year comes around. I am not a direct descendent of any Irish or Gaelic ancestry as far as I’m aware, nor have ever held any desires of wearing a kilt. But the entire festival is a really enjoyable experience and there’s always great entertainment venues and plenty of displays to check out throughout the entire weekend.

My first trip to the Celtic Classic was a bit of an adventure. I was to interview people at different sections of the grounds for a feature on a show called, “Time Out! Lehigh Valley.” While going from different stands asking people about their areas of expertise, I came across the late, great RCN personality Craig Borst, who was supposed to be handling the “play-by-play” of the highland games competition. Craig was one of the nicest and most gregarious people you would ever meet and, although he rarely wasn’t in the best of moods, I could see by his facial expressions that there was a problem. Our exchange went something like this:

Craig: “Hey, Chris. Can you do me a really big favor?”
Me: “Sure…what do you need?”
Craig: “Well, the guy who was supposed to announce the highlands events with me didn’t show up, and I really don’t know anything about these events since I was depending on him. I know it’s short notice but do you think you can be my expert for today and do the broadcast with me?”
Me: “Uh, yeah. I think I can do that. How long do I have to prepare?”
Craig: (grabbing me by the arm): “About 30 seconds.”

Needless to say things worked out fine (I didn’t even have time to even think about being nervous). In fact, even one of the most intelligent and insightful RCN viewers we have in Eastern Pennsylvania gave me kudos for the broadcast. The compliment came from RCN Sports Director Gary Laubach’s wife, Luba (did I mention she’s very intelligent and incredibly insightful?)

Fortunately, in the many years since that first broadcast, we have added a REAL expert, highland games legend Gene Flynn, to our broadcasts. Gene gives wonderful insights on the history and legacy of the games, background on all the competitors and great stories about training and participating in these extraordinary events. Just to hear Gene describe what it’s like to participate and to see just how difficult the competition is, is reason enough to tune in and see what these athletes put themselves through for the competition.

This year, we’ll be broadcasting the latter five events and the awards ceremony this Sunday on RCN-TV. The games itself are a ton of fun to watch—especially if you have never seen the events before. The competitors are incredibly focused when the events are going on, but also love to have a good time and put on a great show for the audience. This year’s rundown of athletes include:
Daniel McKim
Michael Zolkiewicz
Matt Vincent (current World Champion)
Sean Betz
Eric Frasure
Nathan Burchett
John Piling
Jeremy Gillingham
Jake Sullivan
Spencer Tyler

Many of these athletes have appeared at the Celtic Classic previously, but there are also some new names that will be competing in Bethlehem for the first time ever.

The Celtic Classic is more than just sports, and I’m proud to say that we have a great sampling of the many experiences from the Celtic Classic on RCN-TV once again this year. One of my favorite performers over the years includes the O’Grady Quinlan Irish Dancers (one year they ask me to perform with them…let’s just say I did a better job announcing the highland games). Other must-see performers include the Glengarry Bhoys, Burning Bridge Clearly and the Town Pants. And, of course, to see the Liberty and Freedom High School bands alone make the “Tartan Parade” something you have to check out.

There really is something for everyone and I invite you to check out all that the Celtic Classic has to offer. Don’t forget, whether you watch the events in person or on RCN-TV, you can relive all the memories for the next two months by watching these events, for free, through RCN On-Demand.