Sports at Large | WYPR

Sports at Large

Monday 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.

 

 

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.

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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Football builds men. Football builds strength. Football builds character.

Those are mantras uttered as near gospel by virtually every coach, player and official who has been around the game, for as long as the game has been played.

But if certain members of the Maryland General Assembly have their way, some of that gospel will have to change, will have to be preached through a new testament of sorts, one that de-emphasizes violence among young players.

baltimoreravens.com

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has shared the grand plan for the franchise going forward, or at least, he’s disclosed who will be at the helm.

General manager Ozzie Newsome, the only general manager the franchise has had in 22 years in Baltimore, will take a final lap around the course in 2018 before retiring to a consultant post.

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Now that the great evil known as Larry Nassar has been purged from the national consciousness, we move on to the next phase of the Great Gymnastics Scandal of 2018.

It’s the part where everyone puts on the breastplate of righteous indignation and swings the sword of outrage and condemnation.

For the nearly 150 years since college students have been playing organized sports, the deck has been decidedly stacked against the collegians.

Well, the times appear to be changin’, what with a series of votes last week during the NCAA’s annual convention.

A panel of the largest schools in the NCAA, college sports’ governing body, passed four changes to the way athletics will be run, going forward.

@Manny_Machado13/Twitter

The new 2018 calendars are hardly in place on the walls, and the New Year’s Eve hangover is barely a memory, and yet, you, the Baltimore sports fandom, are already facing another countdown and a crisis.

The countdown is to July 31 and the crisis is a reference to end of quality Orioles baseball as we’ve known it for the last five seasons or so.

Tom Newby/flickr

In millions of American homes, mine included, families are sitting down right about now to enjoy Christmas dinner, with gifts from earlier in the day, nestled under the tree.

But, in the offices of more than a few sports executives, visions of something other than sugarplums are dancing in their heads.

Indeed, according to the USA Today, some of the nation’s biggest college athletic programs will have to make do with a lot less, thanks to the tax reform package passed last week.

@Panthers/Twitter

By all rights, Sunday should have been a really good day for Jerry Richardson.

The Carolina Panthers team that he owns won a big NFL game, defeating the Green Bay Packers.

The victory moved the club ever closer to a playoff berth and considering that the Panthers didn’t get to the postseason last year, things are looking finer in Richardson’s owner’s box.

@Yankees/Twitter

Let’s assume the folks at Turner Broadcasting aren’t clairvoyant, that their scheduling of a loop of Star Wars movies this weekend was just an attempt to cash in on the new film opening next weekend and not commentary.

That may be, but man, it sure felt like someone at TNT in Atlanta knew that there would be a disturbance in the dark side of the force between Miami and New York, as the Evil Empire got another weapon to fire up the Death Star.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Yankees’ reported acquisition of Marlins’ slugger Giancarlo Stanton for the equivalent of a couple of used droids.

@UCFKnights/Twitter

Here’s the long and short of what I know about the University of Central Florida: The school is located in Orlando and its mascot is the Knights. Its stadium is sometimes called the Bounce House.

And I will be rooting like mad for the UCF football team this Saturday against Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game.

Tom Newby/flickr

For all the comfort and joy the holiday season can bring, the gatherings of family and friends over the last six weeks of the year can also be stress-inducing.

And if you think things are going to be anxious at your house this Thursday, imagine how tense Thanksgiving will be at Dallas’ AT&T Stadium.

That will be the scene of the NFL meeting between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Cowboys.

@Kaepernick7/flickr

In the nearly year and a half since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee, we’ve learned a lot about the NFL and, by extension, the nation.

For one, we’ve learned that for all our lofty talk about respecting our differences, it is only rhetoric. As a nation, we seem ill-equipped to handle much above the tastes great, less filling debate.

We learned over the weekend that no less a national treasure than retired Dodger announcer Vin Scully has succumbed to the tired trope that kneeling during the national anthem is an insult to the military.

Jamyla Krempel

The calendar says that it’s only been a couple of months since the Ravens’ season started. And the numbers say that we’re halfway through, with eight games down and eight more to play.

But if ever a team or, for that matter, a fanbase, needed a breather, it’s the one the Ravens are in the midst of.

Houston Astros Twitter

In June of 2014, the story on the cover of Sports Illustrated predicted the Houston Astros would win the World Series in 2017.

At the time, the pick seemed to be one of those cheeky little pieces that magazines write to look clever or hip or ahead of the crowd.

NCAA Facebook

 

In normal situations, the moment that the schoolyard bully is revealed to be all talk and no action is a celebratory one.

In that instant, the playground becomes an egalitarian utopia, a place where all children can run and play without fear of the noogie, the wet Willie or getting pantsed.

The NCAA has been likened in many circles to a playground brute that throws its weight around against hapless opponents, taking their lunch money without a trace of compassion.

Ted Kerwin/flickr

Some time before new calendars are posted in offices and kitchen walls around town, a potentially significant summit will take place, presumably in the Orioles offices in the warehouse.

The outcome of that meeting may go a long way toward whether the Birds’ 2018 looks anything like their 2017.

Austin Kirk/flickr

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It’s been 24 years, nearly a generation, since Charles Barkley uttered the famous words "I am not a role model." 

At the time, many people, myself included, thought Barkley was copping out, of begging out of the time-honored tradition of sports figure as hero or heroine.

Perhaps it was just naivete, but we used to live in a time where you could admire someone simply because he played sports, where you could ascribe heroic traits to a man simply because he hit a baseball, threw a touchdown or dunked a basketball.

AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Click on the image for the audio.   

If politics truly makes for strange bedfellows, imagine how weird the NFL and its players feel right about now.

The league office and the players union have been at odds for virtually every second of the last decade, in matters on and off the field.

Just recently, the NFLPA took the league to federal court to challenge the six-game suspension of Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott as the NFL contends that Elliott violated the league’s policy on domestic violence.

@jemelehill/Twitter

Many years ago, far more than either of us would likely want to admit, a wonderful journalism professor of mine dropped a little verity on me and the rest of my class that has stuck with me ever since.

He said that each of us brings our own personal baggage to each story that we cover, meaning that we bring our life view and experiences to our work as journalists.

My professor was awfully prescient and his wisdom became apparent to me last week in the midst of a media tsunami where an ESPN anchor named Jemele Hill called the president of the United States a white supremacist in a tweet.

AP Photo/Rob Carr

On April 20, 1996, the date of that year’s collegiate draft, the Baltimore Ravens tapped two men who would forge their places in league history.

Jonathan Ogden established himself as one of the best left tackles in league history, while Ray Lewis is seen in some circles as the greatest middle linebacker the NFL has ever produced.

Lewis and Ogden were teammates and Super Bowl champions, each taken in the first round of the draft, 22 picks apart.

hubison.com

Click on the image for the audio. 

It took just a few hours into the new college football season for the proverbial apple cart to be overturned – and by two teams in the DMV, no less.

In the middle of Saturday afternoon, the Maryland Terrapins launched their 2017 campaign with a most improbable 51-41 win over heavily favored Texas.

Maryland’s win was one of the big surprises of recent note. But the Terps’ relative miracle pales in comparison to what happened a few hours later just off the desert strip in Las Vegas.

Tom Newby/flickr

The beginning of a new year in Maryland schools is nigh and around most high schools these days, you’re likely to hear the sounds of pads thumping against each other and grown men yelling at younger men in the relative chill of the morning or the blazing heat of the afternoon.

Yes, it’s nearly football season, and those sounds are in play universally across the region, save for one place.

There will be no thumping pads, screaming fans or any of the other attendant sounds or sights of football around Centennial High this season.

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