Monday, November 12, 2007

What a season

As I sit at home with a gallon of tea in front of me due to a serious case of laryngitis and a nasty cold, my first time calling out sick in over a year has given me time to reflect on what was one heck of a football season. If I have my count correct, I did something like 35 games in between Middlebury College, the Ice Storm, UVM and high school. There are days in which I would think, "Gee Fells, you are insane for keeping up this pace." The reality of it is that man alive, this thing some would call work sure beats working for a living.

Middlebury College wins its first ever NESCAC title with a 21-19 victory over Tufts down in Boston. The team this season was simply outstanding, and was a blast to watch. Freshman quarterback Donald McKillop played more like a senior, and the defensive unit was simply unreal this season. Credit Coach Ritter for opening up the playbook a little more and really making things exciting. The Middlebury parents as always were wonderful to me. They more or less ordered me to join them in the post-game tailgate parties, and their warmth, kindness and allowing me to get to know them and their kids meant the world to me. This is one of the many reasons covering the NESCAC and the Panthers is so much fun for me.

UVM saw their season end on Sunday with a 28-0 loss to the Ravens on a frigid day in Barre. Credit Ravens coach Mike Salmon's defense and Warren Bombardier for getting open for a couple of huge touchdowns. Don't credit the officiating crew who as always were simply awful. When Darren Haynes gets upset about a series of calls, you know the officials are bad. Darren is about as laid back as the day is long, and he actually had to be restrained by his coaching staff after another typically abysmal series of calls that went against the Cats. Also, when someone as equally laid back in Mike Salmon gets upset, you know there is something wrong. Darren, thanks for your kindness, insight, and humor this year. Let's do it again next season. To Mike and the Ravens, bring home the title next week!!!!

The Ice Storm this season gave us more thrills than can be described. Not only did they go 15-0, but Rob Joy showed us all what it means to have guts. For those who were not at the EFL title game, Rob took one of the most sickening shots to the knee I have ever seen. The entire crowd could hear him screaming, and no one expected he would come back into the game again, much less walk without a limp for the rest of his life. What did Rob do? He only caught the game winning TD pass with four seconds to go in the game on one leg. Way to go Rob, and congrats to the Ice Storm.

High school action saw guys like Taylor Devarney run wild, South Burlington upset Middlebury to get to the state finals, and more thrills than I can even remember right now. Vermont does not get enough credit for their play on the gridiron. Man alive, in between South Burlington, Essex, Middlebury and all of the other teams I covered this season, people should take notice and do so now. We may be a small state, but we have athletes here that are as good as there are in the country. Coming from California and seeing some great football in my day, this is saying something.

To stray from football for a second, I would like to thank the Vermont Frost Heaves for inviting me to play in their fan fest. Being on the court again was a blast, and hitting a nice little 22 footer was even better. My final professional line: 1-2 from the field, 1-2 from three point land, no boards, no assists, no fouls, and 248 shirt pulls telling Lafftery to get my butt out of the game before I needed oxygen.

This may sound like a goodbye, but trust me, it isn't. This week we start our coverage of Saint Michael's college basketball, both men's and women's as well as hockey as well. Saint Mike's is a tremendous school with amazing people. I cannot wait to do the broadcasts of the games, as well as doing PA this coming weekend. High school hockey and basketball is coming too, and I still can't believe I get paid to do what I do for a living.

Now to take my second nap of the day............

I would be remiss if I did not send my best to my father-in-law Erik who is in the ICU at Dartmouth. Get well soon old man...........

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hamilton at Middlebury preview

Hamilton at Middlebury—Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium

Needless to say, this is a must win for the Panthers, and the Continentals can play spoiler as Middlebury looks for its first NESCAC title since 2000. Currently the Panthers are tied for first at 5-1 with Tufts whom they play next week. Tufts is at Colby to take on the Mules, so if both teams win today, as many expect them to do, next week’s game will be for the NESCAC title.

Middlebury comes into this afternoon’s game with a record of 5-1 following last week’s 22-14 victory over Trinity. The game that was played in a driving rain was delayed twice due to lightning which had to throw the timing off for both teams. On his way to Rookie of the Week honors, Donald McKillop was 14-22 for 145 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. David Randolph had 32 carries for 70 yards and Timothy Dillon had a game high six receptions for 64 yards and a score.

The Panthers defense and special teams was very impressive against the Bantams. Middlebury’s defense was able to hold Trinity quarterback Eric McGrath to only 7-30 for 158 yards and an interception to go along with his 68 yard TD strike to Joe Clark. After the middle portion of the first quarter, McGrath was held to only 53 yards through the air. Middlebury was able to shutdown the Bantams running attack as they rushed for only 87 yards. The biggest play of the game for the Panthers came with 11:02 to go in the game when Jack Britton pooched a punt inside the Trinity one yard line. Two plays later Erik Woodring tackled McGrath in the end zone for a safety to give the Panthers a two point lead. Later, Timothy Dillon would snag a 25 yard TD strike from Donald McKillop and the Panthers kept their hopes for a NESCAC title alive. For Middlebury, Erik Woodring had 14 tackles, including three and a half for losses, Nathan Clancy had 11 tackles, and Brian Marcks earned NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week honors with five tackles, a forced fumble, broke up three passes and had an interception.

Hamilton comes into today with a record of 2-4 on the season following their 34-9 loss to Williams. In that game Williams quarterback Pat Lucey was 14-25 for 223 yards and a pair of touchdown passes, and Brian Morrissey carried the ball 31 times for 162 yards and three scores. The only touchdown of the game for Hamilton came with 7:30 remaining when Claudius Zorokong returned a kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown. Williams out gained the Continentals 425-265. Hamilton quarterback Dan Hood was 19-36 for 186 yards and threw an interception.

Hamilton has struggled this season as they have scored only 75 points in six games, but have played better of late. The Continentals opened up the season with losses to Tufts, Wesleyan and Trinity, but have rebounded to win two of their last three, including a 20-0 victory over Colby.

Hamilton is lead on offense by senior quarterback Dan Hood. Hood is a 5’11, 180 pound senior out of Simsbury, CT. For the season, Hood is 82-167 for 968 yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions. His two leading receivers are Joe Rinaldo and Maxwell Foster. Rinaldo is a 5’8, 195 pound senior from Canastota, NY. Rinaldo has 24 receptions for 235 yards and a score. Foster is a 6’1, 185 pound sophomore out of Sherborn, MA. Foster has 20 receptions for 397 yards this season. The team’s leading rusher is Mark Snickenberger, a 5’11, 195 pound freshman from Wellesley, MA. Snickenberger has 69 carries for 341 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

On defense, linebacker John Lawrence leads the team in tackles with 42, he has seven and a half tackles for a loss, has three interceptions and three and a half sacks. Lawrence is a 6’0, 215 pound sophomore out of Baldwinsville, NY. Also look out for safety Matt Pittarisi who leads the team in interceptions with four. There are two Vermonters in the Hamilton defensive starting lineup. Nick Rockwell will get the start at one of the linebacker positions, he is a 6’3, 238 pound senior from Shelburne. Rockwell is fifth on the team in tackles with 32, he also has three and a half tackles for a loss along with an interception and a sack. The other Vermonter getting a start today is defensive tackle Derek Donovan. Donovan is a 6’2, 260 pound junior from Stamford. Donovan has 19 tackles this season with two coming for losses.

By the numbers:

On offense, Middlebury comes into today’s game leading the conference in rushing at 171 yards a game, they are third in scoring with 24 points a contest, and are third in total offense at 348 yards an outing. On defense, the Panthers lead the conference allowing only 12 points a game, they are number two against the pass, are third in total defense, but only seventh against the run allowing 120 yards a game.

Hamilton is ninth in scoring offense with only 12 points a game, are fourth in passing, and are last in the conference in rushing as they gain only 86 yards an outing. On defense, the Continentals are ranked sixth in the conference allowing 21 points a game, and are ninth against the pass, but are stingy against the run as they allow only 83 yards a game.

Keys to the game:

On offense, this may be more of a passing game for the Panthers than what is the norm. Donald McKillop will have to play another strong game, and may see his arm tested more than in weeks past with Hamilton being ninth against the pass, so that will be a key. David Randolph and the running backs will have to be patient against a Hamilton run defense that is one of the best in the conference. The defense will just have to do what has become the norm over the years and that is play hard and aggressive against a team that does not put many points on the board.

Hamilton will have to do what many have not been able to do and that is play keep away from Erik Woodring, the NESCAC’s leading tackler with 13 a contest. But, with guys like Brian Marcks, Brian Young, Alex Buggy and a whole host of others, it is like picking your poison when it comes to the Panther defense. Hamilton may need to do the unexpected against the Panthers and try to trick the defense just a bit. On defense the Continentals will have to try and confuse Donald McKillop, the freshman out of Poway, California. McKillop tossed five interceptions against Williams with a variety of defensive sets by the Ephs. McKillop is poised, but is still a rookie, so he may see some sets he has never seen before.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My take on the ABA

As I drove to and from Maine for the Middlebury/Bates football game on Saturday, my mind drifted as I dodged moose poop, various road kill, and tried to figure out where on the back roads of Maine, Cow Hampshire and Vermont I could get coffee and take a much needed pee break. When it drifted, the state of the ABA came to mind. Yes, I laughed quite a bit at some of the outrageous things I have seen and heard, but then I composed my three brain cells and came up with the following...........

I really think that the end of the league is near and that it will not survive the season. There is just too much going against it right now, mainly the Play On deal falling through. The league does not have any money right now, there is very little coming in, and the reputation of the league has scared away potential corporate sponsors.

The league needs money, but with the way Mr. Newman has run his league, he won't get any from anyone. Brad is in a terrible position where he has fantastic ideas but Mr. Newman refuses to listen to him because Joe thinks he is always right about how the league should be run. As we have seen, he is quite delusional in his thoughts.

As it stands now there are teams that have not been heard from, others jumping leagues or folding, and the crucial piece of this puzzle is that there isn't a cent of revenue coming in. Combine that with astronomical debt, I simply don't see how the league can survive.

For the teams that are run well, like those in the Northeast, I would get out before the ship sinks. Obviously there are teams who run themselves well, draw well, and have the overall concept as to how to run a team. Those teams should in my opinion leave the league and create their own. Have Alex Wolff be commissioner, involve the guys from Strong Island in the new league, as well as a select few who will set guidelines and follow them.

Minor league basketball has a place in sports, but just not the way it is being run now. Look at the CBA for example that has been around forever. They have solid teams, strong guidelines, conduct extensive due diligence on prospective teams, and as a result they have been a success. Their players are scouted, and signed by not only overseas teams, but NBA teams as well.

The only solution is for Joe to sell the league. Sources have told me there is an offer on the table but he has declined to sell. If Joe doesn't sell the league, it goes down the toilet. When the league goes down, he will probably be forced into bankruptcy. Obviously this is something Joe does not want to see happen to himself and his family.

Many may give James of the Bulldogs a hard time, but at least he is trying. Owners like Larry seem to have these grand plans for their teams, but they don't do a darn thing about it. Words are one thing, actions are another. This is a league that seems to be all talk, but the action does not exist. Give James credit, he at least tries to make his team solid and has done a good job with publicizing his new franchise.

Brad Hester is just too good for this league. I know some don't seem to care for the man, but he has solid ideas, strong desire, and a love for the game. A man who cares as much as he does and works as hard as he does deserves a better fate.

Hang it up Joe, and do it before you tarnish the reputation of all of minor league basketball and take some good people with you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Trinity at Middlebury preview

Trinity(4-1) at Middlebury(4-1)—Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium—Middlebury, VT

Middlebury is 4-1 on the season after their 13-0 victory over Bates on Saturday in Lewiston. Donald McKillop was 19-31 for 227 yards, he did not throw a touchdown but did throw an interception. David Randolph had 20 carries for 88 yards and a one yard touchdown run; Gary Cooper added the other score for the Panthers. James Millard caught five passes for 80 yards in place of the injured Derek Polsinello and Charlie Holm caught five passes for 59. Penalties killed the Panthers as they had a touchdown run by David Randolph called back on a holding call, and Charlie Holm negated a big run with a personal foul penalty.

The Middlebury defense was outstanding in holding Bates to only 189 yards of total offense. Bates quarterback Brandon Colon was only 7-26 for 82 yards and was picked off twice. The first of those interceptions was picked off by Brian Young who ran it back 48 yards to the Bobcat seven yard line. Two plays later David Randolph punched the ball in from a yard out. Bates was able to keep the ball away from Erik Woodring, the Panthers leading tackler as he had only five stops on the afternoon. Nathan Clancy lead the way with seven stops, Michael Quinn added six. Middlebury sacked Colon twice with the sacks coming from Paul Thibodeau and Eric Kamback.

The Panthers out gained the Bobcats 378-189 and held the ball for five minutes longer than the Bobcats. Middlebury’s defense was able to hold Bates to only 2-13 on their third down conversions.

Middlebury comes into today third in total offense, second in rushing yards and are fourth in the conference in scoring at 24 ppg. The defense is going to be the key to this afternoon’s contest as they are number one against the pass, are second in scoring defense allowing nine points a game, but are seventh against the run. Middlebury is plus four in the turnover department which will be a factor today. Individually for Middlebury, Andrew Matson leads the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns with 21 receptions for 302 yards and is second in the conference intouchdowns with five. David Randolph is the team’s leading rusher with 90 carries for 407 yards and four touchdowns. Erik Woodring leads the conference in tackles with 64, he is in the running for the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Trinity shares Middlebury’s 4-1 record after their 54-13 victory over Bowdoin. Jordan Quinones carried the ball 15 times for 107 yards and two scores; Robert Jackson had 18 carries for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Eric McGrath was 15-29 for 197 yards and a pair of touchdown passes to Justin Holliday. Holliday finished the afternoon with six receptions for 120 yards. The Bantams dominated on both sides of the ball as they outgained the Polar Bears 476-158 and held Bowdoin to only 74 yards on the ground. Trinity converted an incredible 15-19 on third downs and went 7-7 in the red zone.

Trinity is a team that is simply loaded on both sides of the football. Quarterback Eric McGrath is second in the NESCAC in passing with 1,259 yards and he leads the conference with 13 touchdowns. For the season McGrath is 93-185 and had thrown six interceptions to go along with his 13 touchdowns. Running back Jordan Quinones is fifth in the conference in rushing at 82 yards a contest. McGrath has some weapons to throw to in Joe Clark and Justin Holliday. Clark has 19 receptions for 339 yards and leads the NESCAC in touchdown receptions with seven. Also look out for Justin Holliday who has 17 catches for 250 yards. As a team, the Bantams lead the conference in scoring at 34 ppg, and are second in passing and in total offense. On defense, the Bantams are touch allowing 15 points a game, are third against the run and are second in total defense.

Keys to the game:

Middlebury HAS to control the football and play disciplined football. The Panthers have been plagued by penalties the last few weeks, and against a team like Trinity, that could hurt them. Donald McKillop has to take his time and be selective in his passing. Trinity is outstanding on the defensive end and will probably try to rattle the freshman QB. Trinity has 22 quarterback sacks on the year so the offensive line will have to be strong. On the defensive end they will have to try and contain Eric McGrath and all of his weapons as they can be deadly.

Trinity will have to play the style of play that has them scoring 34 points a game. McGrath is a good quarterback who has a balanced attack behind and in front of him. McGrath has an offensive line that has allowed only eight sacks this season. The defense will try to confuse Donald McKillop, and that is something that will be key as for the most part McKillop does not make many mistakes. The Bantams will also have to contain a very good Middlebury defense lead by Erik Woodring. The Panthers are very strong with a supporting cast of Alex Buggy, Chad Gurrerro, Brian Young and a strong host of others.

The Bantams lead the all-time series 23-8 and won last year’s meeting 40-9.

In other action, Amherst is at Tufts, Wesleyan is at Bowdoin, Hamilton is at Williams, and in a battle of winless teams, Bates is at Colby.

ESPN 1490 WFAD and on the web at at 12:30 Eastern Time.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The wild weekend that was.......

It was a good and hectic weekend for the sports clown with another three game in three day stretch. No, I am not complaining, as I still can't believe they pay me to watch and talk about football.

Friday night in the rain and wind, it was Essex taking on Burlington with Essex winning this one 20-0. Essex has a solid team with Peter Dietrich and Max Librizzi sharing quarterback duties, and with the Nicasio cousins playing very well on both sides of the ball, it was a fairly convincing win for the Hornets. Burlington is not a bad team by any stretch of the imagination, they have just been killed by injuries on their front line. The big blow for the Seahorses was when quarterback A.J. Dusablon was knocked out of the game in the second quarter. A.J. is one tough kid, and although I did not see the hit as I was following the ball, it had to be nasty for A.J. to go down and to miss the second half. Thankfully for both teams, they were playing on turf as the rain was torrential at times, but the press box wasn't spared. George Commo and I were drenched with the wind whipping the rain into the booth. We had to cover our equipment and our written notes were soaked.

Saturday was Middlebury at Bates with the Panthers moving to 4-1 with a 13-0 shutout of the Bobcats. As always, the Middlebury defense was outstanding, but the offense was sluggish. Middlebury should have been able to put at least 27 points on the board, but they committed dumb penalties at the wrong times. One of those penalties cost the Panthers a touchdown that was called back on a holding call.

Bates is a very nice campus up in Maine. The field was surrounded by a new building to the north end zone, and you could see a good part of the campus from the field. We almost didn't get on the air on time though as we were having issues with the phone line. Andy Walter, the Bates SID, did a great job getting things back up and running so we could go on the air on time.

The drive up was nice, but I learned not to trust Mapquest directions. Mapquest had me going over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house and I got so lost. Finally, after driving around in circles, I found a mail carrier who got me to where I needed to go, although it was a bit late. Not his fault, I blame Mapquest. Needless to say, I asked one of the locals how to get home and it was a nice straight shot. Route four to 108, 108 to Route 2 and on home. Why couldn't it have been that easy on the way there? Oh yeah, I followed Mapquest so never mind.

Sunday, after getting home late and getting up late, I made the easy trip to Barre for the UVM/Ravens semi-pro game. UVM dropped a tough 10-7 decision in a game that was pure defense. These guys were just beating the tar out of each other, and the offenses just could not get going at all. My intern at WSKI, Tanner Acebo, ended up doing PA and did an awesome job. This is one FANTASTIC kid who just wants his shot at doing sports, and is learning that the more you do, and the more opportunities you take advantage of, the more exposure and experience you will get. Great job kid, keep it up.

Here are the totals for this weekend:

Miles driven: 631

Road kill: It was a light week, even on the backroads of Maine with only eight that I could see. But, I did see someone with a dead moose in the back of his pickup on Sunday, but that doesn't count as road kill.

Coffee consumed: Six cups while on the road.

Minutes spent lost in Maine: 45

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How bad will I embarass myself?

This is the proverbial question of the day is how will I possibly embarrass myself? Now many say that I do that on a day by day basis when I open my mouth, but of course I disagree with that....Somewhat. But anyway, as I have been known to do, I digress. Alex Wolff of the Vermont Frost Heaves gave me a call last week wondering what my schedule was for the weekend of November 3rd and 4th. After going through the book, seeing the Middlebury football game and nothing on Sunday, relayed that in which Alex said, "How would you like to suit up for us?" I told him that well, I don't think I can play pro ball, my wife would kill me, in which he cut me off and said, "Well, we are doing a fan fest that Sunday in Burlington and are inviting members of the media to play in a scrimmage." Ahhhhhhhhhh, yes, now that I can do.

The Heaves, who are the class organization of the train wreck known as the American Basketball Association, are holding scrimmages, three point contests, and slam dunk competitions in preparation for the season. This is great PR, and a great way to get the fans involved in what has become one of the biggest draws in Vermont sports. The team is classy, its owner is classy, and the staff is one of the best in all of minor league sports. What they do is to have a member of the community, or in this case the media, be the "13th man" and actually play in an ABA game. This is one of the better league rules, and rewards those who are active in the community, or are former players/coaches and allows them to show off their skills.

Now what skills I have left are debatable at best. I played in high school, had a decent jump shot, could drive to the inside, and was a bit of a pain in the butt on defense. But, it has been quite some time since I have actually played in an organized game. I would love to be able to play more than once every five years, but this annoying thing known as my blown knee tends to get in the way of such endeavors. Sometimes breathing sets the thing off, and Lord knows the steep steps in some press boxes tend to make it scream things that are just not suitable for the FCC, or for that matter, my mother and nieces.

But, do you think I am going to miss this? Heck no. I actually went out the other day and started shooting some jumpers and did a little bit of light running. The knee screamed, but it was a good scream. The threes started coming back to me, and I actually hit four or five in a row. Not too bad for a radio guy who is just a wee bit out of shape.

Now, the big question will be, how bad will I do in the game? I know full well that Coach Voigt will laugh hysterically when he puts me in the game, and anyone who has seen my writing on the ABA will start drooling at the thought of a hard foul on me that may put me into Lake Champlain on the fly. (I have insurance, so it is all good.) Now, if Jeff Mongeon is one of the officials, he will probably call a foul on me for something like sweating on the ball, or some other foul that isn't even in the playground hoop rule book. Do I care? Heck no. This is the one chance to play in an actual game in front of actual fans. Media types don't get this kind of chance. We just babble on and on about the sports we cover and rarely have the time to actually play.

This will be FUN, and I can't wait to suit up. Sunday the fourth at Burlington's Memorial Auditorium for what will be a great chance to see the ABA champs in action.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Middlebury at Bates preview

Middlebury (3-1) at Bates(0-4)—Garcelon Field—Lewiston, Maine

Middlebury 3-1 is on the season after a 30-22 loss to Williams. Freshman quarterback Donald McKillop had his roughest outing of the season going 26-45 for 223 yards and threw five interceptions to go along with his two TD passes. On the bright side for the Panthers, David Randolph carried the ball 14 times for 124 yards and Andrew Matson had 11 receptions for 123 yards and two TD catches. Matson now has five touchdowns on the season.

The Panthers defense showed they are human as they allowed 402 yards in total offense to the Ephs, but held the NESCAC’s leading passer Pat Lucey to only 171 total yards and he did not throw a touchdown. The Panthers allowed 402 yards in total offense with 231 of those coming on the ground. Brian Morrissey had 27 carries for 137 yards and three scores, while Kevin Flynn added 66 yards on ten carries. Erik Woodring had 19 tackles, a fumble recovery and a blocked PAT as he earned NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Alex Buggy was strong as well with an interception to go along with three tackles.

The Panthers have played very well on both sides of the ball and have opened up the offense a bit this season. Coach Bob Ritter has some experience in the backfield with David Randolph, and receivers like Matson, Derek Polsinello and Timothy Dillon that can stretch the field. The receiving corps also does a very good job of blocking down field. On defense, Erik Woodring is having a career season as coming into today’s game he leads the conference in tackles with 59, has seven tackles for a loss, a sack, a fumble recovery and a blocked PAT. The defensive backfield is strong as well with Nathan Clancy, Brian Marcks, Brian Young and a host of others.

By the numbers, Randolph leads the team in rushing with 329 yards and three touchdowns. He is followed by freshman Gary Cooper with 136 yards and a pair of scores. On the receiving end, Matson leads the team with 17 receptions for 263 yards and five touchdowns. Timothy Dillon has caught 12 balls for 150 yards to rank second. On defense, Erik Woodring leads the team in just about all defensive categories. On special teams, James Millard is dangerous averaging 28 yards a return; he had an 80 yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the opening play of the season against Wesleyan. Middlebury ranks third in scoring offense at 26 ppg, and are fourth in total offense with 367 ypg. On defense, the Panthers allow 14 ppg and are second in the conference against the pass.

Bates is 0-4 on the year and have struggled this season. The Bobcats are coming off a 41-21 loss to Wesleyan, a game where Essex Junction native Zack Librizzi went 13-22 for 173 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. Librizzi also carried the ball nine times for 121 yards and two scores, one of those scores was a 79 yard jaunt. For the Bobcats, quarterback Brandon Colon was 12-24 for 156 yards, did not throw a TD pass and had two balls picked off, one of them went back the other way 100 yards for a touchdown, that coming from John Freres. On the ground, Greg Thornton carried the ball 12 times for 51 yards while Judd Smith was 12 for 38 and two TD runs. Bates was able to convert 11 of 18 on third downs and helf a slight edge in time of possession.

By the numbers, Bates has been outscored 131-67 and are averaging 268 yards a game in total offense while allowing 410 a contest. Opponents average 219 yards a game on the ground with Bates averaging only 98. Quarterback Brandon Colon is 54-115 for 658 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. Greg Thornton leads the way in rushing with 41 carries for 159 yards and a score. On the receiving end it is Matt Gregg with 14 catches for 174 yards and a TD; Ross Van Horn has 14 for 164 and Tom Beaton has caught 12 passes for 191 and two TD’s.

On the defensive end, Kyle McCallister leads the team and the conference with four interceptions running one back for a score. Todd Wilcox leads the team in tackles with 40 and tackles for a loss with three and a half. Graham Raymond is second on the team in tackles with 34 and has three and a half tackles for a loss.

Keys to the game:

Middlebury has to shake off their loss to Williams and that means quarterback Donald McKillop basically forgetting about his five interception performance against the Ephs. McKillop will have to regain the form of the first three games which he was stellar and made very few poor decisions and reads. On defense, the Panthers just need to do what they have been doing this season and that is attack as statistically, Bates has the worst defense in the league as they are allowing close to 33 points an outing.

Bates needs to be patient and somehow keep the ball away from Erik Woodring who has created havoc on defenses this year. They will also have to be quick on the passing game as with guys like David Ellis, Chad Gurrerro and a host of others, the Panthers will create problems in the backfield.

In other action, it is Colby at Hamilton, Wesleyan at Amherst, Bowdoin at Trinity and Tufts is at Williams.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What a Saturday night

Unreal. Simply unreal, mind blowing, and just about every other superlative known to mankind is what would describe the Ice Storm/Watertown game on Saturday night in Colchester.

This was a game for the ages. These are two teams who beat the snot out of each other, but have mutual respect as well. It was cold, it was raining, and the stands were packed. Trust me, if you weren't at that game, you missed one that I will be replaying in my mind for 20 years and then some. The Ice Storm came in at 14-0 on the year, and had defeated Watertown by only a point in their last meeting. The difference was a missed field goal as time expired and that was the closest the Ice Storm came to a blemish on their perfect season.

The game itself was a chess match from the beginning, and went back and forth and back and forth throughout. An Evan Hicks 38 yard field goal in the second was the only score of the first half as the teams slogged through the mud and muck. The fans were needless to say totally into the game as there were times I couldn't hear myself, or my play-by-play guy because of the insane amount of noise.

What the game boiled down to was one of the gutsiest performances I have ever seen in any sport. In the fourth quarter, with the Ice Storm down 8-3, Ice Storm wideout Rob Joy took a NASTY hit. The hit was so bad, and his knee went in directions I didn't know possible that I thought he wouldn't walk again. The screams could literally be heard across the field, and no one thought Rob would ever play again. Well, Joy ended up coming off the field under his own power, but again, with the ambulance coming, we thought he was done. Well folks, he was far from being done.

The Ice Storm got the ball back with about four to play needing a TD to win. Quarterback Brad Ruderman, who had been off target all game long finally got hot. He found Austin Partain for a gain of 15, Zach Howe picked up another big gain, and then........Joy came back on the field, with everyone thinking "Huh????" and caught a pass for a huge first down with about two to go.

Fast forward to a fourth and one, 30 seconds to go, no Ice Storm time outs and make it or go home time. Rudy threaded the needle to the human highlight film known as Austin Partain on a play I still can't believe happened. Austin, with two men on him, and the ball behind him made a circus catch at the three, Rudy spiked the ball to kill the clock, and there was time for one, maybe two plays to go with ten seconds on the clock.

Then, the incredible happened. Rob Joy, the man who could barely walk, caught a three yard TD pass with 3.9 seconds to go in what proved to be the game winning TD. He had two guys just draped all over him, and somehow he managed to make the catch. Rob threw his helmet in celebration, he was mobbed, and Colchester High School was louder than I have ever heard it before. After the game, Coach Perez said that he had told Rob not to go back on the field because he wanted Joy to be able to walk sometime during the rest of his lifetime. Good thing Rob doesn't listen very well.......

The post game party at Franny's was beyond insane. Everyone went nuts when the trophy came in, and no one could stop talking about Rob's performance. One of the funny things was when the guys went up on stage to sing "We Are the Champions" and Russell Humphries literally dragged me up to sing with them. He told me that I was a part of the team, get my hands on the trophy and sing dammit!!! (Thankfully, no one could hear my horrible singing voice.)

Thanks guys. Thanks for allowing me to be a part of this, and to become part of the Ice Storm family. As I kept saying over and over and over again, what a run. What a season, and what a group of guys. 15-0, EFL champions and you did it in style. Wow..........

Friday, October 12, 2007

The other big game........

Saturday night at Colchester High School, the Vermont Ice Storm take on the Watertown Red and Black for the Empire Football League title and I simply cannot wait.

Why can't I wait you may ask? Not only because this is a title game, and I get pumped for those, but this is a world class organization with world class people. For those who are not familiar with semi-professional football, these are guys who actually pay to play. They pay dues to the team (which is a non-profit organization) and pay for their own equipment. In other words, these are guys who play for the love of the game and they are darn good at it.

These are world class people. Guys like Jeff Miller, Russell Humphries, Brad Ruderman and so many others have treated me like a member of the family since we started broadcasting their games. It is funny, there was one time that out of the blue Russell said to me, "Chris, remember, you are part of the family now. You have been good to us, we will be good to you. If you ever need ANYTHING, you call us and you will have an army behind you." Man, I am just a media guy and he said this and meant it. I have been invited to team gatherings, and the team banquet at the end of the year. How can you not root for them?

Head Coach Doc Perez has given me access to the team that I could not have dreamed of. Doc will answer any question and take all day if I need it. When I needed a color guy for a Middlebury College football game, Doc didn't hesitate to offer his services. Now, as Doc is a college professor with a love of pontification, getting him to stop talking could have been an adventure, but he was fantastic. But, he was a bit disappointed that both teams were in the no-huddle so he couldn't talk as much as he wanted to. (Sorry Doc, I had to.)

The fan support is tremendous and they are amazing. Not only do they cheer for EVERYTHING, but they are fans who applaud the opposing team as they are coming off the field. Their attitude is that without the other team, there would not be a game, so the fans show their appreciation. Where else would you find that sort of attitude and consideration? I will answer that for you; nowhere.

As guys like former player Jerry Rascoe know, I rip on the Storm when they are not doing well, but I cannot help but root for them. Their class, their openness, and desire to win, yet be classy at the same time is refreshing and appreciated. Why they don't get more coverage than through us just simply blows my mind. (Well, Channel Three and Five do a good job, but no one else does.) They are the fifth ranked team in the nation and yet cannot seem to get the respect of the rest of the media.

Thanks Dawn, Doc, Scotty, Rudy, Kevin, Peety and the rest of the gang for treating me like family. You guys are incredible and you deserve the best. As I am a guy who wears my heart on my sleeve, let this be my way of saying thank you for the hospitality, the kindness and the friendships I have developed through this team.

Now, I have just one more thing to say to you guys..........BRING IT BOYS!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Middlebury/Williams preview

Just remember, you can catch the game live on ESPN 1490 WFAD starting at 1:05 Eastern Time and on the web at

Williams at Middlebury—Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium

Middlebury comes in to this afternoon’s game with a record of 3-0 on the season after last week’s 19-13 victory over Amherst. David Randolph had 18 carries for 68 yards and a pair of scores, and Donald McKillop had another solid game going 15-34 for 168 yards and did not throw an interception. On the defensive end, Eric Woodring had 15 tackles and an interception and Nathan Clancy had eight tackles for the Panthers.

Middlebury opened up the scoring on their first drive as David Randolph capped off a nine play 60 yard drive with a 32 yard TD run to make it a 7-0 game. Jack Britton then kicked a 24 yard field goal with 3:33 to go in the first and it was a 10-0 Middlebury lead. Amherst got on the board with 1:18 to go in the quarter as Guy Matsis tackled David Randolph in the end zone for a safety and at the end of one it was 10-2.

The Amherst offense got on the board two minutes into the second as Lucas Loeffler connected with Brandon Bullock on a nine yard TD strike, with the PAT it was a 10-9 game. Then with 5:39 to go in the half, David Randolph ran one in from ten yards out, his second TD of the game to make it 17-9. Middlebury tacked on a safety a minute later and at the half it was a 19-9 game.

The defenses took over in the second half as we were scoreless until the last minute of play as Bullock and Loeffler connected again on a seven yard TD pass to make it 19-16, but the ensuing onside kick failed, Middlebury ran out the clock as the Panthers moved to 3-0 with a 19-16 victory.

For the season, Middlebury is among the top of the list in most defensive categories and that defense will be put to the test against the Ephs passing attack. The Panthers are second in the NESCAC in scoring defense and fifth in the nation in that department. Middlebury is also second in the nation in turnover margin with a plus seven. The Panthers are outscoring their opponents 84-26 and are converting third downs at a rate of 45 percent. One of the stats that stands out is that the Panthers have outscored their opponents 38-2 in the first quarter and 21-0 in the third. In other words, Williams defense will have to start out strong as the Panthers can get on the board early. Middlebury leads the conference in rushing offense at 197 yards a game, are third in scoring offense at 28 points a contest and are third in total offense at 363 yards an outing. One note on the offensive end is that the Panthers have attempted the fewest passes in the NESCAC.

Williams—1-2 on the season after a come from behind 31-26 victory over Bates to win their first game of the year. Patrick Lucey went 31-44 for 348 yards and four scores and Brian Morrissey carried the ball 24 times for 130 yards and a score. Nick Caro caught six passes for 115 yards and Craig Sundberg had a pair of TD receptions. Kevin Flynn earned NESCAC Player of the Week honors as he had 276 all purpose yards against Bates. He carried the ball 11 times for 66 yards, had two receptions for 42 and had 123 yards in kick returns.

Williams has struggled this year as in the opener they were upset by Bowdoin in a game that saw the Ephs turn the ball over seven times. Many say that the Ephs have not lived up to expectations this season, but this is a Williams team that can put up points behind Morrissey, Lucey and the talented bunch of Williams receivers. Defense has been an issue for the Ephs this year as they are last in the NESCAC in scoring defense allowing 33 points an outing.

Keys to the game:

Williams will have to keep their hands on the football as they have the worst turnover margin in the NESCAC and with Middlebury having the best. Pat Lucey will have to be careful with the ball as the Panthers throw many different sets at their opponents which could confuse Lucey and the offense. They will have to contain the running attack of David Randolph, Gary Cooper and Eric Rostad as they can be deadly. With a freshman quarterback in Donald McKillop, I expect to see the Ephs throw different sets at the rookie to see if they can force him into bad decisions.

For the Panthers, they will have to stop the passing attack of Pat Lucey. Lucey is the leading passer in the NESCAC and is very well known for burning teams with his strong fleet of receivers. On offense, the Panthers will have to control the clock as they do not want the ball in Pat Lucey’s hands.


The Ephs lead the all-time series 61-17 and have not lost to the Panthers since 2000. Middlebury has not defeated Williams at home since 1987.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The weekend of insanity

First off, congratulations to the Vermont Ice Storm for their 31-19 victory over Chategueay on Saturday night in the slop and mess of Colchester High School. The Storm move on to take on Watertown on Saturday night for all of the marbles in what should be an incredible game. Pack Colchester High as this will be the first football title game outside of high school to take place in Vermont. Get em boys.

Now, for the insanity that was the weekend. Friday night I had the Springfield/Montpelier game down in Springfield as the Cosmos won that one by two scores. The field in Springfield has to be one of the nicest in the state because of its setting. The field is surrounded by trees, the stands are always packed, and the press box is way up on a hill, so the view was simply outstanding. I guess we were the first radio crew to broadcast a game there in the last four years, so that was some fodder for the broadcast. It was funny, as the Yankees/Cleveland game was going on, the guy running the scoreboard kept asking me if I could find out what the score of the game was. Too bad I couldn't tell him the Yankees had lost while we were still there.

So, I get home at midnight, listen to the Sox win and then wake up six hours later to head to Amherst, MA for the Middlebury/Amherst tilt. Coffee in hand, bagel in hand, it was a very nice trip down with the foliage and the assorted road kill that was on the side of the road. It was a great game with the Panthers moving to 3-0 on the year, and they will be a team to contend with this season in the NESCAC. The offense was strong and the defense continued to live up to all of their expectations. It was a brutally hot and humid afternoon and I was sweating my tail off up in the booth. Good press box, food there and ready, and a Sports Information staff that is top notch.

About two seconds after the game was over, I was in the car and headed back up north for the Ice Storm/Titans game. Now, as we have been broadcasting Ice Storm games for two years, and getting to know the players as I have, there was no way in the world I was going to miss this game. Mother Nature had other ideas as from about Exit One on I-89 on up, it was pouring rain and as foggy as a typical day in San Francisco. I finally got there with about six to go in the half to the cries from Dawn Miller of, "Oh sure Chris, fly right on by me and NOT SAY HELLO!!!" Ah yes, it is good to be loved. Anyway, I hobbled my tail on up to the booth, grabbed the headphones and mic, and sloshed my way over to the mud pit. I would like to thank the Chategueay quarterback for calling one of the most boneheaded plays in football history which gave me something to talk to Offensive Coordinator Scott Agulia about during the half. On the last play of the half, this guy tossed a pass down the sideline when he should have taken a knee, and Bomby returned it 70 yards for a score. Talk about a shift in momentum and the QB leaving his brain at the border.

So, I was drenched, and of course Stormy was being himself and doing everything in his power to mess up a guy who was starting to get so pooped that I was seeing three of him. Trust me, one is bad enough. So, Doc gets even wetter with the post-game Gatorade bath and the cheerleaders mud wrestled in the slop at mid-field. Ah, I love female mud wrestling and football together.

Because I am one who doesn't seem to know the meaning of the word "rest", I got out of bed the next morning and headed to Barre to do PA for the Vermont Ravens/Exeter game. This game was in many ways a pure disgrace to football as Exeter showed up with a grand total of 12 players. Yes, 12 players and one of them got hurt so the 11 on the field had to play every single down. How a team can be that disorganized just blows my mind. The guys from Exeter played very well under the circumstances, but to show up with only 12 guys makes me wonder about the league itself.

As it was a 42-0 game, I had to do something to keep myself awake and the fans involved, so UVM coach Darren Haynes was my target of the afternoon. I kept razzing him about filming the game and that he was stealing signals in the mold of Bill Bellicheater. Being the tremendous guy that he is, Darren just gave it all back and we had a great time. Darren is this huge guy who could probably still play the game and is one of the nicest guys on the planet. Anyone who takes my grief and doesn't kill me is good in my book.

Totals for the weekend are:

Three games in about 26 hours.
Road kill: I counted 28 dead things on the side of the road.
Coffee consumed: So much that I had blood in my coffee system.
Miles on the car: 792
Times cursing Mother Nature on Saturday: 43 on 89 alone.
Time spent hanging out with the tailgaters: About ten minutes as the play-by-play mobile had to get back home for the Storm game.

Until next week when Darren Haynes will probably be breaking down the signals of some poor team that he stole.......

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Middlebury/Amherst preview

Great week last week for the Panthers as they mauled Colby 41-0. I don't think Colby is that bad of a team as they had a strong opener, but I think the variations Coach Ritter has thrown into the offense has made the Panthers more difficult to defend.

For those who may have been listening to the broadcast last week, I had the good doctor, Vermont Ice Storm head coach Doc Perez doing color. The man knows his stuff, and I was quite pleased that the man who can talk for hours without breathing knew when to actually allow me to talk. (Sorry Doc, just picking on you.)

Anyway, here is the preview of the game on Saturday against Amherst. (My notes, but this is actually the way I write up pre-games.) You can catch the game live on ESPN 1490 at 1:05 or on the web at

Middlebury at Amherst—

Pratt Field, Amherst, MA. Capacity 8,000


Middlebury is 2-0 on the season and are ranked sixth in the latest NCAA Division III New England poll. The Panthers are coming off a 41-0 victory over Colby in last Saturday’s home opener. Donald McKillop went 11-14 for 172 yards and threw three TD passes, all to Andrew Matson. McKillop also ran for a two yard score. The big blow came early when on a fake punt, Steve Hardin went 66 yards for a TD which seemed to throw Colby off their game.

On the defensive end, Erik Woodring, the senior from Cos Cob, CT had 15 tackles, including four for lost yardage and a sack on his way to Defensive Player of the Week honors in the NESCAC. The Panthers picked off three passes from three different Colby quarterbacks as Middlebury has now allowed only ten points in its first two games. Middlebury ranks second in the NESCAC in total defense allowing just five points per game.


Amherst is 2-0 on the year after last Saturday’s 30-6 victory over Bowdoin. Aaron Rauh carried the ball 31 times for 159 yards and a score while Eric Mesmith rushed 23 times for 131 yards and a pair of TD’s. Overall, Amherst outrushed Bowdoin 331-23 and outgained them 390-250. There were two other key stats on the offensive end as the Lord Jeffs held the ball for 36 minutes and converted 12-20 times on third down.

On the defensive end, the Lord Jeffs were outstanding in holding Bowdoin to only 23 yards on 31 rushing attempts. A.J. Scola, a junior defensive back from Holden, MA picked off a pair of passes for an Amherst defense that ranks first in the NESCAC in total defense allowing just three points a game.

By the numbers:

Middlebury comes into today’s game ranked second in the NESCAC in scoring offense at 32.5 points a game and are second in rushing at 227.5 yards a contest. The Panthers are second in the NESCAC in passing efficiency and are third in total offense with 377 yards a game. The telling stats for today’s game are on the defensive end where Middlebury is allowing just five points a game to rank second in the conference. Middlebury allows only 169 yards in passing a game to rank third. Overall, the Panthers are second in the NESCAC in total defense as they allow 277 yards a game and have forced five more turnovers than what the offense has given up.

For Amherst, their defense is what tells the story as they are ranked first in total defense, scoring defense and yards against the run. The Lord Jeffs are second in pass defense and are a plus four in the turnover department.

Individually, David Randolph is fifth in the NESCAC in rushing with 68 yards a contest. Donald McKillop is second in passing efficiency going 24-40 for 296 yards with three TD’s and two interceptions. On defense, Erik Woodring is second in the conference in tackles with 25; David Ellis is third in the conference with two and a half sacks.

Amherst has a deadly one two punch in the backfield as they have the NESCAC’s top two rushers ion Eric Nesmith and Aaron Rauh.


This is a game in which the offenses will have a challenge in scoring points with the top two defensive teams in the NESCAC facing off. For Middlebury, expect to see quite a few different sets as they try to contain the running of Nesmith and Rauh. Amherst has only put the ball in the air 37 times this season, but Middlebury will still have to guard against the pass with sophomore Lucas Loeffler at the helm. Amherst will run and run as is evident by the Amherst media guide which says, “Handing the ball off this season will be sophomore Lucas Loeffler.”

I expect a strong game out of AJ Scola as well as tri-captain Rob Grammer along with linebackers Mike Flanagan and Nick Boehm. Again, this is a team that is deadly against the run, so Middlebury’s running backs in David Randolph, Gary Cooper, and Burlington’s Andrew Plumley who in his college debut had nine carries for 40 yards. My prediction will be much like last year, a defensive battle with Middlebury winning 10-7.


Amherst leads the all-time series 19-13, but lost last year’s meeting 7-3 in Middlebury. The defenses were outstanding as both teams gained just over 200 yards in total offense. In that game, Eric Nesmith had 105 yards on the ground for the Lord Jeffs, but the Middlebury defense was able to keep him out of the end zone as the defense sacked Amherst QB Nick Kehoe five times lead by Kevin Ryan’s two sacks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bless me bloggers for I have sinned

Well, I now know from a few people that my various rantings and ravings have been missed, so I am now actually taking the time to.........WRITE SOMETHING!!! Yes, I know, there are the few fans out there who enjoy my babble, most notably my Aunt Jean, so here it all comes!!!

Michael Vick is a tool. He needs to suck it up, get ready to go to jail, and maybe he will learn some skills besides how to kill dogs while he is in the joint. Lord knows he is not going back to the NFL, so Mikey, learn something.

The Sox are slumping, the Yankees are evil and all is normal in the world. Jabba the Hut Chamberlain should have been suspended for throwing at Youk, but Selig loves Steinbrenner, so nothing happened.

Go Niners, Rex Grossman stinks, the Eagles uniforms on Sunday looked like a bad Van Gogh painting, but they won anyway. (Sorry boss, but the uniforms really were horrible.)

Now, onto a serious note, the Middlebury Panther football team REALLY looks good. Coach Ritter is starting a freshman at quarterback and he showed more poise than one would expect for a freshman. Donald McKillop is the man's name and he threw for 3,000 yards last season at Pownal High School near San Diego. He ran well, he managed the clock well, and for the most part made solid decisions. Gary Cooper, another freshman from Phoenix looked fantastic as well. Quick feet, moves well and hits holes with explosive speed. But, how can I forget James Millard who ran back the opening kickoff of the season 80 yards for a score. On defense, Erik Woodring just blasted Wesleyan quarterback Zack Librizzi a couple of times, and Alex Buggy played like he had been shot out of a cannon. Solid offensive performance and the usual outstanding defense for the Panthers.

One thing about the Wesleyan game. When Woodring knocked the daylights out of Librizzi, Zack came up more than a little wobbly. Librizzi was shaking his head, rubbing his head, and looked very woozy. (Thankfully he was fine.) Well, being the play-by-play guy that I am, I said something like, "Librizzi, who just got clobbered by Woodring, is up slow, shaking his head and looking like he is trying to shake the cobwebs loose." Well, since my voice carries, some guy about five rows in front of the press box yells up at me, "OH, where did YOU get your medical degree?" So, I came back when Librizzi had to call time and said, "To the fan that is in front of me questioning my medical knowledge, allow me to rephrase my statement. As Librizzi is rubbing the back of his helmet, is blinking repeatedly and shaking his head, I am of the opinion that Librizzi MAY have had his bell rung." Was that proper? Of course it wasn't, but he did provide me some entertainment when the requisite dirty look came flying my way. Never tick off the broadcaster, especially when he is flying solo.

For the Wesleyan trip, here is the running total of totally useless information to everyone but me:

Miles driven: 507
Cups of coffee: 4
Potty stops: 2
Times cut off after hitting the Mass line: Too many to count. Same statement for the Connecticut drivers who make Boston drivers look like an 80 year old lady out for a Sunday drive.

Until next time.......

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Down Stormy Down!!!

For those of who were listening to the Ice Storm/Plattsburgh game on WCAT, you heard a new wrinkle that we have in the broadcasts. With the purchase of wireless equipment by the good old boss, I had the chance to roam the sidelines during the game, and will be able to for the rest of the season. This gives us the ability to provide insight into what plays are being called, the mood on the sidelines, injury updates, and interviews with fans and the like. What it also does is to make me the target of one big mascot who likes to have fun at a crazed Sports Director's/Sideline Reporter's expense.

I have just this to say to Stormy the Ice Storm's mascot--Revenge is mine dude. You may think you are a cool guy with your prancing around in your furry suit, but you are toast. For those who were at the game, and listening, this crazed thing decided to try and throw me off my game. Drenching me with water? Hey, all it did was cool me off on a hot night. Chasing me and catching me while I was trying to talk? Man, I have a knee that will be part titanium next year, (Surgeons are welcome to apply for the job.) so catching me is as hard as winning the 40 against a fleet of turtles. Beating me upside the head with a hot dog, that hurt a bit, but I have a hard head so it didn't really effect me. The body slamming and pinning me to the turf? Stormy, you outweigh me by a ton, so you even think that was a challenge? My nieces can pin me with one arm, so no real challenge there. (By the way, they are four and two, so that says something about your competition there bear boy.)

Not only did you do all of that, but then you had to one up me by showing me up after I dared to be hoisted as part of a cheerleader stunt. Remember, you have padding around that suit and I don't. If you fall, you bounce. If I fall, I shatter and my wife kills me because we will be shelling out dead presidents in medical bills. Remember, you are not so tough and I have a devious mind so, THBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBT.

You have no idea of the practical jokes I pulled in college there furball. I pulled jokes that had guys crying in their beers. (Ben Gay is a wonderful tool to use.) Just remember, it may not be this week, it may not be the next, but listen to me now and hear me later girly bear, you are mine. I will win, I do not lose, and you will be going back to your den crying for Momma Bear. You have to do better than what you did on Saturday if you are going to beat the master. BRING IT HAIRBALL!!!!!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hester Tries to Change the ABA

Okay, okay, I just can’t seem to take it anymore. I have been quiet about the American Basketball Association for some time now, but the things the league has been doing of late have made me laugh. Of course, I am easily amused, but that is another story in itself.

First, the good of what has been going on. I have been talking with ABA VP of Operations Brad Hester about the state of the league, and to his credit, he has been very honest about the shortcomings of the ABA. As opposed to its CEO, Brad wants to do something about the problems that have plagued this league for the last seven years.

To review, the ABA has seen over 70 teams fold since its rebirth back in 2000-2001. Franchises are supposedly awarded when the $10,000 “market reservation” fee clears the bank, which is the league’s only source of income, but several teams have joined on installment plans or without paying at all. Because of this, the league has no motivation to keep teams in the league. If one folds, another comes in and the ABA has another ten grand in its pocket. There have been countless problems with players not being paid, franchises moving in mid-season, teams being added in mid-season, and findings that owners have criminal records after their franchise was on the books. Owners fold teams without notifying fans, and some teams have had up to four arenas in one season. Combined with the fact the ABA is facing numerous lawsuits claiming fraud and misrepresentation, and SEC filings state the league is 17 million dollars in debt but has only $450,000 in assets, this is a league that is in trouble.

Brad Hester is the VP of Operations for the league and also the stepson of CEO Joe Newman. He was brought into the league last season after running a Store Manager for Lowe’s in Anderson, Indiana for five and a half years. Hester comes from a sports background having played and lettered in three sports in his high school career. In college, Brad played football for two seasons.

When Brad first came into the position with the ABA, he was facing a league in total chaos. Teams were folding left and right, stats and standings were never updated on the league’s website, and the schedule had to be changed and modified seemingly every other minute. There were, and still are PR problems as well as CEO Newman is known for tearing apart fans and media who question him on the league’s issues, and has a horrible reputation with the press. Brad sees these problems and is working to bring revenue into the league and improve its image.

Last year the league only played 63% of its schedule, a number that has been consistent over the years with teams folding and moving in mid-season. This is an issue Brad has had to deal with since he came to the ABA last year. It can’t be any less than a Herculean task to maintain a schedule, ensure games are played, and maintain the league with teams being in constant flux. To combat the issues with teams missing games, Hester is requiring teams to post a three thousand dollar performance bond. The bond will pay for expenses if a team fails to make a game, therefore reducing the financial burden on the team expecting to play and attract fans in their home arena. If a team does not miss a game, the money from the bond is returned to the team with interest. Take the bond requirement, and the fact that if a team misses a game, they will be fined. If they miss a second game, they will be removed from the ABA. This is a far cry from what has been expected from teams in years past.

Another issue fans and scouts have had is the fact that virtually none of the teams in the ABA keep individual and/or team stats. As a result, scouts have a difficult time figuring out which ABA teams to look at for their domestic or international squads. To combat this issue, Hester is requiring all teams to purchase and use the Joc Trac scoring system. This is a scoring system used by many college teams and can track the most minute of stats. Joc Trac also has the ability to transmit game stats straight into the ABA website, which will allow fans to see what is going on with their favorite teams, and allow scouts to have a better idea of who is doing what. This is something that has not been done in years past.

Other things that Brad would like to see in place, but have not happened yet include each team having a functioning website. As we are in the 21st century, fans will look to the web for updates on how teams are doing, news on the team, stats, etc. In the last couple of seasons, there have been very few teams with websites, therefore reducing the amount of exposure they receive from the media, and in turn fans. It is difficult for a team to attract fans to the arenas if no one knows they are around. Some of the websites that are running have obviously not been proofread. Take for example the Georgia Gwizzlies. When I looked at the Gwizzlies site a couple of weeks ago, there were 32 grammatical and spelling errors. Other sites either don’t exist, or are running but with numerous broken links. This is a problem Hester acknowledges and knows that for PR sake has to change. The date teams were required to have this done was July 1st, but the majority of teams have failed to meet this deadline.

What all of this comes down to is if CEO Joe Newman fully backs Hester on these radical changes. In years past, Newman has not been strict on teams who do not meet their obligations to the league. Rules tend to be able to be bent depending on who the owner is, and the statement “The team has been removed from the league for failure to meet its obligations” is simply a line. Multiple sources have told me that only one of the 70 teams to fold in the last six years have been suspended by the ABA. The rest of the teams have simply gone out of business without a trace, only to be replaced by another team either during the same season, or the following.

Newman and the league are facing numerous PR issues due to the actions of CEO Newman. Newman is not PR savvy as he has even called me a “disgrace to my profession” and in an e-mail following an article on the Mississippi Miracles said that I “must have failed your (Being mine) journalism ethics classed in college. Many e-mails have been posted on various websites by fans in which Newman calls fans names, degrades them, and attempts to humiliate them. Combined with the fact that Newman does not put any real news about the league on the ABA website, by his own doing, he is helping to ruin the reputation of the organization.

Newman has said that he wants the league to have 100 teams and for it to be the largest professional sports league in the country. If Newman continues to expand the league by simply taking a check, or a promise, and not conducting any sort of due diligence on prospective owners, he will not come close to that number. Like I said earlier, Newman takes the check and that is about it. According to multiple current and former owners, bank records are not checked, background checks are not done, nor is it even checked to see if a team has a venue in which to play. If the first check clears, you are in; it appears that plain and simple.

The latest in the ABA’s line of problems are the lawsuits that have been filed by the Jaloza group seeking control of the ABA. It has been found by a jury that the ABA and CEO Newman were in violation of an agreement in which he (Newman) avoided repaying a debt to the group. Contained within the agreement was a stipulation where Newman would make the Jaloza group partners in the ABA. In turn, Newman then moved the ABA into another shell company, avoiding having to fulfill his obligations to Jaloza. The decision could end up costing the ABA its license, and force ABA teams to cease and desist using the ABA.

The ABA has tremendous potential with the low cost of tickets, and the accessibility fans have to the players and coaches. The Vermont Frost Heaves proved that this season as they turned out fans in droves to the Barre Auditorium and to their second home in Burlington. This potential can only be reached by all of the teams if in my opinion CEO Newman listens to those who surround him. He has to relinquish some of the power he has and has to trust those with ideas that will improve the league. No longer can Mr. Newman have a set of rules and not enforce them. If he does not enforce the regulations Mr. Hester has suggested, this is a league that will not be around in the next two seasons. All of the bad press, what press there is, will increase, and the fans will no longer continue to support a league that says they will do one thing and then does another.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Where Are the Monsters Fans?

Has anyone noticed that the Vermont Lake Monsters are off to their best start in years? How about that Bill Rhinehart is leading the league in RBI and their middle infield has been solid, and their hitting has been timely? Too bad others haven't seemed to notice this.

In checking attendance figures, and being at a couple of games this season, the numbers are down despite the fact the Lake Monsters are playing as well as they are. Average attendance right now is 2,556 fans per game. Historically, I am not exactly certain as to if that is much lower than in previous years, but there just don't seem to be as many fans at games as there were this time last season.

I have a couple of theories on this. First of all, fans just don�t seem to believe that this team is for real. We have suffered through many long summers where the Monsters/Expos have been terrible, and their strong start is just a dream. Where they think it is a dream, they go back to sleep and back into the former reality of Vermont not being a good ball club.

My second theory is that fans have become so jaded that they think the strong start will be followed by a 14 game losing streak in which C.J. and the staff go back to the days of sleeping in the dugout until the losing streak is snapped. They must think that if the Monsters are doing well and they support the team, then they start losing that being at the games actually jinxed our beloved Lake Monsters.

I would like to say that I think the fans are scared of Champ, and that fans fear one of these days he is going to eat some poor child for lunch, but this is not the case. I spoke with Champ the other day and he told me there is no way possible he would ever eat a child. There just isn't enough meat on their bones, and munching on opposing players and umpires is more appetizing and pleasing to the palate.

People!! Listen up!! This is a good team the Nationals organization has put together. Now that Major League Baseball is no longer in control of the team, there is more of an emphasis on winning, and not just on player development. Look at the fact there are first and second round draft picks on this club. Look at the fact that Darnell Coles, an 18 year Major Leaguer with a World Series ring is running the team. How about Boomer Whiting who stole 73 bases this season with Louisville. 73 bases is just unreal!! He is worth the price of admission right there.

Get out there and support this team as they are good. Fill the stands, cheer these guys on, and enjoy some of the best baseball this area has seen in years. See you at the game tonight.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hot Dog Eating Record Set....Yuck

Well, there was some good sports that happened over the Fourth of July. The Sox won, the Yankees lost, the Mountaineers pulled one out, and a new speed eating record was set. Yes folks, for some reason, we now call speed eating a "sport".

On the fourth, in the annual Fourth of July hot dog eating slopfest at Coney Island, Joey Chestnut broke a world record by chomping down 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Yes, you read that correctly; some glutton ate more hot dogs in 12 minutes than I do in five years. My question is, why in the world do we glorify how much someone can eat?

Have you all seen people walking in the streets these days? I swear, the average person I see has enough fat and goo on them to make a whale feel jealous. These are people who don't know the meaning of exercise, and their idea of a diet is to cut down to three trips to Burger King a day. I actually heard someone say, "Well, I am drinking a Diet Coke, so the pizza I am eating for lunch today balances things out." Are you serious??

One of the major health problems in the US today is obesity. People are exercising less and eating more in one day than most people eat in a week. Obesity leads to heart disease, diabetes, back problems, and countless other medical issues. To many, exercise is going from the couch to the fridge for another gallon of ice cream. Now I will admit, I don't get to the gym much due to my excuse for a knee, but, before I do a game, I walk the field at least once, and when I do Mountaineers games, I shag flies and catch for Manager Russo when he is hitting fungos. Is it enough? No, it isn't, but I do what my body is capable of on a certain day. I also do push ups and situps to compensate for the fact I can't do much because of my knee.

Am I tooting my own horn here? No, but I am pointing out that exercise and a decent diet is possible. To my original point, we are glorifying excessive eating as a "sport" when obesity is a major problem, and is bordering on a health epidemic. I can just see some 450 pound guy walking down the street, talking about Joey Chestnut and his 66 hot dog feat. "Hey Martha, now there is a sport I can do. I will train hard. I will eat and eat and eat until I can eat no more. I want to be just like him and I shore will be famous!!" "You do that Harry, and I will make sure I take on another job to pay the medical bills when your heart explodes so bad that George Bush thinks Vermont was the victim of a terrorist attack."

People! Stop eating! Coney Island and everyone else, stop promoting over-eating!! We have a problem on our hands that is draining the health care system of resources and is adding to our already skyrocketing insurance premiums. We are not sending a good message here. We are promoting gluttony and bad health.

Off to eat my apple for breakfast now.......

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Never Annoy the Broadcaster While He is on the Air

In the past year or so in the who knows how many games I have done, I have encountered some strange things. I have seen 200 foot hockey goals, helmets being knocked off, and even a 6-3-4-2-6-5-2-6-7 double play. (Yes, I actually looked that up in my scorebook before writing this.) Never before though had I experienced what I did on Friday night down in Montpelier.

Now, to preface this just a bit, I was doing color for the Mountaineers/Keene game for our sister station ESPN 1240 WSKI in Montpelier. Kyle Doreau, the play-by-play guy, tends to refer to the "plate" as "the dish". At first I thought it was strange, but as time went on, I grew to enjoy the creativity and hearing something different. Well, there was a fan who doesn't really care for Kyle's choice of words. In between the second and third innings, a fan with a radio hiked up from his seat about two rows behind the plate, and actually yelled at Kyle, "It's the plate, not the dish you moron!!!" Kyle's jaw dropped, and I started laughing hysterically, almost to the point that I couldn't go back on air without somehow composing myself. This was like lighting a match to gasoline. We started having too much fun with that guy's comments.

Out of the break, I made a comment that Curt Smith really needed to be more patient at THE DISH. Also, that the home plate umpire was calling way too many pitches that were off THE DISH. The whole thing then spiraled from there. All of a sudden, the ball was a sphere, the mound was the hill, the base was the bag, and when someone broke a bat, that turned into, "Well, it looks like Cather shattered his piece of lumber and he now needs a new stick." In around the fourth inning, we dubbed the game "Synonym night at the ballpark."

It got worse. The wall was the fence, Manager Russo was "Skipper Russo", and we went on and on. It got so bad that the fan who yelled at Kyle shut off his radio and watched the game in peace. Other fans though were roaring at our diatribe, and after the game a few came up to me and offered other suggestions for terms we could use. The bullpen should be the "warmup area", a bat boy is now a "Small child who carries bats", (Thanks to Jason in Montpelier for that one.) and I got a couple of other ones e-mailed to me, but of course now I can't find them.

Lesson to fans. Don't yell at us for what we say on the air unless we get our facts wrong. I was REALLY tempted to yell at the guy to come into the booth, do our job, and then let us rail on him, but thankfully the brain stopped the mouth before any damage could be done. I think the guy would have pulled a Wally Backman on us and destroyed the booth.....Yes, if you give us ammunition, we will use it.

This public service announcement is brought to you by sportscasters everywhere.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Randomness from Fells

Random musings .....

In the sports world of local interest, the Lake Monsters are actually playing well. No, really, I am not kidding. The Nationals have finally invested some money in the team, and in turn have some solid ballplayers. Instead of 30th round picks and free agents stocking the team, the Monsters now have first and second round picks with the team. Guys like Hassan Pena, Colton Willems, and Bill Rhienhart are going to be fun to watch this season. The ballpark has a new feel to it, and the fans actually feel this team has a chance to do well this year. This is quite a change from what the fans have been used to for the last ten or so seasons.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Vermont Frost Heaves, but the league itself is a world class sham. I have gone off on the ABA in the past and will continue to do so until CEO Joe Newman either resigns or is forced out. Newman continues to award franchises if the "market reservation" fee clears the bank, and he has no clue what the words "due diligence" mean. Teams fold left and right for what Newman calls "A failure to meet the league obligations" because when the check clears, that is it. Teams don't have credit checks run on them, performance bonds are not required, he does not check to see if a venue has been secured, or even see if basic marketing such as a functioning website will be up and running. Speaking of websites, the Georgia Gwizzlies (No, that is not a typo) have the worst site I have ever seen. The big problem is the guy who did it has no clue how to spell. The last time I checked it, there were 23 spelling errors which is just poor. My two year old niece spells better than these guys.

The Vermont Ice Storm are off to a good start after their 44-6 victory over the Northeast Hurricanes on Saturday night. This is a team that is simply loaded with talent. Jeff Miller has come out of retirement, (We knew he wouldn't stay retired) Brad Ruderman is back at quarterback and looking solid, and newcomer Zach Howe catches everything that is within the city limits. Kevin Fournier still plays defense like he has been shot out of a cannon, and even their kicker is good. This is one scary and loaded ball club.

My congratulations to the Center City Little League Yankees who won their first city title in their 50 year history. I have been honored to coach in this league for the last three seasons, and it has come a long way. This is an inner city league whose kids may not have much as far as material goods, but they have hearts bigger than the state. Congratulations to the coaches and volunteers who have made this league what it is today. The scary thing is that it will only get better. Watch out everyone, Center City is good.

Until next time, catch me at the Mountaineers games, Cannons games, the Ice Storm, or wherever I manage to end up.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mountaineers/Torrington pre-game

Mountaineers: 7-8 after last night’s 6-3 loss to Manchester. The Silkworms were able to run on Chad Durakis who only threw out two of seven baserunners. Manager John Russo said after the game that part of the problem with Durakis was the fact that A.J. Balsinde has a high leg kick which gives catchers less time to get the ball down to second or third. Durakis also has some problems with footwork that is being worked on, and he has had problems “slipping on the plate” when he tries to throw out runners who try to steal.

The Mountaineers should have been able to hit off of Manchester pitcher Tim Stringer who came in with an ERA of 12.96, but they were able to only produce seven hits off him. Manager Russo blames the lack of offensive production on himself saying that it was one of the worst games he had ever managed. He said after the game last night that he needed to be more aggressive on the bases and failed to do so. Part of the problem right now for the Mountaineers is the fact they have played 15 games in the last 16 nights and are flat out tired. The pitching staff has been stretched thin, and with Cary Pillagian unavailable due to tendonitis in his throwing shoulder, that is one less arm the Mountaineers have in the bullpen. With a much needed day off coming tomorrow, the pitching staff will be able to rest up a bit.

Other notes: Kyle Massie is expected to start tonight. He is hitting only .111 (2/18) but with the team as banged up as they are, Massie will get some time tonight. Massie is also taking summer classes at UVM, and with his schedule and the team’s, it has been difficult to get him at bats.

Pitcher: Matt Gaggioli, Established himself as the ace of the team. 1-2, 0.95 ERA, 15 H, 2ER, 16 K in 19 innings; opposing hitters batting only .224 against him. Went the distance in Wednesday’s rain shortened 4-0 victory over Holyoke. First time all season Gaggioli had any run support.

Torrington: 10-3, first place in the Southern Division. How good is Torrington? They defeated Team USA 4-3 last night. Lead by Garrett Green who leads the team in hitting, RBI and total bases. Hitting .365 with no homers and nine RBI; 23 total bases and four doubles. Hit .324 with one homer and 35 RBI at San Diego State this season, also stole six bases in six attempts. As a team, the Twisters are hitting .245, but their pitching is strong with a team ERA of 2.23; opponents are hitting only .223 against them. 19 players on their roster come from Division One programs, so the team is loaded and has strong experience. Two players have been drafted by Major League teams; Bryce Lefebvre by San Diego and Ryan Cisterna by Washington (47th round).

Pitcher: Kurt Houck: 6’6, 210, rh, James Madison. 2-0, 0.90, 4H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 9K, 10 IP. With James Madison: 4-8, 8.30 ERA, 108 H, 67 ER, 40K, 32 BB in 72 innings. Opponents hit .353 against him.

Two UVM products return to the area tonight in Joe Serafin and Eric Thompson. Serafin pitched in just one game tossing six innings, allowing eight hits, one run, struck out one and walked three. For the Twisters, Serafin is 1-0 with one save in four appearances, striking out six and not walking a batter in six and a third innings. Thompson was 3-6 in 14 appearances with an ERA of 7.44 striking out 40 and walking 26 in 52 innings; opposing hitters hit .327 against him. For Torrington, Thompson is 0-1 in two starts with an ERA of 7.43, striking out 13 and walking eight in n13 and a third innings. He has allowed 16 hits and 11 earned runs; opponents are hitting .286 against him.

The game will be live on ESPN 1240 in Montpelier starting with the pre-game at 6:20; Kyle Doreau and I will have the call starting at 6:30.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Mountaineers--Fun and Insanity

Ok, ok. I know the last column was a bit on the outdated side and has been sitting here for about three weeks, but I blame a busy schedule and a nasty case of writer's block for that. Writer's block is one of those strange things that hangs around like a cold that just won't go away. The fingers go to type and the brain says, "Ummmmmmmm, I don't think so." Don't even get me started on what it has been like to speak for the last couple of days.

Anyway, baseball is back in Central Vermont with the NECBL champion Vermont Mountaineers back in action down in Montpelier. This season I am doing color on the home games for our sister station ESPN 1240 WSKI down in Montpelier and to say the least it has been interesting. First of all, this is my first baseball gig, so there have been some bugs to be worked out like when to speak. Baseball is such a conversational game, and although I can have a conversation with a tree, this is a different animal all together. Where I have been used to doing play-by-play, NOT talking and walking over the play-by-play guy is harder than I thought it would be. Thankfully Kyle (Mountaineers play-by-play guy) is good at dealing with an old fart, and hasn't killed me yet.....Yet being the key word.

Speaking of Kyle, this kid is good. Kyle is a 22 year old college student hired by the Mountaineers to do play-by-play and to be honest, I was more than a bit apprehensive about working with someone 15 years younger than me. It turns out I didn't have a thing to worry about. Kyle is about as sarcastic as I am, is a walking baseball encyclopedia, and has the abililty to roll with things as well as anyone I have worked with. I have tried tossing things out to him to make him crack up, and I am getting there. Now, all he has to do is to mention PA announcer, and frequent target Norm James babysitting Thomas Jefferson and being roommates with Moses, and I am off in the land of hysterical laughter. Too bad it tends to happen when we have five seconds to go before we go back on air. Chemistry is one of those all important things when doing games, and Kyle and I seemed to have it nailed within about two pitches.

As an organization, the Mountaineers are as classy as they come. Bear in mind, the Mountaineers, along with all NECBL teams are volunteer run organizations and are non-profits. The players aren't paid, nor are the people who run the concessions, ticket takers, and everyone else who works with the team. This is a passionate group of people who enjoy giving their time so fans can enjoy a night at the ballpark. The fans themselves cheer on the Mountaineers, and have been known to cheer good plays by opposing teams. Man, that just doesn't work in Boston or New York!

Manager John Russo is open, candid, and will talk baseball and answer questions for as long as he can. Getting updates on injuries, who he will be playing and why, along with other insights into the game is just plain easy. John is a very laid back guy with an agressive style of play on the bases. Hit and run, squeeze plays, and solid baserunning has been a trademark of John since he came to Vermont. The thing about him is he truly loves being in this area. He seems to relish in the fan support, and getting out and experiencing the state. Talk to him sometime and you will hear the enthusiasm he has for managing and the state.

GM Brian Gallagher has to be one of the hardest working people in all of sports. Brian works in the school system by day and is the GM by night. Brian knows everything about everyone on the team, and manages to have all of his volunteers in the right place at the right time. He has also had to have the patience of a saint in dealing with me at times. I am one of those guys who wants every minute piece of information, and he has been patient and generous with his time in providing me with what I need. I swear though, one of these days he will strangle me. Considering he is about 6'4, that is something I just don't want to happen.

Now Norm (Moses) James is just hysterical. Norm is the PA guy for the team, has a wicked sense of humor, and doesn't seem to mind being the target of Kyle's and my endless cracks. Of course, we have to watch out because he tosses it back with the best of them. Norm also has one of the most pure voices I have ever heard. He is so smooth in his delivery and is in a sense the "anti PA announcer". What I mean is that many, including myself, tend to be over the top in announcing players names, promotions, etc. Norm does his thing just like he is talking to anyone, and to me, that makes him one of the best. One doesn't have to sound like a lunatic to make people listen, and Norm's style is one that just seems to fit the team and area.

Folks, I don't do this gig for the money, I do this because I get to be around guys like Russo, Norm and the players and do things like shag flies before games. This year will be a blast and I will have more updates on the team throughout the year.

As a side note, it was ESPN Radio night at the ballpark last night and I got to throw out one of the first pitches. In front of a crowd of 987, I threw a strike to pitcher Justin (Don't call me Justine) Gustie. I figured if I bounced one, Kyle would NEVER let me hear the end of it. Also, considering an eight year old threw out one of the pitches and was perfect, I had just a little pressure on me.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A tidbit from the new UVM football team

I got this in my e-mail from Darren Haynes, the coach of the newly formed UVM club football team that I thought would be of interest to everyone.

UVM Football Club in Jeopardy?

BURLINGTON, VT -- In January of 2007, the University of Vermont Football Club was
recognized by the Student Government Association by a unanimous decision. Over the past
five months, the team has participated in six spring practices and has raised over $20,000 to
begin it’s inaugural season this August. However, the Football Club had been considered too
“high-risk” by the UVM Risk Management Department. Because of this, the Football Club will
not be covered under the General Liability Policy that covers all other club sports, including the Rugby Club, Basketball Club, Cycling Club, and others.

Statistics show that football is not the sport that results in the most injuries. According to the
Loyola University Health System, in 2005 the number of emergency room injuries resulting
from basketball was 512,000, cycling reported 485,669, and football 418,260. The National
Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program from 1982 - 2001 tracked 88 direct
and indirect fatalities attributed to basketball, 31 to soccer, and only 22 to football. Clearly,
football would not be the most dangerous club sport at UVM and we do not understand why
football is not being approved.

Another concern is that in the event of an injury, an individual may decide to sure the University. Clearly, and injury anywhere on campus, during almost any activity or sport, could
result in a lawsuit. To imply that association with the sport of football makes lawsuits more
likely is absolutely absurd.

The student-athletes that comprise the Football Club have worked very hard getting ready for
their debut on August 25 of this year. Players are participating in individual, summer workout
programs while the coaching staff is busy preparing practice schedules. The community is
already buzzing with excitement and ready to see the first Catamounts football team since
1974. The Football Club should be given a chance play a positive role in the University's
development and well-roundedness. We ask that UVM give Club Football the chance to bring
the University of Vermont something it has been missing for over 30 years.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Vegas and the NBA

Vacation in Vegas:

Well folks, for those of you who actually missed my updates last week, I was on a much needed vacation out in the fantasy land known as Las Vegas. My wife was there on business and I was out there so we could spend our second anniversary together.

First off, observations on Las Vegas. The place is just a total and utter fantasy land. Not only are there the lights, the glitz, the glamour, and all of that fun stuff, but there is just so much more and it all has to do with the people there.

At 4:00 in the morning on Monday, I saw five Elvis impersonators playing the evil game of three card poker. Thankfully I was only watching as I would have lost my shirt, but it was interesting seeing these guys play while trying to get out of character. When I got done watching them, I did some meandering and found there were a ton of people playing that early in the morning. One guy had been drinking since birth and had a bottle of champagne that he was drinking from. Finally, some kind waitress brought him a glass which with a belch, he declined.

Now, here is what was really interesting. While I was watching another game, I randomly asked the dealer what NBA All-Star Weekend in Vegas was like. She said, "Oh, the media didn't report things correctly--It was much worse." She then went on to tell me the horror stories of waitresses and dealers being physically assaulted, casinos closing due to the mayhem, fights breaking out, and pure overall chaos. Her final words to me were, "If this town ever holds another All-Star game, I won't work. I have the vacation time, I will take the week off. It was awful."

Being the reporter that I am, I couldn't let this one go. So, as I couldn't sleep anyway, I asked another random waitress the same question, and she gave me the same answer saying, "It was horrible. I have never seen it so bad in this town before." She went on to say that she believes there is a coverup being orchestrated by the City of Las Vegas. The reason being is the mayor wants an NBA team there so bad that he is willing to do just about anything to make it happen.

The stories of the utter mayhem of All-Star Weekend continued when I went over to the New York/New York to do a spot on WCAT's new weekly show. One pit boss told me there were two gang fights inside of the casino with guns drawn, and that there were 20 reported rapes that weekend alone. Some local reports said crime went up 80 percent that weekend alone. These stories continued all week. Female employees at one establishment were told not to come into work for their own safety; the ones who did work needed armed escorts to their cars because they were afraid for their safety. Out of the 14 casino employees I spoke with, all of them said they would never work if the All-Star game came back to Las Vegas.

In talking with these employees, I asked them what they thought of an NBA team actually coming to the city. All of them said they think it is a bad idea, and not just because of the problems that occurred over All-Star Weekend. The problem they said is that the average fan in Las Vegas would not be able to afford to go to games. Their thought, and I agree with them is the casinos would buy up all of the tickets and give them to the high rollers. The team would of course know they could charge high prices because of this, therefore normal fans just would not be able to go to games. Another factor is that in order for the NBA to come to Las Vegas, not just the Vegas franchise would have to be pulled from the betting lines, but so would the entire league. From what I have been told, and it has not been confirmed by the NBA, this is something the NBA will not budge on.

I have not been able to reach the NBA, or the City of Las Vegas for comment on these allegations. If any of this proves to be true, there is a serious problem here. Does the mayor want a team in the city so bad that he is willing to encourage a cover up by the casinos as to what really happened? With the NBA's dwindling reputation among fans, is the reward greater than the financial and other risks? The other question I have is if this was just an isolated type of incident? Will the same problems occur if a Las Vegas team is playing a regular 41 game home schedule, or did all of this happen because of the fact is was All-Star Weekend? It should be interesting to see how this all plays out.