Two Fans Who Were All In Well Before The 2015 NBA Finals

•June 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The Cleveland Cavaliers quest for an NBA Title has captured this city’s attention, spirit and heart. Fans who may not have watched as many games during the regular season are now clamoring to their television sets as tip off for each of the Finals games begin. Cleveland is desperate for a championship and as of writing this, the Cavs are two wins away.

Personally, I am excited about this playoff run and am confident the Cavs will clinch a title. I would love to see this city win a championship after everything it has been through over the past few years (e.g. Ariel Castro, Jimmy Dimora, Michael Brelo). I am “All In” as the Cavs slogan has promoted but I have been thinking of two fans who were “All In” well before this 2015 NBA Finals.

The first fan is named Rich and he was the husband of my mom’s Jazzercise instructor at the time. I first met Rich when I was in high school. This is known as a down period in Cavaliers history as the team was mediocre to poor on the basketball court and not much hope was in sight. This was two or three years before the possibility of Lebron James was even thought of and the Cavs seemed to be struggling with one bad draft pick after another.

Prior to meeting Rich, I was aware he was a basketball fan and had Cavs season tickets. I had watched the Cavs sporadically ever since they traded Mark Price (who was my favorite player) but knew enough to hold a conversation about the team with any fan who was a die hard.

Rich had to come to our house one night to pick something up and I joked with him about the recent trade the Cavs had made to get rid of Darius Miles. I just simply asked what he thought and was surprised in a positive way by his response. He knew at the time the Cavs were likely to have another difficult season but I could tell how passionate he was about the team and how much he loved basketball. The question I asked about the trade was not meant to get him upset at all but I learned how much Rich enjoyed going to the Cavs games with his son Reid. Rich was definitely a die-hard and it was fun hearing him discuss the team for even a few minutes.

There is no doubt Rich sat through some bad basketball during those years and it makes me smile knowing the team he grew to love is playing for a championship. Rich and his family ended up moving away years ago but I smile knowing all those years of waiting have paid off for him. He stuck with the Cavs through the thick and the thin and my hopes is that he will see the team get that championship.

The second person I have been thinking about is my friend Doug, who is one of my best friend’s from college. Doug’s family had a season ticket package after the team got Lebron and there were instances in which I had a chance to go to games with him. His father could not always use the one ticket so there were opportunities in which I would get a chance to go.

I made sure to return the favor by taking Doug to Lake Erie Monsters games and I still think of going to those Cavs games with him when I set foot into Quicken Loans Arena. His family’s tickets were in section C108 and he was on a first-name basis with the gentleman who took food orders in that section. Doug went to many of those games with family members and he was definitely All In well before this 2015 NBA Finals. He sat through more games than any of his other family members.

Doug is another person I think of as being All In well before this playoff run and hopes that his perseverance brings him a title as well.

I am sure there are thousands of other fans like Doug and Rich and a championship would bring these people and the city of Cleveland happiness.

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Blue Jackets and Monsters Affiliation Has Endless Opportunities

•April 19, 2015 • Leave a Comment

After weeks of speculation, the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters and the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets announced a multi-year affiliation between the two clubs. Columbus will send its top prospects to Cleveland (where the Monsters play) to develop before taking the NHL stage. Cleveland and Columbus are two hours apart and the opportunities with this affiliation are endless.

Columbus had a strong fan base when entering the league in 1999. As the team continued to struggle even ten years after making its debut, the fan base began to decline and speculation about the team packing up and moving on became frequent conversation in the city. Financial problems also have plagued the team and the team has not been a draw at times like it once was.

Having its top minor league affiliate in a city two hours away can help that.

NHL in Cleveland has been a debated topic for a long time but most likely will not happen. Cleveland is considered to be too small to handle all of the four major sports. Putting an NHL franchise in the city does not guarantee success at the gate or in the long term.

Monsters fans enjoy going to NHL games as well as AHL games and Columbus will provide them an option. Seeing that the players on the Monsters next season will be property of the Blue Jackets, Monsters fans will have a chance to see players move on from Cleveland to Columbus as the season goes on. It will give these fans an incentive to follow the Jackets and become part of that fan base.

Monsters fans have also been longing for an NHL preseason game in Cleveland. Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Monsters, has not hosted an NHL preseason game in over a decade. When the International Hockey League’s Cleveland Lumberjacks called Quicken Loans Arena (then Gund Arena) home, NHL preseason games were brought in an drew vast interest. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightening and Detroit Red Wings all played preseason games inside Quicken Loans Arena and drew in lots of fans for those games.

The Blue Jackets can easily fill that desire if they choose to head two hours north for a preseason game. The game would be a draw and create interest in seeing the Jackets play in Columbus during the regular season.

Another option would be for the Blue Jackets to do a “home away from home game” by playing a regular season game in Cleveland. Though unlikely due to the revenue Nationwide Arena (home of the Jackets) would lose by moving a home game two hours north, it would give Monsters fans an opportunity to see an NHL team in the regular season. The trade off could be for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers to do the same at Nationwide Arena (the Cavs and Monsters have the same owner in Dan Gilbert). This option would have its pros and cons like any other option and other considerations may have to come into play.

The Monsters and the Blue Jackets seem to be committed long-term partners and the opportunities to help both franchises are plentiful.

 

NHL Needs Better Plan for Third Goalie

•March 7, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Incidents happen in sports and rules aren’t always in place as to how a problem can be solved. Rules are usually put in place for extreme cases but not all incidents can be covered.

The Florida Panthers found this out earlier this week when goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya both were injured in the same game. This instance was rare in NHL terms but proved it can happen.

The game ended up being delayed for a period of time while the Panthers had to figure out how to finish the game. Officials ruled that Derek McKenzie, who started the game at center and volunteered to go in goal, was not eligible to put on the goalie pads and guard the crease. Luongo, who was in street clothes at the time Montoya got hurt, eventually was cleared by team doctors to return and goaltender coach Rob Tallas was ruled eligible to serve as the backup for the rest of the game.

It was apparent rules had not been put in place for this situation and confusion occurred when the Panthers were unclear how to proceed. Seeing that this incident occurred makes it likely that it can happen again and rules will need to be put in place to avoid this.

Having a third goaltender that never plays on an NHL payroll is not ideal. Teams can only dress two goaltenders per game and having a third goaltender on payroll to sit in the stands is something the NHL teams do not want. Adding a third goaltender would make it harder for the coach to provide equal playing time and goalie prospects within the team’s farm system would have someone else to sit behind on the depth chart. Most teams send their goaltenders to the minors to provide them with playing time to get better and sitting in the stands as a third goalie that won’t play will not be ideal.

A better solution would be to allow each team to designate two people that can be an emergency third goalie if needed. This can be a coach, another player on the bench or someone in the front office (e.g. Martin Brodeur in the St. Louis Blues front office). This would eliminate the problem of having another player on payroll and provide clear direction on how to proceed if it happens again.

Two goalies going down in one game has not happened often but proved this week it can happen. With this in mind, rules need to be established on how to handle the situation.

Loving What You Do

•February 14, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I’m 30 years old and happy with my life. It isn’t quite how I expected it but I am content with what I have and don’t focus on what I don’t have.

Looking back to when I was 18 years old, I wanted to do play-by-play for sporting events. I hoped to do it as a career and called games in high school and college. I wondered if I would go from small high school gyms to larger press boxes. At that point in my life, calling games was fun for me and I wanted to do it every opportunity I could get.

College rolled around and calling games still continued to be a passion of mine, however, moving away from my hometown of Solon opened other doors for me. I could put behind any frustrations I had growing up in Solon behind and start over. Not many people knew me when I stepped onto campus my freshman year and it was an opportunity for me to start a new beginning.

After not getting the Assistant Sports Director position at the campus radio station, I continued to call games but other avenues opened up. I eventually became and Assistant Promotions Director for this station and found I was good at event planning, organized and knew more about marketing than I anticipated. It taught me how to work with others and be a leader.

I never pictured myself as a leader at all before that point. Leading people, taking charge and working towards a goal was never something I believed I could do until I took that Assistant Promotions Director position. I found talents I never knew I had and my confidence grew.

I eventually became the Promotions Director for this station and realized even more that I had a business side in me. I never pictured myself at all as being someone who was good at marketing and promoting a product before I started college. In just two years away from home, I proved myself wrong.

While doing this, I continued to call games on a part-time basis. I still get a thrill out of announcing and managed to still call football and basketball games my senior year in college. One of my favorite memories was calling a play known as “The Shot Heard Around the Rike Center” when Otterbein, my alma mater, beat rival Capital in Women’s basketball on a half-court shot at the buzzer. I recall a smile on my face after calling that one and realized how much I loved it.

Graduation from college came and with a slow job market for young professionals, I decided to move back home and entered the “business world.” There were no games for me to announce as I started my first 9-5 job where I reported to a cubicle in an office instead of a small college or high school sports venue. For the first time since I was 15, I didn’t have a single opportunity to announce again.

A couple years passed and an opportunity fell into my lap with the help of Facebook. A neighbor of mine whose son was on the Solon hockey team asked me if I would be interested in calling the hockey game for Solon Educational Television (SETV). I had called games for SETV in high school and it took me a minute to realize an opportunity fell into my lap. I knew the Solon hockey team played at the Gilmour Ice Rink, which didn’t have a pressbox or media area. It also has a reputation of being cold inside but I didn’t care; I wanted a microphone and a game to call.

That hockey game has turned into opportunities to announce football, wrestling, volleyball and basketball. Viewing it more as a hobby, I still get the same excitement going into the same gyms and high school sports venues I frequented as a teenager. The venues aren’t as big as the ones in the multimillion dollar venues professional and big time colleges use that doesn’t matter to me. What matters most is I still get a chance to do something I love.

 

Solon Improves to 3-0 with Win over Willoughby South

•September 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

It felt like football weather as I walked into Stewart Field. It was a crisp 60 degrees as I walked through the gates to get ready to call the Solon vs Willoughby South football game. It was considered to be early September but the weather made it feel like October. Either way, it was football weather for the Friday Night Lights.

The Solon students were dressed in pink for cancer awareness and a little more fired up than usual. The Solon stands were packed and the energy before kickoff seemed to be more elevated than usual.

Willoughby South was 0-2 coming into this game but I wasn’t going to be fooled by the record. South had defeated the Comets last season and had shown how well they are coached in previous meetings. Solon was 2-0 and the game still had to be won on the gridiron.

The Comets struck first with a 33 yard touchdown pass to Zack Lesko from Johnny Mooney. The Comets would go up 7-0 but it would not be that way for long.

Willoughby South managed to start moving the ball with running back DJ Greene. Green would eventually score on a three-yard scamper and the extra point would tie the game at 7. My broadcast partner, Chuck Chokenea, and I both figured it was going to be a close one at that point.

Solon would eventually add two more touchdowns to the scoreboard with a Tim Harmody touchdown reception and a Melvin Jackson run.

Up 21-7, the Comets defense got a surprise when South wide receiver Andre Smith lined up at quarterback and scored on a 46 run to the endzone. Comets receiver Jake McCurry would block the extra point attempt and the score at halftime was 21-13 Solon.

The third quarter proved to be the most action packed period in the entire game. Solon scored 15 seconds into the 3rd quarter when Melvin Jackson went on a 62-yard run from scrimmage into the endzone. A Tyree Seals safety and a Gil Barksdale 77 yard touchdown run would put the Comets up 37-13.

Chuck and I wondered if the 30-point rule would be put into effect. This new rule mandates a continuous clock once a team goes up by 30 points. Both of us would be proven wrong on the need for the new rule very quickly.

Willoughby South scored two more times to cut the deficit down to ten. With the score 37-27 Solon, Mooney would find Ryan Gallagher in the endzone to put the Comets up 44-27.

In the fourth quarter, a fumble recovery in the endzone by Anthony Zavarella would seal the 51-27 win for the Comets.

Willoughby South is a good football team. The scoreboard did not reflect the team they can be. Willoughby South had a lot of creative play calling and can utilize their weapons very well. Greene at running back makes them a threat and no team from here on out should be focused on their record when preparing for a game against them.

I couldn’t help but smile as I walked out of Stewart Field. I had a chance to call another game and can’t wait to be back in the booth in two weeks.

That’s Why I Love Stewart Field

•August 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Solon football’s home opener is my favorite game of the season. The weather is usually pleasant, the community comes out and packs the stands and the energy inside stadium always creates an incredible atmosphere. Last night’s game against Kenston was no different.

The energy was in the stadium well before either team started warming up. As both sets of fans walked in, it was easy to tell the excitement was there even before the captains from either side lined up for the coin toss.

I managed to talk to Kenston head coach Jeff Grubich before the game and he was very willing to discuss his team with me. He knew his team would not have as much depth as the Comets and it would be a challenge. One year ago, Kenston lost 48-21 to the Comets on their own turf and hadn’t forgotten that.

Even though Kenston and Solon are no longer in the same division, both programs are familiar with one another. The two teams played each other constantly during the old days of the Chagrin Valley Conference and the Western Reserve Conference. The two teams have had some classic battles and I wondered if this one would be added to that list.

I was set to call the game for SETV and I will admit I was a little rusty but started to get into a groove as the game went on.I made some mistakes with some simple nuances but felt more comfortable as the game goes on. There is always room to improve.

Solon managed to go up 3-0 early on  with a David Sebuke field goal but the first quarter moved slowly. Neither team could really garner momentum after Solon’s first drive of the game and the officials took a long time sorting out penalties and getting the ball spotted for plays.

During the second quarter, Solon took more of the momentum. Comets quarterback Johnny Mooney, making his first career start, connected with Jake McCurry on a 27 yard pass in the endzone. An extra point would put the Comets up 10-0.

Solon’s defense stepped up not too long after that and kept pushing Kenston back deep in their own territory. Kenston, who was using a spread offense similar to Mentor, could not get much momentum going and penalties and quarterback sacks pushed them back further into their own territory. Solon would eventually go up 12-0 when Kenston was called for holding in the endzone resulting in a safety.

Kenston would eventually put together a drive and scored a touchdown when quarterback Parker Gdula ran it in from 9 yards out.

The Comets would later counter late in the second quarter when Mooney connected with quarterback-turned-receiver Ryan Gallagher would catch a 39-yard touchdown pass to go up 18-0. Solon would then convert a two-point conversion to go up 20-7 at halftime.

Once the second half started, Solon’s defense would be a key factor. The defense held Kenston scoreless in the 3rd quarter. Kenston started utilizing a no-huddle offense to start off the quarter and eventually got the ball down within the five-yard line. Solon linebacker Alex Brown picked off a Gdula pass on a third and goal to stop the drive. Tyree Seals and the rest of the Solon defense kept rushing Gdula in the third quarter and the pressure made it difficult to for Kenston to put a drive together.

In the fourth quarter, Kenston would utilize the no-huddle again and eventually made it a 20-14 game when Gdula connected with wideout Jeremy Wyers. Kenston tried doing an onside kick, which was unsuccessful. Solon would eventually hold on to get the 20-14 victory.

While Solon did not put any more points on the board in the second half, the Solon crowd started to get into the game more and got louder as the time continued to tick off the clock. Having an atmosphere like that made the experience fun and incredible to watch.

As I walked out of the stadium and headed to my car, which was parked at nearby Orchard Middle School, I smiled on my way out. Opening night had been fun again and got me excited for the next game.

 

Grateful For Opportunities

•May 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I know it has been a while since I took the time to write in this blog. Lots has happened since my last post. The Browns went through an extensive and agonizing coaching search, the Monsters didn’t make the playoffs, Mike Brown was let go as the coach of the Cavs for the second time, the Indians have started off slowly and Johnny Manziel was drafted by the Browns. All are topics I can go into extensive depth about.

These topics have been debated over and over throughout the Cleveland area. Opinions have been put on the table, debated and left open to let us wonder what is next for Cleveland sports.

I have a passion for Cleveland sports but want to focus on another area for this post. I have talked about this topic often but want to make sure I address as we reach the final weeks of the school year.

As mentioned in earlier posts, sports announcing has been a passion of mine since high school. I continued that passion throughout my college years. When college ended, I often wondered if the opportunity to continue this passion would present itself again.

The opportunity came on New Year’s Eve a few years ago when asked to call a Solon hockey game. It had been at least two or three years since I last called a game but the passion was still there. That hockey game led to volleyball matches, basketball, wrestling (not the fake stuff), and first and foremost, football.

Back when I first started calling games in high school, I often thought I would only be happy in my adult years if I was announcing for professional or college teams in nice press boxes in large arenas or stadiums. I was naive at the time and didn’t think I would do anything else for a career. I was closed minded at the time and also didn’t think I had much talent elsewhere. I know that is a negative stance on myself but it is a viewpoint I had at the time.

College came and I realized I could do more than just sit behind a microphone. I became a more open and talkative person during those years and eventually received sales training during internships and a part-time job. The sales training would eventually lead to my first job out of college.

I had a job right out of college but announcing the games was missing. It was the first time since eighth grade where I didn’t have games to announce. A part of me felt empty inside and I often wondered if I would get the opportunity.

When the opportunities came years later, it was refreshing being back in the old gyms, high school pressboxes and even a makeshift media area at the Gilmour Ice Rink. It didn’t matter to me that these facilities weren’t the state of the art press boxes I thought I would be frequenting I dreamed about being in at this age. What mattered was I had an opportunity to do something I loved doing.

Calling an entire season of Solon Football with Chuck Chokenea this past fall was a blast. Being able to work with one of the best broadcast partners I had was an incredible experience. We hadn’t worked together for so long but it felt like old times each time we put on the headsets.

In addition to calling the games with Chuck, working with Classic Productions and SETV reminded me how much fun I had doing this growing up. Working with the crew is all part of the experience and the people I have worked with from Classic Productions and SETV have been incredible. These people made going to the games even more fun and I want to thank them for that. These people have made me realize I don’t need a major league pressbox to be happy with where I am announcing.

Opportunities to call games will come about in the near future and I cannot wait. For those of you who have made the opportunities fun for me this school year, I want to say thank you.