Archive for February, 2009

BELIEVE
February 25, 2009

 

Believe made for a nice Baltimore slogan.  Seven letters fit perfectly on a bumper sticker.  Heck, if you were quick thinking and trendy enough, BELIEVE could have adorned your license plate (if I had $39.95 I’d search to see who did it, but you know, the economy).

But the slogan rang hollow on Eutaw Street. 

11 straight losing seasons, most without a whiff of contention, had Orioles fans using fewer seven letter words and more of the four letter variety.  But now they too may believe.

And Brian Roberts is to thank.

Courtesy: Sun-Times

Courtesy: Sun-Times

The diminutive two time All Star 2nd baseman, to go all poker on you, went all in with the Orioles.  His four year contract extention that locks him up through the 2013 season is tangible proof that Baltimore now rolls on the right track.

Team President Andy MacPhail seemed to have things headed in the right direction.  He rid the team of bad contracts and bad team guys, collecting a host of young arms and speedy outfielders.  He also drafted what Baseball America calls the best prospect in all the land for 2009.  Matt Wieters redefines the phrase “Can’t Miss Kid”. 

But we’ve been sold a bill of goods that never materialized for years.  Lots of promises from a rudderless organization that has effectively lost a generation of baseball fans.  Unless you have a drivers license, you probably don’t remember the Orioles as winners.  Ouch.

So when Roberts spurned his chance to play for a contender next season, ignored the path chosen by other great players who, at least for an instant considered playing in Baltimore, he provided the proof that there is light at the end of this tunnel.

That above all makes this season different from the rest this decade.  Someone with what seem like better options chose here.  Therefore maybe he sees that grass actually is greenest at Camden Yards.    And maybe we’re not too far removed from this:

Get Ready
February 12, 2009

Herman Harried / Digital Sports

Herman Harried / Digital Sports

I spent parts of the last two days watching basketball practice. Of the many things I see, and places I go for my job, that hardly sounds glamorous. But for a hoops junkie, the squeaks and whistles kept me thoroughly engaged.

Now the practices were completely different. First on Wednesday about 40 minutes worth of Lake Clifton High School getting ready to face Mervo on Friday. The Lakers, with an 18-0 record showcase at least three kids that will play at the major Division One level. Serious, serious talent on display for head coach Herman Harried. And while Coach Harried can be tough (he has no fear of getting withing an inch of a kids face to fiercely explain what he did wrong), the practice was full of encouraging words and run at an almost leisurely pace. Harried is in full conservation mode as the Lakers try to best their Final Four appearance in last year’s state championship games.

But I was struck by how laid back the session was.

Then today I spent an hour at Morgan State University. I know it’s not necessarily fair to compare the two since the kids at Morgan enjoy a full scholarship and Todd Bozeman is paid to win games, while Herman Harried takes on the role of father figure as much as basketball coach, but for the kids that will leave Lake Clifton for college they have a serious wake up call in store.

Todd Bozeman / MEAC Sports Blog

Todd Bozeman / MEAC Sports Blog

Bozeman verbally worked his kids non stop. Nothing horrible mind you, no personal attacks, he just refused to sugar coat anything. And the number of suicides run as a result of mistakes made me start to cramp just watching. I asked if this was a typical practice and he said it was. 

As you can see, Bozeman isn’t afraid to get a little closer as well.  And his point to me about the style of coaching (which is far kinder than Gary Williams offers at Maryland) was to keep the kids looking forward and forgetting the past. 

I have grown to tremendously respect both coaches.  Herman Harried returned to Baltimore City knowing so many kids need his help.  Other opportunities have presented themselves, yet he stays at Lake Clifton.

Bozeman battled back from a personal transgression and now defines perseverance.  His kids have a role model in handling adversity. 

I’m just glad to have the opportunity to study their crafts and share them with you.

What’s the Point?
February 11, 2009

I received a voice mail the other day from a friend who also calls the New York Yankees his favorite team.  Yes, we can all get along.  My buddy Craig though was bummed about the A-Rod admission and subsequent shadow cast on his beloved Yankees.  He wondered what’s the point to all of this, and can’t we just move on.

photobucket.com

Courtesy: photobucket.com

A common sentiment from baseball fans, and a safe bet, from the players too.  But the emphatic answer to that question..  NO!!!!

We can’t just move on, forgetful and forgiving.  That’s what led to the steroids era in the first place.  Eyes wide shut gave us Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and now Alex Rodriguez. 

A vigilant, if late to the game media has created a cleaner game.  The numbers bear it out. The American League home run leader for 2008 was Miguel Cabrera with 37.  That was the lowest league leading total since 1992.  The average number of home runs for a team during a season (163) was its lowest total this decade.

An aggressive media led to the Mitchell Report, which begat Roger Clemens fiasco, and now thanks to Selena Roberts of Sports Illustrated, we have A-Fraud (or if you prefer A-Roid). 

And it shouldn’t stop here.

Rodrgiguez may have admitted using steroids in 2001, 2002, and 2003.  But his answers to softball questions from Peter Gammons were vague, at times contradictory, and caveat riddled.  Stay on him Selena. 

We need the deterrent of a proactive media.  With guaranteed contracts throughout baseball, and teams consistently rewarding players that have tested positive, the only real punishment comes in the form of shame (hurtful to some) and lost sponsors (harmful to all).  Shining the light on players that cheat is the only way to truly lay down the law.

Cold Winter, Warm Hearts
February 6, 2009

I wrote recently about an act of kindness from our trip to Pittsburgh to cover the AFC Championship.  St. Edmund’s Academy Athletics Director Chris “Coach” Gathagan, out of the goodness of his heart bought, breakfast for our crew. 

Given the challenges of the frigid weekend, covering a team and fans that just had its collective heart ripped out, Coach Gathagan delivered an out of the blue (I guess I should say out of the black and gold) offering of decency that warmed all of our hearts.

I wanted to share with Coach and his school what I had written about the random act of kindness.  Here is the response from St. Edmund’s Head of School William Kindler:

Good morning Peter Gilbert,

I wanted to reply earlier to your January 21, 2009 “A Shining Moment” article, but the message I am now sending was pushed back due to two weather related school delays on recent Thursday mornings when the St. Edmund’s Academy’s student body assembles for its weekly Chapel service.  Chapel focuses on the main anchors by which we live our lives—our core values.  There are six core values that serve as our School’s anchors.  The umbrella of all six can simply be summarized as “acts of kindness.”  I have just returned from Chapel where I read “A Shining Moment” with appropriate attribution to your authorship.  As I read every eye and ear from 6 year olds to the scores of parents and teachers present were fully glued on the words you gave me to deliver (you write very well).  When Chris “Coach” Gathagan’s name flowed from my lips, a spontaneous cheer and applause filled the sanctuary.   So, the “story I can’t stop telling” continued today in Pittsburgh and will continue on our website.  We are proud of Coach’s ongoing acts of kindness as well as all those who practice daily random and planned “acts of Kindness.”   

 Enjoy a great day and when future travels bring you to Pittsburgh, please plan to visit us at 5705 Darlington Road.

 

Sincerely,

William Kindler

Head of School

It’s funny how one simple, but generous act may spiral upwards.  When I wrote the entry, I thought of people in Baltimore and wanted them to know how even the most ardent of Steelers fans may prove not just friendly, but downright inspirational.  And I’ve received feedback to indicate as such.  But the shared moment from Mr. Kindler at the Chapel Service makes me smile the broadest. 

Coach’s students of course know his kindness, but for them to see the example he delivered, in a setting in which he could expect no public praise or recognition, that’s the most important kind of education.  We need more teachers like that.  And yes,  I’ll definitely stop by for Chapel.