26 November 2015

If this doesn't make you smile …

Thankful for all the chances to live, work, travel, and take pictures with mascots!

17 November 2015

Tables turned, I become the interviewee

It doesn't happen often, but a fellow media professional turned the tables and made me the interviewee this week, as I had the good fortune of being a guest on the Mixxed Zone podcast with my long-time colleague, Jen Cooper. We didn't do TOO much Rice reminiscing (at least not that we recorded), but it's good fun.

Jen (aka The Keeper) is one of the people who knows the most about women's soccer, and it's always a pleasure to be part of and discuss that world. Take a listen:
You can also download the episode directly via this link.

10 November 2015

JY20: An introduction

Monday marked the first day of practice for high school ice hockey teams in my home state of New Jersey, which means, in 2015-16, that it marks the beginning of my 20th year covering those teams (that's me, age 13, on the right). The milestone is bittersweet, because it will probably be my last year covering New Jersey high school hockey for Hockey Night in Boston and maybe even the last year of my website, NJHockey.org, which I have run since I was a freshman in college in 2001-02.

Increasing professional and family responsibilities mean less free time for the ‘hobby’ role that hockey takes, and while I am thrilled about everything going on in my life, it will definitely be strange for me if and when I am absent from the New Jersey hockey scene.

Over the years, I have been asked countless times – by coaches, parents, friends, roommates – WHY I keep track of every game played by boys’ varsity ice hockey teams in New Jersey. Why I stay up almost every night for four months inputting scores into three separate spreadsheets. Why this continued when I lived in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana and I saw very few games in person. Why I’ve continued to track and monitor a fairly average group of players and teams (no offense, guys!) in a sport that does not rank among New Jersey’s or the country’s most significant.

“I can’t imagine not doing it,” has probably been my most frequent response, and it’s true. If I stopped running my website, then decided in January that I wanted to know who was in first place in the Mennen Division, or how East Side was faring this season, how would I find that information? Would it be accurate? How often would it be updated? Would it reflect game results the way I would list them?

But there’s much more to it than that. For the last 20 years, despite never having played or coached the sport, I have been welcomed and accepted into a unique community of New Jersey hockey people. They rely on me and talk the game with me, and we all enjoy that. But they also root for me and support me and ask how they can help, and there are many I consider friends. Walking into a New Jersey hockey rink -- most of them, anyway -- feels like coming home. It is a community I cherish and love and will never forget.

Why do I love it so much? Maybe this 20th year of coverage, in which I intend to increase my published writing at blog.njhockey.org and continue to provide Twitter updates via @NJ_Hockey, will be my way of trying to explain and document why and how New Jersey high school ice hockey has been an integral part of my life every winter since before I even reached high school.

I will not post too much about ice hockey on this blog, but the posts I do make during this 20th season can be found via this link.

06 November 2015

Overtime drama in American Athletic Conference women's soccer semifinals!

Given that I woke up at 6:22 am ET in New York this morning, flew to Dallas, called two overtime soccer games, and got back to my guest room at 11 pm CT this evening, I'm feeling pretty good.

I got to call two entertaining, dramatic games today in the American Athletic Conference women's soccer tournament, I did it with a very good partner and crew, and I got to call sudden-death game-winners each time.

Check out the highlights:
Game 1 - UConn vs. Cincinnati:

Game 2 - USF vs. UCF:

Not a bad day's work! Now to get ready for Sunday's final.

05 November 2015

Catching up with Megan Rapinoe, a soccer flashback, and more

OK, so I've been a delinquent blogger lately. I've got some good excuses, but let's try to provide a brief recap:

Since my one-off return to college football in Troy with the inimitable Mickey Matthews on Sept. 12, I have called four college soccer games (one men's, three women's) with three different partners, all in different parts of the country. I've seen some great goals, a landmark win for Mississippi State (which was extra cool to see because I saw them struggle last year), and a rematch of last year's national championship game in women's soccer.

The highlight, however, had to be meeting and interviewing US women's national team star Megan Rapinoe, a woman I respect as much for her off-field public personality and leadership as for her on-field exploits. By just about all accounts, she's one of the best role models you could suggest for a niece, nephew, child, or friend. She was on hand at the Oct. 18 Portland-Santa Clara game as the Pilots celebrated their 2005 national championship team, on which she played, and joined another former Pilot, Shannon MacMillan, and me for an interview at the start of the second half.

Even more good news is that my soccer season is far from over. I just arrived in Dallas to call the American Athletic Conference women's semifinals (today, for the American Digital Network) and final (Sunday, for ESPN3/ESPNU). With the tournament being held at SMU's Westcott Field, this brings back some memories: As a student, I called Rice's trip to the 2003 WAC Tournament at the same venue, culminating in a heartbreaking, last-minute loss to SMU, then the conference's powerhouse.

I'm pretty sure those were my first soccer games called on the road, and I definitely remember some technical difficulties (note the old-school connection via phone line and an actual phone). Probably a good thing that, to my knowledge anyway, no copies of those games exist!

The four teams left in this year's field are all competitive, with UConn leading the way at No. 10 in the country, and links to watch the games can be found here.

At any rate, next weekend I will turn back to the men's game, calling the Sun Belt Conference men's tournament in the somewhat remote town of Boone, N.C., home to Appalachian State University, in what will likely close the book on my 2015 soccer season.

Much more on that later, however. For now, I'm off to watch and call some top-25 teams play elimination games with a conference title and more on the line. Not bad at all!

12 September 2015

Back on college football, back in Troy, Alabama

I don't always call college football, but when I do … I often wind up calling the Troy Trojans.

On Saturday, I will call Troy football for the third time, and I also saw them as a spectator last year. However, the most memorable Troy game I've ever been to is a bittersweet one: The Trojans crushed Rice in the 2006 New Orleans Bowl, the Owls' first bowl appearance in 40 years. I treasure that night because I got to watch the game with my father, a fellow Rice alum who had been to our previous bowl appearance in the 1960s, but we got a pretty good butt-kicking in the actual game.

2015 marks my second visit to Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy, Ala. (here's a look back at my first), reachable via the airport in Montgomery, Ala., and an hour's drive south.

Naturally, Troy just happened to have its 2006 New Orleans Bowl trophy sitting in the office of new head coach Neal Brown. Thanks for the welcome!

But seriously, I'm calling Saturday's game between Troy and Charleston Southern with former FCS championship-winning coach Mickey Matthews, and we had an excellent visit with Troy on Friday. We got to take in a practice session that was definitely more practice than walkthrough, and we had excellent conversations / storytelling sessions with Brown, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, and former head coach Larry Blakeney. (They did most of the storytelling, I did most of the listening and a good share of the laughing.)

Charleston Southern is a small Baptist school that just got lights for its football stadium and was ecstatic to draw more than 4,000 fans for its home opener last week. But the Buccaneers have been excellent recently, are used to winning, and took Vanderbilt down to the wire last year. What's more, they run an unusual option attack that is very difficult to defend. For a Troy program that is in rebuilding mode, this is no simple task. Still, the Trojans will have a size advantage, run an up-tempo offense that can also be difficult to defend, and should be highly  motivated.

So it should be a good one! Mickey and I are asking for good weather and a close game, so check it out Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN3!

31 August 2015

Hear our Red Bulls Radio Network call of spectacular Bradley Wright-Phillips volley

Yeah, we take in-game selfies.
On Sunday night, I got to call what is my final regularly-scheduled Red Bulls game of the year (although I certainly hope to be involved in some postseason broadcasts).

That gave me a bittersweet feeling heading into the game, but the first 65 minutes of the game were so exciting to call that I just enjoyed the soccer, the atmosphere, and the feeling of anticipation for whatever was coming next.

As usual, analyst Steve Jolley and I had a great time calling the game, perhaps never moreso than on this spectacular Bradley Wright-Phillips goal late in the first half, one that has to be the favorite for MLS Goal of the Week and a challenger for MLS Goal of the Year.

And here's what it looked like:

13 August 2015

One more night of Open Cup magic in Philadelphia

Somehow I didn't feel like I was at my best in Wednesday night's broadcast of the U.S. Open Cup semifinals, but partner Jill Loyden had a really strong night, we had fun, and I still felt like we got the big moments right. Like this one:

Philadelphia held on to win 1-0, and it was pretty cool to go down to the stadium club after the game and watch as Philadelphia fans and employees rooted for Sporting Kansas City in the other Open Cup semifinal. KC's 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake means that Philadelphia will host the Open Cup final on Sept. 30.

Less fun? Taking 90 minutes to get through a six-mile backup on the New Jersey Turnpike on my way home, arriving after 1 am. Such is Open Cup fever.

I can pretty much guarantee I won't be on the TV call of that championship game, but after calling all of Philadelphia's home Open Cup games in this year's tournament (plus their first two last year), I intend to be at PPL Park to see if they can lift the trophy!

Full highlights from Wednesday's game are below:

10 August 2015

How it sounded as New York Red Bulls swept New York City FC

I had a great time calling the third New York Red Bulls-New York City FC game on Sunday night. In an incredible atmosphere and in front of a sold-out crowd, the Red Bulls came away with a 2-0 win, giving them the series sweep of their cross-river rivals.

I've got two more Red Bulls radio calls in August, as well as a US Open Cup semifinal on Wednesday and hopefully more to come this fall!

With color analyst Steve Jolley joining me on the calls, here's what the two Red Bulls goals sounded like, first from Bradley Wright-Phillips:

and then from Felipe:

01 August 2015

By the numbers: Some research on Saturday's Union-Red Bulls game

I'm back to MLS action on Saturday with a radio call of the Philadelphia Union-New York Red Bulls game from beautiful PPL Park. These are the two MLS teams I work with most closely, so I'm plenty familiar with the personnel on both sides.

Both clubs are expecting to debut new signings on Saturday, with Swiss DP Tranquillo Barnetta (you do pronounce the Ls in his first name, because it's Italian) available for Philadelphia and former England international Shaun Wright-Phillips potentially playing for the Red Bulls.

Here are a few numbers that caught my attention while preparing for the game:
  • Influencers: Philadelphia with Vincent Nogueira: 6-6-4, +1 GD
                         Philadelphia w/o Vincent Nogueira:  0-6, -10 GD
                         Red Bulls when Matt Miazga starts:            8-2-3, +12 GD
                         Red Bulls when Matt Miazga doesn't start: 0-4-2, -6 GD
    Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Nogueira is set to miss the game – and most of August – with a quad injury. Miazga is, as far as I know, expected to play.
  • Set pieces:   Red Bulls on set pieces, incl. PKs:     6-1
                         Philadelphia on set pieces, incl. PKs: 2-7
                         Red Bulls on set pieces, w/o PKs:     4-1
                         Philadelphia on set pieces, w/o PKs: 2-5
  • Spot of trouble: The Red Bulls are just 4-for-9 on penalty kicks in June and July, including 0-3 on regulation penalty kicks in MLS play (Bradley Wright-Phillips 0-2, Sal Zizzo 0-1) and 3-for-5 in a shootout loss to Philadelphia in the Open Cup.
  • Maybe they are lucky: All four penalty kicks taken against Philadelphia (3) and the Red Bulls (1) this year were taken by current members of D.C. United. The Eastern Conference leaders are 1-for-2 against Philadelphia and 0-for-1 against the Red Bulls, while newly acquired Álvaro Saborío scored against the Union while playing for Real Salt Lake.
  • Man advantage: The Red Bulls have benefited from six red cards by opponents this year, going 4-0-1 in those games (Real Salt Lake received two on June 24). New York is 1-1 when receiving a red card. By contrast, Philadelphia has received four red cards and has gone 0-3-1 in those games, while failing to win either game (0-0-2) in which an opponent was ejected.
  • Expect goals …: The two teams have not been shut out in a combined 19 consecutive MLS games (11 for Philadelphia, 8 for the Red Bulls).
  • … but probably not early: Philadelphia has not allowed a goal this year in the first 15 minutes of a game.
You can check the game out at 7:00 ET tonight, and you can hear my call via the Red Bulls' matchday audio page and Mixlr.com.