Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Greenwich-Southington (and the other championship games)

The CIAC just announced that Greenwich will play Southington in the Class LL Championship Game Saturday night at 7:00 at Jess Dow Field at Southern Connecticut State University. That sets up a GREAT doubleheader at SCSU, as the state's number one team, Ansonia, takes on Bloomfield at 2:00 that day in the Class S final.

I'll let you know about our broadcasting plans as soon as I know them.

At Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven, the 2:00 games features Stratford and Holy Cross for the Class SS championship, while Bunnell and Staples match up for he Class L title at 7:00.

Moving to Arute Field at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, the 2:00 game is the Class M final, as Hillhouse plays Windham. The 7:00 game features Maloney and New Canaan for the Class MM championship.

All the info is here

NOTE - I know now that WGCH will have the broadcast of the Greenwich-Southington game on the radio at 1490 AM. I don't know for sure about the streaming audio yet, but you can listen to us on the radio. We'll start with our pregame show around 6:50 Saturday night (earlier if we're ready to go!).

Partying Like It's 1999

I always hated that Prince song. In fact, I made a vow that I would not listen to the song "1999" during 1999.

Of course, it's no longer 1999. Yet, the Connecticut Class LL state championship game will be a rematch of the '99 battle. Th Greenwich Cardinals beat the Fairfield Prep Jesuits that year, 35-14 en route to a date with Southington in the title game. The Cards won that showdown, 47-27.

Will history repeat itself? I don't know, but the Cardinals beat Prep last night 34-0 to set up a rematch with the Blue Knights, who disposed of Shelton, 36-9. The site and time will be announced later, and I'll let you know about that, and our broadcast plans.

Also in the FCIAC, props to Staples (Class L), who shut down West Haven, 24-7. The Wreckers are playing their best football now, and it's hard to believe that they'll lose again. Bunnell will be a solid opponent though. They beat Masuk, 29-12. The New Canaan Rams (Class MM) destroyed Coventry/Windham Tech, 49-14, and will play Ricky Fritsch's alma mater Maloney, who beat Berlin 40-14.

Do you see a trend here? None of these games were all that competitive. In fact, from what I'm hearing, they were flat out dull. Oh, and the FCIAC's down, right? Uh huh. Whatever.

In Class M, Hillhouse (40-0 over St. Bernard/Norwich Tech) will play Windham (22-0 over Ledyard). Class SS will see Stratford (48-6 over Griswold) play Holy Cross (49-8 over Tolland. Finally, Class S will have Bloomfield (45-14 over Cromwell) take on Ansonia (47-14 over North Branford). All the championship games will take place on Saturday.

I'll update the sites and times later. Let's hope the finals are more exciting.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Be Careful What You Wish For

I’ve previously mentioned Bird’s Eye Sports, a website dedicated to prep sports in Connecticut. I’ve been following it for a few years and their coverage of baseball and football is top-notch. They’ve branched out to many other sports, including ones outside of the “big four” (football, baseball, basketball, and ice hockey). They also have discussion boards to give people a chance to vent. As I’ve previously written, they’ve taken note of the blog, and thought it had some potential (thanks!). At the same time, whenever I see any mention of high school sports on the radio, WGCH seems to get forgotten. I’ve puffed out my chest on that subject a few too many times, so I’ll let it go.

In my preparation for tonight’s Greenwich-Fairfield Prep Class LL showdown, I went to Bird’s Eye to see what they were talking about. Among the notes was the number of games being covered on the air tonight (both radio and internet). Let’s see…Tolland and Holy Cross will be on WATR (1320). Incidentally, they’ll be joining that game in progress (been there, done that!!). Shelton and Southington, North Branford and Ansonia, and St. Bernard versus Hillhouse will all be carried on different channels over at Don Boyle’s SportingNews CT website. (Side note – stay tuned…) Initially, no mention was made of me and “the boys” on WGCH. A quick note to Ben Talbott, the President of Bird’s Eye, explained everything.

But there’s more to the story. After lunch today (from the temp job du jour), I decided to see what happened after the email. Sure enough, there’s the link for WGCH’s streaming audio of the game (Thanks, Ben!), but there was something else. A little further down, below several other links (including Tim Parry’s blog and Sean Patrick Bowley’s coverage in the Connecticut Post) was (can I get a tympani roll, please!!??)… “Exit 55!” Uh-oh. For those new to this, allow me to explain. This is my humble writing outlet. This didn’t start as a football-only blog, or even sports-only. This was to be about everything, and it still will be. There will be plenty of times when I will drone on about something (hence the segments called “Off the Bench”) and so on. I would suspect that I’ll get away from sports after this Saturday, when high school football season ends. It’s only because Staples coach Marce Petroccio told me to update more frequently that I’m going to try to not be in hiding after Saturday. Football season can be rather exhausting and though The Wife is super-patient, she even reaches a point where she says, “OK – Enough!”

The future of the blog has no definition. I’m just rolling along here, and having a good time with it. Between Tim Parry, Jason Intrieri, Sean Kilkelly, Bird’s Eye and a few others whom I can’t think of, “Exit 55” has gotten more publicity than I could possibly ask for. I’m enjoying it, and I hope you are also.

By the way, Marce might not want me to update anymore after I put the Wreckers at number two in my FCIAC Five ballot. But really, what does it all mean? The Wreckers got the number one spot when the votes were tallied, and are ranked higher in the New Haven Register’s media poll. The Greenwich Cardinals got a higher number in the Day of New London’s coach’s poll, and in an informal click-on poll at Tim’s site, the Cardinals were winning easily. Shows what we all know, right.

Anyway, good luck to all of the teams that are still in action. Hopefully I’ll be part of the fun at some championship site on Saturday. Don’t forget to tune in for our live coverage of Greenwich-Fairfield Prep tonight on WGCH, and at

Monday, November 27, 2006

So Who’s Number One?

Why Ohio State, of course! Yeah, that’s not the answer you’re looking for. I will tell you how I figured this out. Science, of course. I crunched the numbers, looked at game films, talked to coaches, consulted a psychic, and called Mel Kiper Jr.

Then I flipped a coin. A couple of times.

Folks, it was not easy. Greenwich? Staples? How do you take away the number one vote from the Cardinals, who won the conference championship? But then again, how do you make Staples number two when they beat the Cardinals. So therefore, how can the Cardinals be number one?

Let’s think this thing through. Strike the FCIAC Championship game out of the equation. Assume the game hasn’t happened, and won’t be played until the end of the season – on Thanksgiving, the way many want it to be. Also assume that Greenwich and Staples have not played yet, though that game is coming up. At that point, Greenwich is 9-0, having just beaten Darien. New Canaan is 8-1, with a huge win over Staples. The Wreckers are also 8-1, have lost to New Canaan, seemed to plod to a win over Ridgefield, and needed a last-second touchdown to beat Bridgeport Central.

Take all of that into consideration. Now consider this – Greenwich will play Staples with Jimmy Dunster and Nick Edwards in the backfield. Sean Bannon will be on defense. Dunster is a little nicked up, but everyone is generally healthy.

More to consider. Staples still needs the game to get into the states, but Greenwich does not. That factor does not change, regardless of the FCIAC Championship scenario.

With all of that in your brain, who is still the favorite? Who wins THAT game?

Now before we go on, let’s go back to the injury factor. “If, if, if”, you say, and you’re right. What if, for instance, Nico Guittierez plays for New Canaan all year? Are the Rams undefeated, and do they win the FCIAC? Possibly. The only reason I’m introducing the injury factor is because Greenwich earned the right to play in the FCIAC Championship game prior to Dunster, Edwards, Bannon, and even Jonathan Myers getting hurt. Myers played, so I’ll remove him from the equation.

All right, enough. I really did give this a lot of thought, and I hate considering injuries, but how can they be ignored? Just as how can I ignore the desperation factor for Staples? They had to win – just as Greenwich did in the same game last year. The Wreckers were clearly the better team last year, and won. This year Staples played possessed, and the weather helped them immeasurably, because the Cardinals had to try to throw, and Joe Poletsky had trouble with the wet ball. Still the Wreckers brought a good game plan and won. But if all is even, I think it’s a different story. That said, here they are:

1) Greenwich (10-1, Last Week – 1) – Besides everything else I just told you, two things jumped out at me. One – the Cardinals were the only team to win 10 games and two – that 10th win gave them the conference championship. You can’t go wrong making Staples number one, but I noticed as I finish this up that even the coach’s poll had the Cards higher than the Wreckers. Does that make me feel good? No – it just proves that this is all BS, but it’s also fun.
2) Staples (9-1, 3) – I can’t wimp out and say the Cardinals are 1A and the Wreckers are 1B, but it’s about as close as it can be.
3) New Canaan (9-1, 2) – It’s hard to move the Rams back to third, considering the Rams beat the Wreckers, but I can’t do it any other way. To move the Wreckers to third wouldn’t be fair to them. If not for a missed extra point…
4) Bridgeport Central (7-2, 5) – They hovered around the top all year, and deserve to jump back to fourth. They just couldn’t get the job done against the top two.
5) Trinity (7-3, 6) – Quite a year. I thought they could have made enough noise to make it a really special year, but those seven wins are remarkable, considering it’s been a while.
6) Wilton (7-3, 4) – The Warriors were a fun pick, and sat as high as fourth at one point, but their loss to Trinity hurt them.

A few honorable mentions – congratulations to Dick Cerrone and the Westhill Vikings, who finished at .500 for the first time since 1986. And for showing up with a limited roster, but displayed talent, class and grace, the Bassick Lions get an honorable mention. You’re going to think that I pity them for going 0-10 and not winning a game since 2001, but I don’t care. I respect them – case closed. If you read SP Bowley’s article in the Post about them earlier in the year, you might understand. They don’t want pity; they earn respect.

One last thing for the FCIAC year. I had a family member play in the FCIAC this yeare, and though it was brief, I want him to know that I’m very proud of him. Michael LaHiff joined the Fairfield Warde Mustangs and was just beginning to get his bearings on the field (and some playing time) when a wrist injury finished him. He suited up for Thanksgiving Day against Ludlowe, but that was purely an honorary thing, as he was not medically cleared to play. Tim Parry was at the Ludlowe-Warde game and surprised Michael by saying that his uncle mentioned something about Michael to him. It was nice of Tim to say hello, and I think Michael enjoyed it.

To all players who made the team and honored your uniform by working hard and playing right – congratulations!

Onto the playoffs, where Greenwich, Staples, and New Canaan will all be in action. I’ll have the call of the Cardinals and the Fairfield Prep Jesuits Tuesday night at 6:30. There are no conflicts, so you’ll hear us on the radio and the internet.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Cardinals Met My Friend Momentum

Greenwich and Staples met today at Cardinal Stadium, and the Wreckers came away with a 20-0 victory. The repercussions are interesting, but not dire. For the Wreckers, they advance to the Class L playoffs. The Cardinals lost at home for the first time since 2000, when they lost to - who else? - Staples (14-8). The Cardinals might have also lost the opportunity to host a home game, but that will be decided when West Haven and Fairfield Prep meet. The only thing I know for sure (at least, this is the rumor) is that the Jesuits will play the Cardinals on Tuesday night at 6:30 in the Class LL semi-final.

For you trivia buffs, the Cardinals last won the state championship in 1999. Who did they play in the semi-final that year? Ding Ding...the Fairfield Prep Jesuits!

I thought the Cardinals looked flat today, while the Wreckers played possessed. If they play on a dry field, with all things being equal, I think it's dead even. In fact, I'd have to give the Cardinals a slight edge. But today, with the playoffs on the line for Staples; Nick Edwards, Jimmy Dunster, and Sean Bannon all sidelined for the Cardinals, and a wet ball that Joe Poletsky had trouble handling, the Cardinals never seemed to have a chance. Credit to the Wreckers coaches for being prepared, and to the Wreckers players for having such tenacity. Bottom line - the Wreckers won.

So who will be number one when I vote in the FCIAC Five? Somebody told me to take myself out of it. Frankly, I don't like that suggestion, because that’s EXACTLY why I don't like being a part of the poll. If I vote for the Cardinals, many will say that I'm a Cardinals/Albonizio lackey. If I vote for the Wreckers, then I get hammered for not being loyal, which is something I hate anyway. Plus, having talked about visiting with Marce Petroccio earlier in the week, I will undoubtedly get accused of being a new member of the Coach P Fan Club. Oh, I can handle the vote without my heart being a part of it, thank you very much, but there are politics involved. I could just vote, and not post my opinion, but I don't want to do that.

I'll think about it over the weekend. I've gone back and forth several times. I will say this - I can't simply judge it off of today's game. It might even come down to a coin flip.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Again, a Perspective

Friends, I was going to write something witty about my birthday, and how at 38, I don't get too worked up about birthdays because I get let down whenever allow myself to get excited. That can be said about almost everything. It might have been funny; maybe even profound.

Before I get to what's on my mind though, I should spend a moment to talk about the great night I had with the Greenwich Old Timers Athletic Association. I was honored to be on the dais again, where I really don’t feel that I belong. I was sitting next to a man who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers (Mike Sandlock), and he’s sitting next to a former teammate of Maris and Mantle (Zeke Bella – with The Mick in the Bronx, and with the Rajah in Kansas City). Down from them are coaching greats Rich Albonizio, Pete Fujitani and Tom Fujitani, Super Bowl II champ Bob Hyland, former Patriot Cedric Jones, former Ranger and Yankee Billy Sample, and a few other sporting greats from all sports. And that’s just the lower dais. The upper dais included David Cone, George Martin (former Giant) and his teammate Karl Nelson, with Willie Upshaw (a former Toronto Blue Jay) and YES Network TV legend John Fillipelli. Then there’s me. HA!

The speeches were great, both from the lesser known but equally important local honorees and the national guys (Cone and Martin). My WGCH colleague, Mark Yusko, does a superior job of keeping roughly 600 people (99% male) in line, as that room can be flat out rude. They often will not shut up. Personally, it’s an honor to be introduced to that room, and hear a few people yell my name (favorably, I hope) as I received a nice ovation. But more than that, it’s a privilege to have people ask for your autograph (why? I’m not sure), and to receive several beautiful compliments. All makes that moron at Cardinal Stadium from GYFL Day seem…well…like a moron! One more thing – I noticed Cameron and Colin Jones walking through the room, heading toward the dais, where their father was sitting. I described nearly every play of their high school careers (in some cases, in two sports). I thought it would be nice to say hello as they passed by to catch up with some old teammates. Just one thing – it was ME that they were coming to see! They just wanted to say hello and talk football for a few minutes. Thanks, guys. I hope these few words tell you how much that gesture meant to me. I really don’t think what I do on the radio has much of an impact, but moments like that, and The Wife’s firm words when I told her this story, drove the point home that people really do listen. It’s humbling.

I also caught up with old Cardinals (and, dare I say, old friends) Pete Salvatore and Eric Loh. They’re among the best I’ve ever covered, and some of the nicest young men I’ve met. You hear things about athletes sometimes, but these people are all good.

PS – I got to interview both Cone and Martin for WGCH. True gentlemen. I even shared a laugh with Cone after our interview about the start after his perfect game in ’99.

Still, I’ve spent too much time on the dinner, and the fact that I even mentioned it’s my birthday is self-serving. It all came crashing down when my brother rang my cell phone around 4:00. Apparently he was dreading making the call, though I thought he was calling to extend his birthday wishes. Well he was, but there was more. An old family friend committed suicide earlier this week – the result of years of bad luck in jobs and love. When I first met him, he married one of my brother’s ex-sister’s in-law. After that marriage collapsed, he moved on and always seemed to keep his sense of humor. Then it looked like he had settled down with another woman. However she cheated on him. After all the job issues, divorce, child custody issues and who knows what else – this last thing was the last straw. He went home, packed his apartment up, wrote letters for those he wanted to explain things to, and left a detailed phone list of who should be called – including my brother. The he killed himself.

Now I have to be totally, brutally honest here. I haven’t seen him in years, so I’m going to spare you the morose sadness. It would be patently wrong of me. I liked him because I thought he had a good heart, but I didn’t think of him all that often, except when my brother would mention him, or when a memory came along. But once again, I’m reminded that we all need to keep our perspective. Some people just can’t cope, and some truly have it worse than we do. I’m also reminded that only the strong survive, and how sometimes, not to be pithy, but J Giles had it right – “Love Stinks.” Sometimes. It sure as hell can hurt – that’s for sure.

It would be easy to condemn him for quitting on his family, especially his children, but I’ve never walked in his shoes, and don’t know or understand his pain. Therefore I will not put him on trial – especially not here. In short, I hope he’s found a better place. My condolences to his family. It’s especially hard, and must be even harder, as we head into Thanksgiving and the overwrought holiday season..

May you all have a pleasant, peaceful, and Happy Thanksgiving. Take a moment to think of those less fortunate, and save a soft spot for those doing their duty overseas, trying to protect us. Politics and opinions aside - bless them. They deserve it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

All right, Mr. Zito, I’m ready for my close-up!

My career reached a new pinnacle today, with a visit to Staples High School in Westport. For those who don’t know, that is the home of the Staples Wreckers, the current archrival of the Greenwich Cardinals. The purpose of my visit was to be on Jason Intrieri’s TV show, “Coaches Corner.” Tim Parry and Staples coach Marce Petroccio were the other participants in the roundtable.

So why do I say, “Mr. Zito, I’m ready for my close-up?” Because Mike Zito is the man who runs the behind-the-scenes portions of the impressive Staples TV and radio studios. It’s very much Jason’s show, but you have to have a steady hand to direct, run the cameras, edit, and produce DVD’s for those of us who want proof of our efforts. Um…that would be me. Anyway, Mike did a great job of keeping everything under control. You can tell he runs the ship but at the same time, just turns things on and lets the magic happen. That’s what the best directors do.

After we finished taping the show, Mike asked Coach Petroccio, Tim and me to do something extra for the play-by-play “voice” of Staples football, Greg Kaplan on WWPT, 90.3 FM. Kaplan, along with Patrick Toole, and Mike Friedman had the call of the Bridgeport Central-Wreckers game back on October 14th. The Wreckers needed every last second of game time to pull of a remarkable 17-14 win at home on a pass from RJ Marsilio to Mike Samela. Now to be fair, I am an extremely harsh critic of announcers. Also to be fair, I am not a fan of screaming, and have even cringed at the classic call of “The Giants Win The Pennant” by the late Russ Hodges from 1951, when Bobby Thompson hit the famous “shot heard ‘round the world.” But as I listened to the call of this moment, I had to remind myself of two things – 1) these are young men with a golden opportunity to call play by play of Staples football home games and either put it on their resumes or cherish it as a memory, and 2) the enthusiasm of the call is the result of spontaneity (OK and maybe being students at Staples High had something to do with that also). The bottom line is that I laugh every time I hear it.

Trust me, there are many calls of big moments that I would love to have back. I’ve received kudos for some big calls and the truth is that I wish I had called them differently. For instance, Greenwich and Trinity played a classic basketball game in 2002 that came down to a last-minute bucket by Dave McClure. After a moment to ponder what I had just described, I let go with the word, “Insanity.” My old friend and hockey broadcast partner, John Spang, has never let me forget it, though that’s because he liked it. I also don’t like the way I called the Harrison-Chenango Forks football nail-biter in 2002. When Peter Kohlasch of Harrison hit the championship-winning field goal, I simply yelled “GOOD!” Looking back, I think I sound too wrapped up in it.

My point is, Greg was apparently embarrassed by the call, according to those I’ve talked to. He shouldn’t be. We’re our own toughest critics and it seems everybody likes the call. In many ways, he received a level of celebrity that is hard to achieve, and all in good fun. If I were still doing a talk show, I would hunt him down for a chat. As it was, I was going to find him and introduce myself this Thursday, but Jason told me that they only do home games. Anyway, if these guys ever wanted to sit and talk about calling games, they could get in touch with me any time. I love to talk about the business and doing what I can to help young broadcasters. Not only with technique and suggestions, but to talk about the history of our “profession.”

When all is said and done, kudos to these guys for having an opportunity that I would have give anything to have at their age, and for having an on-air moment that few will ever know. If I’ve posted it correctly, listen and enjoy.

Back to the TV show experience. This was the first time that I had ever had a chance to talk with Marce Petroccio, other than a “hello” or “any injuries?” kind of chat. As the so-called “voice” of the Cardinals, I shouldn’t be infiltrating into Wreckers Nation, and hanging with the evil Coach P. At least, that’s what some might think. If I like Coach Albonizio, how can I sit and talk with Coach Petroccio. Don’t they hate each other?

Don’t be stupid.

Sure, they’re rivals. Maybe they don’t see each other beyond coaches meetings and the like. But I’ve never had any inkling of any bad feelings between two of the most-successful coaches the FCIAC has ever seen. I really enjoyed laughing with Coach P about a number of things, and felt like I made a new contact by the end of the day. He couldn’t have been more gracious and accommodating. I look forward to many future conversations with him. The coaches in the FCIAC, and anywhere else for that matter, are a big fraternity. There’s a load of respect between these people. While I understand the nature of Yankees-Red Sox (believe me!), or Mets-Yankees (ditto!), or Ohio State-Michigan, and so on, I think high school rivalries are different. I went to Mahopac and sure I hated Carmel. But I never wanted to hurl epithets at them, or hurt them. I wanted it to be good, clean fun. That’s the way Greenwich-Staples should be. At the end of the day, the kids are going to go eat their turkey (or tofu, or turducken, or whatever) and not lament things too much. It’s the parents, as usual, who need to get a grip, and be the role models. Remember, nobody’s getting paid to play in these games. Even those on the periphery (coaches, broadcasters, etc) are only getting a pittance. It’s all about perspective.

So the show went well, with individual chats for each of us with Jason, then a final roundtable with all of us. I think I did OK, because I’ve been asked to come back for another show, this time with Coach P and Coach Al. Back in the day (as they say), I would have asked Jason if we could play the audio of the show on WGCH during “The Press Box.” I think it’s important to see (or in this case, hear) people, and give them the respect they deserve. I’m not sure Coach Al gets his respect in Westport, and I think it’s fair to say that Marce Petroccio doesn’t get the respect he deserves in Greenwich.

One last thing before I move on. Jason asked so many questions and I handled them well, but the one thing I wasn’t prepared for (and should have been – look at the calendar!!) was, “What are you thankful for? “ Poor Tim had to go first, and I won’t give his answer away. I went second and discussed things away from football – things that are very close to my heart. As those of you know from reading the blog, 2006 has been a mixed bag. Sure, The Wife and I bought a house, but I also got laid off and have struggled to get work since. Paying the bills has been a real challenge, and patience has been tested. Working in radio is my favorite thing but most of the time, it’s a hobby and nothing more because at this stage, I can’t pay a mortgage on that kind of salary. So I’ve really battled with my confidence, self-esteem, and some bitterness and depression. Plus I worry about my health, as I hit 38 on Wednesday, and my cholesterol resembles a good batting average. Beyond that, I have other significant things that I can’t and won’t address here. As I said earlier, it’s about perspective. There are people with far worse issues than mine. So when Jason asked the question, I pondered it, and figured that I’m thankful to have health, love, and happiness. We’ll figure the rest of it out.

Anyway, too much serious stuff, so let’s get a few more things out of the way. Yesterday I called the GYFL championships. Normally I love seeing the innocence of these young people, who are playing the game of football and having a lot of fun. Their coaches serve as good models for them and there is normally a lot of sportsmanship in the air. For the most part, there was, but there was one, um, person who thought he was god’s gift to all sports. This clown berated everybody in his path – officials, opponents, and your friendly, neighborhood broadcasters. GYFL Championship Sunday is normally a very lighthearted broadcast, which it needs to be considering calling three games over four-plus hours. It’s a long day, so I try to keep it fun. We also try to get in as much info as we can – player’s names, rules (different from high school football), and so on. This jerk got mad at me for basically not keeping track of the game, in his estimation. Oh, contraire. The fact is the senior game (the one is which his kid or kids participated) was the one that I called closest to a regular game. Do you not have any better things to do with your life? Sad. We gave it our best. Sorry if we weren’t good enough. Next year, see if Al Michaels is available – to broadcast JUST for you.

All in all, we received good feedback, and people seemed to have fun. But there’s always one. Always.

Coach Petroccio was telling me that I should update more often. Now I took this to mean that he, and others associated with Wreckers football, have been reading the blog and enjoying it. You have no idea how much that means to me. As I’ve long said, this is not about just football, or sports, but a mixed bag of everything. In short, this is just a small effort, which is meant to satiate my need for writing. To know that people are reading it, and that it’s creating discussion is a very good thing. I wish I could reopen the comments to anonymous posters, but some spoiled the stew.

Stew…oh, that reminds me. I departed Westport and had lunch sitting in my car at Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk. Clam chowder…oh yeah!

Guess we can put away those “Rutgers – 2006 National Champions” T-shirts, eh?

Oh, I’ve updated all of the labels so that you can find things a little easier now. Want to only read the High School Football posts? Now you can!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Quick Football Update (Sports and Football)

Friday - The Greenwich Cardinals won the FCIAC Championship at Boyle Stadium in Stamford, beating New Canaan 28-0. That score doesn't tell the story, as it was much closer initially before the Cards ran away with it in the second half. Bobby Sullivan won the games MVP award, as a result of his FCIAC Championship Game record 95-yard touchdown run that changed the feeling of the game. For head coach Rich Albonizio, it was win number 200 in his career.

On the radio, we had a very solid call. I have to admit that I was jumping out of my shoes waiting to get on the air but once we did, I thought we were sharp. A special tip of the hat goes to Nick Angotto, who handled all of the post-game interviews with his former teammates and coach. As a broadcast rookie, Nick gets better everyday and continues to learn some of the tough lessons of broadcasting. I was extremely happy for him, and extremely proud.

I also got to meet Jason Intrieri for the first time, from WWPT in Westport. I'm excited to say that I will be on Jason's TV show, "Coaches Corner", next week. You can see the show if you live in Westport, CT. Tim Parry and Staples coach Marce Petroccio will round out the guest list.

Today (Saturday) - The Brunswick Bruins played the Belmont Hill Hillies for the second year in a row in the NEPSAC Championship. The Bruins, winners of 38 in a row, had all they could do to stay in the game as Hillies stars Daniel Williams and Corey Gatewood ran for approximately 300 yards combined. The Hillies held an 18-7 halftime lead and took a 26-7 lead into the fourth quarter. On the air, we were beginning to write the Bruins epitaph. However not so fast, as they say. The Bruins scored twice, on a one-yard run by Phil Cutler, and a 14-yard pass from Kevin Decker to Kevin Royal to cut the deficit to 26-20. The Bruins got the ball back with less than two minutes to play and actually got inside the Hillies 40, and appeared to be getting closer when an illegal motion penalty backed them up. That was a dagger, as the B's could not recover. Decker couldn't find an open receiver on fourth and 15, tried to scramble and came up well short of the first down. The Hillies ran out the clock on a 26-20 championship win. Congratulations to both teams on a good game, and best wishes to a classy Bruin team, led by Coach Sean Brennan and his two captains - Kevin Decker and Tyler MacFarlane.

A couple of side notes - Coach Brennan was interviewed by Nick following the loss, and misunderstood a question, in which Nick was trying to ask about his disappointment in losing a special group of players to graduation. Coach Brennan thought Nick was asking about his disappointment WITH the players. Big difference. That was not Nick's intention, and if an air clearing is necessary with Coach Brennan, then I will do so myself. Just a misunderstanding.

The other thing that stuck in my craw today was the behavior of a parent. We've seen parents play very bad active roles in youth sports, and I saw it personally today. I won't name names, but one person, who's known for being ultra-enthusiastic, actually got in the face of an official late in the game on a sideline pass that was ruled out of bounds - correctly. I've been known to criticize officials, especially when they blow it in crunch time. This was the correct call, and no parent, under ANY circumstances, belongs on the sideline during a game. Beyond that, not parent under ANY circumstances should be saying anything to an official. The official, fortunately, chose to ignore this person, though he would have been in the right if he had decided to throw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, or simply had the parent ejected from the facility.

One last thing - the press box facility at Loomis Chaffee, the site of the game, was one of the most wicked things I've gone to. Try 30 feet in the air (give or take), in a tower that consisted of a wooden box on top of a steel frame. It was safe, to b e sure, but to get there you had to climb a steel ladder attached to the side of it - a straight climb both up and down. If not for the encouragement of Ricky Fritsch, I don't think we would have worked up there. We made it happen and it was a good view.

Onto tomorrow, where we'll cover the "innocence" of youth football in the GYFL Championships at Cardinal Stadium in Greenwich. We start at 11:00.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Broadcast Schedule (Sports, Radio)

Some of you have been kind enough to follow me and the WGCH Sports Team on the web and the radio. So with that in mind, here is our broadcast schedule for the craziness of the coming weekend:

Friday - We will start our coverage of the FCIAC Championship between Greenwich and New Canaan at 5:00 with a 15-minute pre-game show. At 5:15, we will hand things over to Fairfield University men's basketball, as the Stags play Mississippi at 5:30 in Hartford. I don't know any other way to say this, but pray for a quick game because WGCH can NOT begin our radio coverage of the FCIAC Championship Game until the Stags game is over. We are contractually obligated to carry the Fairfield game. Unfortunately that is the reality of the sports broadcasting world in 2006, where an out of town college game gets precedence over our home-town team, playing in a championship game. I don't think any of us are happy about it, but it is what it is. And for the love of God, please don't let the Cardinals play in the Class LL Championship game on December 2nd at 7:00. We'd have a conflict there, too. Let them get to that game, but play earlier in the day!

However, we will carry the game, completely, on the internet! So listen live on!!

Saturday - The Brunswick Bruins will play the Belmont Hill School Hillies in the NEPSAC Championship game for the second year in a row. Game time is 11:00 but this is where we come up with Conflict #2! A paid program will run at 11:00, and we will begin our coverage at 11:30. For those looking to rant, see the above paragraph regarding the FCIAC Championship Game.

Sunday - We had a conflict, but thanks to the people at the GYFL, we've gotten around it. The first game, the Bantam division, was scheduled to be played at 10:30, but WGCH has a commitment to a church service, so the GYFL graciously moved their start time up to 11:00. I can't thank them enough. We'll begin our coverage at 10:58!

Lastly, I might as well let you know about next Thursday, which is Thanksgiving morning. The Cardinals will host the Staples Wreckers in a big showdown at Cardinal Stadium. My understanding is that MSG will air the game live but with all due respect to their announcers, turn down the sound and listen to Ricky, Zach, Nick, Matt Hamilton, Sean, and yours truly call the action. Barring anything unforeseen (coverage of a turkey-cutting ceremony on Greenwich Avenue? Ha! I kid...I think), we will begin our pre-game show around 10:20, but I might try to get that one off the ground earlier if I can.

Thanks as always for listening. You can find it all here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cardinals, Rams, and More Football (Sports and Football)

First off, congratulations on a fine season to two New York teams. New Rochelle couldn’t find a way to beat Monroe-Woodury, while Harrison lost 13-10 to Corwall. Both of these losses were playoff season-enders, and from what I was told, were both really good games. Sorry to see both of these top-flight programs out of the playoffs, but they’ll reload for 2007.

In Connecticut, what can you say about the two programs in Greewnwich? Would you like to see Greenwich and Brunswick play for real? At this point, I think I would. The Bruins finished off a perfect regular season with a 49-7 trouncing of Rye Country Day School. The B’s are 9-0 and will play in the NEPSAC Championship Game on Saturday. I’ll post a note when I know who the opponent is and where the game will take place. Two things that I do know: the game will be played at 1:00, and it will be heard live on WGCH. Of course, I’m not guaranteeing either of those things.

(10:36 AM - Monday, 11/13 - I told you I wasn't guaranteeing anything. The Brunswick website is reporting that they will play Belmont Hill at 11:00 on Saturday. The game will be played at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, CT. I'll update things further if there is more to report)

The Greenwich Cardinals beat Darien on Saturday to clinch their fifth FCIAC Championship Game appearance in this decade, and sixth in the last eight years on Saturday. The Cards won 44-20, behind three Jonathan Myers touchdowns. A Sean Bannon interception return for a score capped off the day. Bannon is the kind of player who will, frankly, piss a lot of opponents off with his constant energy and total confidence in his ability. I first met Sean as a player in Greenwich’s youth football program (GYFL), and instantly liked him. He’s fun to watch, and anyone would love to have him on their team.

During our game broadcast on Saturday, we encountered the usual amount of technical problems. For one thing, cellular phone service in Darien is a joke. WGCH’s Cingular phone didn’t even get service, but my Verizon phone was good enough to use. But we still encountered problems with an overzealous public address system bleeding into our crowd microphone. With such an inauspicious start, I was ready to pack it in. Later on, a dead cell phone battery, and other problems led to us struggling though the end of the broadcast, and not airing an interview that Nick Angotto did with Cardinal coach Rich Albonizio. That especially infuriated me.

Midway during the broadcast, we discussed the kindness of Sue Clarke, the mother of Cardinal defensive back Jake Clarke. I first met Jake when he won a championship in the senior division of the GYFL with the Cos Cob Crushers. I have a soft spot for quarterbacks, and he seemed like a really likable kid. That’s carried over to his high school career. Mrs. Clarke sent brownies to the booth for our broadcast against Stamford to say thanks for saying good things about her son. So we laughed about how nice it would be to have those brownies, especially considering our frustrating day. During the post-game, a young woman appeared at the door o the booth and said, “Here are you damn brownies.” Indeed, Mrs. Clarke made brownies for us and got them to the booth. That effort was quite humbling to all of us. We’re quite grateful.

One more thing before we get to the Super Six. I had a chance to visit with Coach Albonizio before the Darien game. Our conversation reminded me why I like him personally and professionally. Saturday was his 100th win at Greenwich High School. If he can beat his old friend Lou Marinelli and the New Canaan Rams on Friday night for the FCIAC Championship, he will win his 200th career game. It would also be his fourth FCIAC title. Barring any conflicts, we will start our coverage at 7:20 on Friday night.

The Super Six is:

1) Greenwich (9-0, Last Week – 1) – They will start the FCIAC Championship Game as the favorite, but do not be fooled. I’m still worried about the Cardinals’ secondary. It’s not that they’re not good, but when you play five linebackers, other parts of your defense might suffer. Ram quarterback Curt Casali will be the best opposing QB that the Cards have faced. One last thing – Lou Marinelli is a brilliant coach, and one thing he knows how to do is match wits with Rich Albonizio. That will be great to watch again.
2) New Canaan (8-1, 2) – The Rams went to the FCIAC Championship in 1999, 2000, and 2002. Guess who they played? That’s right – the Greenwich Cardinals. The Rams won 14-9 in ’99 and 21-20 in 2000 before Coach Al got the “can’t beat Marinelli” tag off his back in ’02, 24-14. How close have these two teams played? How about a 0-0 tie in a regular-season matchup in 2002? Obviously, I want you all to listen to us on Friday night, but why not come to the game and bring a little radio with you? Boyle Stadium is a great place to watch a game (and call a game), and it will be loud on Friday.
3) Staples (8-1, 3) – Just because they won’t be in the title game doesn’t mean anybody should take the Wreckers lightly. I can’t figure them out though. Bridgeport Central and Ridgefield gave them all they could handle and they still won. New Canaan was able to get past them. What will we see on Thanksgiving morning on Cardinal Stadium?
4) Wilton (7-2, 4) – Before the season, it would have been really easy to assume that the only Thanksgiving Day game of any consequence would have been Greenwich-Staples. I’ve got news for you – the Warriors have won five in a row and will play a revitalized Trinity Catholic team that morning. While every turkey day game has some level of appeal, Wilton-TC has joined the upper echelon.
5) Bridgeport Central (7-2, 5) – When you got right down to it, the Hilltoppers have done just one thing wrong. Nah – let me rephrase that – they’ve done TWO things wrong. They’ve lost to Staples and Greenwich. That’s all that has kept them from a very special year.
6) Trinity Catholic (6-3, NR) – Welcome back (John Sebastian, 1975). The Crusaders won the Stamford City Championship with a resounding win against Stamford High, and head into the showdown at Wilton with a chance to finish 7-3. Considering some of the Crusaders teams that I have seen since 2000, this is an amazing accomplishment.

There will be plenty of sports to be found on WGCH over the next week. Fairfield University has a few games coming up, while we have five games to call. The FCIAC Championship game is the first item, followed by the NEPSAC Championship on Saturday. Then we go wall-to-wall on Sunday with the three championship games in the GYFL, beginning at 11:00. Check the website or listen to our NewsCenter for all of the details. Listen to us all weekend to see how coherent we are!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Off The Bench (General)

Is it possible for a political campaign to operate without running negative ads? I notice this especially with the nasty race between Bob Menendez and Tom Kane Jr. in New Jersey. I dare them to run on their own records.

I just heard that the Cardinals (of St. Louis) won the World Series. I didn’t even know they had played it. With the exception of Game 7 between the Mets and Cardinals, this was probably the most boring post-season I’ve ever seen. And before you tell me that I was bored because the Yankees were out of it, think again.

Whatever happened to a team simply piling on each other when they’ve won a championship, and going to the locker room for the trophy, champagne, and interviews? Now fireworks must be shot off, and the whole thing looks like a creation of some really bad game show.

While we’re at it, and this is NOT a criticism of the fans, why did the PA people at Shea Stadium think it was necessary to tell fans to start screaming and wave their “rally towels” just as Fox went to air? Do those in charge think that New York fans are idiots? I’m not letting the people in Bronx off the hook either. At Yankee Stadium, they put “2 Strikes” on the matrix board when there are, um, two strikes on a batter. Hey IDIOT! Yankees fans (and Mets fans as well) know when there are two strikes on a batter. We invented the rhythmic clapping thing in the 70’s!! But why do we need to do it for every two-strike count, even against some .220 hitter on the Royals in May?

Memo to Fox – Joe Buck and Tim McCarver are great. Stop there. Make Curt Menafee your de-facto pre- and post-host for everything, and send Jeanne Zelasko somewhere…anywhere. She seems nice, but that’s where the compliments end.

Next memo to Fox – Too many people dislike McCarver. I can’t help you there, but I can tell you that just as many people don’t like Buck. I think the simple reason is “Curt Gowdy Syndrome.” The man is overexposed and calls everything. I happen to like him a lot, but we need to see less of him. Gowdy (The Cowboy) became too ubiquitous on NBC in the 70’s and eventually needed to disappear.

I’m not looking to move Joe to a latter-day version of “The American Sportsman”, but you get the idea.

We’re just here to help.

St. Louis is America’s best baseball town, eh? All of the Midwest LOVES the Cardinals, right? Then riddle me this – why was the estimated crowd for their dopey parade around 500,000? That’s roughly one EIGHTH what New York had when the Yankees won in 2000. That’s not counting me, who wouldn’t go to one of those things even under threats of unspeakable torture (like, say, listening to certain radio shows). Used to be that teams won and went home.

I know your argument will be “metro New York is so much bigger.” OK, but supposedly the Cardinals have the whole FREAKING Midwest as a fan base.

I haven’t brought this up, but I still think there is no better radio show than “Imus in The Morning” on WFAN/CBS Radio/MSNBC. The show has evolved, but the boss is as cranky as ever. It’s not as bitingly funny, but they’ve reenergized things with rotating appearances by Rob Bartlett and Larry Kenny as various characters. Following the I-man’s wedding, the show changed, and not necessarily for the better. But it’s still the place where I catch up on current events.

That said, could weekly guest “Bo” Dietl just go sit at his table at Rao’s and never come out? Dietl is everything that is bad about people in law-enforcement – arrogant, obnoxious, and rude. He gives the good men in blue a really bad name. Fortunately I know too many others that are honorable, so one bad seed doesn’t screw up the whole batch.

Oh, and I’m not anti-Howard Stern, either. He’s fine, and I have nothing against him. I also have nothing against O&A. There’s enough to go around. However, I think it’s time for all of the other knockoffs to stop. In the morning, let the music stations play music and the talk stations talk. Seems easy, no?

On The Peak (107.1 FM), a nice enough guy named Rob Arrow runs a decent, low-key morning show. There’s no sidekick, except for a traffic guy (Pete Toriello, who does traffic on WGCH and is a really nice guy), and a news woman. Then Mr. Arrow plays music. Simple.

Don’t know their ratings, but it’s probably low because the music is generally terrific and there’s not a lot of BS. Imagine that.

My radio DJ heroes were Mr. Imus, Ron Lundy and Dan Ingram from the old WABC, and Scott Shannon, once of Z-100 and now WPLJ. It took many years, but I finally took WPLJ off of my car presets. That station helped teach me to dislike too many songs and artists. I actually added some flava (yes, that’s intentional) back into my life by adding Z-100, K104, and Mix 102.7. Time for the “hip to be square” guy to try to be a little more hip.

With that said, what exactly is Fergie’s “London Bridge?” And how come every time you come around her London London Bridge wanna go down?

It’s the tough questions that I ponder.

Incidentally, in promotional shots for that song, Ms. Fergie appears in front of a bridge, in London. That however is NOT London Bridge. It’s Tower Bridge. London Bridge is a plain crossing further down the River Thames. Tower Bridge is one of the most majestic structures I’ve ever seen in person. You can tour it too, but it’s kind of lame.

I’m just full of facts today.

A little blurb appeared in my local paper, saying that Cheerleaders are ordered to appear at girls basketball games as well as boys games. It seems some parent (naturally) in upstate New York whined, and the US Dept. of Education caved into the moaning. OK, fair is far, but I could easily see the cheerleading coach saying “screw you. We won’t appear at ANY games. And bite me while you’re at it!” Ok, so I added that last part. Cheerleaders, especially at that time of year, are preparing for their own competitions.

Changes in Yankee-land again. Lee Mazzilli’s out as bench coach (why? Who knows?). Don Mattingly takes over Maz’s role. In full disclosure, I know members of the Mazzilli family, and have interviewed Lee, so I’m disappointed by the decision. I hope he either goes back to the organization or heads somewhere else. They’re good people.

Besides, how cool is it to look at your caller ID and see “Mazzilli, Lee?” It was his daughter calling me to edit some audio for her, but it’s still cool.

I don’t get it. How is it possible that Reese and Ryan split? Is there no sanity? I feel like if their marriage isn’t safe, then no marriage is. Ryan looks like such a happy guy. That’s sarcasm, people.

Get out and vote. I don’t care if you write in for “Mickey Mouse.” Make your voice heard.

Here in New York, we really have the best senators, don’t we? Mr. Imus refers to Senator Schumer as “Schmuck Schumer” and Senator Clinton as “Satan.” Just about says it all, doesn’t it?

Zach Fisher, broadcaster in training, says, “Go see ‘Borat.’” All I know is, any character with a child named “HooeyLewis” is OK with me. Besides, I need some new movies to quote from.

Great job of defending the Lombardi Trophy by the boys in the 'Burgh. What a nightmare.

Is it true that any artist can sing “I love America” and people will buy it? That has to be the reason that Chevy is using John Mellancamp’s “Our Country” in their new ad campaign and networks are playing it over…and over…and over. Sure, we needed something new to play since everyone has worn out their copies of “Jack and Diane.”

John Cougar/John Cougar Mellancamp/John Mellancamp fans (and perhaps Mr. Mellancamp himself) like to portray his work as being middle-America’s answer to Springsteen. Let me lay this down for you – nice and easy. Springsteen=Beatles/Elvis/U2/Stones. In other words: a legend. Mellancamp=overplayed pop music.

Does the lead singer of Nickelback record his vocals while sitting on the porcelain throne?

I get too worked up about these things. Or so I’ve been told.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ram Tough (Sports and Football)

There will be some minor changes in the Super Six this week. Just not at number one. Before we get there, it was good to see Phil Soto-Ortiz from WELI in the booth at Cardinal Stadium Friday night. Phil is one their “stringers”, filing live reports from games around the state. Unfortunately, Phil was greeted with looks of “who the heck are you”, which we can definitely identify with. We get it all the time at every school we visit. With two spotters, a PA announcer, a scoreboard operator, and three radio guys, the cozy booth at Greenwich gets tight, and people get territorial. Phil worked it out quickly, and had the blessing of Brian Kennedy, who runs a tight ship at GHS. Few people have been better to us at Greenwich High than Brian, who always watches out for us, and rarely turns down a request. When MSG and WWPT show up at Greenwich on Thanksgiving for GHS/Staples, Brian will make sure that WGCH has what we need before anybody else.

OK, to the Super Six:

1) Greenwich (8-0, Last Week – 1) – Complete domination against Stamford last Friday. This game was horribly boring from a broadcasting standpoint, and I’m sure Coach Al wishes he could do that to us every week. The only shock was that Jonathan Myers didn’t score a touchdown. I spent nearly the entire third quarter doing a scoreboard report, which was OK with my fellow broadcasters. There wasn’t much to say about the game.
2) New Canaan (7-1, 3) – I’m sure if they played Staples 10 times, they would go 5-5. But they only play them once, and New Canaan won, thanks to a missed extra point. Wouldn’t it have been great if the conversion was made, and they played into overtime? Man, how great would that have been? But since they don’t play OT (STUPID!!!) at least we got a conclusion. A tie wouldn’t have been satisfactory. If things stay status quo, it will be a rematch of the FCIAC championship from 2002, 2000, 1999, 1991, 1972 (3-2, in favor of the Rams). Lou Marinelli against Rich Albonizio? Sorry – all bets are off.
3) Staples (7-1, 2) – The Wreckers are now fighting for their playoff lives, but there are still plenty of opportunities. They just have to keep winning. Unfortunately, some of the luster from the Thanksgiving game might now be missing, but believe me; you’re only kidding yourself if you really believe that. The Thanksgiving game will still be something to see.
4) Wilton (6-2, 4) – All of a sudden, the Warriors are poised to go 8-2. Is that enough to get them into the Class L playoffs? It doesn’t look like it. They are ranked seventh, and would need to leapfrog over Staples (who’s fifth).
5) Central (6-2, 5) – I’d have to say that it is pretty respectable to battle Staples to the bitter end and lose, and have your other loss be at the hands of Greenwich. The Hilltoppers survived a good battle with Danbury, and stay put at number five.
6) Darien? Ridgefield? McMahon? Trumbull? Trinity? They’re all 5-3 and a case can be made for each of them. I have to pick only one though. They do this “point system” in the FCIAC for some reason, and Ridgefield (5-3, NR) has 30 more points than Darien, so my nod goes to the Tigers. The most compelling reason I can give is because of Ridgefield’s quality wins. Wilton, New Canaan, and McMahon were among their conquests, but they lost to Darien. See what a messy system this is? The Tigers stay here can be longer if they put up a good showing against Staples. The Blue Wave will have their hands full with Greenwich (pregame show – 1:20 on WGCH). Trumbull gets New Canaan (FCIAC Championship ramifications), and Trinity can win the City Title with a win at home against Stamford. McMahon can make a case for themselves, as they travel to Central. No matter what, I’m uncomfortable with this vote.

Program note!! I can confirm what I said last time – this Friday’s Brunswick- Rye Country Day School game will not be broadcast in favor of Fairfield University basketball. We will, however, add Brunswick’s NEPSAC championship game to our roster instead. That will take place a week from Saturday, the 18th, at 1:00.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Yawn...Football...zzzzz (Sports and Football)

One game down, one to go. Greenwich played Stamford last night, a mere four days after the Cardinals shut out Norwalk, 34-0. Would the Cardinals come out flat? How about 28-0 after one quarter, 42-0 at half time, and 49-6 for the final score? All Cardinals, all the time.

I'd love to be at the New Canaan-Staples game today but duty calls, so I will be at King and Low-Heywood Thomas against Brunswick. The pregame show starts at 2:20. Rumor has it that we will not be calling next Friday's Rye Country Day-Brunswick tilt due to WGCH's new commitment to Fairfield Unviersity basketball (LOVE the commitment to local sports!!), but I get this news second hand. Nice, eh?

I promised a Halloween picture of The Son. So here's one on his own, and one with Mommy (a devil) and Daddy (reprising his "Napooleon Dynamite" look). Enjoy.