Sports at Large | WYPR

Sports at Large

"Sports at Large" airs Mondays at 5:44 P.M.

Sports at Large is a weekly exploration of the issues and people who play and watch sports. SaL goes behind the headlines and stats to find the how and why, and the ways in which sports intersect with and influence our daily lives. SaL features interviews and commentaries from professionals and fans a like to tell a more complete story. One person described it as "a thinking fan’s guide to sports."

Milton Kent is a veteran of Baltimore sports media, having covered the World Series, the Final Four, NFL conference championship games and high schools over a career that spans over four decades. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University, where he is an advisor to the school newspaper, The MSU Spokesman. He and his wife live in Baltimore County. 

Contact Milton at sportsatlarge@gmail.com and on Twitter: @SportsAtLarge

Archive prior to December 2016.

 

 

Collegiate athletes in California are one step closer to gaining a piece of financial freedom, now that a bill giving them the right to profit from their image and likeness has cleared the state legislature.

And, more importantly, the NCAA, college sports’ governing body, seems one step from realizing that young people don’t sacrifice their right to control their own destiny at the cost of a scholarship.

Too bad that recognition will almost certainly come not with enlightenment or social advancement, but with probable litigation that will only delay the inevitable.

There’s no truth to the rumor that school officials are thinking of changing the fight song at the University of Maryland to “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

But there’s no mistaking the advanced stage of giddiness in College Park and environs over the stunning start to the 2019 football season for the Terps, who have burst from the gates in amazing fashion.

Maryland opened the season a week ago Saturday with a 79-0 thrashing of Howard. While the score may have been shocking, the outcome shouldn’t have been.

NCAA Again Shows No Mercy For Athletes

Sep 2, 2019

The Virginia Tech football team opened their 2019 season Saturday against Boston College and Brock Hoffman had hoped to be part of the action for the Hokies.

Hoffman, an offensive lineman, transferred from Coastal Carolina to Tech’s Blacksburg campus in part to anchor the Hokies’ interior line.

Mostly, though, Hoffman wanted to help his ailing mother and hoped the NCAA, college athletics’ governing body, would show compassion.

It’s been said that we as a culture have lost the capacity to be surprised, that there’s little in this day and age that truly shocks us anymore.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I was truly taken aback Saturday night when word leaked out that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was retiring from football.

For the last week, the major question raging through African American barbershops, backyard barbecues and other places where black men gather had nothing to do with a possible impending recession or where to buy good property on Greenland.

No, the burning debate centers on whether one Shawn Corey Carter has left Colin Kaepernick hanging high and dry with his new deal with the NFL.

After the season the Orioles have had and the week they endured last week, Sunday afternoon’s home plate celebration following Rio Ruiz’s ninth inning home run to beat Houston must have been as cathartic as it was joyful.

Goodness knows the Birds needed something to rejoice in after getting pounded for three games by the Yankees and narrowly dropping a 23-2 decision to the Astros Saturday night in a game where Carlos Correia hit the longest measured home run in Camden Yards history.

AP Photo/Michel Euler

It’s hard to ascribe “blink and you missed it” status to something that goes on for three weeks.

Yet, one of the world’s great sporting events, the Tour de France, ended last week with hardly a notice in the American press beyond NBC, the network that aired the event.

And even NBC restricted its coverage to the weekends, relegating the bulk of its telecasts to a streaming outlet and a cable channel.

While checking out my Twitter feed the other night, I happened upon the page of Rich Eisen, an NFL Network anchor.

Eisen, who hosts one of the best sports talk shows in the business, posted a link to a Baltimore Sun editorial which took President Trump to task over his tweets directed at Congressman Elijah Cummings.

Eisen retweeted the piece with the sentence, “Without question, the most scathing op-ed I’ve ever read.” Seems innocuous enough, right?

Yet, it didn’t take long for someone to direct Eisen to "stick to sports." The poster further argued that the mere act of retweeting something was an opinion, adding "celebrity politics don’t matter." 

By week’s end, the full complement of Ravens will have reported to Owings Mills for training camp and the commencing of the 2019 season.

As the players and coaches gather to formulate the roster for the beginning of the NFL campaign, fans and the media will cast glances at certain position battles.

@USWNT/twitter

There are victory tours and then there’s the whirlwind that the United States national women’s soccer team is on.

There was a parade down the Canyon of Heroes in midtown Manhattan last week followed by a mass appearance on the ESPY Awards. Their team co-captain Megan Rapinoe even showed up on Meet the Press, for goodness sake.

Yes, these are heady times for the group of women who conquered all comers during their month-long sojourn to France, making millions of admirers and a certain detractor at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

There’s nothing about what we’ve seen so far this season from Camden Yards that should come as a surprise.

Anyone who watched the 2018 Orioles devolve into the team that lost a franchise record 115 games could not have imagined a significantly better 2019.

Once Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day were dealt at roughly around this time last year, Orioles management effectively hung out the “Gone Fishin” sign for the foreseeable future.

Michael Angelo / via flickr

It turns out that Albert Einstein may not have been the first person to say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Even if Einstein didn’t say it, the saying is still true, as demonstrated – again – by the NCAA.

Once more, the folks who run the governing body for college athletics have shown that they just can’t stop doing their favorite thing, which is trying to keep college athletes in the Dark Ages.

Now that the dust has settled and the NBA Finals are over, the Toronto Raptors can set out about the most important decision of the postseason.

The Raptors, the first basketball champion to hail from a non-U.S. address, have, what appears to be, a vexing issue on their hands, within days of claiming their title.

The Toronto players, coaches and management have to decide whether to be feted by one North American head of state or two.

That the Raptors will be welcomed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a fait accompli.

In case you didn’t notice, Canadians from Victoria to Halifax went slightly bonkers earlier this month when the Raptors wrested the professional basketball crown away from the defending two-time champion Golden State Warriors.

It’s been a little over a year since Jordan McNair collapsed on a University of Maryland football practice field and died.

In most respects, it appears that Maryland officials have taken McNair’s death to heart and have learned significant lessons from it.

In a press conference last August, University President Wallace Loh pledged full accountability and transparency. In many ways, the school has fulfilled those promises.

The coach who supervised the program is gone and a number of substantive changes in how things work in the football program and the athletic department have taken place.

Also, the school has, largely, pulled back the curtain on how things are done.

But there are still important areas where it seems that Maryland hasn’t gotten it.

@bigten/twitter

Just in time for the rest of us to settle into the 21st century, a piece to settle in, one branch of college athletics has finally advanced to the 20th century.

The Big Ten Conference tapped former Minnesota Vikings COO Kevin Warren as its new commissioner last week. In the process, the Big Ten became the first of the so-called Power Five conferences to select an African-American to such a post.

@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.

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