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Sports at Large

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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.

Creative Commons via Flickr

I’m willing to give everyone in the Ravens’ organization the benefit of the doubt when it comes to Colin Kaepernick.

I really believe coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome when they said they had legitimate interest in signing the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback. And, unlike some cynics, I really do think that owner Steve Bisciotti gives a hoot about what fans think about having a man in black and purple who wouldn’t stand last year for the red, white and blue, if I might be so simplistic. 

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.

Christopher Paulin/flickr

There’s an old trick among sports executives and marketers that if your team is devoid of talent or hope for the coming season, you instead play up anniversaries or even facilities.

We’ll have an interesting indication of how good the Orioles brass think the team will be this year if they push the 25th anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Seabamirum/flickr

If you’re a woman and you can handle a hockey stick, don’t wander far from your phone. You just might be getting a call to play for your country.

The women’s world championships, the international competition just below the Olympics in terms of prestige, takes place starting Thursday in Plymouth, Michigan.

The United States team, which has won the world championship seven times and won five Olympic medals over the last 17 years, should be a heavy favorite to do well in this year’s championships.

That is, if USA Hockey, the governing body for international hockey in this country, can find enough talented players to play.

Sarah Elbeshbishi/The Current

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, known in some circles as March Madness, officially launched last week to run through early April.

But, if you ask Je’Nan Hayes, March Madness didn’t wait for last Thursday to get started. It had already begun.

Hayes is a junior at Watkins Mill High School in Montgomery County. She’s a reserve on the school’s girls basketball team, which had a pretty successful 2017 season, getting all the way to the regional finals of the state tournament.

As the Watkins Mill school newspaper first reported, Hayes, who is Muslim and wears a hijab, a head covering used by female practitioners of the faith, had played in the Wolverines’ first 24 games.

AP Photo/David Goldman

One of the more attractive aspects of sports for many is the idea that in athletics, it’s actions that carry the day over words.

Every so often, however, an athlete’s words far outpace his on-field performance and force us to take stock of what’s been said and done.

Andre Iguodala is a reserve player with the Golden State Warriors of the NBA. He’s been a solid, if not spectacular player through his 13-year career, making an All-Star team once and winning a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team in London five years ago.

Alex Schierholtz/flickr

For three years now, the Ravens have been model citizens on the subject of domestic violence, assiduously avoiding any player who had a direct connection to inflicting hurt on a woman or child.

The video of former running back Ray Rice that surfaced in the spring of 2014 and the fallout that followed pretty much ensured that team owner Steve Bischiotti would be highly circumspect bordering on hostile about any player carrying that baggage.

But Bischiotti and his brain trust have a potentially significant challenge to their stance, namely a pressing need and a player with domestic violence issues who could fill that need.

Brandon Marshall, who was just released by the New York Jets, is a six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

There are few things more precious than the relationship between a boy and his mother.

It appears that relationship between Shaquille O’Neal and his mother, Lucille, may be enough to nip a bizarre feud in the bud.

"Ascendant" Baltimore

Feb 20, 2017
tedstake.monumentalsportsnetwork.com

Under the category of “It’s always nice to be wanted,” that was a really sweet civic kiss that Ted Leonsis threw at Charm City on the front of the local newspaper Sunday.

Leonsis, who owns the indoor sports teams in Washington and the arena they play in, called Baltimore "ascendant" in The Baltimore Sun, to explain why he bought two Arena Football League teams and placed one at Royal Farms Arena.

Indeed, Leonsis said that while people think it’s crazy for him to own both the Washington Valor and the Baltimore Brigade, he thinks the Brigade can stimulate Royal Farms Arena, create jobs and bring people into downtown.

wikipedia

Though we are both University of Maryland graduates, I don’t really know Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank. We’ve never met and we don’t travel in the same social circles, so I really shouldn’t presume to speak for him.

That said, I’m guessing Plank had no idea the proverbial hail storm he set off last week by paying a compliment to President Donald Trump.

Shawne Alston Twitter

Ever so quietly last week, the NCAA took a long, overdue baby step toward making things right for the chattel that keeps college sports in business, namely the players.

The organization that governs collegiate athletics in this country and 11 college conferences reached a tentative agreement in a class action lawsuit filed three years ago by a former West Virginia running back.

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