4:25 PM AKST, November 20, 2012
Not too long ago Easton Area High School expressed concerns about live TV coverage having an impact on attendance at some of its sporting events.
But one event that the Red Rovers never have to worry about TV affecting is the annual Thanksgiving morning football showdown against Phillipsburg at Fisher Stadium.
The rivalry, which will have its 106th edition on Thursday morning, will probably always sell out with close to 15,000 fans. The fact that it's on TV is more of a treat to the rest of the Lehigh Valley fans who couldn't get a ticket rather being an attendance deterrent.
This year's game will again be televised by the Sports Traditions Network on WBPH-Channel 60. You can see a live stream of the game online at http://www.sportstraditionsnetwork.com.
Mick Moninghoff, who recently won a Mid-Atlantic Emmy award for sports analyst/play-by-play, will again return as the lead announcer along with the legendary Dick Hammer and former Stateliner and University of Notre Dame standout Ned Bolcar. The irrepressible Jack Logic will work the sidelines.
"By being on a local broadcast station, this game gets on all of the local cable outlets," Moninghoff said. "If one of the local cable outlets had it, you might have someone go for exclusivity and then someone would get shut out.
"That's how I got involved. I'm not the RCN guy or the Service Electric guy. I'm just an announcer. I have nothing against either cable company. They both do a fine job. I'm just glad it's on a broadcast channel so everybody can see it."
Moninghoff, who lives in Easton, is a producer/play-by-play man for MSG Varsity, which is division of Cablevision. It's a network dedicated to high school sports in New Jersey.
"MSG Varsity does the Don Bosco Prep-Bergen Catholic game, which is a great game featuring all kinds of Division I talent," Moninghoff said. "They have some of the best players in the country in that game. And that's fine. But they draw 8,000 fans. Easton-P'burg is going to draw nearly double that. This is a special game, a special event that means so much to the community."
Of course, the facilities at Lafayette are top-notch and make broadcasting a game from there a pleasure.
It's also a nice touch to have Hammer, who will be working his 46th Easton-P'burg Thanksgiving game, on the broadcast to provide color commentary.
Hammer's voice is synonymous with Easton sports through all of his years on WEST radio. On a day filled with tradition, hearing Hammer talking about the Rovers and 'Liners ranks near the top of the list.
Moninghoff enjoys working with all of his broadcast partners and said it doesn't matter that this is the only time all year they'll work together.
"No one knows more about this game and this tradition than Dick Hammer and he's a pro," Moninghoff said. "And Ned will tell you that while he played in the NFL and won a national championship at Notre Dame, the thing he's most proud of is beating Easton all four years in high school. He says it every year."
Moninghoff goes to as many Easton and P'burg games as he can to prepare and does lots of interviews with players and coaches just to prepare for this one assignment.
Yet, Moninghoff, who attended Delaware Valley Regional in New Jersey, said he is not going to hog the air time.
"I once talked to Maynard Ferguson, the great jazz musician, after one of his concerts and I told him that what impressed me was everyone in his band got a solo and a chance to shine," Moninghoff said. "And Ferguson said to me, 'Mick, I don't have to play 61 minutes out of every hour.' And I never forgot that and that's kind of how I approach my broadcasts. I don't have to talk 61 minutes out of every hour.
"Dick has seen more than 40 [Easton-P'burg] games and Ned has played in this game. So, my role is to get out of the way after the play is over and let Dick and Ned take over."
As for the game, Easton is probably favored, but that seldom matters.
"You never know what you're going to get and that's what makes it fun," he said.
In addition to the TV coverage, the game can be heard on ESPN radio of the Lehigh Valley on 1230 and 1320 AM and online at espnlv.com. Tom Fallon and Dave Druckenmiller will have the call.
A couple of generations of football fans have grown up with their tradition of watching the Detroit Lions in the early NFL game on Thanksgiving and the Dallas Cowboys in the later afternoon game and that tradition has not changed.
A few years ago, the NFL Network got into the mix with its own national TV game on Thanksgiving night. Now, as part of the new TV contract, NBC has taken the place of the NFL Network and will have the prime-time slot beginning with Thursday's New England-Jets game.
Considering that Sunday Night Football has dominated the ratings, NBC figures it can rack up one of its largest audiences of the whole season as people are winding down after their big meal.
As an added bonus, John Madden will return to NBC to open the broadcast and will give his first "Madden Thanksgiving Player of the-Game" award.
KEITH'S CAN'T MISS … The Notre Dame-USC game from L.A. on Saturday night (ABC) is always one of the most attractive games of the college football season. With the Irish ranked No. 1 and needing just one more win to get into the national title game, the ratings will likely go through the Golden Dome.