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Tom Woodward via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The last nine months or so have been marked with upheaval and a search for what’s familiar and what’s continual. 

Well, in these troubling times, isn’t it good to know that you can always rely on one institution to do the wrong thing when the proper action is called for? 

Indeed, the NCAA, college athletics’ governing body, can always be counted to zig when the moment demands a zag or the opposite.

Naomi Osaka hitting a tennis ball with a tennis racket
Peter Menzel via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It’s customary, at the end of a year, for wags and pundits to sum up the previous 12 months in a crude context, by naming those whose reputations have risen and fallen during that time, the winners and losers, If you will.

Goodness knows the year 2020 provided plenty of candidates for each category, most centered around conduct related to either the COVID crisis or the push for social justice or both.

From this vantage point, the best of the best this year includes names like Kara Lawson, Naomi Osaka, Maya Moore, Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe.

Al_HikesAZ via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

There’s very little that many of us will take from this dumpster fire of a year. Most people I know have already purchased a calendar for 2021 in joyous anticipation of ripping the one for 2020 off the wall.

Of course, such a move is only symbolic. The year ahead of us appears primed to deliver some measure of pain and suffering, but, if the fates are kind, 2021 will bring more than its share of joy. And if there is sorrow, we may be able to share it with people we love, as opposed to this year, when so many of us are cooped up alone and afraid.

If there is a positive to be taken from 2020, it is that this may be the year when we as a nation began, on some level, to come to grips with the great national tragedy of our racial and cultural divide. 

Dejan Krsmanovic via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In my bachelor days, I would occasionally come upon a carton of milk in the refrigerator that was just about to reach its expiration date. I’d give it the old smell test, and if it passed, even if barely, then I could have a bowl of cereal.


To a degree, what the Maryland men’s basketball team is about to do with a young man named James Graham III is roughly the same. It passes the smell test, but just by the proverbial whiff.

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.

 

Kyle Pompey / @niceshotkyle

Growing up in Baltimore, Rob Jackson was one of those kids who was always shooting hoops on one of hundreds of basketball courts in the city.

But when he entered the Army in 2000, running was an essential part of the training. He says jogging a dozen or so miles every week changed his life, helping to relieve stress and anxiety.

Back in Baltimore, he started a running group in the city called RIOT, Running Is Our Therapy.  

Valerie via Flickr

While there are no actual NFL games at the moment, there’s also no shortage of drama during what is supposed to be an offseason.

USAG Humphreys via Flickr

Spend any appreciable time around those in Generation Z, the group born between 1995 and 2015 and you understand that the only constant is change. Seemingly everything in their lives is up for grabs as precious little is static.

One of the few areas of Gen Z life that has been consistent and unchanging is in the athletic realm where movement among college athletes is stifled and has been for decades.

Dave Edwards via Flickr

For millions of Americans, things like soy and almond milk and plant-based protein have become important substitutes for more traditional products like cow’s milk or hamburgers, to the point where many will say that you can’t tell the difference between them.

Well, now comes the XFL, a new professional football alternative to the NFL, unveiled the weekend after the Super Bowl.

Kris Robinson via Flickr

If you want to know how far baseball is off its moorings, consider this: Pete Rose is claiming the high moral ground.

Yes, that Pete Rose, the guy who copped to, sort of, betting on baseball, thus earning a lifetime ban from the sport, as well as its theoretical scorn and enmity, is using the cheating scandal that has enveloped the national pastime to try to worm his way back into its good graces.

charamelody via Flickr

If the people who run football had their way, you’d see their game not in terms of a mere battle between offense and defense, but rather in the context of another game.

The metaphor is that the players are pieces on a giant grass-covered chess board and the coaches are master tacticians.

The two featured strategists at center stage in Sunday’s Super Bowl, Eric Bieniemy of Kansas City’s offense and Robert Saleh, San Francisco’s defensive coordinator, were at the helm of dynamic units that held even the casual observer in thrall.

Was Alfred Lord Tennyson right nearly two centuries ago when he queried if it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?

Or, posited in a 21st century NFL context, was the joy of the Ravens’ 14-2 season – the best in franchise history – worth the anguish that settled over Baltimore late Saturday night in the wake of the 28-12 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the divisional playoffs?

On this episode, we’re going to be taking you inside a boxing gym in East Baltimore. This gym is very unique – it’s one of the only places in the neighborhood that offers any extracurricular activity for local kids. It was founded by a man named Alex Long. Alex had a difficult childhood, being separated from siblings and parents in foster care… and he’s faced even more challenges since then, including the recent murder of his sister. He credits his athletic coaches with helping him remain positive and stable, and he wants to make sure the boys in his neighborhood receive the same care and guidance. Alex is now a community activist and a member of Safe Streets, an anti-violence prevention in Baltimore. He sees the boxing gym as a safe space for kids to get strong both physically and emotionally. 

When Orioles fans recall the great moments of the 2015 season, at least they'll have the weekend.  The Birds swept a three-game series, keeping the hated Yankees from clinching home field for Tuesday's wild card game.  But even those fleeting moments of glory couldn't lessen the pain of knowing that, unlike last season or the 2012 season, the Orioles would not be playing past Sunday.  And unlike the last three campaigns, 2015 will end with the Orioles failing to garner a winning record.

We’re just past Labor Day and with its passing comes the unofficial end of the summer.

And the end of this summer marks the end of arguably the most visible year for women in sports in decades, if not ever.

Notice that I didn’t say the best year. Women have been having great sporting years for, well, years, setting records, winning Olympic gold medals and conquering heretofore unclimbed mountains.

For any number of reasons, baseball remains the one sport where comparisons between players of different generations can’t be dismissed out of hand.

The one thing about baseball that has not changed for the better over the years is in the quality of announcers. The men who call the game today simply aren’t as good as their predecessors.

The labor union has taken a tremendous beating over the last 30 or so years, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the sporting realm.

By comparison to the baseball union, which has historically been strong, the NFL Players Association has seemed ineffective and weak.

It’s late August already, and while attention among sports fans in much of the country has turned toward the impending NFL season, there are almost as many who eagerly await the start of college football. One of those places is in Waco, Texas, where the Baylor faithful hope this will be the season their Bears lead them to the promised land of a national championship.

As teams begin to report to training camp this week, I continue to find myself in a bit of a quandary over how a sport whose leadership shows such a continued indifference over how the public perceives it much less how it treats its players can still thrive.

Know how you hear about the launch of a new product or the opening of a big summer blockbuster movie…and your reaction is a big yawn. 

That’s largely the feeling from this corner over last week’s news that executives of soccer’s international governing body were arrested on corruption charges.

I guess I’m supposed to be upset or at least concerned that 14 FIFA officials were indicted on charges of bribery, money-laundering and racketeering involving tens of millions of dollars over the past two decades.

For the last seven decades, it’s been baseball, more than our other major sports, that has led the way in terms of its connection to the broader American social fabric. And nowhere was that association on greater display than last week during the unrest that rocked Baltimore to its core.

Signs of intelligent life are starting to emerge from College Park. First, there was the August announcement that the school would guarantee scholarships to student-athletes until graduation, regardless of how they perform on the playing field. Then, there was the decision of the Board of Regents of the University System that coaches’ bonuses would be tied to the academic performances of their teams. Now comes word that one of the great and historic buildings in all of college athletics may get a second life.

WYPR Makes Good on our Bet with KCUR

Oct 16, 2014

True to our word, we produced a support message for the Royals....kinda.

Tom Hall goes to bat for Baltimore and our Orioles with Kansas City's NPR affiliate.

Landon Donovan, the all-time leader in scoring and assists for the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team, will not be part of the 2014 FIFA World Cup roster in Brazil, U.S. Soccer says.

ESPN writes: "Donovan, 32, has played for the U.S. in the past three World Cups dating back to 2002. He has been the face of the national team for most of the past decade, but spoke in recent months about how his body is no longer what it had once been."

What The Iditarod Can Teach You About Math

Feb 10, 2014
Bob Wick, BLM California / Creative Commons
Bob Wick, BLM California / Creative Commons

Jen Reiter, a third grade teacher at the Gilman School in North Baltimore, will be heading to Anchorage, Alaska, on Friday to participate in the 2014 Iditarod, the nearly 1,000-mile race through the Alaskan wilderness from Anchorage to Nome. She won’t be one of the mushers, but rather, she has been chosen to be this year’s “Teacher on the Trail.”  Jen Reiter joins Tom Hall in the studio to tell us what that will entail.

Under normal circumstances, sports fans and teams from Baltimore don’t have to take a back seat to anyone around the country, least of all Bostonians. And we surely don’t need their advice.  But a column in a Boston newspaper last week offered counsel to the Orioles and their fans that made perfect sense.