Ready for Special Olympics, Park Scholar Program after Graduation

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After a busy 4 years at Algonquin Regional High School, I will be graduating this Sunday, June 5.

Right after graduation, I’ll be hopping on a flight to Florida to cover the Special Olympics USA Games for the second consecutive time to follow the story of 3-time silver medalist golfer and Flutie Fellow Tyler Lagasse. You’ll be able to follow my coverage on this page.

Once I return, I will be preparing for my next four years as a sports media major in the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College. In case you have not heard, I was recently selected into the Park Scholar Program, Ithaca College’s full-ride scholarship program centered around service in the communications industry. I’d like to thank the entire Park Scholar Selection Committee for choosing to bring me on board for these next four years.

Check out this video of my official announcement from the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism’s 26.2 Can Do Fest before the Boston Marathon. I was there alongside football legend and Foundation co-founder Doug Flutie and voice of the New England Patriots Bob Socci, who have been a tremendous help with my goal to become a professional sports journalist.

I am really excited to begin the next chapter in my journey!

Featured on For the Fans Network

I was recently interviewed by Tom Eschen Jr., a sports reporter for For The Fans who is running the Falmouth Road Race for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. For The Fans (FTF) is an award-winning global sports provider delivering world-class international and domestic sports and lifestyle entertainment to dedicated fans everywhere.

You can also see a shortened version on Twitter.

The long and short versions of the interview will run sporadically on the “For the Fans” digital channel, which is on platforms like Roku Channel and Xumo TV among others. The pieces will run as filler content after live games and events, so they will be seen by many different audiences.

I’d like to give a special thank you to Tom Eschen and For the Fans for taking the time to highlight my story and talk sports with me. I wish Tom luck in the Falmouth Road Race, and you can donate to Tom’s Falmouth fundraiser for the Flutie Foundation here, which will help raise money for people and families affected by autism.

Featured on WCVB Boston’s A+ Segment

Recently, I was featured in a news segment known as the “A+ Report” on WCVB, Boston’s ABC affiliate:

The A+ Report is a segment about students in New England doing exceptional things in and out of school.

WCVB picked up my story after watching my Keynote speech at the Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN) Visions of Community conference.

At the conference, I told the story of how I got into sportscasting and overcame adversity after being diagnosed as autistic.

You can see some clips of the speech below:

Since the feature on WCVB, Stitch has also picked up my story.  They included a shortened version of my A+ segment as well as an article about me and my story.

I’d like to thank Kristin LaRose and FCSN, Antoinette Antonio and WCVB, and Stitch for allowing me to share my story.  I look forward to more opportunities to share my story in the future.

My 2019 Visions of Community Keynote Speech

Special Needs Conference
Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

Yesterday was one of the most memorable days of my life.  I told my story so far to 300+ people, and hundreds more were watching it live.  In my speech, I told the story of how I turned my obsessions of sports and writing into a passion – this blog.  My goal of the speech was to inspire others and teach people that obsessions aren’t always something that need to be controlled or discouraged.  After the speech, several parents came up to me asking me to get in touch with their kids.  If you have something you’re obsessed with, I encourage you to start a blog about it.  Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new passion – and eventually find a career.  I have found my passion, and that is the highlight of this first chapter of my life.  But this is only the beginning of my story.  Hopefully, I can take this passion and make it a career.  It all starts with the little things – internships, volunteering, etc.

For those of you who missed out on the livestream, I posted a video with just my speech:

Special Needs Conference
A picture of me walking up to deliver my speech taken by the Boston Herald for an article about the day (Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

After delivering the speech, I was featured in the Boston Herald.  You can check out the article they wrote below:

https://www.bostonherald.com/2019/03/09/teen-with-autism-turning-sportswriter-dream-into-reality/

I am so thankful to the Federation for Children with Special Needs (https://fcsn.org/) who gave me this incredible opportunity to be the keynote speaker in front of hundreds at the Seaport World Trade Center Ampitheater.

 

I’d also like to thank Joe Sciacca, the editor-in-chief at the Herald.  I met him back in 2015, and he has continued to provide me with awesome opportunities, the latest of which was appearing in the April 2, 2019 paper. Now I am officially on their website as a contributing writer. I also guest co-hosted one of their radio shows last summer.

Most of all, I have to give some credit to my loving, supportive family, who have helped me overcome my challenges and encouraged me in my budding sports career.

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I really enjoyed this opportunity, and I hope that this is not just another milestone in my sports career, but the beginning of a public speaking career.

 

2022 NFL Thanksgiving Day Picks: Expect close nightcap after early blowouts

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’m back in Massachusetts for my first Thanksgiving as a college student, and it’s been great seeing my family and some friends back home. What makes it even better is watching a triple-header of NFL football on my home TV, including the first Patriots Thanksgiving football game in a decade (the last one resulted in the infamous Mark Sanchez Butt Fumble). Below you can read more about what I expect from the day; aside from turkey at least.

We kick off the holiday with the annual early afternoon Lions game, and I’m expecting yet another loss for Detroit. The Lions haven’t won their Thanksgiving Day game since 2016, and the Bills are one of the toughest opponents they’ve had in a while. The Lions may be on a three game win streak, but only the best of the best have been able to complete with Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and this elite Bills offense. The Bills just completely picked apart the Browns defense on this same turf, and the Lions defense has struggled the entire season. The Lions have had some strong offensive weeks and may put up some points, but I don’t expect this game to even be close.

Next up we’ll have a classic Thanksgiving rivalry match-up as the Cowboys host the Giants. New head coach Brian Daboll has led the Giants to success in a number of close games, but they still fell short in their first match-up with Dallas, and I don’t expect this one to even be close. Running back Saquon Barkley won’t be able to bail out Daniel Jones against one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Meanwhile, I expect the Cowboys offense to keep the momentum going after dropping 40 on the Vikings last week. The Giants are still likely to make the playoffs, but they’ll head home embarrassed after this one. Meanwhile, the Cowboys seem to have a leg up in the Odell Beckham Jr. sweepstakes, and if this game goes how I expect, that will likely seal the deal.

We end the day with what might be the best matchup of the three. With QB Mac Jones getting into a groove again, the Patriots have won three in a row and brought themselves back into the playoff picture. The Vikings will be eager to rebound after what happened on Sunday, but it’ll require QB Kirk Cousins to make a statement in primetime, something he’s struggled to do his entire career. I’m not expecting an outstanding game from Cousins, and that will allow Jones and the Pats to make this competitive. However, Cousins will have help from both RB Dalvin Cook and WR Justin Jefferson. As much as I’d want to see the Pats pull this off, I feel at least one of them will make some big plays that win the Vikings this game.

That game will cap off an action-packed Thanksgiving day slate. Feel free to comment with your thoughts, and no matter what happens, I hope you enjoy these games and have a great Thanksgiving experience.

Career Profile: Feature Producer Josh Vorensky

A shortened version of this article was recently published in The Ithacan. Check out the full version below.

Josh Vorensky ’11 earned an Emmy for his work as an associate producer for a segment on ESPNews along with three other Ithaca College alumni. (Photo via Josh Vorensky)

For many individuals wanting to break into the sports media realm, the dream is to work with the worldwide leader in sports and be recognized for their work. Josh Vorensky ’11 has already reached the pinnacle of the sports media mountain.

Before ESPN, Vorensky had internships with New Jersey Networks, MTV and NBC during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Now, he works as an associate producer and feature producer at ESPN, creating features for shows and programs. In 2020, Vorensky was a part of the production team that won an Emmy for Outstanding Sports News/Feature Anthology for the Sports Center (SC) Featured segment that aired on ESPNews. As a feature producer, Vorensky tells the story of athletes as part of the Sunday and Monday NFL Countdown broadcasts.

I spoke with Vorensky about his experience at ESPN and his career as a producer.

Andrew Roberts: What are some of the things you always do before a production?

Josh Vorensky: Before production day you always have to have a location and crew picked out; you need to know what your story is about and how that location kind of fits what your story’s going to be. Let’s say it’s a story about an artist. You’d want to be in some kind of art studio-esque place, so you’d want to nail down the location. You’d also want to nail down the crew; you want to know what kind of cameras, the specs of what you want to shoot. So there’s basically a checklist of what you want to have before each shoot. You need to have your crew picked out, your location picked out and if you’re doing an interview, your subject as well. A lot of times you’ll have to do some pre-interviewing, get to know the person and kind of know what you’re going into.

AR: How do you organize your production information?

JV: I have to write everything down. I learn better that way and that’s what I usually do. I do things on call sheets (example pictured below) that keep everything organized, especially a shot sheet if it’s kind of a new crew. If it’s crews that I trust, I give general guidelines of what I want. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve kind of figured out the kind of shots I want. When you’re shooting these shots you just shoot what you need but always keep in mind the sequence of what is necessary.

AR: Do you have standard protocols for what you pack when you travel? How many days a month do you travel?

JV: I have a general backpack; I keep a toiletry kit in my backpack. I’ve been traveling a little bit less; it kind of ebbs and flows. One time I’ll travel twice in a week and then I just had a shoot today where I was remote producing. That’s kind of a benefit of the pandemic where you don’t have to travel for every shoot, which provides a better work-life balance.

AR: Tell me about a typical day. If there isn’t one, tell me about a few.

JV: I usually like to get started early depending on what the shoot is and when the subject is available. It’s usually somewhere north of an hour and a half for setup time and then whatever the interview is. During our office time, I’m editing, coming home with ideas and kind of getting everything ready. I’ve been in features formally for at least five to six years; my role at ESPN has kind of changed over time. I started as a project-based production assistant where I was doing things like highlights, rundown and prompter. As I got more experienced, I was working on “Outside the Lines” and doing these things called wraps. When I got promoted, I worked at “Baseball Tonight,” SCEU, which is the SportsCenter Enhancement Unit, and did some writing. Now this is going to be my fifth or sixth season doing features for Sunday and Monday NFL Countdown.

AR: What exactly do feature producers do?

JV: You do documentaries on athletes; you’re a storyteller, producer and documentarian. You help to create content for the network, and it’s a joy to do. There’s nothing I enjoy more than seeing the impact the stories had on a wider public. That’s generally what I do; we pitch stuff all the time, I send ideas every week and help to complement our program and broadcast.

AR: What kinds of classes and extracurriculars would you recommend for someone who wants to be a feature producer?

JV: I took some screenwriting classes. I would say learning how to craft stories and craft news elements is very important. Volunteering for “Newswatch” helps, I think that knowing how to edit helps, knowing how to shoot helps and pitching as many ideas as you can, things that are new and creative. Especially in college, you have so much available time to do all this really cool stuff, and I’d just try to push yourself creatively and get a reel together.

AR: What qualities must you possess to be a successful producer?

JV: I think you have to be able to think creatively, be very diligent, but also be able to take a step back, take a few breaths and look at the bigger picture. It’s very easy to walk into an environment and want to shoot everything, but you have to think about what you need for your story. When I was younger, I wanted to get as much b-roll as possible, but how does that fit within the wider story? I think overall, you have to be organized, willing to think creatively, focused, and calm. 

AR: What would you recommend for college students interested in production to do outside of classes and extracurriculars?

JV: Outside of the TV extracurriculars, I would say get yourself into other hobbies. I’m in an orchestra out of work. I like to run. I try to keep myself as well-rounded as possible. It’s nice to step away sometimes. If you find other clubs outside of TV, feel free to join. Personally, I was involved in Hillel during my time at Ithaca.

AR: Is there a typical career path for producers?

JV: I don’t think there is. I think people have gotten here in a number of different ways. Some people have interned here, others have shadowed here. I would get some real world experience if you can and be ready to learn.

AR: What do you like most and least about your job now?

JV: I love my job. I think it’s awesome. I love being able to tell stories and meet people; I find it incredibly gratifying being able to create some cool stories and push myself creatively. I do enjoy traveling. I don’t know if there’s a worst thing, honestly. 

AR: If you could talk to your college self, what would you say to them?

JV: I would say to take a step back sometimes and not overload myself. I loved Ithaca; I did find there was a lot of competitiveness, especially in the Park School. That was good; it made everybody better. I think the most important thing to know is to focus on yourself and how to make yourself better. Don’t look at what other people are doing. I found myself doing that a lot. When I took a step back, just enjoyed myself and made my own TV show, I think I was a lot less stressed, I became more confident and I definitely prepared myself to be in the career that I am in. So focus on yourself, don’t worry about other people, take inspiration from them but don’t feel like ‘I wish I could do X like them’. Just be yourself, just do it. Create your own path. What I loved about Ithaca is that even though I was involved in sports, I did way more than sports. I didn’t isolate myself into just doing sports. I think my first two years, I was way too concerned with what other people were doing. Once I just enjoyed what I was doing and charted a path for myself, it made everything a lot easier and more fun. 

My Take on spending time with Josh

Overall, feature production is not an easy job. It requires a high level of creativity and requires some technical skills. However, Vorensky really enjoys it, and it can be a fun job for many others too. Those interested have great opportunities to gain a wide variety of experience at Ithaca through ICTV as well as classes in areas like TV production, journalism and documentary studies. If you focus on yourself and carve your own path, you have a high chance of success in the industry.

Career Profile: Sports Broadcaster Tom Eschen

A shortened version of this article was recently published in The Ithacan. Check out the full version below.

Since graduating from Ithaca College, Tom Eschen ’11 has held many different positions in broadcasting. Recently, he accepted a job with CBS6-WRGB. (Photo via Brian Purcell)

Ithaca College has alumni that have succeeded in many different careers, and since attending the college, Tom Eschen ’11 has gone on to work in the sports broadcasting field.

Eschen recently accepted a new position as a news anchor and reporter at CBS6-WRGB in Albany, all while he continues to expand upon his broad array of experience in broadcast media since graduating from the Park School.

Before CBS6, Eschen spent the last 11 years of his career showcasing his versatility working at several broadcast networks, including Lax Sports Network (LSN)/For the Fans (FTF). Before joining CBS6, he served as a sports anchor, sports director, host and has also done play-by-play for a wide variety of sports. Eschen’s website says he has done work in all parts of the broadcasting world, including anchoring, reporting, shooting and editing. 

I spoke with Eschen about his career path and advice for students looking to make it in the sports broadcasting world.

Andrew Roberts: What are some of the things you always do before going on the air?

Tom Eschen: It depends on what I’m doing. For a play by play broadcast, I just do a thorough review of my notes. I make sure I understand some of the more important parts of what’s going on for the players: streaks, slumps, things of that nature, … if I’m actually there and not doing it remotely, I get a sense of where everything is on the field, where my sight lines are, and what my noise levels are. I also make sure I know my promotional material. If I’m doing something in the studio, it’s kind of the same. Over the course of the day no matter what studio show you’re doing, you’re reading through script and making sure you look nice. I also try to make sure I’m not too serious, kind of relaxed.

AR: Tell me about a typical day. If there aren’t any, describe a few typical days. 

TE: I think that’s the beauty of the business, that there is no typical day. I’m at a career crossroads. Tomorrow is my last day at the Lax Sports Network and For the Fans. I am moving on to becoming the weekend anchor in Albany, New York [at WRGB CBS 6]. Typical days are very different depending on where you are. Right now, if I was to go and do a studio show or a baseball game, it’s different considering it’s a different network. I go in, review my notes, do play-by-play for a baseball game, and then I turn around, review [the] scripts for a lacrosse show later that day. At the news station in Albany, I’ll get in, check in with everyone and determine what our big story is that day for our 6:00 and 11:00 news. I’ll be talking through that as a team and figure out what some of the other stories are, things to follow-up on or things that are going to be happening in the next couple days. That’s how you kind of fill out the newscast. Studio work kind of mirrors itself no matter what you’re doing. You work together and figure out how you’re going to put your show together and see what’s going on around the world to help dictate that.

AR: How much do you travel for your job on average?

TE: In this next job, I’ll be able to get out of the studio a lot more. Right now, I’m doing a lot of things remotely. In the next job there is more like what I did at the beginning of my career working in news and sports in Syracuse and Michigan. You’re going out, you’re talking to people on a daily basis, finding their stories, giving them a voice and meeting with them to do that. I tried to find different ways to do that, like Zoom interviews and Skype. But going out and actually being able to go to different places in the viewing area allows me to travel from town to town. In my job in Michigan, I would go to playoff games, so that would be the furthest travel I’ve done but on a micro scale you’re getting in the studio and leaving to see what’s going on within the region.

AR: What do sports broadcasters do?

TE: I think the best sports broadcasters succeed in opening up the world of sports to people who don’t necessarily love sports. They try to transcend that gap between sports experts and casual sports fans. I think that’s what the best sports broadcasters do in any role. They could tell the backstory of a player who came from nothing, and now here he is succeeding at the highest level; they tell a story that can relate to a lot of people. I think the sportscasters that are the best are themselves and don’t try to go over the top, or be someone they’re not. That’s the most effective, entertaining, and meaningful way of being able to communicate.

AR: What qualities must you possess to be a successful sports broadcaster?

TE: Speaking from my own experience and from what I’ve seen, a big thing is really immersing yourself in whatever topic, place, sport, or team that you’re covering. To be successful, you have to be an expert at the end of the day. To be able immerse yourself in who people are and what they’re all about is really one of the only ways you can effectively tell their story. If you’re just doing it at an arm’s length, without really doing the work, research, and preparation, you’re not getting the full story and you might not tell the story the right way. I think a thing that I’ve always had success in and I’ve seen others succeed in is immersing themselves in whatever it could be. I had to do Austrian Bundesliga Soccer out of the blue. I hadn’t seen soccer, and wasn’t a huge fan at the time, but I tried to learn everything I possibly could about this sport and this country. The reviews are pretty good, people are pretty happy about it, and at the end of the day I knew more about it than I even thought I would and appreciated it more too. I think once you research [a sport], you start to think it is kind of cool at the end of the day. I think that also comes in the local news aspect, when you go to a city or a town, and have to tell everyone what’s going on in terms of sports there. You have to know where the best high schools are, what teams people like, and immerse yourself in that same way. You have to help yourself relate to them by doing that research. You have to really become a part of that culture.

AR: What kind of classes and extracurricular activities should one focus on if they want to be a sports broadcaster?

TE: I would say as many extracurriculars in communications as possible. They each give you opportunities to explore, be creative, and do your own thing over time. It’s just consistently doing those things. Some people would dip in and then do other things the rest of their college career. I think being really consistent until you know what you want to do is really important. You can really recognize the different facets of media and how stories are told in different ways and I think that makes you stronger at the end of the day.

AR: What would you recommend to someone who wants to be a sports broadcaster on air?

TE: First be yourself, don’t try to be someone that you’ve seen or think is successful. Also recognize that like anyone else, you’re part of a team. There’s a lot of people behind the scenes that help make that product work. If you really want to be successful you have to recognize what everyone brings to the table when it comes to putting something on the air. It makes the product better when you recognize the talent you have around you. You can’t just say you’re the face of this, and you’re the one to thank. The last thing I would say is that you’re going to make a lot of mistakes, but it’s about how you move on and deal with that failure. You’re never going to know everything. There’s people that have done it longer and better than you but if you try and learn from them you’ll become better. There’s going to be things that you don’t do well and can improve upon.

AR: Is there a typical career path for sports broadcasters?

TE: Ideally, you go from a small market to a medium market to a big market, and then you’ll be set for life. But I don’t think it ever works out like that, at least from what I’ve seen. Some go from a small market straight into a big job like play-by-play for a pro team through their networking, connections, or talent. Then you have others in the business that do some different things, like going from sports to news. I don’t think there’s a typical or a right path to take. There’s a lot of people that I know that did it for 5-8 years then went to the PR side of things, because this is a lifestyle that isn’t exactly ideal. It’s not really a 9 to 5 job. I think people’s priorities change over time. The earlier you can recognize where your priorities lie, the better off you are. There’s always going to be a choice of what your path is going to be. You have to expect the unexpected.

AR: What do you most and least like about your job?

TE: I don’t believe in complaining about things personally, because I think that I’m pretty lucky to be where I am, so I don’t know if there’s a least. It is tougher with the hours at times to have a social life and find a good group of people and friends moving from place to place, so that’s probably the most challenging thing that comes with the job. But I think the fact that you get the opportunity to give people a platform, advocate for them, and help their voices be heard is really powerful. Those moments have meant the most to me, when you can see their appreciation for it. It’s a very unique connection you get that I don’t think many professions offer. I think that makes journalism pretty unique in that aspect.

My Take on spending time with Tom

I really appreciate that Tom took the time to meet with me and provide well thought out answers to help support students that are trying to follow similar career paths that Tom has taken after Ithaca. I may have never met Tom if he did not reach out to me when he decided to interview me to showcase my experiences, and help support my advocacy for the Flutie Foundation for Autism. You can view the story broadcast on the For-The-Fans (FTF) network here.

As seen by Eschen, being a sports broadcaster is not an easy job to get into or persevere at, but it can be a very rewarding one. You have to make sure to do your research and immerse yourself in the content you’re covering. You may have to work long hours and sacrifice your social life. However, you get the opportunity to show your true personality in published media, tell the stories of the people around you, and work in an entertaining industry.

Cortaca Recap: Experience proves valuable as Wingfield outplays Boyes, leads Ithaca to finish undefeated

Quarterback A.J. Wingfield posted one of his best performances of the season to lead Ithaca to finish the regular season undefeated and bring home the Cortaca Jug with a 34-17 win over Cortland at Yankee Stadium.

Wingfield, a senior, completed 18 of 20 pass attempts for 209 yards and 3 TDs. He also added 28 yards on the ground. 

Wingfield was supported on offense by versatile running back Jake Williams, who had 132 total scrimmage yards and 2 TDs. Wingfield targeted him and wide receiver Michael Anderson the most. 

Despite his impressive mobility, Cortland quarterback Zac Boyes, a sophomore, struggled with a completion percentage under 50 and a 1 to 2 TD to interception ratio. Cortland was also nailed by penalties, losing a total of 65 yards on 6 penalties.

The closest the Red Dragons came to victory was within 3 points of Ithaca. With Ithaca leading 20-7 early in the third quarter, Cortland running back Jaden Alfanostjohn ran in for a TD. Cortland followed this up with a strip sack of Wingfield, giving them the chance to take the lead. However, Ithaca’s defense held them to a field goal.

Ithaca regained momentum after this, with Wingfield throwing it deep to wide receiver Julien Deumaga for a 40 yard TD to make it 27-17. When Cortland got the ball back, Boyes underthrew his receiver and was picked off. This allowed Williams to break off for a 43 yard TD of his own and truly secure the lead for Ithaca.

The Red Dragons had several missed opportunities throughout the game. They had the chance to cut Ithaca’s first half lead to 3 points, but standout defender Matt DeSimpliciis picked off Boyes in the end zone just before halftime. When they kicked it off to Ithaca to begin the second half, they let Michael Anderson run 87 yards on the return, setting up an easy scoring opportunity for the Bombers.

While Cortland had put up bigger numbers than Ithaca and gone 9-0 leading up to this game, Ithaca may have given them a reality check. Wingfield’s experience showed as he looked more comfortable than Boyes in front of the Yankee Stadium crowd.

The bracket is not finalized, but both teams have locked up playoff berths by winning their conferences. After this game, Ithaca will likely end up with the higher seed.

NFL 2022 Preview: Who takes it home in a changing league?

I’ve had a busy first few weeks here in Ithaca. However, this annual article is one I could not miss. Once again, football is back, and I am excited to share my preview for the season.

The NFL seems to be at a sort of crossroads. We may be nearing the end of the story for longtime legends like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Meanwhile, the story for a new generation of players including Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Justin Herbert is just beginning. It’s left the NFL in an interesting position; there are so many competitive teams that the standard for contention has raised. Two years ago Tom Brady won his 7th ring, and last year veteran QB Matthew Stafford finally took one home. Will this year be another win for an aging team, or will the youth of the league begin to take over? Read my predictions below and find out what I think, starting with my division by division standings.

AFC East

  1. Buffalo Bills (15-2, #1 seed in AFC)
  2. Miami Dolphins (9-8)
  3. New England Patriots (8-9)
  4. New York Jets (8-9)

For many years, the Patriots ruled in this division. Now it’s the Bills and then everyone else. Led by young standout QB Josh Allen, the Bills are as stacked on paper as any team in this league. The defense has its inconsistencies, but still has a lot of talent including what’s arguably the best safety duo in the league (Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde). Offensively, Allen has a plethora of weapons including elite WR Stefon Diggs, emerging WR Gabriel Davis, and TE Dawson Knox. 15 wins is a tough feat for any time, but it’s not out of the question here.

I have the Dolphins edging out second as their defense should win them some games. However, I don’t see them making the playoffs with QB Tua Tagovailoa under center. WR Tyreek Hill can make big plays for days but he’s not going to bail Tua out of every situation. If anyone has the chance to sneak into a wild card slot, it would be the Pats. I have them at 8-9, but this team has a high ceiling and a low floor. It all depends on whether QB Mac Jones can build on his rookie success and if Bill Belichick can coach up the young talent on the defense despite losing several big names like CB J.C. Jackson.

The Jets will remain in the basement here, but they’re definitely trending in the right direction. A year from now, this offense could be a scary sight assuming QB Zach Wilson improves and RB Breece Hall is as advertised.

AFC North

  1. Baltimore Ravens (12-5, #4 seed in AFC)
  2. Cincinnati Bengals (11-6, #6 seed in AFC)
  3. Cleveland Browns (7-10)
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-13)

If there’s any team I’m counting on to go from worst to first, it’s the Ravens. With QB Lamar Jackson injured for much of last season, the Ravens were on the bottom of a competitive division. Now, Jackson returns alongside RB J.K. Dobbins, CB Marlon Humphrey, and CB Marcus Peters. Humphrey and Peters now headline what might be the NFL’s best secondary. There’s plenty of signs that the Ravens can put last season’s struggles behind them.

I do think the Bengals remain competitive after their surprise Super Bowl run last year. QB Joe Burrow and WR Ja’Marr Chase aren’t going away anytime soon. I don’t expect the kind of run we saw last year, but I also don’t expect the Bengals to revert below .500. That leaves the Browns and Steelers falling behind in this division race.

The Browns will be without their new QB Deshaun Watson for the first 11 games. While I think their RB duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and their strong defense can win them a few games in that stretch, Watson would have a lot of ground to make up in order to catch these other teams in the division. I’ve been projecting a Steelers decline for years now, but over the last few years Mike Tomlin has kept them afloat. Between a tough schedule, tough division, and declining defense, I find it hard to believe that Tomlin will extend his above-.500 streak any longer.

AFC South

  1. Indianapolis Colts (12-5, #3 seed in AFC)
  2. Tennessee Titans (8-9)
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-13)
  4. Houston Texans (1-16)

If the Colts played in any other division, I’d have them around .500. In fact, I have them 6-5 in non-AFC South match-ups. However, I can’t see any other team in this division giving them much of a challenge. Their defense is strong enough that QB Matt Ryan will be able to get the Colts out to leads in these games without much pressure.

The Titans show some promise as usual, and RB Derrick Henry isn’t going away. Outside of Henry though, this roster looks uninspiring when compared to other AFC rosters. If there’s any surprise contender in this division, it would be Tennessee, but I personally wouldn’t count on it. The Jaguars should see marginal improvement from QB Trevor Lawrence, but I don’t think they spent their money in an optimal way to support him. There are still many holes up and down the roster that leave Jacksonville far from playoff contention. They still show more promise than the Texans though. I don’t see QB Davis Mills as much more than a strong game manager, and outside of WR Brandin Cooks he doesn’t have much proven talent around him to rely on.

AFC West

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-3, #2 seed in AFC)
  2. Los Angeles Chargers (12-5, #5 seed in AFC)
  3. Denver Broncos (9-8, #7 seed in AFC)
  4. Las Vegas Raiders (7-10)

Some people expect four teams above .500 in this division, and I think that expectation is a little lofty. That doesn’t take away from the fact that this might be one of the most competitive divisions in recent history. While I do have the Broncos and Raiders losing a decent number of games due to their tough schedules, I think both these teams will be better on the field than their record shows. The Raiders do have some major defensive question marks, but with WR Davante Adams on board, this offense is too good for Vegas to hit rock bottom. I expect the Broncos to be in the mix for much of the season. QB Russell Wilson’s historical late season struggles combined with a tough schedule will cause them to fall behind the Chiefs and Chargers, but I still have them holding onto a playoff spot.

I think the Chiefs maintain the crown here, as QB Patrick Mahomes makes up for the loss of WR Tyreek Hill by utilizing a variety of new faces in the WR corps such as JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Chargers could be a threat to that, as their defense gets even stronger with the additions of Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson. I also think QB Justin Herbert is almost as capable, if not just as capable as Mahomes. Either of these teams could be in for a deep playoff run.

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-6, #4 seed in NFC)
  2. Dallas Cowboys (10-7, #7 seed in NFC)
  3. Washington Commanders (6-11)
  4. New York Giants (3-14)

The NFC East still has not had a repeat winner since the 2003-04 Eagles, and I don’t see that changing this year. The Cowboys, who won in 2021, lost a good portion of the stacked WR corps QB Dak Prescott utilized to get them there. The Eagles, meanwhile, brought in a new #1 WR in A.J. Brown and upgraded the defense significantly. As long as QB Jalen Hurts plays at a serviceable level, I think the Eagles take over in this division, though I still have the Cowboys sneaking into a playoff spot.

The Giants have a lot to prove this year. This might be QB Daniel Jones’ last chance to show that he can succeed with a healthy offense around him. I don’t have much faith in Jones or his WRs though, and I expect now healthy RB Saquon Barkley to get frustrated and leave after another losing season in East Rutherford. The Commanders should outpace them by a little bit, but I don’t see Carson Wentz as the long term answer at QB (who knew Dak Prescott would end up a more reliable QB than either of the top 2 picks from his draft class?). Despite a strong defensive line and some upside across the roster, there are still many problems to address in Washington before they can compete once again.

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers (13-4, #1 seed in NFC)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (13-4, #5 seed in NFC)
  3. Detroit Lions (6-11)
  4. Chicago Bears (2-15)

A lot of people are making the case that either the Packers or the Vikings will be the sole success story from this division. Why not both? The Packers may have question marks at WR, but QB Aaron Rodgers has made do with that before and he can do it again. Meanwhile, the Vikings will leave the Mike Zimmer era behind them. I expect the talent they have in all 3 aspects of the game to finally translate into wins under new HC Kevin O’Connell, and O’Connell has already drawn comparisons between WRs Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp (who had his historic season in O’Connell’s system).

The Lions can only go so far with Jared Goff under center, but this roster does show some promise. Their defense should be at least serviceable at this point and with a strong supporting cast, Goff could have the occasional big game if he’s not under too much pressure. Bears fans may have faith that Justin Fields can lift this team out of its misery, but I’m not expecting much in Chicago this year. Matt Eberflus is not much of an upgrade over Matt Nagy, and I think the Bears will be giving up too many points for Fields to make up the lost ground.

NFC South

  1. New Orleans Saints (12-5, #2 seed in NFC)
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-5, #6 seed in NFC)
  3. Carolina Panthers (8-9)
  4. Atlanta Falcons (5-12)

The Saints are the team I’m expecting to exceed most people’s expectations this year. To start off, their defense might be the most well-rounded, filled out defense in football. In addition, a lot of people are concerned about a RB Alvin Kamara suspension, WR Michael Thomas’ health, or QB Jameis Winston’s capability as a starting QB. I don’t think these are really valid concerns at this point. Winston has been fine and thrown far less picks since his eye surgery a few off-seasons ago, Kamara’s suspension is unlikely to happen until 2023, and all signs point to Thomas being a full-go this season. At their peak, this team could be scary.

I have Saints sweeping the Bucs in the regular season (as usual), but that won’t stop Tampa Bay from staying neck and neck with them in the division race. Even without WR Antonio Brown and TE Rob Gronkowski, any team with Tom Brady (even an aging Tom Brady) under center is going to be competitive. Besides, Brady still has one of the NFL’s best supporting casts.

QB Baker Mayfield should allow the Panthers to avoid the basement of the division and win a few extra games. Mayfield has RB Christian McCaffrey and WR D.J. Moore to lean on, so that should help him out, but this team still doesn’t quite stack up with the Saints and Bucs. That leaves the Falcons at the bottom, who despite an improving defense don’t have much to be excited about this season.

NFC West

  1. Los Angeles Rams (11-6, #3 seed in NFC)
  2. Arizona Cardinals (9-8)
  3. San Francisco 49ers (8-9)
  4. Seattle Seahawks (2-15)

Despite a tough schedule, I expect the Rams to remain on top of this division. QB Matthew Stafford may start off a little slow due to his elbow injury, but he has a strong supporting cast, and Rams DT Aaron Donald is still in every other QB’s nightmares.

Behind the Rams, I don’t see much promise in this division. The Cardinals have relied on strong starts in years they’ve made the playoffs. They’ll be without WR DeAndre Hopkins for 6 games, so that might be more difficult than usual. There is a lot to like about the 49ers, but the secondary is a concern and we haven’t really seen how much QB Trey Lance is capable of. I’ve seen Patrick Mahomes comparisons, and people who expect Lance to be like Mahomes and lead San Francisco to the playoffs in his first year starting may be disappointed.

I still expect those two teams to finish well ahead of Seattle. The Seahawks have no proven options to start at QB, which will likely hold this offense and the entire team back throughout the season.

Playoff Predictions

There’s a lot of competitive teams in the league right now, so I’m expecting a lot of playoff upsets much like last year. I have 4 of 6 wild card teams winning their first playoff game, and essentially half the teams advancing to each round after that are wild card teams.

In the NFC, I have Tom Brady clutching up for the playoffs and beating the Rams, Packers, and Saints on another Wild Card Super Bowl run. In the AFC, I think the Chiefs or Chargers could put up a good fight, but in the end I have Josh Allen leading the top-seeded Bills to a conference title.

A Bills-Bucs Super Bowl will bring a very interesting narrative: Tom Brady against his former divisional rival. I’m expecting a Super Bowl LII like game, with Brady putting up a serious fight, but falling short in the end. It will signal a new era for the league in which the Bills, not Tom Brady, are the team to beat.

If the Bills do actually win this Super Bowl, I may not hear the end of it now that I’m living in Ithaca which is clear cut Bills territory. However, my unbiased opinion is that they are the most likely team to come out on top. This could be the year their roster is talented enough for them to put it all together and win on the biggest stage.

Will Brady retire after playing in another Super Bowl? If he wins, I think it’s pretty likely he does. However, after a loss, he may still be hungry for more.

Before I wrap up this article, I want to include one more prediction: my pick for tonight’s opener.

Opening Night

It would be easy to predict a shootout here. However, I’m expecting more of a close, defensive battle in this one. QB Matthew Stafford should play it a little safer considering his elbow problems, but I still expect him to connect well with WRs Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson. In the end though, QB Josh Allen is better equipped to win this game. Allen and his receivers at full health are a scary sight, and even if Stafford was healthy I think Allen would be likely to outperform him.

Enjoy tonight’s game, and enjoy the rest of the season. I’ll have more NFL coverage on this website as well as weekly Flutie Foundation-sponsored NFL episodes on The Master Plan Podcast with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky.

Puzzle Cup Hockey Tournament partnership with Flutie Foundation a Success

The Puzzle Cup Hockey Tournament took place this past weekend, with 100% of net proceeds going to the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. I attended the event on its second of three days, Saturday, July 30, and I was able to announce live at the event as an honorary captain and learn about the backstory behind it.

When I arrived, I met Mike “Pitbull” Palelli of the Power Play Hockey League, the primary organizer of the tournament. He generously gave me and the other honorary captains free Puzzle Cup gear. As a member of the Coast Guard, he also gave us his official Coast Guard poker chips, reserved for people he cares deeply about. He even included an extra poker chip and hat for my grandpa, a retired Army National Guard Colonel. One of Mike’s best friends from the military has a son with autism. Since then, autism acceptance has been an important cause to Mike and it inspired him to dedicate this tournament to the autism community.

Flutie Fellow and Special Olympic golfer Tyler Lagasse was among the honorary captains. This was my first time seeing Tyler since I watched him win his first gold medal at the 2022 USA Games. Tyler has always been a hockey fan as well as a fan of the cause. In addition to a ceremonial puck drop, Tyler had prepared a speech to give to players in the locker room.

Many other honorary captains took part in the opening ceremonies. Spectrum of Sound, the Flutie Foundation’s choir, came to sing the national anthem, and several others had the chance to participate in ceremonial puck drops. Fellow aspiring sports reporter Josh Stanbrook and I were able to announce it all, and I stuck around for some play by play.

After going on the ice, we were all pretty hungry and thirsty. I had a burger fresh off the grill with some fries and my favorite sports drink, BodyArmor. BodyArmor, a partner of the Power Play Hockey League, was sponsoring the entire tournament. I took the opportunity to thank BodyArmor, because it not only kept me hydrated in the Orlando heat when I covered the Special Olympics, but also was directly supporting the autism community through this event.

Before I left, I had the chance to catch up with a couple players and a referee as they got off the ice for the day. I also had some more time to talk to Mike and hear about his deep care for this cause. It warmed my heart to hear that Mike, who I had just met, already saw me and the other honorary captains as members of his own family. I’d like to thank Mike Palelli for his immediate support as soon as we met. He is one of many great people I have met through the Foundation.

I also had to say my goodbyes to my other friends from the Foundation, as this was the last event I would be attending before heading off to college for the semester. However, this is far from the end of my involvement with the Foundation. I will always be a proud member of the Flutie Foundation family, and when I return home, I hope to attend and cover more Flutie Foundation events, including next year’s Puzzle Cup. Hopefully, like Mike said, next year’s tournament will include an expanded field of teams and raise even more money for the Flutie Foundation.

Golf Final Round Recap: Gold for Lagasse after ‘Heavyweight Battle and Marathon rolled into one’

Three-time Special Olympics silver medalist and Flutie Fellow Tyler Lagasse secured his long-awaited gold medal after shooting a 77 (+5) in the final round on June 9.

It was a duel between Lagasse and another Flutie Foundation-sponsored golfer, Matthew Glumac. Glumac was playing with clubs donated by the Foundation after they were lost during the shipping process. He was neck and neck with Lagasse all the way until the final hole and will go home with a silver medal.

Experience paid off for Lagasse as he came into the morning calm and collected.

“Right now I feel relaxed and confident in myself,” Lagasse said. “After taking a couple warmups here, first at the greens, then at the range, right now I like what I see.”

Still, he knew it would not be easy.

“It’s going to be a heavyweight battle and a marathon rolled into one,” Lagasse said. “I want to wish good luck to Matt Glumac and Peter Condon for a thrilling round of golf, and I hope we have a good time and have some fun.”

See his full interview here:

I also caught up with Glumac briefly before the round:

Just like yesterday, Lagasse and Glumac teed off on hole 1 with Peter Condon of Washington, who was in third place behind the two of them.

Lagasse, Glumac, and Condon before teeing off

The Flutie-sponsored golfers started the day in a tie, but that changed quickly as Lagasse birdied the first hole and took the lead. Lagasse was feeling good about his putts in practice, and it showed on this hole. It validated what he noted about his putts on the practice green at the start of the day. It was clear that Lagasse was focused and ready for the round and he remained alone in first or tied for first for the rest of the tournament, as he made many of his putts under ten feet that were similar to many putts he made on days one and two but was not able to make on day three.

The race stayed very close for all golfers as Lagasse bogeyed the second hole, and Glumac bogeyed the third, which allowed Condon to begin catching up.

However, as the day went on, it started feeling more and more like a two-man race for Gold, as on each hole between 4 and 11, Lagasse and Glumac matched each other’s scores. Lagasse and Glumac appeared to be feeding off each other because if one hit a good shot, the other would follow with a shot just as impressive, whether it was a long-blasting drive, landing the green within a few feet of each other, good up and downs, or a tough long putt. While this happened, Condon was falling farther and farther behind. Condon was playing really well including some of the longest drives of the day and long irons landing inches from the pin but Lagasse and Glumac were scoring at or below par more consistently.

“It was just an incredible duel between me and him; it was so much fun how we were still matching each other on each hole,” Glumac said. “I would make a good shot and then he’d make a good shot right on top of it… it’s something that I’ll never forget.”

Staying close was the theme of the day as their overall scores remained close along with the proximity of their golf balls. On hole 6, all three golfers landed the green in one, each landing within 7 feet of the hole. On hole 8, Glumac and Lagasse landed the green in a very similar spot. There was even one hole where Condon hit his 300+ yard drive to the exact same spot as Glumac’s ball and their balls collided.

Hole 12 was a turning point in the round. Lagasse had been at even par for the day through 11 holes and drove the ball really well off the tee on hole 12. However, on his second shot, he was just short of the slightly elevated but steep edged green and his ball bounced back into a nearly unplayable hazard, and thus opted to drop and take a penalty stroke.

However, on the same hole 12, Glumac’s blasting drive landed at the edge of a similar hazard but the bounce was fortunate and gave Glumac the opportunity to hit a shot that reached the green. Glumac ultimately bogeyed the hole but Lagasse finished with a double bogey placing Lagasse and Glumac in the same spot they started the day, tied for first.

Lagasse was rattled a bit by the results on hole 12 and his tee shot from the 13th tee (par 3 hole), landed in the sand trap just left of the hole. He had a difficult lie on the edge of the bunker and his first shot out of the sand landed just a couple of feet forward and still in the trap, and represented the only time in the day that Lagasse had big challenges on consecutive holes.

Lagasse quickly regained his composure, and his next shot was a turning point that helped him settle down and relax again. Lagasse’s third shot hit the flag, which slowed it down, and then the ball hit the pin on the way down towards the hole, and almost went straight into the hole before rolling away about 18 inches. The fortunate bounce led to crowd cheers and also appeared to give Lagasse a bounce in his step.

Lagasse showed he was back on track in the holes that followed hole 13 because he went on a streak, matching Glumac’s score all the way until the final results were decided on the 18th hole. He was able to do this despite the lightning threat that forced all golfers to stop play for nearly two hours.

“I didn’t play for two whole hours…and during that time I got know Mr. Glumac very well,” Lagasse said about his opponent who is also sponsored by the Flutie Foundation.

Lagasse and Glumac had both landed the green in one on the par 3 hole 15 before the weather warning horn sounded and sent them back to the clubhouse without the opportunity to even attempt their birdie putts.

The two Flutie Foundation-sponsored golfers remained tied and had mixed feelings about the time inside. They were able to calm down a bit and bond with each other as they sat inside at the same table. However, the long break interrupted their flow, as play did not resume until nearly 2:00 PM.

Play Resumes after Long Wait

The long wait seemed to impact them because despite taking the time to stretch a bit, they were not allowed to take any practice putts or drives. As a result, all three golfers ended up above par once play resumed on the 15th hole. However, they quickly refocused on the 16th hole as they all made par. These golfers were close together once again with just two holes left to decide their fate.

It was clear that Lagasse was correct about how this day was going to be a duel. As the streak continued with the golfers matching each other hole for hole, blow for blow like heavyweight fighters, I overheard Glumac say in a lighthearted way, how the day was “getting kinda of boring.” It was clear that these golfers had the utmost respect for each other and knew that the Gold medal would be dependent on their performances to come on the tough 17th (par 5) and 18th (par 4) holes. They were clearly enjoying the competition that was pushing them both to stay focused on their goal to win the four-day tournament that had them tied through 70 holes.

After a strong drive on the 17th hole, Glumac appeared to be in a good position to gain a stroke to set him up with a good chance to win Gold. However, Lagasse overcame a difficult tee shot that landed in an area with a bunch of trees. It was clear that Lagasse could not reach the green in two shots so he decided to take a more conservative second shot. His ball landed off the very wide green to the far left with about 60 feet of green between his ball and the pin. Lagasse then hit a great chip shot to land about 6 feet from the hole and was able to save par with a solid mid-range putt, similar to putts he was able to make all day.

Meanwhile, despite Glumac’s great drive on the par 5 hole, he appeared to purposefully lay up as a large bunker was in front of the green and he wanted to avoid it. His second shot landed short of the green but then he chipped on the green to reach it in three shots. However, his birdie attempt went a few feet past the hole. This left Lagasse and Glumac tied for the tournament with only the final hole remaining.

My dad/cameraman suggested we drive our golf cart to where the spotter was standing to watch the three golfers tee off. When Lagasse landed his drive past the spotter with a great lie in the middle of the fairway, the spotter commented that it was the best drive he had seen all day. George Kent, Lagasse’s caddy, called it “clutch.”

“It was a textbook drive; that’s all I can say about that,” Lagasse said after he signed his scorecard.

Since Lagasse teed off first, Glumac had even more added pressure to hit the ball well as it appeared clear that Lagasse could reach the green easily in two shots. However, Glumac’s tee shot ended up going down the left side of the fairway fringe and was about 50-75 yards behind Lagasse’s first shot. With Lagasse in a perfect position to go for the green in two shots, Glumac seemingly had no choice but to try and reach in two shots as well. His second shot landed in the hazard area with tall grass and thick bushes. Despite help from Lagasse and Condon, the ball was not found and Glumac had to take a penalty stroke which ultimately gave Lagasse a great opportunity to win Gold.

Lagasse landed his second shot just to the right of the green, but the pin was positioned close by, about 15 feet away. He noted later that if he aimed left of the pin to adjust for the wind, he could have landed the green, but he was still able to recover. He nearly chipped in for birdie and the win, rolling a foot from the hole. Even without making the chip, Lagasse was well ahead of Glumac and in line to win Gold. He marked his ball and raised his hat and club to the crowd as he waited for Glumac and Condon to finish before taking his final shot to win the tournament in front of an excited crowd.

Take a look at the shot-by-shot video coverage from the final hole that captures the final few shots that sealed the victory Gold for Lagasse and Silver for Glumac:

Glumac ended up with a triple bogey to finish the day with an 80 (+8). He finished the tournament three strokes behind Lagasse and won Silver. Condon shot an 85 (+13) to finish the tournament 10 strokes behind Lagasse and win bronze.

Below are scorecards, photos, and interviews from after the final round.

Tyler Lagasse: Gold Medal Scorecard and Interview

Lagasse on the green (photo by Andrew Gomez)

Matthew Glumac: Silver Medal Scorecard and Interview

Glumac on the 11th green (photo by Andrew Gomez)

Peter Condon Final Scorecard

Condon on the 11th green (photo by Andrew Gomez)

Interview with Lagasse’s Mom, Deb Lagasse

Amy Bockerstette Interview

I also ran into the Level 5 golfer I interviewed on Wednesday, Amy Bockerstette. She recognized me after her round was complete and walked right up to me and gave me a big hug. After that, we had the chance to talk again briefly.

The Final Leaderboard

Closing Remarks after an amazing week

It’s been a pleasure covering these golfers, and I’m glad that the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism has allowed these golfers to thrive alongside my reporting.

We started and ended the week at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, former home of the NBA bubble and current home base of the Special Olympics athletes. We watched exciting rounds of golf at the Orange County National Golf Center and spent some quality time with other people from the Foundation who had also come to the games.

The Flutie Foundation team for the USA Games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports

We even watched Game 3 of the NBA Finals with Nick Savarese, the Foundation’s Executive Director, and celebrated together as the Celtics made clutch shot after clutch shot to take down the Warriors.

Nick Savarese watched Game 3 with us at his hotel bar in the Lobby area

The Flutie Foundation made this amazing week possible. Lagasse was able to practice golf more often while working a part-time job at the PGA Tour Superstore. Glumac was provided new clubs from the Flutie Foundation so he didn’t have to use rentals. I was able to receive more media exposure thanks to Nick Savarese, Liz Monroe, Ethan Michaud, and the rest of the Foundation. I’m also thankful for Lagasse and Glumac for taking the time to seek me out for interviews.

All of us involved with the Foundation were there for each other throughout the games. Lagasse and Glumac were both looking to lift up each other’s golf games. We (Nick, Liz, Ethan, my Dad, and I) came together to watch all the golfers and also attended events to cheer for Flutie Foundation-supported performers at the games including Cierra June Reynolds as well as Jake and Sky Velazquez. We also kept each other updated about the battle on the golf course when we were not together.

There are many others I’d like to thank for helping make my coverage some of my best so far and apologies if I have missed anyone. Susan Storey at the Special Olympics went above and beyond to provide us full access to the USA Games and personally delivered my reporting equipment I left at the ESPN Media Resource Center on day two. Lee Williamson of the Orange National Golf Center was also very supportive and gave us information about tee times and made sure we had a golf cart to beat the heat and keep up with the golfers to capture all their big moments on film. Josh Vorensky of ESPN, an Ithaca College alum who covered the 2018 Special Olympic Games in Seattle, helped out a bunch even while on vacation. Jen Lada of ESPN (also worked in Seattle Games) kept us connected with the reporters on-site. Lagasse’s mom, Deb Lagasse, kept us posted on things we may have missed. Andrew Gomez from Team Iowa sent me some pictures from the week that I was able to use in this post. Amy Bockerstette and her dad Joe took the time for two interviews with me in between ESPN coverage that had them in high demand.

Most importantly, and last but not least, I’d like to thank my dad/cameraman/assistant Ken Roberts. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without his help recording and combing through footage I needed. We also had to work through our fair share of challenges, like a dead car key battery needed to drive our rental car, storage issues on our devices, leaving items behind at multiple locations, and trouble getting into our hotel late at night after investing extra hours to review, report, edit, and create reports on the day’s events. Without my dad’s attention to detail and problem-solving abilities, I don’t know how I would have handled all these challenges alone. I feel fortunate to have a dad that shares my passion for sports and pushes me to learn and improve from every sports reporting experience.

Me and my dad at Orange County National Golf Center after Lagasse won Gold and Glumac won Silver

What’s Next?

I plan to return to the Special Olympics Games in 2026 to cover Glumac, Lagasse, and many other impressive athletes that do not let their disabilities define them. If I am successful as an Ithaca College Park Scholar and further improve my sports media skills, I plan to return to the next Special Olympics USA Games in four years as a recent college graduate, and hopefully new employee of ESPN or other top sports media organization, ready to do whatever is needed to realize my dream to become a professional sports journalist.

In front of the ESPN Wide World of Sports on my final day of reporting as I headed to the ESPN media center.

Regardless of what future sports reporting experiences are ahead, I will never forget this week, and you can all relive my experience too. Check out all of my coverage from the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando here!

Day 3 in Orlando: 3 Golfers Close Together after Round 3 of Level 5 Golf

We have a tight race for gold in Level 5 golf as two Flutie Foundation sponsored autistic golfers, Tyler Lagasse of Massachusetts and Matthew Glumac of Southern California are tied for first with Peter Condon of Washington just two strokes behind.

Lagasse and Condon both competed in Seattle and tied with a total score of 244. Glumac, 27, is a newcomer to the Special Olympics, and it’s the biggest tournament he’s played in. While he lost his clubs on the way here, the Flutie Foundation stepped up to get him the new clubs of his choice, and it has paid off.

The Special Olympics called the Flutie Foundation because it was known that they have sponsored golfers before including current sponsored golfer Flutie Fellow Tyler Lagasse. The Foundation also has a relationship with the PGA Tour Superstore, where Lagasse recently began working thanks in part to the Foundation. On Sunday June 5th, The Foundation learned about all the specifications of Matt’s clubs that were lost and went to the store to get Matt Glumac new clubs that were nearly identical to what he was used to. By 6PM, the night before the golf tournament started, they personally delivered the clubs to Matt.

The Foundation has now officially sponsored Glumac. Matt has a passion for sports in common with me and even has his own vlog known as “The Autistic Golfer.” He already feels welcome within the Flutie Foundation family.

“It was so generous of them to give me those clubs,” Glumac said. “I can actually keep them, that means so much. They didn’t have to go through all that just for me. I most likely was going to be using a rental set here and they went out of their way to get some good clubs for me.”

Lagasse is proud to play alongside Glumac and welcome him to the Flutie Foundation family.

“It’s so good to see that the Flutie Foundation has his back. It has not been easy (for Matt)… we’re there for each other, I don’t care where you’re from, whether it’s Boston, Massachusetts or San Diego, California.”

Today was a hot one and the competition made it feel hotter. It was a high-stakes day and tomorrow will be as well, but Lagasse hopes the three of them can relax and have more fun playing together in tomorrow’s round.

“I think the pressure made it feel hotter, and you can’t take away the temperature,” Lagasse said. “It was hot in the back nine but I think we were just putting too much pressure on ourselves. We were playing tense golf.”

Lagasse, Glumac, and Condon all teed off together on hole 1. The three of them were the only golfers placed in division 1 for the Level 5 competition. The winner of this gold medal could be considered the best Special Olympic golfer in the country right now. The golfers started off strong, with all three making par on hole 1.

After this hole, Glumac got into a groove. Despite bogeying hole 2, he birdied hole 4 and was at even par through 5. The strong start had him 5 strokes ahead of Lagasse.

Hole 7, a par 4, was a challenge for all three golfers as temps continued to rise. Lagasse bogeyed, Condon double bogeyed, and Glumac triple bogeyed. It was after this hole that the race began to tighten once again.

On hole 9, Lagasse went for a risky drive on a dog left fairway. While the green was a challenge for him, the risk paid off as he remained just one stroke behind Glumac on the day and two strokes for the tournament overall to conclude the front nine.

While Lagasse’s 84 was his worst score of the tournament, Lagasse’s back nine score of a 41 was his best yet at the tournament through three days. While the heat and pressure affected the golf today, golfers have benefitted from continuing to learn the course.

“I was willing to take risks because I knew the course a little bit more, and therefore I used driver more often and 3-wood more often,” Lagasse said.

Hole 14, a par 5, was an important hole for Lagasse. Yesterday, he bogeyed the hole after being challenged by a difficult lie. Today, Lagasse flipped the script by reaching the fringe in 2 shots and walked away with his only birdie on the day but it was a big moment for his round.

After hole 14, Lagasse, Glumac, and Condon all stood at +10 on the day, meaning Lagasse was still 1 behind Glumac for the tournament just like he was when the day began. For the first time since hole 1, all three golfers had the same score, as they made par on hole 15.

Hole 16 was another challenge for all three golfers. However, this also made the race even closer. It was a Glumac double bogey that allowed Lagasse to tie Glumac’s cumulative score.

Lagasse and Glumac remained neck and neck for the rest of the day, and Condon gained a stroke on them with a birdie on hole 17. Now it will truly be a three horse race for gold in tomorrow’s final round.

3 golfers, Condon (left, +25), Lagasse (middle, +23), and Glumac (right, +23) close together on the hole 18 green.

Below are scorecards and interviews of all three golfers in the running.

Lagasse’s Scorecard and Interview

Glumac’s Scorecard and Interview

Condon’s Scorecard and Interview

Other Stories around the Course

ESPN has been following the two female golfers in the Level 5 competition, Grace Braxton and Amy Bockerstette.

Braxton, a division 2 golfer, had the chance to play a hole with retired multi-sport athlete Tim Tebow.

Bockerstette, the first college athlete with down syndrome to receive an athletic scholarship, was featured by ESPN yesterday and I had the chance to interview her today.

For another funny story, Florida is known for its gators and that proved true here today. Fortunately, the golfers cleared the water trap on the par 3 hole 13 where a baby alligator was spotted along with a young turtle a few feet away.

Leaderboard Update

With these scores, the leaderboard is looking like this.

The golfers are all hoping to improve their scores tomorrow to make for some close, exciting golf.

“I need consistency,” Glumac said. “I was basically all over the place today… one thing I want to do is just go out with Tyler and Peter and try to have some fun… my heart was racing really fast today. I feel like no matter what I tried I couldn’t get my heart to stop beating. It’s a lot of tension, and Tyler’s been in it before… if I were to lose to anyone, I’d want to lose to Tyler, because he deserves to win this just as much as I do.”

Stay tuned for coverage of the final round here tomorrow.

Day 2 in Orlando: Level 5 Golf Recap

Tyler Lagasse improved on his Day 1 score by shooting a 77 (+5) in Tuesday, June 7’s round, putting him in position for an elite leaderboard position and division alongside Matthew Glumac of Southern California, who shot a 75 (+3) and Peter Condon of Washington, who shot a 83 (+11$).

Lagasse teed off on hole 1 with Ian Kelley of Florida and Ben Purick of New York as part of an 8AM shotgun start. He went in with a strategy of consistency.

“I‘ll just try to stay calm, focused, and keep the ball in play,” Lagasse said. “The course is a little tighter than I anticipated.

Similar to yesterday, Lagasse started his round on a high note. He was at even par through the first 3 holes. Then on the 4th hole, both Lagasse and Kelley chipped in for eagle. Lagasse and Kelley were ecstatic after their eagles and made sure to celebrate.

“Those were the two shots of the day in my opinion,” Lagasse said.

Lagasse remained -2 through 8 holes, and right around then Bruins Foundation CEO Bob Sweeney stopped by to watch Tyler for a few holes. However, the momentum began to shift when Tyler bogeyed on two consecutive holes. He made par on 11, but then came hole 12, one of the most difficult holes on the entire course.

Both Lagasse and Purick, who were driving from the same longer distance tee, double bogeyed on 12 after landing their ball in a penalty zone. Lagasse is thinking about how he can improve on hole 12 for the next two days.

“I have to mentally prepare myself, maybe hit my 5-iron a little better… not overcutting the ball, not overswinging,” Lagasse said.

Hole 14, a par 5, was another challenge for Lagasse. He was driving the ball extremely well, but his 2nd shot landed just right of the green. It took 2 more shots after this to get on the green due to a difficult lie. Once Lagasse got onto the green, his first putt nearly made it, but he ended up having to tap in for bogey.

“From outside 10 feet, I could use some more improvement [on my putts],” Lagasse said.

In the final four holes, Lagasse made par twice and bogeyed twice to finish +5 on the day. Purick and Kelley were +11 and +13, respectively. Here’s Tyler’s final scorecard from the day:

Lagasse finished the two rounds that will be used for division placement with a two-day score of 155 (+11), one stroke behind Glumac, whose total is 154 (+10). Glumac and Lagasse are first and second. Peter Condon is in third at 158 (+14). Lagasse’s division and the full leaderboard have not been announced yet, but I will add those to this article when they are out.

See below for clips from my post-round interview with Tyler:

After interviewing Tyler, I ran into Jen Lada of ESPN, who I first met in Seattle at the 2018 USA Games. Today, Jen was covering one of two female golfers in the level 5 competition, Amy Bockerstette. Bockerstette is the first person with Down Syndrome to receive an athletic scholarship to attend college for any sport. I’ll be interviewing Amy myself tomorrow, so stay tuned for that.

I also caught up with Travis Curtis of Maine, an autistic level 5 golfer who will be attending a Flutie Foundation event tonight. His cumulative score is a 170 (+26), as he shot an 83 yesterday and an 87 today.

Before I signed off for the day, I reported as if I was called upon for a live update from in front of the entrance to Orange County National Golf Center. Stay tuned for more golf coverage here and coverage of what’s happening at the ESPN Wide World of Sports tomorrow night.

2022 USA Games: Day 1 Level 5 Golf Recap

Tyler Lagasse shot a 78 (+6) on his first day of the 4-day competition and is alongside Peter Condon of Washington and Matthew Glumac of Southern California atop the leaderboard.

After being honored alongside the rest of Team Massachusetts at Opening Ceremony on Sunday, June 5, Lagasse came into today ready to go. He was on the course early to stretch out and teed off from hole 1 as part of a shotgun start at 8:00 AM sharp. Lagasse started off the day on fire as he impressed his mom (heard in the video clip) and himself by eagling a par 5.

“Of course it wasn’t the first time I eagled the first hole in any competition, but eagle on the 1st hole was a thrill,” Lagasse said.

After the eagle, Lagasse was able to remain steady through the rest of the front nine. He was at even par through the first nine holes. 

Fortunately, like the rest of the golfers, Tyler Lagasse did not have to walk the course in the heat. Instead he rode a golf cart (pictured here with his caddy George Kent).

The back nine of Crooked Cat is known for being more challenging than the front nine. The rising temperatures coupled with the humidity made the back nine even more difficult. Lagasse bogeyed a few holes on the back nine but he still finished with a good first day score. Lagasse believes he can do even better tomorrow.

“The weather was gorgeous overall,” Lagasse said. “I just had trouble executing on the back nine and need to work on my consistency for tomorrow… still, any score under 80 is a good one.”

Below is Lagasse’s final scorecard:

Lagasse is currently in second place behind Condon, who was neck and neck with him in Seattle 2018. Glumac is in a close 3rd. Ryan Luck and Travis Curtis, who teed off with Lagasse, are also in the mix. See the full top 10 below.

Stay tuned for more coverage here of the rest of the golf tournament.