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.

 

 

@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.

AP Photo/Nick Wass

It was probably difficult to see on television Saturday, what with all that fog and mist that enveloped Pimlico, but a few seconds after Justify won the Preakness, another horse crossed the finish line.

This horse, however, is far older than the field of three year-olds in the race, but know this: If Justify has this horse’s stamina, he’ll win the Belmont and thus the Triple Crown going away in less than three weeks.

In a nod to the group, America, this horse has no name, per se, but rather a theme, namely that Pimlico Race Course is in trouble.

www.mcdonogh.org

You could get pretty good odds in Vegas or even at Pimlico this weekend that you couldn’t say with specificity what you were doing on April 13, 2009, or that you are doing the same thing now.

Don’t be insulted. That’s no knock on you personally, but rather a recognition that most of us don’t have total recall or perform precisely the same task over an extended period.

Heck, that date was my birthday and I don’t even remember what I did.

An exception might be granted to members of the McDonogh girls lacrosse team. From the aforementioned April date nine years ago until last Friday, the Eagles did one thing, the same thing, over and over.

Win.

@Orioles/Twitter

It’s easy to look at the first month of the Orioles’ season and declare that all is lost.

Just look at the statistics. You can learn something of a team from the number of runs they score and the number of runs they allow. By those metrics, the Orioles are lousy.

To wit, there are 15 teams in the American League. Only two clubs have a higher earned run average than the Birds. And no team has scored fewer runs than Baltimore.

That adds up to lousy.

@Lj_era8/flickr

Budding journalists are taught that at the heart of every news story are six questions to be answered: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.

The Ravens’ drafting of quarterback Lamar Jackson last Thursday answers four of those six, the who, the what, the when and the where pretty easily.

The how of Jackson’s selection is fairly interesting. The Ravens came into the draft possessing the 16th overall pick in the first round.

While there were rumors that the team would use that pick to take Jackson, general manager Ozzie Newsome and his crew kept their intentions close to the vest.

@WNBA/Twitter

As it has for every summer since it opened for business in 1997, the WNBA showcases the talents of more than 140 of the world’s best women’s basketball players.

And, as it has for seemingly every summer since the league opened, WNBA officials, coaches and players will face questions about the league’s viability and even whether it should exist when the new season opens in just under a month.

Just last week, Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, which operates the WNBA, gave less than full-throated support to the women’s league.

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.

mike dupris/flickr

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.

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