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.

 

 

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

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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

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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.

William Yeung/flickr

College students are only now starting to report for the new school year, and the first serious athletic competitions are a few weeks away.

But the scene is set for one of the biggest showdowns in college sports history between the NCAA and one of its highest profile member schools.

The outcome may go a long way to defining what a student-athlete is as well as determine whether the organization that governs college athletics can, in fact, play a role in academics.

Alistair Ross/flickr

We know you’ve been busy lately, what with summer vacations, planning for the eclipse, or checking out sunflowers, so maybe you haven’t been keeping up on the goings-on in the world of sports.

In our never-ending quest to inform and entertain, let’s let you in on a little secret: The Olympics are coming to the United States.

Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum via AP

We’ve learned two things over the past 71 years since the aphorism “Nice guys finish last” was attributed to former Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher.

The first thing is, Durocher didn’t say it, or at least not in that way. The second thing is, even if he did, it’s not true.

And we don’t have to go further than a baseball stadium to prove that.

Over the weekend, Claire Smith received the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Writers Association of America.

kowarski/flickr

For a number of reasons, the little ditty that Carol Burnett used to sing each Saturday night has occupied a place in my head recently.

The song, “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together,” marked the end of her show and for those of you under the age of 40, this would be a good time to check out Carol Burnett on YouTube.

At any rate, the song has been on my mind, in a baseball context, because there’s a decent chance that an important member of the Orioles nucleus may not be in Baltimore by this time next week.

Zach Britton came up through the Orioles organization, breaking through to the majors in 2011 as a starter, with a record over two seasons that was just above .500.

Un divertimento de @cromaticom

The changes that have been wrought in the games that we watch in the recent past are relatively nominal compared to what’s happened to the ways in which we receive those games.

Where once our consumption of sports was restricted to the weekends and only three broadcast networks, we have round-the-clock coverage on national and local channels devoted just to fun and games.

And that doesn’t include social media and tablets and phones that take the games out of your living room and into places we would never have dreamed of even 20 years ago.

Daniel X. O'Neil/flickr

The end of the NBA playoffs in June brings within a few weeks the start of the league’s free agency period. And with that comes a string of signings with salary numbers that are akin to Powerball winnings.

Edwin Martinez/flickr

It was 241 years ago this week that Thomas Jefferson and a band of brothers unleashed the Declaration of Independence, one of mankind’s greatest documents, upon the Earth.

Did you notice two key words in that previous sentence, namely brothers and mankind?

In the nearly quarter of a millennium since the Declaration was signed, we still haven’t figured out how to incorporate or even recognize the contributions of women into the American fabric.

One of the most noticeable, if not admittedly inconsequential areas where women continually draw short shrift is in athletics.

Daniel X. O'Neil/flickr

The calendar says late June, and, in a sports context, that, for many, means baseball and the early stages of a pennant race. But, soon enough, the calendar will turn to fall and the American sports attention will  quickly turn to football, assuming it ever leaves football.

And for millions of parents of kids, especially those kids who want to play football for the first time, the changing of the calendar will bring on a decision: whether to let those kids play the game or not.

Once upon a time, say, a generation or so ago, such a decision was a no-brainer.

Planned Parenthood

Look at the schedule of virtually every professional and collegiate team in the country and you’re sure to find dates where the club aligns itself with a popular cause or constituency. There are Girl and Boy Scout Days, canned food and blood donation drives and salutes to the military, all the types of events that everyone can get behind.

What most teams avoid like the plague are instances where the club could be in cahoots with something controversial. And teams certainly stay away from involvement with anything that could be seen as political. In that vein, July 18 could be a very interesting date on the American sports calendar.

That’s the day that the Seattle Storm of the WNBA have a scheduled “Stand With Planned Parenthood” rally at their home arena.

Keith Allison/flickr

If you’re an Orioles fan and you’re looking for a piece of good news from this past weekend, some ray of sunshine from three otherwise lousy days and nights in New York, it may be this: The Birds won’t have to go back to Yankee Stadium until the middle of September. That’s pretty much where the optimism begins and ends from three days of horrors in the Bronx.

Simply put, the Orioles were mugged in New York. They’re certainly not the first tourists to be mistreated in the Boogie Down, but this was ridiculous.

dcJohn/flickr

This was supposed to be the week where Serena Williams was going to take the next step towards removing Margaret Court from the record books.

Williams needs one more win at a major tennis tournament to match Court, who won 24 Grand Slam tournaments during her 17-year career.

The clay surface at the French Open, the site of this week’s tournament, hasn’t always been kind to Williams, but, as the world’s No.1 ranked player, she would have had a decent chance to tie Court.

That is, until Williams revealed her pregnancy a few weeks ago, which took her out of the French Open as well as Wimbledon and probably the U.S. Open for this year.

But, by the time Williams returns next year, Court may find herself irrelevant for reasons that have nothing to do with the Grand Slam record.

Daniel X. O'Neil/flickr

The debate over one man’s responsibility to another is as old as mankind itself, dating all the way back to Earth’s first sibling rivalry, between Cain and Abel.

In more recent years, that discussion has stretched to sports, where no less a figure than Charles Barkley has declared that he, and by extension other athletes, are not role models.

But can it really be that facile? Can an athlete with national or global visibility simply play their game without pondering the consequence of how they play on others, especially kids?

Myron Rolle Twitter

It’s graduation season and, after suffering through mostly meaningless and interminable speeches exhorting them to do good in the world, millions of young people are being turned loose on the nation presumably to do just that.

One of those graduates, Myron Rolle, has heard this speech a few times, and has apparently taken heed of those exhortations.

Rolle joined the ranks of prospective doctors over the weekend and will begin doing his residency at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston next month.

But while the addition of yet another doctor is nothing unusual, Rolle’s path to a stethoscope is quite extraordinary.

Maryland GovPics/flickr

We begin today’s program with a question that is part existential, part practical. Are you the type that largely ignores the check engine light when it flashes on your car’s dashboard?

If you are, then you can understand what appears to be the Orioles’ approach to getting third baseman Manny Machado signed to a long-term, big money contract.

The Birds’ front office seems willing to let Machado enter next season without a deal that would keep him in Baltimore black and orange well into the next decade.

And Machado, on the surface, gives the impression that he’s OK with things as they presently stand, too.

Arturo Pardavila III/flickr

At this time last week, baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred had few worries beyond where to get good stone crabs during the All-Star break in Miami in July.

And, then, within the space of two games between the Orioles and Red Sox in Boston, Manfred had a couple of crises on his hands.

In short order, Manfred, the latest of the Big Four American sports bosses to get his powers, had to solve racism and deal with a group of recalcitrant boys passing as grown-ups who don’t know how to get along.

Dottie Day/flickr

The word hero might be inappropriate for anyone whose name is associated with the idea of reducing the incidents of violence against women.

But Fred Glass, Indiana University’s athletic director, has made himself, if not heroic, at least admirable with two words: No more.

With the approval of the campus faculty athletics committee, Glass announced that, under his leadership, the university’s teams will not accept athletes who are found guilty of sexual violence.

Keith Allison/flickr

Some things in life, and in sports, for that matter, make so much sense you wonder why no one thought of it before.

The reported move of Coppin State University to name Juan Dixon as its men’s basketball coach makes so much sense for both sides that some will no doubt ask, why didn’t this happen before?

AP Photo/Tony Avelar

One of the most intriguing questions of the NFL offseason has been is Colin Kaepernick being blackballed?

For most of the first six years of his career, Kaepernick was the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.

Baltimore football fans should remember that it was Kaepernick that got the Niners to within a drive of tying or winning the 2012 Super Bowl against the Ravens.

In the following season, Kaepernick helped lead San Francisco to the NFC championship game and a narrow loss to Seattle.

Kaepernick not only possesses a strong arm, but, at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he has a frame that makes him a dual threat, namely a quarterback who can run.

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