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!