Sports at Large | WYPR

Sports at Large

@Ravens/Twitter

So, the Ravens completed their exhibition season with no blemishes on their record, a 5-0 mark, making them the only NFL team to win all their preseason games.

Now, before you run out and book plane and hotel reservations for Atlanta, the scene of February’s Super Bowl, consider this fact: The Ravens went unbeaten last exhibition season and the exhibition season before that.

And both of the succeeding regular seasons ended with the Ravens out of the playoffs.

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

 

Never having met John McCain, my guess is the former Arizona senator, who died Saturday night, would find much of what has been said about him since his death, amusing, as if to say, geez, I wish you had loved me this much when I was still here on Earth.

But one of the under-reported parts of McCain’s legacy was his impact on sports.

The so-called maverick and engineer of the straight talk express didn’t hesitate to exert his influence on athletics. But unlike a lot of politicians who look like preening schmoes when they try to mix it up in sports, McCain was authentic in an athletic milieu.

@cedmull30/twitter

Let’s face it: From a sports standpoint, the calendar year 2018 has been nothing but lousy around these parts.

We certainly could use a glimmer of hope, some piece of positivity to hitch our collective Charm City wagons to.

It’s only been a couple of weeks, mind you, but newly christened center fielder Cedric Mullins shows signs of being a linchpin of a brighter Orioles future.

@THEREALJMCNAIR/TWITTER

It’s been 32 years since Len Bias’ death sent the University of Maryland lurching about for its soul.

When that search was over, the entire power structure of the athletic department and the university itself had been toppled and the school emerged sufficiently chastened with a better sense of right and wrong.

Three decades later, it may take another death, that of football player Jordan McNair, to force people at College Park and beyond to examine what the university and its athletics are really about.

@raylewis/Twitter

If you’ve ever seen a talent show from the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem, you know that at some point when an act has stayed long past its welcome, a fellow named Sandman would emerge, with a hook to usher the offending performer off the stage.

The original Sandman has gone on to his eternal rest, but we sure could use him, or a reasonable facsimile to assist Ray Lewis out of our consciousness.

Tom Newby/flickr

The onset of football training camps serves as a reminder that there is no group of humans more inclined to obliviousness than college football coaches.

They consistently show an uncanny ability to tune the rest of the world out to focus on their team and their sport, often to their own embarrassment and the shame of the school.

We present, for your consideration, the recent contributions of leaders of two prominent programs to the assemblage of asinine utterings.

First up, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, who told a gathering of media two weeks ago that it hadn’t been proven that football causes chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

@Orioles/Twitter

So, Manny Machado is really gone. The deal that no one really wanted, yet virtually every one knew had to happen actually happened last Wednesday, as Machado was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for five minor league prospects.

Now that the deal has been done, it’s time for the Orioles to come up with a post-Manny plan, to figure out what to do now that the breakup is official.

In case they’re not sure, I’ve come up with a five step program. They can thank me later.

@Manny_Machado13/Twitter

Sometime before 8:30 Tuesday night, Manny Machado will step into the batter’s box in Washington’s Nationals Park and prepare to take his cuts in the Major League All-Star Game.

By 9 or 9:30, Machado’s All Star duties will be done. So, too, likely, will be his tenure with the Orioles.

umterps.com

On the list of cushy jobs in sports, big-time college athletic director is right near the top.

Millions of dollars and the finest facilities are yours to command. You get to fly in private jets and eat the best food and on someone else’s dime to boot.

Athletic directors also get the power to hire and fire coaches as well as the ability to change thousands of young lives by funding a part or all of their college education.

It’s no wonder Damon Evans wanted in on the University of Maryland’s athletic director gig, which he received a couple of weeks ago.

Capital Gazette

You know the kind of friend that you don’t see all that regularly, but when you do, you always walk away thinking, ‘Man, I wish we hung out more?”

That’s what John McNamara was to me. There was never a time over the 37 years I knew John where I didn’t leave the meeting feeling better.

apox apox/flickr

What’s in a couple of letters behind a man’s name?

Well, in sports, those letters Jr. or Sr. can tell a story of sustained excellence.

Four years ago, former Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith added the letters Sr. to his jersey to reflect his status as the paterfamilias in a group where his younger son, Steve, may follow the old man and his big brother, Peyton, into the family business.

@TheRealJMcNair/Twitter

There are questions that need answering in the wake of the death last week of former University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair.

Some of those questions may not be resolved until an external review is conducted by the athletic department, but there’s one question that doesn’t need to wait for any review and ought to be the first one to be answered:

Exactly what was McNair or any of his teammates doing on a practice field on May 29?

@Capitals/Twitter

How do you quantify frustration, in a sports context?

How much pain and ache can a heart take over a team’s repeated failures?

And how long do you wait for success before you give up hope?

For hockey fans in this region, those questions have seemed to have no answers since the day in 1974 when the Washington Capitals began play in the NHL.

Tom Newby/flickr

Ten years ago, St. Francis Academy, the oldest continuously operating, predominately African-American Catholic school in the United States, launched a football program.

The theory after more than 150 years of no football was that the game would give boys at the East Baltimore school something to do after school that would keep them away from gangs.

At the time, I did a series of stories for WYPR on the growing pains of the program, so I know how special football is for that school.

Today, the Panthers are at the center of a controversy that touches on the question of how much success is too much, as well as on race.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File

Black players in the National Football League have awakened to the realization, that despite their gifts to what has become the nation’s most popular sport, which are substantial, their views aren’t welcome.

That was the takeaway from the announcement following the NFL’s recent owners’ meeting, where it was decreed that dissent would not be brooked in the league.

What else are they to make of a policy that states that players who wish to bring attention to the rising instances of seemingly sanctioned police brutality towards people of color by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem now have two choices.

AP Photo/Nick Wass

It was probably difficult to see on television Saturday, what with all that fog and mist that enveloped Pimlico, but a few seconds after Justify won the Preakness, another horse crossed the finish line.

This horse, however, is far older than the field of three year-olds in the race, but know this: If Justify has this horse’s stamina, he’ll win the Belmont and thus the Triple Crown going away in less than three weeks.

In a nod to the group, America, this horse has no name, per se, but rather a theme, namely that Pimlico Race Course is in trouble.

www.mcdonogh.org

You could get pretty good odds in Vegas or even at Pimlico this weekend that you couldn’t say with specificity what you were doing on April 13, 2009, or that you are doing the same thing now.

Don’t be insulted. That’s no knock on you personally, but rather a recognition that most of us don’t have total recall or perform precisely the same task over an extended period.

Heck, that date was my birthday and I don’t even remember what I did.

An exception might be granted to members of the McDonogh girls lacrosse team. From the aforementioned April date nine years ago until last Friday, the Eagles did one thing, the same thing, over and over.

Win.

@Orioles/Twitter

It’s easy to look at the first month of the Orioles’ season and declare that all is lost.

Just look at the statistics. You can learn something of a team from the number of runs they score and the number of runs they allow. By those metrics, the Orioles are lousy.

To wit, there are 15 teams in the American League. Only two clubs have a higher earned run average than the Birds. And no team has scored fewer runs than Baltimore.

That adds up to lousy.

@Lj_era8/flickr

Budding journalists are taught that at the heart of every news story are six questions to be answered: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.

The Ravens’ drafting of quarterback Lamar Jackson last Thursday answers four of those six, the who, the what, the when and the where pretty easily.

The how of Jackson’s selection is fairly interesting. The Ravens came into the draft possessing the 16th overall pick in the first round.

While there were rumors that the team would use that pick to take Jackson, general manager Ozzie Newsome and his crew kept their intentions close to the vest.

@WNBA/Twitter

As it has for every summer since it opened for business in 1997, the WNBA showcases the talents of more than 140 of the world’s best women’s basketball players.

And, as it has for seemingly every summer since the league opened, WNBA officials, coaches and players will face questions about the league’s viability and even whether it should exist when the new season opens in just under a month.

Just last week, Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, which operates the WNBA, gave less than full-throated support to the women’s league.

simplyaj10/flickr

There isn’t a lot that Adam Jones hasn’t done in his 10 years as the cornerstone of the Orioles lineup.

He’s led the team to the playoffs. Two weeks ago, he got the 2018 season off to an auspicious start with a walk-off home run in extra innings to win the team’s Opening Day game. 

@Kaepernick7/flickr

The Ravens signed an accomplished African-American quarterback who has been out of football for an extended period to join their roster last week.

But if you thought that signal caller’s name was Colin Kaepernick, you don’t pass go, and you don’t collect $200.

Instead of bringing in Kaepernick, the man who led the San Francisco 49ers to within a whisper of beating the Ravens in Super Bowl 47, the Baltimore brain trust instead signed Robert Griffin III.

@MarkRypien/Twitter

Mark Rypien’s first act was one many would kill for.

Rypien was a two-time All Star in the National Football League, playing for 11 seasons and for five different teams.

In 1992, Rypien led the Washington team to a Super Bowl championship and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player for his efforts.

If Rypien’s football life was a dream, his post-playing career has been a nightmare, marked with depression, anxiety, alleged domestic violence against his wife, and, by his own admission, bad decisions.

Flickr/Creative Commons

We’re just a few days away from the launch of a new baseball season.

Across the area, from Woodbine in the west, to Whiteford in the east, from the Hereford zone up north all the way to Harwood in the south, there’s no consensus about how to approach this Orioles campaign.

@UMBCAthletics/Twitter

There are those who will liken the UMBC men’s basketball team’s weekend in the NCAA tournament to an afternoon thunderstorm on a blistering hot July day. Yes, the atmosphere was shaken up for a brief time, but, in reality, the air goes back to its muggy condition in short order.

And yes, whatever betide you on Friday – cleaning out the garage, doing your taxes, clearing out your sock drawer -- is probably still staring you in the face on Monday.

With the start of spring rapidly approaching, the thoughts of many young people will turn, not lightly to love, but rather to the prospects of getting a job after graduation.

Hundreds of young men are already in career advancement mode as they await the National Football League’s draft late next month.

Many of them are just back from Indianapolis, where they participated in the league’s combine. The prospective draftees took turns running, jumping, throwing, catching and lifting in what has jokingly been called the underwear Olympics.

Gwenn Seemel/flickr

We begin today with a fairy tale and it goes something like this:

Once upon a time, athletes in the United States competed for nothing more than the human drama of athletic competition and for the glory of God and country.

And they did so in a land populated with unicorns and teddy bears with rivers flowing with chocolate and streams of cherry limeade.

And then we all woke up and got real and professional sports leagues were formed.

Suppose you were on the verge of throwing the year’s biggest party, but you weren’t sure how many guests could stay?

That’s the dilemma before NCAA President Mark Emmert, whose organization is a little more than two weeks away from its annual men’s basketball tournament.

The tournament annually holds the nation in thrall for three weeks as athletes from 68 schools chase a championship in arenas from sea to shining sea.

@KingJames/flickr

Here are four things we know:

One is that Donald Trump is President of the United States.

Two is that, barring some unforeseen occurrence, Donald Trump will be President of the United States until, at least, January 20, 2021.

Third is that something that Trump says or does will draw criticism from significant portions of the American populace.

And fourth is that some of the people who criticize Trump will be athletes.

getty images/npr

Here are four things we know:

One is that Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Two is that, barring some unforeseen occurrence, Donald Trump will be President of the United States until, at least, January 20, 2021.
Third is that something that Trump says or does will draw criticism from significant portions of the American populace.
And fourth is that some of the people who criticize Trump will be athletes. In case you hadn’t noticed, many who are happy with the first two items are dismayed with people in the third group. That’s nothing new.

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