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Virus cancels Lafayette-Lehigh, longest college rivalry

When the Patriot League announced this week it was canceling fall sports due to the coronavirus it barely caused a ripple among average sports fans.

But for those who follow time-honored college football rivalries or once occupied the 4 seat in the 8-seat shell for the Lehigh rowing team, it resulted in a tidal wave of despair.

“They canceled Lehigh-Laf. Ugh. It’s upsetting,” said Danielle Freedman, the clinical research coordinator/office manager for her father’s Summerlin-based urology practice who rowed and met her husband, Brian, at Lehigh.

Lehigh is the Mountain Hawks. (It used to be the Engineers). Laf is Lafayette — the Leopards. The two tree-lined campuses are set 17 miles apart in the Lehigh Valley in eastern Pennsylvania. The football teams representing them have been playing each other since 1884, and without interruption since 1896.

ESPN ranked Lafayette-Lehigh No. 8 on its list of great college football rivalries.

The game — simply called “The Rivalry” — is so revered there has been talk about playing it next spring to keep the 130-game streak (sometimes the teams met twice a year and in 1891 they played three times) going with an asterisk.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Freedman, a graduate of The Meadows and organizer of a local Lehigh-Lafayette viewing party at McMullan’s Irish Pub. “Both sides get into it, go overboard with it.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in the world. If you find somebody from the rival school, they will bring up the football rivalry and have that same passion for it.”

She compared it to the Army-Navy game, minus the epaulets on the dress blues.

“It’s just like that, only without all the rules and regulations,” said Freedman, who said she tried out for the rowing team but quit after her freshman year to focus on academics — never a bad idea at a Patriot League school.

“When I was there, all the frat houses had some sort of memorabilia from Lafayette — like a piece of the stadium,” she said. “They all had something they either stole or obtained through some illegal means as a token.

“Especially when we won.”

Around the horn

— Armani Rogers, the latest UNLV quarterback who showed sparks of potential before flaming out and announcing this week he’d be transferring to Ohio, sort of reminds me of Jason Thomas, with the exception that Thomas was left-handed.

And that late in the third quarter on Dec. 21, 2000, in a bowl game against a Southeastern Conference opponent, Thomas faked a hand-off on third and long from his own 46-yard line, rolled slightly left, squared his shoulders and detonated a perfectly placed bomb that Troy Mason caught between two Arkansas defenders for a touchdown that put the Rebels ahead 21-14 in a game they would win 31-14.

It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since Thomas did that, but those who witnessed it probably can still feel a tingle down their spine.

— Kevin Harvick’s four victories notwithstanding, the most impressive performance since NASCAR resumed its season was pit road broadcaster and Green Valley High graduate Jamie Little scrambling to interview Harrison Burton moments after he got into a fistfight with Las Vegas’ Noah Gragson after the Xfinity Series race at Kentucky. And then, with the cameras still rolling, hustling to get Gragson’s side of the altercation during the same sequence.

— I finally got around to watching “Game of Their Lives,” a 2005 movie about the upstart U.S. soccer team upsetting England in the 1950 World Cup. During the game recreation scene, a player on the English side who looked a lot like former Lights FC coach Eric Wynalda (except for a haircut befitting the time period), rattled a shot of the crossbar.

Turns out it was Wynalda — he was one of technical directors of the movie currently playing on Showtime.

“One take,” the former U.S. national team star replied via text about how long it took him to hit the bar on demand.

0:01

The NHL and NBA will be resuming their seasons in a sterile environment, but that’s basically where the similarities end.

Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer, when asked about taking snack food from Las Vegas into the NHL bubble: “We’re going to Canada, we’re not going to the moon. I think we’ll find snack foods; they have them in Canada, too.”

Former NBA player Al Harrington, when asked about taking marijuana into the NBA bubble: “Bring more than you think you are going to need.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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