Wake me up when September Ends

October 1, 2012 - Leave a Response

Check that, don’t wake me up.  Don’t wake anyone up in Baltimore who remains bathed in the glory of this Orioles dream season.

It’s 6:30 AM on Monday October, 1st and I sit here at BWI Airport awaiting a flight to Tampa.  It’s a trip I thought I might never make, hitting the road to cover the Orioles (and not a Sarasota spring thing, hoping to find cause to believe the O’s could remain relevant until training camp). 

I spent the last week at Oriole Park watching this surreality show play out as the franchise that could do no right could finally do no wrong.  I saw Camden Yards drenched in Orange as fans watched Chris Davis launch moon shot after moon shot, Matt Wieters making impossible throws to embarrass would be base stealers and Buck Showalter on the bench watching his every decision play out even better than he could have imagined.

The greatest question remains, how in the heck did a team rife with players seemingly better suited for residence at the Island of Misfit Toys, come together for the most enjoyable season in Orioles history.  

I know that description sounds like a stretch, but the great Vince Bagli described it to me that way Sunday and since he’s seen EVERY season of modern Orioles baseball, I feel good in going with it. 

We’ll never have a fully satisfying answer, and that’s why sports are so important to our culture.  Sometimes, it just comes together.  I know we can heap a healthy portion of reason on Buck Showalter.  His resume of turning teams around trumped all his players resumes that said they weren’t good enough.  Career years from Jim Johnson, Adam Jones, Chris Davis of course helped.  But getting not just good, but great play from the likes of Nate McLouth, Miguel Gonzalez, Steve Johnson, teenage wunderkind Manny Machado, by all reason should not have happened.  But it did. 

Here are some photos from the last week I collected, and I look forward to posting many more as this amazing journey continues.

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History delayed

October 1, 2012 - Leave a Response

History delayed

The Orioles gathered on the field, becoming one with the fans as they watched the 9th inning of the Angels/Rangers game Sunday afternoon. Los Angeles delayed the inevitable for a few hours, stealing away a moment the Birds could share with their fans. That though proved just a minor setback as Baltimore later celebrated its first trip to the post season since 1997.

Ray Lewis can and will inspire anyone and everyone

March 29, 2012 - Leave a Response

Ray Lewis somehow found his way into the Stanford men’s basketball team locker room before the Cardinal’s NIT Semifinal against UMass.  Not surprisingly, Stanford won the game.  Thanks to deadspin for sharing first.

Mike Mussina: great Orioles talent, but HOF?

March 28, 2012 - One Response

Mike Mussina, for so many in Baltimore, defines the dawn of a dark era.  The losing seasons had started three years prior, but his bolt north to New York crystallized the reality that the glory days had died.

Picture courtesy: 60ft6in.com

In theory it’s hard to blame Mussina.  He received an extra year and 16 million more from the Yankees (should be noted though, Mussina never enjoyed a World Series Championship in New York despite playing on the team with the highest payroll every one of his 8 seasons in the Bronx.  The homerous cynic in me cries KARMA!)

But when Moose exercised his free agency rights to leave, he trampled on the emotions of Orioles fans.  Going to the Yankees, whom we could still seriously call  our rivals in 200o, was a straight gut shot.  Baltimore hasn’t had anything resembling an ace since, nor a winning season.

11 and a half years later, the club announces Mussina as an Orioles Hall of Famer.

His numbers certainly bear that out. He posted an E.R.A. of 3.53 in his eight Baltimore seasons, finishing at least 6th in the Cy Young Award balloting 9 times. He outpitched Randy Johnson twice in the 1997 Division Series.

If the Hall of Fame is a reward solely for one’s level of play, there can be no debate on Mike Mussina’s inclusion in Baltimore. But if Hall of Fame includes impact on the community, the way a player treats fans, and whether or not he crushed the hopes of a fan base by leaving for an arch rival, then yes debate is warranted.

Again, it was Mussina’s right to leave, but it’s the Orioles right to include whom they want in their Hall of Fame. The club says yes, what say you Orioles fans?

Loyola’s dream journey thanks to Jimmy Patsos

March 15, 2012 - Leave a Response

After watching Jimmy Patsos navigate the media, supporters, and all manner of well wishers in Pittsburgh, it’s hard to believe they ever had the NCAA Tourney without him.  A relentless, restless connoisseur of life he creates a vacuum the moment he leaves a room.

A quality practice started Thursday followed by a trip to the Andy Warhol Museum.  Patsos saw the parallel.  The Greyhounds currently enjoy their 15 minutes of fame, and his question to his team before they take the court against Ohio State tonight, are your 15 minutes up?  He navigated through the exhibitions like they were trying to trap him, barely pausing, but at the same time offering a running dialogue about Warhol.

This served as a distraction sure, but you have to love that on the day of the biggest game of his career, he focuses on teaching his kids some culture.

Speaking of his commentary, Patsos’ story telling capabilities are legendary, but so full of tangents you really have to focus when he gets going.  Or sometimes, don’t even listen, just watch him go.

His players love it.  They know he knows basketball, but much more he wants to give them a foundation for the future. A 92 percent graduation rate for his players, combined with a 24 win season make him a hot commodity in coaching ranks.  And should he pull an upset tonight against the Buckeyes, you can start printing invitations to his going away party.  They will come for him.

But right now,  all the efforts to build a program from a one win disaster to the MAAC Champions are rewarded.  Jimmy’s 15 minutes I do believe, are just beginning.

(this picture below works perfectly for Patsos.  He doesn’t stand still long enough to get in focus.  Loyola A.D. Jim Paquette enjoys a conversation with the constant motion expert)

Bounty Gate

March 2, 2012 - Leave a Response

The New Orleans Saints, through encouragement (financial and emotional) intentionally injured other players. Old fashioned bounties prove alive and well in the NFL.

Hey, it’s a violent game.  Despite the league’s sometimes hypocritical desire make the game safer, football comes with pain and injury.  But this goes way too far.  You can imagine the scene directed by Martin Scorcese as Jonathan Vilma drops 10 G’s on the table as the bounty reward for Brett Favre’s pelt.

I am very curious to see Roger Goodell’s punishment. His willingness to suspend players for arguable hits without monetary incentive was huge!  Now you have players, coaches, and front office personnel involved.  Even more curious, Gregg Williams, who apologized for his “terrible mistake” now coaches for the St. Louis Rams.  Will two teams suffer penalties? And if you want, as Gerry Sandusky pointed out to me, you could view this as a salary cap violation.

A monster mess that will no doubt become an example making process for the NFL.  Stay tuned.

Post football journeys

February 24, 2012 - Leave a Response

The end of football season delivers a hollow feeling. We invest so much time, energy, and sometimes emotion (still human) into covering the Ravens that the abrupt conclusion leaves one numb.

They remember me!

Two weeks or so to digest a particularly stunning finish, and the benefits to unfootball season come clear.

I see my family again!

I also get to reintroduce myself to old friends. Taking in a Lake Clifton basketball game I see that Herman “Tree” Harried is doing one of his best coaching jobs. Recent years saw the Lakers with superstars like Will Barton, Josh Selby, and Cleveland Melvin, but no such blue chippers in 2012. No matter. Lake Clifton offers team defense to confound and confuse. Tree’s team earned the top seed in the 2A North for the state playoffs.

Lake Clifton huddle

Also recently discovered a new sport. Well, new to me. Acrobatic gymnastics combines all the grace and strength of a floor routine with teamwork. Kind of better right? The kids from 1st Class Gymnasticswon a national championship and will compete for a world title in April. Sweet girls who giggle and blush at the prospect of an interview show hard core strength and fearlessness in their sport. Baby faced assasins indeed.

Sophia, Holland and Rachel look dainty, they could throw you through a window.

Sat down with Cal Ripken Jr. and Mark Teixeira at Cal Sr’s Aspire Gala. We were given five minutes for the interview, so it wasn’t so much a break down of sabermetrics. But I was reminded that the vilified Teixeira is actually one of the more enjoyable people I’ve met. Thoughtful and pleasant, he gives a quality answer to a question. And his respect for Junior is palpable. A good bet that if Ripken was running things at Camden Yards players like Teixeira would line up to be Orioles. Maybe someday. Ripken did answer that question, in completely uncertain terms of course, that yes he would like to find a role with the team and if it’s to happen it should be sooner than later. The role however I’m sure he wants is owner, so we’ll continue to wait.

And still to come this spring, March Madness, lacrosse, and the Orioles bid for relevancy once again. All pleasant enough distractions till training camp. Wait, when’s the draft?

Delusions of (what’s the opposite of grandeur?)

January 20, 2012 - Leave a Response

Foxborough, MA

The Patriots arrive in the AFC Championship game with a 14-3 record, home field advantage as the number one seed, and having just eviscerated the Broncos 45-10. The Ravens meanwhile show up as the 2 seed and having just eeked past playoff nubie Houston. Las Vegas says the Ravens are a 7.5 point under dog.

Frankly, that’s right where the Ravens want them. They love the role off under dog. It’s a blue collar city the relishes the idea of “us against the world.”

And that’s why I’m so confused right now.

Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch today said the Patriots were the under dogs. That the Patriots get no love from national media. That ESPN has gone a month without showcasing the Patriots.

It’s a strange world here at Patriot Place. Reality has no home in New England. Patriots owner Bob Kraft also said he’s flying in Steven Tyler to sing the national anthem because he’s lucky for the Pats. Now I know why the Celtics have a leprechaun as their mascot. It’s all fantasy land here in Massachusetts.

Incidentally, Rex Ryan chimed in on the AFC Title game. As poorly as he’s done in predictions, not sure his support is all that welcome!

A Plus on the Ravens

January 14, 2012 - Leave a Response

3 year old Garrett Kellner knows more of the Ravens and what they do than I’d say 80% of Ravens fans. This is who completely remarkable, and while a bit long, I encourage you to watch the entire thing. Thanks to Ravens Media Relations Director Chad Steele for first pointing this YouTube video out on Twitter:

Arrival time for Joe Flacco

January 12, 2012 - Leave a Response

Despite Joe Flacco putting up nearly identical statistics to in 2011 as he did the last two seasons (Joe threw for 3,613  3,622 & 3,610 yds the last 3 years), Flacco is a very different quarterback right now. Different in style of play and different in his communication skills.

The first three years with Joe, if we heard an emotional sound bite I can’t recall it. The aw shucks kid just went about his job happy to be here. But signs of change arrived during the off season.

Flacco openly criticized his play caller Cam Cameron for being too conservative in the 4th quarter.  And he expressed serious frustration over the firing of his quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn.

During the season we’ve seen Joe, it not lash out something like it, at media and fans for criticizing his play or the Ravens to throw the ball excessively in losses.  At the core of this anger was the view Flacco has of himself vs. the view from most others.

He sees himself as a very good quarterback, capable of doing all the things we see from Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.  “You guys do realize, they don’t run the ball?”   He offers incredulity at skepticism about his abilities.

In Baltimore the reigning sentiment is Joe can be very good, but still sits on the outside looking in at stardom.  And nationally, Joe has more detractors than  ESPN’s Skip Bayless (the most prominent of which is Skip Bayless.) 

All of which may be reconciled during this playoff run.  Play mistake free football, make big throws in the 4th quarter, and reach the Super Bowl then the love will flow from all around.  Fall short against the likes of T.J. Yates and the mountainous climb to the top changes from Appalachian to Andian. 

It really does all set up beautifully for Joe and the Ravens this year.  No Peyton Manning to get in the way, a home game against a team they already beat by 15 points in Baltimore, and a collective level of health unprecedented for them in mid-January. 

If not now, then when?