Sports at Large | WYPR

Sports at Large


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.


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.

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.

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.

AP Photo/David Goldman

January 15, Martin Luther King’s birthday, and, for this year, the day America pays homage to his memory with a national holiday, may not seem like a day to think about sports.

But while the civil rights icon wasn’t an athlete – save for a 1964 photo of him throwing a baseball in the backyard to his son, Marty – King knew the value of sports as an agent for social change.


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.


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.

Tom Newby/flickr

It’s normally not our habit to be concerned with the University of Tennessee’s football team.

Goodness knows there are enough issues with the state university football squad in this area, or hadn’t you noticed the 66-3 thumping that Penn State administered to Maryland a couple of weeks ago to close the Terps 4-8 season?


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.

NCAA Facebook

Quite before you were ready to deal with it, we’ve stumbled upon a new season that will consume the American consciousness for an extended period of time.

You thought I was talking about Christmas season? Oh, no, secret Santa, I’m talking about college basketball season, that mad March to April’s national championship games, with seemingly a million contests in between.

A lot has happened in college hoops since North Carolina and South Carolina captured the respective men’s and women’s crowns in April, and not a lot of it was good.


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

Click on the image for the audio.  

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.


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.

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.

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.