Archive for August, 2006

Back to work
August 28, 2006

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Covering for Gerry Sandusky as he now travels with the Ravens and battling kidney stones (I wouldn’t wish them on George Steinbrenner) has left me a little lagging in the world of Gilbert’s Arena. My bad, but I’m here to catch up.

First the Ravens from last week. Did that really happen? Ready to prove they can execute on the road, ready to give Brian Billick a great effort as he returns to the Metrodome for the first time, ready to fix some of the regressions from week two and they give us that? They either looked bored or confused, sometimes both, and neither helped anyone think this team will challenge in the AFC North. I know it’s just the preseason but they had stuff for which to play. I’m not talking about winning a game, just execution and effort.

It was the worst effort of the preseason until I watched the Redskins play the Patriots. Now that was just plain horrible. It looked like something from the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At least the Ravens offered a few highlights (Although if you watched the Rave TV telecast you couldn’t see Baltimore’s only touchdown as it happened. They obviously are struggling in the preseason too). The Redskins finest plays of the night came only when the Pats committed a penalty. Can’t wait to watch Baltimore and Washington on Thursday. I think I’d rather pass another kidney stone.

Funny moment today from post practice. Kyle Boller (you remember him, right?) exited the shower and headed over to chat with Ray Lewis and Steve McNair. He wanted to show them his new fuman-chu mustache (the one that wraps around the corners of the mouth best exemplified by Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon, or Kathy Bates in any movie). Amidst hysterical laughter, Lewis immediately ordered Boller back to the sink to shave that. “That’s a direct order!” Kyle then complied, sort of. The fuman-chu part went down the drain but the mustache remains.

As for the Orioles, all my previous rants about trading Miguel Tejada may now be flushed into the sewer. Happy and healthy once again he looks like the guy they signed in 2004. I had actually forgotten how great he can be. On Sunday he offered maybe his finest game in an Oriole uniform. Twice he stopped grounders at shortstop that made you gasp. He showed his most spectacular, in the process twice robbed Damon Hollins. Tejada also made every routine play, plus every right decision. Throwing out Ben Zobrist at the plate was every bit as important as a game winning hit in the 9th. Oh yeah, he did that too !! Miggy, nice to have you back. Let’s see if we can have you for a whole season in 2007.

What’s the big deal?
August 18, 2006

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Just how good do you have to be to set a world record (that’s world as in lots of people) and it barely makes a ripple in your hometown? Michael Phelps good.

At the Pan Pacific Championships The 8 time Olympic medalist lowered his own world record in the 200 M Butterfly on Thursday to 1:53.80. That’s .13 seconds better than anyone else ever on the planet.

Now pick up a copy of today’s Baltimore Sun, go the sports page, find the story on swimming, examine the headline about Katie Hoff (a great story in her own right for certain but she set no world records on Thursday), roll your eyes down several inches and you see the mention, in the middle of the story, in passing, of the new world record.

I’d like to slam the Sun for that piece of disrespect to the world’s greatest swimmer, but my own reaction when learning of it last night just before our broadcast barely made a ripple itself.

The conversation from headset to earpiece from TV-11 sports producer Chris Dachille went something like this: “Hey, a heads up, Phelps set a new record in the 200 Fly, it’s in the prompter after PGA.” My reply, verbatim: “Huh? Okay.” That was it. Frankly I was disappointed we wouldn’t get to the PGA Championship leaderboard.

Hard to believe that a world record could be so ho-hum but Phelps dominating the world has become so routine, it’s just not a big deal. I guess they’re right; it’s lonely at the top. But don’t worry Mike, in two years we’ll examine every stroke with nauseating scrutiny while you once again swim for gold in Beijing.

Which is worse?
August 15, 2006

Here’s where I differ from most Baltimore area sports fans. I still watch the Orioles. Okay, I have to but I think I’d do it even if it wasn’t my job. It’s a good bet that for two out of three games this group of Birds will provide some intense drama. Granted, the outcome we can predict with greater ease than even the pundits taking Reagan over Mondale in 1984. But wow they keep it interesting.

Rallying several times on Sunday at Fenway had to make you at least a little proud. And they had the winning run at the plate against the best young closer in the game (Jonathan Papelbon) having already scored a pair in the inning. That doesn’t sound like a team well on its way to a 9th consecutive losing season, one that will likely see less than 70 wins.

And, without condoning the specific act(I’m a dad now), way to go Miggy. Tejada’s killing the ball, playing some great defense and when he flipped off the fans in Toronto I said, there’s passion worth cheering. If only he had the same passion the first two months of the season.

So the question becomes, is it worse to watch a team give its best (or something close to it) on a nightly basis and continue to lose, or watch a team with greater talent tank it, knowing the season is gone? Sure the short term answer goes with the former. Like I said, I love watching the drama of the 2006 Orioles. But since they’re playing hard, and still losing, it makes you wonder just how much better can it be. And that’s where the depression starts to sink in. Now aren’t you glad you read this far?

Killing ’em with kindness
August 6, 2006

A couple of waves of college friends found their way to Baltimore this week allegedly to visit me and my ever growing family, but in reality to watch the Yankees at Camden Yards (yes I guess I’m part of the problem but at least they’re friends and not just random Bronxers on e-bay).

We all know the reasons of course; easier to get tickets, better prices, gorgeous park, Baltimore fans staying away in droves amidst a 9th straight losing season, and what could be more fun than taking over a visiting stadium like locusts. You know it’s bad when Yankee fans don’t even bother to pick fights with those wearing the orange in black, instead they look for those wearing the Red Sox B (of which there are plenty) and mix it up with them.

The Orioles marketing machine has encouraged Orioles fans not to sell their tickets to out of towners, and for years sports talk radio has chided the practice, but to no avail.

What’s worse though, while killing time before Sunday’s game with the Yankees we ventured into the Orioles Baseball store, and found the ridiculous. In the middle of all the Orioles paraphernalia, there it is. A collection of Yankee hats and jerseys for sale.

Disgusting. Hey New York, just in case you forgot your hat, or now realize on your first trip to Camden Yards that it’s safe to wear your colors, come on in. We’ve got you covered.

It’s one thing not to intimidate the visitors, I think that’s fair, but do you really have to cater to them full service? Oh wait, maybe that extra $100 in hat sales will help sign the next free agent that puts the O’s back in contention.

The Most Important Scrimmage Ever
August 4, 2006

This Saturday, to further prove the NFL’s popularity rivals that of a $1,000 tax gift from the government, fans will pack FedEx field in Landover not for a playoff game, not for a regular season game, not for an exhibition game, instead for a scrimmage. They won’t even keep score, but the Ravens and Redskins will practice with and against each other for about two hours with probably 40,000 fannys in the seats. Next year they’ll likely broadcast live on the web Ray Lewis jogging on the treadmill getting 1,000 hits a minute.

It is cool though to put a scrimmage in the stadium. The rookies get better feel of the NFL atmosphere and the veterans are less likely to dog it on the big stage. As for this particular scrimmage, here are five things to look for on Saturday.

Number Five: Don’t put too much stock in what you see. Last year when these teams scrimmaged in Baltimore the Ravens looked far superior. Kyle Boller showed poise and accuracy spreading his passes perfectly to all his receivers. The Redskins meanwhile looked clueless. A complete inability to move the ball offensively and stupid mistakes on defense dominated their afternoon. How’d their seasons turn out? Anyone remember?

Number Four: Cohesiveness on the offensive line. Which group on the team struggled mightily throughout 2005, yet received very little upgrade? Yes a once dominant offensive line, through injury and poor play, regressed like Mel Gibson’s popularity. The only significant addition to the group comes from 2nd round draft pick Chris Chester. He though played half his college career at tight end. Expecting much from Chester sets you up for disappointment. That’s not to knock the lanky center-slash-guard, he owns plenty of potential, just needs a year or two to bulk up and learn. The optimism though for the o-line comes from its collective health and desire to prove the ’05 was a fluke. I talked with right tackle Tony Pashos and even though the year was a boon for him personally, going from little known backup to productive team member, he freely admitted they stunk last year as a whole. And remedying that reality is job one in training camp.

Number Three: Does the burst remain? This will be tough to tell. We’ll only see a glimpse of Ray Lewis but the scrimmage offers our first view of number 52, in competition against another team, since October 23, 2005. That day Lewis injured his hamstring, ultimately leading to surgery and an off-season of discontent. In training camp so far, Ray looks every bit like his All-Pro self. He’s happy, healthy and ready to lead the Ravens once again. But in taking baby steps towards the season, when real answers will be learned, Saturday gives us a little look when he’s trying to tackle the likes of Clinton Portis.

Number Two: McNair’s Fancy. Can’t wait to see who Steve McNair takes a liking to. Will he pick right back up with Derrick Mason? Will he make a living with Todd Heap? Will he find one of the youngsters like Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams, or Devard Darling a better target? Not likely, in fact I bet $100 of Steve Davis’ Johnsonville Brats money that McNair first completion as a Raven goes to Mason. He has to do it simply out of respect.

Number One: Say Thanks. Be thankful that as you pull into FedEx Field, forking over $25 to park (The Ravens last year charged nothing for parking, $12 for adult tickets, $7 for kids, portions of which went to charity), and piling into a stadium that has room for 75,000 fans yet 90,000 seats because the billionaire owner wants to squeeze every last bit of dignity along with every last dime out your pocket. Well, you know for what to be thankful.