Sports at Large | WYPR

Sports at Large

"Sports at Large" airs Mondays at 4:44 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 and on Twitter: @SportsAtLarge

Archive prior to December 2016.



isarmstrong via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

In recent weeks, baseball fans have seen some of the greatest names in the game’s great history go on to their eternal reward with such notables as Tom Seaver, Lou Brock and Whitey Ford leaving us.

Just last week, we lost Joe Morgan, the centerpiece of the Cincinnati Reds teams that won consecutive World Series in the 70s and was arguably the best second baseman in history.

Though he became a superstar with the Reds, Morgan spent his formative years in a baseball sense, with the Houston Colt 45s, who became the Astros.

Morgan would not likely have recognized the Astros as presently constituted.


Erik Drost via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In the midst of the pandemic, Americans have been forced to find forms of entertainment that don’t involve getting in a car and leaving home. 

In the process, many have discovered, or rediscovered, the old fashioned family game and one of the more popular ones is Jenga. You know, the one where kids and their parents test their skill and nerve by trying to slide out wooden blocks without knocking over the whole stack. 

That game has become something of a metaphor for what the NFL is trying to do with its schedule as COVID-19 imposes its will on teams. 

Provided by Milton Kent

While it’s true that the family stands at the core of every success story, in order to truly make a mark, you need someone outside your circle of life to believe in you.

Maybe it’s a neighbor. Perhaps it’s a member of your church or synagogue. Quite often, though, it’s a teacher or a coach, an adult instructor who perhaps sees more in you than you see in yourself.

For two generations of Baltimoreans, that special teacher and coach was Walter Cole, who helped shape and mold the lives of thousands of kids in the classroom and on the track and the playing field. 


kowarski via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

When I was a kid, I remember spending Sundays on the front porch of a friend of my older sisters, listening to old school R&B on their 45s and LPs. That sound nourished my young soul and left impressions and memories that live with me still today 50 years later.

I was especially struck by an album from the Temptations, called “In a Mellow Mood,” a collection of covers of showtunes and standards. I’ve subsequently heard dozens of adaptations of “The Impossible Dream,” but David Ruffin’s delivery of the line “to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause,” makes the Temptations’ version the definitive one for me.

Like a lot of Orioles fans, I have been thinking of their last three years as something less than a glorious quest and more like that march into hell. A pair of 100-loss seasons in 2018 and 2019 went a long way toward bringing on that kind of thinking. 

But, the now-completed 2020 season may provide hope that good things may be on the horizon. 


Hillel Steinberg via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

  A good parent keeps an eye on what other parents do, but doesn’t let their decision-making impact on the choices they must make for their own kids. 

That’s what seems to have happened with the 14 Big Ten university presidents and chancellors who reversed course last week and approved a plan to get football on the field this fall.

These leaders buckled under the weight of whining players, parents and coaches, as well as a president desperate to win re-election and authorized a slate of games for mid to late fall.


KA Sports Photos via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By all rights, Dak Prescott is the kind of guy that, in a sports context, I should hate.

For openers, he’s the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, a team on the very short list of teams that I despise, for historical and geographical reasons, and darn it, for common sense.

Prescott is quite talented, In four years in Dallas, he’s thrown for almost 16,000 yards and nearly 100 touchdowns. For that, he’ll earn about $32 million this year with the promise of likely $40 million next year, when he’ll be 28 years old.

So, add rich and gifted to young and handsome and famous and you have plenty of reasons for envy. And yet, I can’t hate Dak Prescott. In fact, in many ways, he’s a hero.


MarineCorps NewYork via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Imagine you’re preparing to impress a first date at the best restaurant in town. Or, better yet, the dates have gone so well over a period of time that you’re ready to pop the question at said bistro. 

You want everything to go just right, but when the moment comes, the restaurant screws up the occasion. Their way of squaring things? Giving you a free dessert. 

That’s essentially the scenario in play with the NFL’s announcement  that its teams will launch the season by playing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” just prior to the “Star-Spangled Banner” before each opening weekend game, including here in Baltimore next Sunday.


Victoria Pickering via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha, Wisconsin police officers last week reopened deep wounds that had barely begun to close, much less heal, among Black athletes who long ago wearied of seeing the same sad movie over and over again with the same ending.

The anger and disgust those players – women and men – feel erupted as they shut down the NBA and WNBA to make sure their grievances were heard.

That the basketball players and their leagues were at the forefront is not surprising. 


Chad Cooper via Flickr (Creative Commons BY 2.0)

When the bard posited so many years ago that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, he couldn’t have imagined the idea of 21st century sports.

In Shakespeare’s world, the term student-athlete would have been an oxymoron, like tasty gruel or benevolent king.

Flash forward to today where such linguistic gymnastics are standard fare for the NCAA and its member institutions. 


Mayo Clinic via Flickr (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It’s hard to think of this miserable time that we’ve all been forced to endure as yielding a winner, as it feels as though in some ways we’ve all lost.

Yet, if it is appropriate to speak of a person in such terms, it would appear that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver would fit the bill. 

Dinur via Flickr (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It’s been nearly 20 years since Sean Frazier was a linebacker at Alabama that he’s done anything heroic on a football field. But when the history of how sports were conducted in 2020 is written, Frazier may stand taller than anyone else.

Frazier, who is the athletic director at Northern Illinois, could emerge from this year as one of the first people to attempt to interject reason and sensibility into a time where few of those qualities exist, at least where athletics stand.

It was Frazier, and Lisa Freeman, the president of Northern Illinois, who prodded officials of the Mid-America Conference, the league that NIU belongs to, to cancel all fall sports this year, including football, out of coronavirus concerns. 


CJ Anderson via Flickr (Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0)

The phrase “speaking truth to power” has been said so frequently of late that it’s bordering on triteness, if not outright cliche.

But when a group of more than a dozen college football players addressed the leaders of the most powerful conference in the land last week about the return of the game this fall, they provided evidence that things won’t be as they’ve been before.

Indeed, speaking truth to power may, in time, be replaced by a new phrase: "kind of not good enough."


Maryland GovPics via Flickr (CREATIVE COMMONS BY 2.0)

If you’re the type that makes a wager on such things, and you bet that one of the major team sports wouldn’t be able to make it through its first week back from the pandemic without a problem, well, consider yourself a winner.

It only took four days from Major League Baseball’s launch on Thursday for the sport to hurdle into a potential crisis, as 13 Miami Marlins players and coaches tested positive for COVID-19, according to reports.

Jim the Photographer via Flicker (Creative Commons BY 2.0)

Like a steak tied at the end of a rope and thrust just out of reach of a hungry dog, the reappearance of live sports is being laid before us ever so elusively. 

NASCAR, men’s and women’s professional golf and soccer and mixed martial arts have made their respective returns, but those have only served to whet appetites for the main course.  

Ryan Schreiber via Flickr (Creative Commons BY 2.0)

Fans of professional basketball have become accustomed to seeing a studious man named Adrian Wojnarowski present the news, good or bad, about the NBA.

Behind a pair of tortoise-shell glasses, Wojnarowski brings scoop after scoop on ESPN about the goings-on in the association, delivered in what has come to be known as Woj bombs.

Well, Woj  provided quite the Woj bomb last week in the form of an f-bomb aimed at a sitting United States senator, no less, the production of which opened a discussion about the conduct of journalists.

Lorie Shaull via Flickr (Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0)

The United States marked the anniversary of its independence Saturday, but Jonathan Irons got a three-day jump on celebrating his own liberty, a celebration that was more than two decades in coming.

That was the day that Irons set foot outside the Jefferson City Correctional Center, a penitentiary near the Missouri state capital for the first time in 22 years. 


Fibonacci Blue via Flickr (Creative Commons BY 2.0)

If there is a positive to be taken from this heretofore miserable year, it may be that 2020 is when we learned how powerful images and symbols can be.

Though the dominant icon of the year is bound to be the face mask that we’ve all been forced to wear, there are other symbols that will help to define 2020 in history. 

One of them, a Confederate flag, has gone front and center on the sports stage, and may lead the way to the toppling of another.


Maia Weinstock via Flickr (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0)

As seemingly every part of the American landscape has been touched in some way by the culture wars, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that sports have become the latest battleground.

Try as we might to keep some areas above the progressive vs. conservative fray, the fights have made their way to the athletic playing field level.

The current face off is over the propriety of whether transgender girls and women can compete in school sports with women and girls who are not transgender. 


Neil R via Flickr (Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0)

All around the sports landscape, signs of a return are sprouting up like spring greenery.

The NHL and NBA have announced their plans to resume their interrupted schedules next month, though there is talk of unrest among some basketball players about playing during times of social unrest.

Meanwhile, the NFL and college football are resolute in their determination to start their seasons on time this fall. And NASCAR and professional golf have made their returns with limited numbers of spectators watching racing.

BrechtBug via Flickr (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Smilin’ Roger Goodell had the chance to do the right thing, to say what everyone already knew, to finally come clean after four years of obfuscation.

And the NFL commissioner almost pulled it off Friday, with a seemingly eloquent, presumably earnest 90 second address, delivered from his basement and in a blue sweater to boot. 

Staring at the prospect of open revolt from a large bloc of his personnel, as the nation came to grips with its unsavory racial history, Goodell had to cop to what must have been a lot of uncomfortable truths.


Brook Ward via Flickr (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

In the wake of the horrifying death of George Floyd, social media timelines have been flooded this past week with amazing words and images.

Some of the pictures and videos of unleashed anger and protests in the streets of the nation’s cities have been heartbreaking while the words have been, in many cases, eye-opening , especially from sports figures. 


Chilli Head via Flickr (Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

In most respects, our attitudes about women’s athletics have evolved with the times. As more and more girls and women run, jump and throw with the boys and men, we’ve come to better respect their contributions and accomplishments.

There are, to be sure, occasional missteps. Recently, ESPN reporter Adam Schefter tweeted out his joy at the upcoming NFL draft, lauding it as the first sporting event since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schefter, whose young daughter is a budding reporter, conveniently forgot that the WNBA had held its draft a week before. 


meeneegeen via Flickr

For millions, the just concluded ESPN series “The Last Dance” has been an eye-opening experience, a pass into a locker room like you couldn’t imagine.  

The 10 chapters, spread over five weeks, were supposed to open a window into one of the successful runs in American sports history, the six NBA championships of the Chicago Bulls during the 1990s. 

And those episodes should have provided a peek into the soul of one of the most significant figures in international popular culture over the last 40 years, that of Michael Jordan.


SupportPDX via Flickr

It’s been said that you learn a lot about people when money’s on the line. If that’s true, we’re about to learn a lot about the integrity of the men and women who run colleges and universities.

That’s because in the next few weeks, those presidents and chancellors will have to make the call on whether college sports return in the fall or if they’re delayed on account of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

You’ll notice that cancellation was not among the choices. The games will go on and for the most obvious of reasons: there’s too much money to be made. 

Willis Lam via Flickr

Almost since Sports at Large premiered here 18 years ago, we’ve consistently hammered the NCAA for its clumsy handling of collegiate sports. 

And why not? The self-appointed arbiters of amateur athletics have proven themselves, time and again, to be targets of scorn and ridicule with their ham-handed treatment of the people they claim to protect.

And to paraphrase M*A*S*H’s Hawkeye Pierce, when you invite abuse, it would be impolite not to accept. 

So when the gang from Indianapolis finally gets one right, it seems only fair to point that out, too. 


Penn State via Flickr

  In football, players are taught to keep the activity going until the whistle blows. But when the echo of the whistle ceases, what’s supposed to happen then, beyond the next play, that is?

What are you allowed to know about the people on the other side of the whistle? Are they merely nameless, faceless gladiators on a field or on a TV screen or are you entitled to peer into their lives?


Chad Cooper via flickr

Don’t look now, but college athletics is immersed in yet another crisis that, depending on who you talk to, threatens its very existence.

Of course, given the real crisis we’re all facing, invoking the phrase existential threat is done advisedly. 

But a big challenge to the way things have been has suddenly emerged and it threatens to render college sports irrelevant. 


chrismetcalfTV via Flickr

So, we know that we’re not supposed to venture out of our homes unnecessarily. But on those occasions when you have to find toilet paper, fill a prescription or pick up food from the drive-through window, how do you feel?

In this new world of COVID-19, are you keeping your proper social distance? Are you wearing a mask? Do you feel safe?


Times of crisis often give people who are otherwise known for cowardice a chance to be heroes. 

The onset of COVID-19 may provide an opportunity to some of the most cowardly in sports, those who run college athletics, to do something noble and worthwhile.

Don’t bet on them taking it. 


Zach Frailey via Flickr

For as long as men and women have run, swam and jumped and balls have been thrown, there’s been a joy among many to cast scorn on the social significance of sports. 

To a certain set, it’s a badge of honor to look down their collective noses at the silly frivolities of people in garish costumes doing things that bring no value to society at large and collect excessive salaries doing them.