Monday
November 29, 2021
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#2654


just keep stacking 'em


It almost feels like the Ravens are trolling us at this point. Doesn't it?

I know they aren't. But it sure seems that way.

Last night's 16-10 win over Cleveland was both unimpressive and inspiring at the same time. On a night when Lamar Jackson didn't have his best stuff and the team's running backs accounted for just 67 yards, the Baltimore defense stepped up to shut down the Cleveland ground game and made life miserable for Baker Mayfield, who was fortunate to even produce one touchdown on Sunday evening.

Yes, we're going to say it again here for what feels like the umpteenth time over the last few years. "A win is a win." Just keep stacking 'em up.

Odafe Oweh had another stellar night for the Ravens in their 16-10 win over Cleveland on Sunday night.

Fortunately, in a year where the Ravens are beaten, bruised and battered and they're getting irregular play from their star quarterback, no one else in the AFC is all that good either. And it adds up to an 8-3 record and, as of now, the #1 seed in the conference. There's still football left to be played, of course, but the Ravens now have their playoff fate and home field advantage on their racquet with six games remaining.

Several things stood out on Sunday night. Besides the officiating, that is. We won't spend a second of this space ridiculing those guys for their inept performance last night. It is what it is.

Odafe Oweh took advantage of an early injury to Cleveland right tackle Jack Conklin and was an absolute terror on Sunday night. Whether Oweh winds up in the mix for the AFC Rookie of the Year remains to be seen, but it's been a while since a first-year defensive player in Baltimore has made the kind of impact the former Penn State defensive end has made this season.

Tyus Bowser -- who is reaping the benefit of Oweh's presence -- had another massive game last night. Over the off-season I urged the Ravens to keep Bowser and Derek Wolfe around for 2021. I was half-right on that one. Bowser is, at this point, the team's Defensive MVP, if such awards are handed out. He managed three hits on Baker Mayfield last night, a pass deflection and 4 tackles, including the game-ending wrap-up on Mayfield's 4th and 10 throw to David Njoku. Much is being made about the season Matthew Judon is having in New England, but Bowser is a cheaper version of Judon, which is what the NFL is basically all about. Find the guy who is almost as good as the other guy at a more reasonable price.

Patrick Queen has been a major asset since the recent switch to the "Will" linebacker position and appears to finally be settling in as the player the Ravens thought they were getting when they picked him in the first round in 2020. Queen led the team with 8 tackles (yes, we realize that stat is a little misleading) including two for lost yardage. He's gone from essentially being benched back in early October to playing at an extremely high level in late November. Things have definitely turned in his favor and the Baltimore defense is better for it, too.

Mark Andrews had a weird-but-good stat night as he not only hauled in 4 receptions for 65 yards, plus a touchdown, but he also made 3 solo tackles on Lamar Jackson interceptions. The 3rd quarter catch at the Cleveland 13 yard line was remarkable and his route running on the touchdown grab minutes later was outstanding, as he never gave up on the play despite knowing Lamar was nearly sacked. Andrews remains the team's best pass catching option, with all due respect to Brown and Bateman.

When your kicker amasses more points than your offense, you have to mention him, so here's where we'll laud Justin Tucker for another remarkable night. Tucker was 3-for-3, with kicks from 52, 25 and 49 yards. The final boot from 49 yards out with 1:10 remaining gave the Ravens a 16-10 lead and created a "touchdown or bust" mentality for the Browns on their final drive of the game. If Tucker misses that, Cleveland gets the ball on their own 39 yard line needing just a field goal to tie.

Now...it wasn't all good on Sunday night. That's why it was a one-possession game with a minute left to play.

Lamar obviously had an off night, which is now two straight uneven performances from him. Granted, the Cleveland defense is good and Myles Garrett is a premier rush end in the league, but Jackson's poor play was directly responsible for keeping the Browns in the game until the end. That said, he was again effective running the ball himself, which is pretty much necessary these days since the Ravens' trio of running backs are pedestrian at best. Jackson finished Sunday night's win as the team's leading rusher with 68 yards, which tells you all you need to know.

Some armchair quarterbacks on radio and TV will spend time today highlighting several of Lamar's sidearm throws from last night, but those weren't the passes that got him in trouble. In fact, there's probably an argument he's more accurate throwing the ball that way than he is throwing a "standard" pass. It's also fair to remember that Jackson is now in his 4th season in the NFL and teams might slowly be starting to catch up to him a wee bit. And there's nothing wrong with that. Lamar and Greg Roman will just need to go to the film room and figure out a way to stay ahead of the rest of the league.

The Baltimore secondary again looked vulnerable on Sunday night, as Jarvis Landry had a huge game (111 yards on 6 receptions) and David Njoku added 35 yards on 3 receptions (although the TD catch was certainly questionable). The Ravens' biggest break might have come in the 3rd quarter when Cleveland tight end Harrison Bryant left the game due to injury. He had 3 receptions for 50 yards and looked like he was going to be a coverage-problem for Wink Martindale and the defense throughout the game.

Next Sunday in Pittsburgh will present another challenge for the Ravens secondary. Roethlisberger might be 39 with the agility of Fred Flintstone, but he has some weapons in the receiving department and, in case you don't recall, Big Ben has generally played "up" against Baltimore when the game is in the Steel City.

Oh, and don't forget that Baltimore will be steaming into Heinz Field next Sunday to face a team that just got absolutely boatraced in Cincinnati yesterday, 41-10. That's never a good thing.

All in all, I don't see how anyone can be down on the Ravens at this point. They're on top of the division, leading the conference, and, as we all know, haven't even really played all that well over their 11-game schedule to date. They are, by the very definition, "doing just enough to win," which is really all that matters.

Sure, their remaining schedule is daunting, but nothing that they can't handle if they get better play from Lamar, some modest improvement from their running backs, and better coverage from the secondary. And as we've seen thus far in '21, the only other team in the division really worth a hoot is Cincinnati. The AFC North is definitely still up for grabs, but it's a two-team race, frankly.

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notes from the weekend


The Washington Capitals made an early season statement on Sunday with a 4-2 road win over Carolina that gives the Caps sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Sure, one game in late November doesn't mean anything, but much was made of yesterday's showdown between two of the league's best teams and it was the Caps who came through with the win. Alex Ovechkin connected on his 19th goal of the season and Dmitry Orlov scored with just under 3 minutes remaining to put the Caps ahead, 3-2. Washington is now 14-3-5 on the year (for those that don't know, the "5" represents five overtime losses).

The New York Mets and Texas Rangers are both interested in winning in 2022, as both teams have been very active in free agency thus far. The Mets, if the rumors are true, are the current high bidder for future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer, waving upwards of $45 million at him to leave sunny Southern California and come back east.

Former Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer appears headed back east for a massive short-term deal with the New York Mets.

New York has already added Starling Marte and Mark Canha in this hot stove season, but a Scherzer signing would be one of the biggest pieces of news of the off-season and would go a long way in making the Mets a pre-season N.L. East favorite.

The Rangers are spending gobs of money this off-season, as they're closing in on signing Marcus Semien and pitcher Jon Gray, both of whom would be outstanding starter-pieces in their effort to compete with the Astros in the A.L. West. Semien was a finalist for A.L. MVP honors with Toronto this past season. Gray's base numbers (8-12, 4.59) in Colorado in 2021 weren't all that great, but baseball analysts feel like he'll prosper by getting out of Denver, as most pitchers do.

Oh, and speaking of pitchers and big money, the Blue Jays added former Oriole Kevin Gausman on Sunday, giving him 5 years and $110 million. Gausman was in the hunt for the N.L. Cy Young Award in '21 after going 14-6 with a 2.81 ERA for the Giants, and Toronto decided to invest heavily in him. That seems like a lot of money to pay for a guy who has essentially had one outstanding year in his career. But Toronto, as we know, is just "pitching" away from perhaps seizing control of the A.L. East for a few years.

The wildfire rumor spreading on the PGA Tour is that Tiger Woods and his son, Charlie, are going to tee it up in the Father-Son championship in two weeks. This would make sense -- if Woods is healthy -- in that participants get to ride in golf carts and the onus of playing out every hole wouldn't fall on Tiger. His 13-year old son is quite the player, as you might remember from last December when he essentially outplayed both Tiger and Justin Thomas from 100 yards and in on Sunday.

If Woods doesn't play in the Father-Son, it simply means he doesn't feel like his golf game is up to the standards required to compete, even in something as meaningless as a silly season event. If Woods does play, though, it will lead to follow up discussion about his 2022 schedule and when he might kick it off.

There have been whispers in the golf world that Tiger might petition the PGA Tour to allow him to use a golf cart in '22 as he continues to rehab the leg injury he suffered in last February's car accident, but the bet here is there's no way the TOUR would allow for Woods to ride while the rest of the players and their caddies walk.

I realize he's Tiger Woods and all and he's still the biggest needle mover in the world of golf (if not all of sport), but there's simply no way the PGA Tour can accommodate a cart request from Woods. It would be an awful look for Commissioner Jay Monahan if he gave in on that one.

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dale williams aims the
terps spotlight

DALE WILLIAMS returns for his seventh season of covering all things Maryland men's basketball for #DMD. Terps Spotlight will preview and review all games in the 2021-2022 season.


terps-louisville review


Editor's note: This game recap was originally scheduled to run in yesterday's edition of #DMD, but technical issues prohibited it from appearing here. Our apologies...

You simply can’t win major college basketball games when you get outrebounded 51-25, especially when you lose the offensive rebound numbers 17-2. The Maryland Terrapins were pummeled on the glass Saturday, and as a result, suffered a 63-55 loss to the Louisville Cardinals.

The Terps shot slightly better than the Cards from the field and the three-point line. They also won the turnover battle,17-13. But 16 Louisville second chance points, compared to just 2 for Maryland sealed the Terrapins fate.

Did an Eric Ayala free throw miss change the momentum of Saturday's Maryland loss to Louisville?

Malik Williams led Louisville with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Noel Locke added 12 points while Jae’Lyn Williams grabbed 11 carroms. Williams and Withers almost outrebounded the entire Terp team, 23-25.

Donta Scott led the Terps with 16 points on just 6 of 16 shooting and he tied Fatts Russell for the team lead with 6 rebounds. Fatts’ 6 defensive rebounds were actually the most on his team.

In an NCAA landscape where shooters and athletes are at a premium, Maryland simply does not have enough of either. Their 38.5% shooting from the field, and 28.6% from the three-point line might have been better than the Cards 35.5% and 22%, but the Terps took 8 less shots because of all the Louisville offensive rebounds. Maryland could manage just 3 second-chance points because they grabbed just 2 offensive rebounds. You would think they could get that many by accident. Maybe that’s what they did.

Louisville held a slight 5-3 lead at the first TV timeout. They had already scored off of an offensive rebound. Scott had already missed three shots, but would redeem himself with a steal and dunk to help propel the terps to a 9-0 run where they took a 10-5 lead after 8:18 had been played in the half.

A few minutes later, the Terp defense started to break down and the Cardinals began to surge. Louisville would score 22 points in the half’s final 8 minutes. During that same time, Maryland tallied just 9 points and trailed by 5 at the intermission, 32-27. In a foreshadowing of the final numbers, the Terps were manhandled on the offensive glass 12-1 during the first 20 minutes. Russell, the shortest player on the court, had 5 of his team’s 11 rebounds. Maryland also had 7 first half turnovers. Terp newcomers, Ian Martinez and Julian Reese both looked lost in the first half.

In the second half, Maryland had an early 4-minute scoring drought, and found themselves down by 8, 42-34, with 13:38 left in the game. However, a couple of Scott three pointers sandwiched around an Eric Ayala layup allowed the Terps to pull even at 42-all. Maryland went to a zone for 2 productive defensive possessions, but Louisville countered by substituting all 5 guys, forcing the Terps to return to their man-to-man defense.

The Terps scored the next five points, extending Louisville’s scoreless streak to 7 minutes. At this point, a key thing happened that may have not drawn much attention at the time, but was a huge red flag to me. Ayala was fouled while making a layup that put Maryland up 5, 47-42.

After a short break for some substitutions, Ayala badly missed the foul shot. The attempt seemingly lacked intensity. The Terp senior who made 83% of his free throws last year only converted of 2 of 5 yesterday. A good shooter from the foul line will miss short or long, perhaps just a tiny bit left or right, but his attempt was oddly wide left. You could sense a momentum change was on the way.

In the next 50 seconds, the Cardinals got a bucket from Locke, a turnover from Russell, and a three from Matt Cross after Scott missed covering him. The game was tied at 47 with 6:24 left. The two teams traded buckets, but the 49-49 tie would be the last of the game. Once they got behind, the Terps defense couldn’t get stops and when forced to put Louisville on the line, the Cardinals converted. There was no last shot drama as Louisville cruised to the 63-55 win.

This game was far too physical for a Maryland team that lacks physicality. Maryland just didn’t have the personnel to match up with Louisville’s athletes. You can’t coach athleticism; you have to recruit it. Until Mark Turgeon can persuade quality shooters and elite athletes to come to College Park, the program can have moderate success, but they will never reach the heights expected by the Terp faithful.

I don’t think the team is underperforming, I think the talent on this '21-22 team has been over evaluated.

Maryland will improve because the new pieces really haven’t had much time to gel. However, even when that happens, I have doubts that they can hit enough shots to overcome their physical limitations.

Maryland will return to action on Wednesday when they meet Virginia Tech for an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game in the XFINITY Center. Game time is 7:15 p.m. and you can watch it ESPN2.

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#dmd comments








unitastoberry     November 29
@Herman this is just one reason I come to DMD because if you tell the truth about the NFL by virtue of your age and what you watched in a galaxy far far away you are usually not ridiculed. When you think about watching a kick off sail into the endzone with no return because they now kick from midfield and the ball is placed on the 25 not 20 and 70k people are screaming there's something very wrong about that and the game in general. At times it's a clown show but the leagues bank accounts do not indicate that. Also @ Lou that's a great story I'm going to borrow it at gatherings.

lou@palo alto     November 29
Herman makes gd points: grew up watching Unitas & all--all our focus in the fall and the games were so different than now. i play in an annual steve young/jerry rice golf tourney in the fall and several yrs ago steve told us that Brady said to him "u sld still be playing--they can't hit us any more and the middle is always open"

Stats Nerd     November 29
I think Chubb is a great running back....probably top 5-ish backs. off the top of my head: Henry, McCaffrey, Cook, Taylor...maybe Kamara. Problem is he is a running back. Position just isn't as important as it was, say 25 years ago.

John L.     November 29
Go back to Cleveland Jerry and Joe!! Your team lost last night. Get over it boys!!!!!!!!

Delray RICK     November 29
HERMAN...I can't wait til summer is over because...It's starts in SEPTEMBER and doesn't end til FEBUARY. AND we have a top team here which IS exciting EVERY YEAR. DEM OS are in the rear view mirror.

MJ     November 29
Joe P. must be smoking the good hippie lettuce if he thinks Chubb is better than Chase or Andrews (I won't put QB'S in the argument because that's silly). Chubb is basically on par with Mixon in Cincy. And if we're honest Harris in Pittsburgh could be better than both of those guys soon.

Back to the hippie lettuce Joe!!! lol

Rico     November 29
JerryH lost all credibility with the Chubb comment. I stopped reading at that point. Take his DMD card away pronto.

Joe P.     November 29
I guess we should be happy to know that JC is the be all,end all in terms of writing the list on the most talented players in the AFC north.



Chubb is a huge talent, when healthy. He gets down graded for not showing up every week.

But when he is right? On Offense, he is better than Andrews, Chase and Burrow.

I'll go with 2nd best on offense in the AFC North. He ain't better than Garret or Watt or Lamar.

Ken Diehl     November 29
Hi Drew, long time reader but first time contributor. I just wanted to applaud you for your consistently even keeled takes on the Ravens. Unlike the big columnist in town who constantly harps on the negative I enjoy coming here on Monday and reading your analysis as I know it will showcase the good and the bad from the game.



As you know all too well from being a coach yourself, how you won isn't nearly as important as people think it is. How the Ravens are winning these games doesn't matter one bit. They're winning, that's all that matters.



Keep up the good work and belated congratulations on your US Senior Open appearance last Summer. We were all living vicariously through you that week you were in Omaha.

JeffWell     November 29
I was going to write something like "Jerry H makes some valuable points but I don't understand why he has to resort to name calling." But then I saw his take on Weinman, and now I believe that we could be best friends!



Also, though I'm not a conspiracy theorist, the officiating throughout the league is so poor, that you certainly can understand the genesis of said theories.

HERMAN     November 29
I realize why I'm addicted to pro football but for the life of me I can't understand why anyone under 35 growing up in the digital age watches the horrendous product they put out in the NFL. Teams are watered down with a lack of talent that doesn't stretch past five or six truly quality football players. The current rules and regulations have taken all "contact" out of a contact sport. Referee calls make little to no sense and overly impact the games. We watch calls and even reviews that make no sense and then are told by league toady announcers that our own eyes have lied to us, what we just saw played over, and over again isn't what we saw. For every Wow! moment we watch thirty to forty plays of ineptness and klutzy Keystone Cops performance that is difficult to sit through. With the exception of maybe 4 teams mediocrity rules, and the bulk of the league is 500 from bad teams playing each other over, and over. The NFL product of today is a bad reality show that plays from early morning to late at night, and we watch it all, all day long.

I grew up with 1960's football, came of age with 1970's football, had season tickets to the Colts and Ravens, and pro ball is so intertwined with my childhood and Sundays I'm an addict, incapable of turning the horrible nonsense they vend today off. I don't want to surrender whole days to it, but it's ingrained in me, like breathing, I can't live a Sunday without it in the Fall.

But man it's a bad product. Breathe on a QB it's 15 yards. Good God, They broke Johnny's nose and he stuffed dirt into it and kept playing. They tried to maim him in the pile. It was a vicious game, go to Youtube and watch any Dick Butkus highlight reels.

This awful stuff today, it isn't even related to that. Yet I can't turn away. I'm an addict, but how anyone under 40 got addicted to the horrible stuff they've watched is beyond me. It must be this "Fantasy" thing I've heard about. It can't be the actual games.

JC     November 29
Have to agree with Larry, Chubb isn't close to the 2nd best player in the division.

1. Lamar

2. Garrett

3. Watt

4. Burrow

5. Chase

6. Fitzpatrick

7. Andrews

There's the top 7. Chubb nowhere to be found so far.

Jason M     November 29
@RC Stadium was pretty damn packed last night. These Sunday night games are not easy for any of us that have to get kids on the bus and head off to work the next day - but overall I thought the crowd was pumped and there were very few empty seats. Did not like the wrist band thing - gimmicky and a lot of waste.

Larry     November 29
Chubb the 2nd best player in the AFC North?

@JerryH still hitting that Thanksgiving wine a little too much apparently.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Jerry Agree fans and commentators generally focus too much on sack numbers. Hurries and pressures more generally are far more important to focus on and are believed to be more predictive of future success getting to the QB than simply looking at raw sack totals.

Might do my column on this this week. Unless there is something others would prefer to focus on.

JerryH     November 29
Very simple defensive game plan. Stop the run. Chubb is the 2nd best player in the division. And Hunt has top 3 body lean NFL talent. So what do the morons complain about? That Landry was running wild in the space vacated by the linebackers crowding the line. Huh?

Ancillary to the stop the run focus. I'd posit that the Ravens decided (guessed?) that Mayfield was too beat up to hurt them in two areas, the roll outs that he does well on and the deep ball. He had 250 yards mostly between the 30's, which in this era is what you want. But not the "expert" class, who time and time again prove that they don't understand the reality of an offensive era. Ravens are a bit geared to being anachronistic. They are really old school on defensive line play. As crazy as Winks scheming is, there is very little free lancing going on. You gotta follow the rules. So guys like Weinman(the most ignorant media member in town on athletic endeavors and understanding of what real athletes and coaches do) will moan that the team doesn't get enough sacks. Well, the pressure on Mayfield was everything last night. 3 sacks? Not a staggering number for fantasy freaks. But getting an injured guy off his spot when he couldn't do designed roll outs was the major factor in the win.

Again the refs in New York and those on the field prove that the millions that is spent on them is a waste. The 4th INT was a farce. The TD allowed was 80/20 that it wasn't a catch. Of course people should be upset, but the issue remains and evidence is pointing to calls comming in on the headsets of the Refs from "somewhere". The most outrageous call of the night was the late holding call on Powers on the Freeman cutback run. 100% designed to give the Browns a chance. The Ravens were slamming the ball down the throat of the exhausted Browns defense.

Remember Rule Number 1.

1. The NFL, above all other rules is a television show. It follows a formula. The games aren't fixed, but they must be viewed in the prism as being entertainment.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Eric also everyone rightfully points to the Forsberg trade as a debacle but the Caps absolutely made up for it in the Oshie deal. Given that he was an integral part of the Cup run I think it's fair to call it a wash. Ofc Forsberg is 6 or 7 years younger with a longer runway so this calculus will likely change.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Eric Yeah my recollection was that in the Oates/Trotz years a lot of guys were blocked playing minutes and developing particularly on D. But looking back over the stats that doesn't seem to actually be the case. I was thinking particularly of Nate Schmidt along with some lesser caliber players like Djoos, Chorney, Sanford, and even Stephenson in some playoff series. The teams always seemed a little slow but weren't consistently putting these players in.

Either my memory differs from reality or maybe these players were scratched at particularly important times. But maybe I overstated it.

Even last year when they signed Lundqvist they may not have known what they had in VV (tbf I think that was a reasonable signing if Henrik was going to play ~20 games or whatever).

Chris in Bel Air     November 29
Hey, they are 8-3 somehow. That's all that matters. It was the D last night that shined the most. They knew Baker was hobbling and that he was not able to move around well to avoid the pressure so they picked opportune times to get on him quickly and force him to throw early. The D also did a great job containing Chubb and Hunt and that is not an easy task. I'm a little a worried about this weekend up in Pitt. They are going to be ticked off after that whoopin yesterday.

I'm happy for Gausman but I think he is going to quickly remember that pitching in the AL East is not the same as pitching in the NL.

JOHN     November 29
After what happened to the Steelers yesterday. I'm guessing Steeler Steve will choose to remain a "silent observer" today and not find the Ravens and fans or his name for them "ratbirds" so "hilarious".

unitastoberry     November 29
The W is still the most important stat.

But as a fan of 50+ years I notice things which amaze me. You take the advantage the offense has in the game today and yet you still get qbs like last night who both laid eggs on national tv while playing for the Mahomes type contracts. The Ravens are in first place at the start of December with running backs who if not for the devasting injuries to this team that seem to continue even in non contact practices would be home watching on tv and checking on their investments. Add to this an offensive line without any quality tackles and mediocre at best every place else. The D did their job without Campbell and a secondary that is a bunch of second and third stringers with a few rejects. All this adds up to getting Harbs a bit closer to coach of the year. On to Stiller land where the Iron City Beer is becoming a bit stale.

Delray RICK     November 29
4 interceptions AND THE RAVENS STILL WON!!! GAUSMAN makes big deal $$$$.

al smith     November 28
What could be better than betting real money on free advice?? Sounds like a sound financial strategy to me.

MFC     November 28
Well, I love optimism and certainly the site owner has a full tank, unfortunately the tank is low in $$$$$.The builder is accepting other jobs worrying a foreclosure is within sight. Thirty games plus playoffs to get straightened out but the hole is being dug and it's not for that basement that no one has in Dewey.



Out mythical $1,000/game summary.

YTD ($1700)

Today

2 wins= $2,000

3 losses= ($3,300) ( admittedly the Minnesota game was written in such a way I wasn't totally sure what the bet was but either way they lost)

total= ($1300)



YTD Total= ($3,000)


Tim Perry     November 28
Thanks Drew and Paul! I played both of your top plays and won enough for Xmas! You two rock!

Delray RICK     November 28
MFC will a calculator to add this up.


Greg     November 28
At 4 pm today Nestor went online and asked if he could stop by someone's tailgate tonight and "eat your food and drink your beer".



It's 5:45 pm and he's had zero replies or invites.



Now that's funny.

Ron W.     November 28
Drew and Paul both off to good starts today. I admit to throwing a few bucks on their wagers today. So far so good.

RC     November 28
Oh boy, we're going to get the whole "how come no one goes to Ravens games any more?" diatribe tomorrow. Wonder if there will be any new reasons for this, or lather, rinse, repeat??

Titus     November 28
As a long time UM hoops fan I can say this without hesitation. The only player on MD's current roster that would play at Michigan State is Donta Scott. And he would be the 7th guy for Izzo. MD's talent is woefully lacking. Turgeon's a decent coach but he's not beating Izzo or Howard with this group of players.

Chuck P     November 28
Terps got better? They have a 6’11” center and got 2 (count ‘em 2) offensive rebounds. When you shoot 30% somebody needs to get under the boards. Very disappointed with this team so far.

Billy     November 28
@Eric is 100% correct. Its like stock market experts - if someone truly knows "how to beat the market", why they gonna tell other people?

And certainly not gonna tell you "for free".

unitastoberry     November 28
Your going to need super Lamar and a sea of hands that catch and run today. Fast start required too.

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 28
I love gambling but I'm sorry if you take money to promote gambling I don't know how they look themselves in the mirror. The phrase the house always wins isn't an exaggeration. You are promoting people to become homeless and penniless and in some cases turn to crime to try and cover their debts. And newsflash: touts don't exist. If someone really had the inside dirt to win all the time you really think they gonna share it with YOU?

kevin     November 28
Brown-Quinnipiac?? If that does not tell you how pervasive gambling has become in the world of sports, nothing does.

Pete Rose is now saying wait, all this is ok now?? lol

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 28
Stats nerd: who have the Caps really had the last 10 years youth wise to play? The hideous Forsberg trade was pretty much the end of young guns era but the development of Wilson Kuz and Carlson allowed Caps window to stay open longer than Chi and LA's did. As for Ravens this is as Jay Gruden once declared- a red alert game. With games at Pit and Cle next the division and season could slip away with a loss. This is a game where Lamar needs to be the story. Thankfully Schefter reports Hollywood will play barring pregame setback

Steve of Pimlico     November 28
Hopefully this will be Harbaugh family sweep but the Browns look awfully tough tonight with all if our injuries.

As far as gambling is concerned anytime humans are involved,chicanery will appear.

Stats Nerd     November 27
The Caps have been slow to bring youth into the lineup over the last 10-12 years. They’ve had very few spots to fit them but even when they could have their default has been to sign guys like Gudas or Chara. It’s been frustrating in the past but this injury bug has forced their hands a bit. Think it pays off for them long term as well. I would not have expected that to be the case even 3 months ago

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 27
Lamar has had his best games against Cle.... why? Garrett 1 1/2 sacks the last 6 match ups total. Sadly Stanley and Brown will not be here to continue that. If Calais and Williams don't play Cle will run for 150+

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 27
Another big loss for Turge? Shocking. Thankfully they are irrelevant, didn't even know they were playing today. Tried to tell Drew that the Gretzky record is a lock barring catastrophic injury. He will be at least at 780 with 4 years to get 115 goals. As for the Caps gotta love Protas being on the top line and playing well and Feheravy being top line D. Samsonov first Caps goalie ever to get a point in first 9 starts but as Alan May pointed out the team MVP so far is Kuznetsov. 4th in the league in scoring AND dominating on the PK, without Backstrom and Eller his play has been vital. Still think Caps core is too old to go far in the playoffs with IMO the 3 best teams in the league in the East: TB, Car, Fla. Meanwhile nice bounce back for the suddenly struggling Wiz last night in Memphis. Plenty of nice stories to distract from incompetent hopefully soon to be fired Turgeon. As for Ravens it's not looking good. Not only is Cleveland finally healthy but I don't see how Ravens stop Garrett on D and Chubb and Hunt on O. Gonna take a Lamar miracle.

RC     November 27
Dale is 0-1 on the year.

Chris in Bel Air     November 27
@Tom J - Agree! And yes Ovie is on fire too. It has been a welcomed surprise to see the Caps off to a great start while not having Backstrom, Oshie and Mantha. Some of the younger players like Fehevary, Leason and McMichael are blending in nicely and they are getting some surprise contributions from players like Hathaway. Also, Samsonov and Vanacek have been solid in the goal.

Tom J     November 27
The Caps are on fire!!! And they have done this without Backstrom, Mantha and Oshie to name a few. Hopefully when they all come back with less wear and tear this year, that will pay off down the road.

Hal     November 27
Welcome back Dale!

Hey, what happened to John Darcey? I haven't seen anything from him for a couple of weeks now.

Conway     November 26
Here's what I can't understand about the Turgeon haters. If the team went 9-21, 11-20 and 14-18, I could understand the griping and complaining. As someone pointed out, they're always competitive in the Big 10 and they've made the tourney every year but one since MT took over. People act like Maryland is Towson University. Imagine being a supporter of that program. Then you would have a real reason to gripe.



Happy Thanksgiving (belated) to every one in DMD land!

Rich     November 26
Agree with those who applaud @DF for his column about Loyola Blakefield. Respect!

Art     November 26
Drew and Chris in Bel Air making complete sense today. At least someone in the DMV gets it.

MK     November 26
Nice of you to recognize Loyola's win over Calvert Hall yesterday. You're a true gentleman.

Victor Pirini     November 26
Thank you for the video in the Faith section today!

God is great!

I appreciate you sharing that with your readers.



Philippians 4:6-7

Dons Dad     November 26
Thank you, Drew, for your kind words about Loyola's performance yesterday. It speaks volumes about you that you recognize the Dons despite your understood allegiance to Calvert Hall. Thank you.

#DMD GAME DAY
Week 12


Sunday — November 28, 2021
Issue 2653

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens

8:20 PM EST

M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore, MD

Spread: Ravens (-3.5)


i sure hope i'm wrong


You want the good news or bad news first?

The good news?

I'm not always right when I get "these feelings".

Can Baker Mayfield win in Baltimore for the second time in his career tonight?

The bad news?

I might very well be right tonight.

I have a weird feeling the Ravens are losing tonight at home to Cleveland. I just think the injuries on the defensive side of the ball are too much to overcome for John Harbaugh's team. And Cleveland's the healthiest they've been all season, with the exception of quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has a list of ailments so long it makes Ben Roethlisberger jealous.

I don't want to be right, trust me. I hope I'm wrong. I want to be wrong, in fact. But I can't hide the fact that I think the odds are stacked against the Ravens tonight and I don't see them winning.

This wouldn't be a catastrophic loss for Baltimore, but it would create a wide-open AFC North playoff race with six games remaining. Everyone will still have a shot at the division title even if the Ravens should happen to win tonight, but a Ravens victory would go a long way towards that 11-win total we all seem to think will be good enough for the AFC North crown. A loss, though, and all four teams are smack-dab-in-the-thick-of-it with a third of the season remaining.

If you want a score just so you have something to hold me to, I'll say Cleveland wins 27-21. It's close all night but the Browns get a score with about five minutes remaining to go up by six and they hold on from there.

I hope I'm wrong.


It was a tale of two different tapes for Maryland sports on Saturday as the basketball team lost in the Bahamas to Louisville and the football team smashed Rutgers on the road to finish at 6-6 and become "bowl eligible".

The football Terps seem destined for New York or Detroit for their post-season game. It's not the Orange Bowl, but it'll do.

Saturday was filled with teams reaching the magical six-win mark and celebrating their "bowl eligibility". 82 of the 130 Division I FBS teams will play in a bowl game this year (and early next), which means, obviously, it doesn't take much to make it to a bowl game these days. Hence, Maryland's 6-6 mark gets them into one, where the school will make a decent check and boost its recruiting presence at the same time.

Someone said to me yesterday, "So they made a bowl game, big deal. They finished five hundred for the season. Why celebrate that?"

To which I said. "They were 5-6 entering today's game at Rutgers. If they would have lost, they wouldn't have made a bowl game at all. Would you rather they win and make one or lose and not make one?"

I totally understand that 6-6 is nothing to fly a banner about, but it's better than 5-7.

The basketball team? They weren't so fortunate on Saturday, losing 63-55 to Louisville. The Terps were outrebounded in that one, 51-25.

Mark Turgeon and the Terps lost for the second time in four games on Saturday when they fell to Louisville.

There's the stat. That's it. Outrebounded 51-25.

In a game where three or four baskets decided the outcome, Louisville got the ball 26 more times than Maryland once a shot was missed.

Basketball experts (to clarify, I am not one of those) say rebounding is 70% effort, 20% positioning and 10% technique. Dennis Rodman used to say, "I decide when the ball is in the air if I'm going to fight for this one or let the other guy get it. Most times I decided I wanted it and I went and got it."

It seems like the Terps either need more practice at rebounding or they need more heart. I have no idea which one of those Mark Turgeon believes is more important for his '21-22 team, but when you get outrebounded 51-25 something's definitely wrong. Maybe it was an outlier. Perhaps it just wasn't Maryland's day on the boards. We'll see on Wednesday night when Virginia Tech comes to College Park, right?

Turgeon, by the way, was mostly happy with the way things went in the Bahamas. "I think we improved a lot down here," he said after yesterday's loss. "We learned something about how to control the tempo in that Richmond game (where Maryland came back from a 12-point deficit) and even today, we mostly defended well on the perimeter and forced Louisville into taking a lot of shots they didn't want to take."

If Turgeon's happy with a 1-1 road trip and a loss to a Louisville team playing with an interim coach, that's his call. But the natives are indeed growing restless in the DMV. This is going to be a pivotal campaign for Turgeon. Let's hope he has the players to get the job done.

So far, it looks like Maryland doesn't have enough horses. I hope I'm wrong on that one, too.


Our friend "Bet It All Paul" returns with five wagering opportunities for you today. His presence here sparked an e-mail from "Matt" this week who wondered why this website was diving so deeply into sports wagering. "Do you want your son gambling on sports someday?" he asked.

There has been a massive shift in the way our country and sports media in general deals with sports wagering. 20 years ago, it was still somewhat taboo and you had to hustle to the local street corner to throw a few bucks on Michigan vs. Ohio State.

10 years ago, things started to loosen up as opportunities like Fantasy Football and online wagering platforms took hold.

Today? The networks are publishing the spreads and the totals and prop bets every opportunity they get. Whether you personally agree with gambling on sports is certainly your call, but the reality is that it's now part of the landscape in every situation.

I watched the Capitals-Panthers game on Friday night and in between the second and third periods, they had a 1-minute segment devoted to gambling.

"OK, here's what we're looking at...the Panthers, trailing, 3-2, are +300 to win the game outright tonight. The Caps are now -105 to win. As for the goal total, that's been moved to 7.5 and you're at +240 for the over and -115 for the under."

That came from the network. That betting segment was part of the team's official broadcast. If that doesn't tell you about sports gambling, I don't know what does.

I'm not here to tell you that sports gambling is good or bad. That's up to you. But I am here to recognize that it's a major part of the fabric of all sports and it is interesting to me, at the very least. On the whole, I think gambling on the games is kind of dumb given how many times we've seen strange things happen at the end of games -- in every sport. But I also understand it changes your interest level when you can throw $100 on the total or the point spread.

Do I want my son to gamble on sports someday? Not particularly. But he has heard tales of mine (both good wins and bad losses) from the golf course over the years and knows all too well that it's part of the sports marketplace, whether you're wagering on the Ravens or betting on yourself to make a 10-footer to win a $10 nassau.

Lee Trevino once said, "If you want to get good at golf, try playing someone for $50 when you only have $10 on you. That will make you good in a hurry." And to that end, I get it. Gambling in golf definitely increases your attention to detail.

My job as a parent is to properly educate my children on gambling. Like anything else, if it's done in moderation it can be enjoyable. I wouldn't want my son or daughter to develop a "gambling addiction" in the same way I wouldn't want them to develop an addiction to alcohol. I have work to do over the next few years to make sure I properly educate my two children on the good and bad about gambling.

But sports gambling is here and it's here to stay. It's not going anywhere. I'll bet you anything you want it's here for the long haul.

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bet it all paul says.......


I generally like to play game totals and first half totals more than I do spreads. You're relying more on game flow and tendencies when you go with totals, which I find easier to handicap.

I do like one NFL spread a lot today, though, so let's start there.

I am not a believer in the L.A. Rams just yet, but I think today's game in Green Bay sets up very well for them, especially with Aaron Rodgers banged up and Jordan Love waiting in the wings. If you're the Rams, your #1 game plan has to be get Rodgers out of the game, which is where guys like Von Miller and Aaron Donald come into play.

I'm taking the Rams and laying the 1.5 points in Green Bay today. I like the Rams so much I will probably throw 200 coffee beans at this one.

In college hoops, I love Arkansas today giving up 19.0 to a Penn team that just lost to Towson earlier this week. I also like the "under" total of 148.5 here, as the Razorbacks win 89-55. I'm not much of a parlay guy but let's throw 100 beans on this one to win 330 beans.

The Drake-Belmont first half scoring total is 67.5 and I love the "over" total here. Both teams will come out shooting in this one before settling in for a more of a defensive posture in the second half. 100 beans on the first half "over" 67.5.

The Brown-Quinnipiac game has an inviting first half total of 63.5 and in this one I think the "under" is a great opportunity. Neither of these teams have prolific offenses and the thought here is they both take a while to get going. I look for a 30-27 halftime score or something along those lines. We're throwing 100 beans on the "under" 63.5 in the first half.

Back to the NFL, the one game total I really like today is in the Tampa Bay-Indianapolis game. I'm going all in on this one to the tune of 500 beans on the "over" 53.0 for the game.

Those are the five wagers I'll be making today and the wagering amounts I'll play. As always, gamble within your own means and enjoy the games!

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"get this done before christmas!"


The builders have been slowing down at our beachhouse in Dewey. So much so that I had to have a talk with the foreman this week.

"I want this place done by Christmas!" I demanded.

"But you're running a little low on cash, Mr. Forrester," he replied.

"Cash-smash," I said. "There's always a new slate of football games coming up. Don't you worry, we'll crush 5 games again this weekend, like we've been doing all season, and you'll have more money than you know what to do with."

So here are those five games. By the way, we upgraded the hardwood floors in the kitchen last week. Originally we planned on spending about $4,500 but now we're going to spend roughly $10,000. What the heck, you only live once, right?

STEELERS AT BENGALS (-3.5) -- This is the day. This is the game. This, today, is when we find out if the Bengals are legit or not. Over the years, this is a game the Steelers would win, probably by 13-10 or 16-14. Pittsburgh would always figure out a way to win. But they won't today. The Bengals prove they're "real" with an easy cover in a 27-13 win over Pittsburgh.

Justin Herbert and the Chargers are giving Denver 2.5 points today.

PANTHERS AT DOLPHINS (+2.5) -- The Dolphins have somehow won three straight and they're home underdogs to Carolina? I don't get that one at all. This feels like one of those games Carolina will win if they're playoff worthy, but something tells us Miami's heater continues this afternoon. We'll take the Dolphins and the 2.5 points in a 26-23 win at the buzzer.

TITANS AT PATRIOTS (-7.0) -- It sure feels like people are giving up Tennessee these days. I guess losing at home to the Texans gives everyone probable cause, huh? I realize they have no running back and their talented wide receiver, A.J. Brown, was placed on the injured reserve list on Saturday, but they still have a competent quarterback and some other weapons. We'll take Tennessee plus the 7 points here and begrudgingly call a New England win, 21-16.

CHARGERS AT BRONCOS (+2.5) -- There was a point early in the season when Los Angeles looked like a Super Bowl contender. A mid-season slump stopped that chatter, but they've been better of late and are again starting to look like they might be a tough out in January. This game today will tell us all we need to know about the Chargers? Contender or Pretender? We think they're a contender and we'll take Los Angeles on the road today and give up 2.5 points in a 27-23 win over Denver.

VIKINGS AT 49'ERS (+3.5) -- Both of these teams are 5-5 and this game could be pivotal in a variety of ways in terms of playoff impact. San Francisco has not been very good at home (1-4) while the Vikings are 2-3 away from home and that includes gift-wrapping a game to the Ravens in Baltimore a few weeks ago. We're going with Minnesota and the 3.5 points here and we even think the Vikings win outright, 32-30.

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- We'll take Cincinnati at home giving the Steelers 3.5 points. We just don't see Pittsburgh being able to score enough points to hang close in this one.

OVERALL RECORD: 28-27

LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 1-4

BEST BET OF THE DAY: 5-6

JERRY'S TOYOTA banner
Saturday
November 27, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2652


saturday stuff


Before we delve into a few Saturday morning sports topics, I'm excited to welcome back Dale Williams for his 7th season of covering Maryland basketball for #DMD.

You'll find Dale's Maryland-Louisville preview below. Remember, the game starts at 10:00 am this morning.

As you'll see throughout the season if you follow Dale's work here, there aren't many people around who know college basketball the way he does. His pre-game analysis is thorough and complete. I'm bragging on him a bit here because he won't do it himself, but Dale often goes back and watches two or three games of Maryland basketball opponents in an effort to complete the most complete preview he can.

And his post-game work, which always appears here the morning after the game, is as good as any you'll find anywhere, regardless of the "status" of the publication.

If you're a Maryland hoops junkie, no one in town will deliver you the pre-game or post-game information you'll get from #DMD and Dale Williams. I'll put his knowledge up against anyone in town, including guys on the team's flagship radio station and any of the Terps-related websites you can find on the internet.

We're fortunate to have Dale with us, that's for sure.


As I anticipated and wrote here on numerous occasions, "The Match" between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau failed to deliver in a big way on Friday. Koepka won 4&3, which means, for the golf novices out there, that he was 4 holes ahead with 3 holes remaining.

And even that sorta-kinda got screwed up, as DeChambeau had 20 feet for birdie at the 9th hole and Koepka had 10 feet for birdie and when DeChambeau missed his putt, he conceded Koepka's birdie putt since he rightly assumed Brooks wouldn't three putt from 10 feet. So, if you were playing it by the letter of the golf scoring law, Brooks actually won the match 5&3. But that's neither here nor there, really.

Bad blood? Didn't see or hear much of it on Friday when Brooks and Bryson locked horns in Las Vegas.

I didn't actually catch any of it until they were on the 3rd green. Two holes later, I was already clicking the remote to see if any worthwhile college basketball games were on or if Training Day or The Green Mile were airing on one of the movie channels.

Look, I get the whole premise of the event. You have two guys who "apparently" don't like one another and they're going to settle things on the golf course. Seems like that concept might work, right?

Except it didn't work. Not at all. I've seen more tension at the Clifton Park weekend "Slam Bang" or the Eagle's Nest Tuesday Night men's league. It just didn't work yesterday.

DeChambeau is far too odd and nerdy to "needle" anyone or make things uncomfortable. In fact, his personality is just the opposite. He wants to hit 400 yard drives and have people "ooooh and ahhhhh" at him while he compliments their iron play and putting. Bryson might have a mercurial personality and all, but he's simply not a guy that is going to dive in and trade snarky barbs back and forth with someone he's pretending not to like in the first place.

And Koepka was so bored with the whole thing he was almost falling asleep at the wheel of his golf cart the whole time. Truthfully, the whole "Brooks dislikes Bryson" angle was woefully overplayed by the media. The reality? Koepka doesn't really like anyone. He doesn't have a lot of friends on TOUR (by his own admission) and he's far too busy trying to act like he's too cool for everyone to actually be too cool for everyone.

The whole thing was forced from the start and it just didn't work yesterday. The golf wasn't any good, as Koepka's new Srixon driver was a disaster and he couldn't find a fairway to save his life. I love how, at one point, he said, mocking Bryson, "I love this new driver. I love it." I'm sure the first call he made afterwards was to the Srixon rep: "Hey, man, I can't keep hitting those powder puff 290 yard whiffs to the right. Get me in something new before next season."

DeChambeau's driver was fine, but the rest of his game wasn't up to par. "I haven't played in two months," he kept saying. "But that's an excuse," he would quickly add. Uhhh, it sure sounded like an excuse, Bryson. But it was on the greens where DeChambeau's golf was really poor. He made one decent length putt for par at #1 and that was it for the day.

The broadcasting duo of Charles Barkley and Phil Mickelson? Tuurrrrible. Barkley had a couple of funny lines ("Yoga is just stretching that you pay money to do") but his lack of knowledge was glaring and the questions he asked were either silly or not at all important.

"Hey, Phil, how important is the caddie?" sounded like a question from someone who got pulled from the crowd and was allowed to ask one question of the 6-time major champion.

And Mickelson, for all of his wit and wisdom, fell terribly short of making an impact yesterday. He actually threw out more barbs and jabs at the two players than they threw at themselves. Mickelson and Tiger originally "owned" the entity that was aired yesterday and they played against one another in the first one, where Phil won $9 million. In the aftermath, Woods asked to re-do the deal between the two and Mickelson politely told him to buzz off. So, now, Phil owns it himself and has to figure out a way to make the event interesting and keep himself in the spotlight as well.

Phil is very smart and incredibly gifted on the air and the guess here is he will someday replace Nick Faldo in the booth for CBS, but yesterday's effort was a miss for him. He will be very good on serious broadcasts down the road, though. I do believe that.

There were some good things about the broadcast and the event. Having both players wear bluetooth "air pods" that allowed them to hear what was being said and providing them the chance to speak with the announcing team was a nice touch. It's probably something the major networks should at least consider doing for their "regular season" golf broadcasts. Allowing the two competitors to continue playing after the match ended and having them bet money (which went to charity) was also cool. Frankly, the only time all day DeChambeau even looked interested was when he got the opportunity to outdrive Koepka in the long drive portion of the event.

"The Match" has a long way to go to become a Thanksgiving weekend sports staple. The bet here is it doesn't work, long term, unless there are some new guys on TOUR who can needle and rib one another and make it interesting for 3 hours.

Yesterday wasn't interesting at all. Or, at the very least, it didn't come close to matching the build up and the so-called "disdain" the two guys have for one another. It just wasn't there.


Tomorrow night's Ravens-Browns game is setting up to be one of the more critical regular season home games of the John Harbaugh era,, as Baltimore looks to even their division record at 1-1 and move to 8-3 on the year.

A win tomorrow also helps flush Cleveland out of the way, which is important. But a loss would mean the Ravens are 0-2 at home to division opponents and would also mean the best they can do in the division is go 4-2. It stands to reason 11-6 is likekly going to be good enough to win the division, so it's not like tomorrow night is "win or go home", but it's certainly a critical contest for Baltimore.

They're not really going to let Baker Mayfield and his rag-arm come to Baltimore and beat them, are they?

As is always the case, Lamar Jackson will be the key tomorrow night. Is he 100% recovered from the virus that kept him out of last Sunday's thriller in Chicago? How are the Browns going to scheme against Lamar defensively, knowing he's likely to run the ball somewhere around 15 times himself? What will Greg Roman do with the rest of the offensive game plan?

This is a big one tomorrow night, on a variety of levels. It's not "must win" by any means, but if we're playing H-O-R-S-E, I'd say the game's value is "M-U". It's pretty close to must win, in other words.


If the '21-22 NHL season is Alex Ovechkin's Mona Lisa, I can't wait to see the finished product next spring. The 36-year old Capitals veteran is the MVP of the NHL campaign at the quarter-mark, as he now has 18 goals in 21 games after last night's hat trick in Washington's 4-3 win over Florida.

Does Alex Ovechkin have another one of those moments in store for Capitals fans this season?

Ovi is second in the league in scoring (36 points), trailing only Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl, who also leads Ovechkin in goals (20 to 18). Ovechkin is also 4th in the league in plus/minus at +16.

The Caps are off to a scorching start. They have lost just 3 games in regulation thus far, going 13-3-5 to start the campaign. They're technically tied for first in the Metropolitan Division with equally-scorching-hot Carolina (15-3-1), but the Hurricanes have played two fewer games.

Editor's note: Speaking of the Hurricanes, they were able to do God's work last night in Philadelphia, beating the worst franchise in the history of sports, 6-3. Sorry, Flyers. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving at least.

Ovechkin is, of course, in hot pursuit of Wayne Gretzky's career goal scoring mark of 894. The Great Eight started the season at 730 goals and now has 748 for his career. He still has a long way to go, obviously, but if he can somehow get to 775 at the end of the '21-22 campaign, he can start chipping away over the next three years and make a serious run at the mark.

The Russian sharpshooter has done it all in his NHL career. He's been an MVP, a leading scorer and a Stanley Cup champion. The only thing left for him? To somehow pass Gretzky as the all-time leading goal scorer. It's starting to look more and more like it might be possible. If nothing else, the chase is officially on, which makes for good theater.

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dale williams aims the
terps spotlight

DALE WILLIAMS returns for his seventh season of covering all things Maryland men's basketball for #DMD. Terps Spotlight will preview and review all games in the 2021-2022 season.


terps-louisville preview


In the not too distant past, a Louisville/Maryland match-up on Thanksgiving Saturday would have warranted a prime TV spot on one of the big networks.

This morning, these two teams will need to set their alarm clocks for an early rise if they want to be awake for the 10:00 A.M. tip off in the final of the Bahamas Championship in Nassau. The Terps earned a spot in today’s finale by virtue of their comeback win against Richmond. Louisville handled Mississippi State, 72-58, to gain the matchup with Maryland.

Maryland has struggled to get going this year (and that might be a bit kind) but the 2021-2022 Cardinals haven’t exactly resembled the teams of the Denny Crum era. Playing without their head coach, Chris Mack, the Cards are sporting a 4-1 record with a loss to Furman and a close call win against Detroit Mercy. Mack is serving a six-game suspension for his mishandling of the Dino Gaudio extortion attempt.

The likely match-ups in this non-conference game lead me to believe that we could see a hotly contested 40 minutes. Here’s a quick primer on the Cardinals:

Georgetown transfer Qudus Wahab should play a key role in today's Maryland-Louisville game.

Louisville will shoot a bunch of threes today, and they will miss a large majority of them. (Sound familiar Terp fans?). I expect them to defend in the half court with good pressure, but they are very susceptible to dribble penetration when the pace becomes more up-tempo. One key for Maryland – finish when they get to the rim.

Noah Locke, a McDonogh grad who transferred from Florida, is the only Card to currently average double-digit points (13.2). I’d grade him as an average shooter (40%, 34% from 3), but he is athletic and can get himself open off of the dribble. He’ll present real trouble for, and challenge the defensive quickness of, Eric Ayala or Hakim Hart. Don’t be surprised to see Ian Martinez or even Xavier Green attempting to neutralize Locke. When Locke needs a break, you see El Ellis. Ellis is also pretty quick with the ball, but he has issues getting his shots to fall.

The “Battle of the Bigs” will be interesting to watch and should also play a vital role in determining the outcome of this championship. The Terp’s Qudus Wahab must play bigger and stronger if he is to neutralize Louisville’s 6’11”, 240-pound fifth year senior, Malik Williams. Williams is not a prolific scoring center, but Wahab needs to keep the Louisville center’s offensive numbers below the 7.0 ppg that Williams currently averages. Wahab has yet to show me strong interior post defense, but he’ll need to body-up Williams to keep the Cardinal “big” off of the offensive glass.

I expect points to be at a premium today, and cheap buckets around the rim will spell doom for either squad. Louisville is very Terp-like in skill level. Neither team should have a distinct advantage in shooting, passing, and ball handling skills, but the Cardinals do possess a more athletic starting five. What they lack, physically, is someone to match the speed of Maryland’s Fatts Russell.

Russell should be able to get inside, and the Terp’s offensive success will largely be in his hands. Fatts has, at times, struggled to make good decisions while in the paint. He has also been a little loose protecting the ball (a team high 16 turnovers so far). A big game from their speedy playmaker, and the Terps win this game. Louisville’s Jerrod West should get the defensive assignment against Russell, but I think he lacks the quickness required to stay in front of the shifty Terp point guard.

I would expect to see Maryland’s Donta Scott locking horns with Jae’Lyn Withers. These two are similar with their offensive repertoire, with each player being more of a face-up guy and less of a back-to-the-basket player. Withers has a slimmer frame, and real nice bounce. He’s not as bulky as Maryland’s Scott, and will be a better perimeter defender, and scorer, than Scott frequently sees. Both of these players will have nice games today, with the net effect being a wash.

Maryland has found the going a bit rougher than many would have expected. That includes the writers and coaches who erroneously had them ranked as high as #21. The Terp’s 5-1 record sports a loss to George Mason and a scant two-point win against Hofstra. They had to come from 12 points back against Richmond just to get to today’s final. In the Richmond game, Hakim Hart hit 8 of 9 shots from the field and made 4 of 5 3-pointers, bailing out his team. Maryland can’t depend on that type of Hart production today.

This Terp team has plenty of holes, and must show constant improvement if they want to have a productive season. They are not exceptionally athletic and the roster lacks pure shooters. Wahab needs to up his physical presence inside and Donta Scott can’t continue his horrid 3-point shooting (27%).

I do expect Maryland to improve as the new pieces become more familiar with one another and as Mark Turgeon figures out his most productive rotations.

That being said, in a game that looks to be so even, (some books have the Terps as a 1-point fav, some have them as a 1-point dog), I’ll take the better point guard and a big man who can make foul shots. Both of those belong to Maryland. If Turgeon’s team can keep Locke from going off, limit Louisville second chance points, and get to the rim, then they can return home with a nice piece of hardware for the trophy cabinet.

In a relatively low scoring game, Fatts gets 7 assists, Ayala gets 16 points, Wahab and Scott chip in 15 each, and a defensive minded Terrapin team grabs a 70-66 win.

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Friday
November 26, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2651


leftovers


You people are really starting to lose it.

I'm talking about the group in the area who have it out for Mark Turgeon. You're embarrassing yourself at this point.

I understand how these fan-witch-hunts work. You latch on to something and you simply can't let go, mainly because if you release your grip on the topic at hand, you might someday face the fact that you were wrong.

I'll repeat it for the 830th time. I'm certainly not part of the Mark Turgeon Fan Club. I've never been part of it and I don't imagine I'll ever carry the card in my wallet, either.

Eric Ayala (right) poured in 20 points in last night's 86-80 Maryland win over Richmond.

But I can at least acknowledge when things go right for him and the Terps, which they did last night when Maryland battled back from a 12-point deficit and beat a good Richmond team, 86-80. That was a nice win, particularly given they were coming off a loss, were playing in the equivalent of a middle school cafeteria in the Bahamas and, like I mentioned, dug themselves a double-digit hole in the first half.

The haters, though, couldn't handle a win, which is the saddest part of the witch hunt. People despise Turgeon so much now that they are secretly pulling against Maryland just so they get another opportunity to pile on.

You know you've lost it when your own agenda has replaced your love for the player, team or program.

And when the team wins and you can't just say, "Nice win" and move on, you're at the bottom of the barrel.

"Should have never been down 12 in the first place."

Smart people would realize the other team tries, too. The game rarely goes exactly the way you anticipated it might. Would you rather be down by 12 and go on to lose by 18 or would you rather be down by 12 and come back to win by 6? #clownshoes

"Celebrating wins over Richmond isn't something big programs should be doing."

Smart people realize how the schedule works. It gets published in the off-season and then you play the teams listed on the schedule. You try and win all the games. The margin of victory is really of no consequence or importance. You win and you're happy, you're lose and you're disappointed. As Nick Saban told a gathering of knuckleheads last week in Tuscaloosa, "Every win should be celebrated because they're hard to come by."

"Yeah, so they beat Richmond. But what about that loss to George Mason?"

Smart people would realize putting any kind of emphasis or importance on a previous game is how you lose the next game. That would be like saying, "Yeah, so the Ravens beat the Bears, but what about that Dolphins loss?" That defeat in Miami is back-burner stuff now. It's over. It happened. Nothing can change it. Move on to the Browns and keep churning. The same for the Terps. Learn something from the loss to George Mason and move on to the next game."

"OK, so they came back and beat Richmond. Let's see them do something in March."

Smart people would realize it's pretty dumb to talk about March in November. You have to get to March first...by winning games in November. March, of course, is the barometer by which everyone in college basketball is judged. If you're good in the regular season and then stub your toe in the tournament, something's wrong. Folks forget, of course, that once you get past the first round of the tournament, 80% of the teams still remaining could all knit together a winning streak and make it to the Final Four. In other words, you're facing Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux and, ummmm, they're pretty good at what they do. People also tend to forget that 350 Division I teams start the season and only FOUR of them wind up playing in the Final Four. (For Flyers fans, that's why they call it the Final Four). Your school's chances of making it to the Final Four are very slim indeed.

This is going to go on all season, of course. By "this", I mean the Turgeon witch hunt. It's not going away, in the same way the prodding and poking at Aaron Rodgers isn't going to go away, either. People get caught up in these pursuits and can't let go.

If nothing else, Turgeon haters make for good business at places like this, or Testudo Times, or any other website that dedicates itself to covering sports or Maryland athletics in the Baltimore/DC area.

The only way everyone gets shut up is if Maryland makes it to the Final Four. And that, even, might not be good enough, because if Maryland somehow did make it to the Final Four but lost to Kansas or Kentucky or Villanova, the first thing these goofs would say is, "I knew he wasn't as good as Gary..."

By the way, speaking of last night's game, that was a remarkable performance from Hakim Hart (24 points). The players deserve credit when they play well and they deserve scrutiny when they don't. Hart turned in an impressive game last night. And that's coming from someone (me) who thinks he's more suited for Richmond-level basketball, frankly. The kid showed something on Thursday night. Good for him.

Maryland trailed by eight points last night with less than seven minutes remaining and somehow came back to win that game. That's what should be celebrated. You people who can't do that because of your disdain for Turgeon should sit the rest of the season out. You're no good to the program at this point.


Much will be made about the officiating in yesterday's trio of NFL games and there's no doubt it all deserves a thorough review, no pun intended.

The Raiders-Cowboys game was particularly frustrating to watch, especially if you're a Dallas fan. The final pass interference call on Anthony Brown -- his 4th of the game -- was the one making front page news today, because it helped set up the Raiders' game-winning field goal in overtime.

Derek Carr and the shorthanded Raiders (6-5) kept their playoff hopes alive with a 36-33 OT win at Dallas on Thursday.

It sure looked like the Las Vegas receiver had his hands around Brown's neck, but it's fair to point out that Brown wasn't facing the quarterback and looking at the ball, either. All in all, though, it sure appears as if "no call" was the order of the day on that particular play.

It's here where we should point out that while that specific play definitely influenced overtime, there's little reason to think the Raiders weren't going to cruise through that Dallas defense and score in sudden death anyway. Even without their top weapons (Ruggs=gone from the team, Waller=injured) on offense, Derek Carr and the Raiders sliced and diced the Cowboys secondary all day. But that call on Brown.......yikes.

Here's the thing, though. Just when you get ready to pile on the officials for their inadequate performance, you look at Dan Campbell of the Detroit Lions. And you realize that everyone is capable of doing something dumb.

Campbell, a NFL head coach, called consecutive timeouts in the 4th quarter and was hit with a 5-yard penalty which aided in Chicago's game-winning field goal in a 16-14 win.

The first-year coach tried to poo-poo the whole scene at the end of the game saying "I knew it was a penalty, but we had half the defense in one scheme and half in the other. I could either call timeout there and cost us five yards or use a timeout to get our defensive alignment figured out."

Yeah, coach, I'm not so sure I'm believing that one. But anyway...

There was also some woeful clock management by the Raiders in their overtime win over Dallas, as Las Vegas essentially gave Dallas 40 extra seconds before they went ahead 33-30 with 1:52 remaining. Dak Prescott then drove the Cowboys down the field to tie the game, but he had 1:52 to do it instead of roughly 1:10 to do it.

I know the officials stink. I think we see examples of that week in and week out. I also know the game is played at a frenetic pace and I also know that more often than not, the calll on the field is actually a "good" call. But there are far too many ticky-tack calls being made these days, at least to this viewer.

That said, the coaches have just as many blunders as the officials, it seems. They're dealing with the same frenetic pace, of course, but it shouldn't be lost on anyone that the coaches stand up after the game and hint about poor officiating and yet, they decided to have their offense run two plays just prior to the 2-minute warning in a tie game.


Congratulations to the Loyola Dons on their 41-35 win over Calvert Hall in yesterday's Turkey Bowl at Towson University.

I don't know how many high school football games I've seen in my life, but I can say without hesitation that was immediately a Top 5 game and could have been -- as many were saying leaving the stadium -- the best one I've ever seen.

Just over 8,000 fans were there. Both teams stood for the national anthem. The game was played hard and fair. It was football the way it was meant to be played. In the end, Loyola hit the game-winning TD with 9 seconds left on a perfectly thrown ball into the corner of the end zone.

The Dons, who lost the B Conference championship last week, had dropped six straight Turkey Bowl games.

As I told my son -- a freshman at Calvert Hall -- on the drive home, "Give Loyola credit. They were tired of losing every year and did something about it. The other team has pride, too."

What's interesting is this: As a "B Conference" school (in football), which was the outlier for Loyola? Yesterday's performance over Calvert Hall -- the A Conference champion -- or last Saturday's 14-3 defeat in the B Conference championship game to a Concordia team they had defeated 41-9 just two weeks earlier?

I would say the Concordia loss was the outlier. They certainly looked like an "A Conference" program yesterday. Loyola has some legitimate talent on both sides of the ball, including defensive end Anto Saka, who is headed for Northwestern. I have no idea why he isn't headed to College Park, but that young man (6'4", 245) had a whopper of a game yesterday and is destined for good things at Northwestern.

The season was a good one for Calvert Hall and head coach Josh Ward, as the Cardinals won their first league title since 2010. They'll return a number of key players in 2022, including quarterback Noah Brannock, who will play Division I football at a high level starting in September of 2023. But yesterday's loss will sting for a year until the teams gather again on Thanksgiving Day to celebrate a wonderful Baltimore tradition.

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faith in sports


Today's edition of "Faith in Sports" takes us inside the NFL to see how some of the game's stars rely on their faith to get them through the grind and tough times of a football season.

We generally just assume talent gets the players through every game, but it's far, far deeper than that, as Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning will attest in the video below.

Please take 10 minutes out of your Friday to watch this video. It's inspiring to hear these players talk about their relationship with God and Jesus Christ.

Thanks, as always, to our friends at Free State Electrical for their continued support of our Friday "Faith in Sports" segment.


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November 25, 2021
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happy thanksgiving


Coffee.

Calvert Hall vs. Loyola at Towson University.

Turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables and, I'm sure, lots of other stuff I'm leaving out.

NFL football.

A nap.

That's what's on my agenda for today. I assume your Thanksgiving Day looks similar in nature.

Whatever your plans are for today, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving celebration. This is a day to give thanks, for anything and everything you have in your life.

I'm grateful and thankful for all of you who come here each day -- or whenver you might stop by -- to check out Drew's Morning Dish. Thank you.

May God grace all of you and your family members with an abundance of good health and meaningful relationships with loved ones and friends alike.


Every Thanksgiving, I take a minute to remember a special tradition in my life that lasted roughly five or six years, circa 1980.

I was a participant in a faith-based group called "Young Life" back then (which still exists today) and we had a large group of guys from Glen Burnie in the chapter I attended.

One year, we decided to get together to play soccer on Thanksgiving morning and for reasons I don't recall, we somehow wound up playing at the Naval Academy. This took place on the athletic field on the base, not at the actual Navy football stadium. The times, obviously, have changed quite a bit. Back in 1980, we roamed around the Naval facility like we belonged there. That wouldn't happen today, I suspect.

Anyway, one of the guys in the group was a lacrosse goalie and he had, again, for reasons I don't remember, six or so lacrosse goalie sticks in his car.

He brought those out to the soccer field, we kicked the ball around for a few minutes, and then someone said, "We should let some of the guys use lacrosse sticks in addition to being able to kick the ball." You can tell we were 18 year old kids with blossoming imaginations. Playing soccer wasn't good enough. We had to do something else to make the game unique.

Anyway, we played that first year, 12 guys running around playing soccer, trying to kick soccer balls into lacrosse goals. Three guys on each team also ran around with lacrosse goalie sticks and could scoop up the ball and throw it instead of kicking it. I know, it sure seems silly now. But it wasn't back then.

I distinctly recall people walking along the path that borders the Severn River and watching us play, a few of them even stopping to ask about the inclusion of the lacrosse sticks.

We made it an annual thing for five years, maybe six, before everyone got older and started moving away, etc. Every Thanksgiving from 1980-1985, a dozen guys from Glen Burnie would get together at 8:30 am on Thanksgiving morning and play what we called "Soc-crosse" at the Naval Academy.

The times sure have changed. But those were great days.

If you've established any interesting or memorable Thanksgiving Day traditions, please feel free to share them below.

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"bet it all paul" is ready to feast


I guess I'm back for another week, as Drew asked me to submit something for today's schedule of sports action. I did have a good week and weekend last week. At one point I hit 11 straight NHL and NBA games before I hit a rut on Tuesday night. My football picks here last week were solid. I'll be back on Sunday with some more picks for this week's games.

Here is who I like today.

Can Dak Prescott and the Cowboys bounce back after last Sunday's loss to the Chiefs?

LIONS AND BEARS OVER 41.5 -- The Lions are not good, but they're also not as bad as 0-9-1. I think Jared Goff returning at QB is enough to get their offense going and Andy Dalton will throw the ball around for Chicago just enough for this game to get into the mid 40's. Someone wins 24-20. Play the total in this one and take the "over" 41.5 points.

COWBOYS (-7) OVER RAIDERS -- Both teams are injured and rosters are a little depleted, but Las Vegas is really scuffling over the last three weeks and a short week trip to Dallas isn't going to help them. The Cowboys will run the ball to the tune of 150 yards and they'll win this one by double digits. Our play here is to take Dallas and give the 7 points to Las Vegas.

SAINTS (+6.5) VS. BILLS -- I don't do "5 star" games or anything like that but this one is definitely intriguing to me because I think everything points to Buffalo bouncing back after last Sunday's loss to the Colts. And that means, take the Saints and the points at home, especially on a short week. Buffalo might pull this one out but those 6.5 points are too inviting to pass up. We like New Orleans plus 6.5 tonight.

IONA (+12.0) VS. ALABAMA -- One college hoops game I like tonight is Iona (5-0) plus 12.0 vs. Alabama down in Orlando. These neutral site games have a way of favoring the mid-major underdog and I think Iona has a chance to keep this one close tonight and possibly even pull off the outright upset. Iona is +600 on the moneyline. You wouldn't be dumb to throw 100 on them at that price just in case, then also play them at +12.0 and add in the "Over" 149.0 while you're at it.

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November 24, 2021
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wednesday nuggets


We're at that point in the NFL season where the Sunday Night games that were originally scheduled can be swapped out for more meaningful games that might make for more attractive match-ups.

It's a shame they can't do that for Thanksgiving Day games as well. Tomorrow, for instance, we get treated to that rousing NFC North match-up between the Bears and Lions. That one should be a doozy. The good news is the game's at 12:30 pm and most of the country will be eating their meal at some point during that one.

Could Lamar and the Ravens find their January 9 game vs. Pittsburgh moved to Saturday or Sunday night?

In case you haven't bothered to look ahead, Dallas hosts the Las Vegas Raiders at 4:30 pm tomorrow and Buffalo is in New Orleans tomorrow night at 8:20 pm.

Anyway, back to Sunday night games.

This Sunday, of course, the Ravens and Browns play in Baltimore. That one's a winner for NBC, even with two other games of similar marquee value also on the docket; New England hosts Tennessee and Green Bay hosts the Los Angeles Rams.

But next Sunday night's game has already been changed. It was originally San Francisco at Seattle but the league announced yesterday that Denver at Kansas City will now be played on Sunday night instead. Baltimore at Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals were evidently also considered for the switch. Patrick Mahomes is apparently still important to the networks and, as we know, to a certain insurance company that pays a lot of the television bills in the league.

On Sunday, December 12, the Bears are slated to visit the Packers on Sunday Night football. I can't imagine that game is going to stick. Others that might be considered? Baltimore at Cleveland, Las Vegas at Kansas City or the marquee game of the day, Buffalo at Tampa Bay. It seems likely that CBS has protected that Buffalo vs. Tampa Bay game and wouldn't want to lose a chance to showcase Tom Brady. And the fact that Tampa Bay hosts New Orleans the following Sunday Night means its unlikely they'll go for two straight weeks of TB12. NBC might like having Aaron Rodgers on the Sunday Night game, but more Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes wouldn't be a bad thing, either.

In week 15, December 19, it's the aforementioned New Orleans at Tampa Bay contest on Sunday Night Football, so that seems like an unlikely move. There is a decent game on the schedule that day -- Tennessee at Pittsburgh -- but New Orleans will likely still be in the playoff hunt and the Buccaneers have Tom Brady. That game sticks.

On December 26, Washington is at Dallas on Sunday night. The networks never like casting aside the chance to show the Cowboys, so it's unlikely that game gets swapped out. But Buffalo does play at New England that day. And the Ravens are at Cincinnati. The Washington-Dallas game is a rivalry, but it might not mean much in the NFC East by that point. The other two games could go a long way in deciding division titles.

Minnesota at Green Bay is the current Sunday Night game for week 17, January 2. Kansas City is at Cincinnati that day and Arizona is at Dallas. Both CBS and FOX would probably like to keep those games and Minnesota vs. Green Bay could have a significant impact on the NFC North and the NFC playoff race in general. It seems likely week 17 stays as is.

On the final weekend of the regular season, the league has the option of actually moving THREE games to prime-time slots; two on Saturday (4:25 and 8:15) and one on Sunday (8:20). Those games will be announced in late December or early January. There are a number of very attractive match-ups for consideration for the three showcased TV games; Pittsburgh at Baltimore, Cincinnati at Cleveland, Dallas at Philadelphia and the L.A. Chargers at Las Vegas. Expect the Ravens-Steelers game to be flexed to one of the two night-time slots.


I realize the Orioles' outfield is already somewhat crowded, but the Birds could do a lot worse than kicking the tires on erstwhile New York Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier. Frazier is only 27, remember, and would likely come in on a one year "show me" kind of deal that would fit nicely with the Orioles and their budgetary constraints.

No, he was not good last year in New York. He was injured for most of the season and when he did play, he was highly unproductive. Hence, that's why the Yankees released him earlier this week. They simply gave up on him.

Frazier's biggest challenge in his 5-year big league career has been staying healthy. And it could come to pass he's just one of those guys who plays 70 games a season because he's always hurt. If that's the case, he won't be in the big leagues much longer.

But other than 2021, which was a disaster in virtually every category, Frazier has displayed, at times, a decent average, decent power numbers and a good on-base percentage. He's not a great player, by any means, but he might be a guy, if he ever puts together a full season, that turns into a good investment. He made $2 million in 2021. The guess here is you can probably get him for half that in 2022, or perhaps a 2-year deal in the $3 million range is even a possibility.

This would be different if Frazier had just celebrated his 33rd birthday. But he turned 27 two months ago. In baseball terms, he's right in his peak years of production, one would think. I realize the Orioles have an abundance of "he's just a guy" outfielders already, but Frazier, at his age and salary, is worth a gamble.

We're talking about a team that gave Felix Hernandez a chance to make the team last spring, remember. Clint Frazier wouldn't be a worse roll of the dice than Hernandez, that's for certain.

Oh, and speaking of pitchers and opportunities, I wish the Orioles would have been in on Steven Matz, who signed a 4-year, $44 million deal in St. Louis yesterday. Now, for all I know, maybe they were in on Matz before he decided to join the Cardinals. Alas, he's the kind of guy the O's could add to their pitching staff and not break the bank in doing so.

Matz is only 30 years old and had a really nice year with the Blue Jays in 2021. He was part of that 2009 New York Mets draft class that included Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey. It took him a while to finally get it together, but Matz looks like he could be a useful arm in St. Louis.

A report in The Athletic yesterday indicated the Orioles are listening to offers on John Means, who had a remarkable first half of the '21 season -- including a no-hitter -- but then fell victim to be a sore shoulder and was lousy in the second half of the season. If the Orioles can pinch someone for a few decent prospects or one "play in a year or two" prospect for Means, they should certainly consider moving him on. I've been saying this for a while now; the only two guys I wouldn't trade are Mullins and Mountcastle, and I'd never-say-never with those two, either. If someone blew me away with an Eric-Bedard-kind-of-deal for Mullins, I'd listen. Same with Mountcastle. But for the most part, I'm not looking to move those two guys. Everyone else can be had, though.

Adley Rutschman isn't available. I guess I should add that to avoid any confusion.


I saw my first "Brooks vs. Bryson" ad floating around on Twitter yesterday and it was honestly the first time I gave their big 12-hole "grudge match" this Friday even a passing thought. I completely forgot it was even happening.

I have no idea what I'm doing on Friday, so I can't say whether I'll watch any of it or not. The only reason I would watch it is because it's golf and I love golf. But in terms of getting caught up in "the rivalry" and all of that stuff...I couldn't be less interested.

The first Tiger vs. Phil "showdown" was at least partially interesting because they were playing for $9 million in cash. One putt for $9 million would have been pretty cool to see. But that event failed to sparkle, you might remember, mostly because $9 million to Tiger is like $90 to you and I and also because Phil wanted to beat Tiger way, way more than Tiger wanted to beat Phil. It just didn't have the energy an event like that needed, in my opinion.

I don't think Brooks vs. Bryson has any real energy at all.

Predictably, the two have taken to social media this week to start jabbing at one another and trying to build up interest in the big showdown.

These two will tee it up this Friday to settle who is the coolest of them all.

Like the rest of their fabricated tense relationship, it all fell short of selling the drama in a way that would make Friday "must see TV".

Koepka is maintaining his same act; "I'm cool, Bryson isn't, he wants to be like me and he's not..."

And DeChambeau keeps acting like he's the kid getting bullied at recess; "I don't understand why he doesn't like me. I've never done anything to him. But now we've built up a disdain for one another that's pretty apparent."

I had to laugh at that one. This "disdain" you're referencing isn't enough to keep you guys from teeing it up for a few million bucks though. Come on Bryson, the cat's out of the bag. We know you two aren't best friends or anything like that, but this whole thing was initially just two guys who didn't run in the same circles and it morphed into Ali vs. Frazier when, as we know, it's not really anything even close to that.

Just go play golf, jab at one another a little, make a few jokes at each other's expense, collect your money.....and we'll see you next year.

Tiger's already winning the $8 million PIP bonus money anyway, so you two can stop this battle for the top prize.


Calvert Hall held its annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes Turkey Bowl "Huddle" yesterday morning at 7:30 at CHC and we were fortunate this year to have Ravens offensive lineman Tyre Phillips join us to share his testimony and talk to the students about his faith journey.

FCA meets every Thursday morning at Calvert Hall, with approximately 30 students attending each 45-minute Huddle. Every year, though, we gather on Tuesday before the Calvert Hall-Loyola Thanksgiving Day game and a special guest joins us to talk to the students. A couple of years ago it was Marlon Humphrey who stopped by. Matt Stover made an appearance a few years back.

It says a lot about the character of Tyre Phillips that he got up at 6:00 am on his day off to make the 30 minute trip to Towson and spend his morning at Calvert Hall. NFL players get one day off a week. It's Tuesday. That he gave up his "sleep in" morning to talk about faith and his own journey was impressive.

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The Stats Nerd
And His Numbers


Contributed by #DMD's data and numbers analyst
The Stats Nerd


The last in my series on the impact of analytics in modern sport focuses on basketball. This will be the shortest of the pieces because one change, driven by data, has completely transformed the way the game is played: the 3 point line. Make no mistake: I don’t think analytics and data are the only factor in the explosion of 3 point attempts but it certainly has pushed teams to look to it more over the last 10-15 years.

History

Many readers of this column will recall a time before there was a 3 point line. While it had been used in the old ABA the line didn’t show up in the NBA until the 1979-1980 season. The NCAA followed suit a few years later with high schools joining shortly thereafter. I graduated from high school in 1987 and my recollection is that we had the 3 point line in my senior year (as I always say my recollection is hazy). I recall it was viewed as somewhat of a gimmick, at least initially.

Coaches and commentators certainly didn’t love the 3 point line in the early days. It’s funny reading a quote from Coach K who stated that he disagreed with the institution of the 3 point shot and believed a team “should have to work hard to get a basket”. Other college coaches were more direct, pointing to the 3 point line as symptomatic of declining morality in the good old USA...WTF??

Of course, Duke averaged nearly 24 3 point attempts (3PA) per game last year and that number has more or less trended upwards over the last 20 years. I guess somewhere along the line Coach K had a change of heart...wonder why? The increase is mirrored in the NBA amongst the best players in the world. In the 1999-2000 season NBA teams averaged roughly 14 3PA per game. In the most recently completed season (20-21) that number was well in excess of 34. Only 4 NBA teams averaged less than 30 3PA per game last season with lowest just over 28.

Why the Change?

First off it’s a more efficient shot than a mid range jumper. I doubt anyone needs analytics to understand that. A team shooting 35% from the 3 point line is equivalent to shooting over 52% from inside the 3 point arc (because of the extra point obviously). Certainly attainable by the best players when in close to the basket but not so much for players taking 15-18 foot jumpers. Not coincidentally, NBA mid-range jumper attempts have fallen in half in the 20 years ending in 2018-2019. Over the same period, 3 point attempts are up over 250%.

There is a stat that specifically measures the field goal percentage to account for the fact that so many more of the modern shots are 3PA. That measure is called “Effective Field Goal Percentage” and it has risen dramatically over the last 20 years from slightly over 47% to just under 54% last year. Effective Field Goal Percentage accounts for the extra point on a 3 point shot valuing a made 3PA more than a made 2PA.

The theory seems to be that there are more quality shooters now more than ever. Kids grow up with the 3 point line and practice from that distance throughout their youth. Obviously, one of the NBA’s biggest stars, Steph Curry, shoots a ton of 3s and seemingly has no outer range. Oh and his sidekick, Klay Thompson, is pretty good behind the arc too. Kids look up to that duo and try to emulate them. Now the next generation of stars like Trae Young and Devin Booker are making their names as 3 point sharpshooters.

Even big men like Kevin Durant, Giannis and Dirk Nowitzki have gotten in the act of slinging 3s with varying degrees of success. The ability of these big men to shoot from the 3 point arc efficiently and put the ball on the floor and get to the basket has made them some of the best offensive big men in basketball history. It’s incredibly difficult to guard a player that can pull up from 24 feet or put the ball on the floor and get to the basket.

Pace

The 3 point shot has also increased the pace of the games in the NBA considerably. It’s not uncommon for a team to run the floor with pace only to pull up and take a three or kick it to a player camped out on the 3 point line. That would have been largely unheard of a generation ago.

In the late 1990s the average team had roughly 90 possessions per 48 minute game. For the last 4 years, that average has hovered around 100 possessions. If you are a coach, 10 extra possessions obviously means 10 extra opportunities to score. If you feel that your team is more efficient offensively than your opponent, you should try to squeeze every possession you can into the game. Marginal gains over a larger sample mean more points which means more wins. Of course, if your team is less efficient offensively the opposite approach should be the goal. But that does not seem to be happening.

Points Scored

As with football, the way the modern game is played has led to more points. Average points per game per team has increased from about 95 in 2000-2001 to over 112 last season. That’s a nearly 18% increase in points in 20 years. All the while, Free Throw Attempts per game are down a bit over 12% in that same 20 year period.

Of course with all of this increased offensive pace and efficiency, some of the more “physical” stats are down. Shot blocks are down somewhat (although marginal) and offensive rebounding is down materially over the same 20 year period. Oddly, in spite of the increased pace, turnovers haven't really changed much at all since the late 80’s (down very very slightly).

Other Analytical Tools

As with the other sports, there is a ton of data that is being aggregated and analyzed by teams. One of the more interesting branches of this analysis is Load Management. Load Management is a process whereby a team and its medical staff will monitor a player’s physiological stress levels to try and predict when a player is most susceptible to injury. Players use wearable medical devices and if their vitals look worrisome they may get lighter practices, fewer game minutes or even sit out some games.

Given the stress these athletes are under and the number of games played this all makes sense. The athletes are assets to the teams and keeping those assets running optimally long term makes sense even if it requires some sacrifice in the short term. I know the Premier League is on the cutting edge of this as well given their compressed schedules.

Some of the more obscure data collected in basketball can determine a player’s efficiency going to his offhand, for example. If he shoots better going to his right, for example, the team may implement plays to get that player a chance to do just that. Conversely, if the defense is aware of this efficiency difference, they will be inclined to try and defend that player going right and push him left.

Impact of Analytics on the Product of Basketball

I confess that I’m not much of an NBA fan. I’ll watch on occasion or in the playoffs but generally it has never really been my thing. As I mentioned last week, I have long been an NHL fan. Given that their seasons more or less overlap, I suppose that interest in hockey has limited my attention for basketball.

Viewership for NBA games has been, at best, stagnant for a good number of years. It’s hard to compare the last 3 or 4 years since the 2019-2020 season was cut short by COVID and the 2020-2021 was a compressed schedule that didn’t start until around Christmas. By almost every metric that I saw, TV viewership is down. Regular season, playoffs and finals.

Viewership declines are also being seen for the final four for college ball. For example, last year’s final between Baylor and Gonzaga drew 17 million viewers. For reference, Duke-Michigan drew 34.3 million in 1992. I do think there is some bias towards the big name, blue blood basketball programs but there is still a clear downward trend in viewership.

But is the decline due to the product on the courts, some of the political issues surrounding the league or disinterest in how the game is currently played? Seems impossible to know which is the primary factor or if it is a sum of all of those factors.

Anecdotally, I see tons of kids and friends of my kids that are still wide eyed watching Steph and Giannis and KD. They buy their jerseys and gear. They try to shoot like those guys and imitate their mannerisms. The same way my friends and I imitated Elvin Hayes and Len Bias. But that may be more about merchandising than actually creating more fans.

As with every other sport a lot of old timers seem quite angry by the way the game is currently played. The anger ranges from Charles Barkley saying that analytics are just repackaged statistics (he’s not entirely wrong) to Kobe Bryant who believed that basketball intangibles and heart were more important than numbers.

I have to say I don’t really understand the vitriol directed at these metrics. People get really mad at so much as the thought of them. The implication seems to be that players feel computer nerds are trying to say they know better than the players. I don’t believe that to be the case. Analytics have always been meant to be a tool that can be used to help a team or player do marginally better in some way. Any analytics type that tells you it is more than that is either clueless or trying to sell something. The reality is that all of these analytical measurements take things that we used to measure by the eye test and attempt to quantify them. Some help tremendously while others are more obscure and perhaps don’t provide as much utility.

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Tuesday
November 23, 2021
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#2648


outrageous...but perhaps true, too


I saw something on the internet yesterday. Where else would you see anything these days, right? No one's watching CNN any longer. The newspaper is a dying entity. The only thing left to "read" is the internet.

Anyway...someone wrote, with what appeared to be a legitimate, true "take": The Eagles could make the Super Bowl this year if things fall in their favor.

I thought to myself, "Who on earth would say that?"

But then I stopped and took a minute to look at who the Eagles, currently 5-6, have left on their schedule.

Can Justin Herbert and the Chargers go on a late-season run and challenge for the #1 seed in the AFC?

At the New York Giants. Toss-up there, but a game the Eagles should win.

At the New York Jets. I mean, if you can't go to into the Meadowlands and beat the Jets, you're not going to the Super Bowl. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Joe Burrow. If Philly beats the two New York teams in back-to-back games, that puts them at 7-6.

Home vs. Washington. The guys from D.C. are playing better of late, but in Philly, the Eagles should win. They can't lose to D.C. in their own stadium. Now they're 8-6.

Home vs. New York Giants. Unless something wacky happens, now they're 9-6 with two weeks left.

At Washington. OK, this one could be problematic, especially if D.C. somehow is still fighting for a playoff spot. Let's pretend they somehow lose here. They're 9-7.

Home vs. Dallas. This one's for all the marbles, perhaps. A win and a 10-7 record could get Philadelphia into the post-season. Heck, for all we know, Dallas could need this game too, which would really make it interesting.

So, the Eagles, even though they're 5-6 right now, are most certainly alive and well in the NFC post-season chase. They have no one to blame but themselves if they don't finish at least 10-7. In fairness, they could win their last six games and finish 11-6. Nothing would surprise me.

Now, do I think the Eagles are going to win the Super Bowl? Absolutely not. But on a scale of 1-to-10, with 1 being the lukest of lukewarm chances and 10 being a slam dunk that they make the Super Bowl, I'd say the Eagles are a "3". The Lions, as an example, are a "0". The Jaguars are a "0". Atlanta is a "1". The Eagles are a "3".

So, I thought, what other wild-but-possible takes are out there that I can create? I didn't create the Eagles "take", but I see the slimmest-of-slim logic behind it. They have an easy schedule, could make the playoffs, and then anything happens from there.

Here are six hot takes for you to absorb. Have at it in the comments section if your feathers get ruffled.


The Buffalo Bills might not make the playoffs -- Crazy huh? Not really. They're 6-4 and heading to New Orleans this Thursday for a Thanksgiving Day encounter with the Saints. They lose there and they're 6-5. Then they have the Patriots (home), Buccaneers (away), Panthers (home), Patriots (away), Falcons (home) and Jets (away). If they lose both games to New England and at Tampa Bay, all the sudden they have 8 losses. Even if they go 2-1 there, they finish 10-7. The game in New Orleans this Thursday is huge for them. I'm telling you...as much as Buffalo has looked really good this season, you should keep in mind they lost at Jacksonville and just got boatraced in their own building by the Colts. Buffalo is far from a playoff lock.

The Chargers might very well end up the #1 seed in the AFC -- This one would not surprise me at all, actually. Los Angeles has two toughies left; at Cincinnati and home vs. Kansas City. Remember, they already dusted the Chiefs earlier this year in K.C., so there's no reason to think they can't beat them again. L.A. also has Denver (twice), the Raiders (away), NY Giants (home) and Houston (away). The Chargers are currently 6-4. If they get past the Bengals in two weeks and can beat the Chiefs again, they have a puncher's chance at going 13-4. I'll admit, 12-5 or 11-6 seems more likely, but momentum is a weird thing. That L.A. offense is pretty good, by the way.

Now 5-5, could Kirk Cousins and the Vikings be a threat in the playoffs?

Something will go wrong and the Cardinals will botch their easy road to the #1 seed -- Arizona should cruise to a 14-3 record and the #1 seed in the NFC. They're 9-2 now. Their remaining schedule: at Chicago (win), vs. Rams (?), at Lions (win), vs. Colts (?), at Cowboys (?) and vs. Seahawks (win). All they have to do is win 2 of the 3 games with the (?) involved and they finish 14-3. Alas, they won't do it. Something will go haywire and Arizona will stub their toe down the stretch and fail to hold on to the #1 seed. Remember that game they lost to Green Bay earlier this year? That one will come back to haunt them.

The Ravens might have to beat Pittsburgh in Baltimore on January 9 to make the playoffs -- I hate to say it, but it certainly could happen that way. If we're of the mindset that 10-7 will be the wild card number, the Ravens can't afford to lose four more games or tiebreakers get involved. They have 5 divisional games remaining, including all three road games against their AFC North rivals. Let's pretend they win 1 of those and lose 2. Now they have 5 losses. And if they stumble against the Rams and Packers -- both of those games could be losses, obviously -- they now have 7 losses. That means they'd be 9-7 heading into the final game against Pittsburgh. Do you know what all of this means? Very simple. This Sunday night's game is really important for the Ravens. They need to somehow get to 11 wins to guarantee themselves a playoff spot. Ten wins will get someone in...but it will get them in via tiebreaker. You'd rather not go down that road if you can avoid it. This Sunday is huge. Let's hope January 9th isn't huge.

The Chargers and Rams might wind up meeting in the Super Bowl after all -- The tickets for that one would be $10,000 each. Imagine the two L.A. teams getting to play in the L.A. stadium, for the championship. Seems crazy, but it's not crazy at all. The Chargers offense is really good. Their defense...not so much. But if they get in the post-season, they could definitely win three games. The Rams are hit or miss and their quarterback's never won anything of note, but they have skill position guys on both sides of the ball to win playoff games, especially if Von Miller makes his expected impact on defense. Los Angeles vs. Los Angeles? It could happen.

Someone you're not even remotely expecting -- right now -- will play in one of the two conference championship games -- Look around. Look closely at the teams that are 6-5 or 5-5 right now. One of them will be in the AFC or NFC title game. It sounds impossible, right? But it's not. Minnesota's 5-5. I could see them in there. Indianapolis is 6-5. They could definitely win two games and make it to the AFC Championship Game. New Orleans? Cleveland? Never say never. Stranger things have happened.

There you go. Six outrageous but true "hot takes". Personally, I think the two that actually have a legitimate chance of happening are the Ravens needing to win on January 9 to make the playoffs and the Cardinals failing to hold on to the #1 seed despite an accommodating schedule for the most part.

To me, Kansas City is still the team to beat in the AFC. You're going to have to eliminate them, somewhere, somehow, in order to get to the Super Bowl. I'll say Indianapolis and Kansas City play in the AFC title game.

Green Bay losing their starting left tackle will be a big blow to them, particularly if the Aaron Rodgers toe injury is semi-serious and he's hampered with it for the rest of the season. I like either the Rams or Dallas to come out of the NFC. They'll play one another in the NFC title game.

Those aren't "hot takes", by the way. That's just how I see things playing out.

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one last shot for bonds and "the others"


Hall of Fame voting is once again underway for baseball and you already know what the big story is going to be. Bonds, Schilling, Clemens and Sosa. In? Or out? If they don't get in this year, they're done.

There are other names on the ballot that are equally, shall we say, "sensitive". Like David Ortiz for instance. Lots of rumors, lots of conjecture. Nothing in concrete, though. Still...is Ortiz a Hall of Famer if Barry Bonds isn't?

Scott Rolen a baseball Hall of Fame member? #DMD says "yes!"

Alex Rodriguez? Manny Ramirez? Both had Hall of Fame numbers, but, well, you know.

Here, in rapid fire order, are the thirty names on this year's ballot.

Bobby Abreau, Barry Bonds, Mark Buehrle, Roger Clemens, Carl Crawford, Prince Fielder, Todd Helton, Ryan Howard, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, Andrew Jones, Jeff Kent, Tim Lincecum, Justin Moreneau, Joe Nathan, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Jake Peavy, Andy Pettitte, A.J. Pierzynski, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Jimmy Rollins, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Mark Teixeira, Omar Vizquel and Billy Wagner.

There's your 30. Who would you nominate?

I'll start here. The first name I see that 100% would be on my ballot is Scott Rolen. Not only were his offensive numbers good, but he was one of the best defensive players of his generation. Nothing about his work at the plate ever made him a league MVP, but he did everything well with the bat. He was a lifetime .281 hitter (he needed 8 more hits per-season over his 17-year career to finish with a .300 average). He had 517 doubles. He hit 316 home runs. Some folks like to say a guy shouldn't make the Hall of Fame unless he was one of the best players at his position for a decade or more. Scott Rolen was exactly that.

I believe I can make a very solid case for nominating Mark Buehrle, also. Do you know he was a starter in the big leagues for 15 years and -- get this -- he made 30 or more starts EVERY YEAR OF HIS CAREER. Buehrle also pitched in the latter half of the steroid era and finished with 214 career wins (a lot by today's standards) and a 3.81 career ERA. He never won a Cy Young Award nor did he win 20 games in a season. His WHIP (1.281) was a hair higher than Jim Palmer's (1.180), but Buehrle didn't walk anyone. The most bases on balls he allowed in a season? 61. Buehrle was a workhorse. And he allowed less than 4 earned runs every nine innings and spent 15 of his 16 years in the American League. I can safely say I wouldn't be opposed to anyone voting for him. I think he deserves consideration.

If Scott Rolen belongs in the Hall of Fame, then so, too, does Jeff Kent. Their numbers are comparable, except Kent did everything with the bat just a wee bit better than Rolen. Kent never won a Gold Glove, but he was adequate enough in the field. If you think Rolen should be in Cooperstown, you have to also think Kent belongs there as well.

And if you believe Rolen and Kent belong, then you simply have to also include Todd Helton on your ballot. He was a career .316 hitter in 17 years with the Rockies. I do understand his numbers were somewhat impacted by playing in Colorado, but you can only play where they put you, I've heard. Helton's offensive numbers were really good, for quite a long time. 2,519 hits, 592 doubles, and only one season with more than 100 strikeouts.

I can make a good case for those four. If I had a ballot, Rolen, Buehrle, Kent and Helton would be on it.

I think I'd also vote for Omar Vizquel, because defense at the level he played it should count for something. He was a good hitter (.272 career average in 24 years) but had no power, obviously (80 home runs). His defensive work, though, was out of this world (11 Gold Glove awards). If you're willing to give a lot of credence to defense when a guy's offensive numbers aren't great, Vizquel should be in Cooperstown.

As for Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Sosa and the other steroid users (Pettitte, Ortiz, Ramirez, A-Rod), I've been saying this for a decade or more and I'm not going to change my tune one iota.

I'd vote for any of those guys as long as they were willing to have a notation on their plaque that referenced their history, if you will, with steroids.

Here, for example, is what I would offer to Barry Bonds. If he would allow this to be noted on his plaque, he would get my vote: Barry Bonds played 22 years in Major League Baseball and retired as the game's all-time leading home run hitter with 762. He won 7 MVP awards and was selected to play in the All-Star Game 14 times. Bonds also stole 514 bases, making him the only player in Major League history to record over 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases. Despite his on-field accolades, Bonds was a controversial and central figure in baseball's steroids scandal in the mid 2000's. In 2007, he was indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to a grand jury during the federal government's investigation of BALCO, a manufacturer of an undectable steroid.

There it is, plain and simple. It doesn't say Bonds was a steroid user. (Even though we know he was). It doesn't say Bonds was found guilty of the charges (the perjury charge was eventually dropped, he was found guilty of OOJ but the verdict was later reversed). It merely says the truth; he was indicted and had ties to a company that manufactured steroids.

You can create the same kind of notation for the other steroid users if you want. Clemens, Sosa, A-Rod, etc. I would have no problem with any of those guys getting into Cooperstown as long as they were OK with the steroid notation. If they aren't, they can stay out.

Oh, and please don't be that goof that says, "How do you know Rolen, Kent, Buehrle and Vizquel didn't use steroids too?"

I don't know that they did or didn't. But I definitely know Bonds and Sosa and A-Rod and the rest of those guys did use them and therein lies the difference.

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RANDY MORGAN
on American soccer


Americans are playing more and more of a vital role in international soccer these days, and Randy Morgan has his eyes on all of them for #DMD. Each Tuesday here, he looks at recent performances of American players and highlights upcoming games of importance.


u.s. men's soccer stock report


The World Cup in Qatar is scheduled to begin one year from Sunday. The qualification process is heading towards the stretch run and the US is on pace to make the field. Although there have been some bumps along the road, they have largely proven themselves against the toughest competition in the region, beating Mexico three times in a row.

With that in mind, today we’ll take a look at how the US stacks up against the rest of the international competition, then follow that up with an abbreviated weekend stock report.

Covid restrictions and increased regional competition with the introduction of the Nations League has limited the opportunities for the US men to test themselves against competition from outside CONCACAF. Though FIFA rankings are used to seed the pods for the World Cup draw, they are often flawed for measuring the relative quality of the teams on the field.

The US ranks 12th in the FIFA rankings after the latest round of games, in between Germany and Switzerland, and two spots ahead of Mexico. It’s a bit optimistic to think the American men are on a level playing field with a German team that just breezed through their UEFA qualifying group. To get a more realistic picture of the US standing, let’s take a look at several other measures.

The first measure to consider is ELO ranking. These are based on a more complex formula based on results from the past several years and are a bit more reliable than the simpler FIFA rankings. The US ranks 14th by this measure, top in CONCACAF and on a similar level to Croatia and Ecuador (Mexico is a few spots back in 19th). That is favorable company considering Croatia made it to the finals of the 2018 World Cup before falling to France. They just secured a spot for Qatar by winning their group in UEFA qualifying. Ecuador is currently third in South American qualifying with a comfortable margin to take one of the four automatic spots for Qatar from that region. Brazil, France and Argentina are currently the top three in ELO ranks.

Another measure to gage the quality and potential of an international team is the collective value of their players. In the world of international soccer, the value another team would pay to acquire a player is called their “transfer value” and can give an idea of how the player compares to their peers. The total transfer value of the best 23 US players is around $291 million. This ranks 15th among international teams, just behind Croatia and Nigeria and just ahead of Poland and Colombia. Again we see Croatia pop up as a comparison, meanwhile Colombia is currently 4th place in South American qualifying and Poland finished second in their UEFA group, earning a spot in the playoff for the last spots from that region.

As we see, all three of these measures give a similar picture of the Americans’ status. The US is the top team in their region and compares favorably to the second tier of teams from Europe and South America. While they don’t quite measure up to the elites from those regions that will be favored to make deep World Cup runs, they reside in a group that is competitive and capable of making a run with a little luck.

There is one additional measure that inspires optimism for this US team both next Fall and in the US hosted 2026 World Cup. The most recent US roster had an average age of just under 24 years old. This is an incredibly young team compared to the rest of the world. Not only is it the youngest squad of any in all of World Cup qualifying, but the next youngest is almost a full year older than the US. England has the youngest team in Europe with an average age of 25.3 and European champions Italy average 26.7 years old.

Closer to home, Mexico’s average age is 28.8 and Canada’s is 27. This is important to consider, since soccer players generally reach their peak between 24-27 years old. This means many of the top US players will just be entering their prime as the Qatar World Cup begins and nearly the whole team will still be in that window when the World Cup returns to the US in 2026.

This was a relatively quiet week for Americans in Europe, with several resting after a long trip back from the qualifying matches.


Stock Up

The highlight of the weekend came from Christian Pulisic, who continues to work his way back to full fitness. The Pennsylvania native had an impressive 30 minute sub appearance for Chelsea in a big 3-0 win over Leicester City. Pulisic made an instant impact, scoring a goal less than ten minutes after entering the game to extend Chelsea’s lead to 2-0. The win keeps Chelsea atop the Premier League, three points ahead of second place Manchester City.

In Italy’s Serie A, three Americans had solid performances in important wins for their teams. Weston McKennie continued his impressive run of games with a good effort in a 2-0 win for Juventus over Lazio.

Both Gianluca Busio and Tanner Tessman were solid in Venezia’s 1-0 win over Bologna. Busio started and delivered the assist on the crucial goal, while Tessman subbed on in the second half to help protect the lead.


Stock Down

It was a rough weekend for American captain Tyler Adams and coach Jesse Marsch. Leipzig took a disappointing 2-0 loss to Chris Richards and Hoffenheim. It was an especially bad day for Adams, who lost his mark on a corner kick that resulted in the first goal and then got stripped of the ball to set up the second Hoffenheim goal.

Adams remains the most important player for the US team and this down game is unlikely to diminish the confidence his club or country have in him. The loss drops Leipzig down to 7th in the Bundesliga and they will need a strong second half of the season to get back into the Champions League places.

Tuesday begins a packed week for American players. The Champions League returns with games Tuesday and Wednesday featuring many of the European based players. Back home, the MLS playoffs started this past weekend and continue this week for many of the key domestic players.

JERRY'S TOYOTA banner
Monday
November 22, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2647


if you complain about that win...


If you, for any reason at all, complain about yesterday's 16-13 Ravens win in Chicago, you should check out now. We'll send you a refund for the rest of the year and you can just stop watching the games.

There is nothing to complain about. Nothing. The Ravens won a game, on the road, with their back-up quarterback at the helm. They were also missing the team's top receiving threat, two starting defensive backs and the "team leader" on defense, Pernell McPhee.

Sure, it wasn't pretty. The offense scored one touchdown in 60 minutes and it took them 59 minutes and some change just to do that. But once it was announced that Lamar Jackson was going to be inactive, the whole game became a coin flip, basically. And yet, somehow, John Harbaugh's team battled back from a late deficit to win and improve to 7-3.

Justin Tucker kicked three field goals yesterday in windy Chicago as the Ravens beat the Bears, 16-13.

We're a "complain free zone" today.

If you want to bellyache tomorrow about Wink Martindale's defensive calls on the Bears' penultimate series, come on back 24 hours from now and have at it. If you're hell bent on picking on Brandon Stephens or Chris Westry because they weren't all-pro caliber on Sunday, come back tomorrow and lash out if you must. Today, though, no complaining. No whining. No commentary about "barely beating the Bears" or anything like that.

Be smart and take yesterday for what it was. A win. That's it. It was a gutsy, gritty performance by a Ravens team that could have easily just packed it once Lamar stayed in street clothes. And, no, it wasn't "lucky", either. There wasn't a mysterious penalty that aided the Ravens late in the game. Chicago didn't kick the ball around. After the Bears went ahead 13-9, Tyler Huntley marched the team down the field and into the end zone. Sure, there was a pass interference call along the way, but it was completely justified. Huntley did exactly what he needed to do on that last series. End of story.

There's no telling at all what Ravens team we'll be seeing over the last 7 weeks. Sure, the Ravens might have been fortunate that yesterday's Lamar-less game fell against the Bears and not the Browns or Bengals. That's the way it goes, sometimes. But nothing about the last seven games will be easy. The Ravens face Cleveland twice, the Steelers twice, the Bengals once and Green Bay and the L.A. Rams at home. 7-3 could be 9-7 before you know it and the Ravens might have to beat Pittsburgh on the last Sunday of the season just to make the playoffs. I have no way of knowing what's about to happen. Neither does anyone else.

But here's what I do know: Whatever the final record is, the Ravens can look back on what happened yesterday and point to that game as a "difference maker" in the season. If they finish 12-5, they'll finish 12-5 because they stole a win in Chicago. If they finish 11-6, the same thing applies. For all we know, the Ravens might wind up as the #1 seed in the AFC. And if they do, they have yesterday to thank for it.

The win over Detroit earlier this season? Lucky.

The win over Indianapolis? Lucky.

Minnesota? Lucky.

Yesterday? Not at all lucky. Yesterday was all heart. Those kind of wins tell you something about the character of the team. The Ravens might get lit up next Sunday night at home vs. Cleveland. Who knows? But yesterday, they showed everyone why you can never, ever count them out, no matter who is playing quarterback, wide receiver or defensive back.

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around the (crazy) nfl in 3 minutes


Colts 41 - Bills 15 -- I said this after they hand-delivered that win to the Ravens in Baltimore back in October and I'm still here, five weeks later, saying it now. The Colts might be a very dangerous team come January. I think yesterday's win in Buffalo told us more about the Bills than Indianapolis, perhaps, but the Colts have a dangerous running back, a competent quarterback and passing game, and a decent enough defense. And their coach is also very good. Watch out for Indy. That's all I'm saying.

Washington 27 - Panthers 21 -- Last week Cam Newton was "back". This week, he lost at home to Washington. Oh well. Neither of those teams are any good, but D.C. is somehow now 4-6 and can still make a run at a post-season spot with continued good play. Carolina falls to 5-6 and they're still in the running for the post-season as well. The NFC is crazy. So is the AFC. Come to think of it, the whole league is nuts.

Patick Mahomes and the Chiefs seem to be finding their groove and are now 7-4 on the year.

Chiefs 19 - Cowboys 9 -- Don't look now, but Kansas City's defense is starting to improve. Whether it was the mid-season addition of Melvin Ingram or just the fact that Kansas City's defense couldn't get much worse, the reality is they are playing better on that side of the ball. The offense is still stumbling a bit, but the arsenal of weapons available to Patrick Mahomes makes Kansas City a legitimate threat to win every game they play. I'm getting a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach about the Chiefs. Reports of their demise might have been greatly exaggerated.

Browns 13 - Lions 10 -- This one set the quarterback position back 50 years, as both Baker Mayfield and some guy named Tim Boyle were awful. Boyle threw for 77 yards and had a QB rating of 6.7 while Mayfield had a rating of 8.6 after throwing for just 176 yards. As far as the Browns go, a win's a win, as they improve to 6-5 with a big game in Baltimore coming up next Sunday night.

49'ers 30 - Jaguars 10 -- How on earth are the 49'ers 5-5? It helps when you play the likes of Jacksonville, of course, who were their usual pathetic selves yesterday. San Francisco is still alive in the NFC playoff race as all the teams try and figure out how they can get to 10 wins.

Vikings 34 - Packers 31 -- Speaking of the Vikings, they're also 5-5 and starting to percolate in the NFC North. Green Bay fell to 8-3 with the loss, but I can't imagine the Packers are all that worried. Minnesota could be 9-5 in four weeks; their next four games are at San Francisco, at Detroit, home vs. Pittsburgh and at Chicago. All four of those games can be won. But they're also just as likely to somehow split those four and be 7-7. Minnesota's one of the more puzzling teams in the league, in my opinion.

Dolphins 24 - Jets 17 -- So much for Joe Flacco being the answer to the Jets' woes. Thanks a lot, Joe. There's not much to see here. Miami stinks, but the Jets stink worse. Enough said.

Eagles 40 - New Orleans 29 -- Stop me if you heard this one before. Both the Eagles (5-6) and Saints (5-5) are alive and well in the NFC playoff race. Funny thing about yesterday's game in Philly -- it was the Eagles first home win in five tries this season. I don't think either of these teams are any good, but Philadelphia seems to be improving a little week by week.

Texans 22 - Titans 13 -- This game. Holy cow. How on earth did Houston go into Nashville and win? Un-freaking-real. So, now we know the Titans are vulnerable and, we get reminded once again, that anything can happen on any given Sunday.

Bengals 32 - Raiders 13 -- You have to feel bad for the Raiders. They were in pretty good position to make some noise in the AFC until the NFL fired their coach and their star wide receiver was involved in a fatal car accident. And with that, their season is done. Meanwhile, Cincinnati is now 6-4, 4-2 on the road, and still alive and well in the AFC North. The Bengals now have a 3-game homestand on the horizon (vs. Pittsburgh, LA Chargers and San Francisco) plus a road game at Denver that they should be able to win. Cincinnati still has a home game with Baltimore and Pittsburgh as well. With any amount of good play and good fortune, the Bengals could threaten 11 wins.

Cardinals 23 - Seahawks 13 -- Well, that does it for Seattle. Their season's over. Arizona, meanwhile continues to hold the top spot in the NFC at 9-2 and they won 2 of 3 with Kyler Murray out of the lineup. There's no telling if the Cardinals can jockey their way through the post-season. They're the Cardinals, after all. But winning these games recently without their star quarterback is a pretty good sign that they're the real deal.

Chargers 41 - Steelers 37 -- This. Was. Wild. Pittsburgh trailed at the start of the 4th quarter, 27-10. The game was over. The planes were started in Los Angeles and all the Steelers were trying to do was play out the string and not get hurt. The next thing you know, it's 34-20. Then 34-27. Then it was tied. And then Pittsburgh went ahead 37-34. It was insane. But the Chargers came back with a late touchdown against that "outstanding" Steelers defense and pulled out the win, 41-37. By far this was the craziest quarter of an already insanely crazy 2021 NFL season. Just nuts.

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the tiger video


If there was ever a thought about who moves the needle the most in the world of professional golf, Tiger Woods ended that discussion yesterday with the release of one 3-second video.

400,000 views within 15 minutes.

5 million views within 6 hours.

And those numbers were just from Twitter.

So much for that $8 million bonus check to the TOUR player with the most social media impact, huh? Just make the check payable to the Tiger Woods Foundation, please.

The golf world also lit up on Sunday when the video surfaced just before 12 noon. "Making progress" was the caption Woods chose for the video, where he's shown hitting a short iron of some kind. The divot pattern and half-empty bucket of practice balls would indicate Tiger had been at it for a little while, which supports a rumor that surfaced last week that some Jupiter, Florida residents had seen Woods playing a couple of holes in his backyard.

"The man is back!" Billy Horschel wrote.

"Now this makes my day!" commented Rickie Fowler.

Others like Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy also authored social media messages expressing their delight in seeing the Tiger video.

They're baby steps, of course, and hitting 30 wedges or nine-irons at a range does not necessarily mean a player (even Tiger) is ready to take on an 18-hole golf course. But it's also hard to ignore the video and its apparent intention; that Tiger is, in fact, going to attempt to play competitively again at some point.

I've been on the record over the last few months in saying I didn't think Tiger would ever play a TOUR event again. I guess I have to reconsider that position now. I'd love to see him tee it up again, as would everyone else in the world of golf. I never thought we'd see that day, but it's looking more and more like we'll get that opportunity at some point in 2022.



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#DMD GAME DAY
Week 11


Sunday — November 21, 2021
Issue 2646

Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears

1:00 PM EST

Soldier Field
Chicago, IL

Spread: Ravens (-5.0)


it's all about lamar


Let's just say this: If the Ravens are as successful today as our new columnist "Bet It All Paul" was on Saturday, John Harbaugh's team will be just fine today.

It will all come down to the availability of quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was placed on the team's injury list yesterday with an "illness" that the team says is not Covid-19 related.

To protect themselves in the event Jackson can't play today, the Ravens elevated 3rd string QB Trace McSorley to the team's 53-man roster. Jackson, it would appear, will be a game-time decision this afternoon. If he can't go, Tyler Huntley will get the start against the Bears.

The Ravens moved Lamar Jackson (illness) to the injury list on Satuday, causing quite a stir in Baltimore in advance of today's game vs. Chicago.

And the Ravens chances of beating the Bears will hinge directly on Jackson's health and availability. If he plays, they win. If he plays but can't finish the game for some reason, then it all depends on where things stand when he's forced to depart. If Lamar can't suit up and the game is handed to Huntley and McSorley, it becomes a "pick 'em" kind of contest. Anyone can win at that point.

None of that can be a surprise to any Ravens fan who has paid attention to the team over the last 3-plus years. The Ravens go as Lamar goes. They could still beat the Bears with Huntley at quarterback, mind you. It's not like he's a complete bum. But Jackson is the key to the offense, full stop. No one with a clue would argue that point, I assume.

Things got a little more dicey on Saturday when the Ravens announced Hollywood Brown (thigh) will not play today in Chicago. With Miles Boykin also out, that puts the burden on Sammy Watkins and first-round draft choice Rashod Bateman to have big days. And Watkins, as we've seen this season, is more apt to pull a muscle than he is to catch a touchdown pass. Bateman has been outstanding since he returned from an early-season injury four weeks ago. They'll need a big game from him today, for sure.

The Bears are shorthanded, too. They're without their top receiver, Allen Robinson, which should make their benign offense even less concerning. Their rookie quarterback, Justin Fields, has shown glimpses of improvement over the last few weeks, but he'll be hard pressed to do anything special today with Robinson unavailable for duty. Chicago's defense isn't terrible, but their offense can't do enough to force the issue.

Where things could go off the rails today would be if Jackson doesn't play and the Ravens running game falls flat. Even if Jackson plays, the running game still has to do something of note, but if Lamar can't go, Huntley steps in, and the running attack can't get going, the game will be very much in the balance. The team has failed to gain 100 yards on the ground in two of its last four games. They'll need a stepped-up running game today in Chicago.

There's not much else to say about this one. It all depends on Lamar's ability to play. If he's in -- and the bet here is he gets the start despite whatever bug he's battling -- the Ravens should win by double digits. If he doesn't play, it's a toss-up.

We'll abstain from our normal "How Drew Sees Today's Game" column because there's just no use in doing it without knowing if Jackson is going to start. As we just wrote above, if Lamar plays, the Ravens cruise to a win in Chicago. If he doesn't, who knows what happens?

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does maryland have a coaching problem?


No, this is not an attack on Mark Turgeon.

His teams actually win.

Maryland and coach Mike Locksley took another home shellacking yesterday, losing 59-18 to Michigan.

This is about another Maryland coach.

How does Mike Locksley continue to patrol the sidelines in College Park? Yesterday's 59-18 shellacking at home to the University of Michigan was yet another in a long line of embarrassing defeats before the home faithful. It's one thing to play people like Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan and lose 34-24 or 27-20, hanging in there until early in the fourth quarter before the cream rises to the top. It's another thing, entirely, to get roasted 59-18 or 51-14 or 59-0.

It's also not good for the program to get blown out at home, either. If you go to Michigan and lose, 59-18, half the town doesn't even know it. But when you put 35,000 or 40,000 people in the stadium and get your hat handed to you two or three times a year, it's hard to sell tickets the following summer. These home scorchings the Terps have endured in the Locksley era aren't good for business.

Locksley's known throughout the area as a "good recruiter", but something's going wrong once the kids sign on the dotted line. He's either not picking the right kids or they're simply not good enough once the bright lights of the Big Ten come on every year. Or, of course, perhaps they're not being "coached up" while they're at College Park. Something, though, isn't right.

I'm going to stop short of saying "Maryland football should be better than this" because I think we all knew from jump street that life would be difficult in the Big Ten. But I will say, at the very least, that it doesn't really appear like the program is improving all that much. Locksley and his staff might disagree with that assessment, but a 51-14 loss to Iowa, 66-17 loss to Ohio State and 59-18 defeat at the hands of Michigan suggest otherwise. When Maryland plays Howard and Kent State, they look pretty good. When the play real teams, they look pretty lousy. They are what the scores say they are, in other words.

The next guy -- whenever he might arrive -- will likely have the same issues that confront Locksley and his staff. That said, how much longer can Maryland go with Locksley when they're getting blistered by 30 or 40 points three or four times every season?


The two other D.C. area teams aren't having any real issues to start their seasons, as the Capitals are off to a scorching 11-2-5 start that has seen the club lose just twice in regulation thus far in '21-22. Last night's 4-0 win at San Jose marked the second straight shutout for goaltender Ilya Samsonov on the team's 4-game west coast trip, which ends tonight with the club's first-ever game in Seattle against the expansion Kraken.

Here's a strange note from the early part of the campaign. You'd think, with a record of 11-2-5, that the Caps would be distancing themselves from the rest of the Metropolitan Division. Instead, Carolina -- having played two less games than Washington, too -- is leading the division at 14-2-0. Quite a start for the Hurricanes down there in Raleigh.

Alex Ovechkin snapped a mini-slump with two goals last in San Jose to reach the 14-goal plateau through the team's first 18 games. Last night also marked the return to action for both T.J. Oshie and Nic Dowd, with both players registering an assist in the 4-0 win over the Sharks.

And the Wizards got back on track last night at home, defeating Miami 103-100. Washington is now 11-5 to start the season and situated in good position in the Eastern Conference of the NBA.

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the beach house project: keep hammering vegas!


After yet another winning day last Sunday, we're now 27-23 picking against the spread through 10 weeks of the NFL season.

If you're a Flyers fan, what 27-23 means is we're ahead. We're making money. We're beating the smart guys in Las Vegas. And, yes, it feels great.

Editor's note: Also, if you're a Flyers fan, I have a quick question for you: How did that home game go against the Bruins last night? hehe

Let's get to the business of picking five games, shall we? The guys are coming in to start finishing the basement on the Dewey beach house this week and I need some extra cash to make sure it gets done by Friday.

Lions at Browns (-12.5) - It seems like every time we pick the Browns, they lay an egg. And when we don't pick them, they crush someone and cover the spread. Detroit is a mess. Jared Goff is out today and their offense, which was already not very good, can't be expected to do much in Cleveland. Yes, we're doing it. We'll take Cleveland and give the 12.5 points in a 27-7 Browns win over the hapless Lions.

Can Baker and the Browns deliver a resounding win over Detroit today and cover the 12.5 point spread?

Texans at Titans (-10.0) - Am I missing something? The Titans are only 10-point home favorites over the Texans? Shouldn't this spread be something like -18.5? I realize Tennessee doesn't have Derrick Henry, but the Texans have, ummmm, no one. I just don't get this spread at all. Tennessee's going to win by 30, right? Am I reading this wrong? Well, we're not going to overthink this one in the least. We'll take the Titans and give the 10 points in a 33-13 victory.

Dolphins at Jets (+3.5) - Joe Flacco returns and all is right with the world. That's what I think, anyway. Miami isn't going on the road and beating the Jets in New York. It's just not happening. Flacco and the Jets not only cover, but win outright, as they hang on to beat Miami 22-20.

Cardinals at Seahawks (+1.0) - This is pretty much Seattle's season today. I mean, at 3-6 they're almost done as it is, but if they can somehow finish 10-7 they might have a shot at wild card spot in the NFC. Arizona, meanwhile, is 5-0 on the road this year, which means they're poised to get nicked for an away loss. And what better place than Seattle for that to happen? We're going with the Seahawks here, 26-23, as Russell Wilson atones for last week's debacle in Green Bay. Home cookin'. It's a good thing.

Steelers at Chargers (-5.5) - I hate to say it, but this is precisely the kind of game the Steelers wind up winning almost by accident. Big Ben will have a so-so day, the refs will make a call or two in the 4th quarter that impact the game, Pittsburgh will get a late fumble recovery and they'll wind up stealing a win they don't deserve. We're going with the Steelers and taking the 5.5 points as Pittsburgh stays alive in the AFC North race with a 24-23 win over the Chargers.

BEST BET OF THE DAY - It has to be the Titans. If they don't win by 10 points, the league's fixed. It just has to be the Titans giving the terrible Texans 10 points, in Nashville, no less.

OVERALL RECORD TO DATE: 27-23

LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 3-2

BEST BET OF THE DAY: 5-5

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Saturday
November 20, 2021
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"bet it all paul" has arrived!


I love when #DMD readers take me up on an offer. A few weeks back I mentioned we were interested in adding an Orioles-only writer to our staff and Joe reached out to me and said he would be interested. Earlier this week, Paul sent me an e-mail and wondered if he might contribute an occasional gambling column.

The Orioles don't start until next February -- or when they sign free agent Carlos Correa, whichever comes first -- so Joe's work won't start here for a few months most likely, but Paul, or, "Bet it all Paul" as he wants to be called, begins his quest to gain your respect today here at #DMD.

Of course, Paul already knows he can't top what's been going on here with regard to Sunday football picks against the spread. The author is now 27-23 on the year and laughing all the way to the bank. But BIAP knows a little something about college hoops, he says, and the NBA and NHL. He'll occasionally dabble in college football and might throw in a pro game now and then, but his expertise is in putting together betting slips that involve lesser known games and teams. We'll see how he does.

"I already know how it's going to go," he said to me on Friday over a Royal Farms coffee. "If I do well, no one will say a word. If I go 3-7, I'm going to get hammered by the readers."

At least we can confirm Paul is a daily reader of Drew's Morning Dish, right?

Welcome to the family, Paul. And, seriously: Don't bet it all.


Maryland got back on the winning track last night with a 69-67 win over Hofstra in a game that went down to the last shot.

Mark Turgeon and the Terps improved to 4-1 last night with a narrow 2-point home win over Hofstra.

I have no idea what to make of it, other than to say a loss to Hofstra would have really had people in these parts howling. As it is, most folks on the internet -- particularly the 80% who don't like Mark Turgeon -- treated the win like a loss.

I have found a couple of things interesting this week as Maryland navigates their way through an early non-conference slate of games.

Turgeon has now twice referred to this part of the schedule as the "pre-season". I don't know that I've ever heard a coach in Division I basketball say that, although I'm certainly willing to admit I haven't heard all 300-plus Division I basketball coaches comment about their non-conference games.

What about these games is "pre-season" to Turgeon? If it's the way you're playing your players, rotation wise, that's understandable. If it's the way you're scheming -- meaning, you're playing zone at a time in the game when, perhaps, you wouldn't do it during the "regular" season, I guess I get that too, although losing to people like George Mason or Hofstra seems far more impactful to me than whether you use these games for "testing and learning".

I realize the Big Ten portion of Maryland's schedule is what generally gets the team playing into March. You can win all of the games you want against Vermont and Morgan State and Robert Morris (note: MD didn't play Morgan State and Robert Morris this year) but it's what you do in the Big Ten that matters. Everyone knows that. But calling the November games "pre-season" just seems weird to me. Anyway...

The other thing I've noticed this week is Turgeon has also made a cryptic comment or two about crowd size at the Xfinity Center. Last night's attendance was 12,810, while just under 12,000 saw Wednesday's shocking loss to George Mason. The arena holds 17,950.

"I'd like to see more people here," Turgeon said after Wednesday's game. "It's a little discouraging to see all of those empty seats."

I have no idea what to make of that. For starters, I don't know how many season tickets Maryland basketball has. I sorta-kinda assumed all 17,950 seats were sold for the year. In that case, 5,000 "no shows" does seem somewhat odd. But maybe they, too, are waiting for the real games to start.

I'm guessing Maryland holds back 4,000 seats for students for each game. Or thereabouts. They probably have 12,000 or 13,000 "sold" already and the other seats go to UM students who sit behind the one basket each game. For whatever reason, they're not showing up for these "pre-season games", maybe?

I have no idea and I'm not even sure how to investigate it. And I'm not even sure it's worth looking into. I'm sure Turgeon would like a full house. Seeing empty seats for a high-profile Division I program like Maryland does seem odd, but a quick check shows that #11 Memphis played a non-conference home game last night and only drew 13,375 in their 18,400 seat arena. Kentucky drew 19,045 (in a 20,500 building) for their game with Ohio, but they're Kentucky. People really care about that program out there. I get that one.

Anyway, I don't see attendance as an issue at Maryland. We already know there will be some games over the winter/holiday break when the kids aren't on campus that won't sell out. That's a given. Perhaps Turgeon believes that every game should be a sell-out when students are on campus and I can't really argue much with that thought. You're a Maryland student. It's a Wednesday night in November. There's a basketball game. You go free of charge. Carve out three hours and go see the game.


I'll wait until tomorrow to give you my official Ravens-Bears prediction but I'll say this right here, now.

There's no way the Ravens are going there tomorrow and losing.

It's just not happening.

Editor's note: I went back and looked at my Ravens-Miami thoughts leading up to that game and I said the same thing. "The Ravens aren't losing to those chumps", basically. But this game in Chicago is different.

I know the Bears played the Steelers tough a couple of weeks back and all that stuff. I saw the game. But that was more about Pittsburgh not being all that good than it was anything else.

Without wide receiver Allen Robinson, Chicago's already-pedestrian offense will be even more powerless tomorrow. How on earth are they going to beat the Ravens? By throwing 12 balls to tight end Jimmy Graham? Running for 150 yards on the Baltimore defense? Creating two or three defensive turnovers that impact field position? I mean, I guess those are three ways Chicago could win, but they're not doing those three things.

Tomorrow should be a laugher for the Ravens. It might only be a 23-10 laugher, but Baltimore should beat the Bears with the same kind of relative ease they beat the Broncos in Denver earlier this season. It shouldn't be close.

Yes, yes, I know I said that about the Dolphins game. Stop reminding me already, you're getting on my nerves.

Check back tomorrow for the official pick, but if you're the kind of enthusiast who likes to make his wagers on Saturday, go big on the Ravens and give the points. You don't need "Bet it all Paul" for this one, friends. You heard it from the guy on his way to building a nice beachhouse in Dewey.

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bet it all paul's weekend picks


Hello Drew's Morning Dish readers. I'm Paul. As you will see in the coming weeks, I like to fish out the games no one else looks at and play those to the max. To me that's where the good money can be found. The NFL lines are too thoroughly researched although I do like one game on Sunday that I will list here for everyone.

To make real money in sports gambling you have to go off the grid and find a couple of games that a lot of people aren't betting. Do your research and go from there.

I'll give you five plays for Saturday and one for Sunday today. As I always like to tell my friends, please gamble within your means.

Here are the games and spreads I like.

College BB: Rider at Buffalo - Buffalo is playing their home opener. I like the home team to come out buzzing in this one. The first-half total is 71.0. I see Buffalo leading at the half in this one 42-35. We're throwing 100 coffee beans on Buffalo-Rider to go over the first half total of 71.0. We're also throwing 100 coffee beans on Rider (+16) in this one as we see Buffalo winning 77-69.

"Bet it all Paul" likes Josh Allen and the Bills to help hit the game total of (over) 49.5 tomorrow when they host the Colts.

College BB: Troy at UT Martin - We're going big on this one, as Troy is giving up 11.5 points at home against the Skyhawks. This game also features a total line of 140, which is very inviting. We're taking Troy and giving the 11.5 points for 200 coffee beans. We like the final here to be 84-65 in favor of the Trojans, so let's put another 200 coffee beans on the 140-over in this game.

NHL: Minnesota at Florida - We like this game a lot. We're going to play the Florida Panthers to win the game outright at (-145), so we'll throw 145 coffee beans on them and another 100 beans on the total goals going over 5.5 tonight.

College FB: Texas at West Virginia - Texas is a 2.5 point road underdog here and in desperate need of a win to stay bowl eligible but West Virginia is in the exact same spot. We love this game on a variety of levels. We're going with West Virginia to cover the 2.5 points and we love the over (56.5) hitting in this one. West Virginia wins 44-41 in a wild one in Morgantown and we're putting 100 coffee beans on WVU (-2.5) and the over 56.5.

NBA: Miami at Washington - These two teams just played a couple of nights ago in Miami with the Heat winning. Over the last three years in the NBA, teams playing one another in back-to-back games resulted in a split 44% of the time, but the home team who lost the first game of the back-to-back wins 64% of the games. We're going with Washington tonight, as they get 1.5 points from the Heat in Washington DC. We'll throw 100 beans on the Wizards. We don't love the total of 210.0 so we're going to lay off of it, but we have a hunch this one might go to OT and end up in the 220's or 230's.

NFL: Indianapolis at Buffalo - This is our big play of the day tomorrow in the NFL, as Buffalo is giving up 7 points at home to the Colts. The Colts are 6-4 against the spread this year and the Bills are 5-3-1 ATS so there's not much to look at there. The Indianapolis offense has been pretty good over the last seven games, scoring 27, 25, 31, 30, 31, 45 and 23 points. Buffalo's offense can also put up some points. We love the total of 49.5 in this one and we're going hard on the over. Don't tell the wife, but we're throwing 500 coffee beans on the over 49.5 in this game as we see a final score of something like 38-27 in favor of the Bills. We wouldn't rule out an Indy upset here though. The only play we like enough to give out is the over 49.5.

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Friday
November 19, 2021
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friday nuggets


I guess we can look at the New England Patriots in one of two ways.

1. Yeah, sure, they're 7-4, but who have they defeated, really?

2. Damn, here come the freakin' Patriots...again.

Won't this guy just go away already?

Last night's 25-0 win over Atlanta was impressive, but you start off with the obvious caveat -- it was the Falcons. True, it was in Atlanta and all, but still. What's pretty remarkable about New England thus far, though, is that they're 5-0 away from Foxborough. I don't care who you are, 5-0 on the road in the NFL is a legit stat.

Now, their seven wins overall? Nothing special. They beat the Jets (twice), Texans, Chargers, Panthers, Browns and Falcons. Of those, the only "quality" teams would be the Chargers and Browns and, if we're being honest, there's even a question about those two.

New England's losses have been to the Dolphins (I'd make a snarky remark but...), Saints, Buccaneers, and Cowboys. And all four of those losses were at home, remember.

But I'll say this: I'm buying stock in the Patriots. I don't think they're going to the Super Bowl, but I also have to admit I have no idea at all who's going the Super Bowl. The Patriots appear to be getting better as October moves into November and November turns into December. That's the scary thought, I guess. They are apparently on the uptick.

We'll learn if the Patriots are "for real" in the next four weeks, for sure. Next Sunday they're home against the Titans. Then they're at Buffalo, at Indianapolis and home vs. the Bills. Let's see them go 3-1 in those four games, which would put them at 10-5 with two games remaining (Jaguars and Dolphins). If they go 1-3 in those four, suddenly they're 8-7 with two games remaining and might not make the playoffs.

This much is certain: It looks like Bill Belichick has found himself another quarterback. That rat fink...


The radio airwaves were lit up yesterday in these parts with people blasting Mark Turgeon for Maryland's 71-66 loss to George Mason on Wednesday night.

I get it. Like I've been saying, he's the easy, obvious target when it comes to Maryland basketball. I wouldn't go as far as saying it's a "lazy take" because I've never really been sold on Turgeon since day one, but I look at the roster and watch the games and the boxscore seems to always tell me the same thing; Maryland needs better basketball players, plain and simple.

On Wednesday night, they had three players play 20-plus minutes (Hart, Martinez and Russell) and score a total of --- 9 points. OK, maybe they had off nights. I'll buy that. But maybe they're just "good" players and nothing more. I mean, Fatts Russell came to Maryland from Rhode Island which, as you know, isn't exactly "Duke North". He's going to have some good nights at Maryland, I think, but he's just an example of a guy who is "good" that people think should be "great".

I have no idea if Hakim Hart would be a starter (as he was on Wednesday) and play 21 minutes on any legitimate Big Ten team. I'll defer to someone like our own Dale Williams for that debate. But I'll say "no" and let the conversation begin there. That he's starting (or even getting 12-15 minutes a game off the bench) is a puzzler to me. And it says something about the kind of player Maryland has or gets. He's a good basketball player. But is a Big Ten-caliber player? I don't think he is.

Anyway, this all circles back to the topic I touched on yesterday. Maryland basketball is simply not the attractive, "kids-gotta-go-there-and-play" school that a lot of folks around here think it is. I hear the callers and read the Twitter activity and I constantly hear and see references to 2001 and Maryland's quality back then. I'd like to remind those folks that, at one point in time, Indiana and St. John's basketball were also national powers in hoops. So, too, was Georgetown. 40 years ago.

Nebraska used to be really, really good in football. 40 years ago.

Maryland basketball fans have to stop looking at what happened with the Terps in 2000-2001 and think it's the norm. It isn't. The last 20 years have told us those two campaigns were probably more outliers than anything else. But I also understand once you win like that, it becomes part of the expectation moving forward. Rory McIlroy won four majors in four years (2011-2014) and everyone thought he would make a run at Jack (18) and Tiger (15) and their major championship marks. Here we are in 2021 and Rory still has.....4 major wins.

If you're of the mindset that Mark Turgeon is the problem from both a recruiting and in-game coaching standpoint, that's more than fair. As folks have suggested here, Turgeon is the guy going out to get the players. He buys the ingredients and cooks the meal, in other words. I don't see a lot of good players on the Maryland roster.

I don't think I've ever seen a team under Turgeon that makes me go "Wow, they're loaded!" Perhaps the '19-20 squad that got wiped out by Covid-19 would have been the one team most capable of making some March Madness noise, but other than that, Maryland's roster has been pretty average in my eyes. Most people blame that, specifically, on the coach as well.

My assessment of the whole recruiting picture? I think he's getting the players Maryland basketball is capable of getting, for the most part. That's always been my stance. If Fatts Russell were really an elite-transfer-candidate, he'd be at Duke or Kansas or Kentucky.

All that said, I still Maryland will be decent this year. They'll make the tournament, lose a game they probably shouldn't, and we'll be right back here in March bellyaching about the coach.

And that, in my world at least, is good for business. Back in the old days on sports radio, the Ravens breezing through a season like 2006 was not good for business. A 14-2 record and nothing to complain about? The airwaves were dead. When they go 9-7 or 10-6, though, every Monday is potentially a whirlwind of activity. Maryland losing to people like George Mason and then stubbing their toe three or four times in the Big Ten to teams like Penn State, Rutgers, Minnesota, et al? Bring it on...


It was pretty cool to see Shohei Ohtani win the A.L. MVP award last night. OK, sure, it wasn't exactly a secret or a surprise that the won, but it's still awesome nonetheless to see a guy do what he did in '21 -- for a pretty bad team, too -- and get the highest honor baseball hands out at the same time.

Shohei Ohtani was the unanimous A.L. MVP selection for the 2021 season.

It's really a shame Ohtani's pitching faded in August and September or he would have been a legit candidate for the A.L. Cy Young award as well. He wound up only making 23 starts because of mid-summer arm issues, but his work in those appearances was still high quality. Ohtani went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA, striking out 156 batters and walking just 44. Robbie Ray's numbers were better...but not that much better. Had Ohtani made 30 starts and gone, say, 14-5 with a 2.85 ERA, that might have been enough to get him in the mix for the Cy Young.

As it is, though, the unanimous MVP award is a great cake-topper for the Japanese star. If you're a baseball fan, you have to marvel at what he's done, simply because no one else except Babe Ruth has done the same thing. Ever. It's Babe Ruth and Shohei Ohtani. That's elite company, huh?

Here's something I didn't grasp until I looked at his full stats summary from the '21 season last night. Ohtani also had 26 stolen bases last season. He hit 46 home runs. Drive in 100 runs. Had 26 doubles and 8 (yes, 8) triples. His batting average was OK (.257) but the rest of his numbers were outstanding. And he stole 26 bases, too. Holy cow.

Bryce Harper won the National League MVP and it wasn't a surprise at all because he's obviously a great player who appears destined for the Hall of Fame someday.

But what Ohtani did in '21 is out-of-this-world good. I didn't see Babe Ruth play, but I've seen "the next Babe Ruth" play and that's good enough for me.


Speaking of the NFL and the topsy-turvy nature of the league, I can't help but look at the AFC standings right now and marvel at how crazy they are. Every team has a flaw of some kind, even if they only have two or three losses.

Buffalo? They look really good on both sides of the ball. Their defense can bear its fangs on any given Sunday and shut you down. Their QB is solid. They have a great wide receiver. They run the ball just well enough to keep opposing defenses honest. Oh, and they also lost to Jacksonville. I see the Bills as the favorite right now, but only by a hair.

Kansas City? Their defense is beyond lousy. They can win any game with Mahomes and his cast of weapons, sure, but is that defense going to hold up for three or four games in January and February? I don't see it.

Tennessee? Might be the best team in the AFC, but are they really going to win meaningful playoff games with Adrian Peterson at running back? Maybe Derrick Henry makes it back, but how effective can he be in January given his mid-season foot surgery?

Any team in the AFC North? I mean, there's no telling who is going to win the division. I personally still think the Ravens will figure out a way to do it, but I wouldn't wager a nickel on that right now unless the odds were really favorable for me. It looked like Cincinnati was the cream of a crop a month ago and now they look more like the "Bungles" again than the Bengals. The Browns? I don't think that roster can get it done. The Steelers? Heck, they're the worst team of the four in the division and they might have the best shot other than the Ravens, which doesn't say much about the Browns and Bengals.

New England? We touched on the Patriots above. Their wins have come against B-Conference teams. When they've played A-Conference sides, they've lost -- for the most part. But when Bill Belichick's involved, you never know. And wouldn't the football gods just love, love, love a Brady vs. Belichick Super Bowl? Oh my...

Chargers? Raiders? Not this year. A lot of folks were bullish on Los Angeles until they came into Baltimore and got plastered back in mid-October. They haven't been the same since.

The good news for everyone? The conference is, as you can tell, extremely wide open. The Ravens have the same opportunity as everyone else. For Baltimore, it will all come down to their five division games that remain. They're 6-3 now. Let's give them a win this Sunday in Chicago. That's 7-3.

If they go 4-1 in the five division games they still have on their schedule, that's 11-4 without the Rams and Packers games, and they're both at home, remember. Even with losses to Green Bay and L.A. (and I doubt that happens), 11-6 should be good enough to win the division. 12-5 might get them the 2nd seed. 13-4 could give the Ravens home ice throughout the AFC playoffs.

It's anyone's AFC to win at this point, other than the obvious bottom-feeders. The Ravens have a lot to play for over the last half of their schedule.

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faith in sports


Inky Johnson.

What a special man he is.

We try and spread out our "Faith in Sports" videos as much as possible, but Inky Johnson is such a remarkable speaker and presenter that we find ourselves going back to him almost monthly. He's that good.

This video is from a year ago. It's 11 minutes of greatness. If you have 11 minutes to spare today -- and I'm guessing you do -- you need to watch this. More importantly, you need to listen to it. It's 11 minutes. Do it.

Thanks, as always, to our friends at Freestate Electrical for their continued support of our Friday "Faith in Sports" segment.

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#dmd comments








unitastoberry     November 29
@Herman this is just one reason I come to DMD because if you tell the truth about the NFL by virtue of your age and what you watched in a galaxy far far away you are usually not ridiculed. When you think about watching a kick off sail into the endzone with no return because they now kick from midfield and the ball is placed on the 25 not 20 and 70k people are screaming there's something very wrong about that and the game in general. At times it's a clown show but the leagues bank accounts do not indicate that. Also @ Lou that's a great story I'm going to borrow it at gatherings.

lou@palo alto     November 29
Herman makes gd points: grew up watching Unitas & all--all our focus in the fall and the games were so different than now. i play in an annual steve young/jerry rice golf tourney in the fall and several yrs ago steve told us that Brady said to him "u sld still be playing--they can't hit us any more and the middle is always open"

Stats Nerd     November 29
I think Chubb is a great running back....probably top 5-ish backs. off the top of my head: Henry, McCaffrey, Cook, Taylor...maybe Kamara. Problem is he is a running back. Position just isn't as important as it was, say 25 years ago.

John L.     November 29
Go back to Cleveland Jerry and Joe!! Your team lost last night. Get over it boys!!!!!!!!

Delray RICK     November 29
HERMAN...I can't wait til summer is over because...It's starts in SEPTEMBER and doesn't end til FEBUARY. AND we have a top team here which IS exciting EVERY YEAR. DEM OS are in the rear view mirror.

MJ     November 29
Joe P. must be smoking the good hippie lettuce if he thinks Chubb is better than Chase or Andrews (I won't put QB'S in the argument because that's silly). Chubb is basically on par with Mixon in Cincy. And if we're honest Harris in Pittsburgh could be better than both of those guys soon.

Back to the hippie lettuce Joe!!! lol

Rico     November 29
JerryH lost all credibility with the Chubb comment. I stopped reading at that point. Take his DMD card away pronto.

Joe P.     November 29
I guess we should be happy to know that JC is the be all,end all in terms of writing the list on the most talented players in the AFC north.



Chubb is a huge talent, when healthy. He gets down graded for not showing up every week.

But when he is right? On Offense, he is better than Andrews, Chase and Burrow.

I'll go with 2nd best on offense in the AFC North. He ain't better than Garret or Watt or Lamar.

Ken Diehl     November 29
Hi Drew, long time reader but first time contributor. I just wanted to applaud you for your consistently even keeled takes on the Ravens. Unlike the big columnist in town who constantly harps on the negative I enjoy coming here on Monday and reading your analysis as I know it will showcase the good and the bad from the game.



As you know all too well from being a coach yourself, how you won isn't nearly as important as people think it is. How the Ravens are winning these games doesn't matter one bit. They're winning, that's all that matters.



Keep up the good work and belated congratulations on your US Senior Open appearance last Summer. We were all living vicariously through you that week you were in Omaha.

JeffWell     November 29
I was going to write something like "Jerry H makes some valuable points but I don't understand why he has to resort to name calling." But then I saw his take on Weinman, and now I believe that we could be best friends!



Also, though I'm not a conspiracy theorist, the officiating throughout the league is so poor, that you certainly can understand the genesis of said theories.

HERMAN     November 29
I realize why I'm addicted to pro football but for the life of me I can't understand why anyone under 35 growing up in the digital age watches the horrendous product they put out in the NFL. Teams are watered down with a lack of talent that doesn't stretch past five or six truly quality football players. The current rules and regulations have taken all "contact" out of a contact sport. Referee calls make little to no sense and overly impact the games. We watch calls and even reviews that make no sense and then are told by league toady announcers that our own eyes have lied to us, what we just saw played over, and over again isn't what we saw. For every Wow! moment we watch thirty to forty plays of ineptness and klutzy Keystone Cops performance that is difficult to sit through. With the exception of maybe 4 teams mediocrity rules, and the bulk of the league is 500 from bad teams playing each other over, and over. The NFL product of today is a bad reality show that plays from early morning to late at night, and we watch it all, all day long.

I grew up with 1960's football, came of age with 1970's football, had season tickets to the Colts and Ravens, and pro ball is so intertwined with my childhood and Sundays I'm an addict, incapable of turning the horrible nonsense they vend today off. I don't want to surrender whole days to it, but it's ingrained in me, like breathing, I can't live a Sunday without it in the Fall.

But man it's a bad product. Breathe on a QB it's 15 yards. Good God, They broke Johnny's nose and he stuffed dirt into it and kept playing. They tried to maim him in the pile. It was a vicious game, go to Youtube and watch any Dick Butkus highlight reels.

This awful stuff today, it isn't even related to that. Yet I can't turn away. I'm an addict, but how anyone under 40 got addicted to the horrible stuff they've watched is beyond me. It must be this "Fantasy" thing I've heard about. It can't be the actual games.

JC     November 29
Have to agree with Larry, Chubb isn't close to the 2nd best player in the division.

1. Lamar

2. Garrett

3. Watt

4. Burrow

5. Chase

6. Fitzpatrick

7. Andrews

There's the top 7. Chubb nowhere to be found so far.

Jason M     November 29
@RC Stadium was pretty damn packed last night. These Sunday night games are not easy for any of us that have to get kids on the bus and head off to work the next day - but overall I thought the crowd was pumped and there were very few empty seats. Did not like the wrist band thing - gimmicky and a lot of waste.

Larry     November 29
Chubb the 2nd best player in the AFC North?

@JerryH still hitting that Thanksgiving wine a little too much apparently.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Jerry Agree fans and commentators generally focus too much on sack numbers. Hurries and pressures more generally are far more important to focus on and are believed to be more predictive of future success getting to the QB than simply looking at raw sack totals.

Might do my column on this this week. Unless there is something others would prefer to focus on.

JerryH     November 29
Very simple defensive game plan. Stop the run. Chubb is the 2nd best player in the division. And Hunt has top 3 body lean NFL talent. So what do the morons complain about? That Landry was running wild in the space vacated by the linebackers crowding the line. Huh?

Ancillary to the stop the run focus. I'd posit that the Ravens decided (guessed?) that Mayfield was too beat up to hurt them in two areas, the roll outs that he does well on and the deep ball. He had 250 yards mostly between the 30's, which in this era is what you want. But not the "expert" class, who time and time again prove that they don't understand the reality of an offensive era. Ravens are a bit geared to being anachronistic. They are really old school on defensive line play. As crazy as Winks scheming is, there is very little free lancing going on. You gotta follow the rules. So guys like Weinman(the most ignorant media member in town on athletic endeavors and understanding of what real athletes and coaches do) will moan that the team doesn't get enough sacks. Well, the pressure on Mayfield was everything last night. 3 sacks? Not a staggering number for fantasy freaks. But getting an injured guy off his spot when he couldn't do designed roll outs was the major factor in the win.

Again the refs in New York and those on the field prove that the millions that is spent on them is a waste. The 4th INT was a farce. The TD allowed was 80/20 that it wasn't a catch. Of course people should be upset, but the issue remains and evidence is pointing to calls comming in on the headsets of the Refs from "somewhere". The most outrageous call of the night was the late holding call on Powers on the Freeman cutback run. 100% designed to give the Browns a chance. The Ravens were slamming the ball down the throat of the exhausted Browns defense.

Remember Rule Number 1.

1. The NFL, above all other rules is a television show. It follows a formula. The games aren't fixed, but they must be viewed in the prism as being entertainment.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Eric also everyone rightfully points to the Forsberg trade as a debacle but the Caps absolutely made up for it in the Oshie deal. Given that he was an integral part of the Cup run I think it's fair to call it a wash. Ofc Forsberg is 6 or 7 years younger with a longer runway so this calculus will likely change.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Eric Yeah my recollection was that in the Oates/Trotz years a lot of guys were blocked playing minutes and developing particularly on D. But looking back over the stats that doesn't seem to actually be the case. I was thinking particularly of Nate Schmidt along with some lesser caliber players like Djoos, Chorney, Sanford, and even Stephenson in some playoff series. The teams always seemed a little slow but weren't consistently putting these players in.

Either my memory differs from reality or maybe these players were scratched at particularly important times. But maybe I overstated it.

Even last year when they signed Lundqvist they may not have known what they had in VV (tbf I think that was a reasonable signing if Henrik was going to play ~20 games or whatever).

Chris in Bel Air     November 29
Hey, they are 8-3 somehow. That's all that matters. It was the D last night that shined the most. They knew Baker was hobbling and that he was not able to move around well to avoid the pressure so they picked opportune times to get on him quickly and force him to throw early. The D also did a great job containing Chubb and Hunt and that is not an easy task. I'm a little a worried about this weekend up in Pitt. They are going to be ticked off after that whoopin yesterday.

I'm happy for Gausman but I think he is going to quickly remember that pitching in the AL East is not the same as pitching in the NL.

JOHN     November 29
After what happened to the Steelers yesterday. I'm guessing Steeler Steve will choose to remain a "silent observer" today and not find the Ravens and fans or his name for them "ratbirds" so "hilarious".

unitastoberry     November 29
The W is still the most important stat.

But as a fan of 50+ years I notice things which amaze me. You take the advantage the offense has in the game today and yet you still get qbs like last night who both laid eggs on national tv while playing for the Mahomes type contracts. The Ravens are in first place at the start of December with running backs who if not for the devasting injuries to this team that seem to continue even in non contact practices would be home watching on tv and checking on their investments. Add to this an offensive line without any quality tackles and mediocre at best every place else. The D did their job without Campbell and a secondary that is a bunch of second and third stringers with a few rejects. All this adds up to getting Harbs a bit closer to coach of the year. On to Stiller land where the Iron City Beer is becoming a bit stale.

Delray RICK     November 29
4 interceptions AND THE RAVENS STILL WON!!! GAUSMAN makes big deal $$$$.

al smith     November 28
What could be better than betting real money on free advice?? Sounds like a sound financial strategy to me.

MFC     November 28
Well, I love optimism and certainly the site owner has a full tank, unfortunately the tank is low in $$$$$.The builder is accepting other jobs worrying a foreclosure is within sight. Thirty games plus playoffs to get straightened out but the hole is being dug and it's not for that basement that no one has in Dewey.



Out mythical $1,000/game summary.

YTD ($1700)

Today

2 wins= $2,000

3 losses= ($3,300) ( admittedly the Minnesota game was written in such a way I wasn't totally sure what the bet was but either way they lost)

total= ($1300)



YTD Total= ($3,000)


Tim Perry     November 28
Thanks Drew and Paul! I played both of your top plays and won enough for Xmas! You two rock!

Delray RICK     November 28
MFC will a calculator to add this up.


Greg     November 28
At 4 pm today Nestor went online and asked if he could stop by someone's tailgate tonight and "eat your food and drink your beer".



It's 5:45 pm and he's had zero replies or invites.



Now that's funny.

Ron W.     November 28
Drew and Paul both off to good starts today. I admit to throwing a few bucks on their wagers today. So far so good.

RC     November 28
Oh boy, we're going to get the whole "how come no one goes to Ravens games any more?" diatribe tomorrow. Wonder if there will be any new reasons for this, or lather, rinse, repeat??

Titus     November 28
As a long time UM hoops fan I can say this without hesitation. The only player on MD's current roster that would play at Michigan State is Donta Scott. And he would be the 7th guy for Izzo. MD's talent is woefully lacking. Turgeon's a decent coach but he's not beating Izzo or Howard with this group of players.

Chuck P     November 28
Terps got better? They have a 6’11” center and got 2 (count ‘em 2) offensive rebounds. When you shoot 30% somebody needs to get under the boards. Very disappointed with this team so far.

Billy     November 28
@Eric is 100% correct. Its like stock market experts - if someone truly knows "how to beat the market", why they gonna tell other people?

And certainly not gonna tell you "for free".

unitastoberry     November 28
Your going to need super Lamar and a sea of hands that catch and run today. Fast start required too.

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 28
I love gambling but I'm sorry if you take money to promote gambling I don't know how they look themselves in the mirror. The phrase the house always wins isn't an exaggeration. You are promoting people to become homeless and penniless and in some cases turn to crime to try and cover their debts. And newsflash: touts don't exist. If someone really had the inside dirt to win all the time you really think they gonna share it with YOU?

kevin     November 28
Brown-Quinnipiac?? If that does not tell you how pervasive gambling has become in the world of sports, nothing does.

Pete Rose is now saying wait, all this is ok now?? lol

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 28
Stats nerd: who have the Caps really had the last 10 years youth wise to play? The hideous Forsberg trade was pretty much the end of young guns era but the development of Wilson Kuz and Carlson allowed Caps window to stay open longer than Chi and LA's did. As for Ravens this is as Jay Gruden once declared- a red alert game. With games at Pit and Cle next the division and season could slip away with a loss. This is a game where Lamar needs to be the story. Thankfully Schefter reports Hollywood will play barring pregame setback

Steve of Pimlico     November 28
Hopefully this will be Harbaugh family sweep but the Browns look awfully tough tonight with all if our injuries.

As far as gambling is concerned anytime humans are involved,chicanery will appear.

Stats Nerd     November 27
The Caps have been slow to bring youth into the lineup over the last 10-12 years. They’ve had very few spots to fit them but even when they could have their default has been to sign guys like Gudas or Chara. It’s been frustrating in the past but this injury bug has forced their hands a bit. Think it pays off for them long term as well. I would not have expected that to be the case even 3 months ago

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 27
Lamar has had his best games against Cle.... why? Garrett 1 1/2 sacks the last 6 match ups total. Sadly Stanley and Brown will not be here to continue that. If Calais and Williams don't play Cle will run for 150+

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 27
Another big loss for Turge? Shocking. Thankfully they are irrelevant, didn't even know they were playing today. Tried to tell Drew that the Gretzky record is a lock barring catastrophic injury. He will be at least at 780 with 4 years to get 115 goals. As for the Caps gotta love Protas being on the top line and playing well and Feheravy being top line D. Samsonov first Caps goalie ever to get a point in first 9 starts but as Alan May pointed out the team MVP so far is Kuznetsov. 4th in the league in scoring AND dominating on the PK, without Backstrom and Eller his play has been vital. Still think Caps core is too old to go far in the playoffs with IMO the 3 best teams in the league in the East: TB, Car, Fla. Meanwhile nice bounce back for the suddenly struggling Wiz last night in Memphis. Plenty of nice stories to distract from incompetent hopefully soon to be fired Turgeon. As for Ravens it's not looking good. Not only is Cleveland finally healthy but I don't see how Ravens stop Garrett on D and Chubb and Hunt on O. Gonna take a Lamar miracle.

RC     November 27
Dale is 0-1 on the year.

Chris in Bel Air     November 27
@Tom J - Agree! And yes Ovie is on fire too. It has been a welcomed surprise to see the Caps off to a great start while not having Backstrom, Oshie and Mantha. Some of the younger players like Fehevary, Leason and McMichael are blending in nicely and they are getting some surprise contributions from players like Hathaway. Also, Samsonov and Vanacek have been solid in the goal.

Tom J     November 27
The Caps are on fire!!! And they have done this without Backstrom, Mantha and Oshie to name a few. Hopefully when they all come back with less wear and tear this year, that will pay off down the road.

Hal     November 27
Welcome back Dale!

Hey, what happened to John Darcey? I haven't seen anything from him for a couple of weeks now.

Conway     November 26
Here's what I can't understand about the Turgeon haters. If the team went 9-21, 11-20 and 14-18, I could understand the griping and complaining. As someone pointed out, they're always competitive in the Big 10 and they've made the tourney every year but one since MT took over. People act like Maryland is Towson University. Imagine being a supporter of that program. Then you would have a real reason to gripe.



Happy Thanksgiving (belated) to every one in DMD land!

Rich     November 26
Agree with those who applaud @DF for his column about Loyola Blakefield. Respect!

Art     November 26
Drew and Chris in Bel Air making complete sense today. At least someone in the DMV gets it.

MK     November 26
Nice of you to recognize Loyola's win over Calvert Hall yesterday. You're a true gentleman.

Victor Pirini     November 26
Thank you for the video in the Faith section today!

God is great!

I appreciate you sharing that with your readers.



Philippians 4:6-7

Dons Dad     November 26
Thank you, Drew, for your kind words about Loyola's performance yesterday. It speaks volumes about you that you recognize the Dons despite your understood allegiance to Calvert Hall. Thank you.

Thursday
November 18, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2643


welcome to a new year, turge


If you're a Twitter enthusiast, last night was Stardust material in these parts.

It was, to say the least, wildly interesting to follow the last six minutes of the Maryland game on social media. Twitter is nothing if not a melting pot of opinions, "hot takes", insights and, occasionally, apologies.

As you might know by now, Maryland lost at home last night to George Mason, 71-66. If you've followed Maryland basketball at all over the last ten years, you could not have been at all surprised by the loss. The Terps are good for "one of those" at least once a year, if not more often than that. Maryland basketball has been good-but-nothing-more for a long time now.

Mark Turgeon's Terps suffered an early season non-conference loss to George Mason last night and the DMV basketball faithful are already restless.

There's a supremely inflated opinion of what Maryland should or could be in the Baltimore/Washington region. That's my hot take, anyway. Maryland basketball is exactly what they should be; a decent team in a good conference. They're never going to be Michigan State. They're never going to be Duke. Or Villanova. Or Gonzaga. They're just not. Anyone who thinks they have that in their DNA is clueless.

Anyway...I assumed Maryland would win last night but wasn't at all surprised to see them lose. They were trailing at the half - again - so I knew at that point the game was likely going down to the wire. George Mason led throughout the second half, comfortably for the most part, before Eric Ayala hit a couple of shots late to get Maryland back into it. In the end, the visitors prevailed.

And the onslaught on Mark Turgeon got started immediately thereafter.

I've never been a huge Turgeon fan. That said, I've also found the relentless pounding on the guy to be almost comical. Sure, he "gets the players" as everyone likes to say. He's basically getting what's made available to him once all the really good players are scooped up by the Duke's, Villanova's, Michigan State's and Gonzaga's of the world. Once the best players are gone, the next group chooses a school like Maryland or Wisconsin or Clemson. I love when people say, "Turgeon should recruit better players." Of course he should. And if he could, he would. But on we go...

Turgeon is always the problem when Maryland loses. Or at least that's what every Maryland fan posts on social media. I admit I even occasionally fall into that trap, too. Sometimes I even lose my mind, in other words.

Turgeon is never the reason why Maryland wins, though. When that happens, it's always the players who bailed out the coach. Now let's remember, this is the profile for virtually every team in every sport in America. The Ravens players are great when the team wins and the coaches stink when the team loses.

I've often used this example to showcase how we see things only through our lens. When Marlon Humphrey intercepts a pass, "Humphrey is a great player". When Lamar Jackson throws an interception, "OK, that might have been a bad throw, but Greg Roman is so stupid for calling that play in that situation." Wink Martindale didn't get any credit for the Humphrey pick, but Roman gets most of the blame for Lamar throwing his interception. And so it goes. For whatever weird reason, fans have taken to blaming the coaches more and more over the last 5 or so years. Maybe it's the advent of fantasy sports, where everyone is able to put a better team together than the one that's on the field today/tonight. Maybe it's still the video game era, where people excel at the latest version of "Madden" and somehow think that makes themselves an offensive coordinator-candidate in the NFL.

Whatever the reason, the coaches get almost no credit when the team does well and they get almost all of the blame when the team fails. #clownshoes

I suspect Maryland is going to be a decent team this season. They might even win a couple of games in the NCAA tournament next March. But my gut also tells me Mark Turgeon's team will wind up underachieving because it seems like that's what they always do. They're good, but never much better than we assumed they'd be. Just once, it would be nice for a Turgeon-coached team to overachieve.

No matter what eventually happens this year, though, one thing will stand the test of time. On each occasion Maryland loses a game in '21-22, Turgeon will be raked over the coals. There is no wiggle room with him and the fan base. None. He can pretty much do nothing right. And on the off chance the Terps do wind up playing above their paygrade, the players, not the coach, will get all of the credit.

You can make book on that, in the same way you know right now Maryland will lose a puzzling Big Ten game at some point in January or February. And that, of course, will be the fault of only one guy.


A few months ago, a story surfaced about a unique set of statistics that Tiger Woods used during his zenith on the PGA Tour. With "The Stats Nerd" delving into hockey today, it seemed like a good opportunity for me to bring up "The Tiger Five" and how Woods himself was ahead of his time in terms of using analytics and round-by-round data to support his quest to be the greatest golfer of all time.

In his college and early professional days, Tiger Woods developed "The Tiger Five", a data-based five-step process that he believed helped him win golf tournaments.

Woods apparently kept "The Tiger Five" a secret for a long, long time, then decided to spill the beans at a charity event one night. Why he picked that moment to let one of his secrets out is anyone's guess, but "The Tiger Five" has become a much-discussed subject in the world of golf over the last couple of months.

Tiger started keeping in-depth statistics of his scoring sometime in his early college days at Stanford. Once he beat everyone's brains in on the amateur and college golf circuits, he decided to turn professional. And starting in 1996, Woods kept the same data on the PGA Tour that he kept in college. Eventually, he developed "The Tiger Five" and ascertained they were the key ingredients to winning a golf tournament.

1. No missed greens in regulation with a 9-iron or any wedge in his hand. In those days, circa 2000, Tiger was likely hitting his 9-iron in the 160 yard range. He used "9 iron or wedge" as the barometer, but probably also could have said "160 yards and in".

2. No three putts. Fairly self explanatory here. Woods figured out that not three putting once in 72 holes dramatically increased his chances of winning. Of course, saying "no three putts for 72 holes" and actually not having a three putt over 72 holes are two totally different things.

3. No bogeys on par 5 holes. Another one that's easy to understand. Most courses on TOUR feature four par 5's. If you play all four days (which, of course, Woods always did; at one point, he made an unthinkable 142 cuts in a row), that's 16 par 5's to play over the course of the tournament. There was a 10-year period where Woods averaged 9.75 under par for the par 5's in any tournament that featured four par 5's on the course. Imagine going to the first tee on Thursday and being able to say to yourself, "I'm already 9.75 under par and I haven't hit the opening tee shot yet." Anyway, Woods figured out if he didn't make a bogey on a par 5, he was that much closer to winning.

4. No double bogeys. Easy peasy, right. You can make the occasional bogey or two and recover quite easily from it, especially when you're Tiger Woods. But if you can go through a TOUR event without making a double bogey, you're in the catbird seat, particularly if you can also accomplish 1, 2, and 3 above.

5. No missed "easy" up and downs. This is the only one of the five that really requires some subjectivity from the player himself. Only Woods would know what an "easy" up and down is...in comparison to what might be considered a "tough" up and down. I assume pin position, green speed, length of the rough, etc. were the characteristics that defined "easy" vs. "tough" and Tiger was honest enough with himself to know the difference when it came time to self-calculate his obedience to "The Tiger Five".

So...you'd like to win a PGA Tour event someday? Well, there's the blueprint.

Don't miss a green in regulation with a 9-iron or wedge in your hand. You might get 25 of those opportunities in 4 days. You better go 25 for 25.

Don't three putt. Once you get it on the green, two putt it from there. Nothing to figure out. No three putts.

All pars, birdies and eagles on par 5's. Gotcha.

No double bogeys. Those are round killers. Don't make 'em.

Get those easy up and downs into the hole for either par or birdie. Don't squander scoring opportunities.

Tiger must have hit on "The Tiger Five" a lot throughout his career, hence his 82 TOUR wins and 15 major titles.

At Calvert Hall, we're not reinventing the wheel. We have "The Cardinal Six" that we'll be using in 2022. Our six will be different than Tiger's, because, of course, our level play is not quite what his once was. And while we'll keep our "Cardinal Six" to ourselves for the time being, let's just say our six look a lot like Tiger's five with a few tweaks here and there.

As for someone looking, say, to break 90 for the first time, I'd consider using these five as your personal guide.

1. No tee balls out of bounds or in penalty areas. Anything "re-teed" is a round killer, potentially. If you can play 18 holes without hitting a tee shot out of bounds or into a penalty area, you're on your way to breaking 90.

2. Hit four greens in regulations per-side. If you hit five or six, all the better, but hitting at least four greens per-side is a great recipe for breaking 45 for 9 holes.

3. No "flubbed" short shots or bunker shots left in the trap. Nothing is worse than getting your ball up near the green in two shots and then taking four or five to get it in the hole from there. The culprit of that is almost always a flubbed chip shot (or two) around the green. The number one goal when you miss the green should be simple; get the next one on, somewhere.

4. No more than three, 3-putts in the entire round. A 90's-shooter is going to three putt. It's inevitable. But limiting those is crucial to getting into the 80's. One or two three putts are acceptable. If you make enough pars along the way, three 3-putts might be OK. But no more than that. And it's important to remember this: scratch players can go through a round with two or three 3-putts as well. The easiest way to avoid three-putting? Hit your ball closer to the hole.

5. Play the par 5 holes in no more than one over par. This, of course, assumes your course has the traditional set-up of four par 5's on the layout. If you have four par 5's, your goal should be to play them in a maximum of 1 over par. These are the scoring holes, for the most part, and you can make a huge dent in your pursuit to break 90 by playing the par 5's well.

Now...go shoot that 86 and let's get you in the 70's soon enough!

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The Stats Nerd
And His Numbers


Contributed by #DMD's data and numbers analyst
The Stats Nerd


hockey


Ice hockey is probably my second favorite spectator sport behind the NFL. I enjoy the pace of the game, the grace and athleticism of what the players do while on skates and the seeming ease with which they do it.

Like Drew, I was a long suffering Caps fan that revelled in the Stanley Cup win in June 2018. I remember being up that night watching in virtual tears that it finally happened...they raised the Cup. That beautiful, dented, abused silver cup. The memory of Lars Eller slipping the puck from between Marc-Andre Fleury's pads and into the net will be forever etched in my mind.

My father used to take my brother and I to the old Capital Centre in the late 70’s and early 80’s. We had some sort of partial season plan that got us tickets to 6 or 8 games per season. We listened to the great Ron Weber when we didn’t go and later watched the games on Home Team Sports (now NBC Sports Washington). Most of those teams were bad...some were REALLY bad.

I still watch a ton of hockey. I hate the Pens and the Bruins far more than the Flyers (sorry Drew). As much as they are a rival of sorts, I love watching the skill of Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevski on the Tampa Bay Lightning. And I feel bad that I don’t watch the stars on the Colorado Avalanche or Edmonton Oilers as much as I’d like due to the time zone difference.

Analytics in Hockey

All that said, I don’t have a huge interest in hockey analytics. There are some things that I follow (discussed below) but I don’t spend as much time deep diving into the various metrics. But there is no question that analytics usage is on the rise in hockey generally and certainly in the NHL.

All NHL teams have at least one staff person whose job is to present or manipulate data into digestible metrics for management, coaches and players. Like in the other major sports the reception varies from complete buy in (Maple Leafs, Lightning) to lukewarm acceptance (Rangers).

In addition, the push back from old timers is similar in hockey to other sports. Veterans of hockey will drop terms like grit and using the “eye test” to determine a player’s or team’s value. It’s something of a running joke on social media when a relatively poorly performing hockey player is picked up by a team that the GM or coach must really like his grit (the assumption is that his hockey skills aren’t very good).

Of course, the holy grail of any analytic metric is not just to describe what HAS happened but to predict what WILL happen. Metrics that are predictive of future success are of more value than just a measurement of past events. Most old school statistics aren’t particularly predictive. They simply tell the reader what has happened in the past.

Traditional Hockey Metrics

Two of the most common metrics quoted in the old days are Plus/Minus (+/-) and shots on goal (SOG). +/- theoretically measures a player’s contribution to their team's success based on goals scored and goals against while that player is on the ice. If a player is on the ice while 2 goals are scored and 1 goal is scored against, his +/- for that game is +1. Shots on goal are measured exactly like they sound; shots that are stopped by the goalie or go in the goal are considered shots on goal.

Like with all traditional metrics, these two are deemed to be fairly one dimensional. +/-, for example, has a lot of issues with it. It generally doesn’t distinguish between 5v5 even strength play, power play or shorthanded goals. It even accounts for goals with empty nets. This clearly skews the statistic to favor certain player types at the expense of others. Using the Capitals as an example, Alex Ovechkin will be on virtually every power play for the Caps but will very rarely be on during a penalty kill.

Conversely, a guy like Carl Hagelin will virtually never be on in a PP but is a stalwart on the PK. Thus +/- in the absence of context, will favor Ovi but by definition, disfavor Hags. There’s also the issue of a goalie unduly impacting +/- for a player based on their performance. For these reasons and a few others, most analytic types view +/- as a more or less worthless statistic. Some view it with utter and complete contempt. If you ever meet a hockey analytics person, ask them their thoughts on +/- and then just sit back and enjoy the histrionics.

Shots on goal is not as flawed as +/- but still doesn’t really capture the entirety of the offensive push a team gets. It only measures shots that actually get through to the goalie and get...wait for it...on goal. It doesn’t account for a team that gets off a lot of shots that don’t necessarily get on goal...off target shots, blocked shots, etc. You may say “Well Stats Nerd, the objective is to get shots on goal so that some percent will actually end up in the goal”. And I can’t disagree with that. The fact that shots that hit the goal post or crossbar are NOT considered “On Goal” is weird. But it’s not so much that Shots on Goal (SOG) is bad but that other measurements are better and more predictive of future results.

Corsi

Corsi is somewhat of a hybrid of the two above metrics. In lieu of shots on goal, Corsi measures shot attempts which are defined as all shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots. Corsi is the base measurement in assessing a team’s offensive push. The higher the Corsi score the more time the team is spending in the offensive zone. More time in the offensive zone is more highly correlated with offensive effectiveness than any of the traditional metrics. Corsi is manipulated into a ton of team and player specific measurements that are beyond the scope of this discussion. But a basic understanding of how it is calculated may be illustrative.

Assume the Caps play Drew’s least favorite team, the Flyers. Let’s say the Caps have 30 shot attempts in a period and the Flyer’s have 20. That would mean there were 50 shot attempts total in the period and the Caps had 60% of them (30 divided by 50 total). This is referred to as the Corsi For Percentage (CF%). Teams above 50% have more shot attempts than teams below 50%. Generally anything over 55% over a meaningful sample size is considered VERY ELITE.

Obviously teams that have strong CF% are spending more time in the offensive zone and that is predictive of future goals. A player with a strong +/- but a below average CF% over, say a 10 game sample, should be expected to revert to the mean moving forward. In other words, over that 10 game sample, that player is LIKELY outperforming expectation in the +/- statistic.

Fenwick

Fenwick is another shot metric and is calculated the same as Corsi except block shots are excluded from the calculation. Why you might ask? Well some teams tend to utilize shot blocks as a part of their strategy more than others. By eliminating blocked shots from the calculation teams with that defensive approach are less penalized using Fenwick than under a Corsi calculation. But the more important reason that Fenwick is calculated is because it is the basis for most Expected Goals (xG) modeling (see below).

In some ways, Corsi and Fenwick aren’t much different than the old timers screaming “to get it on net”. Pay attention to any game you will hear an analyst or a coaches interview talking about the need to throw pucks at the net. “Good things happen” they say when you do so between tips, rebounds, etc. These metrics are just a quantitative way to measure a team’s territorial advantage in a set of data.

Expected Goals (xG)

You may read this and say that Corsi and Fenwick have some obvious flaws. And you would be correct. Those metrics do a good job of measuring offensive pressure which generally correlates to more goals. But they don’t necessarily give the reader a good idea of the quality of the goal chances a team generates. xG helps to cover up some of those blind spots. It could be said that xG responds to the criticism that not all shot attempts are equal in terms of potential goals.

xG assigns a value to each unblocked shot taken towards the goal. It does this by assigning a weight to each shot based on shot location and adds a premium for better chances on odd man rushes or rebounds. By way of example, an innocuous shot from the point might have an xG value of .02 but a rebound directly in front of the goalie might have a value of .35. Those xG values are then aggregated over a period or game to determine which team had more high value shots.

Using xG we can then measure which team had higher quality chances and more goal expectation. Of course, over a small sample their actual goals may differ wildly from expectation. But over a larger sample, actual goals scored should converge on xG calculations.

All of the above calculations are manipulated into more detailed and granular metrics that provide additional context. For example, using xG we can determine a goalie’s performance relative to expectation. If the opponent’s xG was 1.5 in a period but he gave up 3 goals, he likely gave up some soft goals. The metrics can also be converted to per player statistics to assess an individual player’s contribution to the team. But basically the above 3 calculations are the jumping off point for most of the advanced metrics used in hockey.

As mentioned, I don’t deep dive into hockey analytics as much as golf and football. I do follow various posters on social media that post Corsi and xG metrics throughout the games. Another interesting follow is hockey heat maps. These are visual representations that show where a lot of the shot activity was in a period or game for each team. They aren’t necessarily predictive of anything but show who “Won” the period or game with respect to zone time.

Analytics Impact in Games

I’m not sure any of the above have changed the way a viewer digests a game in real time. It is generally believed that Corsi is more predictive of future results than xG which is more of a tool to determine which team won the shot quality battle.

But there are 2 specific analytically driven trends that clearly reveal themselves when watching hockey: Goalie Pulling and Power Play Zone Entry.

Goalie Pulling

6 or 7 years ago a NYU professor and a billionaire hedge fund manager published a paper determining the optimal time to pull a goalie when down one goal in the 3rd period was with SIX MINUTES AND 10 SECONDS LEFT! Other analytical types have calculated the optimal times as 3-4 mins left. Historically goalies have been pulled with roughly 1 minute left.

While NHL teams have not started giving their goalie the sign that early in the 3rd (YET) the trend clearly shows goalies are being pulled earlier in games. In the 2013-2014 season the goalies were pulled with an average time remaining of 1:13 when down 1 goal in the third period.

That time has risen basically every season until last season’s average of 1:50. That’s roughly a 50% earlier call to pull the goalie in 7 NHL seasons. (If interested Malcolm Gladwell had a really interesting podcast where he went through all of this with the authors of the paper. I think it was 3 or so years ago but if you Google Malcolm Gladwell pulling the goalie you will find it easily)

In some ways, the decision to pull the goalie is somewhat analogous to NFL coaches 4th down decisions. They make a decision that has material reward potential but comes with material risk associated with it. Empty net goals effectively end the game in most cases. But it is all about increasing WP%. Younger and more analytically savvy coaches understand that there is not much difference in losing by 1 goal versus losing by 2 other than the optics. Expect the trend for earlier and earlier goalie pulls to continue if the data continues to show higher WP% in doing so.

Power Play Zone Entry

Often referred to as the “drop back play” or the “slingshot” this zone entry concept is not analytically driven per se but analytics have documented it’s success over the last 10 years. Thus, this play is now utilized by virtually every NHL team as a means to enter the offensive zone while on a power play. If you’ve watched any hockey in the last few years, you’ve no doubt seen this strategy utilized.

The basics of the strategy are that a player (often the defenseman in a power play line up) starts the breakout from his own defensive zone. As he crosses his team’s blue line, he will drop the puck back to a forward now skating at full speed behind that defenseman. The new puck handler will often be the fastest and best puck handler on his team. His goal will be to carry the puck into the offensive zone without a subsequent pass at full speed. From there, the team is able to set up a power play attack.

By way of example, on the Capitals this will typically be John Carlson (74) starting with the puck and dropping it to Evgeny Kuznetsov (92). As one of the fastest and best handling Caps, 92 will attempt to enter the zone with the puck and set up the attack as his teammates come into the zone behind him. To counteract this strategy, defenses will try to clog up the middle of the ice so that he can’t enter at full speed. 92’s reaction to that will be to “dump” the puck deep into the offensive zone. Then his team will have 5 players versus the defenders 4 to retrieve the puck and set up the power play.

I hope this is of some use to you to understand the analytics of hockey. Hockey is a distant 4th in terms of popularity of the 4 major sports. But it too is a billion dollar business that offers rich rewards to successful teams. A story hit just this week that the Pittsburgh Penguins are close to being purchased by the Fenway Sports Group. No specifics have been announced but the Pens were valued at ~$850 million in 2020.

The current owners (notably Mario Lemieux) paid just over $100 million in 1999. Not a bad return on investment in ~22 years. Just like any other big business, data and analytics will be an important part of running and assessing hockey teams now and in the future.


Week 10 NFL

Some interesting 4th down decision points this past weekend. The one that generated the most back and forth that I saw was Ron Rivera’s decision to go for it up 4 on 4th and Goal from the Tampa 1 with 31 seconds left in the game. The models liked going for it in that spot though not by a lot. The one’s that I checked ranged from a 1-2% WP%. Of course, that deep in the opponent’s territory WFT already had a WP% approaching 100% so there wasn’t a ton of room for improvement in that percentage.

A few NFL commentators thought it was a gamble and that kicking the field goal to go up 7 and then kick to the Brady led Bucs. Again, I think either approach is probably marginally fine but I think it frames up some of the old vs. new debates pretty well. Some commentators just struggle to let go of the “take the points” mentality that has permeated the NFL for most of its existence. A more interesting situation would have presented itself, I think, if there had been more time on the clock.

MNF

I often get a kick out of commentators and TV types that just say random stuff that doesn’t appear to be grounded in any sort of reality. That happened in Monday Night’s game early in the 4th Quarter. Steve Levy, ESPN’s lead play by play guy for the NFL, made a big production of stating a few times that the SF Niners going for it, up big, on 4th and 5 from the +40 was a gamble.

Further, he essentially implied that going for it was an implicit thumbing their nose at analytics. The implication was that analytics would have told the Niners to punt there...I guess??

I have no idea what Levy was saying but the idea that going for it wasn’t supported by analytics was an odd statement.

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November 17, 2021
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a bunch of little things


As is almost always the case around here, Randy Morgan will handle the full review and account of last night's U.S. soccer game in Jamaica, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

But I'll chip in with a few thoughts of my own, if that's OK.

Make no mistake about it, the U.S. are in solid position to qualify for Qatar '22 with six games remaining, but there's still work to be done. Canada, a 2-1 winner over Mexico late last night, leads the 8-team CONCACAF table with 16 points while the U.S. has 15 points. The top three teams after the 14-game schedule automatically qualify for next winter's World Cup.

One post-game question for Gregg Berhalter was this one: Why not start Christian Pulisic last night?

The U.S. performance on Tuesday started off strong, with Timothy Weah putting the Americans up in the 11th minute, but things soured rather quickly after Jamaica tied the score at 1-1 in the 22nd minute. The rest of the night was largely an exercise in futility for Gregg Berhalter's team. By the 70th minute, their soccer was expressionless and it was time to play out the final 20 minutes for a draw and the comfort of staying in the top two of CONCACAF.

Randy will probably address these two issues in his game summary piece below, but let me add two quick questions (as I write this, I haven't read his column, which I rarely do in advance of publishing it).

Why didn't Berhalter start Christian Pulisic last night? I get it, he's coming into the team off an injury that essentially kept him sidelined for six weeks, but he played a bit for Chelsea two weeks ago and saw 20 minutes of action on Friday night vs. Mexico. Is he not yet "game fit?" Did the U.S. Soccer Federation make some sort of agreement with Chelsea that they wouldn't play Pulisic more than, say, 40 minutes in the two games?

I'll never understand not playing your best player from the start. I don't get it at all. If it was injury or fitness related, I do understand that. But all things being equal, Pulisic should have been a starter last night in Jamaica.

The other question: Why can't the U.S. find someone to trigger their free kicks and corner kicks? I get it, some of those duties usually fall on Weston McKennie and he wasn't available last night due to a suspension. But he's the only guy on the roster who can do it? I find that hard to believe. Either way, the team's "performance" last night on free and corner kicks was amateur-hour stuff. I've seen better formations and executions in the Calvert Hall vs. Curley games every year.

The remaining schedule for World Cup qualifying shifts in favor of the U.S. from here on in; they do have a pair of tough road games to play, still: at Canada and at Mexico, as well as an away trip to Costa Rica, which hasn't always been the friendliest of venues for the Americans. But their remaining three home games come against Honduras, El Salvador and Panama. Of those, only Panama has anything to left to play for once qualifying resumes in January.

There's no telling exactly how the standings will fall once qualifying ends, but it seems fair to think 22 points will be enough to snag one of the top three spots and 26 points might be enough to finish as the top team in CONCACAF. The U.S. next plays January 27 at home vs. El Salvador, January 30 at Canada and February 2 at home vs. Honduras. 7 points there (2 wins and a tie) will likely push the U.S. through, but if not, they'll have to clinch their trip in March when they play at Mexico, home vs. Panama and at Costa Rica.

The international soccer formula is pretty simple; win at home and gain at least a tie on the road. So far in 8 games, the Americans have won 4, lost 1 and tied 3. Their only loss of the qualifying cycle came at Panama, 1-0. If they can continue their success at home when play resumes in January, Qatar '22 will no longer be a dream for Gregg Berhalter's team.


In case you haven't heard, starting Christmas Day, you'll no longer call the sports arena in Los Angeles "Staples Center". Instead, the name will be "Crypto.com Arena."

I kid you not.

"Crypto.com Arena".

Here's the deal: I have no idea what crypto currency even is. Now, perhaps that's why someone at Crypto.com decided to fork over $700 million to grab the naming rights away from the folks at Staples. Maybe they're looking for people like to me to get interested in crypto currency because I see their name attached to the arena in Los Angeles. $700 million is a lot of money to promote something, though. I mean, did Staples really sell $700 million of their product in 20 years that they wouldn't have sold had they not been the namesake of the arena in Los Angeles? I have no idea.

Naming rights and things like that have always fascinated me, going back to my days in the soccer business when we sold dasherboard advertisements, game program ads, radio ads and anything else we throw a logo on.

In 1997, we even went as far as to basically change our entire color scheme and uniform "look" in order to consumate a deal with the folks at Dannon Yogurt. The Spirit (nee Blast) went from a color combination of red with black trim to royal blue and gold and we slapped a Dannon logo right in the middle of our jersey. I believe our "fee" for that transition was $150,000, which in those days represented the largest cash sponsorship in all of soccer. Too bad we couldn't get $700 million back then, huh?

Anyway -- I'm still trying to find someone to make me understand what "crypto currency" is and how it works and why, someday, it might be better to use than cash.

I've probably had a dozen people try and explain it to me. None of them have succeeded. I've googled it and read an article or three. I still don't understand it. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I could be the problem. I'm from Glen Burnie, after all. But I just don't get it, no matter how many smart people explain it to me. Or try to, at least.

I'd love to know what Staples thinks of their 22-year investment out in Los Angeles and whether or not it was a good thing for them in the long run. More importantly, how long will the building remain "Crypto.com Arena"? That's the real question now.


Every year when post-season awards get announced, I find myself laughing at the people who get offended that one of our local baseball or football players got by-passed for an award.

I say this all the time: Who cares?

Despite a very solid 2021 campaign, Ryan Mountcastle was not a finalist for the A.L. Rookie of the Year award, a snub that aggravated local baseball fans.

This week's big civic outcry involves Ryan Mountcastle, who didn't even make the final three for American League Rookie of the Year honors. Mountcastle had a very good season, of course. And I think, personally, he should have been a finalist, although I don't subscribe to the fact he had a bigger, more important campaign than Randy Arozarena of the Rays, who won the award. But that's neither here nor there.

Why are people so upset that Mountcastle didn't win? I mean, maybe he should be upset. I assume he had some sort of clause in his contract that would have netted him a nice bonus had he won the award. But why are so many fans upset and bellyaching on Twitter about Mountcastle not winning?

The NFL Most Valuable Player argument is the other hot-button topic and that one is already heating up...and we haven't even reached Thanksgiving. Baltimore football fans are, naturally, clamoring for Lamar Jackson to be in the mix. The people in Buffalo think they have a case for Josh Allen. That guy in Tampa Bay is always a candidate. So, too, is Aaron Rodgers. Heck, if Tennessee keeps playing the way they are, Ryan Tannehill might even be a potential MVP selection.

Why does it matter so much to the fans who wins the MVP award? I've never really figured that out.

I do understand why it's important to the player(s). That said, there's a train of thought that says any award one of your players receives probably does nothing except eventually cost the team more money to keep him. Lamar Jackson with the 2019 MVP award or Lamar Jackson without the 2019 MVP award...which one would cost less money?

Fans should probably be hoping their favorite players don't win the Rookie of the Year or MVP awards. Seems weird, but it's true.

I've just never figured out why it's so critical for the fans to see their favorite players win post-season awards. I guess it's just a pride thing, but does it really matter at all?


From the "bird in a tree" file, it's never too early to start thinking about next April's NFL Draft. I'm hearing the Ravens have interest in offensive lineman Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa, who has fluctuated between a late first round and early second round pick in most of the early mock drafts.

Yes, I know what you're thinking. "Mock draft...in November?" Heck, there were mock drafts out in September.

Anyway, I'm hearing the Ravens love Penning. Whether he evetually plays his way into a first round talent remains to be seen, but the Ravens will likely pick somewhere in the 20's in the first round, which should net them virtually anyone they want, position-wise.

Given what we've seen thus far in '21, the team's most obvious needs are: offensive line, defensive line, edge/pass rusher.

Sure, this year's injury list has robbed the team of players in those positions (Stanley, Wolfe), but there's no way of knowing what Ronnie Stanley will be like when he returns next season. Offensive line seems like a spot the Ravens need to invest heavily in this coming off-season, whether that's via free agency, the draft, or a combination of both. Penning and Rasheed Walker (Penn State) will both draw significant attention from the Ravens in April, I would think.

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RANDY MORGAN
on American soccer


Americans are playing more and more of a vital role in international soccer these days, and Randy Morgan has his eyes on all of them for #DMD. Each Tuesday here, he looks at recent performances of American players and highlights upcoming games of importance.


u.s. 1 - jamaica 1


The US traveled to Jamaica on Tuesday with positive momentum from one of their best performances in recent memory. With a chance to build off their big win over Mexico, the US came out hot in Jamaica, but ultimately couldn’t capitalize on an early goal. In the end they settled for a disappointing 1-1 draw that nonetheless keeps their qualification campaign on schedule.

Gregg Berhalter was forced to make two changes to the lineup with Weston McKennie and Miles Robinson both suspended for the game. 19 year old Gianluca Busio replaced McKennie and 21 year old Chris Richards started in place of Robinson. The rest of the lineup remained the same from the Mexico game.

Early in the game, both sides came out pressing the other high up the field. The Americans often opted to play through the Jamaican press to maintain possession of the ball. Jamaica, on the other hand, looked almost exclusively to play long balls forward for star striker Michail Antonio and attempt to win the second balls to get into the US defense.

Timothy Weah's early goal gave the Americans a 1-0 lead last night.

It was the US that controlled the early part of the game, connecting on several nice passing sequences in the first twenty minutes. The best of these sequences led to the opening goal in the 10th minute. After Brenden Aaronson worked hard to win the ball back near the Jamaican box, the US recycled possession into midfield. Eventually the ball ended up with center back Chris Richards, who played a pass into Gianluca Busio, who then found Weah with a one touch pass leading to a combo with Ricardo Pepi. Weah then beat his man one on one in the box and clipped a deft shot past the keeper that dinked in off the far post. It was one of the prettier goals the US has scored in recent memory and at the time it seemed like the team had carried in their swagger from the Mexico game.

Unfortunately they weren’t able to capture that magic again on the night. Another nice sequence a few minutes later involving a give and go between Pepi and Weah led to a good shot for Pepi from the top of the box but his shot and Brenden Aaronson’s rebound were both blocked.

Jamaica then regrouped and got themselves back in the game. In the 22nd minute it was another long ball from keeper Andre Blake looking for Antonio that started the sequence. Walker Zimmerman did a good job to win the initial header but Jamaica pounced on the second ball and it found Antonio in space. Tyler Adams made a good recovery to slow Antonio, but the West Ham striker cut back and fired a long range rocket that beat Zack Steffen and evened the game.

Neither team created much danger during the rest of the half as the US held a slight edge in possession. The next chance came early in the second half when Yunus Musah beat several defenders on the dribble then layed it off for Busio near the edge of the box. Busio hit a curling shot that just went over the crossbar. Despite maintaining a decent edge in possession throughout the second half the US failed to find another threatening chance. It was Jamaica who found the two best chances in the second half, with the US somewhat lucky to escape with the draw.

Just a minute after Busio’s shot, Jamaica missed out on a golden opportunity. Antonee Robinson attempted to clear a cross to the back post but mishit it and saw it land directly in the path of Bobby Decordova-Reid, but fortunately for the US he blasted it over the goal from point blank range.

The scariest moment for the US came in the 84th minute. After a series of corner kicks, it appeared Jamaica had scored a winner off a corner kick header, but it was quickly waived off as the Jamaican player was called for a foul for pushing Zimmerman down as he jumped for the ball. The late addition of Christian Pulisic as a sub was not enough to turn the tide in this one and the US settled for a 1-1 draw.

This was another game where the US held a decent possession edge, with 62% of the ball, but failed to create many dangerous chances. They led Jamaica with nine shots to seven but it was arguably Jamaica who had the best chance to take the lead in the second half.

The big problem for the Americans in this one was their ball progression from the back line. Walker Zimmerman and Chris Richards both did well in their duels with the Jamaican attack, especially winning many headers on the long balls out from the keeper. However, the entire back line had a day to forget with regards to their passing and ball movement. Zimmerman was especially bad, connecting on just 6 of 19 long balls, often gifting the ball right back to Jamaica.

The US had multiple promising passing sequences, but they often broke down on the final pass. The two full backs could not provide any danger from the wings in this one. Both Yedlin and Robinson were off on their crossing all night, failing to find teammates and often just blatantly overhitting the ball.

In a continuing theme, the US was once again poor on set pieces. This was a problem against Mexico as well. Gianluca Busio took a few of the free kicks in this game and provided slightly better delivery, but the US still failed to get anything close to a dangerous chance from their many corners and free kicks on the night. This needs to be an area of focus for improvement going forward, as set pieces can often win or lose closely contested World Cup matches, especially against more talented opponents.

There weren’t many players that stood out for good or bad in this one besides the problems on the back line. Tim Weah continued his hot streak from the Mexico game with his early goal and he had several nice passing combinations and dangerous crosses. Though he did fade a bit from the game before being substituted in the second half and he was not quite as decisive as he was against Mexico.

Yunus Musah had another solid game in midfield. He was frequently seen gliding past opponents with the ball and hit several creative passes as well. For a teenager, his awareness of the space around him and his fluidity on the ball are remarkable. He has solidified his starting spot in this two game window and is only just touching the surface of his potential.

At the end of the day, the US will take the draw, along with the win over Mexico and leave the window happy with their standing. With Canada pulling off a big 2-1 win over Mexico late on Tuesday night, and Panama beating El Salvador, the US sits second in the table, one point behind Canada and one point ahead of fourth place Panama. It's a tight group at the top, fighting for the three automatic qualification spots.

The US will need to remain sharp and return in January focused and ready to pick up where they left off. They will play an exhibition match with Bosnia and Herzegovina on December 18th that will likely only feature “B” team players from MLS. The full team will return for a three game qualifying window in late January.

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November 16, 2021
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#2641


thanks a lot, tigers


I spent a couple of hours in the San Diego airport yesterday. I know...there are worse places to be on a Monday, right?

Realizing I would be largely disconnected from the outside world for five hours while in-flight, I immersed myself in the internet for a little while to get caught up and start planning out my week here at #DMD.

Editor's note: I realize you can pay $8 for the internet on Southwest, but I look at those five hours as if they're a reward for not being tied to the frenetic pace of the world. So I never pay for the internet on a flight. Never.

O's general manager Mike Elias will have to start considering free agent additions by late 2022 or early 2023 as the O's rebuilding effort continues.

As I started breezing through Twitter to see what was going on (lots of ads these days, more than I remember), I saw a variety of #Orioles hashtags and got excited for a second. I even saw this tweet, below, and thought, "Holy cow, the Orioles signed Eduardo Rodriguez?"

"E-Rod is just the kind of pitcher the #Orioles need. And 5 years/$77 million is a nice investment for him."

The Orioles signed Eduardo Rodriguez!!!???

Alas, they didn't. The Detroit Tigers did.

Then, as I scrolled through a few hours of tweets and opinions from #Orioles fans, I saw the expected reaction. Some folks chastised the Birds for not signing a guy like Rodriguez, whom once pitched in Baltimore before being shipped to Boston for Andrew Miller, while others crowed that it still isn't time just yet for the O's to start throwing money at free agents.

Both sides are right.

Rodriguez actually is a good investment at $77 million for 5 years. Some baseball experts think he'll flourish in Detroit. Making 14 or so less starts in Fenway Park has to help, right? Not having to face the Blue Jays, Yankees and Rays 8 or 10 times a year should also improve his numbers.

His last two years have been particularly impressive, with an overall mark of 32-11 and a 3.81 ERA. There are some other fancy pitching stats to consider, if that's your sort of thing. He's not going to the Hall of Fame someday, but the Tigers just got better by adding the 28-year old lefthander.

So...why not the Orioles?

That's a fair question. It's always important to remember, during discussions like these, that part of being a "free" agent is you get to decide where you're going to go. The Tigers are certainly a more attractive option than the Orioles at this point. The A.L. Central has one really good team right now -- the White Sox -- and not much else. The Indians are starting over, the Twins are re-tooling as well, and Kansas City is...well...Kansas City. If Detroit can squeeze past the White Sox, they have a legit shot at winning the A.L. Central sometime in the near future.

I have no idea if the Orioles had $77 million, $87 million or -- the more likely total -- zero millions to throw at Rodriguez. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to cough up $77 million for a player you gave away seven years ago.

So all things being equal, Rodriguez-to-Baltimore was never going to happen, no matter if it might have helped or not. The Orioles aren't ready to start sinking money into free agents of that caliber and free agents of that caliber aren't ready to choose the Orioles. You can't dance with her if she stands by the water cooler all night waiting for someone else.

But it's worth noting that the days of the Orioles needing to add some quality free agents to the mix is slowly approaching. Perhaps even by this time next year, Mike Elias and his staff will have to start offering people like Eduardo Rodriguez $77 million for 5 years. The rebuilding effort is largely done via the draft and international signings. I think we all get that. But the final piece of the puzzle will have to involve signing a few established players or adding some veterans at the trade deadline who have beefy contracts still in play.

I don't think Eduardo Rodriguez would have made a difference with the Orioles in 2022. He might make a difference with the Tigers in '22, which is why they added him yesterday. Therein lies the difference between the paths currently occupied by both teams. The O's are trying to get better, but their journey is still uphill. The Tigers think they are better and they're ready to start the climb back to respectability.

But for a little while on Monday, hot stove talk in Baltimore ratcheted up a notch and it was, honestly, kind of enjoyable to follow. It's been a while since Charm City baseball fans even contemplated a free agent signing of any importance. (Sorry, Freddy Galvis, no offense intended there.) So reading the back-and-forth from people who thought the Birds should have pursued E-Rod was, if nothing else, a nice change of pace.


A more thorough dissection of Twitter on Monday showed people flipping out over John Harbaugh's commentary regarding Miami's (successful) use of the Cover-0 defense in last Thursday's win over the Ravens.

"We've got it figured out...we're better prepared to face it than anyone else in the league," Harbs said yesterday.

Predictably, folks lashed out at the 14-year Ravens leader.

"You didn't have it figured out last Thursday!" a bunch of folks wrote.

"LOL at Harbaugh," someone else opined. "He has no clue and neither does Greg Roman. You don't just "figure out" the Cover-0 overnight."

What, actually, did you expect or want the head coach to say when he was asked about it?

"Yeah...it's a problem...we're really hoping no other teams use Cover-0 against us this season because we can't seem to figure out how to beat it."

---- or -----

"No problem. We watched the video, looked at our personnel, and figured out a nice way to handle the Cover-0 moving forward. If we see it again, we'll have an answer for it."

I don't know about you, but I'd rather hear Harbaugh tell us the Ravens have it figured out. The proof will come in the pudding, of course, and you can assume the Bears will throw some Cover-0 at Lamar Jackson and the offense this Sunday in Chicago. But I'd rather hear the coach tell me they have it figured out than not figured out.

Now, if the Ravens see that defensive scheme again this season and don't handle it well, let the questions and comments fly.

At this point, though, let's assume Harbaugh is telling the truth. I mean, he can't help but know that defensive formation confounded his quarterback and offensive coordinator last Thursday night. If those two can't figure out a way to beat Cover-0 moving forward, the Ravens might be in trouble. But the bet here is they'll come up with a solution rather quickly.

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RANDY MORGAN
on American soccer


Americans are playing more and more of a vital role in international soccer these days, and Randy Morgan has his eyes on all of them for #DMD. Each Tuesday here, he looks at recent performances of American players and highlights upcoming games of importance.


usa vs. jamaica preview


The US men travel to Kingston to play Jamaica at 5:00pm tonight in the second of two November World Cup Qualifiers. The game marks the turn to the second half of the qualifying schedule, which will see the US play each team in the group a second and final time.

The Americans enter on an emotional high after a resounding win over rivals Mexico. The second half against Mexico was the best soccer the team has played under Gregg Berhalter and they’ll look to build on that in Jamaica.

Zack Steffen will get the start in goal tonight for the U.S. as they travel to Jamaica seeking three key points in World Cup '22 qualifying.

Jamaica will be a tougher test this time around than when the US dominated them in a 2-0 home win in October. Following that loss they regrouped and got an impressive draw with Canada and a win over Honduras, then drew on the road to El Salvador last week. Several big name additions will be available against the US that were missing in the previous matchup. English Premier League stars, striker Michail Antonio and winger Leon Bailey are back on the Jamaican roster and bring a dangerous attacking edge that was missing in October.

Make no mistake, the US is still favored, but they can’t rest on their laurels after the big victory over Mexico. This team should have learned by now that road games in CONCACAF are never guaranteed. The US did catch a break with the crowd being reduced to 5,000 due to Covid restrictions, limiting the hostile atmosphere.

Berhalter will be without two key starters from the Mexico game, with Weston McKennie and Miles Robinson both suspended due to card accumulation. Chris Richards will likely slot in for Robinson alongside Walker Zimmerman in the back line. The tougher decision for Berhalter is the choice at midfield. Gianluca Busio has been playing very well at his club Venezia in Italy and has a dynamic attacking skill set. However, Berhalter has been reluctant to rely on young players in road games during this qualifying cycle, so he could call on one of the more veteran options in Kellyn Acosta or Sebastian Lletget. My guess is that Acosta will get the nod, but we’re likely to see several of those options get time by the end of the game.

Regardless of the choice to replace McKennie, the US should have a strong advantage in the midfield. The position is the weakest on Jamaica’s roster and it was an area of the field the Americans controlled in the first game. The combo of Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah have remarkable athleticism and endurance and can wear down even the best opponents, as they showed against Mexico. Acosta would bring a similar profile to help suffocate the Jamaican midfield, while Busio or Acosta could provide a little more attacking ability to connect with the forward line.

Many thought that Matt Turner would get a rotation in goal against Jamaica, but it has been announced that Zack Steffen will start, so it seems he has reclaimed the position for the time being. The other spot where a change seems possible is right back. Deandre Yedlin delivered an unexpectedly solid performance against Mexico, but Berhalter may opt to give teenager Joe Scally an opportunity with three points already secured in this window.

Jamaica’s current standing in the table (5 points out of qualifying spot) may play to the Americans’ advantage. While Jamaica would normally be content to sit off the US a bit and try to counter attack, they will be forced to press the issue offensively in this one. With a large point deficit to make up, Jamaica needs to start getting wins, especially at home. This could open up big gaps at the back for the US to exploit. Christian Pulisic will be a great option to find those opportunities as a second half substitute with fresh legs against a potentially tiring defense.

The win against Mexico provides the US with a golden opportunity to take all six points from this November window and take a big step toward punching their ticket to Qatar ‘22. The team just needs to avoid complacency and bring the same intensity against a weaker opponent and they should head into 2022 in a formidable position.

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Open Again
Monday
November 15, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2640


life on the other coast


I think I'll take advantage of yesterday's relatively light local schedule to opine on something you might not actually be all that familiar with -- depending on how many times you've been to the western part of the country.

Let me first just say, quickly, the Capitals are off to an outstanding start to the '21-22 season, punctuated by yesterday's 6-1 thrashing of the Penguins. I know there are a lot of Caps fans who regard the Penguins -- not the Flyers or Rangers -- as the franchise's arch-rival. I personally find the Flyers far more easy to dislike than the Penguins, but I get it. The Caps haven't always been able to get the best of the black and gold team from Pittsburgh, so a 6-1 regular season win is quite a treat.

I'll also just add this quickly about the world of professional golf from Sunday. Jason Kokrak, who won the Houston Open on the PGA Tour, is just a major win away from being a legit game-breaker on TOUR. I thought he should have been added to September's Ryder Cup team after his 2-win season, but he didn't make the final squad. That's OK, though. His '21-22 campaign is off to a great start after yesterday's come-from-behind win. That guy is really starting to make a name for himself.

On the Champions Tour, Bernhard Langer, at age 64, was able to win his 6th season-long Charles Schwab Cup Championship after shooting 63-69 on the weekend to secure the triumph. I know I've mentioned this story here before but given what transpired yesterday in Arizona, it's worth repeating.

I was blessed to be paired with Langer in two practice rounds at last summer's U.S. Senior Open in Omaha. On day one, walking down the 16th fairway, I tried to make friendly, small talk with the 2-time Masters champion.

"So how's your season going so far?" I asked him.

"Not bad," Bernhard responded. "I'm 4th in the Charles Schwab standings right now, which is the season long points tournament. That's what you want to win on the Champions Tour. You want to be the winner of the Charles Schwab Cup at the end of the year because of the bonus money it pays out."

I just blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. "You can do it," I said. "You have the game to win the whole thing."

"I should win it," Langer said, emphatically. "If I play up to my level, I definitely should win it again." I loved his approach. He seemed unfazed by guys like Ernie Els and Jim Furyk and Retief Goosen. "I should win it," Langer said to me. He expected to win. That was his mindset. "I should win it."

And, yesterday, he won it again. At 64 years old, Bernhard Langer continues to be the most consistent "senior" golfer in the world. What a player he is.


So I spent the last five days in San Diego, playing some golf and participating in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes national tournament at Torrey Pines and Del Mar CC.

I've written about San Diego here before. Several times, in fact. I always tell people it's "the best city in the country" and, truth be told, it's not even close between first and second place. San Diego is an amazing town.

This was probably my 20th time visiting San Diego in my life. What stands out to me now, though, is probably not something I realized in the '80's and '90's when I visited San Diego as part of my duties with the Blast soccer team.

The lifestyle on the West Coast is so much different than what we've come to accept and expect "back home". I'm not saying I don't like it -- but I am saying it's much, much different.

The whole time change thing is really hard to get a grasp on. You look at the clock in San Diego and it's 1:30 pm and you realize that the work day back East is just about complete. You go to dinner at 6:00 pm and call back home after you've placed your order and you realize it's 9:00 pm and the kids are already starting to get ready for bed.

It might be different if you lived in San Diego but didn't have family and work related folks to stay in touch with back East. But when you're in San Diego and you still have to keep in touch with folks in Baltimore...you have to really pay attention to the hours and the time.

Oh, and we haven't even talked about the journey from Baltimore to San Diego and how the time change plays havoc with your sleep schedule. I think, in five nights out in San Diego, that I honestly got one good night's sleep. And even that was only six hours or so in duration. But at least it was six straight, solid hours.

San Diego is great. But home is even better. I'll be back in Baltimore today, my 2021 golf schedule now officially in the rear view mirror. I had the greatest golfing year of my life in 2021, but yesterday's round at Del Mar CC will be my last tournament round of the year. If you're going to put a lid on your competitive golf season, San Diego is an awfully good place to do it, huh?

I'll tee it up again in 2022 and, hopefully, will make it back out west again at some point to catch up with old friends and enjoy the best city in America.

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around the nfl in 2 minutes


The NFL. From week-to-week, it's unreal. Just when you think you might have it figured out, you don't. Sure, injuries (and these days, Covid-19, too) impact games every Sunday, but for the most part you just can't predict who will win. Well, except maybe for that guy who appears at #DMD on Sundays and make his five game picks. I hear *that guy* is having a banner year beating up on the experts in Vegas.

Anyway, here's what happened yesterday.

Cowboys 43 - Falcons 3 -- Huh? 43-3? I know Atlanta stinks, but 43-3? The Cowboys responded well to last Sunday's shocking home loss to Denver. Atlanta didn't respond well to anything, really. At least they didn't get shut out.

Titans 23 - Saints 21 -- Give New Orleans credit. You can't name five guys on their team and they're somehow 5-5 after yesterday's close loss in Nashville. And give the Titans credit, too, as they're now 2-0 without Derrick Henry in their backfield and 8-2 overall.

Colts 23 - Jaguars 17 -- I still think Indianapolis could be a dangerous team if they somehow squeeze into the playoffs. The Jaguars, meanwhile, are playing most teams tough every week, even though their 2-7 record indicates they're a lousy team. I'd love to be wrong about Indy -- but I think they could be a tough out in the post-season.

One week after managing just 6 points vs. Jacksonville, Josh Allen and the Bills threw up a 45-spot on the Jets in the Meadowlands yesterday.

Patriots 45 - Browns 7 -- Wow. New England is starting to look like they might be a legit threat in the AFC. I realize Cleveland was hampered by injuries yesterday, but New England just keeps on beating people. Their 4-game win streak isn't overly impressive (Jets, Chargers, Panthers, Browns) but any win in the NFL is worth hootin' and hollerin' over when you're employing a rookie QB like they are in Foxborough. Bill Belichick is going to be heard from in 2021.

Bills 45 - Jets 17 -- It got so bad for the Jets yesterday they wound up letting Joe Flacco come in for mop-up duty. Buffalo lost to Jacksonville last week and then blew out the Jets this week. The NFL is so, so weird. The thing about Buffalo is this: The AFC East was supposed to be on cruise control for them in '21 but the play of the Patriots has changed that somewhat. Buffalo still has yet to play the Pats, by the way. The first meeting between the two teams is December 6.

Steelers 16 - Lions 16 OT -- If Pittsburgh was still wondering whether Mason Rudolph is the QB of the future -- or not -- the answer probably came yesterday in the form of a 16-16 OT tie with the Lions. Rudolph couldn't even beat Detroit in his own building. #clowshoes

Washington 29 - Buccaneers 19 -- A weird game indeed. The Bucs lost for just the third time all season and the Washington Football Team won for just the third time. Tampa Bay has to remember they weren't all that great in the regular season last year, either, then caught fire in the post-season and finished the year on a 4-game playoff winning streak that earned them the franchise's 2nd Super Bowl title. Not much to see here. Tampa Bay will still win the NFC South and will be a tough out in January.

Panthers 34 - Cardinals 10 -- Wow, no Kyler Murray...no chance for Arizona. The 2nd career of Cam Newton in Charlotte got off to a rousing start and the Panthers, at least for now, remained in the thick of the NFC wild card race with their win over Arizona. The Cardinals need to get healthy in order to challenge for the top spot in the NFC. Without Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, they're a bottom feeder.

Vikings 27 - Chargers 20 -- The Vikings could be the NFL's most puzzling team. If not for that second half collapse against the Ravens last Sunday, they would have gone on the road and defeated Baltimore and Los Angeles in successive weeks, which is quite a feat. Meanwhile, the Chargers continue to sputter, speaking of puzzling teams. There's no telling where they're going to finish up in '21, but you would be wise not to wager on Justin Herbert's team for the rest of the campaign.

Eagles 30 - Broncos 13 -- Speaking of weird teams. The Eagles. And the Broncos. Both of them are weird. Denver blew out the Cowboys last week in Dallas, then returned home and lost to the Eagles, who last Sunday fell to the Chargers in Philadelphia. Oh, and the Vikings beat the Chargers yesterday, two weeks after losing at home to the Cowboys, who just lost to Denver last week. Got all of that? It all points to one thing. The NFL is the craziest league ever invented.

Packers 17 - Seahawks 0 -- So much for Russell Wilson's return, eh? He went 20-of-40 for 161 yards and a QB rating of 39.7. Those are, what we call here in Baltimore, "Kyle Boller numbers." The Packers continue to impress, but that January home playoff game always lurks and, well, just go ahead and look up how Aaron Rodgers has done in the post-season over the years.

Chiefs 41 - Raiders 14 -- Hard to tell if we now know more about the Chiefs or the Raiders after last night's shellacking, but it's pretty clear Las Vegas doesn't have much left in the tank after losing their head coach and star wide receiver this season. Kansas City, meanwhile, looks like the team we've known for the last three years, albeit on a one night basis. I'll continue saying this until January rolls around and they prove me right or wrong: The Chiefs are the one team the Ravens won't want to face in the playoffs.

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#dmd comments








unitastoberry     November 29
@Herman this is just one reason I come to DMD because if you tell the truth about the NFL by virtue of your age and what you watched in a galaxy far far away you are usually not ridiculed. When you think about watching a kick off sail into the endzone with no return because they now kick from midfield and the ball is placed on the 25 not 20 and 70k people are screaming there's something very wrong about that and the game in general. At times it's a clown show but the leagues bank accounts do not indicate that. Also @ Lou that's a great story I'm going to borrow it at gatherings.

lou@palo alto     November 29
Herman makes gd points: grew up watching Unitas & all--all our focus in the fall and the games were so different than now. i play in an annual steve young/jerry rice golf tourney in the fall and several yrs ago steve told us that Brady said to him "u sld still be playing--they can't hit us any more and the middle is always open"

Stats Nerd     November 29
I think Chubb is a great running back....probably top 5-ish backs. off the top of my head: Henry, McCaffrey, Cook, Taylor...maybe Kamara. Problem is he is a running back. Position just isn't as important as it was, say 25 years ago.

John L.     November 29
Go back to Cleveland Jerry and Joe!! Your team lost last night. Get over it boys!!!!!!!!

Delray RICK     November 29
HERMAN...I can't wait til summer is over because...It's starts in SEPTEMBER and doesn't end til FEBUARY. AND we have a top team here which IS exciting EVERY YEAR. DEM OS are in the rear view mirror.

MJ     November 29
Joe P. must be smoking the good hippie lettuce if he thinks Chubb is better than Chase or Andrews (I won't put QB'S in the argument because that's silly). Chubb is basically on par with Mixon in Cincy. And if we're honest Harris in Pittsburgh could be better than both of those guys soon.

Back to the hippie lettuce Joe!!! lol

Rico     November 29
JerryH lost all credibility with the Chubb comment. I stopped reading at that point. Take his DMD card away pronto.

Joe P.     November 29
I guess we should be happy to know that JC is the be all,end all in terms of writing the list on the most talented players in the AFC north.



Chubb is a huge talent, when healthy. He gets down graded for not showing up every week.

But when he is right? On Offense, he is better than Andrews, Chase and Burrow.

I'll go with 2nd best on offense in the AFC North. He ain't better than Garret or Watt or Lamar.

Ken Diehl     November 29
Hi Drew, long time reader but first time contributor. I just wanted to applaud you for your consistently even keeled takes on the Ravens. Unlike the big columnist in town who constantly harps on the negative I enjoy coming here on Monday and reading your analysis as I know it will showcase the good and the bad from the game.



As you know all too well from being a coach yourself, how you won isn't nearly as important as people think it is. How the Ravens are winning these games doesn't matter one bit. They're winning, that's all that matters.



Keep up the good work and belated congratulations on your US Senior Open appearance last Summer. We were all living vicariously through you that week you were in Omaha.

JeffWell     November 29
I was going to write something like "Jerry H makes some valuable points but I don't understand why he has to resort to name calling." But then I saw his take on Weinman, and now I believe that we could be best friends!



Also, though I'm not a conspiracy theorist, the officiating throughout the league is so poor, that you certainly can understand the genesis of said theories.

HERMAN     November 29
I realize why I'm addicted to pro football but for the life of me I can't understand why anyone under 35 growing up in the digital age watches the horrendous product they put out in the NFL. Teams are watered down with a lack of talent that doesn't stretch past five or six truly quality football players. The current rules and regulations have taken all "contact" out of a contact sport. Referee calls make little to no sense and overly impact the games. We watch calls and even reviews that make no sense and then are told by league toady announcers that our own eyes have lied to us, what we just saw played over, and over again isn't what we saw. For every Wow! moment we watch thirty to forty plays of ineptness and klutzy Keystone Cops performance that is difficult to sit through. With the exception of maybe 4 teams mediocrity rules, and the bulk of the league is 500 from bad teams playing each other over, and over. The NFL product of today is a bad reality show that plays from early morning to late at night, and we watch it all, all day long.

I grew up with 1960's football, came of age with 1970's football, had season tickets to the Colts and Ravens, and pro ball is so intertwined with my childhood and Sundays I'm an addict, incapable of turning the horrible nonsense they vend today off. I don't want to surrender whole days to it, but it's ingrained in me, like breathing, I can't live a Sunday without it in the Fall.

But man it's a bad product. Breathe on a QB it's 15 yards. Good God, They broke Johnny's nose and he stuffed dirt into it and kept playing. They tried to maim him in the pile. It was a vicious game, go to Youtube and watch any Dick Butkus highlight reels.

This awful stuff today, it isn't even related to that. Yet I can't turn away. I'm an addict, but how anyone under 40 got addicted to the horrible stuff they've watched is beyond me. It must be this "Fantasy" thing I've heard about. It can't be the actual games.

JC     November 29
Have to agree with Larry, Chubb isn't close to the 2nd best player in the division.

1. Lamar

2. Garrett

3. Watt

4. Burrow

5. Chase

6. Fitzpatrick

7. Andrews

There's the top 7. Chubb nowhere to be found so far.

Jason M     November 29
@RC Stadium was pretty damn packed last night. These Sunday night games are not easy for any of us that have to get kids on the bus and head off to work the next day - but overall I thought the crowd was pumped and there were very few empty seats. Did not like the wrist band thing - gimmicky and a lot of waste.

Larry     November 29
Chubb the 2nd best player in the AFC North?

@JerryH still hitting that Thanksgiving wine a little too much apparently.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Jerry Agree fans and commentators generally focus too much on sack numbers. Hurries and pressures more generally are far more important to focus on and are believed to be more predictive of future success getting to the QB than simply looking at raw sack totals.

Might do my column on this this week. Unless there is something others would prefer to focus on.

JerryH     November 29
Very simple defensive game plan. Stop the run. Chubb is the 2nd best player in the division. And Hunt has top 3 body lean NFL talent. So what do the morons complain about? That Landry was running wild in the space vacated by the linebackers crowding the line. Huh?

Ancillary to the stop the run focus. I'd posit that the Ravens decided (guessed?) that Mayfield was too beat up to hurt them in two areas, the roll outs that he does well on and the deep ball. He had 250 yards mostly between the 30's, which in this era is what you want. But not the "expert" class, who time and time again prove that they don't understand the reality of an offensive era. Ravens are a bit geared to being anachronistic. They are really old school on defensive line play. As crazy as Winks scheming is, there is very little free lancing going on. You gotta follow the rules. So guys like Weinman(the most ignorant media member in town on athletic endeavors and understanding of what real athletes and coaches do) will moan that the team doesn't get enough sacks. Well, the pressure on Mayfield was everything last night. 3 sacks? Not a staggering number for fantasy freaks. But getting an injured guy off his spot when he couldn't do designed roll outs was the major factor in the win.

Again the refs in New York and those on the field prove that the millions that is spent on them is a waste. The 4th INT was a farce. The TD allowed was 80/20 that it wasn't a catch. Of course people should be upset, but the issue remains and evidence is pointing to calls comming in on the headsets of the Refs from "somewhere". The most outrageous call of the night was the late holding call on Powers on the Freeman cutback run. 100% designed to give the Browns a chance. The Ravens were slamming the ball down the throat of the exhausted Browns defense.

Remember Rule Number 1.

1. The NFL, above all other rules is a television show. It follows a formula. The games aren't fixed, but they must be viewed in the prism as being entertainment.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Eric also everyone rightfully points to the Forsberg trade as a debacle but the Caps absolutely made up for it in the Oshie deal. Given that he was an integral part of the Cup run I think it's fair to call it a wash. Ofc Forsberg is 6 or 7 years younger with a longer runway so this calculus will likely change.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Eric Yeah my recollection was that in the Oates/Trotz years a lot of guys were blocked playing minutes and developing particularly on D. But looking back over the stats that doesn't seem to actually be the case. I was thinking particularly of Nate Schmidt along with some lesser caliber players like Djoos, Chorney, Sanford, and even Stephenson in some playoff series. The teams always seemed a little slow but weren't consistently putting these players in.

Either my memory differs from reality or maybe these players were scratched at particularly important times. But maybe I overstated it.

Even last year when they signed Lundqvist they may not have known what they had in VV (tbf I think that was a reasonable signing if Henrik was going to play ~20 games or whatever).

Chris in Bel Air     November 29
Hey, they are 8-3 somehow. That's all that matters. It was the D last night that shined the most. They knew Baker was hobbling and that he was not able to move around well to avoid the pressure so they picked opportune times to get on him quickly and force him to throw early. The D also did a great job containing Chubb and Hunt and that is not an easy task. I'm a little a worried about this weekend up in Pitt. They are going to be ticked off after that whoopin yesterday.

I'm happy for Gausman but I think he is going to quickly remember that pitching in the AL East is not the same as pitching in the NL.

JOHN     November 29
After what happened to the Steelers yesterday. I'm guessing Steeler Steve will choose to remain a "silent observer" today and not find the Ravens and fans or his name for them "ratbirds" so "hilarious".

unitastoberry     November 29
The W is still the most important stat.

But as a fan of 50+ years I notice things which amaze me. You take the advantage the offense has in the game today and yet you still get qbs like last night who both laid eggs on national tv while playing for the Mahomes type contracts. The Ravens are in first place at the start of December with running backs who if not for the devasting injuries to this team that seem to continue even in non contact practices would be home watching on tv and checking on their investments. Add to this an offensive line without any quality tackles and mediocre at best every place else. The D did their job without Campbell and a secondary that is a bunch of second and third stringers with a few rejects. All this adds up to getting Harbs a bit closer to coach of the year. On to Stiller land where the Iron City Beer is becoming a bit stale.

Delray RICK     November 29
4 interceptions AND THE RAVENS STILL WON!!! GAUSMAN makes big deal $$$$.

al smith     November 28
What could be better than betting real money on free advice?? Sounds like a sound financial strategy to me.

MFC     November 28
Well, I love optimism and certainly the site owner has a full tank, unfortunately the tank is low in $$$$$.The builder is accepting other jobs worrying a foreclosure is within sight. Thirty games plus playoffs to get straightened out but the hole is being dug and it's not for that basement that no one has in Dewey.



Out mythical $1,000/game summary.

YTD ($1700)

Today

2 wins= $2,000

3 losses= ($3,300) ( admittedly the Minnesota game was written in such a way I wasn't totally sure what the bet was but either way they lost)

total= ($1300)



YTD Total= ($3,000)


Tim Perry     November 28
Thanks Drew and Paul! I played both of your top plays and won enough for Xmas! You two rock!

Delray RICK     November 28
MFC will a calculator to add this up.


Greg     November 28
At 4 pm today Nestor went online and asked if he could stop by someone's tailgate tonight and "eat your food and drink your beer".



It's 5:45 pm and he's had zero replies or invites.



Now that's funny.

Ron W.     November 28
Drew and Paul both off to good starts today. I admit to throwing a few bucks on their wagers today. So far so good.

RC     November 28
Oh boy, we're going to get the whole "how come no one goes to Ravens games any more?" diatribe tomorrow. Wonder if there will be any new reasons for this, or lather, rinse, repeat??

Titus     November 28
As a long time UM hoops fan I can say this without hesitation. The only player on MD's current roster that would play at Michigan State is Donta Scott. And he would be the 7th guy for Izzo. MD's talent is woefully lacking. Turgeon's a decent coach but he's not beating Izzo or Howard with this group of players.

Chuck P     November 28
Terps got better? They have a 6’11” center and got 2 (count ‘em 2) offensive rebounds. When you shoot 30% somebody needs to get under the boards. Very disappointed with this team so far.

Billy     November 28
@Eric is 100% correct. Its like stock market experts - if someone truly knows "how to beat the market", why they gonna tell other people?

And certainly not gonna tell you "for free".

unitastoberry     November 28
Your going to need super Lamar and a sea of hands that catch and run today. Fast start required too.

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 28
I love gambling but I'm sorry if you take money to promote gambling I don't know how they look themselves in the mirror. The phrase the house always wins isn't an exaggeration. You are promoting people to become homeless and penniless and in some cases turn to crime to try and cover their debts. And newsflash: touts don't exist. If someone really had the inside dirt to win all the time you really think they gonna share it with YOU?

kevin     November 28
Brown-Quinnipiac?? If that does not tell you how pervasive gambling has become in the world of sports, nothing does.

Pete Rose is now saying wait, all this is ok now?? lol

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 28
Stats nerd: who have the Caps really had the last 10 years youth wise to play? The hideous Forsberg trade was pretty much the end of young guns era but the development of Wilson Kuz and Carlson allowed Caps window to stay open longer than Chi and LA's did. As for Ravens this is as Jay Gruden once declared- a red alert game. With games at Pit and Cle next the division and season could slip away with a loss. This is a game where Lamar needs to be the story. Thankfully Schefter reports Hollywood will play barring pregame setback

Steve of Pimlico     November 28
Hopefully this will be Harbaugh family sweep but the Browns look awfully tough tonight with all if our injuries.

As far as gambling is concerned anytime humans are involved,chicanery will appear.

Stats Nerd     November 27
The Caps have been slow to bring youth into the lineup over the last 10-12 years. They’ve had very few spots to fit them but even when they could have their default has been to sign guys like Gudas or Chara. It’s been frustrating in the past but this injury bug has forced their hands a bit. Think it pays off for them long term as well. I would not have expected that to be the case even 3 months ago

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 27
Lamar has had his best games against Cle.... why? Garrett 1 1/2 sacks the last 6 match ups total. Sadly Stanley and Brown will not be here to continue that. If Calais and Williams don't play Cle will run for 150+

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 27
Another big loss for Turge? Shocking. Thankfully they are irrelevant, didn't even know they were playing today. Tried to tell Drew that the Gretzky record is a lock barring catastrophic injury. He will be at least at 780 with 4 years to get 115 goals. As for the Caps gotta love Protas being on the top line and playing well and Feheravy being top line D. Samsonov first Caps goalie ever to get a point in first 9 starts but as Alan May pointed out the team MVP so far is Kuznetsov. 4th in the league in scoring AND dominating on the PK, without Backstrom and Eller his play has been vital. Still think Caps core is too old to go far in the playoffs with IMO the 3 best teams in the league in the East: TB, Car, Fla. Meanwhile nice bounce back for the suddenly struggling Wiz last night in Memphis. Plenty of nice stories to distract from incompetent hopefully soon to be fired Turgeon. As for Ravens it's not looking good. Not only is Cleveland finally healthy but I don't see how Ravens stop Garrett on D and Chubb and Hunt on O. Gonna take a Lamar miracle.

RC     November 27
Dale is 0-1 on the year.

Chris in Bel Air     November 27
@Tom J - Agree! And yes Ovie is on fire too. It has been a welcomed surprise to see the Caps off to a great start while not having Backstrom, Oshie and Mantha. Some of the younger players like Fehevary, Leason and McMichael are blending in nicely and they are getting some surprise contributions from players like Hathaway. Also, Samsonov and Vanacek have been solid in the goal.

Tom J     November 27
The Caps are on fire!!! And they have done this without Backstrom, Mantha and Oshie to name a few. Hopefully when they all come back with less wear and tear this year, that will pay off down the road.

Hal     November 27
Welcome back Dale!

Hey, what happened to John Darcey? I haven't seen anything from him for a couple of weeks now.

Conway     November 26
Here's what I can't understand about the Turgeon haters. If the team went 9-21, 11-20 and 14-18, I could understand the griping and complaining. As someone pointed out, they're always competitive in the Big 10 and they've made the tourney every year but one since MT took over. People act like Maryland is Towson University. Imagine being a supporter of that program. Then you would have a real reason to gripe.



Happy Thanksgiving (belated) to every one in DMD land!

Rich     November 26
Agree with those who applaud @DF for his column about Loyola Blakefield. Respect!

Art     November 26
Drew and Chris in Bel Air making complete sense today. At least someone in the DMV gets it.

MK     November 26
Nice of you to recognize Loyola's win over Calvert Hall yesterday. You're a true gentleman.

Victor Pirini     November 26
Thank you for the video in the Faith section today!

God is great!

I appreciate you sharing that with your readers.



Philippians 4:6-7

Dons Dad     November 26
Thank you, Drew, for your kind words about Loyola's performance yesterday. It speaks volumes about you that you recognize the Dons despite your understood allegiance to Calvert Hall. Thank you.

Sunday
November 14, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2639


a few notes


This is, yet again, one of those rare Sundays where the rest of the NFL plays football and Baltimore does not.

Alas, we're still in the league -- unlike 1984 when it was silent from September through January -- even though the Ravens lost to the Dolphins on Thursday night.

Wink Martindale and the Baltimore defense will be in the crosshairs next Sunday in Chicago.

Speaking of that game, I've seen a lot of people opine over the last few days that the 22-10 defeat to Miami was the worst regular season loss in John Harbaugh's tenure.

I'll sound like Harbs now when I write this, but I don't really know how you compare those kinds of things. I wrote on Thursday after the debacle that it was "one of the worst 5 losses of Harbaugh's career in Baltimore" and I'll stand by that even now. The 12-7 Monday night loss at Jacksonville stands out; the shellacking at the hands of the Jaguars in London is another one; the woodshed beating in Houston in 2013 was also pretty ugly.

I don't know how you rank them all, but Thursday night in Miami was definitely ugly. I'd make a quip about the Flyers cheerleaders at this point, but I'm growing out of that phase of my life. I think...

Some folks are suggesting that next Sunday in Chicago could be a season-defining game for the Ravens. It's true the schedule does beef up a bit after next Sunday, but I wouldn't think John Harbaugh's team would be in danger of derailing if, somehow, they fail to beat the lowly Bears.

That said, I do subscribe to the idea that next Sunday is an important game for the Ravens. And for Harbaugh. And for Wink Martindale and Greg Roman. Games like the one we saw in Miami last Thursday happen all the time. You'd prefer they not to happen to your team, obviously. And one of the reasons why we were all so stunned with the turn of events in Miami is because throughout his 14 year career in Baltimore, Harbaugh usually mops the floor with those bottom feeder teams like the Dolphins.

It's important, even if they're only proving it to themselves, that the Ravens show everyone what happened last Thursday night was an outlier. A win in Chicago and they're 7-3 and still very much in control of their own destiny in the AFC North. But a loss to the Bears and suddenly you're 6-4 and things are starting to get a little tight at the top. Oh, and let's not forget, the Ravens have still only played one game against an AFC North rival so far in 2021. They really do need a win in Chicago next Sunday, for a variety of reasons.


I still don't think Alex Ovechkin (742 career goals) is going to catch Wayne Gretzky (894 goals) and someday become the NHL's all-time leading goal scorer.

He likely won't catch Wayne Gretzky, but is Alex Ovechkin still the greatest goal scorer in NHL history?

It's just a numbers game. And a battle against Father Time. Let's say Ovechkin (12 goals already this season) finishes the year with 45 tallies, which seems very reasonable. That gives him 775 goals. He still needs 120 to set the new record.

That would be 40 per-season for the next three seasons. I just don't think he can do it.

But ---- here's what I will say. Oveckhin is the greatest goal scorer in the history of the league in my opinion.

This is somewhat of a similar argument that's routinely made in golf when comparing Nicklaus to Woods. Jack won more majors than Tiger (18 to 15), but Tiger won more golf tournaments (82 to 73). To me, you can debate who had the better career, but I don't think there's any doubt that Tiger was actually a better "golfer" than Nicklaus.

The same goes for Gretzky vs. Ovechkin, in my mind. Gretzky might have finished with more goals, but Ovechkin is a better goal-scorer. Gretzky was the better "overall player", I believe. But when it comes down to the art and science of scoring goals, I think Ovechkin is the best I've ever seen, even though he'll likely end up somewhere around 850 career goals and miss the record by a pretty big number.


Maryland basketball (3-0) is off to a nice start after last night's 68-57 home win over Vermont. Maryland actually trailed at the half, 36-32, in that one. Keep in mind that once the Big Ten schedule heats up, our basketball analyst, Dale Williams, will be here regularly with game previews and reviews. For now, the Terps are just crushing inferior opponents and stacking up non-conference wins that will come in handy in the pursuit of a 20-win campaign and a trip to the NCAA tournament next March.

Mark Turgeon is, naturally, under the gun again this season, as Maryland looks to make a serious run in March Madness. The transfer portal has certainly helped the Terps -- and a lot of other school as well -- and both Eric Ayala and Donta Scott are on the verge of all-Big-Ten status if they can put together solid campaigns in '21-22.

This team is poised to do big things if Turgeon knits it all together and gets the Terrapins to gel at the right time next spring.

Hope springs eternal, they say. I don't have any official kind of proclamation on what Maryland's record will be this season other than to say this: Those of you who use the Sweet Sixteen as your benchmark for success will be happy this year, I believe. Maryland will win a couple of tournament games in March and Turgeon, finally, will get a little off-season peace and quiet.

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"let's get the expensive shower heads"


One of the highlights of a recent trip to a resort in Tampa Bay for a senior golf tournament was the shower head in my room.

It's amazing how the little things matter the older we get, huh?

This set-up comes in at around $6,000. Maybe we should get two of them?

The only issue with the shower head I'm talking about? They're expensive. And the pipe requirements in your bathroom are different since the shower head sits on the ceiling instead of coming in from the wall like you see in about 95% of the bathrooms everywhere.

But when you're scorching Vegas nine weeks into the season and you've already spent $100,000 more on the beach house than you initially thought you might, what's another $10,000 in fancy pipe work and a shower head?

The pipe guy is coming tomorrow to get started on the project, so we might as well give you this week's five NFL games so we can have a check ready for him once everything gets finished Monday evening.

BROWNS AT PATRIOTS (-2.5) -- It's getting to the point where we're going to have to start taking the Patriots seriously. I thought we might get a 2 or 3 hiatus on that, but apparently not. Mac Jones is fitting right in and Bill Belichick would love, love, love to see TB12 and the Bucs in Los Angeles in February. And wouldn't the TV folks love that, too? Cleveland comes in on the heels of a nice win over the Bengals last Sunday but their good fortune slows down in Foxborough today, as we're taking New England and laying the 2.5 points in a 27-23 win over the Browns.

BILLS AT JETS (+13.0) -- Are the Bills really good enough to go on the road and give a division rival 13 points? That sure seems like a lot, even though we all know the Jets aren't very good and Buffalo seems to be one of the better teams in the AFC. We've gone back and forth on this one, talking ourselves into the Jets, then the Bills, then the Jets again. In the end, we think Buffalo is good enough to win but we'll take New York to cover the 13 points in their own stadium, as the Bills win 26-16.

Justin Herbert and the Chargers take on a Vikings team today that collapsed in the second half against the Ravens last Sunday.

TAMPA BAY AT WASHINGTON (+10.0) -- Remember last January when Tommy B and the Bucs went into D.C. and wiped out the no-names in the first playoff game? It was easy-peasy then and it should be easy-peasy today, too. We'll take Tampa Bay and lay the 10 points, as Brady and Company jumps out to a 20-7 halftime lead and cruises from there to a 34-17 win over Washington.

VIKINGS AT CHARGERS (-3.0) -- Which Minnesota team shows up today? The one that built a 24-10 lead in Baltimore last Sunday or the one that couldn't make a defensive stop in the 2nd half of that game? The Chargers are also a bit of an unknown, but we're struggling to figure out if the Vikings have a chance today or will they get blown out? We think the Vikings stand up and fight this afternoon in L.A., so we're taking Minnesota and the 3 points as the Chargers hit a field goal at the buzzer to win, 30-28.

EAGLES AT BRONCOS (-1.5) -- This one sure seems like a classic letdown game, huh? Denver blasted the Cowboys last Sunday in "Big D" and now they're home against an Eagles' team that's pretty much just trying not to get hurt. We'll do the dumb thing here today and go with Philadelphia in a small upset, as the Eagles kick a field goal in OT to win 23-20.

BEST BET OF THE DAY: We'll go with the Patriots (-2.5) at home against Cleveland as today's Best Bet. The Jones-Belichick show is starting to gain some steam.

LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 2-3

OVERALL RECORD THIS SEASON: 24-21

BEST BET OF THE DAY: 4-5

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Saturday
November 13, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2638


saturday stuff


Probably one of the most interesting things about being "involved" in sports -- which, I consider this enterprise to be "involved" -- is observing how people deal with losing.

Nearly everyone deals with winning the same way. You're pretty much just happy your favorite team won and you don't give all that much thought to anything else but that. "We won. Who do we play next?"

Greg Roman has 10 days to get Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore offense back on track before facing the Bears in Chicago.

But it's not the same when it comes to losing. People react differently. You have a group of Ravens fans, for example, who are ordering super-size versions of doom and gloom after that 22-10 fiasco-of-a-loss in Miami on Thursday night. Those people are virtually incorrigible. They'll look for the worst and beat it into the ground.

You have another group of Ravens fans who think any sort of criticism of the team, players and coaches is taboo. The spectator knowing enough to make a cogent point about the loss to the Dolphins? It's essentially impossible, some folks believe. This group of supporters might actually be more infuriating than the doom-and-gloom club. At least those people have a passion for the sport that they're willing to put on display, unlike the sophisticated fan who basically just believes no one has the right to an opinion about the welfare of the team.

And then you have a group of fans who actually "get it". Every game paints a different story in the NFL. What you did last Sunday pretty much has nothing to do with what happens this Sunday. Injuries matter. Luck matters. How your quarterback slept in the team hotel last night matters. Crowd noise matters. That fight one of the star players had with his girlfriend before he caught the flight matters.

We have all three versions of those fans here at #DMD. Those three versions also exist on social media platforms, media and team websites, and so on. Those three versions are like gin joints in Los Angeles. They. Are. Everywhere.


Someone out in California asked me yesterday, "What happened to the Ravens on Thursday night?" and I took about 20 seconds to craft what I thought was a reasonable reply.

"Nearly every big play in the game either went for Miami or against the Ravens. The game plan looked oddly configured on both sides of the ball, and the head coach even went as far as to throw out a cryptic "we didn't have the team prepared tonight" message at his post-game press conference. And Lamar Jackson, who usually wins the game nearly all by himself, wasn't able to do that on Thursday night. Superman can't rescue everyone in every scene."

And that was really my summary. I thought it was an awful loss, to a bad team, but in the context of the NFL and how the league operates, it's not all that surprising that Miami won. There were four big plays in the game. Here they are. You might notice they all have something in common.

1. The Justin Tucker missed field goal. Even though it would have only been 6-0 at that point, Baltimore would have been a TD away from a 12-0, 13-0 or 14-0 lead. One way to beat a bad team is to get up on them early and pound away. The Tucker miss seemed to take something out of the Ravens.

2. The Mark Andrews catch-that-got-overturned. The Ravens were starting to show some signs of life on that series, but everything fizzled when the catch was oddly overturned by video review.

3. The Sammy Watkins fumble and scoop-and-score that made the score 15-3. At 9-3, it's still anyone's game. At 15-3, the Ravens have to go into hurry-up mode.

4. The 64-yard Dolphins pass play after the Ravens had scored to make it 15-10 in the 4th quarter. That was the back breaker of all back breakers.

What do all four have in common? That's easy. They all went against the Ravens. Miami got the benefit of all four of those things happening in Thursday's game.

One other thing worth asking. Kind of a weird, "there isn't really a right answer" kind of question, but here goes. Do you think Jacoby Brissett would have been able to beat the Ravens on Thursday night? I'm not sure I do. I realize Tua didn't look like Dan Marino when he was in there, but my guess is Brissett would have thrown a pick six or fumbled at the worst possible moment to help the Ravens squeak out a win.

Brissett's injury might have actually hurt the Ravens, in other words. Another thing that went against Baltimore on Thursday.

And I thought Harbaugh's comment about the team not being prepared was definitely intentional and by design. Personally, I think he was taking a subtle jab at both Wink Martindale and Greg Roman. Both sides of the ball looked unprepared. When the head coach stands up after the game and admits, publicly, "we weren't ready to play", that's a telling statement.

Big plays going against you. A couple of officiating calls don't go your way. The good team might have taken the bad team a little more lightly than they'd like to admit.

That's how you lose to the Dolphins.


I did not see very much of last night's U.S. soccer win over Mexico, as I was attending a dinner at a FCA golf tournament in San Diego, but our friend Randy Morgan has all the glorious details in his game summary piece below.

While the win didn't seal the deal for the U.S. in terms of qualifying for next year's World Cup, construction crews are now laying down the asphalt. The road, in other words, is much more smooth for the American side after that critical 2-0 win over El Tri.

The U.S. can almost certify their trip to Qatar for World Cup '22 by beating Jamaica on the road next Tuesday night. Winning down there isn't easy, though. You have to beat the 11 players on the field, the officials, and the people outside of your hotel who dance and yell and bang drums all night while you're trying to sleep. A win in Jamaica is always "well earned".

It was good to see Christian Pulisic back on the field last night, albeit in the role of a substitute. It should come as no surprise, either, that Pulisic was the goal-scorer for the opening American tally of the night. When he's healthy, he's the best U.S. player by far. Last night, even in a limited role, he once proved just how valuable he is to the team's long-term success at the international level.

And if you're an American soccer enthusiast, you have to be happy for head coach Gregg Berhalter this morning. Yes, he's done some wacky stuff with the lineup during this qualifying cycle that started back in September. He apparently has a small cast of favorites from Major League Soccer that he remains connected to despite their various weaknesses. And his in-game tactical maneuvers have also been slow to take shape as well.

But Berhalter signed off on an impressive starting 11 last night vs. Mexico and the result justified the decisions he made with guys like Tim Weah, Miles Robinson, Zack Steffen and Deandre Yedlin. Say what you will about Berhalter -- and he definitely has a significant group of detractors out there -- but the U.S. are rolling along comfortably towards qualifying for World Cup '22 and they've missed arguably their two best players (Pulisic and Gio Reyna) for more than half of their seven games thus far.

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RANDY MORGAN
on American soccer


Americans are playing more and more of a vital role in international soccer these days, and Randy Morgan has his eyes on all of them for #DMD. Each Tuesday here, he looks at recent performances of American players and highlights upcoming games of importance.


dos a cero

“Dos a Cero! Dos a Cero!”

The chant was ringing out in Cincinnati late in the US men’s immense 2-0 win over rivals Mexico on Friday night. After several years of Mexican dominance in the regional rivalry, the American fans could gloat once again as the US sealed its third straight victory over its rivals from the south.

The familiar scoreline originated with the memorable 2-0 win over Mexico in the knockout round of the 2002 World Cup and became a battle cry as the US took control of the rivalry in the early 2000s. Once again, in a mostly US partial crowd in Ohio, the team delivered an impressive win by that scoreline. For those newer to this international soccer rivalry, this was the equivalent of beating down the Steelers in the playoffs.

This was the signature win of the Gregg Berhalter era. While the Nations League and Gold Cup final wins over Mexico were great accomplishments, this was a comprehensive win in the highest stakes against the most talented opponent in the region. This is the type of performance that not only gives confidence that the US will qualify for the World Cup, but enables one to envision them making noise once they get there. For the third straight time, they downed their rival and asserted themselves as top dog in the region.

Weston McKennie scored the game's second goal last night against Mexico but also picked up a yellow card and will not be able to play at Jamaica next Tuesday night.

Coach Gregg Berhalter opted for a more veteran lineup in this critical match, choosing Deandre Yedlin to start at right back and Walker Zimmerman at center back. The one spot where he did choose the less experienced player proved crucial, with Tim Weah starting at right wing over Paul Arriola.

The game opened as an end to end affair. As expected, both teams were aggressively pressing high, hoping to force the opponent into mistakes. This meant that every player on each team needed to be at their best and that underscores how much of a team effort this was from the US.

The Americans had the first chance of the game just five minutes in when Tim Weah hit a sharp cross that Ricardo Pepi was just a step behind getting to the end of. Mexico found the next chance, one of the best of the half, when a quick build out from their own end quickly found winger Chucky Lozano in behind the US defense. Deandre Yedlin made a good recovery run to close down the angle and Zack Steffen came up with a big save to deny the Mexican attack.

Mexico threatened again in the 31st minute when Lozano hit a cross that found Tecatito Corona on the back post but the veteran winger scuffed his shot wide of the goal. The US responded well after the Mexican chance, putting pressure on the Mexico end for most of the rest of the half. In the 41st minute a Yunus Musah cross found Antonee Robinson at the back post but his header went wide of the goal. The teams went into the half scoreless after a mostly even first half.

In the second half it was the US that found another gear. A few minutes after the break the Americans created a great chance with a nice passing sequence down the right side. Deandre Yedlin played a great ball into the channel for Tim Weah who cut back into the box for a McKennie shot that was saved by Ochoa. Minutes later, Tim Weah found some space outside the top of the box and hit a shot that deflected to Ricardo Pepi in a good spot, but his shot was mishit over the goal. Just three minutes after that, Weah hit another sharp cross that Brenden Aaronson could quite direct on goal.

In the 68th minute a scuffle ensued after Mexican right back Chaka Rodriguez manhandled Aaronson while he was on the ground, and McKennie and others came to his defense. The ref gave a ridiculous yellow card to McKennie, which will rule him out of the Jamaica game, while Rodriguez escaped with only a yellow, for an offense that could easily have seen him sent off.

The reaction to this is perhaps the defining moment of the Berhalter era. Instead of becoming petulant and getting caught up in a chippy back and forth, the US responded with their best play of the night. Christian Pulisic subbed on for Aaronson and minutes later, delivered the decisive blow of the match. In the 74th minute, after a scrappy effort in midfield to win a second ball, the US found Tim Weah on the right wing where he managed to juke the Mexican left back and deliver a pinpoint cross that Pulisic headed home.

After the goal, Mexico was forced to press for an equalizer, but the US showed no signs of breaking. Buoyed by an exuberant crowd, the US defended well while still looking for their chances to close out the game. In the 85th minute the US found that opening. A cutting ball inside by Tim Weah was dummied by McKennie, who was played into the box by substitute Jesus Ferreira. McKennie gathered and hit a shot to the far post for a goal to seal the victory and give the US the defining scoreline.

This was truly a team effort and there weren’t any players for the US that had negative performances. A few stood out among the rest on the night. Tim Weah delivered his best performance for a club or country that I have ever seen him play. After delivering a key goal against Costa Rica, Weah built upon that with an outstanding performance against Mexico. The Lille forward was involved in the majority of the most dangerous US attacking moments, including both goals. With Gio Reyna missing the past few international windows, Weah has proven himself a productive option off the bench for the US.

Zack Steffen was a slightly controversial starter for this critical game, given his lack of playing time at Manchester City and Matt Turner’s stellar form for both the US and New England Revolution. Steffen validated Berhalter’s decision tonight, coming up with two big saves when called upon and providing outstanding passing from the keeper position all night. While it may seem there is now a controversy at keeper, it’s really a good problem that the US have two goalies that are totally reliable for important matches.

One of the players that entered this game on the top of his game was Weston McKennie. The star midfielder brought that form to the team tonight, providing a consistent work rate in midfield and then netting the goal to put the game away. While he was not perfect on the day, he came up big when needed. He will be sorely missed in the Jamaica game, but he reminded everyone why he is a foundational player for this team going forward.

One final player that stood out today was teenager Yunus Musah. At just 18 years old, Musah has seemingly unlimited energy and was all over the field tonight. He consistently worked back to receive the ball in the first half and threw himself into every challenge. While he faded in the second half a bit, he was instrumental in winning balls in the middle of the field and progressing the ball into attack.

Before this game, veteran Mexico keeper Memo Ochoa disrespected the US by saying, “Mexico is the mirror in which the United States wants to see itself.” When Christian Pulisic scored the goal to put the US up 1-0 he slyly revealed a shirt that said, “Man in the mirror”.

It seems that now it is the US that Mexico must measure itself against. The Americans once again asserted themselves as the top talent in the region while picking up a critical three points for qualifying. The win puts them on top of the eight team group with 14 points, three above Panama in fourth place and eight above Costa Rica in fifth.

The US will travel to face a resurgent Jamaica on Tuesday in Kingston. They will be favored to win against a limited crowd, but the young team will need to maintain its focus in a road qualifier. If they’re able to pull off the win in Jamaica, they can all but book their tickets for Qatar. It would be great to get some distance in qualifying so that Berhalter can use the remaining schedule to find his most reliable team. Again, it's important to remember, with the incredible talent the US has on hand, the goal isn’t just to qualify, it's to actually advance and compete in the World Cup.

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JOHN DARCEY
on the Ravens and the NFL


Baltimore native John Darcey follows the Ravens on a daily basis and vows to "tell it like it is" here at #DMD in 2021-2022.


Thursday’s night loss to the Dolphins hopefully represented rock bottom for the Ravens. Every deficiency the Ravens have or are perceived to have was on full display. From the lack of a run game to the putrid play of the offensive line, the questionable offensive game plan and play calling, and even the throwing mechanics of Lamar Jackson. It wasn’t that just one of those things happened that led to the Ravens loss, but it was the fact that they all happened in one game.

The game reminded me of the Ravens / Jaguars Monday night game from 2011. The Ravens were 4-1 and the far superior team and traveled to Jacksonville. And just like Thursday, the Ravens came out completely flat and lost a very winnable game 12-7.

Even Justin Tucker had a rare "off night" in Miami on Thursday, as he missed a field goal in the 22-10 loss to the Dolphins.

The question today is similar to what it was 10 years ago after that loss to the Jaguars. How do they respond? Obviously that Ravens team responded well and went on to the AFC Championship game. This team’s reaction to the Miami loss remains to be seen.

Now in complete fairness, the odds were stacked against them. They had to travel to Miami on a short week, just four days after playing an overtime game where the offense played over 90 snaps. The offensive was obviously the main issue and that was clear from the jump. So, do we write this as a one off or, as I have been opining for weeks now, is everything finally catching up to them?

Time will answer that question, starting in 10 days when they travel to Chicago, a place where the franchise has never won before. If after 10 days and once again playing a far less superior team, there are not noticeable changes, it may be time to wonder if all the issues they have are far too much to overcome. Or we could see how tough this team is built in 2021.


Additional thoughts on the game --

* Believe it or not, there were two bright spots. Rashod Bateman continues his impressive first month finishing the game with six catches for 80 yards. That brings his four-game total to 18 receptions for 241 yards. A small sample size, but the young man looks like he has a bright future.

* A week after I criticized him, Odafe Oweh registered his first sack since the Colts game. Oweh was extremely active Thursday, as he registered two tackles for a loss as well as three QB hits in addition to the sack. Yes, the Dolphins have the worst offensive line in the NFL, but it was still nice to see Oweh make his presence felt. Hopefully, this was a confidence booster after not showing up on the stat sheet against the Vikings.

Now the bad. Oh where to begin?

* Let’s start with the obvious. This offensive line is going to get Jackson killed. Jackson was sacked four more times Thursday and has now been sacked 12 times in the last three games. Ben Powers is not the answer at left guard...the same with Tyree Phillips at tackle. Alejandro Villenueva, for as well as he started off at left tackle, seems to have regressed each week. The only ways to fix the issue are in house. The simplest and probably the best solution is for Patrick Mekari and Ben Cleveland to return from injury and get them inserted into the starting unit at right tackle and left guard respectively. If this current group stays in, then Greg Roman must increase play calls that involve simple three step drops. Quick hitters that get the ball out of Lamar’s hand fast enough so the rush cannot get to him. Either way, this is a major issue that must be addressed over the next 10 days. Lamar’s health is at stake.

* On the topic of Greg Roman, why were there so many play calls to throw to the wide receiver at or behind the line of scrimmage? Is it because it worked once against the Vikings, we had to run it four times against the Dolphins? The offensive game plan was the worst I have seen this year.

* Speaking of play calling, there was no better option than running Le’Veon Bell on a 2nd and 17? Come on, really? Also, here’s my weekly reminder that the Le’Veon Bell experiment needs to end.

* Ty’Son Williams played no snaps? Then why was he active? And you are telling me the coaching staff doesn’t think he can do better than Bell?

* As great as Lamar has been all year, his mechanics seem to be reverting back to some poor tendencies. I think he threw the ball more from a side arm angle than anything else. This led to a ton of bad throws. I noticed this also in the Vikings game. It is one thing to throw sidearm if he is avoiding a lineman’s hand, but to throw that way on a regular basis is what he did last year. His throwing had improved this year because of his mechanics. Someone needs to get in his ear and get him back on track.

* You knew it would be a bad night when Justin Tucker misses a field goal. But why was he even kicking there? It was 4th and 3 from roughly the Miami 38-yard line. For as much as Harbs has gone for it on 4th down this year, this seemed like a prime spot to do it.

* Sammy Watkins did not look to be 100% back from injury. That was clear on the first drive when it appeared he quit running on the ball Lamar threw into the back of the endzone. I wonder why they would activate him on a short week with 10 days until your next game? Why not give him the extra rest?

* And with Watkins back, that pushed James Proche to the inactive list. Does Proche dress anymore the rest of the year if all the wide receivers are healthy? And what does this mean for his long term plans with the team?

On to next week --

10 days from now at the Bears. The Ravens have to win, right? After 10 days off, things have to improve, right? My gut tells me they do and they right the ship. Though, this could still be a close game and I don’t think the Ravens are built to blow teams out anymore. Ravens 24 - Chicago 17

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Friday
November 12, 2021
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#2637


so...not a cakewalk after all


Describe it in whatever fashion you want.

"Bad loss." Yep, it was one of those, particularly considering Miami was 2-7 entering last night's game.

"Terrible loss." Sure, I'd go as far as calling it "terrible". I mean, you scored 10 points against the 30th worst defense in the league. That's, by any standard, "terrible.

"Unacceptable loss." Well, I've never quite understood what an "unacceptable loss" is. I mean, the game is over and you lost. You have to accept it and move on to the next game. But I understand the hyperbole behind the phrase. It's worse than a bad loss or a terrible loss, it's just plain and simply "unacceptable" to lose to the Dolphins.

"We weren't ready to play tonight," John Harbaugh said after last night's 22-10 loss to the Dolphins. "That's on me."

Call it what you will, but no matter your description, every Ravens fans knows the truth. That 22-10 defeat last night was one of the worst defeats of the John Harbaugh era and almost certainly the worst loss of Lamar's 3-plus year career. It was, by any and all accounts, an awful performance across the board.

There will be people who point to the Houdini-aided earlier wins against Kansas City, Detroit, Indianapolis and perhaps even Minnesota and suggest what happened last night was a simple example of market correction. The Ravens were, at some point, not going to be able to pull a rabbit out of their hat in the final few minutes of a game they appeared destined to lose. And there could be some truth to that attempt at logic. Those kinds of games do have a way of evening out over some period of time. You win a few you shouldn't and you lose a few you shouldn't, too.

The overturned Mark Andrews-catch-that-wasn't will also be in the spotlight today and tomorrow as everyone digests what happened. And you know what? That was a turning point, in my mind. How that call (ruled a catch on the field) was overturned is anyone's guess. I think I'm as fair as fair can be when it comes to sifting through calls and breaks and trying to figure out who got jobbed by the officials. There was never an angle presented to the viewing audience last night that showed Andrews failed to catch that pass in the 3rd quarter.

We'll never know what might have happened had the Andrews catch held up under review, but we know what did happen when the call was reversed. The Ravens, trailing 6-3 at the time, went from potentially tying the game at 6-6 or going up 10-6 to trailing 9-3 after Miami got the ball and went down the field for the their third field goal of the game.

That was a catch. Somehow they overturned it. The game changed for the worse at that point.

Greg Roman's offense will undergo a thorough autopsy after last night's venture down Bland Street. The offensive line was terrible, the running attack didn't actually "attack" anything and, let's be honest, Lamar didn't have a great night, either. And the game's biggest play, the Sammy Watkins fumble and scoop and score by the Dolphins to make it 15-3, was also on the offense, although not in a favorable way.

The Baltimore defense wasn't bad. I mean, they weren't the '85 Bears, but they did only permit the Dolphins to score 15 offensive points (3 field goals and 1 touchdown). That said, the Ravens defense also caved in on a 2nd and 10 situation with just over three minutes remaining in the game. A 64 yard pass play that originated out of the backfield and caught the entire Baltimore defense napping was the one that pretty much salted away the game for the Dolphins. That one was all on Wink Martindale and the 11 defensive players. It was amateur hour stuff.

Afterwards, John Harbaugh said something very interesting to the assembled media in Miami.

"We weren't ready to play tonight. That goes on me. I needed to have them ready to play and I didn't get it done, obviously."

Most times when a coach says that, he or she is simply saying it out of obligation to deflect the truth from being discussed. A coach would always prefer to take the blame rather than hearing or reading about Alejandro Villanueva getting routinely beat or Chuck Clark missing a coverage assignment or Patrick Queen failing to fall on a fumbled ball at his feet. The coach would rather just say "We weren't ready and that's on me", even when he knows that might not actually be the truth.

But last night........

I think I'll buy some stock in the coach not having them ready to play. Something looked "off" right from jump street. Yes, of course, the Thursday night games are wonky for the visiting team. You play on Sunday and then you're back on a plane Wednesday afternoon flying to the next game. Routine is important in the NFL and Thursday games are very disruptive to a player's schedule.

But that's why Harbaugh gets the big bucks. It's his job to make sure something like what happened last night doesn't happen, where his team simply isn't taking the game seriously enough against an obviously inferior opponent.

The Ravens weren't ready to play. A lot of folks will blame the players for that since, well, they're all getting paid as professionals to be ready for any and every game. But the coach has to read the room and figure out if his guys are professional enough to handle it on their own or do they need a little friendly reminder from the coaching staff? Last night sure looked like Harbaugh failed to remind his team of the task at hand. The coach accepted the blame, after all. It seems like a reminder never got delivered.

The lack of a quality (or, frankly, even a half-quality) running game is really starting to put wear and tear on Lamar and the offense as a whole. When a lousy defensive team like Miami can give the Ravens fits because they know Baltimore's not going to be able to run the ball effectively, it's time for Greg Roman and his offensive coaches to sit down and come up with some new twists to get Lamar back on track.

Jackson is good, of course. On any given Sunday, he's one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But he can't do it all himself. And from a scheme standpoint, the lack of a running game in Baltimore is just highlighting to every other team in the league that the way to beat the Ravens is by putting pressure on Lamar and trying to keep him in the pocket. Last night, the Dolphins were in the Baltimore backfield more than Le'Veon Bell.

Now........

Let's cut out the gloom and doom.

It was one loss. Nothing more, nothing less. That it represented an opportunity to snag what was previously assumed to be an "automatic "win" is troubling, but it's just one loss. The Ravens are still 6-3. They didn't fall to 4-5 because they lost to the Dolphins. They're 6-3.

And not that Harbaugh needs an excuse to "coach 'em up", but he can now be a little more firm with his coaching disciplines -- if he so chooses -- and has this Miami game in his hip pocket for the rest of the season. "If you don't take the Bears seriously, we won't beat them, just like we didn't take Miami seriously."

Wink Martindale? The heat is on you, too, sir.

Greg Roman? The heat is also on you.

Last night was a shocker, in a variety of ways. The Ravens lost a game to a team they beat 8 out of 10 times, if not 9 out of 10. And in doing so, they might have given a blueprint to opposing defenses over the last 7 games. And by losing to the Dolphins, they also confirmed to everyone that the 2021 version of John Harbaugh's team is as unpredictable as the league itself.

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u.s. - mexico set for qualifying clash tonight


Tonight's World Cup qualifying game between the U.S. and Mexico is a big one for both countries. The Mexican side leads the CONCACAF table and the Americans are trying to work their way up the ladder and not make the qualifying process a nailbiter next year.

Zack Steffen gets the starting nod tonight for the U.S. vs. Mexico in a key World Cup qualifying game in Cincinnati.

The game this evening in Cincinnati (9 pm EST) will give goalkeeper Zack Steffen a chance to re-establish himself as the top goalkeeper for the U.S. program. He gets the nod this evening while Matt Turner will likely get the start in Jamaica next Tuesday night.

American head coach Gregg Berhalter said yesterday that Christian Pulisic will not start tonight vs. Mexico. The talented offensive performer has only recently returned to the lineup with his English team, Chelsea, after suffering an injury in mid-September while playing for the U.S. against Honduras. Pulisic will likely get in tonight at some point, but his health and fitness are still very much a question mark.

The game will likely hinge on three things:

1. How well does the U.S. side handle the counter-attacking pace and style of the talented Mexican squad?

2. The ability for the U.S. to capitalize on their free kick and corner kick situations, which were both critical last summer when the U.S. beat Mexico twice in North American-based tournaments. The frenetic pace of the game generally leads to an excessive number of free kicks over 90 minutes, with a handful of those coming in "dangerous areas". The more of those the U.S. can create, the better their chances of converting.

3. Not falling behind, which would help Berhalter strategically use his substitutes to not only overcome Mexico, but also prepare for a big game in Jamaica next Tuesday night. If the U.S. can jump out to a lead and force Mexico to press, that could turn out to be a huge asset for the American coach and his roster of players.

Tonight isn't a "must win" for either team, but as far as the American side goes, they need 4 points out of these two games. A win and three points tonight vs. Mexico would make Tuesday's game at Jamaica a lot less crucial. A loss tonight and Tuesday becomes very, very important.

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faith in sports


This one is a little bit of an oldie-but-goodie, as it features Nick Foles sharing his testimony after suffering a major injury with the Jaguars in his first game with Jacksonville a few years ago.

Foles talks about the role God plays in his life and how, even during times of despair, the quarterback turns his trials and tribululations over to his Creator.

Thanks, as always, to our friends at Freestate Electrical for their continued support of #DMD and our "Faith in Sports" segment.



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#DMD GAME DAY
Week 10


Thursday — November 11, 2021
Issue 2636

Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins

8:20 PM EST

Hard Rock Stadium
Miami, Florida

Spread: Ravens (-7.5)


cakewalk


There aren't many of these gifts on the NFL schedule each season, so the Ravens better take full advantage of tonight's game in Miami against the Dolphins.

This one should be a walk-in-the-park for John Harbaugh's team.

Now, we know there aren't any style points in the league and a win is a win is a win. If it's 13-10 or 44-10, it counts the same in the standings.

But we also know that the really good teams usually pound the really bad teams. That, of course, didn't happen this past Sunday in Jacksonville when the Bills met the Jaguars, but the Ravens, by every metric available to compute, should bust the Dolphins wide open up tonight. There's nothing Miami does well, if the stats tell the truth. They're 2-7 for a reason. They stink.

Lamar and the Ravens should be able to pile up big yards and a lot of points against the Dolphins tonight in Miami.

The Ravens have played "odd football" in 2021. They've been very good at times, particularly in late-game and overtime situations where their play required the utmost precision. But they've also been behind the eight-ball a lot, mostly a result of a poor half or a handful of big plays that went against them. From 35,000 feet, all you see is the 6-2 record and the first-place seat in the AFC North. A closer examination, though, shows a very fine line between 6-2 and 3-5.

That said, something else stands out about tonight's game: When you look at John Harbaugh's 14-year history in the NFL, the Ravens almost always, always, always win these games against league bottom-feeders.

How much of that is Harbaugh's influence and how much is just a much better team overcoming an inferior team is up for debate, but the reality is Baltimore usually feasts on the kind of team the Dolphins are showing up with tonight. There have been a few toe-stubs along the way since 2008, but they've been few and far between.

And make no mistake about it, a loss tonight in Miami would be one of the worst regular season defeats in the Harbaugh tenure, no matter the final score, no matter the "how it happened" and no matter what influence a late game flag or two has on the result. There's simply no way the way Ravens can afford to lose this game tonight. You have to claim these automatic-win type of games, whether they're home or away.

I suspect the Ravens are well-prepared for tonight. Harbaugh has likely stressed the "business trip" element of this game and has urged the players to plow ahead on a short week, make good, quick work of the Dolphins and return home 7-2 and ready to enjoy a mid-season 10-day break.

No one is taking this one lightly as far as the Ravens are concerned, trust me.

We, the fans, might be taking the Dolphins lightly. I certainly don't see any chance they can win tonight, that's for sure. But I don't think Harbaugh would allow his team to do anything except throw their best punch this evening.

I'm smelling a laugher, basically. It will be 20-7 at the half in favor of Baltimore and the Ravens will roll to a 40-17 victory that probably isn't even that close. I'm not even sure how the Dolphins can score 17 points, but I'll just assume the fourth quarter is an exercise in everyone-trying-to-stay-healthy and Miami scores a late touchdown to "only" lose by 23 points.

That said, I don't really care at all what the final score is as long as the Ravens win the game. If Justin Tucker hits a 50 yarder at the buzzer to give Baltimore a 20-17 win, that's just as good as a 40-17 win. The league is nothing if not totally unrelated to what happened last Sunday or the Sunday before that. The only thing that matters is the result of the next game you play. The score, the stats and how you do it don't really matter that much.

I think the Ravens clobber the Dolphins tonight. It should be a cakewalk. The better team is better by a lot. And that should mean a relatively easy go of it in Miami for John Harbaugh's team.


Yesterday was a special day for high school seniors across the country who are going on to play collegiate sports. Student-athletes formally signed their letter-of-intent with the school they've agreed to join, and most schools both locally and nationally held ceremonies to announce and honor those accomplishments.

Calvert Hall had 14 student-athletes at Wednesday's ceremony, including senior varsity golfer Lorenzo Sanz '22, who has accepted an offer from Loyola University (Maryland) and will play his college golf for a longtime friend of mine (and former CHC grad himself), Chris Baloga. At Loyola, he'll team up with former Calvert Hall player Michael Crowley '20, who was a 3-year standout for me and, like Lorenzo, won the conference tournament as a junior.

Calvert Hall's Lorenzo Sanz signs his letter of intent to attend Loyola University (Maryland) and play golf for Coach Baloga's Greyhounds.

Sanz is the defending MIAA individual stroke play champion, an all-conference performer, and would have been a complete 4-year starter for me had Covid-19 not robbed of us of the 2020 campaign.

As it stands, he'll likely finish his career at Calvert Hall next spring by finishing with the highest points-per-match total in my 10-year history. As a freshman, he secured 34.5 points out of a possible 42 points in our 12 regular season matches. That number is staggering from any player, let alone a 9th grader stepping up in class to play against highly talented competition in the MIAA's A-Conference.

The only thing left undone by Sanz is helping the Cardinals win a league championship. We lost to Loyola in the Finals in 2019, but Sanz, true to form, picked up 2.5 of 3 available points in that championship match at Caves Valley. The aforementioned Covid-19 disruption kept us from another expected title run in 2020. And then last season, we fell to eventual champion St. Paul's by one point in a hotly contested and controversial playoff match-up at Baltimore Country Club that included a large number of St. Paul's students showing up at the course and heckling Lorenzo and his CHC playing partner in the latter stages of that semi-final match. It's tough at the top. Sometimes it's so tough the other school sends out extra help to try and beat you.

So another great year of individual performance and that elusive team title is all that's left for Lorenzo in his senior season. I know he thinks about those two things every day, like I do for all of my players.

Lorenzo has been a true blessing to the program. When college coaches call me about any player, one of their very first questions is an obvious one: "What kind of kid is he?" They already know the young man they're calling about can play golf. They can determine that by tournament results, the strength of field he beat, junior golf rankings, etc. What they never know, obviously, is the character of the young man.

"He's a model player, mentor, student and young man," was my standard response whenever a college coach asked me about Lorenzo's character.

I'd like to think Calvert Hall has helped shape Lorenzo into the model young man, student, mentor and golfer that he is, but the reality is he was already in that form when he arrived in the fall of 2018. His parents, Lorenzo and Antoinetta, have been incredibly supportive of Lorenzo and his golfing endeavors. They really laid the groundwork. We just made sure he stayed in the right lane, basically. Lorenzo was always going to be a collegiate golfer, as long as his high school coach didn't do something to foul him up along the way!

There are times when players learn a lot from coaches. There are also times where the coaches learn from the players, if they're willing to allow that to happen. A good coach should always be learning, no matter how, why or from whom. I've watched Lorenzo work and improve and compete over the last three-plus years and have absorbed it all in such a way that I think it's helped me learn more about coaching and more about my own golf game.

I've seen very few high school athletes, in any sport, work at their craft the way this young man works at his golf game. It's tireless and impressive. There's nothing he can't accomplish in golf. First things first, we need that A-Conference title at Calvert Hall next spring. And then he's off to Loyola to do great things for the Greyhounds. And then.......who knows where golf will take him?

One thing I know for certain: Today is not the last time you will read about a young Baltimore golfer named Lorenzo Sanz. His future in golf is bright.

It's been a privilege to coach that young man.

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The Stats Nerd
And His Numbers


Contributed by #DMD's data and numbers analyst
The Stats Nerd


This week’s column will be a break from my series on the impact of analytics in sport. But only for a week. It’s somewhat analytics oriented as the experiences I describe inform my interest in data and statistics generally.

I hope you find this column interesting or at least eye opening in some way. It’s a long column so I’m warning you in advance. If there is good reception to this, I’m happy to dive into specifics or poker related stories (of which I have MANY).

Poker

With the start of the World Series of Poker Main Event (WSOP) last week, I was reminiscing with a friend about when I was a fixture at the event each year. Before COVID, the WSOP was held each summer from roughly the end of May through the second week of July. I think many know that it is not a singular event; rather a series of events over the 6-ish weeks...a festival of poker so to speak.

The tournaments are held at the Rio but competing casinos offer competing series at differing buy-in levels all over the Strip. It is a wild time to be in Vegas and I have seen some things I can’t describe on a public forum like this. After years of rumors, the WSOP is scheduled to move onto the strip next year.

But what does that have to do with analytics you may ask? Well a good bit actually. But I’ll come back to this question at the end.

The development and growth of poker has coincided with the increased availability of data and statistical metrics across all of society. And just like other “industries”, the players that have adapted their play style to the increased availability of data and knowledge are the players that have lasted in the games. In some ways, I don’t even recognize the game in 2021 versus what I played for all those years (at least at the highest levels).

Because of the influx of cash and chance at riches, smarter and more analytically savvy players have entered the poker world. The games are tougher and the weak players are at a bigger disadvantage than they likely realize.

My Introduction

Poker has been played for nearly 200 years. Initially played in the dusty saloons of New Orleans and along the Mississippi River the game evolved to be played in basements, college dorms and kitchen tables. Most that started playing did so for insignificant amounts of money; perhaps a night out with the boys and a beer or three.

But around the turn of this century, the introduction of “hole cams” changed everything. Suddenly viewers could see player’s cards, watch them make moves, see trainwreck bluff attempts or trap unsuspecting fish. Seemingly overnight it was everywhere. Coupled with endless reruns of the movie Rounders, poker was present in a big way.

This is about when I was pulled into the vortex. Around 2004, a buddy started having games once every other week or so. None of us had any clue what we were doing but no one could get hurt too bad. A bad night would mean maybe $50-75 less in your pocket. We certainly didn’t want to beat up on each other.

Pretty soon I recognized that I had an aptitude for the game. I intuitively had some semblance of the odds in a hand, the strength of certain hands and that aggression was generally better than passivity. Honestly if you understood what hand beat what, you were ahead of the field in the early days. I started winning consistently.

Internet Poker

A friend who had caught the poker bug like me, recommended I start playing online. At this point (maybe 2005), online poker was quite literally the wild wild west. Deposits were hard to get on the sites, there was a question about the legality of playing and we weren’t sure everything was on the up and up. But the games were quite good. People simply had no idea what they were doing. There were no resources or teaching sites to learn from at this point, you literally had to figure it out on your own. Even the books that were available, like Doyle Brunson’s Super System, were antiquated strategies written in far different times.

The ability to play a TON of hands in a short amount of time just decreased the length of my learning curve. It was “get better fast or go broke.” In my opinion, the absence of an online poker playing option in the US is a massive issue for a young player that wants to hone his or her game now.

Live vs Internet

As internet players started playing more live poker, a bit of a rift grew. Internet players were generally younger and more aggressive and live players were (and still are) more passive and often older. Internet players turned their noses up at the lower skill level of live players and live players thought the internet players were young, wild punks about to blow off their stacks at any time (both were somewhat right initially).

The gulf was huge between the more technically proficient internet players and the more patient and methodical live players. I was more or less an internet player.

The differences in the sets of players mirrors the current differences between old schoolers in sports and the young analytics crowd in sports. Even the language was the same. “Computer poker isn’t real” the old timers claimed. “Live players have terrible fundamentals for the modern game” the youngsters stated. If you watch Moneyball, the tension between the grizzled old scouts and the young computer analysts directly mirrored the tension between the two poker player pools.

The Transition was Slow (until it wasn’t)

Initially, internet players did struggle transitioning to live play. They were impatient. At my peak I was playing 8-10 tables at a time online. I might see 450-500 hands an hour online. Live you are lucky to get 25-30 hands an hour. Downswings that could last a few days or weeks online, could last months and months live just because of the slow nature of the game.

But at the end of the day, live players that didn’t improve their play were sitting ducks. They WERE inferior technically to internet players. There simply is no substitute to playing 25k+ hands per month, every month. You fairly quickly see it all, recognize patterns, understand variance (HUGE) and hone your skills away from the tables. By this time (2007-ish) there were websites where we could share interesting hands or even pay for coaching. Months and years of learning and developing could be absorbed in mere weeks.

Internet players started winning live tournaments more frequently. They often did it playing fearlessly aggressive poker that was often difficult to combat. There seemed to be a crop of new young players arriving to high level tournaments every year. For sure, some of them still couldn’t adjust to the slow pace of live poker. But the good and smart ones did and started crushing.

My Story

I continued to improve and had developed a group of like minded friends that I could share things with. We helped each other improve. I wasn’t a crusher by any means but I was a consistent winner at lower and middle stakes.

If a Rounders reference helps, I was Joey Knish (played by the GREAT John Turturro). I was never going to plop $10k on the table and play Teddy KGB heads up. Rather, I was content beating up on lesser players and making a solid, if unflashy, win rate. I wasn’t interested in playing for a living but I made a few mortgage payments and paid for a few pretty damn nice vacations along the way.

I was an internet player, no doubt. I enjoyed playing in my home with my wife and kids sleeping in the other room. Whenever I felt like dialing up the sites, I could jump in a game. Didn’t have to get in a car, wait for a table or sit next to unpleasant or stinky (or worse) degenerates.

When I did play live, I understood the odds better than most at the tables, I could piece together illogical play better than most opponents and generally had a stronger fundamental skill set than others I played with. I played in a few regular local live home games but if you asked them I was unquestionably an internet player in style. If I could keep myself patient, I was the best player in most lineups (most of my opponents would agree I think). Admittedly, patience was sometimes hard to maintain for 4, 6 or 8+ hours.

Vegas Baby, Vegas

Eventually, I scratched together a decent bankroll and decided to take a shot at the WSOP in 2008. I decided not to play the Main Event given it’s $10k buy in. I felt for a first trip, I’d rather play a few smaller events and soak up the experience. So I played a few $1,500 WSOP events (the lowest at the time) and a few $600 and $1ks at The Venetian. I did sell off part of my action since I really didn’t know what I was walking into (FYI most of the pros you see on TV have either sold some of their action or done swaps with friends. They almost never own 100% of their own action).

I went out for a bit longer than a week. I played everything: cash games, big tournaments, single table Sit-N-Go’s (small 1 table tournaments) and loved it. In hindsight, I was still pretty green but I did manage one decent cash in a $1,500 where I finished ~50th out of maybe 800 players. I finished in the black for the week by a few hundred dollars even after accounting for expenses and paying out my stakeholders. For a first trip, that seemed like a win.

I continued to play more and more live tournaments and had multiple good sized cashes including roughly 10 5 figure scores (live and internet combined). But I always viewed myself as an internet player who happened to play some live.

I thought like an internet player, I approached hands and situations like an internet player. I could be “hold on to your hats” aggressive or I could be methodically patient. I maintained a database with millions of on-line hands that I could sort and search through to identify positive and negative patterns.

I could tease out aggressiveness on the flop vs. aggressiveness on the river to see which yielded better results. I could see patterns at times where I was running bad and losing. I had a coach that I would give access to my hand database and he would say “Dude, wtf were you thinking here?” Reviewing all of this data just added to my continued improvement.

But most of all it was fun and I was making more money each year. In hindsight, my opponents were still fairly bad and I was just maybe “less bad”. But in the late 00’s and early ‘10’s less bad was plenty. If you had an analytical or critical mind at all you could consistently win in most lineups.

Not every night, mind you. Variance is a real thing and can be an absolute bitch in live poker. You can sit there all night waiting to bust some drunken fish. Suddenly you get KK and get in a raising war with the fish. Inexplicably, THIS time he has AA. And so 80% of the time you lose your stack to this guy that can barely spell poker. But you shrug and watch as he dusts off his new found stack of your former chips to all the other fish at the table. Part of the game. If you can’t handle losing sometimes in excruciatingly, unreal spots...poker simply isn’t going to be for you.

Black Friday

Everything was going great. I was winning consistently and getting better and better. And then “Black Friday” happened. On April 15, 2011, the Feds issued indictments on the 3 largest US facing websites: PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. By this point I had a 5 figure bankroll spread across the three sites (95% of it on the first two) and that money was frozen. I had reward/loyalty points (similar to airline miles) on the sites worth roughly another $5k and that morning it was gone. Poof. The first few days were pretty rough. There were rumors flying around on social media. We weren’t sure when, or even if, the funds would be unfrozen.

Fortunately, less than 2 weeks later the funds on Poker Stars were released. Man what a relief that was. Most of my play and thus, my bankroll, was on Stars. I had 5 figures on that site alone. The Full Tilt funds weren’t released for 3 long years. I had a few thousand on Tilt and only a few hundred on Absolute. Some guys had 6 figure bankrolls on Full Tilt. That was locked up for 3 years and for long stretches of time we had no clue if/when the funds would be returned to us. Absolute funds were never returned. Those balances simply disappeared. I was lucky.

But now where was I going to play? After some time to reflect, I decided to turn my attention to live play almost exclusively. I had a list of various home games that I could play in; enough that I could play multiple times per week. But I had pangs of guilt playing in a lot of these games. Many of the players were my friends or friends of friends. Some of the games included very green players that were the marks. It just didn’t feel right. So I started to frequent casinos. Somehow playing against strangers felt less problematic to me.

My memory with specific dates is a little hazy but I started going to Delaware Park and then Charlestown, WV at some point in 2011 or 2012. Both were about 60-75 minutes away so it wasn’t too terrible. I vividly remember being in Delaware Park the day of the Ravens’ victory in the Mile High Miracle in January 2013. The place went bananas. Live poker was relatively easy though slow and inconvenient as compared to internet play.

Eventually some really sketchy sites like Lock Poker started to offer internet play again in the US. The legality was HIGHLY questionable but I figured worst comes to worst I’d lose whatever funds I had on the site. So I decided to keep balances on those sites to an absolute minimum. Anytime I won anything material, I would set about drawing it down as quickly as the withdrawal rules permitted. This wasn’t ideal since my play style often resulted in some pretty sizable swings of the bankroll. Keeping no more than ~$1k on the site meant the risk of busting that roll was fairly easy.

The site was so sketchy that withdrawals were limited to something like $500 at a time and deposits had to be made by jumping through these crazy hoops. We had to purchase some sort of special prepaid credit cards that were only sold at check cashing places and the like. Then sometimes those prepaid cards wouldn’t even “go through” when trying to deposit.

Alternatively, we could Western Union funds to some random person in the Philippines or Nicaragua who would then deposit the funds into their account and transfer into your account less a “convenience fee”. This wasn’t sustainable, of course, and fortunately, I was able to avoid having to make deposits after an initial 2 or 3 times.

The games weren’t really all that good and getting funds off the sites became increasingly problematic. In the end, I decided that the site just wasn’t worth the issues and felt like the risk was no longer worth the return. I managed to sell my account balance for something like .75 on the dollar and just did that to close the chapter on sketchy online poker sites. There were other small sites offering US play but it just didn’t seem worth it to me any longer. In the end, those sketchy sites faced liquidity issues and the games went away with some players losing whatever funds they had on site.

Poker and Bitcoin

I continued to go to Vegas every summer for the WSOP. I always went alone but had a bunch of friends from across the world whose trips overlapped with mine. I fell into a pretty good routine, staying on the Strip, generally at The Wynn or Venetian.

Then I split my time between those casino poker rooms and the zoo at the Rio. It was more expensive than just staying at the Rio for the entirety of the trip but the Rio was so soul crushing that I just couldn’t stay there. Rooms were often dirty, food options were awful and the place attracts a rather…let's say “rough” crowd. Hookers, thugs, drug dealers...you name it they were present at the Rio. Everytime I stayed there I regretted my decision basically immediately on arrival.

On one of these WSOP trips a buddy of mine said “let’s go meet this dude.” “As it turned out, “this dude” was an online poker legend that was representing an internet poker site using the block chain. This is probably 2012 or 2013. All transactions on the site were paid via Bitcoin converted from USD and deposited in an on-line wallet. Now remember, this is pretty early in the crypto timeline. My recollection is that Bitcoin was trading at $10-12. Their angle was that even if the US Government shut down the site, all of the Bitcoin was housed on the blockchain, theoretically out of reach of the Feds.

I’m a reasonably smart guy. I work tangentially in finance. I had heard of crypto but not investigated it much. I literally left this meeting, turned to my buddy and said “This guy is legit out of his f---ing mind”. “What is he talking about with these digital coins and blockchain and the rest?”

He wanted us to deposit like $1k, convert that into 100 Bitcoin or whatever it converted to and play with that. Oh and if we played XX number of hands, over a few months, the site would GIVE us a bonus, in bitcoin, equal to our deposit amounts. This guy had purchased something like $50k in bitcoin several years earlier. Totally guessing but he probably owned 15-20k bitcoin. I have no actual idea, just my best guess based on the conversation.

Needless to say, we laughed at this guy as we walked away. The dude reeked of pot and looked and talked like an internet meme of a millennial conspiracy theorist. There was zero chance Stats Nerd was trusting his hard earned money with this joker. So I politely declined, deleted the guy from my contacts and went about my life. Fast forward to today and Bitcoin is trading at (checks the internet) OVER $60k!! WHAT IN THE ACTUAL F&*! WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME??? Haha the reality is I never would have held those coins this long anyway but it makes for a good what if.

All Live Play

At this point, online play was no longer an option. Fortunately, in late summer 2013 MD Live Casino opened it’s poker room. MD Live was the best of the Mid-Atlantic casinos and with 52 tables the room was equally capable of hosting major tournament series and normal, everyday cash game play. It became my regular playing spot. I was playing 2-3 evenings per week. I was playing fewer and fewer tournaments, however, as they don’t make a ton of sense from a return perspective. Cash games are where the consistent, solid returns are made.

Somewhere around 2015, I stopped playing in the home games that had started this whole journey. The group had expanded to include a lot of people I didn’t really know and, frankly, if I was going to play it made a lot more sense to play in the bigger games at MD Live and, later and to a lesser extent, Baltimore Horseshoe.

But playing a lot in casinos can be a bit depressing, at least for me. Poker, and casinos more generally, attract a lot of degenerate gamblers. Many of them are slowly self destructing and trying to scratch an unscratchable gambling itch. It’s quite sad and it’s hard not to have a lot of empathy for those affected.

Interestingly, good poker players typically don’t view the game as gambling. Sure it has elements of gambling and luck in it but over a large sample of hands, the better, more skilled players will almost always rise to the top. The key is being smart with your bankroll so that the good players don’t flame out and go broke before the long term is realized. In a very real sense, bankroll or money management is just as important a skill to have as reading your opponents or value betting weaker players (perhaps more important honestly).

Finally, somewhere around late 2016 or early 2017, I realized I was burned out. My last year at WSOP was 2016. Being in a casino with some less than desirables was starting to wear on me. Also, being up late but still having to go to work the next day was taking a toll. It’s hard to maintain a good life balance with sleep, diet and exercise when you are up 2 nights a week until 3 or 4 in the morning. At least it was for me. I looked at some of the regulars that were older than me and none of them looked very healthy.

I also wasn’t playing as well as I just didn’t want to be there. My nerves were frazzled and every little thing could set me off. Not a good state of mind when playing for real money.

While I wasn’t making anywhere the amount of money playing cards that I do in my real job, I had gotten used to always having extra cash lying around (and more importantly so had my wife!). Not having that extra cash if I stopped playing would be a bit of an adjustment. But I finally decided I was going to stop. I had other things I wanted to do that required more time, mental energy and better physical condition. So I stopped. Didn’t play for a close to a year. And surprisingly, I didn’t really miss it or the extra cash too much.

I still play on occasion. A friend will call and ask if I want to go for a night or I just have nothing better to do for an evening. I have a lot of friends that still play a lot. They will frequently text me cryptic messages like “Hey you got a minute for a call?” That usually means they want my advice on how they played a certain hand or want reassurance that their bustout hands in a big tournament were reasonable.

I’m always happy to give friends my thoughts although they know my rule: NO BADBEAT STORIES! I don’t want to hear you complain about how unlucky you got or bitch about some drunken moron who kept catching the perfect card against you. I’ve seen it all, had it happen to me; basically been there done that. I don’t need to listen to the negativity. I get it...it sucks but anyone that plays any length of time knows the drill. You will lose some pots in the most ridiculous, hard to believe, preposterously unimaginable ways...and lo and behold it will happen again a week later.

Poker and Analytics

So back to the original question I posed: What does all of this have to do with sports and analytics? Well poker illustrated to me a lot of statistical theories and concepts I’d previously only understood academically. While I could discuss these things with people before diving into poker, that knowledge couldn’t compare to living it through my poker results.

I’ve long thought that high school students should be required to take a course in statistics and probabilities even at the expense of other math classes like trigonometry or calculus. The logic and certainty of numbers just makes sense to me. But that isn’t the case for most people in my experience. Even players that I run into that have been playing for a LONG time still really have no clue about things like distributions, odds, randomness, etc. It’s hard to believe but I talk to friends that just can’t quite figure it out. Their mindsight is; I won money so I must have played well or I lost money so I must have played poorly. Results oriented thinking in the extreme.

Obviously, poker is a heavily math based and statistic oriented game (at least at a higher level). Certain hands have better odds than others. Good poker players develop an instinct about the odds the hand is offering versus the odds the pot is offering. The players that leverage the difference in those two odds are the players that will be the consistent winners. Simple as that.

But beyond the basic math of poker there are conceptual things that poker helped frame up for me. For example, the idea that basically everything you do has a range of possible outcomes. It’s easy to say that and to accept that as fact but when you see millions and millions of poker hands you realize that there really is ALWAYS A RANGE OF POSSIBLE OUTCOMES. Always. This is true of getting in your car and driving to work or sitting down to watch the Ravens play. Some outcomes are more likely than others but see enough hands and that range of outcomes will show itself to you.

Poker also helped me appreciate the value in large samples being a better indicator of statistical confidence than smaller samples. Anyone can beat anyone in a single poker hand. But gradually, as the sample size grows the better player reveals themself. Of course in sports sample size is huge whether it is a Tour player’s winrate, a batter’s average or a shooter’s field goal percentage. The mind has a way of remembering recent small samples at the expense of larger and longer term samples. That kind of explains the phenomenon known as recency bias.

The last item I’ll hit on is that poker really helped me appreciate the role that luck and randomness have in life. In poker, one hand might beat another hand 80% of the time. That is true whether you are playing in your buddies basement for $20 or at the final table of a big tournament. But the randomness of WHEN that occurs is pretty important. If a player gets KK and runs into AA in a home game and busts he likely says something like “what can I do? that’s poker”. But if it happens at the final table with 5 players left vying for big $$ that bad luck can materially change your expectations. Generally, the same situation with the same outcome probabilities but FAR different $$ expectations.

I find that people are a little unwilling to accept that luck and randomness are as much a part of life as I believe it is. This isn’t to say that it accounts for everything in life. Far from it. But there is no question in my mind that opportunities will present themselves in life where some luck or randomness materially alters one’s future. I think about my life and business and can point to luck and random calls or connections that I’ve made that considerably changed the course of my life. I met my wife at a random time when neither of us were attached. That fairly random meeting certainly changed my life trajectory considerably. I can point to 5 or 6 specific spots in my life where a little luck was helpful and MATERIALLY impacted my future.

I could go on and on but I think I’ve gone on long enough. Poker was a large part of my life and, to some extent, my identity for almost a decade. I was the guy my friends called to discuss anything poker related. I was the guy that my non-poker friends wanted to hear poker stories from. They asked if I had met Phil Hellmuth (I have) or Daniel Negraneau (I have not). It had some pluses and some minusses but there is no question that it framed a lot of the way I think about distributions and randomness. I suspect that will be a little more clear after reading this column.

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Wednesday
November 10, 2021
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#2635


fixed? no. but...


You may or may not be a fan of ex-ESPN staffer Bill Simmons. I honestly haven't listened to much of his work over the last decade. Not because I don't think he's good at what he does. It's mostly because he spent -- when I did listen in -- most of his time talking about the NBA. And that's just not my thing.

But Simmons occasionally delves into other sports topics these days, apparently, because I stumbled on an interesting Tweet of his on Tuesday.

Speaking about Monday's Steelers/Bears game, Simmons authored this:

@BillSimmons - Fast-forward 5 years: "Let's go to Adam Schefter, who has more details about the Bears-Steelers game that was fixed by gamblers in 2021..."

I read that and thought to myself: "Eh, I mean, it seems really far fetched. But maybe not. I mean, that night did look a little suspect."

Simmons got raked over the coals with all of the obvious replies.

"OK, remind me again. Were we trying to get Chicago to win outright or just lose by less than 6.5 points? I wasn't on the original call."

"Come on, the Bears wound up covering even though they're the ones who got shafted by the refs. There was no fix."

(That one is definitely the most legit argument against "the fix was in". I mean, what, exactly was fixed? The team that got hammered with the questionable penalties still covered the 6.5 point spread. Now, had they not covered...)

"How can you fix a game? You know how many people would have to be in on it in order to pull that off without everyone seeing it happen?

(Eh, I don't know that I believe that in totality, but it's a fair point. I do think a few players and a few refs could potentially pull it off, but it would certainly be difficult to do. Now, could the referee group, as a whole, conspire to change the outcome or impact the point spread? That's a "yes", without question.)

"What's in it for the NFL to fix a game? This is a stupid take."

(Well, for starters, Simmons' tweet didn't suggest the NFL fixed the game on Monday. He's wondering if "gamblers" didn't have a hand in fixing the game. And that is, of course, a much different question than whether the NFL fixed it. I do think we're all naive if we don't think the NFL would "prefer" certain teams win and make the playoffs; New England, Dallas, Pittsburgh -- those three come to mind right away, not just because of their television appeal, but those three also sell a lot of merchandise across the country, which is a major appeal-factor to the league. Anyway, I think there's always a reason to fix a game or a point spread if you think long enough and hard enough about it. But that's not the point in this situation. I'm willing to concede the NFL itself didn't care one way or the other about Monday's game.)

Where the NFL has helped create this picture of being nefarious is simple: At every turn now, all you see are gambling-related ads, whether you're in the stadium or watching the game on television. Insurance ads still lead the way, but those gambling ads are running a real close second. I guess the margins in insurance tell that story, but I digress.

I'm not here to say the games in the NFL are, in fact, "fixed". I have friends who definitely think they are fixed, by the way. But I don't necessarily subscribe to that theory.

But I will say this...

The league should do a better job, somehow, of convincing people that the games are on the up and up. Because, let's be honest, a lot of the other stuff they're doing might suggest otherwise.

I mean, you're directly involved with gambling businesses and websites who all rake in millions and millions of dollars and you don't want a piece of that, in some small way? Really? You don't? OK, if you say so.

But those ads in stadiums and in radio and TV broadcasts suggest the NFL actually might be interested. Interested, at the very least, in the success of those particular wagering companies. Because if they keep raking in millions, they can pay the NFL millions and millions for those TV advertising campaigns on Sunday and Monday.

We've all heard of the Alford Plea: "I'm not willing to admit guilt, but I am willing to admit the evidence in place would find me guilty."

I'm not saying the NFL should cop the Alford Plea just because of what we saw on Monday night in Pittsburgh. I don't think we've reached that point yet.

But I do think we are at a point, of some kind. We're at a point where a referee is very obviously creating contact with a player after a fairly lame "taunting call" and we're supposed to just ignore that and say "nothing to see here"?

We're at a point where teams are aligning with casinos and sports betting websites and expecting us to just assume nothing is going on there that might be considered "inappropriate" or "suspect".

And, for the most part, it's probably fair to not look at the NFL with a suspicious eye. I mean, if the league really did have an interest in a team winning games, would they really let the poor Lions languish like they do? But when you see some of the stuff -- not all of it, but some of it -- that happened on Monday night, it's certainly worth at least wondering about the validity of it all.

It's also fair to point out that Monday night was not a one-off occasion. It was just a Monday night, national television tipping point. There are games every week impacted by officiating calls -- in every sport. The NFL, it seems, has a "rules implication" problem more than a "are the games fixed?" problem. That's my take, anyway. I just think the officials stink, more than anything else.

But I will also admit this: It's like the straw that broke the camel's back story. Eventually, there's one moment, one weird outcome, one odd finish, where you just say: "OK, I've seen enough. You people aren't fooling me any longer."

For some people, Monday night in Pittsburgh might have been their final straw.

And when you watch it again -- it's hard to argue with them.

Fixed? No. But...


This could be a topic for a lede story or a more thorough examination, but the question is worth asking no matter the day at this point:

Is Lamar worthy of the $400-$500 million deal that most industry experts believe/assume the Ravens are going to have to give him at the end of this season?

I think the easy answer to that question is: yes.

But I'm not sure that's going to be the overwhelming answer in Baltimore, despite the fact the team's record with Lamar is 36-10 since he inherited the starting job midway through the 2018 campaign. I mean, all they've done with Lamar is win. Sure, they've won with more consistency in the regular season than the post season, but let's also remember when you're in the playoffs, everyone can basically beat everyone on any given Saturday or Sunday.

You just can't argue that Lamar has turned the Ravens around. They were 40-40 in the 80 games (mostly with Flacco) before Lamar took over. They're 36-10 since. You can argue against that point if you so choose, but you better bring an army to help you win that debate.

Hold the phone, though. Are those long-term "legacy contracts" really beneficial to the teams that hand them out? History might say "no" on that one. In the "legacy contract" era, you can honestly say that only Brady and the two Mannings were able to win Super Bowls after they landed their mega-deal (or two). Aaron Rodgers won a Super Bowl in his first-year after a mega-deal with Green Bay, but it's fair to remember his cap hit in that first year was extraordinarily low.

Flacco, of course, won his Super Bowl prior to signing the big contract in Baltimore.

Matt Ryan could have joined that small list of four a few years ago but the Falcons couldn't hold on to a 28-3 lead.

Russell Wilson's big contract came after he engineered the Seahawks to a Super Bowl win.

Lamar detractors might say, "If he hasn't already won one, are the chances better or worse that he'll do it after he cashes in on the legacy-mega contract?" And that really is the argument point right there.

It's not really a discussion about Lamar's value. It's more a discussion about how Lamar's value impacts the contract he receives and how that, in turn, cramps the team's salary cap for the next 5-10 years. It is, more than anything, a salary cap issue. It's not a "should the Ravens reward Lamar?" issue.

I think most people in Baltimore see and appreciate what Lamar is and does for the Ravens. I know I do, for sure. He's a winner, plain and simple, as I said here earlier this week. But he's not the only QB in the league who is largely responsible for his team's success. If you list, in your mind, the top 5 in the league, all 5 of them are "mostly" responsible for their team's success. Just off the top of my head, in no order: Brady, Rodgers, Allen, Mahomes and Prescott (in addition to Lamar). Those five are 80% of the reason why their team wins most of their games.

So it's not like Lamar is the only great quarterback in the league. But for a franchise so quarterback-starved for so long, the Flacco-Jackson era has been a huge relief. And Lamar, for varying reasons, is far more valuable to the Ravens than Flacco ever was. Some of that is built on the way Lamar plays and some of it is built on the way the Ravens have decided to organize their offense around Jackson. Either way, though, Jackson deserves the same kind of status as Flacco, if not more. He has to get paid. It's really that simple.

But paying Jackson $500 million might be the only thing the team can do and, at the same time, it might the one thing they do that hampers them moving forward.

History says the Ravens are going to pay him a boatload of money in the off-season. And history also says, doing that and having their star quarterback locked up for five to ten years might not yield the expected and necessary results.

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JOHN DARCEY
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Baltimore native John Darcey follows the Ravens on a daily basis and vows to "tell it like it is" here at #DMD in 2021-2022.


ravens-vikings recap


It’s never easy, it’s almost certainly never pretty and sometimes it is just downright ugly, but the Baltimore Ravens sit at 6-2 after Sunday's 34-31 OT win over Minnesota.

And they sit at 6-2 with maybe more issues than any other team in the league. Yet, somehow, they seemingly find a way to win. And Sunday was no exception, as for the third time this season they overcame a second half double digit deficit. This was also their third overtime game of the year, which has become almost the norm for them in 2021.

Despite all of the injuries, the issues on defense, the lack of a consistent run game, the slow starts that lead to double digit deficits and the fact that almost every game comes down to the last possession or overtime, the Ravens lead the AFC North and currently hold the number two seed in the AFC.

Greg Roman and the Ravens go up against the NFL's worst rush defense this Thursday night in Miami. So, how will Greg approach this game?

Yet after every game, the same two thoughts always pop into my head: How good would this team be if not for all the injuries and could they overcome all of those issues, which seems improbable, and make a deep run in January and February?

The first question just can’t be answered. Simply because there is no do-over in life and we can’t go back to August and September to prevent the injuries to Marcus Peters, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, etc. But the second question can and will be answered over the next 10 weeks or so. Does the team have the will to overcome all their issues and use it as motivation to keep grinding through the season all the way to the Super Bowl? I am beginning to think the answer is "yes".

The 2021 version of the Ravens almost seem to embrace all of these challenges placed in front of them unlike any other team before. The next challenge that lays in front of them is a trip to Miami on a short week after playing an overtime game. The Ravens are tired, beat up and traveling, which would lead many to think they don’t have a chance. And in any other year, I would probably agree. However, in 2021 this is just another day at the office for them.

Key thoughts on the Vikings game --

* While the sluggish starts on defense and more so on offensive have become expected, I was shocked they came out that way on Sunday. Generally, after the bye, John Harbaugh has his team amped up and revving to go. It almost seemed as if they were still in bye week mode during the first half of the game. Though they seem to overcome whatever is put in front of them, slow starts will eventually bite them against a good team. I am sure this is being addressed by the coaches, but why hasn’t it changed?

* After watching Justin Jefferson score on a 50-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter against Marlon Humphrey, I thought, ‘Here we go again’. But after seeing the replay, it is clear the blown coverage looked more on Chuck Clark as he was the deep safety. You could see that Humphrey thought he had help on the back end. Clark was late getting over and Jefferson just outran everyone.

* You have to wonder why the Vikings didn’t take more deep shots and try to attack down the field after that?

* Kudos go out to Humphrey. A game after allowing over 200 yards, Humphrey responded well vs. Minnesota. After the aforementioned TD by Jefferson, Humphrey allowed just one completion and had two pass break-ups on key third down plays. They really need him to revert back to his 2020 form to close out the season.

* Ever since Josh Bynes has stepped into the starting role, Patrick Queen’s game has improved each week. The eight-yard tackle for loss he had on Dalvin Cook is the play I am sure the Ravens have been envisioning him making since they drafted him. Maybe, with Bynes there, Queen has less pressure on him to make sure that all of the other 10 guys are lined up correctly and can focus just on his job.

* I wouldn’t get too excited over the emergence of the run game against the Vikings. They are a bottom ten team in the league against the run, and they were missing two starting defensive lineman as well as a safety who plays the run pretty well. And it seems like once a month (Chiefs in September, Chargers in October) the Ravens have success against a poor rush defense team and we as fans think the run game is back.

* I don’t expect Latvaius Murray to return this week against the Dolphins but I wonder who is the odd man out when he returns? Devonta Freeman seems to have been the lead back since Murray went down. Le’Veon Bell had his best game Sunday and Ty’Son Williams, who played 18 offensive snaps, didn’t touch the ball. Would the Ravens carry four running backs on their active roster? Would they keep Bell over Williams? Or do the Ravens just get all they can out of Bell while Murray is out and release him in favor of the younger Williams? I really hope that is the way they are leaning.

* The presence of Rashod Bateman is an aspect of the Ravens passing game we have never seen before. His field awareness to always know where the first down markers are, the way he high points a ball, which was on display while drawing the Ravens their first pass interference call of the year, and the fact he seems to catch everything thrown his way. It has been a small sample size, but the Ravens may finally have their first true home grown number one wide receiver.

* Speaking of rookies, has anyone seen Odafe Oweh since his first half sack of Carson Wentz on October 11? I was extremely high on Oweh early, but where has he been the past three weeks? I am not saying it is all his fault and most of it is probably scheme related. But when a team is not generating sacks and you draft an edge rusher in the first round to get sacks, I would like to see him do that more than once a month.

* Pat Ricard had the drive of his life catching three passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. Do I think we will see that level of quality from him going forward? Not at all. But what that drive did do, is make the opposing defense know he can be a threat and they need to account for him in the passing game.

* I could dedicate most of this column every week to the wonders of what Lamar does to carry this team. But that would get boring. He had his usual MVP day on Sunday and was the reason why they won. Not much else to say, but want to at least acknowledge it. Are we getting complacent in watching him? And maybe taking it for granted?

* As great as Jackson has played all year, one area that I would like to see him approve on is his throws on short passes. I notice it mostly on check downs or quick three to four yard passes when he is under pressure, but some of those throws are wild. And they could be easy completions for a few yards, but he seems to miss on most of them.

* As for the interception he threw in overtime...a couple of things to point out. One, Anthony Barr just made an absolute amazing play to deflect and then intercept the pass. Two, it was clear Barr was rushing, which means Freeman needed to attack him and not wait back for Barr to engage, which allowed the Minnesota player to jump and tip the ball. Third, Jackson needs to eat that throw or run with the ball. That could have been a crucial mistake that ended up costing them the game. And it could have been avoided if some simple things were done the right way.

* And what would a Ravens game be without another significant injury? This time it is DeShon Elliott. Early this year, I opined that maybe the Ravens would look to extend him after the season. Those odds aren’t looking good. This is the third time in four years he has had his season ended by injury. It looks like Brandon Stephens will be the next man up and take his spot. I would assume if Stephens does well, then there would be no need for Elliott next season. Though coming off an injury, the Ravens could extend him a one-year deal for depth purposes. Here is to hoping the young man can overcome yet another injury and move on.

On to this week's game: At the Dolphins on Thursday night. As I said earlier, everything about this game should say the Ravens lose, but they don’t. The Dolphins are a hot mess. They have no clue which QB is playing and they have regressed tremendously this year. The good news is you can probably go to bed early because this game shouldn’t be close. Ravens 31-Dolphins 17.

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Tuesday
November 9, 2021
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#2634


these refs...and the iron man


I'll get all the qualifiers out of the way first to head off the obvious responses at the pass.

I'm not mad that the Steelers won last night.

Truth of the matter, I've never been much of a Steelers-hater. I get it, they're the Steelers, we're supposed to despise them. In my life, I've only truly despised one team and you know who that is. Everyone else is the same. I don't even dislike the Yankees or Red Sox. We don't like them around here because they win a lot, granted, but that's what they're trying to do every year. The same goes with Pittsburgh, mostly. They're just another team trying to win. To me, the Steelers are the Bills, Jets, Cowboys, Raiders and so on. But that's just me. Your mileage may vary there.

I'm not upset that the Steelers got the benefit of a bunch of calls from the refs in the 4th quarter, either.

A number of the 4th quarter calls were obvious. Like, say, Chicago getting called for defensive offsides a few times. They were offsides, after all. I mean, if Robert Quinn, who is an 11-year veteran, can't line up properly, is the ref on that side of the field just supposed to look the other way? The one pass interference call that set up a big Pittsburgh gain was also the right call. The Bears were penalized 12 times for 115 yards in the 29-27 loss to Pittsburgh. My guess is 11 and 100 of those were legit.

This spin move following a sack of Ben Roethlisberger earned Cassius Marsh a taunting penalty last night.

I'm not mad that the Steelers avoided a significant home upset and are still floating around the AFC North looking semi-competitive at the same time.

When the time comes to settle things in the AFC North, the Steelers will not be heard from. They'll be 6-3 after they narrowly nip Detroit in Pittsburgh next Sunday. Then...are you ready for this? They might lose their final 8 games in a row. Seriously, they might. They finish at Los Angeles Chargers, at Cincinnati, home vs. Baltimore, at Minnesota, home vs. Tennessee, at Kansas City, home vs. Cleveland and at Baltimore. I realize the odds are against them losing all 8 of those. They'll probably steal a win in L.A. or miraculously beat the Titans or, maybe, shock the Bengals on the road. But last night's last-minute win over the Bears does nothing to improve their playoff chances, unless 9-8 or 8-9 gets you in the AFC post-season picture.

Here's why I'm mad. We'll just call it "the Cassius Marsh incident".

With the Steelers up 23-20 late in the game, they faced a 3rd and 8 at the Chicago 47 yard line. Just to set the stage, Pittsburgh entered the final 15 minutes up 20-6 and on cruise control. But the Bears suddenly looked like an NFL team and were coming fast and furious on every series. Their defense was playing better and Justin Fields, for a little white anyway, looked like he might be a legit QB in the league someday. We'll get back to you on that one, though. It's early days for him.

Anyway, on 3rd and 8, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked for a 7-yard loss by the aforementioned Cassius Marsh. Marsh couldn't just point to the sky and walk off the field, of course. Had he done that, who knows what would have transpired thereafter. Instead, Marsh did his -- as he called it after the game -- "signature move" after a sack, jumping and spinning around like Kevin Bacon in Footloose. As the Pittsburgh punter jogged onto the field, he was in direct line with Marsh. While the Chicago defender continued to hop around, all the time looking at the Steelers' bench, referee Tony Corrente started eyeing him up.

Here's what happened next.

As Marsh ran past Corrente, the official subtly -- but clearly -- moved his body backwards just a hair. Enough, though, to make contact with Marsh as he ran by. Corrente, at the same time, reached for his penalty flag and threw it, just as the Chicago player made contact with him. Marsh referred to it afterwards as a "hip check" and for you hockey fans out there, that's basically what it was, albeit a much smaller version.

Corrente said afterwards the contact "had no bearing on the taunting penalty". I nearly spit out my Royal Farms coffee this morning when I saw that.

"Of course it didn't have anything to do with it, you nitwit," I said to myself. "You initiated the contact, you friggin' goof."

It's one of the top 5 #clownshoes moments of the NFL season if you ask me.

We haven't even addressed the actual "taunting" penalty, when it happened, how it impacted the game, and so on. I understand the NFL is cracking down on taunting this season and Corrente conveniently mentioned that to the media after the game. But the NFL has been allowing taunting since the days of Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko, if we're being honest. There's taunting on virtually every big play in every game. But they chose last night, with 3:40 remaining in a 3-point game, to suddenly tell Cassius Marsh he can't dance and stare at the Steelers bench after a sack? OK then.

Corrente 100% made contact with Marsh as he ran past him. Corrente denied doing that, of course, and even went as far as to basically say Marsh made contact with him, which is a flat-out lie.

When these officials can just throw people out of a game or give them 15-yard penalties or hand out technicals like they're Halloween Snickers bars, that's one thing. But when a referee can pull off a crafty hip-check of a player just to remind him of who is in charge, then we've reached a new low.

Predictably, by the way, after being kept alive by that penalty, the Steelers went down the field and kicked a field goal to go up 26-20. The Bears scored with 1:15 remaining to make it 27-26 and then Chicago became Chicago again and Roethlisberger took them down the field for the game-winning kick from Chris Boswell.

That hip check, though? That became the story of the game to me.

Now that....that right there....that was, in fact, "taunting".


and here's cal, talking about "the streak"


Cal Ripken Jr. is a good man. So good, in fact, he appears on #DMD to congratulate me on beating his consecutive games played streak of 2,632.

In case you just flew in from Pluto and missed Monday's edition of #DMD, yesterday, November 8, marked our 2,633rd consecutive day of publishing, besting Cal's MLB record for days-played-in-a-row.

Cal and I spend 35 minutes talking about baseball, his dad, the streak and much, much more. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate my own streak by talking with the guy who actually has a legitimate, worthy streak of his own.

And big thanks to local P.R. whiz John Maroon for helping set up the Cal interview. Much appreciated!



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RANDY MORGAN
on American soccer


Americans are playing more and more of a vital role in international soccer these days, and Randy Morgan has his eyes on all of them for #DMD. Each Tuesday here, he looks at recent performances of American players and highlights upcoming games of importance.


november world cup qualifying preview


The US Men’s National Team reconvenes this week for two important World Cup qualifiers. There is good news and bad news for the team as they prepare to take on their biggest rivals on Friday. Several key players enter the week excelling for their clubs and the team will welcome back one of its star players from injury. On the downside there were some puzzling roster decisions from Coach Gregg Berhalter and another star player was lost to an injury last week.

The US will face familiar foe Mexico in Cincinnati at 9:10pm on Friday. Then they will travel to Jamaica for a road qualifier next Tuesday at 5:00pm. Mexico enters this qualifying window at the top of the standings, three points ahead of the US, while Jamaica sits in sixth place, six points behind the US.

The Americans are still missing star winger, Gio Reyna, who has not returned from the injury he picked up in September. Current reports say Reyna will not be ready to play for his club again until January. In addition to Reyna, the US will be without last round’s standout performer, Sergino Dest. The Barcelona right back injured his back last week and was forced to miss his club's Champions League and La Liga matches. It sounds like the injury is relatively minor, but came at an inopportune time for the US. Gyasi Zardes will also be missing due to injury, as he has been out for several weeks for Columbus.

American standout Christian Pulisic will return to the U.S. lineup after missing four World Cup qualifying games due to injury, but his stamina is still a question mark heading into Friday's game against arch-rival Mexico.

Aside from the injury absences, there are several other changes to the roster from October. The most glaring are the addition of Christian Pulisic and the omission of John Brooks. Pulisic played his first minutes since September last week for Chelsea. He is available for the US, but there are some questions about his stamina level. He has only made two short sub appearances for his club and may be limited to the same capacity for the US.

John Brooks was a fairly stunning omission from this roster. He missed the October games with a back injury but was a healthy scratch this time around. Brooks had been in a poor run of form for Wolfsburg and had a shaky performance his last time out for the US. However, he has rebounded the last few games after Wolfsburg replaced its head coach. He remains the most talented center back in the US pool and his veteran presence could be sorely missed this week. Berhalter said he was left off due to his form and that he will be back again in the future, but the logic doesn’t track too well when a player like Mark McKenzie was included, who hasn’t been able to get off the bench for his club.

A lesser, but still frustrating, omission was Luca de la Torre. The midfielder has been excelling for his club, Heracles, in the Dutch first division and possesses technical ability that few in the US pool can match. He was left off in favor of veterans Sebastian Lletget and Cristian Roldan, who have left a lot to be desired with their recent USMNT performances.

Two welcome additions this time around are attacker Jesus Ferreira and right back Joe Scally. Both have been in outstanding form for their club teams and provide solid depth options for the US.

There should be much less squad rotation required in this window with just two games. We should see the core group of starters getting most of the playing time in each game. That being said, Berhalter continues to handicap himself with some puzzling roster decisions. In the last window, his decision to call in the slumping Shaq Moore and inexperienced George Bello severely limited the options in the middle game against Panama. Hopefully the decision to leave Brooks and de la Torre at home won’t come back to haunt the US this time, but with Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie both just a yellow card away from being suspended against Jamaica, the US depth could be tested once again.

The other note on the roster selection is that no real backup striker was selected. The only natural striker Berhalter has called in is Ricardo Pepi. It seems he intends to start him in both games, but if he gets injured or fatigued, Berhalter will need to turn to Tim Weah or Jesus Ferriera who are more suited to the wing.

The clash with bitter rivals Mexico looms large in this window. With a win, the US could vault to the top of the group and give themselves some real breathing room above the cut line for qualification. Mexico will present the most difficult challenge the team has faced thus far in qualification and despite the game being on US soil, there’s a decent chance the crowd won’t be all that friendly.

El Tri are the only team in the region that can match or better the US from a talent level perspective. They boast a fearsome attacking trio of top European talent in Chucky Lozano (Napoli), Tecatito Corona (Porto) and Raul Jimenez (Wolverhampton) to go along with an experienced midfield and defense. Unlike other CONCACAF opponents, Mexico will look to win the possession battle against the US and will often press high up the field to try to force the Americans into turnovers.

Under Berhalter, the US has matched Mexico’s aggression and attempted to go blow for blow with them. This garnered two victories over the summer, albeit both in extra time after being tied in regulation. Oftentimes in games like this it's the team that avoids costly mistakes that wins.

With that in mind, Berhalter will likely opt for a more veteran lineup. We will probably see Deandre Yedlin getting the nod over Joe Scally at right back, Paul Arriola on the wing over Tim Weah and potentially Walker Zimmerman at center back over Chris Richards or Mark McKenzie.

It would be surprising if Christian Pulisic is able to start this game, which means a large share of the playmaking duties will fall on Brenden Aaronson. The New Jersey native is having a great season for Red Bull Salzburg and will look to carry that over to the national team.

Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie are the heart of the American midfield and both players come in off a wave of good performances. Adams was outstanding in a big win for RB Leipzig over Borussia Dortmund this weekend. McKennie has taken his play to a new level after his unfortunate dismissal from the US team in September. He has been one of the best players for Juventus over the past few weeks and can be a game changer against Mexico. His prowess in the air was instrumental in the win over Mexico in the Nations League and his combination of ball winning and ball progression are crucial to controlling the midfield.

Antonee Robinson is another American player coming into the two-game series in great form. His matchup on the left side with either Corona or Lozano and Mexican right back Chaka Rodriguez will be crucial to the outcome of the game. Both Rodriguez and Robinson can be dangerous getting forward into attack and hitting crosses from the wing. Robinson will need to neutralize Mexico’s dynamic wingers in the defensive end while also pushing forward into attack enough to keep Rodriguez honest. With Sergino Dest out, the US will be even more reliant on Robinson to get involved in the attack. Whichever team is able to press their fullbacks higher in attack may be able to pin back the opposition and gain the upper hand in possession.

While the Mexico game will get more attention due to the rivalry, the Jamaica game may be the most important of the week. Getting a win, or even a draw, against Mexico can be seen as more of a bonus for qualification than a necessity. The US really needs to make sure it gets as many points as it can against the weaker opponents in the group. An away game against a poor Jamaica team, with a sparse crowd, is a great opportunity to pick up a road win and three important points.

If the US can get at least three points from the two games they would keep themselves on track. Four or more points would put them in great position when they return in late January for the next round of qualifiers.

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Monday
November 8, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2633


"no one will ever break cal's streak"


And, so, here it is.

Our 2,633rd consecutive day of publishing. Through the grace of God and the help of some hi-tech friends who know a lot more than the "site owner", we have never missed a day since August 25, 2014. Not one, single day. We came close, mind you, including this past Saturday night/Sunday morning, but today is day number 2,633.

And, yes, we have playfully published one more day than Cal Ripken's epic baseball games played streak of 2,632, but he played baseball day in and day out and we write about sports, here. There's a big difference -- and we know that.

I honestly didn't set out to publish 2,633 days in a row. Or maybe I did, actually. I mean, it's called "Drew's Morning Dish", which suggests it comes out in the morning. And while it doesn't say "every morning", the implication is there that we publish something new every morning.

I have no idea when the day will come when, for whatever reason, we don't publish a new edition of Drew's Morning Dish. I'm hoping it's a technical error that we can't overcome and that we're right back at it the very next day. But I'll let God handle all of that and I'll just keep publishing until I don't.

The three guys who have rescued me the most over the years are George McDowell, Tony Young and Mike Herb. All three of them have handled an emergency call (or three) from me along the way, frantically trying to figure out something that's gone wrong with the main #DMD computer. Without those three, Cal's streak is safe today.

The corporate partners here, from day one until now, are the very reason why #DMD exists. I hope -- if you haven't already -- that you peruse the various ads and images you see on the website today and patronize one, two, three or as many of those businesses as you can. When I first set out to create #DMD, my one main premise was that it would always be free. I understand the New York Times and Washington Post have a much different business model than this website, but nothing chaps me more than seeing a story I want to read and then getting blocked by their paywall.

On August 25, 2014, I said "#DMD will always be free" and I've stayed the course on that subject. But it's only because of the various corporate partners that I've been able to do that.

And thank you, thank you, thank you to those who come here and read the website. Whether that's daily, regularly, occasionally or just once in a blue moon, you're appreciated. Thanks to those of you who take time to comment about the various stories and columns and thanks to the roughly 98% of you who follow our modest rules about posting. It's not perfect, and we still deal with the occasional nitwit, but 98% is a good number when it comes to readers who follow the rules. So, thank you for that.

So, with Cal's streak officially in the rear view mirror, who better to talk with about that than.....Cal Ripken Jr. himself. I recently got the chance to sit down with the Iron Man (the real one) and talk about his streak and the Orioles and his life in baseball. That interview will run here tomorrow.

We were blessed to do a sitdown we did with Jim Nantz this past Saturday. That interview was originally supposed to run on Sunday but we experienced some technical troubles, so it's up for you today. Please note there is a point in the inteview where we lose our connection with Jim and he goes silent for about 15 seconds. He'll be back, though.

What's next? Well, circle May 2, 2028 on your calendar. That's 5,000 consecutive days. It might be called "Ethan's Morning Dish" by then, but I hope we're still around publishing on that date.





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ravens are 6-2, ravens are 6-2, ravens are 6-2


You just have to keep repeating that to yourself over and over, right?

"The Ravens are 6-2."

You can throw in "Somehow, the Ravens are 6-2," if you like. That's fair. I mean, there record is misleading in terms of the quality of football they've played through the first 8 games. But they've played 8 games and they've won 6. That really is, as they say, "the end of the story."

These two have done a lot of winning together since mid-season, 2018.

Yesterday's game was just as bizarre as the one against Indianapolis a few weeks back or the game in Detroit earlier in the season where Justin Tucker hit the longest field goal in league history to rescue John Harbaugh's team from an embarrassing loss.

I mean, just about everything that could have gone wrong -- in every department -- went wrong, and yet they somehow still managed to win.

And I realize people like to nitpick and tear things apart, but it really does say something about the players and the coaches that they can somehow extricate themselves from these awful situations and wind up winning games we otherwise all sort of thought they were going to lose at some point in those respective games.

Offense yesterday? Not all that good, yet they somehow scored 34 points. The running backs are trying hard, and Le'Veon Bell actually had some extra steam in overtime, it seemed to me, but this group of ball carriers is woefully limited over 60 minutes. Here and there they'll do something decent, but for the most part, you're not getting much from them.

It wasn't a great day for Lamar Jackson, either, but guess what happened at the end? The Ravens won. Jackson has quietly (or loudly?) become that guy, if you will. You know, the one who makes a mistake or two in the game, does something goofy at the wrong time, then atones for it later on by -- wait for it -- helping the Ravens win. There is going to be a lot of talk in the off-season about Lamar's contract and the sense here is that the town will be very split on the subject of giving him $400 or $500 million, but there's one thing about that young man you can't debate -- he's a winner.

I don't know about you, but "he's a winner" is one of the best things any athlete can have as their label. All Lamar has done since he entered the league is win games. Go to the internet and look it up if you don't believe me.

The defense wasn't great yesterday, although it's fair to point out they did tighten up in the second half and allowed just one touchdown, albeit a late-game drive that won't look good on film this week. The same issues that have plagued the Baltimore defense were front-and-center yesterday. No pass rush, poor tackling, flimsy coverage in the secondary. Granted, Minnesota's QB-WR duo is solid, but the errors being made by the defense are seemingly piling up week after week.

And just to throw in one more "downer", the Ravens allowed a kick return for a touchdown to start the second half. So there.

But there were good moments, too.

Patrick Ricard had one Hall of Fame series in the 3rd quarter. He's developing into a silent weapon for the Ravens, when they use him.

Devin Duvernay made a Hall of Fame catch in the end zone for a touchdown. That was a legit NFL catch, folks. Very impressive.

Rashod Bateman continues to impress. When the Ravens need a first down, they go to him. Whether he ever becomes another Justin Jefferson remains to be seen, but thus far, the early returns on last April's first round pick are favorable.

Patrick Queen made a couple of noteworthy plays yesterday. The maligned 2020 first round pick was essentially benched a few weeks ago, but has rebounded nicely since then. He is, by the very definition, a work in progress. But those folks who gave up on him around week four this season might have to re-think that eventually.

And...there's Justin Tucker. You might have heard of him. He likes Royal Farms coffee and fried chicken. He even puts gas in his car at Royal Farms. Oh, and he's the guy who hit yet another game-winning field goal for the Ravens yesterday, in overtime. Yes, it was of the "chip shot" variety (for him), but it was still successful and it gave the Ravens yet another nailbiting win.

The NFL Hall of Fame has gone out of their way over the years to keep punters and kickers out of Canton. A couple of made it, but a lot of deserving "leg guys" have not and will not ever get their mustard colored jacket.

They will not be able to keep Justin Tucker out of Canton. Someday, he's going to make it. And, if you really want to stir the pot, try this on for size: he should get in on his first attempt. He's the best kicker in the history of the league and, another dirty little secret here -- it might not be all that close.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: Justin Tucker is the best Ravens player ever, in terms of his quality and skill set for his position. I'm a Ray Lewis fan, just like you. I'm a Jonathan Ogden and Ed Reed fan, just like you. But Tucker's football "quality" is better than anyone who has ever played in Baltimore. Sorry, Ray.

And, so, the Ravens now do a crash course in studying the Dolphins in advance of this Thursday night's game in Miami. "Lamar goes home", sorta-kinda. It should be over by halftime, but I'm quite certain that's what the Bills thought yesterday when they played in Jacksonville.

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#dmd comments








unitastoberry     November 29
@Herman this is just one reason I come to DMD because if you tell the truth about the NFL by virtue of your age and what you watched in a galaxy far far away you are usually not ridiculed. When you think about watching a kick off sail into the endzone with no return because they now kick from midfield and the ball is placed on the 25 not 20 and 70k people are screaming there's something very wrong about that and the game in general. At times it's a clown show but the leagues bank accounts do not indicate that. Also @ Lou that's a great story I'm going to borrow it at gatherings.

lou@palo alto     November 29
Herman makes gd points: grew up watching Unitas & all--all our focus in the fall and the games were so different than now. i play in an annual steve young/jerry rice golf tourney in the fall and several yrs ago steve told us that Brady said to him "u sld still be playing--they can't hit us any more and the middle is always open"

Stats Nerd     November 29
I think Chubb is a great running back....probably top 5-ish backs. off the top of my head: Henry, McCaffrey, Cook, Taylor...maybe Kamara. Problem is he is a running back. Position just isn't as important as it was, say 25 years ago.

John L.     November 29
Go back to Cleveland Jerry and Joe!! Your team lost last night. Get over it boys!!!!!!!!

Delray RICK     November 29
HERMAN...I can't wait til summer is over because...It's starts in SEPTEMBER and doesn't end til FEBUARY. AND we have a top team here which IS exciting EVERY YEAR. DEM OS are in the rear view mirror.

MJ     November 29
Joe P. must be smoking the good hippie lettuce if he thinks Chubb is better than Chase or Andrews (I won't put QB'S in the argument because that's silly). Chubb is basically on par with Mixon in Cincy. And if we're honest Harris in Pittsburgh could be better than both of those guys soon.

Back to the hippie lettuce Joe!!! lol

Rico     November 29
JerryH lost all credibility with the Chubb comment. I stopped reading at that point. Take his DMD card away pronto.

Joe P.     November 29
I guess we should be happy to know that JC is the be all,end all in terms of writing the list on the most talented players in the AFC north.



Chubb is a huge talent, when healthy. He gets down graded for not showing up every week.

But when he is right? On Offense, he is better than Andrews, Chase and Burrow.

I'll go with 2nd best on offense in the AFC North. He ain't better than Garret or Watt or Lamar.

Ken Diehl     November 29
Hi Drew, long time reader but first time contributor. I just wanted to applaud you for your consistently even keeled takes on the Ravens. Unlike the big columnist in town who constantly harps on the negative I enjoy coming here on Monday and reading your analysis as I know it will showcase the good and the bad from the game.



As you know all too well from being a coach yourself, how you won isn't nearly as important as people think it is. How the Ravens are winning these games doesn't matter one bit. They're winning, that's all that matters.



Keep up the good work and belated congratulations on your US Senior Open appearance last Summer. We were all living vicariously through you that week you were in Omaha.

JeffWell     November 29
I was going to write something like "Jerry H makes some valuable points but I don't understand why he has to resort to name calling." But then I saw his take on Weinman, and now I believe that we could be best friends!



Also, though I'm not a conspiracy theorist, the officiating throughout the league is so poor, that you certainly can understand the genesis of said theories.

HERMAN     November 29
I realize why I'm addicted to pro football but for the life of me I can't understand why anyone under 35 growing up in the digital age watches the horrendous product they put out in the NFL. Teams are watered down with a lack of talent that doesn't stretch past five or six truly quality football players. The current rules and regulations have taken all "contact" out of a contact sport. Referee calls make little to no sense and overly impact the games. We watch calls and even reviews that make no sense and then are told by league toady announcers that our own eyes have lied to us, what we just saw played over, and over again isn't what we saw. For every Wow! moment we watch thirty to forty plays of ineptness and klutzy Keystone Cops performance that is difficult to sit through. With the exception of maybe 4 teams mediocrity rules, and the bulk of the league is 500 from bad teams playing each other over, and over. The NFL product of today is a bad reality show that plays from early morning to late at night, and we watch it all, all day long.

I grew up with 1960's football, came of age with 1970's football, had season tickets to the Colts and Ravens, and pro ball is so intertwined with my childhood and Sundays I'm an addict, incapable of turning the horrible nonsense they vend today off. I don't want to surrender whole days to it, but it's ingrained in me, like breathing, I can't live a Sunday without it in the Fall.

But man it's a bad product. Breathe on a QB it's 15 yards. Good God, They broke Johnny's nose and he stuffed dirt into it and kept playing. They tried to maim him in the pile. It was a vicious game, go to Youtube and watch any Dick Butkus highlight reels.

This awful stuff today, it isn't even related to that. Yet I can't turn away. I'm an addict, but how anyone under 40 got addicted to the horrible stuff they've watched is beyond me. It must be this "Fantasy" thing I've heard about. It can't be the actual games.

JC     November 29
Have to agree with Larry, Chubb isn't close to the 2nd best player in the division.

1. Lamar

2. Garrett

3. Watt

4. Burrow

5. Chase

6. Fitzpatrick

7. Andrews

There's the top 7. Chubb nowhere to be found so far.

Jason M     November 29
@RC Stadium was pretty damn packed last night. These Sunday night games are not easy for any of us that have to get kids on the bus and head off to work the next day - but overall I thought the crowd was pumped and there were very few empty seats. Did not like the wrist band thing - gimmicky and a lot of waste.

Larry     November 29
Chubb the 2nd best player in the AFC North?

@JerryH still hitting that Thanksgiving wine a little too much apparently.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Jerry Agree fans and commentators generally focus too much on sack numbers. Hurries and pressures more generally are far more important to focus on and are believed to be more predictive of future success getting to the QB than simply looking at raw sack totals.

Might do my column on this this week. Unless there is something others would prefer to focus on.

JerryH     November 29
Very simple defensive game plan. Stop the run. Chubb is the 2nd best player in the division. And Hunt has top 3 body lean NFL talent. So what do the morons complain about? That Landry was running wild in the space vacated by the linebackers crowding the line. Huh?

Ancillary to the stop the run focus. I'd posit that the Ravens decided (guessed?) that Mayfield was too beat up to hurt them in two areas, the roll outs that he does well on and the deep ball. He had 250 yards mostly between the 30's, which in this era is what you want. But not the "expert" class, who time and time again prove that they don't understand the reality of an offensive era. Ravens are a bit geared to being anachronistic. They are really old school on defensive line play. As crazy as Winks scheming is, there is very little free lancing going on. You gotta follow the rules. So guys like Weinman(the most ignorant media member in town on athletic endeavors and understanding of what real athletes and coaches do) will moan that the team doesn't get enough sacks. Well, the pressure on Mayfield was everything last night. 3 sacks? Not a staggering number for fantasy freaks. But getting an injured guy off his spot when he couldn't do designed roll outs was the major factor in the win.

Again the refs in New York and those on the field prove that the millions that is spent on them is a waste. The 4th INT was a farce. The TD allowed was 80/20 that it wasn't a catch. Of course people should be upset, but the issue remains and evidence is pointing to calls comming in on the headsets of the Refs from "somewhere". The most outrageous call of the night was the late holding call on Powers on the Freeman cutback run. 100% designed to give the Browns a chance. The Ravens were slamming the ball down the throat of the exhausted Browns defense.

Remember Rule Number 1.

1. The NFL, above all other rules is a television show. It follows a formula. The games aren't fixed, but they must be viewed in the prism as being entertainment.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Eric also everyone rightfully points to the Forsberg trade as a debacle but the Caps absolutely made up for it in the Oshie deal. Given that he was an integral part of the Cup run I think it's fair to call it a wash. Ofc Forsberg is 6 or 7 years younger with a longer runway so this calculus will likely change.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Eric Yeah my recollection was that in the Oates/Trotz years a lot of guys were blocked playing minutes and developing particularly on D. But looking back over the stats that doesn't seem to actually be the case. I was thinking particularly of Nate Schmidt along with some lesser caliber players like Djoos, Chorney, Sanford, and even Stephenson in some playoff series. The teams always seemed a little slow but weren't consistently putting these players in.

Either my memory differs from reality or maybe these players were scratched at particularly important times. But maybe I overstated it.

Even last year when they signed Lundqvist they may not have known what they had in VV (tbf I think that was a reasonable signing if Henrik was going to play ~20 games or whatever).

Chris in Bel Air     November 29
Hey, they are 8-3 somehow. That's all that matters. It was the D last night that shined the most. They knew Baker was hobbling and that he was not able to move around well to avoid the pressure so they picked opportune times to get on him quickly and force him to throw early. The D also did a great job containing Chubb and Hunt and that is not an easy task. I'm a little a worried about this weekend up in Pitt. They are going to be ticked off after that whoopin yesterday.

I'm happy for Gausman but I think he is going to quickly remember that pitching in the AL East is not the same as pitching in the NL.

JOHN     November 29
After what happened to the Steelers yesterday. I'm guessing Steeler Steve will choose to remain a "silent observer" today and not find the Ravens and fans or his name for them "ratbirds" so "hilarious".

unitastoberry     November 29
The W is still the most important stat.

But as a fan of 50+ years I notice things which amaze me. You take the advantage the offense has in the game today and yet you still get qbs like last night who both laid eggs on national tv while playing for the Mahomes type contracts. The Ravens are in first place at the start of December with running backs who if not for the devasting injuries to this team that seem to continue even in non contact practices would be home watching on tv and checking on their investments. Add to this an offensive line without any quality tackles and mediocre at best every place else. The D did their job without Campbell and a secondary that is a bunch of second and third stringers with a few rejects. All this adds up to getting Harbs a bit closer to coach of the year. On to Stiller land where the Iron City Beer is becoming a bit stale.

Delray RICK     November 29
4 interceptions AND THE RAVENS STILL WON!!! GAUSMAN makes big deal $$$$.

al smith     November 28
What could be better than betting real money on free advice?? Sounds like a sound financial strategy to me.

MFC     November 28
Well, I love optimism and certainly the site owner has a full tank, unfortunately the tank is low in $$$$$.The builder is accepting other jobs worrying a foreclosure is within sight. Thirty games plus playoffs to get straightened out but the hole is being dug and it's not for that basement that no one has in Dewey.



Out mythical $1,000/game summary.

YTD ($1700)

Today

2 wins= $2,000

3 losses= ($3,300) ( admittedly the Minnesota game was written in such a way I wasn't totally sure what the bet was but either way they lost)

total= ($1300)



YTD Total= ($3,000)


Tim Perry     November 28
Thanks Drew and Paul! I played both of your top plays and won enough for Xmas! You two rock!

Delray RICK     November 28
MFC will a calculator to add this up.


Greg     November 28
At 4 pm today Nestor went online and asked if he could stop by someone's tailgate tonight and "eat your food and drink your beer".



It's 5:45 pm and he's had zero replies or invites.



Now that's funny.

Ron W.     November 28
Drew and Paul both off to good starts today. I admit to throwing a few bucks on their wagers today. So far so good.

RC     November 28
Oh boy, we're going to get the whole "how come no one goes to Ravens games any more?" diatribe tomorrow. Wonder if there will be any new reasons for this, or lather, rinse, repeat??

Titus     November 28
As a long time UM hoops fan I can say this without hesitation. The only player on MD's current roster that would play at Michigan State is Donta Scott. And he would be the 7th guy for Izzo. MD's talent is woefully lacking. Turgeon's a decent coach but he's not beating Izzo or Howard with this group of players.

Chuck P     November 28
Terps got better? They have a 6’11” center and got 2 (count ‘em 2) offensive rebounds. When you shoot 30% somebody needs to get under the boards. Very disappointed with this team so far.

Billy     November 28
@Eric is 100% correct. Its like stock market experts - if someone truly knows "how to beat the market", why they gonna tell other people?

And certainly not gonna tell you "for free".

unitastoberry     November 28
Your going to need super Lamar and a sea of hands that catch and run today. Fast start required too.

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 28
I love gambling but I'm sorry if you take money to promote gambling I don't know how they look themselves in the mirror. The phrase the house always wins isn't an exaggeration. You are promoting people to become homeless and penniless and in some cases turn to crime to try and cover their debts. And newsflash: touts don't exist. If someone really had the inside dirt to win all the time you really think they gonna share it with YOU?

kevin     November 28
Brown-Quinnipiac?? If that does not tell you how pervasive gambling has become in the world of sports, nothing does.

Pete Rose is now saying wait, all this is ok now?? lol

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 28
Stats nerd: who have the Caps really had the last 10 years youth wise to play? The hideous Forsberg trade was pretty much the end of young guns era but the development of Wilson Kuz and Carlson allowed Caps window to stay open longer than Chi and LA's did. As for Ravens this is as Jay Gruden once declared- a red alert game. With games at Pit and Cle next the division and season could slip away with a loss. This is a game where Lamar needs to be the story. Thankfully Schefter reports Hollywood will play barring pregame setback

Steve of Pimlico     November 28
Hopefully this will be Harbaugh family sweep but the Browns look awfully tough tonight with all if our injuries.

As far as gambling is concerned anytime humans are involved,chicanery will appear.

Stats Nerd     November 27
The Caps have been slow to bring youth into the lineup over the last 10-12 years. They’ve had very few spots to fit them but even when they could have their default has been to sign guys like Gudas or Chara. It’s been frustrating in the past but this injury bug has forced their hands a bit. Think it pays off for them long term as well. I would not have expected that to be the case even 3 months ago

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 27
Lamar has had his best games against Cle.... why? Garrett 1 1/2 sacks the last 6 match ups total. Sadly Stanley and Brown will not be here to continue that. If Calais and Williams don't play Cle will run for 150+

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 27
Another big loss for Turge? Shocking. Thankfully they are irrelevant, didn't even know they were playing today. Tried to tell Drew that the Gretzky record is a lock barring catastrophic injury. He will be at least at 780 with 4 years to get 115 goals. As for the Caps gotta love Protas being on the top line and playing well and Feheravy being top line D. Samsonov first Caps goalie ever to get a point in first 9 starts but as Alan May pointed out the team MVP so far is Kuznetsov. 4th in the league in scoring AND dominating on the PK, without Backstrom and Eller his play has been vital. Still think Caps core is too old to go far in the playoffs with IMO the 3 best teams in the league in the East: TB, Car, Fla. Meanwhile nice bounce back for the suddenly struggling Wiz last night in Memphis. Plenty of nice stories to distract from incompetent hopefully soon to be fired Turgeon. As for Ravens it's not looking good. Not only is Cleveland finally healthy but I don't see how Ravens stop Garrett on D and Chubb and Hunt on O. Gonna take a Lamar miracle.

RC     November 27
Dale is 0-1 on the year.

Chris in Bel Air     November 27
@Tom J - Agree! And yes Ovie is on fire too. It has been a welcomed surprise to see the Caps off to a great start while not having Backstrom, Oshie and Mantha. Some of the younger players like Fehevary, Leason and McMichael are blending in nicely and they are getting some surprise contributions from players like Hathaway. Also, Samsonov and Vanacek have been solid in the goal.

Tom J     November 27
The Caps are on fire!!! And they have done this without Backstrom, Mantha and Oshie to name a few. Hopefully when they all come back with less wear and tear this year, that will pay off down the road.

Hal     November 27
Welcome back Dale!

Hey, what happened to John Darcey? I haven't seen anything from him for a couple of weeks now.

Conway     November 26
Here's what I can't understand about the Turgeon haters. If the team went 9-21, 11-20 and 14-18, I could understand the griping and complaining. As someone pointed out, they're always competitive in the Big 10 and they've made the tourney every year but one since MT took over. People act like Maryland is Towson University. Imagine being a supporter of that program. Then you would have a real reason to gripe.



Happy Thanksgiving (belated) to every one in DMD land!

Rich     November 26
Agree with those who applaud @DF for his column about Loyola Blakefield. Respect!

Art     November 26
Drew and Chris in Bel Air making complete sense today. At least someone in the DMV gets it.

MK     November 26
Nice of you to recognize Loyola's win over Calvert Hall yesterday. You're a true gentleman.

Victor Pirini     November 26
Thank you for the video in the Faith section today!

God is great!

I appreciate you sharing that with your readers.



Philippians 4:6-7

Dons Dad     November 26
Thank you, Drew, for your kind words about Loyola's performance yesterday. It speaks volumes about you that you recognize the Dons despite your understood allegiance to Calvert Hall. Thank you.

Saturday
November 6, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2631


we need occasional reminders


This has been a wild week in sports.

I'm always confused by this, but doesn't the week actually start on Sunday? I thought that's what Miss Wells said in first grade back at Glendale Elementary School in 1970 but I could be wrong. I'm sure the internet would tell me right now if I went to Google for the info, but it's not that important.

If the week did start on Sunday, then things got wild right out of the gate when the Bengals lost to the Jets after beating the dickens out of the Ravens in Baltimore one week before.

Editor's note: OK, I couldn't keep going without checking it. In the United States and Canada, Sunday is considered to be the start of the week, which is why calendars show it as such. God Bless Miss Wells.

Joe Burrow and the Bengals couldn't beat the lowly Jets last Sunday.

So the week got off to a wacky start on the football field. How on earth could the Bengals lose to the Jets? Easy answer: It's sports.

And, let's be honest, they're the Bengals. They're improving, yes. They could be a force to be reckoned with in the AFC North in the years to come. But, at least for now, they're still the Bengals and they're still capable of doing stuff like going to New York to face a team with one win and.....losing.

The other reminder from last Sunday is just how narrow the margin is for success in the NFL. Or any sport, really.

About 75% of the teams in every league are good. 15% of the teams are head-and-shoulders-better-than-everyone-else. And 10% of the teams are really bad that year, for whatever reason(s). Now, it's true that perhaps the Bengals (one of the 75%) were facing one of the 10% (Jets) and, therefore, shouldn't have lost, but it's still sports and the other team still tries and the other coaches still don't sleep for five days to try and figure out a way to win their next game.

For those wondering, I'm not really prepping you for tomorrow's Ravens-Minnesota game in Baltimore. Not really. Well, OK, maybe I am, sorta-kinda. I don't see the Ravens losing tomorrow, mind you, but because both teams fall in the 75% category in the NFL -- right now, anyway -- I see the game tomorrow as one of those that either team could win and you'd say, "Yeah, I guess that's to be expected."

Just remember the other teams have players on scholarship as well. They all watch the same game film that your favorite players and coaches watch. It's sports. You're not supposed to be able to figure it out. If you could, you'd have a much bigger house than you currently have and your fleet of cars in the garage would be far more expensive than your current group.

The reminder: That's why they play the game. Anything can happen.


The Henry Ruggs III story out of Las Vegas is, without question, one of the most tragic events -- sports wise -- of the last decade.

A young woman on her way to work at Target was struck in her vehicle by Ruggs' car, which apparently was traveling at 127 miles-per-hour at impact. That, in and of itself, is terrible. But Ruggs, operating a vehicle at a speed that was entirely unsafe and reckless, was apparently also under the influence of alcohol.

Ex-Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III faces up to 40 years in prison after last Tuesday's car accident in Las Vegas.

Not that he deserves to "wiggle out of it", but there's no way Ruggs is going to be able to wiggle out of this one. It would be entirely different -- lawyer wise, that is -- if Ruggs was drinking and going, say, 55 in a 45 MPH zone. Or, if, say, Ruggs' alcohol level was .09 instead of .16.

In those two situations, Ruggs' attorney would say, "My client was wrong, your honor, but it wasn't like he was recklessly and dangerously wrong. He made a mistake. He went 10 miles over the speed limit." Or, "My client was wrong, your honor, but he had one drink too many that pushed him from .06 to .09." In either of those cases, a judge might be a tad more accommodating than in the current situation.

Ruggs was driving a car at 156 MPH. And, not that this matters to any of us, but it surely might matter to the judge: He also had someone in the vehicle with him. There's another strike against the ex-Raiders wide receiver, not that one was needed. And Ruggs' alcohol level was .16.

The website "PreventionLane.org" says, at .16, the person in question experiences "nausea, high anxiety, is "sloppy drunk" and could pass out." Yikes. Those are tough conditions sitting in your living room, let alone driving a car. At 156 MPH.

Ruggs' career is over. Unless something really, really strange happens when he gets his day in court, Ruggs is going to prison and he won't get out in time to re-establish his football career. More importantly, of course, he could spend the next 10-40 years in prison after new charges were brought forward yesterday.

Then there's the whole other side of the story: his friends and family rushing to his side and offering their support. Social media exploded earlier this week when Ruggs' teammate, Derek Carr, said, "I don't know what's going to happen with Henry, but I know this. If he needs me I'm going to be there for him. I love the guy. I'll help however I can."

Others in his world, football and otherwise, have pledged the same support for Ruggs. They, too, have been chastised by others who, apparently, think Ruggs no longer deserves support or accommodation.

What Henry Ruggs III did was incredibly awful and wrong and he deserves whatever punishment the Nevada court deems fitting for him. I think we all agree on that.

But there's also nothing at all wrong with showing Ruggs empathy and support in what is certainly the worst thing that could have or will have ever happened to him in this life of his. He would, as I'm sure he'll tell the court some day, take it all back if he could somehow do that. But he can't.

That said, I applaud Derek Carr for standing up this week and telling the world he still loves Henry Ruggs III and he's still there to support him.

In John 8:7, Jesus tells a group of men who are in the village court to scorn a woman accused of adultery: "The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her."

The reminder: Humans make mistakes. Terrible mistakes, even. And while there are occasional punishments that must coincide with those mistakes, the offenders still deserve to be loved. They need the chance to redeem themselves.


Aaron Rodgers is in the news, in case you haven't noticed. And he reminds me of an old saying: The only way Aaron can say less is by speaking more.

Rodgers is going to miss this Sunday's big game in Kansas City because he tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday. We wrote about that subject here on Thursday and, like most of you, we're pretty much exhausted with the whole coronavirus discussion. It's here, it's not leaving anytime soon, and we all just have to continue doing whatever we think is "right" in order to help mitigate its spread.

Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers will miss this Sunday's game after testing positive for Covid-19 earlier this week.

But we're past that now with Rodgers, thanks in part to a 46-minute radio interview on Friday where he fully explained his vaccination status and, at the same time, caused a stir with a number of other comments he made.

We're on to another angle of the story: Is Aaron Rodgers nuts?

That answer, of course, depends on what side of the Covid-19 fence you're on. Rodgers proclaimed on Friday he's allergic to the ingredients in both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and that he sought an alternative "immunization treatment" over the off-season instead of the vaccine.

The NFL didn't buy the whole "immunization" story, by the way, and they listed Rodgers as "unvaccinated" at the start of the 2021 season.

Rodgers went on to say "I believe strongly in bodily automony and the ability to make choices for your body, not to have to acquiesce to some woke culture or crazed group of individuals who say you have to do something."

The quarterback also admitted to using a "recovery cocktail" given to him by outspoken Covid-19 critic Joe Rogan, where Rodgers took zinc, vitamin-C, ivermectin and other chemicals designed to fight the virus in his body. Ivermectin has been rumored to being prescribed by doctors but is more well known for its use with horses, a fact that leads many to scoff at its value for Covid-19 treatment.

You probably know what happened once that interview started making the rounds on Friday. Rodgers got raked over the coals by pro-Covid-vaccine groups everywhere. Almost as he predicted, they came at the Green Bay quarterback with a red-hot-poker.

The biggest issue for Rodgers has been wearing a mask during post-game news conferences. He addressed that situation on Friday as well. "I think it's unnecessary for an unvaccinated player who is tested daily for Covid-19 to be forced to wear a mask in a room full of reporters who have been vaccinated and are masked. I've followed every league and team protocol to a T -- minus that one, because it makes absolutely no sense to me."

Point well taken, I guess. If you get tested for Covid-19 at 10:00 am and then go meet with reporters a few hours later and they're all wearing masks and vaccinated, what's the harm in you being unmasked around them? I mean, you apparently don't have Covid-19 and they're all masked and vaccinated so -- never mind. This whole thing is so confusing and changes by the day it's not really worth elaborating on any longer.

Rodgers is out this Sunday. He's out because he tested positive for Covid-19. And that might be OK, actually.

But the examination into his personal life and the rest of it? That might not be OK. We're getting more and more into that these days as a country, wanting to know what you think, what you believe and so on. Aaron Rodgers doesn't believe in the Covid-19 vaccination. And I get it, that's a slippery slope given the enormous death total in our country related to the virus. But does he deserve to be ridiculed for his beliefs?

The reminder: Athletes are just regular people like you and I except they play sports for a living instead of selling cars, putting up siding, painting houses or operating on people. They occasionally say smart things, not so smart things and, like the rest of us, believe what they believe based on their upbringing, their studies, their religious convictions and what they see and/or hear on television.

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#dmd comments








unitastoberry     November 29
@Herman this is just one reason I come to DMD because if you tell the truth about the NFL by virtue of your age and what you watched in a galaxy far far away you are usually not ridiculed. When you think about watching a kick off sail into the endzone with no return because they now kick from midfield and the ball is placed on the 25 not 20 and 70k people are screaming there's something very wrong about that and the game in general. At times it's a clown show but the leagues bank accounts do not indicate that. Also @ Lou that's a great story I'm going to borrow it at gatherings.

lou@palo alto     November 29
Herman makes gd points: grew up watching Unitas & all--all our focus in the fall and the games were so different than now. i play in an annual steve young/jerry rice golf tourney in the fall and several yrs ago steve told us that Brady said to him "u sld still be playing--they can't hit us any more and the middle is always open"

Stats Nerd     November 29
I think Chubb is a great running back....probably top 5-ish backs. off the top of my head: Henry, McCaffrey, Cook, Taylor...maybe Kamara. Problem is he is a running back. Position just isn't as important as it was, say 25 years ago.

John L.     November 29
Go back to Cleveland Jerry and Joe!! Your team lost last night. Get over it boys!!!!!!!!

Delray RICK     November 29
HERMAN...I can't wait til summer is over because...It's starts in SEPTEMBER and doesn't end til FEBUARY. AND we have a top team here which IS exciting EVERY YEAR. DEM OS are in the rear view mirror.

MJ     November 29
Joe P. must be smoking the good hippie lettuce if he thinks Chubb is better than Chase or Andrews (I won't put QB'S in the argument because that's silly). Chubb is basically on par with Mixon in Cincy. And if we're honest Harris in Pittsburgh could be better than both of those guys soon.

Back to the hippie lettuce Joe!!! lol

Rico     November 29
JerryH lost all credibility with the Chubb comment. I stopped reading at that point. Take his DMD card away pronto.

Joe P.     November 29
I guess we should be happy to know that JC is the be all,end all in terms of writing the list on the most talented players in the AFC north.



Chubb is a huge talent, when healthy. He gets down graded for not showing up every week.

But when he is right? On Offense, he is better than Andrews, Chase and Burrow.

I'll go with 2nd best on offense in the AFC North. He ain't better than Garret or Watt or Lamar.

Ken Diehl     November 29
Hi Drew, long time reader but first time contributor. I just wanted to applaud you for your consistently even keeled takes on the Ravens. Unlike the big columnist in town who constantly harps on the negative I enjoy coming here on Monday and reading your analysis as I know it will showcase the good and the bad from the game.



As you know all too well from being a coach yourself, how you won isn't nearly as important as people think it is. How the Ravens are winning these games doesn't matter one bit. They're winning, that's all that matters.



Keep up the good work and belated congratulations on your US Senior Open appearance last Summer. We were all living vicariously through you that week you were in Omaha.

JeffWell     November 29
I was going to write something like "Jerry H makes some valuable points but I don't understand why he has to resort to name calling." But then I saw his take on Weinman, and now I believe that we could be best friends!



Also, though I'm not a conspiracy theorist, the officiating throughout the league is so poor, that you certainly can understand the genesis of said theories.

HERMAN     November 29
I realize why I'm addicted to pro football but for the life of me I can't understand why anyone under 35 growing up in the digital age watches the horrendous product they put out in the NFL. Teams are watered down with a lack of talent that doesn't stretch past five or six truly quality football players. The current rules and regulations have taken all "contact" out of a contact sport. Referee calls make little to no sense and overly impact the games. We watch calls and even reviews that make no sense and then are told by league toady announcers that our own eyes have lied to us, what we just saw played over, and over again isn't what we saw. For every Wow! moment we watch thirty to forty plays of ineptness and klutzy Keystone Cops performance that is difficult to sit through. With the exception of maybe 4 teams mediocrity rules, and the bulk of the league is 500 from bad teams playing each other over, and over. The NFL product of today is a bad reality show that plays from early morning to late at night, and we watch it all, all day long.

I grew up with 1960's football, came of age with 1970's football, had season tickets to the Colts and Ravens, and pro ball is so intertwined with my childhood and Sundays I'm an addict, incapable of turning the horrible nonsense they vend today off. I don't want to surrender whole days to it, but it's ingrained in me, like breathing, I can't live a Sunday without it in the Fall.

But man it's a bad product. Breathe on a QB it's 15 yards. Good God, They broke Johnny's nose and he stuffed dirt into it and kept playing. They tried to maim him in the pile. It was a vicious game, go to Youtube and watch any Dick Butkus highlight reels.

This awful stuff today, it isn't even related to that. Yet I can't turn away. I'm an addict, but how anyone under 40 got addicted to the horrible stuff they've watched is beyond me. It must be this "Fantasy" thing I've heard about. It can't be the actual games.

JC     November 29
Have to agree with Larry, Chubb isn't close to the 2nd best player in the division.

1. Lamar

2. Garrett

3. Watt

4. Burrow

5. Chase

6. Fitzpatrick

7. Andrews

There's the top 7. Chubb nowhere to be found so far.

Jason M     November 29
@RC Stadium was pretty damn packed last night. These Sunday night games are not easy for any of us that have to get kids on the bus and head off to work the next day - but overall I thought the crowd was pumped and there were very few empty seats. Did not like the wrist band thing - gimmicky and a lot of waste.

Larry     November 29
Chubb the 2nd best player in the AFC North?

@JerryH still hitting that Thanksgiving wine a little too much apparently.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Jerry Agree fans and commentators generally focus too much on sack numbers. Hurries and pressures more generally are far more important to focus on and are believed to be more predictive of future success getting to the QB than simply looking at raw sack totals.

Might do my column on this this week. Unless there is something others would prefer to focus on.

JerryH     November 29
Very simple defensive game plan. Stop the run. Chubb is the 2nd best player in the division. And Hunt has top 3 body lean NFL talent. So what do the morons complain about? That Landry was running wild in the space vacated by the linebackers crowding the line. Huh?

Ancillary to the stop the run focus. I'd posit that the Ravens decided (guessed?) that Mayfield was too beat up to hurt them in two areas, the roll outs that he does well on and the deep ball. He had 250 yards mostly between the 30's, which in this era is what you want. But not the "expert" class, who time and time again prove that they don't understand the reality of an offensive era. Ravens are a bit geared to being anachronistic. They are really old school on defensive line play. As crazy as Winks scheming is, there is very little free lancing going on. You gotta follow the rules. So guys like Weinman(the most ignorant media member in town on athletic endeavors and understanding of what real athletes and coaches do) will moan that the team doesn't get enough sacks. Well, the pressure on Mayfield was everything last night. 3 sacks? Not a staggering number for fantasy freaks. But getting an injured guy off his spot when he couldn't do designed roll outs was the major factor in the win.

Again the refs in New York and those on the field prove that the millions that is spent on them is a waste. The 4th INT was a farce. The TD allowed was 80/20 that it wasn't a catch. Of course people should be upset, but the issue remains and evidence is pointing to calls comming in on the headsets of the Refs from "somewhere". The most outrageous call of the night was the late holding call on Powers on the Freeman cutback run. 100% designed to give the Browns a chance. The Ravens were slamming the ball down the throat of the exhausted Browns defense.

Remember Rule Number 1.

1. The NFL, above all other rules is a television show. It follows a formula. The games aren't fixed, but they must be viewed in the prism as being entertainment.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Eric also everyone rightfully points to the Forsberg trade as a debacle but the Caps absolutely made up for it in the Oshie deal. Given that he was an integral part of the Cup run I think it's fair to call it a wash. Ofc Forsberg is 6 or 7 years younger with a longer runway so this calculus will likely change.

Stats Nerd     November 29
@Eric Yeah my recollection was that in the Oates/Trotz years a lot of guys were blocked playing minutes and developing particularly on D. But looking back over the stats that doesn't seem to actually be the case. I was thinking particularly of Nate Schmidt along with some lesser caliber players like Djoos, Chorney, Sanford, and even Stephenson in some playoff series. The teams always seemed a little slow but weren't consistently putting these players in.

Either my memory differs from reality or maybe these players were scratched at particularly important times. But maybe I overstated it.

Even last year when they signed Lundqvist they may not have known what they had in VV (tbf I think that was a reasonable signing if Henrik was going to play ~20 games or whatever).

Chris in Bel Air     November 29
Hey, they are 8-3 somehow. That's all that matters. It was the D last night that shined the most. They knew Baker was hobbling and that he was not able to move around well to avoid the pressure so they picked opportune times to get on him quickly and force him to throw early. The D also did a great job containing Chubb and Hunt and that is not an easy task. I'm a little a worried about this weekend up in Pitt. They are going to be ticked off after that whoopin yesterday.

I'm happy for Gausman but I think he is going to quickly remember that pitching in the AL East is not the same as pitching in the NL.

JOHN     November 29
After what happened to the Steelers yesterday. I'm guessing Steeler Steve will choose to remain a "silent observer" today and not find the Ravens and fans or his name for them "ratbirds" so "hilarious".

unitastoberry     November 29
The W is still the most important stat.

But as a fan of 50+ years I notice things which amaze me. You take the advantage the offense has in the game today and yet you still get qbs like last night who both laid eggs on national tv while playing for the Mahomes type contracts. The Ravens are in first place at the start of December with running backs who if not for the devasting injuries to this team that seem to continue even in non contact practices would be home watching on tv and checking on their investments. Add to this an offensive line without any quality tackles and mediocre at best every place else. The D did their job without Campbell and a secondary that is a bunch of second and third stringers with a few rejects. All this adds up to getting Harbs a bit closer to coach of the year. On to Stiller land where the Iron City Beer is becoming a bit stale.

Delray RICK     November 29
4 interceptions AND THE RAVENS STILL WON!!! GAUSMAN makes big deal $$$$.

al smith     November 28
What could be better than betting real money on free advice?? Sounds like a sound financial strategy to me.

MFC     November 28
Well, I love optimism and certainly the site owner has a full tank, unfortunately the tank is low in $$$$$.The builder is accepting other jobs worrying a foreclosure is within sight. Thirty games plus playoffs to get straightened out but the hole is being dug and it's not for that basement that no one has in Dewey.



Out mythical $1,000/game summary.

YTD ($1700)

Today

2 wins= $2,000

3 losses= ($3,300) ( admittedly the Minnesota game was written in such a way I wasn't totally sure what the bet was but either way they lost)

total= ($1300)



YTD Total= ($3,000)


Tim Perry     November 28
Thanks Drew and Paul! I played both of your top plays and won enough for Xmas! You two rock!

Delray RICK     November 28
MFC will a calculator to add this up.


Greg     November 28
At 4 pm today Nestor went online and asked if he could stop by someone's tailgate tonight and "eat your food and drink your beer".



It's 5:45 pm and he's had zero replies or invites.



Now that's funny.

Ron W.     November 28
Drew and Paul both off to good starts today. I admit to throwing a few bucks on their wagers today. So far so good.

RC     November 28
Oh boy, we're going to get the whole "how come no one goes to Ravens games any more?" diatribe tomorrow. Wonder if there will be any new reasons for this, or lather, rinse, repeat??

Titus     November 28
As a long time UM hoops fan I can say this without hesitation. The only player on MD's current roster that would play at Michigan State is Donta Scott. And he would be the 7th guy for Izzo. MD's talent is woefully lacking. Turgeon's a decent coach but he's not beating Izzo or Howard with this group of players.

Chuck P     November 28
Terps got better? They have a 6’11” center and got 2 (count ‘em 2) offensive rebounds. When you shoot 30% somebody needs to get under the boards. Very disappointed with this team so far.

Billy     November 28
@Eric is 100% correct. Its like stock market experts - if someone truly knows "how to beat the market", why they gonna tell other people?

And certainly not gonna tell you "for free".

unitastoberry     November 28
Your going to need super Lamar and a sea of hands that catch and run today. Fast start required too.

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 28
I love gambling but I'm sorry if you take money to promote gambling I don't know how they look themselves in the mirror. The phrase the house always wins isn't an exaggeration. You are promoting people to become homeless and penniless and in some cases turn to crime to try and cover their debts. And newsflash: touts don't exist. If someone really had the inside dirt to win all the time you really think they gonna share it with YOU?

kevin     November 28
Brown-Quinnipiac?? If that does not tell you how pervasive gambling has become in the world of sports, nothing does.

Pete Rose is now saying wait, all this is ok now?? lol

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 28
Stats nerd: who have the Caps really had the last 10 years youth wise to play? The hideous Forsberg trade was pretty much the end of young guns era but the development of Wilson Kuz and Carlson allowed Caps window to stay open longer than Chi and LA's did. As for Ravens this is as Jay Gruden once declared- a red alert game. With games at Pit and Cle next the division and season could slip away with a loss. This is a game where Lamar needs to be the story. Thankfully Schefter reports Hollywood will play barring pregame setback

Steve of Pimlico     November 28
Hopefully this will be Harbaugh family sweep but the Browns look awfully tough tonight with all if our injuries.

As far as gambling is concerned anytime humans are involved,chicanery will appear.

Stats Nerd     November 27
The Caps have been slow to bring youth into the lineup over the last 10-12 years. They’ve had very few spots to fit them but even when they could have their default has been to sign guys like Gudas or Chara. It’s been frustrating in the past but this injury bug has forced their hands a bit. Think it pays off for them long term as well. I would not have expected that to be the case even 3 months ago

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 27
Lamar has had his best games against Cle.... why? Garrett 1 1/2 sacks the last 6 match ups total. Sadly Stanley and Brown will not be here to continue that. If Calais and Williams don't play Cle will run for 150+

Eric in Gaithersburg     November 27
Another big loss for Turge? Shocking. Thankfully they are irrelevant, didn't even know they were playing today. Tried to tell Drew that the Gretzky record is a lock barring catastrophic injury. He will be at least at 780 with 4 years to get 115 goals. As for the Caps gotta love Protas being on the top line and playing well and Feheravy being top line D. Samsonov first Caps goalie ever to get a point in first 9 starts but as Alan May pointed out the team MVP so far is Kuznetsov. 4th in the league in scoring AND dominating on the PK, without Backstrom and Eller his play has been vital. Still think Caps core is too old to go far in the playoffs with IMO the 3 best teams in the league in the East: TB, Car, Fla. Meanwhile nice bounce back for the suddenly struggling Wiz last night in Memphis. Plenty of nice stories to distract from incompetent hopefully soon to be fired Turgeon. As for Ravens it's not looking good. Not only is Cleveland finally healthy but I don't see how Ravens stop Garrett on D and Chubb and Hunt on O. Gonna take a Lamar miracle.

RC     November 27
Dale is 0-1 on the year.

Chris in Bel Air     November 27
@Tom J - Agree! And yes Ovie is on fire too. It has been a welcomed surprise to see the Caps off to a great start while not having Backstrom, Oshie and Mantha. Some of the younger players like Fehevary, Leason and McMichael are blending in nicely and they are getting some surprise contributions from players like Hathaway. Also, Samsonov and Vanacek have been solid in the goal.

Tom J     November 27
The Caps are on fire!!! And they have done this without Backstrom, Mantha and Oshie to name a few. Hopefully when they all come back with less wear and tear this year, that will pay off down the road.

Hal     November 27
Welcome back Dale!

Hey, what happened to John Darcey? I haven't seen anything from him for a couple of weeks now.

Conway     November 26
Here's what I can't understand about the Turgeon haters. If the team went 9-21, 11-20 and 14-18, I could understand the griping and complaining. As someone pointed out, they're always competitive in the Big 10 and they've made the tourney every year but one since MT took over. People act like Maryland is Towson University. Imagine being a supporter of that program. Then you would have a real reason to gripe.



Happy Thanksgiving (belated) to every one in DMD land!

Rich     November 26
Agree with those who applaud @DF for his column about Loyola Blakefield. Respect!

Art     November 26
Drew and Chris in Bel Air making complete sense today. At least someone in the DMV gets it.

MK     November 26
Nice of you to recognize Loyola's win over Calvert Hall yesterday. You're a true gentleman.

Victor Pirini     November 26
Thank you for the video in the Faith section today!

God is great!

I appreciate you sharing that with your readers.



Philippians 4:6-7

Dons Dad     November 26
Thank you, Drew, for your kind words about Loyola's performance yesterday. It speaks volumes about you that you recognize the Dons despite your understood allegiance to Calvert Hall. Thank you.

Friday
November 5, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2630


friday stuff


Well, things are a little crazy with the Phoenix Suns right now.

The team? Oh, they're doing fine. The Suns, who made it to the NBA Finals last season, are off to a 4-3 start. Nothing to see there. They'll be a Western Conference playoff team come next April. All good on the court.

But...off the court. Not so good.

If you haven't yet heard about it, you will. ESPN.com published a scathing, eye-opening story on Thursday at 12 noon, chronicling some wildly inappopriate behavior by Suns majority owner Robert Sarver. You're welcome to go to the ESPN website and check it out for yourself. We try our best not to link their stuff here since, well, I'm still waiting for ESPN to link #DMD on their front page.

Phoenix Suns majority owner Robert Sarver is under investigation by the NBA after an ESPN.com article was published on Thursday detailing a toxic work environment in Phoenix.

But the story is easy to locate if you want to find it. And strictly from a journalism standpoint, ESPN senior writer Baxter Holmes knocked it out of the park. We all might read it and have differing opinions on the validity of the charges raised against Robert Sarver, but there's no denying that Holmes gave everyone a fair shot in the piece. It's one of the best things ESPN.com has done in a long time, in terms of giving the folks involved ample opportunity to defend themselves against the allegations presented in the story.

I saw on social media yesterday several references to "hit job" as people read the story and then offered their reaction.

Let's get this straight right from the opening tip-off. The story about Robert Sarver was in no way a journalistic "hit job". It was thorougly researched and anyone mentioned or referenced was given the opportunity to be quoted if they so choose to do so. A "hit job" would have been a story where Sarver and others were the highlight of the piece but weren't given the chance to explain themselves.

The story is awful. If Sarver is indeed guilty of the allegations against him, he can no longer own the Phoenix Suns. It's really that simple. An owner of any business could no longer own that business if the charges against Sarver were replicated at a restaurant, roofing company, law firm and so on.

At the root of it are several instances of Sarver using the "n-word" or brushing up too closely against sensitive topics involving African-American players with team officials and executives, dating back to as early as 2004. Even recently, Sarver used the word with his head coach and other front office staffers.

Sarver, it's worth noting -- for those of you who don't find the story and read it -- has essentially denied everything in the story through his legal team. There are other instances of general inappropriate behavior in the story as well, like Sarver passing around a photo of his wife in a bikini and commenting to staff members about the couple's sex life. While that's also uncalled for in the workplace, those incidents seem trivial in comparison to the racially-charged environment Sarver apparently both produced and approved of in Phoenix.

Someone on social media yesterday asked "If it's been so bad in Phoenix and he was using the n-word in 2016, why is it all just now coming out in 2021?"

That does seem like a fair question, but one for which I don't think I have an answer. The general thought looking back on it now is that the coach in Phoenix (at the time, Earl Watson, who is Black and Hispanic) was not in a position to challenge Sarver publicly. The coach apparently did tell Sarver not to use the n-word in front of him, but that's as far as the the challenge went.

Five years later, though, the story has erupted. The NBA is now investigating both Sarver and the toxic workplace environment in Phoenix and the casual wager here is that all of this is eventually going to lead to Sarver being asked/forced to sell his majority ownership in the franchise.

As it should, of course.

It never ceases to amaze me how people throw around the n-word -- yes, even in 2021 -- and assume it's acceptable. Robert Sarver, if the allegations in the story are true, thought it was more than acceptable. It's hard to understand, for sure.

Meanwhile, kudos to Baxter Holmes for authoring one of the best (or worst?) sports stories of 2021. It was executed with both great investigating and great writing, something you don't see much of these days.


If what the Orioles are doing now means anything next season, it would appear Adley Rutschman is in their plans for opening day in the major leagues.

The Orioles outrighted Pedro Severino to Norfolk on Thursday, removing him from the team's 40-man roster and leaving a glaring opening at the catcher position. Severino will likely catch on elsewhere, but if he doesn't, he'll certainly be part of the team's camp in Sarasota next spring and could always serve as a back-up in Baltimore in 2022.

In Baltimore next spring? We'll know fairly soon.

But Severino's demotion likely means one thing: Rutschman is coming north next March.

Or, at the very least, that's what you would surmise from the news about Severino on Thursday.

The question looming is this: Will the Orioles confirm Rutschman is going to be with the team next spring in order to bump off-season ticket sales or will they wait until next spring to do that? And then there's this, which is worth asking even though it seems like dirty pool: Will the O's give the opening day catching job to Austin Wynns or to a journeyman of some kind at the opening of the season, make Rutschman spend the first month and a half in Norfolk, and then bring him up to avoid the first year of his service time?

Let's also remember this: No free agent catcher worth his salt -- or even someone only worth a little bit of salt -- isn't going to sign in Baltimore this winter. He and his agent both know Rutschman's on the way at some point soon. Why deal with that in Baltimore? Austin Wynns might be happy about all of these developments because, if nothing else, his back-up role seems fairly secure moving forward.

All of the options connected to Rutschman seem to be in play. It is, after all, the Orioles we're talking about here. They've never been great at telling their fan base what's going on.

Rutschman in Baltimore to start the season would be awesome. And, yes, I do think there are some people who might plunk down money for a mini-plan who otherwise wouldn't have done that just to have first dibs on opening day seats for the catcher's major league debut. I might even be one of those people.

Rutschman in May wouldn't be bad, either, but is that really the way the Orioles want to start their meaningful-relationship-years with him? Sure, other teams do it, which would be the line Mike Elias would use with Rutschman and his agent when they tell him he's going to toil in Norfolk for six weeks or so to start the season. But just because your cousin sneaks a drink out of dad's vodka, does that mean you have to do it, too? The Orioles would be best served to not mess around with Rutschman. If he's indeed "the future", treat him as such.

Thursday's news about Severino put the wheels in motion. The Orioles are pretty much an afterthought in these parts until mid-February at least, unless they were to sign a significant free-agent or two, which seems pretty unlikely. But at the very least, the prospect of Rutschman starting the 2022 campaign in Baltimore might be enough meat for local baseball fans to chew on over the next four months.

This Orioles enthusiast is certainly interested in seeing how the Rutschman situation plays out, that's for sure.


The U.S. men's soccer team released their 25-man roster for the next two-game cycle of World Cup qualifying games on Thursday and the roster is a little bit puzzling.

Veterans Paul Arriola, Cristan Roldan and Sebastian Lletget are part of the 25-man group, while forward Matthew Hoppe and defender John Brooks were left out. Brooks apparently has fallen out of favor with head coach Gregg Berhalter and with Mexico (at home next Friday) and Jamaica (away, Nov. 16) on the upcoming docket, Berhalter opted for speed over experience when it came to the decision on Brooks.

DeAndre Yedlin, who has been in and out of Berhalter's lineup over the last two years, was named to the 25-man squad and will likely start against Mexico in order to match-up with the quick pace employed by El Tri.

But it's Berhalter's on-going fasciation with veterans Arriola, Roldan and Lletget that has U.S. soccer supporters scratching their heads.

All three are capable players, of course. It's not like they're chopped liver. But all three are also limited in what they can and can't do. Arriola, for example, is a workhorse on the wing who will also accept and play out his defensive responsibilities. But it's unlikely he'll be a goal scoring threat unless something wacky happens and he finds a ball at his feet in the goal box. He's just not a playmaker kind of guy.

Roldan is decent enough on the ball, but like Arriola, unlikely to involve himself much from a creative standpoint. He's a good insurance policy on free kicks and corner kicks in the event Christian Pulisic isn't 100% and can't play all 90 minutes, and if that's the sole reason why Berhalter opted to keep him on the roster this time around, that's understandable. But Roldan's role within the game itself is pretty limited.

The same goes for Lletget, who has seen extensive playing time under Berhalter. Good player and all, but nothing more than that. And in games against teams like Mexico and Jamaica, his pace and touch on the ball will be showcased in a big way. It remains to be seen if he -- or either of the other two -- start in the upcoming two games, but if they do, you can expect to hear some loud howling from U.S. soccer fans.

Meanwhile, the addition of Pulisic to the roster was indeed a welcomed sight. He missed the previous 3-game cycle with an injury suffered in the opening 3-games and just recently got back into the Chelsea lineup in the English Premier League. The top offensive player for Berhalter, Pulisic must be close to 100% or he wouldn't have been added to the roster for the upcoming two games. Both Mexico and Jamaica are physical teams who will no doubt try and go after Pulisic every time he touches the ball.

Our soccer writer, Randy Morgan, will have plenty more on the games next week here at #DMD. As always, a win at home and, at the very least, a tie on the road, will be what the Americans are looking for. Four points in any direction...that's the goal.

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faith in sports


meet carson wentz


On the heels of last night's Colts 45-30 win over the Jets, today seems like a great day to profile one of the NFL's top quarterbacks, Carson Wentz.

Wentz is one of the league's more well publicized Christian athletes and his message below in the 4-minute video is a great one for everyone to absorb, no matter what you do for a living.

Thanks, as always, to our friends at Freestate Electrical for their continued support of our Friday "Faith in Sports" segment here at #DMD.



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Thursday
November 4, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2629


wanna bet? you can't


This is, of course, completely expected in our great state of Maryland.

While states all around us are enjoying the windfall associated with legalized sports betting, Maryland and our fabulous government officials are dragging their feet. You can drive to Delaware and bet on this Sunday's Ravens-Minnesota game. In fact, a lot of people from Bel Air, Towson and White Marsh will do just that.

Editor's note: Our state government officials aren't really all that "fabulous". That was sarcasm.

In September, New Jersey raked in $1 billion in sports betting revenue. That's $1 with a "B". $1 billion.

Maryland is apparently slow to authorize the sports betting licenses because they're consulting with casino owners, who are naturally balking at the addition of legalized sports gambling in the state. Oddly, the casino owners weren't balking fifteen years ago when the horse racing folks in the state were worried that casino games would potentially detract from horse wagering. #clownshoes

Horse racing might be a bad comparison because the industry was fading away a decade ago and casino gambling didn't have much, if anything, to do with it. But the fact remains casino owners are petrified of sports gambling impacting their business the same way horse folks argued that casino gambling would damage thoroughbred racing and gambling, both "live" and at off-track facilities.

So Maryland continues to plod along, going nowhere, and acting like their due diligence is a good thing.

Our state's nothing if not, well, "methodical", let's say. You might have another word for it. "Corrupt" could possibly fit. "Not forward thinking" has potential (that's three words, actually). "Afraid to make progress" is a good one (four words).

No matter what you might think, the mere fact that you can drive to Delaware and bet on the NBA, NHL and NFL today but can't do that in Maryland is a joke. Someday down the road, you're going to be able to bet on anything and everything right from your smart phone. In fact, "smart states" are already allowing it in some capacity. You can either jump ahead of everyone and incorporate that now or wait until 2028 and be behind the times.

Take a guess where Maryland will be in 2028 while the rest of the country is betting on sports from their phone.

Gambling is going to touch everyone who likes, supports or is associated with sports.

You want a good long term investment? Start buying stock in internet provider companies. You know, the ones who will be tasked with intergrating wireless connectivity into stadiums and arenas that actually works for everyone in the place. Once you can start betting on what the next play will be or who will score the next run or whether the next 3-pointer is made or missed, you better believe the wi-fi in the place better be flawless.

Whether you personally approve of gambling or don't, it's here. It's not going anywhere. And it's actually booming to heights we've not yet seen.

I like gambling, but more as a spectator than a participant. I've seen way too many things happen along the way over the last 40 years to not have a certain level of distrust in the role gambling plays in major sports in our country. The only gambling I actually enjoy participating in is when I control it. Which is to say, I like gambling on myself. That way, I know who to blame when I'm paying out at day's end.

But I also see the merits in legalizing gambling and allowing for profits to flow into the state of Maryland in the same way lottery profits have filled the state's coffers. I can honestly say I've probably purchased a dozen lottery tickets in my time. It's just not my thing. But I wouldn't ever say "We shouldn't have a lottery!" just because I don't play the numbers every night.

Editor's note: Now Keno...that's a different story. 11-21-55. Go play those three numbers yourself today and send me a bottle of Silver Oak when you hit a few times in one hour. But I digress.

People are going to wager on sports. They've been doing it forever, like it or not. That doesn't mean you have to wager on sports, but it does mean you have to understand others are going to do it and many will do it with great passion.

In current terms of sports gambling, you're either a state that "gets it" and figures out a way to approve it and get it going or, you're Maryland, and you're losing out on billions and billions of dollars over the course of a couple of years. New Jersey just did one billion in revenue in one month, remember.

Those 200 Baltimore City schools that don't have air conditioning? Six months of legalized sports gambling in Maryland and everyone's classroom will be 68 degrees in May, June and September, which are traditionally the three hot months of the school calendar.

We probably won't gamble like they do in New Jersey, mind you, because they have a lot more people from which to draw, but the folks in Bel Air and Towson and Glen Burnie won't be buzzing up to Delaware Park to place their sports bets if Maryland can get its act together.

"Maryland" and "get its act together" -- words you don't often hear or see colliding in the same sentence.

And with good reason, I might add.


Two quarterbacks were in the news on Wednesday. First, Aaron Rodgers will miss this Sunday's game vs. Kansas City because of a positive Covid-19 test on Wednesday morning. I don't even know what to say about this any longer. It's so out of whack and confusing that I don't know where to begin.

When the country stopped on a dime in March of 2020, we went into a two month hibernation period while "smart" (in quotes for a reason) people figured out what to do next.

Aaron Rodgers won't face Patrick Mahomes this Sunday night in Kansas City.

"Wear masks, wash your hands often and use social distancing techniques," they said. Those practices would serve to help mitigate the spread. Made sense to me. I did all three of those things. People still got Covid-19.

"Not enough people are wearing masks, washing their hands or socially distancing" was the response from the smart people.

A year later, the vaccine became available.

"Get vaccinated, now! You'll save your life and other lives, too," they said. Made complete sense to me. I got vaccinated. No worries there. But people still got Covid-19.

"Not enough people are getting vaccinated," was the response from the smart people.

And so, we've come to find out the truth: Masks and vaccinations and 6-feet apart...it's all well and good. Those things are part of being "responsible". But guess what? People are still getting Covid-19. I had a good friend, vaccinated, in terrific health, who just got crushed by the virus. It happens. He didn't do anything wrong. He did everything he was supposed to do. And he still got Covid.

You're telling me Aaron Rodgers can't play a football game on Sunday because he tested positive for Covid on Wednesday? We're 20 months into this thing now and we're still acting like we know what's going on. Test him before the game on Sunday. If he has Covid on Sunday at 12 noon, then he can't play.

Testing someone on Wednesday and telling him he can't play on Sunday is stupid. If there's one thing we've learned since March 2020, it's that we really don't know what's going on. We're doing the best we can, which is great. But we're making up rules and stuff as we go along and it's silly.

Just because Aaron Rodgers tests positive for Covid on Wednesday does not, in any way, guarantee he'll test positive for it on Sunday at 12 noon. Heck, I just remembered it's the Sunday night game. Test him at 5:00 pm.

But while Rodgers deals with Covid-19, Baker Mayfield deals with another kind of virus: Odell Beckham Jr.'s dad. And Odell Beckham Jr. And the rest of the Cleveland wide receivers.

Earlier this week, Beckham's dad published a lengthy video on social media showing how many times in Cleveland's first eight games that his son was open and available to receive a pass that Mayfield didn't throw his way.

Who does that?

I mean, seriously, who does that? What adult stoops to the level of creating friction within his son or daughter's sports team in the middle of the season like some kind of fan who lost a lucrative parlay wager because the quarterback missed an open receiver with 30 seconds left in the game?

Did Odell Beckham Jr. know that video was going to be published by his father and "approved it" beforehand? If so, the Browns should immediately cut him. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Pack up your locker and go.

If Beckham Jr. didn't know, he should immediately apologize to Baker Mayfield and read his father the riot act. This is one of the great #clownshoes moments of 2021. A professional football player's father developed and produced a video that serves only to embarrass and ridicule one of his teammates and this is somehow "OK" with people?

Here's the oddest part of the whole thing: Mayfield was great when he was asked about it on Wednesday. He didn't complain. He didn't fire back at Beckham Jr. The Browns' quarterback basically said, "I haven't heard from him, but if he's concerned about the way our offense is playing and his role, I'd love to talk with him about it. I don't hold any grudges or ill will. I just want to win."

That's actually a perfect response. It was so perfect, I couldn't believe it was authored by Mayfield. But he said it. And apparently, he even believes it.

All Odell Beckham's dad did this week by releasing that video was raise Baker Mayfield's profile.

Nice job, pops.


Former Baltimore Colts running back Tom Matte passed away yesterday at the age of 82.

I last saw Matte in July or August at Eagle's Nest, where he was a member for the better part of the last 20 years.

Tom and I played a handful of rounds of golf together circa 2000 or so, when we would both do the "summer scramble tour" around Baltimore and play in various charity events. He loved golf. As his health declined over the years, he got to play less and less, but that didn't stop him from visiting Eagle's Nest often and asking me about my game or what was going on at Calvert Hall.

When I first joined the club in 2015, Matte approached me one day on the practice putting green.

"Drew, I'm slicing the ball something terrible," he said. "Help me get rid of that slice."

"Easy," I said. "Just aim your body a little right and hit the ball out to right field. That will get rid of your slice."

We small talked for a few minutes and off he went, back to his late afternoon cocktail and more friendly banter with club members.

A few weeks later, I approached my locker and saw an envelope taped to it. Inside was a $50 gift card to Golf Galaxy along with a note from Matte: "My slice is gone. Thank you. Now please fix my hook!"

Tom Matte was a good man.

He often remarked to me how much he enjoyed doing the annual Thanksgiving Day "Turkey Bowl" with Scott Garceau on Channel 2. Matte didn't have a dog in the hunt, mind you. He liked both schools. He was just excited to be in the booth, calling an important local game, and spending time with Garceau, of whom he was very fond.

The Baltimore Colts will forever be indebted to Tom Matte, as will the folks in Charm City who lived and breathed with "The Horseshoe" during Matte's years in blue and white.

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JOHN DARCEY
on the Ravens and the NFL


Baltimore native John Darcey follows the Ravens on a daily basis and vows to "tell it like it is" here at #DMD in 2021-2022.


Prior to week one of the NFL season, I went through the Ravens schedule and did a game by game ‘prediction’ all the way up to the bye week.

I actually got lucky and predicted they'd be 5-2, however, I had the second loss coming to the Chiefs and not the Bengals. But as I noted in that column, it is crazy to try and predict December games in September. Well, since it is November and after watching the Ravens through the first seven games, now seems like a good time to take a ‘guess’ as to how the rest of the season plays out for John Harbaugh and his team.

November 7 vs Minnesota: This game won’t be easy with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen running around in the secondary along with running back Dalvin Cook, who is a threat every time he touches the ball. But John Harbaugh is 10-3 coming out of the bye and I just can’t see the Ravens losing back-to-back games at home. Minnesota is a strange team. I am not sure if they are better than what their record says or worse. Either way, they keep games close and this one on Sunday will be close until about the two-minute warning. Ravens win by 3 points.

November 11 at Miami: I know the data says that road teams are usually at a disadvantage on Thursday night games, but Miami is a dumpster fire. Their offense is mediocre at best and the Dolphins' defense has underperformed all year. I could see this being over by half time. Ravens with a blowout win.

November 21 at Chicago: Once the Bears fire Matt Nagy and get a real coach, their team will be pretty good. Justin Fields continues to improve each week; Khali Herbert will give the Ravens a fit, as will Darrell Mooney. But in the end, the Bears biggest issue is Nagy. Ravens make it three in a row with a win in the Windy City.

November 28 vs Cleveland: The Browns have taken a step back this year. There is a decent chance Baker Mayfield could be done for the year by this point given all the injuries. Odell Beckham is a shell of his former self and Jarvis Landry can’t seem to stay healthy. Nick Chubb, if fully healthy, could have a 100-yard game in this one, but the offense just isn’t there for the Browns. The biggest challenge in this game will be keeping Lamar healthy. The Browns front seven is pretty good, led by All Pro Myles Garrett. This game is about 24 days away, so God only knows who will be the starting tackles for the Ravens at that point. I'll go with the Ravens here.

*Note, this is where the season gets interesting.*

December 5 at Pittsburgh: The win streak comes to an end in Pittsburgh. This is just a rivalry game where anything could happen. As long as Ben is still upright and playing, I will give the Steelers a chance. By no means is he as good as he once was, but he knows how to win these games. Najee Harris will be a huge problem for the Ravens defense, especially in the passing game. I give the nod to the home team by four points.

December 12 at Cleveland: For the second time in three weeks, the Ravens get the Browns. Similar to what I said above, the Browns don't seem to be as dangerous as most people thought they would be in 2021. Unless something drastic happens here, the Ravens will sweep the Browns. Again, Baltimore's biggest concern will be keeping Lamar healthy against the Browns pass rush.

December 19 vs Green Bay: Part of me wants to say the Ravens win because the game is at home, but I am not betting against Aaron Rodgers (unless, you know, the whole COVID thing happens again). Unless the secondary for the Ravens does a total 180 over the next six weeks or so, Rodgers and Davante Adams will pick them apart. Packers win by 10.

December 26 at Cincinnati: No way the Bengals sweep the Ravens. The Ravens get their revenge and firmly secure their spot atop the AFC North. By this point of the year, I think the Bengals come back to earth and realize they are still a year away from being a serious contender.

January 2 vs L.A. Rams: Another home loss for the Ravens. I don’t know who on this team can stop Cooper Kupp. The Rams offense has been rolling all year and this Baltimore defense has not seen an offense this high powered. The whole west coast team coming east is out the window with this being a 4:25pm game.

January 9 vs Steelers: If this game has any meaning, this would be a prime candidate to be flexed to the Sunday Night Game of the Week. At home, to close out the season, the Ravens beat the Steelers to capture the AFC North and secure the number two seed in the AFC. Lamar has a big game with over 400 yards of total offense.

That puts the Ravens at 12-5, which I actually believe might be their floor. I could see them beating either the Packers or Rams at home and possibly winning both Steelers games. But as of today, I don’t think that will be the case. I feel pretty confident in my prediction, but I also would not be completely shocked with 14-3 either. As many warts as the Ravens have, they still find ways to pull out wins. But if I had to bet your money, 12-5 and the second seed in the AFC is where I would lay it.

Trade Deadline Amusement: I couldn’t help but laugh the past two weeks or so over the tweets, articles and radio station commentary surrounding, ‘What move does EDC have up his sleeve for the trade deadline?’ Was it going to be an OT, RB or an edge rusher? And the entire time, there was only one right answer: NOTHING!

I laughed at the notion of the Ravens making a trade for a number of reasons. One, with what money were they going to acquire anyone? As of now, they have roughly $1.1 million in cap space. So unless they started reworking contracts, the cap space really wasn’t there. Now sure, they could create some space by doing a player for player trade. Which brings up my second reason why a trade would not happen. Who on the Ravens roster do you realistically think could have been traded?

Miles Boykin? Probably.

James Proche? Maybe.

Ty’Son Williams / Devonta Freeman / Le’Veon Bell? One of the three, sure.

Josh Oliver? OK, but I doubt it.

Maybe, just maybe, Geno Stone or Ar’darius Washington?

And that is probably the list. And what kind of return do you think any of them would have brought? I can tell you it was not a starting caliber offensive tackle or a game changing running back. It most certainly wasn’t a guy who could produce 5-6 sacks the rest of the year or a decent outside cornerback. So, the player for player trade was always out.

Then there was the idea that the Ravens could trade one of their four fourth round picks. Well that was never happening, either. The Ravens are the anti-Rams when it comes to trading draft picks. I personally think they over value draft picks, but that's just me. Obviously, they weren’t going to trade a top three round pick. So that was where the idea of trading a 4th rounder came into play.

Now what exactly do you think a fourth round would get? For comparison purposes, the Ravens trade Ben Bredeson and a fifth round pick to the Giants for a fourth. Last time I checked, no one is screaming how much they miss Bredeson or how much better the line could be with him here.

They could have traded a sixth and got someone like Melvin Ingram who has a whopping 10 tackles and one sack so far on the year. The point I am getting at is this: They had no money, no trade pieces and were not going to give up draft picks for a rental. It was all just a wish that was never going to come true.

Second half musings: The Ravens aren’t technically halfway through their schedule, but it's close enough after the bye. Some thoughts/storylines/concerns to keep an eye on over the last 10 games.

Will Marlon Humphrey return to his 2020 form? In all honesty, I love Marlon. He is probably my favorite Raven. But he just isn’t having the best year. After getting torched for over 200 yards against Ja’Marr Chase, the schedule does not get any easier. Assuming he will draw the assignment against all the number one receivers going forward, here is what is in store: Justin Jefferson, Dionte Johnson/Chase Claypool, Davante Adams, Ja’Marr Chase, Cooper Kupp/Robert Woods, Johnson and Claypool. That is pretty daunting.

Prior to the Bengals game, Wink didn’t have his CB shadow opposing WR, instead just leaving them on one side of the field. Humphrey shadowed Chase and we saw what happened. Let’s see what happens going forward. Either way, it would help the Ravens tremendously if he returned to his 2020 form.

Does the run game get back on track? Latavius Murray, when healthy, is the team’s best running back. I have seen enough of Le’Veon Bell. And if they aren’t going to run Ty’Son Williams, which I think they should, then give Nate McCrary a shot. Either way, it would be nice to see the presence of a decent run game again. Part of the problem is they don’t give any running back the chance to get in rhythm with as much changing in and out that they do. Let Murray get 15-18 touches a game and get that threat back in the offense.

What happens with the offensive line? The line is pretty much held together by bubble gum and duct tape. The question is how long is Patrick Mekari out for? And in his absence, who starts at right tackle? Is it Tyree Phillips or someone currently on the practice squad, like James Carpenter or Cedric Ogbuehi? Do they leave Alejandro Villanueva at left tackle rest of the year and how well does he hold up? The line ultimately will probably determine how the Ravens go the rest of the year. I know one thing; Lamar can’t keep getting constant pressure and sacked five times a game.

Will Wink get the defense together? The Ravens, through seven games, are allowing an average of 418 yards and 27 points per game and are just the third team ever to allow three 400 yard passers in the first seven games of a season. That is just unheard of around these parts. So what does Wink do to correct that? We will see right out of the gate on Sunday against Minnesota what kind of adjustments or new schemes Wink created over the bye.

Re-enforcements are on the way! Looks like Nick Boyle will make his season debut this Sunday, which will help in both the passing and run game. Chris Westery and Derek Wolfe were both designated to return from the I.R. which means they should make their returns sometime in the next three weeks. And while he has been back for two games already, I am excited to see if Rashod Bateman’s role expands in the offense after the bye. Plus, Sammy Watkins and Latavius Murray both have a chance to play on Sunday vs. Minnesota.

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Wednesday
November 3, 2021
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#2628


the contrast of sports


I couldn't help but notice the amazing contrast in the world of sports on Tuesday.

The Atlanta Braves won the baseball title last night, their first victory of that kind since 1999. Atlanta finished off the Houston Astros in six games with a 7-0 win in Houston.

Fans filled the Braves' stadium, sat on blankets in the middle of the outfield, even, and also gathered outside of the stadium to join in the revelry. It reminded this author of a night on 33rd Street back in 1983 when a bunch of guys in Glen Burnie piled in Chris Evans' old station wagon and drove to Memorial Stadium to catch a glimpse of the Orioles arriving back in Baltimore after beating the Phillies for the world championship in Game 5 in Philadelphia.

The scene in Houston on Tuesday night.

There's something about a baseball celebration or hockey celebration that's different than, say, a football celebration. A football season is arduous, no doubt, but it's essentially five months long and the games are so spread out along the way that you get the chance to catch your breath throughout the season.

Baseball and hockey (and basketball, too) don't afford the enthusiastic supporter much of an opportunity to relax and claim a second wind. There's a game today and tomorrow. And the next day, too. In baseball, there's almost a game every day. They cram 82 hockey games into a 7-month regular season. There's not much room for down time in either sport.

Perhaps that's why the celebrations in those sports are so wild. There's a release, if you will, of six or seven months of energy that built up with every game, every win, every loss, every comeback, and every outcome of the season. The people in Atlanta last night have been longing for a championship celebration like that since 1999.

In Baltimore, we've had two football titles to celebrate from a sports standpoint and not much more. If not for the Ravens winning in 2001 and 2013, we'd be closing in on 40 years without a victory parade. That's a lot longer than 1999-2021. Alas, the Ravens delivered for us. Now we're just waiting on the Orioles.

But I couldn't help but think of another situation in sports last night as I saw Freddie Freeman snag the throw at first base in the bottom of the 9th inning and put the Braves into the winner's circle.

The story out of Las Vegas that started to surface late Tuesday morning was grim indeed. Henry Ruggs III, the talented wide receiver for the Raiders, was involved in a horrific car accident early Tuesday that resulted in the death of a young woman who was driving a vehicle struck from behind by Ruggs.

Ruggs was apparently under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. The wide receiver "showed signs of impairment" according to the police report.

The scene in Las Vegas Tuesday morning.

He now faces a felony charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, which, in Nevada, could result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

In Atlanta, people celebrated a sports victory.

In Las Vegas, a young woman lost her life because a sports figure was apparently driving under the influence. And his life has now changed forever due to a momentary lack of judgment.

Every NFL player has the opportunity, through an agreement with the NFLPA, to call a 1-800 number that will dispatch a vehicle to pick them up should they be out and about somewhere and have too much to drink. There's no excuse for driving under the influence of alcohol, of course. We all know that. But the NFL has gone out of its way to eliminate any and all excuses. The Raiders, as a franchise, also have a similar policy in place for their players. They will send a vehicle for any player and at any time, no questions asked.

On social media Tuesday, there were varying opinions cast about regarding Ruggs and the concept of sympathy and forgiveness. It's important to note, because it's how our founding fathers built the country a long time ago, that Ruggs is not yet guilty of anything. He deserves and will get his day in court, at which point his guilt or innocence will be determined. This is not meant to suggest he deserves any kind of special consideration because he's a good football player. This is meant to say, simply, that like any other citizen in the country, Henry Ruggs III deserves his day in court and the process will then determine what happens him to next.

There were opinions on Tuedsay calling for empathy and sympathy for Ruggs, in addition to people clamoring for him to face the harshest penalty the law will allow. The notion that anyone could be sympathetic for Ruggs seems outlandish. And while there is a difference between sympathy and empathy, even the idea of empathy for Ruggs seems out of place given the result of the car accident he was apparently responsible for causing.

But then you remember the phrase first authored by the English evangelical preacher, John Bradford, in the mid 1550's: "There but for the grace of God, go I."

Henry Ruggs III didn't go out on Monday night hoping, expecting or even remotely thinking about what was going to happen to him at 3:30 am on Tuesday morning. When he got in his car on Monday evening, he was a star football player for the Las Vegas Raiders. A few hours later, he was apparently responsible for causing the death of a young woman. Life changes quickly, often times in ways we weren't expecting or hoping it would.

And those kinds of dramatic changes could happen to any of us. Whether it's health-related, work-related or just everyday-life-related, things happen along the way that we never knew would happen. Some of those things happen without any cause and some of those we, ourselves, create. Either way, things happen in life that we didn't foresee taking place.

"There but for the grace of God, go I."

If you're a believer in prayer, please pray for the woman who was killed in Las Vegas on Tuesday, along with her family. And please pray for Mr. Ruggs, as well, and the passenger in his vehicle, a young lady who was with him in the vehicle he was driving. Everyone's life changed on Tuesday and not for the better.

And remember, please, while you're judging Henry Ruggs III for his mistake, the words of John Bradford: "There but for the grace of God, go I."

A celebration in Houston and Atlanta and a tragedy in Las Vegas. The contrast of sports and life. All in one day.

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The Stats Nerd
And His Numbers


Contributed by #DMD's data and numbers analyst
The Stats Nerd


golf and nfl analytics


This is the second in my articles on the impact of data analytics on sport.

I’m not sure all of this is analytics, per se, or simply far superior statistical and shot measurement. I suppose what you call it doesn’t particularly matter in the end. The fact is golf has undergone a seismic shift in how it is consumed, tracked, taught and played over the last 20 years due to the increased presence of data and technology.

The PGA Tour invested heavily in it’s Shotlink platform in the early 2000’s. Slowly, the data became widely available and used in development of new statistics and tracking metrics. Now, Shotlink allows fans and players alike to track EVERY single shot hit by EVERY single player in a field.

This data is more specific, more granular and provides a more color on how a player is playing. Coaches and players can easily hone in on areas of weakness and assess what needs to be improved. It allows fans to see where players are separating themselves from their opponents.

2020 U.S. Open winner Bryson DeChambeau has used both improved instructional concepts and swing-speed data to increase his driving distance by almost 25 yards over the last two years.

The data has trickled down to amatuer players allowing them to do the same measurement of their golf games. I currently track my data in every round and am able to compare individual rounds or sets of rounds to varying handicap indexes. In other words, I can compare my data sets to data sets of scratch golfers and see where my game falls short on a relative basis.

There will always be variations from average but the ability to quickly identify specific data points allows me to communicate that with my instructor. This is being done by golfers across the world from the best professionals to weekend hackers.

In addition to all of this shot level data, the introduction of TrackMan has been a massive shift in how players and coaches obtain feedback. TrackMan is a computer/machine that provides all of the data on the strike of a ball including clubhead speed, ball spin rate, ball speed, etc. Modern ball flight laws make the assumptions of past players and teachers seem juvenile.

The way we were taught to hit shots in the pre TrackMan days were often exactly incorrect. TrackMan revealed the physics in a golf swing that the naked eye simply can not detect or see.

Now, TrackMan, or one of the competing launch monitors, are table stakes for any professional trying to make a living teaching the game. To be sure, there is still immense value in being able to diagnose and communicate the why and how of a student’s golf swing. In fact, that is what separates a good teaching pro from a not so good one.

The ability to sift through all the data, focus on the relevant issues and communicate that clearly to the student is what the best teachers do.

When Bryson DeChambeau decided to bulk up and change how he approached the game, he did it with data. Like him or not, the data, largely from Shotlink and Trackman, is what he focused on. Using the Shotlink data, Bryson and his instructor focused on what they thought would be largest achievable gains,namely added distance.

Given that goal, he set to work on his strength via strength training and diet, his clubhead speed through various methods and ultimately saw a MASSIVE increase in clubhead speed. In 2019, his average recorded swing speed on tour was ~118mph. In the just completed season, his average recorded swing speed was ~132mph. Each mph increase in swing speed correlates to roughly 2 to 2.5 yards of carry.

So, in his case, Bryson's 14mph increase in speed correlates into roughly 25-30 more yards of distance in just 2 years (in reality his distance gains are on the low end of the range likely due to not hitting the ball quite as efficiently as previously).

Of course, Bryson’s focus on strength and speed has apparently taken his focus off of other areas. Specifically, his wedges have suffered the most. He ranked 178th last season in proximity to the hole from 50-125 yards. For an elite player that isn’t great. For reference, in 2018 he ranked 82nd in that same category.

While that is a large range of yardages, it represents wedge play primarily and I suspect this will be the area that he and his instructor, Chris Como, focus on. With the number of wedges he will hit given his prodigious length, even being average with his wedges will make him better.

Golf, like all endeavors, is a constant yin and yang of improvement here impacting one area of the game while neglecting another area. The players that manage that best will meet with the most success long term.

Improved Golf Experience?

Does all of this tech and data improve the general golf experience? I think it has. More than ever before, players have the tools at their fingertips. Commentators have access to what is actually going on on the course instead of just conjecture. Golf is more popular now than at any time in the post Tiger era.

People are excited to see Tour players hitting it further and further. Walk onto any driving range and you will see players trying to replicate the long game they see on TV.

I didn’t even touch on advancements in golf strategy and mindset. That area is exploding and allows players to digest courses without even stepping on the course. Younger players are better and more prepared than ever before. Young player’s games mature at a faster pace when they understand why they do certain things.

I’m not sure there has ever been a larger crop of good young players on the various professional tours. They come wave after wave and season after season. The days of a grinder getting by and making a nice living just based on feel and experience are slowly fading. At some point they simply won’t be a hindrance to the younger, more powerful, more mentally prepared players. I think that time is coming VERY QUICKLY.


If you are bored by numbers and how they are used in calculating statistics, you may want to gloss over what follows.

Strokes Gained Off The Tee (SGOTT)

As requested by George and others here at #DMD, here is a primer on Strokes Gained Off The Tee to hopefully better explain what it is, why it is such an advancement in statistics and why it is looked to as a far better metric than anything previously available.

But first a review of the statistical measurements that were primarily used prior to all of this data availability. As far as driving, the two primary statistics were Fairways Hit and Driving Distance. Both were (and still are) fraught with problems in that they don’t really tell us much about the quality of the shots hit.

Fairways hit is probably one of the more meaningless numbers available (except perhaps total putts). The statistic is a binary measure of balls ending up in the fairway. The statistic provides no nuance to the quality of the shot relative to others.

For example, suppose Drew and I are playing. Drew hits a really good drive 280 yards right down the middle. Perfect tee ball. I don’t like the look of the hole and decide to hit a 3 wood off the tee. Maybe I pop it up a bit 225 in the right side of the fairway. Not a very good shot but in the fairway nonetheless.

Statistically, we both record the shot as a fairway hit and, at least as far as that statistic is concerned, there is no difference in our shots. However, the reality is that Drew is 55 yards closer to the hole and, at least from an expectations perspective, he will beat my brains in with a 55 yard advantage.

So the driving distance stat will solve that disparity, right Stats Nerd? Not really. The PGA Tour’s driving distance stat measures distance only on 2 holes per round. The tour tries to measure it on par 5s or long, open par 4s that players will likely hit driver on.

They also try to pick holes that go in opposite directions to counteract the effect of wind, elevation changes, etc. But that is the extent of it; 8 drives over a 4 round tournament. The measurement also doesn’t distinguish between driving it straight or not. It’s not hard to see that this is a pretty poor way to collect data.

In the above example, the hole Drew and I hit on may not even be one of the measuring holes. We may get to a measuring hole and he hits the same drive, 280 yards in the fairway. This time I hit one 290 yards but in thick, heavy rough. On the stat sheet, my drive looks better but in all likelihood, Drew’s ball gives him a better score expectation. So this is another old school statistic that has a lot of problems with it and doesn’t tell a full story.

Thus was born SGOTT. This measure determines the quality of a tee shot RELATIVE to other players. That’s all it does. So the player’s actual drive is measured up against the appropriate data set to determine if the drive was better relative to the average of the data set (+SGOTT) or worse relative to the average of the data set (-SGOTT).

The factors determining the quality are the distance of the shot AND the playing surface the drive finds (fairway, rough, heavy rough, recovery situation, etc). Distance is the most important determinant of score. This shouldn’t be arguable. A course that measures 6,500 yards will, on balance, show lower scores than a course that measures 7,200 yards.

Are there exceptions to this? Probably, but they are just that: exceptions. They are few and far between, particularly at the Tour level. We then add in the playing surface to provide additional color to the quality of the shot.

A tee ball that leaves 150 yards to the hole from the fairway is an objectively better tee ball than one that leaves 150 yards from the rough. I think all of the above assumptions make logical sense and are, of course, supported by the data.

Here is, I think, the easiest way to think about SG of any sort. Instead of thinking about par, think how much did this shot I just hit improve my expected score? If a shot decreases my expected score more than the actual 1 shot I hit: it was a +SG and vice versa. An example may make this easier to digest.

Suppose a tour player tees off on a 500 yard hole. The expected score on that hole is 4.35 (note a specific hole may have a slightly different expected score but the 4.35 is the score over a large historical sample for a hole of that distance). So that player hits the ball 335 yards right down the middle leaving him 165 yards from the hole.

So, it's a very good drive but how good is it? From 165 yards in the fairway the tour pros hole out in almost exactly 3.00 shots. Thus their expectation from 165 is 3.00 shots. So in this example the player’s expected score has improved by 1.35 shots but he has only struck the ball once. Thus, his SGOTT on this hole is .35. That is, he has beaten the field by .35 shots on that tee shot.

You may think that doesn’t sound like much? Well, if the player sees this much of a SGOTT on all 14 driving holes in a round he will have gained 4.9 shots over the field average! That would qualify as an-out-of-this-world driving round. Obviously, this doesn’t happen on all 14 holes but that is how the statistic is counted. In fact, it is extremely rare that a player registers +2 SGOTT in successive rounds on the Tour.

That’s all SGOTT is. It is meant to measure relative performance of a player against the average for that hole, round, week, season, etc. Nothing more and nothing less.

Because George asked specifically: no consideration is given to a shot that comes to rest in an old divot. Nor do I think there should be consideration given. Here’s why:

* Included in the comparison data set are plenty of other’s drives that also came to rest in a divot.

* There are plenty of other “rub of the green” situations that occur on virtually every tee shot. For example, the wind kicks up as you strike your shot and the ball goes 10 yards shorter than it normally would or the ball kicks off the back side of a mound and propels forward 15 yards more than normal, etc.

* Over a large sample these rub of the green issues should distribute normally over the entire field (ie over a large sample Player A and Player B should hit into divots with the same frequency).

* I’m not sure there would be enough data points of performance from divots, for example, from 100 yards vs. 150 yards. It does happen with some frequency but perhaps not enough to set any meaningful expectations. (this is just conjecture on my part)

Could the data be further parsed to account for some of these variables? I suppose it could but I think it would make the statistic more complicated than it needs to be. The important thing to consider is that these SG statistics give a far better representation of how a player is actually performing as compared to the older statistics. Will a better metric be developed in the future that makes SG seem antiquated? Entirely possible and perhaps likely.

For anyone interested in a more thorough understanding of Strokes Gained and all of it’s iterations, I HIGHLY recommend reading Mark Broadie’s seminal work, Every Shot Counts.


NFL Week 8

There were a few pretty terrible 4th down decisions made this past weekend including one by Tennessee's Mike Vrabel to punt on 4th and 4 with roughly 2 minutes left in a tied game from midfield (~-12% WP% punt). In the end, Carson Wentz went full 2020 Carson Wentz and turned it over at the goal line. This led to one of the more bizarre finishes in regulation and ultimately in overtime from the weekend.

In full “HOLD MY BEER” fashion (Google it if you don’t know the reference), the Denver Broncos and Harbaugh’s former-friend/assistant Vic Fangio orchestrated arguably the worst drive from a time management perspective ever. Let’s all bask in the glory of this absolute cluster of a series.

First the scene:

* The score is 24-17, Denver leads Washington Football Team with 37 seconds left in the game.

* WFT has all 3 time outs

* Denver has the ball on their own 22 yard line.

First Down: RB for 1 yard...fumbles! Denver recovers and WFT uses their first timeout.

(OK ,whatever, it happens -- but they gotta be smart here. Fangio should probably drill into them the importance of ball security in a late-game situation like this one.)

Second Down: Denver rolls Bridgewater to the right ostensibly to slide and waste a few seconds. Instead, he passes it to someone not really even open (and maybe out of bounds?) and the ball falls incomplete.

(I don’t know if Bridgewater went off script but what is happening here? You're throwing the ball?)

Third Down: RB up the middle and HE FUMBLES! WFT BALL!

(I mean this is Mark Sanchez-butt-fumble-ineptitude here over the course of 3 plays.)

Fortunately, WFT is awful and Denver strolled off the field with the “win”. But over the course of 3 plays the following occurred:

- The ball was on the ground twice

- The QB decided to throw the ball for….reasons?!?

- WFT was forced to use only 1 of their 3 timeouts

- Only 16 seconds ran off the clock

For a coach likely to be on the hot seat, this was not a good 5 minutes of football.

JERRY'S TOYOTA banner
Open Again


Tuesday
November 2, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2627


one injury later...


Because NFL owners are greedy and they're playing a 17-game schedule this year, there isn't a rock-solid, dead-in-the-middle halfway point of the 2021 campaign.

But we're basically there right now. A smattering of teams haven't played 8 games yet (Ravens among them) while a lot of teams have now played 8 of their 17.

So this is about as close to halfway home as we'll get, and with yesterday's news that the Titans are going to be without Derrick Henry for a while -- presumably at least the rest of the regular season if not longer -- the AFC playoff picture is now completely up in the air with roughly half of the campaign remaining.

Here's a quick snapshot of the contenders and pretenders in the AFC --

Tennessee (6-2) -- Would have been the favorite -- well, my favorite, anyway -- to win the AFC if not for Henry's injury. Now...they have a real fight on their hands. Their schedule isn't all that difficult (automatic wins remaining against the Texans (2), Jaguars, 49'ers and Dolphins) so it's likely they'll still win the division at 11-6, but Super Bowl hopes were probably thinned out with the Henry injury.

Does the Derrick Henry injury open the door for Josh Allen and the Bills to make a Super Bowl run?

Buffalo (5-2) -- Will move into the "favorite" position now that Henry is out in Nashville. Buffalo's offense is decent enough but their defense has put together three nice games against three lousy opponents (Miami twice and the Texans, a combined 11 points allowed in those three games). Whether their defense can play "up" against better teams in January remains to be seen. They still have the Patriots twice as well as games at New Orleans and Tampa Bay, but they're looking like a 12 or 13 win team at this point.

Las Vegas (5-2) -- An unknown commodity at this point, with a win over the Ravens to start the season and not much else. Their offense is certainly worth respecting. Their second half schedule is fairly difficult, with two games remaining against K.C., road games at Dallas and Cleveland, plus a game in Las Vegas against the Bengals in a few weeks. Looking like a 10 win team at this point, 11 max.

Baltimore (5-2) -- The AFC's version of Jekyll and Hyde. Good one half, lousy the next half. Offense seems to be their strength and defense seems to be their weakness, which is really weird for a Ravens team. Their schedule isn't all that difficult, but the four games remaining against Cleveland and Pittsburgh will likely determine their fate into January. They need to stockpile wins now, because their final three (@Cincy, home vs. LA, home vs. Pittsburgh) will be critically important. If they can't defend any better than they have in the first 7 games, they won't go far in January. Should be able to reach 12 or 13 wins barring any major injuries moving forward.

Cincinnati (5-3) -- It's remarkable how one loss poisoned them, but everyone who was on the Bengals after they shellacked the Ravens two weeks ago is suddenly off of them now following that defeat to the Jets on Sunday. Whether the Bengals really are a contender can be argued, but what can't debated is the difficulty of their schedule; they have Cleveland twice, the Steelers and Ravens once, the Chiefs (in Cincy) and the Raiders and Broncos away. Las Vegas is still trying, while Denver has given up, obviously. No matter, though, they're going to be hard pressed to win 11 games, which will seemingly be the magic number in the AFC. If the Bengals team that beat Baltimore is the "real" Cincinnati team, 11 or 12 wins will be their reach. But if the team that lost to the Jets is the real Bengals side, they won't get to 11 wins.

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers have four wins thus far but a daunting schedule faces them over the next two months.

Los Angeles (4-3) -- Prior to their visit to Baltimore last month, the Chargers were flying high. Now...they're flying low, having lost to the Ravens and Patriots sandwiched around their bye week. We were bullish on L.A. earlier this year but it looks like they were a paper tiger. The schedule plays out in their favor, somewhat, as they have the Broncos (twice), Giants and Texans (both at home), plus games they should win at home vs. Pittsburgh and Minnesota. If they're actually any good at all, they'll still figure out a way to get to 11 wins over their last 10 games. At this point, though, 11 wins is about the max you can expect from them.

Pittsburgh (4-3) -- Do not be swayed by anything you've seen from these guys. They are not any good. They're getting by with a decent-to-good defense and a fairly benign schedule thus far. They get two more home lay-ups in the next two weeks (Chicago and Detroit) and then their schedule really toughens up. They won't reach 10 wins. Have no fear. The Steelers aren't going anywhere in January except to the golf course once they get roasted in Baltimore on January 9.

Cleveland (4-4) -- Something's not right in Cleveland. Injuries have derailed them, like a lot of teams, but they're also not getting the production out of Beckham and Landry they assumed they'd be getting. Couple that with Baker Mayfield's shoulder injury and you have an offense that's just not all that dangerous. Their defense is solid enough and Myles Garrett can end your team's season with one hit on your quarterback, but the Browns do not appear to be a team worth fearing this season. 10 wins seems to be their max and that's a pretty big "if" at this point. Their remaining schedule is very tough.

Kansas City (4-4) -- Wanna know about the Chiefs? They beat the Giants last night, in Kansas City, 20-17, and needed a field goal with 1:07 remaining just to do that. Their defense is pitiful. And Patrick Mahomes is finally having a "back to earth" season after leading a charmed life for three years. And get this, Kansas City's schedule is so difficult moving forward that they seriously might not make the playoffs. They have Green Bay and Dallas (both in K.C.) plus road games at the Chargers, Bengals and Raiders. Their only schedule gift? Two automatic wins vs. Denver. The Chiefs might not get to 10 wins. 11 wins seems almost impossible at this point given what we've seen and what they face. But, still, the Chiefs are also a team you'd prefer not to face in January if they somehow do sneak into the post-season. Because on any given day, Mahomes and his offensive weapons could sync up and throw 40 on you.


As for the Ravens, specifically, they should be able to reach 12 wins without much worry. If they somehow stub their toe against the Steelers, Vikings, Dolphins or Bears, that could swing them from a 12-13 win team to a 10-11 win team, but it's unlikely they'll lose to any of those ne'er do wells. Their toughest remaining games are at home vs. Green Bay and the Rams and away trips to Cincy and Cleveland. But the Baltimore defense has been so flimsy and yards-yielding that you have to be concerned any time they face a team that can put points on the board.

Their 2021 success is tied into three things, directly:

Can Lamar stay healthy and help the Ravens overcome a ragged 2021 defense?

1. Lamar's health -- If Jackson stays healthy and plays the entire season, the Ravens are making the playoffs and will contend for the AFC North crown as well. That's a done deal. If he gets nicked up and misses some time...then...all bets are off. He's their #1 weapon, priority and reason for winning. The problem is, Jackson and Jackson alone can get them a division title and a trip to the post-season but they probably can't win three games in January (and February) with only Lamar performing at his expected level.

2. Running game improvement -- Everyone knew the team would be impacted with the loss of J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, but I'm not sure we knew it would be this bad. If the Ravens can't run the ball well in the season's second half, their Super Bowl hopes are all but gone. There's still time for Eric DeCosta to make a trade (today's the deadline) but without some new blood, the club is going to have pin their hopes on guys like Le'Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray. And, well, those three used to be good running backs in the league. But they're on their 17th hole now. Somehow, the Ravens have to run the ball better over their last 10 games.

3. Marlon Humphrey needs to step up -- This is a big one, because we're conceding that the Baltimore pass rush isn't going to materialize over the last two months of the regular season. Without guys pressuring the quarterback, the secondary becomes ultra-important. Humphrey has had an uncharacteristic sloppy start to his '21 season. Tackling has been poor, coverage hasn't been much better and, in general, the former #1 pick just hasn't played very well for whatever reason. The Baltimore defense is suspect enough without their best player having an off year. Humphrey should spend less time on Twitter and more time in the film room. His play in the final 10 games will be critical for the Ravens.

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the streak -- writers


As we approach our 2,633rd consecutive edition of #DMD (next Monday, November 8), I feel it appropriate to recognize those people who have been regular or occasional contributors here since we started on August 25, 2014.

One of the first guys who came on board with me back in the start-up days was Bo Smolka, who became a friend during my radio years and is one of the area's most respected sports media members still today. You can find his outstanding work at PressBox as their Ravens "beat writer". Bo was our go-to-Ravens-guy in the early days of #DMD and did an outstanding job.

Our current Ravens writer, John Darcey, follows every snap, every week and provides excellent analysis of the wins and losses. He is just beginning his role here at #DMD but we're excited to have him as part of our writing stable.

Matt Carroll was our soccer writer in the start-up days and also provided a wealth of knowledge, particularly when it came to the English Premier League, which I barely follow myself. Our current soccer writer, Randy Morgan, is also an incredible source of knowledge. You can find his work at #DMD every Tuesday. His role here will be very important next winter when the U.S. (hopefully) plays in the World Cup.

Our columnists have all been outstanding; Brien Jackson, David Rosenfeld and Mark Suchy. Each of them brought a different perspective, both in their interests and writing styles. On a personal note, Mark is taking a winter-break from writing here so he can devote time to pursuing his number one passion; following the college basketball travels of his sons. We'll miss him over the next few months but look forward to seeing him return in the spring.

Our newest contributor, "The Stats Nerd", has allowed #DMD to focus on an area we were otherwise ignoring. Data, analysis and the use of statistics has become the rage in professional sports over the last five years. We're happy to have "The Stats Nerd" on our team to help us all learn more about the thought process that goes into (or doesn't) critical in-game decisions. His weekly piece generally runs on Wednesday here.

We've been blessed to have Dale Williams as our Maryland basketball writer for the last six seasons. I'll put his knowledge of basketball up against anyone, anywhere. And his supreme knowledge of Maryland basketball makes him a perfect fit for our coverage needs here at #DMD. You'll start seeing his work here for the '21-22 season later this month.

And even though he doesn't write as much as we'd like him to, we have always appreciated the contributions of my friend George McDowell, who always looks at things through a different lens than the rest of us. George has also been the back-room "engine" of #DMD throughout the streak. Without George, there's no pursuit of 2,633, trust me.

So we thank all of those individuals who have been contributors here since August 25, 2014. They're the reason you visit the site and come back as often as you do. Like you and I, they're just people who love sports and enjoy writing about it.

And, as always, I offer you an open invitation to reach out to me if you're interested in writing here. If you have a specific topic you'd like to discuss with me, please send along an e-mail: 18inarow@gmail.com.

We've never really had an official "Orioles writer", oddly enough. I guess it's because no one really watches them play much any longer, so most of the day-to-day Orioles coverage falls on me. But if you'd like to craft a regular (weekly, twice weekly?) Orioles column here at #DMD, I'm excited to hear from you.

Thanks again to all of our outstanding writers over the last seven-plus years.

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RANDY MORGAN
on American soccer


Americans are playing more and more of a vital role in international soccer these days, and Randy Morgan has his eyes on all of them for #DMD. Each Tuesday here, he looks at recent performances of American players and highlights upcoming games of importance.


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It was an important week for a few Americans fighting for spots on the US roster for the fast approaching November qualifiers against Mexico and Jamaica. A couple Americans helped their teams pull off big upsets in Europe this week. Two young players made history in Italy, and back in the US, another was a key contributor on a record setting day in MLS.

Stock Up --

The top performer this week was midfielder Weston McKennie. The Texas native had a big week individually despite his team's struggles. McKennie started for Juventus against Sassuolo in their midweek Serie A game. He scored the only goal for Juventus with a well placed header off a free kick in the second half but the team came up short in a 2-1 loss. In addition to the goal he created several good chances in attack. McKennie found the ball often as the most active of the Juventus midfield trio.

On Saturday, McKennie came off the bench in the second half with Juventus down 2-0 to Hellas Verona. He made an instant impact on the game, eventually finding the back of the net. Late in the half, McKennie found a pocket of space at the top of the box, received a pass on the turn and fired a shot in the upper corner past the keeper. Once again it was the only goal for Juventus as they dropped another game 2-1. Juventus is in a bad slump and has fallen well behind the pace for the Serie A title and Champions League places. Despite that, McKennie’s hot streak is good news for the US, who will need him on the top of his game against Mexico in just over a week.

While McKennie maintained his place as a locked-in starter for the US, others helped their case for a spot on the roster with impressive weeks. 23 year old midfielder, Luca de la Torre, got a brief appearance for the US in October and has been making a good argument for more time with his performances for his club Heracles in the Dutch Eredivisie. On Saturday he got a big test against league leaders and one of the hottest teams in the world, Ajax. The American started in central midfield and helped his team get a draw in a huge upset against an Ajax team that has been destroying every opponent of late. De la Torre demonstrated good control in tight spaces, with a deft touch on the ball and accurate and incisive passing. Heracles didn’t have much of the ball, but they were disciplined in defense and de la Torre sparked several counters with intelligent passes.

In Germany, Joe Scally continues to build his case for a spot as one of the fullbacks for the US. He was a disappointing omission in October, but has been a fixture for Borussia Moenchengladbach in the German Bundesliga all season, earning high praise from his club coach. He started at right wing back in their German Cup match against the current top team in the world, Bayern Munich. Scally held up well against Bayern’s daunting left side of Alphonso Davies and Leroy Sane, helping Gladbach to a shocking 5-0 blowout of the German champions.

Over the weekend he started at right back and delivered the assist for the first goal in a 2-1 win over VFL Bochum in the Bundesliga. Scally hit a nice bending cross from the right wing that landed perfectly for his teammate to head it home. He poured in several more dangerous crosses throughout the game and held up well defensively. The 18 year old plays both physically and mentally well beyond his age and should be a valuable depth piece for the US going forward.

In MLS, Jesus Ferreira added two more solid performances to his resume. The FC Dallas attacker was impressive in both a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on Wednesday and a 2-1 win over Austin on Saturday. Ferreira has been the key creative player in the Dallas offense over the second half of the season, scoring a goal in the win on Saturday. He could be a depth option for the US either on the wing or at striker.

Finally, there was some good news off the field on Monday. Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel confirmed that Christian Pulisic will return to the Chelsea squad for their Champions League game this week. A key development that is great news for his availability for the US against Mexico and Jamaica. It now should just be a matter of building up his stamina to see if he will be ready for a full game by November 12th.

Stock Down --

Josh Sargent and Norwich continued to struggle this week. Sargent has failed to deliver much in attack for a poor Norwich team, which lost again this weekend to Leeds and now sits at the bottom of the Premier League. It's a difficult situation for Sargent, who does not get much service on the overmatched team. The lack of production will make it hard for him to earn his way back into the picture with the US team.

Matthew Hoppe had a disappointing week in Spain. He was left on the bench for both of Mallorca’s games this week. It was not completely clear if he was sitting out due to performance or a minor injury. Either way it doesn’t bode well for his chances of snatching one of the last spots on the roster against Mexico.

Stock Even --

Matt Turner maintained his status as the top US goalkeeper. He delivered a standout performance, keeping a clean sheet in New England’s 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids. Turner came up with one highlight reel diving save to preserve the win, which secured the best overall record in MLS history for this New England team. He will look to carry that momentum into the big showdown with Mexico in World Cup qualifying.

Several other Americans delivered solid if not spectacular performances for their clubs this week. Gianluca Busio and Tanner Tessman became the first pair of Americans to ever start for the same team in Italy’s Serie A, helping Venezia to a 0-0 draw on the road against Genoa. Brenden Aaronson, John Brooks, Konrad de la Fuente and Tyler Adams all helped their teams to earn positive results this week as well.

Tuesday brings another round of Champions League games with many of the US players looking to get on the field. Those will likely be the final chance for players to impress Gregg Berhalter before the rosters are announced for the November qualifiers.

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Monday
November 1, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2626


the countdown...is on


I've never run a marathon, so I'm speaking about this from a complete lack of real experience.

We're now seven days away from publishing our 2,633rd consecutive issue of #DMD and I feel like we're at mile marker #24 in a 26 mile marathon. There's still a little bit of running to do, but God willing, we're gonna see this thing through to completion. I mean, if you've run 24 miles, you're almost a certainty to finish all 26, right?

Next Monday, November 8, we'll publish for the 2,633rd straight day. If you're a Baltimore sports fan, I assume you know the significance of 2,633.

We have some special stuff planned for 2,622 and 2,633 around here. I don't want to spoil the surprise, of course, but let's just say I think you'll find those two days especially interesting. Even the curmudgeons who hang around here will likely enjoy themselves. That's saying something, huh?

There's still work to be done, obviously. God willing we'll be back here tomorrow to keep the streak going and then, hopefully, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Next Sunday will be day 2,632. And on Monday -- blare the trumpets for day 2,633.

Our sneakers are showing some wear and tear but mile marker #26 is almost in sight. Stay with us this week as we take some looks down memory lane and then please join us early next week for the real fun.


Speaking of God -- as in "God willing" -- it was a treat to hear "God Bless America" last night during the 7th inning stretch in Atlanta.

As our country has become more and more afraid of God and faith in general over the last couple of decades, the powers-that-be have gone out of their way to try and remove God from our daily routine. Some schools still recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which is awesome, but others shy away from it for fear of offending folks.

Those of you who were listeners to my radio show will remember I started every morning at 6:07 by doing two things; playing "Raised on the Radio" by The Ravyns and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. If it was good enough for me in 1969 at Glendale Elementary School, it was good enough for me in my 40's and 50's while I was working on the radio.

So hearing "God Bless America" last night was especially satisfying for me. I don't know about you, but I feel blessed by God every day. How else could you explain all of the great fortune I've received in my life, after all? It didn't happen by accident or because I drew a lucky number. God blesses all of us, every day, in different ways.

Keep on singing the song, I say, and may God continue to bless America.


Unfortunately, longtime Baltimore sports fans know all too well what the Atlanta sports community feels like this morning after the Braves squandered a chance to win the World Series at home last night. Houston battled back from a 4-0 first inning deficit to win Game 5, 9-5. Game 6 will be played Tuesday night in Houston. If Game 7 is necessary, it will be in Houston on Wednesday.

The Orioles, of course, had a chance to win the '71 World Series at Memorial Stadium, only to lose Game 7 to the Pirates, 2-1. In '79, also against the Pirates, the O's were up 3-games-to-1, lost Game 5 in Pittsburgh, then dropped Game 6 (4-0) and Game 7 (4-1) in Baltimore.

Losing any kind of playoff series leaves a bad taste, but having a chance to clinch at home and failing to do so is really a lousy way to go.

When the Braves went ahead 4-0 in the first inning last night on an Adam Duvall grand slam, you could just sense it was going to be a 3-hour party and a 9-2 win or something of that nature.

Instead, Houston scored twice in the 2nd and twice in the 3rd to tie it up, and even though the Braves went back ahead a couple of innings later on a Freddie Freeman home run, the Astros clobbered the Atlanta bullpen in the middle innings on their way to the 9-5 win.

Now, the same scenario faces the Astros in their stadium. They're either going to win it in front of their home faithful or lose it there. I don't have a horse in the race, but I wouldn't mind seeing the Braves win the title just because they haven't done it since 1995. The Astros are a game bunch, though, and Dusty Baker is one of those kind of guys that seemingly deserves good fortune. I don't care who wins, honestly.

But in 2026 when it's the Orioles and Phillies in the World Series, you can bet I'll cheering for Bawl-mer.


The NFL is, as we all know, completely nuts. Don't believe me? That's fine. Ask the Bengals. Or the Chargers. Heck, you can even ask Tom Brady, who got outdueled by Trevor Siemian on Sunday in New Orleans.

You don't have to google "Trevor Siemian". He played college football at Northwestern and was a 7th round pick of the Broncos in 2015. He is, what they call, a journeyman. And on Sunday, he beat Tom Brady.

A week after thumping Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, Joe Burrow lost to some guy named Mike White in New Jersey.

The biggest shocker of the day was in New Jersey, where the Jets and the referees beat the Bengals, 34-31. Cincinnati certainly has no one to blame but themselves. Trying to win a 3rd straight road game (in three weeks), the Bengals, according to running back Joe Mixon, "came out flat and unprepared" in the loss to the Jets, who were 1-5 entering the game.

But a late game "helmet to helmet" call after a Jets' 3rd down play came up short of the first down marker was supremely important. Cincinnati went from getting the ball back with a couple of minutes left to watching the Jets chew up the clock and post the surprising win. The call, even to Jose Feliciano, was awful. If anything, the Jets receiver lowered his head into the Bengals defensive player as he went in for the tackle and 3rd down stop.

I have a close friend who is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the league essentially pre-determines the winners and losers of their games. I always laugh when he says that and think it's impossible to orchestrate the outcome of every game, but when I see calls like that one yesterday in New York -- in the waning moments of a close game -- I admit it gives me reason to at least consider that my friend might be on to something on a game-by-game basis.

Are the Patriots legit or are the Chargers paper tigers? Maybe a little of both? New England went out to Los Angeles and evened their record at 4-4 with a 27-24 win over Justin Herbert and the Chargers. Don't look now, but the Patriots are firmly in the AFC playoff race at the sorta-kinda halfway point of the '21 season. Bill Belichick and Mac Jones? It might not be Belichick-Brady, but that duo looks like a winner-in-the-making.

More NFL craziness: The Cowboys beat the Vikings last night in Minnesota and Dallas didn't play Dak Prescott. Some dude named Cooper Rush was the QB for Dallas as they scored a late TD to beat Minnesota, 20-16.

Now watch Minnesota come to Baltimore next Sunday and play with their hair on fire and beat the Ravens 31-23.

Editor's note: I don't actually think that's going to happen next Sunday, but I'll also confess that I wouldn't place a wager on the Ravens (or Vikings) next Sunday. There's no telling what Vikings team will show up in Charm City.

Dallas, meanwhile, has to feel like they almost won two games last night without Prescott at the helm. And the Vikings have to be kicking themselves losing to a dude no one had heard of before Sunday evening.


I stumbled on a golf futures wager on Saturday that I couldn't resist. The investment was nominal ($100) and the payoff in 2026 would be 75-1 if I go five-for-five. I have five years to see the wager play out, from November 1, 2021 through October 31, 2026.

Here are the five wagering topics.

1. Will Tiger Woods compete in an officially-sanctioned PGA Tour event (this does not include the Hero World Challenge) and play at least 36 holes?

2. Will Phil Mickelson win at least one PGA Tour event (this does not include Champions Tour golf, only PGA Tour)?

3. Will Rory McIlroy win at least one major championship?

4. Will Dustin Johnson have more major championships (in total/career) than Justin Thomas? Johnson currently has two and Thomas currently has one.

5. Will Bryson DeChambeau win The Masters?

Here's how I wagered:

1. No. I don't see Woods playing again. I don't think he's physically capable of walking the golf course.

2. Yes. I'm not sure when or where, but Phil still has another win in him. Granted, the window is closing on Phil's career on the flat-belly tour, but he'll win one in '22 or '23.

3. Yes. Rory might even win one in '22. I think he's closer than people think.

4. No. I think Thomas will have as many or more than DJ.

5. Yes. I realize he hasn't played particularly well there early in his career, but Bryson will figure that place out soon enough.

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Sunday
October 31, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2624


rewind...to those days when...


So, today's piece has become an annual part of Drew's Morning Dish.

I'm not 100% sure I've done it every year since we started with this project in 2014, but my sense is we probably have.

I make it a point, on the week of the Ravens bye, to author a column here about those days when every Sunday in football season was silent in Baltimore.

Some of you might be old enough -- like me -- to remember Mayflower vans pulling out on that snowy night.

It's empty today because the Ravens are on their bye week...but from 1984-1995, Baltimore's football (Memorial) stadium looked like this every Sunday during football season.

You might recall the pain, and I'm talking deep down in the gut pain, that we all felt in Baltimore later that year when we saw our Colts, our Baltimore Colts, playing real, live games in Indianapolis.

Same uniforms. Same helmets. Same horseshoe. Heck, same players, even. Our Colts became their Colts. Overnight.

From 1984 through 1995 in Baltimore, Sunday felt like Saturday. There was football, in other words, but it wasn't played here. We didn't have a college team to call our own, with all due respect to the likes of Towson and Morgan State, and we didn't have a professional team, either. Football was played on Saturday, but not really in Baltimore. And football was played on Sunday, too, but not in Charm City.

The Ravens changed all of that, of course. And there are hundreds of thousands of Ravens fans in Baltimore right now who only know the Ravens. They don't know anything about the Colts, except that they play in Indianapolis. The Ravens are the only NFL team in Baltimore my son knows and will likely ever know. And that's a good thing, obviously.

But from 1984 through 1995, what you'll experience today is precisely what we all experienced in Baltimore. We experienced nothing. The rest of the country played football, games were on TV, scores were displayed, highlights were showcased and there were wins and losses. Every. Single. Sunday.

But not in Baltimore. We watched everyone else's team play.

I write this today simply to remind everyone -- including myself, even -- that we have the privilege of watching the Ravens. The Baltimore Ravens.

I understand people pay money for PSL's and tickets and jerseys and there's both a financial and spiritual investment that goes into supporting the Ravens. When they don't play well, people naturally want to lash out. I get it. It's sports. People forget the other team tries too and the other guys are also on scholarship. People lose sight of the fact that the rest of the head coaches spend 18 hours per-day at their facility just like John Harbaugh spends 18 hours per-day at 1 Winning Drive.

I'm not saying to ignore poor play by Lamar Jackson or bungled clock management by Harbaugh or a puzzling play call from Greg Roman. Those guys are paid to do a job and the expectation is that they will do it well. And when they don't, there's backlash.

But no matter what happens to the Ravens, it's all better than 1984 through 1995. It sounds stupid to say, but the Ravens could go 0-17 and it's still way, way, way better than 1984 through 1995. We've been blessed here in Baltimore. The early days of the Ravens were a bit of a challenge, but since 2000, the club has mostly been more-than-competitive and we have a pair of Super Bowl championships that Roger Goodell can never take away from us.

They took our team away from us once and it crushed our city's soul.

We have a team now and all of our lives have been touched in some way by the Baltimore Ravens.

Just remember that today when you're surfing through the afternoon games or watching the Sunday Night contest. Today is exactly what we all felt like from 1984 through 1995. Everyone else played. And Baltimore watched. It was awful.

Be thankful for Art Modell and Steve Bisciotti today. Be thankful that it's 2021 and Baltimore has a team to call our own.

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no longer on deck


Today, after over 40 years in the golf world, Jim Deck is walking off the 18th green and putting his clubs away for good.

He's not quitting golf.

Deck, the longtime Head PGA Professional at Mount Pleasant and Pine Ridge, is retiring.

He will be missed. And the industry he has so faithfully served will lose one of their best.

Deck would tell you, I'm sure, that he shared a "strange and wonderful" relationship with me.

I'm strange. And he's wonderful.

Jim Deck is retiring today after over 40 years as a head professional at Mount Pleasant and Pine Ridge.

He'd mostly be right on that one. While Deck tried to carry out his daily duties with tact and precision, I spent most of time working for him trying to sneak out and practice on the 5th hole or creating pranks designed to put off other staffers who were working the same shift as I was at Mount Pleasant.

I worked roughly 5 years for Deck on a part-time basis when I was playing my golf at Mount Pleasant. Somewhere in the 1995 through 2000 range, I'm guessing, although Deck's gray hairs could probably give you the exact dates.

I have far, far too many "Jim Deck stories" to publish here today and a large number of them had me doing something dumb anyway, so why bring them up for public consumption? But this one remains a favorite of mine, somewhat because it had a very happy conclusion and also because it showcased Deck's humor and empathy all in one story.

A few days before the 2000 Spring Publinx (this would have been late May or so), I was putting terribly. Now, I'll be the first to admit I probably wasn't putting as poorly as I actually thought, but nonetheless, I was having a tough time with the flat stick. In those days I putted with an Odyssey putter (which I still have, somewhere) and after a 3-putt on the 4th hole one afternoon, I put it in my bag and said, "I'm done with that putter."

I putted with my sand wedge for a hole or two. It wasn't much worse, mind you, which didn't say much about my putting skills or the Odyssey putter. On the 7th hole, I took out my driver, some sort of TaylorMade something or other, and rolled in a 10-footer. I practice putted a few more times on that 7th green, then proceeded to make another 10-footer on the 8th green with my driver. There was something about the way the ball rolled off the face of the driver that was comforting. Actually, it was just beginner's luck, but at the very least I thought I might be on to something. Have I fixed my putting woes, I wondered?

On the 9th green, I glanced over and saw Deck sitting in a golf watching our group. This time, I rolled in a 20-footer with my driver. My three playing partners were howling with laughter as we walked off the green.

"This guy's completely nuts," my friend Greg Ruark said to Deck as we put our putters in our bags on the golf carts.

"Now what?" Deck said.

"He's been putting with his driver for three holes and he's made three straight birdies," another friend, Jim Pappas, said.

"What????" Deck replied.

I looked at him sheepishly but laughing, still. "The great ones can putt with anythng, Pro," I stated.

"You're not going to putt with your driver in the Publinx this weekend," Deck demanded.

When you make three birdies in a row with anything you have to consider using it. "Sure I am," I said. "I can't putt any worse with it than I'm putting with my regular putter."

"No, you're not," Deck reiterated. "You look like a damn fool."

We moved on to the 10th tee and grabbed some food and drinks at the snack shack. Moments later, Deck appeared again, putter in hand.

"Use my putter," he said. "Just give it a try and see if it helps."

It was a Ben Crenshaw putter designed to look like the old Wilson 8802 style putter that was popular in the 60's and 70's. Ironically, it's the same style of putter that Phil Mickelson used this past May when he won the PGA at Kiawah.

"Really?" I said. "You'll let me use it this weekend?"

"Anything's better than watching you putt with your driver and making a fool of yourself," Deck said.

And wouldn't you know it, I won the Publinx that weekend at Clifton Park and Pine Ridge.

The following week, I saw Deck and he offered his congratulations.

"Now give me back my putter," he demanded. "You're not keeping it. I just wanted you to see that you can actually putt. But you can't have my putter."

"But I just won the Publinx with it," was my plea to him.

"I'll order you one and you can buy it. But you're not keeping my putter!"

I wound up ordering one and putting with it for a while but, like most other putters, it eventually lost its charm. I pulled it out of my shed last week when I heard about Deck's retirement party today at Pine Ridge and I think I'll take it along with me later this afternoon when I bid him farewell.

Jim Deck was a great golf professional. It seems weird to say "was", but he served his industry well and deserves to enjoy retirement. Hopefully he can make a lot of birdies now that he has more free time.

And if he ever needs a putting lesson...

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go ahead and order the waterfall faucets


We're upgrading the beach house. I know one of the golden rules of home building is to not change plans midway through, but the way we're cleaning up with our weekly NFL picks has caused us to change lanes.

We called the builder last Monday and told him to scrap the plans for "traditional" faucets in the four bathrooms and go with the pricey, $400 waterfall faucets. We've included a photo below (right) to show how our tastes have improved following last weekend's 5-0 romp over the boys in Las Vegas.

It went so well last Sunday we thought we might get blocked today, but, no, they're going to take our money again. I hope they like the new faucets.

Let's go ahead and throw five more winners your way. Oh, I almost forgot. Some of you are way behind on your Silver Oak shipments to me. And don't forget, I don't want the Alexander Valley stuff. If you can't send along a bottle from Napa Valley, don't bother.


PANTHERS AT FALCONS (-3.0) -- I'll admit to being a bit worried about this one because it feels like the Falcons are due for a stinker and a division rival coming to town makes Atlanta ripe for an upset. I realize the Falcons are no good, but it sure feels like the Panters are in the beginning stages of a freefall that winds up giving them the 5th pick in next April's draft. We're going with Atlanta in this one and giving up the three points in a 27-20 Falcons victory.

49'ERS AT BEARS (+4.0) -- Huh? The 49'ers are 4-point road favorites? Over anyone? I must be missing something. I mean, I realize the Bears are nothing great, but San Francisco is worse than "nothing great". Maybe the 49'ers win, but I'd never bet them and give away four points in the process. We're obviously going with Chicago and gobbling up the four points at home. Just for kicks, we'll even say San Fran wins the game 22-20, but Chicago and the points is the play here.

STEELERS AT BROWNS (-4.0) -- This one's weird. Pittsburgh's lousy. The Browns are much better than their 4-3 record would otherwise indicate. But Cleveland's banged up and the Steelers are trying to tread water long enough to get the refs to throw a flag or two their way late in the game and make it interesting. There's nothing about this game that says "Pittsburgh's gonna win" which is precisely why we feel like the Steelers might wind up stealing this one in overtime. We're taking the Steelers and the four points and we'll call it a 16-13 Pittsburgh triumph in overtime.

TITANS AT COLTS (-2.5) -- This is definitely a "prove it game" for the Colts. Are they actually a legit contender for the AFC South? If they are, today's the day they get the chance to prove it. The Titans, meanwhile, can kill two birds with one stone and perch themselves comfortably on top of the division while giving Indianapolis the Cleat of Reality in the process. We have to buy stock in one of these teams -- and we're buying Titans stock and taking Tennessee and the 2.5 points in a 33-23 win on the road.

PATRIOTS AT CHARGERS (-4.5) -- Another dicey game to play, mostly because it *feels* like New England is perhaps finding a bit of a mini-groove with Mac Jones at the helm. And, as we saw a couple of weeks ago in Baltimore when they got taken to the woodshed, there's no telling which version of the Chargers shows up today in Los Angeles. We have a feeling about this one. New England leads the whole time, looks destined to cover easily, but Los Angeles scores a late touchdown to turn the whole thing upside down. We're going with the Chargers to show themselves today in a 30-24 win.

BEST BET OF THE DAY -- We'll take the Bears at home plus 4.0 points as our Best Bet this week. We're just not believers in Jimmy G. and the 49'ers at all.


LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 5-0

OVERALL THIS SEASON: 20-15

BEST BET OF THE DAY: 4-3

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Saturday
October 30, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2623


saturday nuggets


Now that, last night, was a heck of a baseball game. Sure, the pitching changes and the 4-minute commercial breaks became tedious, but if you could stick around long enough to watch the game itself, it was well worth it.

The Braves beat the Astros, 2-0, to take a 2-1 World Series lead, in case you had other Friday plans that kept you away from the television.

Atlanta even had a no-hitter going through 7 innings, but the Astros finally managed a base hit in the 8th when the score was still 1-0. Well, even that wasn't actually a "hit". It was a fly ball that was misplayed into a hit by the Braves' left fielder Eddie Rosario, but they were never giving him an error even though that's precisely what it was. Houston eventually moved the tying run to third base in that 8th inning but failed to score.

Atlanta got five no-hit innings from rookie Ian Anderson on Friday night.

In the 9th, Alex Bregman got on with a hit and the Astros had the tying run at the plate but couldn't produce the big hit and Atlanta shut them down to win 2-0.

Braves' starter Ian Anderson (I'm trying hard to think of a Jethro Tull pun right about now but I can't come up with one) didn't allow a hit for five innings and didn't come out for the 6th inning. I sure would have enjoyed being in Jim Palmer's living room last night when the manager yanked Anderson after five innings of work. But I digress...

Sadly, most of the internet chatter about the game was centered on a non-baseball-matter, as folks still bicker back and forth about the "chop" and the "chant" that have long been part of Atlanta Braves' fandom. Despite the fact that local Native American groups have worked closely with the Braves over the years and have gone on record saying what happens at a sporting event in no way offends them, we're still here, in 2021, arguing about it, writing about it and, frankly, paying more attention to that issue than the actual game itself.

I can't wait until the day comes when we don't have those gripes still on our plates. Please hurry up and get here. Please.

On the field, which is what matters, Atlanta now has a 2-1 lead, but their pitching depth -- or lack thereof -- could become an issue now that Charlie Morton (broken leg) is out for the remainder of the series. There's a chance the Braves will use their bullpen to start the 4th and 5th games of the series just to try and get by without doing something weird with their pitching rotation.


Speaking of the word "bullpen" and campaigns by crazy people that shouldn't even be discussed, did you see earlier this week that PETA has formally asked Major League Baseball to change the name of "bullpen" to "arm barn"?

I have to admit, when I first saw the article, I did a double take and quickly checked the origin because I assumed it was the work of The Onion, a satire-based website that would produce something exactly like that and make it look as real as real can get.

Sadly, it's true.

PETA actually wants baseball to stop referring to the "bullpen" because, I don't know, bulls are somehow offended by it?

As I wrote on Twitter when I linked the original story: When I read something like this I have to assume this is a sign the world is coming to an end."

I understand PETA and what they do. Cruelty to animals is a terrible thing. They should be treated "ethically". I realize PETA's role goes beyond family pets and domestic animals and that they're far more concerned with any kind of harm done to any kind of animal. I'm not saying I agree with everything they stand for, but I certainly respect the work they do.

But when you sit in your office somewhere and say -- "You know, that word: bullpen. It's terrible. It needs to go. The world would be a much better place if we called it "arm barn" instead of "bullpen" -- well, my friend, you've lost your mind.

Arm barn.

You know what I think of when I see the word "arm barn"? I think of #clownshoes.


From the "lack of attention to detail" file, here's a funny story from my recent trip to Tampa for a senior golf tournament. It happened on Sunday night at the opening reception for the 88 players who were playing in the event at Innisbrook Resort.

I ventured over to a table occupied at that time by four men, one of which was a friend of mine from Western Maryland. The reception was outside and the tables were mostly filled. There was a lot of chatter going on. I wouldn't say it was loud out there, but it wasn't the library, either.

Former Buffalo Sabres goaltender Don Edwards.

I approached the table and one of the men reached out his hand and said, "John Den (something or other). I sorta-kinda thought he said "John Dennis" or maybe even "John Edison" or "John Edwards", even. I couldn't tell. But, I didn't ask him to repeat his name. I heard "John", which was good enough. I introduced myself to him and the other guys at the table that I didn't know and sat down for a glass of wine with them.

15 minutes later, John somehow started talking about his home course in Buffalo and someone asked him how long he lived there and he mentioned something about "playing there".

A minute or two later, he mentioned a good friend of his was Eddie Westfall, a former hockey player, and I started to piece together that the guy at the table must have played in the NHL.

"Did you play in the NHL?" I asked. I am, as anyone who knows me knows all too well, a major hockey fan and, in particular, a huge follower of the players and teams from the late 1970's and 1980's, when I was playing ice hockey at Benfield Ice Rink in Severna Park.

"I did," he said. "I played in Buffalo, mostly."

"Wow? Really? What position?" I shot back.

"I was a goaltender," John said.

"Wow, I used to love those old Sabres teams," I replied. "I actually had a Gilbert Perreault jersey. Number 11."

"That's right," John countered. "Number 11. I played with Gilbert. He was a great player."

Now my mind started to race. I started thinking about the Buffalo goaltenders from those days. Try as I might, I couldn't think of anyone named John who played for Buffalo. I wasn't doubting the guy or anything, but I did want to figure out when he played, how long, etc.

"I remember a lot of those Buffalo goalies from back then," I said. "Bob Sauve. Don Beaupre, who wound up with the Capitals, Don Edwards."

"That's me," John said. "I'm Don Edwards."

The table broke up in that kind of nervous laughter you hear when someone has done something really stupid and you're not afraid to make them feel bad about it.

"You're Don Edwards?" I asked him.

"Yes, I am," he confirmed again.

I had heard "John" and then something that sounded like Den or Ed or En as part of his last name. Instead of saying to him, "I didn't catch your name again, what was it?" I just kept making my rounds at the table to introduce myself.

Don and I spent the next 30 minutes talking old school hockey and it turned into an awesome night as we chatted about the '70's and '80's and those awful Capitals teams from back then and Don's life with "The French Connection" (Perreault, Martin and Robert) and his time with the Sabres.

And I learned yet another valuable life lesson. If someone introduces themself to you and you don't catch their name, just say, "What was your name again? I didn't quite catch it just now."


I can't say I'm surprised that Greg Norman is whoring himself to the Saudi Arabian group that is putting together a new golf league that will start play -- and clash with the PGA Tour -- in the spring of 2022. Norman is one of those guys who apparently just never has enough of whatever it is he's trying to accumulate.

Well, except for major championships. He only won two of those on TOUR. Could have won 10, only won 2. Too bad, Greg.

Anyway, Norman is going to be the Commissioner of a new start-up league, funded by dirty Saudi money, that will seek to compete against the U.S.-based PGA Tour by offering players between $15 million and $30 million to play on "teams" that travel around and play just like pro sports teams do here in America and in other places in the world.

The PGA Tour is not going to allow for it, of course. They're already saying anyone who plays on that TOUR or any other fledgling circuit will be banned from playing on the PGA Tour. The TOUR itself doesn't run any of the major golf championships, so someone like Dustin Johnson -- who reportedly is going to play in the Middle East based league that Norman is running -- can still play in the Masters (if they invite him), the U.S. Open (if he qualifies and is eligible), the British Open (if he qualifies and is eligible) and the PGA Championsihp (if he qualifies and is eligible).

Via his 2020 Masters win, Johnson has a lifetime exemption to the Augusta, Georgia event and several years of exemptions in the other three majors. So, technically, he's already "in" for the four majors for many years to come. But each of those events could also simply tell Johnson he can't play. I'm sure something like that would wind up in court, but you just know the PGA Tour has already reached out to the folks at Augusta, the USGA, the R&A and the PGA of America and asked for their support in helping to squeeze players who decide to play in Norman's league in the Middle East.

Johnson isn't the only player rumored to be taking the money from the Saudis. Abraham Ancer, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Graeme McDowell, Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood are the other 7 who are apparently jumping ship as well.

Here's what those guys don't understand. Or, perhaps they do understand it and they don't care.

No one knows -- or cares, really -- how much money a pro golfer makes in his career. I mean, sure, the player and his family might know. But in terms of your place in golf history, how much money you made matters none.

I have zero idea how much Tiger Woods has made in his career. I'd guess $150 million. But I know he won 82 golf tournaments and 15 majors and 5 green jackets.

I don't know what Phil Mickelson has made ($90 million?) but I know he has six major championships.

I don't even know what Dustin Johnson has made ($60 million?) but I know he won the 2016 U.S. Open and the 2020 Masters.

Your legacy in pro golf is tied into one thing and one thing only: winning golf tournaments.

I surely understand the value of money, but it's not like guys on the PGA Tour are making peanuts in comparison to what they might make in the Middle East. Last time I checked, making $5 million a year to play any sport is a good living. Couple that with the additional millions you make from corporate sponsorships and the like and you're not looking at the price of the Friday night special at Capital Grille any longer.

I expected more from Greg Norman. Or maybe I didn't. Even though he no longer plays professionally, he still thinks money is more important than trophies.

For the record, I don't think any of the big names are actually going to follow through and jump to the new league. It might wind up in court at some point, but guys like Dustin Johnson -- and the marquee players on TOUR -- are going to wise up in the end and stay home. Now, middle-of-the-road players like Kokrak and Na? They might fight it tooth-and-nail because $15 million to them is far more than they'd make here in the U.S. playing golf. And their legacy isn't really a discussion point because they're just guys playing golf.

Professional golfers are measured by wins. That's why Tiger's the greatest of his generation and perhaps the greatest of all time. He won 82 tournaments and 15 majors. Money? No one cares. Except him, of course.

Oh, and I looked it up for kicks and giggles: Tiger has made $120 million on TOUR. Phil has made $92 million. And Dustin Johnson has won $71 million. I was in the neighborhood on all three.


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Friday
October 29, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2622


on the subject of "comfortable"


For those of you who have had young teens, you know that late September into mid November is the time when most 8th graders start making their decision about high school, particularly those that are interested in attending a private school rather than a public institution.

With that in mind, I've visited with roughly 25 young men -- and their parents -- over the last six weeks who are considering attending Calvert Hall in the fall of 2022 and have expressed an interest in the golf program. A handful of them are active junior golfers in the area that I know from watching them play at various locations throughout the year. Their interest in Calvert Hall includes playing golf at the varsity level and, hopefully, someday being able to play at the college level.

A number of the other young men are learning how to play golf and would like to play in high school, but whether they would eventually earn a spot on the CHC team is still up in the air. And a few, frankly, just checked off "golf" on the interest form when they filled out their initial information to send to the school and once they find out how the golf program at Calvert Hall works, they quickly realize it's not for them.

All of these interactions are unique in that no two student-athletes are alike. I'm now in my 10th season at Calvert Hall and I can say, in complete honesty, that I've stopped trying to figure out ahead of time whether "Junior" is coming to Calvert Hall to play for me or not. I simply let him and his parents go through the entire process, provide them with as much information and guidance as I can, and wait for their decision.

Having just personally gone through the high school search process with my own (then) 13-year old son, I completely understand how complicated and important it is to both the student and the parent(s). Young men (and women) should be choosing their high school first and foremost because it fits with their academic strengths and weaknesses. "School first, sports second", I tell them all.

But just when I think I've seen just about every angle or story from a parent and/or student-athlete, I get something new. This happened just last week, in fact. You're getting the abridged story below, but if it fits your student-athlete in any way, I hope my position might help you down the road.

We'll call the student-athlete "Al". He is, what I consider, a competent junior golfer. He attends a public middle school and has had no formal interaction at all with the private school sector in grades 1 through 8. I've seen him play several times over the last two summers and generally said the same thing to his mom and dad (neither of which are golfers, which might sorta-kinda matter in this case) anytime I bumped into them at a tournament.

"Your son is definitely good enough to play golf in the MIAA." I always stop short of saying "good enough to play at Calvert Hall" simply because I can't make that kind of promise to anyone until I learn more about them. But by just watching his golf, I can at least give them an assurance his standard of performance is MIAA-caliber.

So last week, "Al" came in to Calvert Hall for his day at school. Every private school in the area pretty much does the same thing. They open their doors to current 8th graders and invite them in to spend a day at the institution to see what life is like at St. Paul's, Concordia, Loyola, Calvert Hall and so on.

I had the opportunity to chat with the parents for a few minutes on the morning they dropped him off at CHC.

"We have to be honest with you," the dad said. "Al is really leaning in the direction of (another MIAA school). We know they don't play golf in the A-Conference, but if he goes there, the coach said he will probably be the #1 or #2 player right away. He told us Al might not even play at Calvert Hall until maybe his junior year."

I always love hearing how other coaches know so much about the Calvert Hall golf program that they can tell a parent and student-athlete when he might play on my team before I even know when he might play on my team. But anyway...

Then the mother said something I hadn't heard before. "We think it's important for Al to be comfortable with his golf in high school. He plays his best when he's comfortable."

"What's 'comfortable' mean?" I asked.

The dad jumped in. "Well, two of the kids that are already on the team at (xxx), he beats regularly on the summer junior tour. And two of the best players at (two other B Conference schools) he also beats regularly in the summer. We just feel like he's going to be a big fish in a small pond at (xxx)."

I knew right then and there, Al wasn't coming to Calvert Hall. And I was totally fine with that. But I didn't want to let the opportunity slip without perhaps doing some coaching, either.

"Well, first things first. (XXX) is a good school. If it's a good fit for him academically, that's all that really matters in the end. He's not going to play on the PGA Tour. School first, golf second. Make sure you're choosing that school because it fits him in the classroom before you worry about golf."

They both assured me he liked (XXX) as a school first and foremost, but that golf was also important.

"Well, here's all I'm going to say to you about golf and your son. And this is something he should carry with him for the rest of his life if he wants to achieve something in the sport. And I'm happy to explain this to him in detail if you want, and I'm saying that to you even if he doesn't come here and play at Calvert Hall."

"You can't get better at golf until you're uncomfortable."

They both looked at me oddly.

"The only way to improve at golf, particularly tournament golf, is to get your brains beat in by better players and figure out how to chip away at the things you don't do well in order to close the gap on their quality vs. your quality," I continued. "If your son just goes to (XXX) and beats everyone there (and for the record, I have no way of knowing if that's even true because I don't really know anything about the B Conference schools in the MIAA) and is never really challenged, he's not going to get much better. He'll just keep beating kids with ease and that will be fun and probably give him some sense of accomplishment, but his golf won't really improve."

When you're 3 down with 5 to play and you're playing someone you thought you'd beat handily...suddenly you're uncomfortable.

When you play the front nine in even par at the State Amateur/Open qualifier and you start the back nine bogey, double, bogey and you know the cut is roughly around 4 over par...suddenly you're uncomfortable.

When your whole team is standing behind the 12th green at CC of Maryland and you're playing #6 and you're the last match on the course and you need a par to clinch the winning point...suddenly you're uncomfortable.

And the only way to navigate those moments and understand how to deal with them is by......putting yourself in those situations in the first place.

I remember a few years ago, we had a 9th grader at CHC who was playing #6 for us and we were playing at Rolling Road against Mount Saint Joseph. We were having a good season and the Gaels were having a bit of a rebuilding year, yet the match was much closer than we wanted it to be. In fact, as the last pairing stood on the 12th tee, the whole thing came down to what the #6 players did on that hole.

Both players put their balls in the fairway off the tee. As we walked along, I said to my #6 player, "You wanted this, remember. This is exactly what you signed up for. You wanted to come to Calvert Hall and play golf. You wanted to make the varsity team as a freshman. You wanted to play in the matches. You wanted it. You got it. If you finish this match off, you're going to be a better player for it, trust me."

I was thrilled to see him make a par at the final hole to hold on and win his back six point and secure a close win for us. And he worked his way through the lineup and eventually played #1 for us as a junior and senior. But that first experience with being uncomfortable was what he needed. And he needed to be reminded that this what he signed up for. He wanted to be in that situation. Someone just needed to remind him of that.

Being comfortable is good in life, but I'm not sure it's great for sports, particularly at a young, developing age. That's why kids who "play up" an age in soccer or baseball or basketball tend to show greater growth and long term quality. A 9-year old playing in the 10-11 age group is quickly "uncomfortable" and learns that kids who are bigger, stronger, faster etc. aren't a walk in the park. They either adapt or they get by-passed.

"You need Al to be uncomfortable in golf if he wants to get better," I said to them. "He would not be our #1 player at Calvert Hall as a freshman, I can assure you of that. In my 10 seasons, I've had exactly one 9th grader play #1 and that experiment only lasted a few matches. In order to get to #1, you have to be able to beat the kids at #6, #5, #4, #3, #2 and #1. And you have to beat them regularly in order to justify your spot. That process, in and of itself, is "uncomfortable". When you show up for practice on Monday and I say, 'OK, you're playing the #5 and #6 kid today and you have to beat them in order to "move up the ladder', you're now in an uncomfortable situation. Win...or go to the back of the line and start over."

"That's the only way you can get better," I told the parents. "By beating people. And by beating people better than you. At first, it's likely you won't beat them. And then you either assess why you didn't beat them and how you're going to improve, or you don't."

I then told them about my experience in Omaha in July at the U.S. Senior Open. "I was uncomfortable the whole time I was there," I said. "And I couldn't have asked for a better learning environment. I saw firsthand why those guys are all far better than me. The experience was outstanding -- and totally uncomfortable. I loved it."

Al is going to attend the B Conference school, I'm assuming. And that could be a perfect fit for him. He'll go there, immediately play varsity golf (according to his parents) and even potentially be the #1 player as a 9th grader. But if he's doing that simply to be "comfortable" in golf, he won't improve nearly as much as if he were to go to a school with more skilled players who make him uncomfortable. He might even spend a year on JV at a different school. Sometimes you have to beat everyone on JV for a year just to get the chance to prove you can beat everyone on varsity.

What I do know -- and for those of you with young athletes who are looking at high school sports, I hope this has helped -- is the whole idea of "being comfortable" might feel good at the time, but it's not the way to get better. You get better by being uncomfortable.

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faith in sports


Ernie Johnson is one of the most decorated and well respected broadcasters in all of sports. He's also a devout Christian who has used his platform over the years to speak only about his faith. In this edition of "Faith in Sports", you get a great idea of what Johnson is like as both a human being and a Christian.

I had the privilege of meeting him at a Super Bowl ten or so years ago. I don't use the word "privilege" there as just another word. It was truly a privilege to chat with him for 6 or 7 minutes on radio row and then again for a minute or two later in the day.

Thanks, as always, to our friends at Freestate Electrical for their continued support of #DMD and our "Faith in Sports" segment every Friday here at #DMD.

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Thursday
October 28, 2021
r logo#DMDfacebook logoIssue
#2621


"charley, it's pronounced fy-kus"


I wrote here yesterday about a story from the old days where Charley Eckman was asked by one of his players if he had a play drawn up for a late game situation. Eckman's reply was a classic: "I only know of two plays. South Pacific. And put it in the hole."

I was blessed to travel and work with Eckman from 1981 through the early 1990's. I think I've mentioned before that I grew up a mile or so from Charley in Glen Burnie and played a season or two of Little League Baseball with his nephew. When I was fortunate enough to receive an internship with the Blast in 1981, one of the main draws for me was finding out I would be working with Art Sinclair and Charley Eckman, who were the team's radio pairing throughout the 1980's.

I always looked up to Charley. He was a straight shooter kind of guy, both on the air and in person. I remember once, during a meal somewhere, I asked Eckman what made a good sports radio host. "Don't be a homer," he said. "Call it like you see it. That doesn't mean you can't get excited when the home team does something good, but you can't be one of those guys who think the home team always gets jobbed by the refs or gets the bad breaks at the worst time. Just call it like you see it and that's that."

Seven years after he passed away, I got the morning radio job in Baltimore and those words resonated with me. "Don't be a homer." I'd like to think I never was, even though my heart ached watching the Orioles stink for the majority of my 12 years on the air.

Our friend UnitasToBerry posted something yesterday in the Comments section about Charley's book, "It's a very simple game!" I got a few mentions in there when the writer asked me for some of my favorite Eckman stories from the old days. I have so many "Charley stories" I wouldn't know where to start. Nearly all of them would be fit for print. The ones that aren't...I'll keep private.

I wanted to share a few memories today that should make you laugh. And if you knew Charley at all, you'll definitely be able to hear his voice and his trademark laugh as the stories unfold.


Eckman used to tell this one any time the subject of gambling in sports was brought up. He was coaching the Fort Wayne Pistons and they were in New York to take on the Knicks at the Garden. Eckman recalled that he wasn't feeling well on the morning of the game and instructed his assistant coach to get the team to the Garden at 4 pm and that Charley would come over late via taxi cab.

Eckman hailed a cab at 5 pm.

"Where ya off to?" the cabbie asked.

"The Garden," Charley replied.

"Basketball game?" came the cabbie's next question.

"Yep," said Charley.

The cabbie turned around. "Are you a man that likes to gamble a bit?" he asked Charley.

"I might be, why?" replied the Pistons' coach.

"I have a friend, an insider, if you will, who tells me the Knicks minus 2.5 points is a lock tonight. A lock. If you know what I mean," the cabbie said.

"Is that so?" Charley said. "That's interesting. A lock, huh?"

The ride ends and Charley gets out. "Don't forget," the cabbie yells. "Knicks minus 2.5 is a lock!"

As Eckman told it, Fort Wayne led by a large margin at the half and eventually were up 14 points in the 3rd quarter.

Charley remembers laughing to himself as he watched his Fort Wayne team breeze through the lane and knock down lay-up after lay-up.

"That cabbie had an insider, huh?," Charley said to himself with a snicker as the Pistons led by double digits mid-way through the fourth quarter.

Suddenly, Fort Wayne couldn't buy a basket. And the Knicks were the ones now driving the lane and scoring with ease. The lead was cut to 12, then 10, then 8. Eckman feverishly called time out to try and get things back on track.

"That made it worse!" Eckman told us at dinner as he recalled the story. "Next thing you know, there's a minute thirty left and we're up by two points.

You know where this is heading, of course.

The Knicks hit a late bucket to tie the score, then swiped the ball near midcourt and scored an uncontested bucket to go up by 2 with 20 seconds left. The Pistons missed a late shot, New York collected the rebound, and a Fort Wayne foul sent a Knicks player to the line with a few seconds remaining. The New Yorker hit both shots...and the Knicks produced an improbable 4 point win.

In the locker room, Eckman was steamed. "I don't even care that we lost," he screamed. "You guys made it too damn obvious out there. The next time you're in cahoots with the other team, at least tell me! And then I won't bother coaching or screaming at the officials trying to wake you guys up!"


Eckman was really, really loyal to Blast coach Kenny Cooper. He loved Cooper like a brother and was one of the many media folks in town that Coops developed a deeply personal relationship with over the years. For the most part, a Cooper in-game decision was almost always supported by Eckman. But if he felt like something was wrong, he would say so.

We were in Minnesota for a game in the '84-85 season. Back in those days, if the game was tied after regulation, a 15-minute sudden death overtime period was played. If no one scored in that extra 15 minutes, the game was decided by a shootout. In the indoor soccer world, a shootout was similar to what hockey uses now. The player gets the ball at the "blue line" and comes in with it on a controlled breakaway and tries to score on the goalkeeper. Shootouts were very rare in the league. Sometimes you'd get one or two in a season, but that was rare indeed.

In this particular game in Minnesota, it was 5-5 late in the contest. Eckman had taken a liking to a forward named Lou Nagy, who we dubbed "Super Sub" because, since arriving in 1981, he had figured out a way to score a goal when called upon, even if he came off the bench cold in the 3rd or 4th quarter.

Late in regulation, Eckman started ask for Nagy on the radio broadcast.

"I don't understand what Coops is thinking here," Eckman said to Art Sinclair. "You've got Nagy on the bench and this is exactly where he usually shines. Get him in there, get Stamenkovic to find him at the far post, and let's get out of this place with a win."

As the end of regulation approached, Eckman's thirst increased...if you know what I mean. He was nipping here and there as the game rolled on and that made him even more anxious to see Nagy in the game.

"I just can't figure out why Cooper hasn't used Nagy," Eckman said. "This is tailor-made for him. Having him stand there on the end of the bench isn't doing any good at all. Get him in there."

In overtime, the Blast missed a couple of fairly routine scoring plays. As Sinclair called the action, Eckman leaned into his microphone and said, "Wouldn't have happened if Nagy would have been in there. This game would be over."

As overtime neared its end, Eckman said, "Well, the only good thing about this going to a shootout is Nagy will definitely get in at that point." I quickly wrote a note to Charley that Nagy was 4-for-4 in shootouts in his career. "That kid is 4-for-4 in shootouts!" Charley said. "He better be in there when this thing goes to a shootout."

And, so, the game ended tied after 15 minutes of overtime. I don't remember the specific order of shooters, but I recall that Paul Kitson, Joey Fink and Mike Stankovic all missed shots for us. I think Richard Chinapoo may have missed one as well. But I definitely know what happened on our 5th shot.

Out came Lou Nagy.

"Finally!" Charley said. "Let's bang this ball into the net, get a save from Scotty (Manning) and go home."

Except Nagy missed. Not only did he miss, he tried some kind of wild move that failed miserably and the shot was probably 20 feet off target. On their last shot, Minnesota scored to win the game.

"I have no idea why Cooper would put Nagy in there at that point," Eckman said. Both Sinclair and I looked at each with amazement. It was all we both could do to not break out in a belly-laugh.

"The kid hadn't played the entire game and then suddenly, without a warm-up or anything, Cooper uses him in the shootout? Not one of Coops' better moments," Charley stated.

Sinclair and I were stunned. Eckman had been clamoring for Nagy for the better part of 30 minutes, at least. But as the game moved on and his glass emptied more and more, he must not have remembered his plea for Cooper to use Nagy in the shootout.

We got on the Met Center elevator to head for the team bus. "Cooper has lost his damn mind," Charley said to Art and I. "How can he use Nagy in that situation when he was cold as ice?"

Art and I just looked at each other and smiled. Another Eckman story for the book.


Charley had a way with names. Let's just put it that way. And he also liked the occasional private joke that only he knew.

The St. Louis Steamers had a player named Steve Pecher. He was an All-Star defender and, if I recall, Charley somehow knew Pecher's father from their days together in the NBA.

Anyway, Pecher's last name was pronounced "Petch-her". Well, it was pronounced that way to everyone but Charley.

"That Pecher is quite a player, Art," Eckman would say. Except he wouldn't pronounce it Petch-er. He would -- you surely know where this is headed -- pronounce it Peck-er.

Every time he pronounced it Peck-er, Art would try and drown him out by going right back to the play-by-play. But Eckman would always find a way to get Peck-er into the broadcast at least a dozen or so times. And every time he would mispronounce it, he'd shoot me a quick look and would snicker. He knew exactly what he was doing, of course.

Charley never got along with any of the folks from the Cleveland Force. He was approached once by the team's general manager and told he was pronouncing Keith Furphy's name wrong. "I heard you a couple of weeks ago in Cleveland when I was in the press box," the GM said to Eckman. "It's pronounced Fur-phy, not Fur-pee."

And when you tell Eckman it's pronounced "Fur-phy" and he doesn't like you or your team, well, you know exactly what's going to happen.

He called the Cleveland forward "Fur-pee" in every broadcast. Art and I would occasionally say, "Come on, Charley, it's Fur-phy," but it didn't matter. He was digging in with all of his might.

That Fur-pee is some kind of threat, you can believe that, Leader," Charley would say. "We have to figure out a way to stop Fur-pee."

But that wasn't best of the intentional mispronounced names. Or, actually, the worst.

The Chicago Sting had a player named Charlie Fajkus. Yes, this was true. His name was pronounced "Fy-kus".

And so, Charley would call him...well, you can probably figure it out.

Let's just say there wasn't a "u" in Charlie's last name but Eckman figured out a way to get one in there. The first time he said it, Art Sinclair almost had a coronary right then and there. I quickly leaned in to Eckman and he took off his headset. "His last name is pronounced Fy-kus," I whispered.

Eckman again mispronounced his name several times on the next shift. At the commercial break, Art lit into Charley. "Now you know his last name is Fy-kus!" Art said.

"What did I say?" Charley asked. When told he pronounced it with a "u" instead of a "y", Eckman was aghast. "No I didn't," he said to Art.

"Yes you did," Sinclair confirmed. "Now no more of that. Come on Charley."

As fate would have it, the Sting won the game 5-4 in overtime that night and, yes, Charlie Fajkus scored the game-winning goal.

You can just imagine the way Eckman described the game-winner. Hint: It wasn't with a "y" sound in Fajkus.


Charley was, let's say, occasionally rough around the edges. There wasn't much filter there. And things that were said back in the 1980's certainly wouldn't be said or tolerated today. But Eckman was also a kind, gentle soul at times.

For a couple of years circa 1983, WJZ-TV had a sports reporter for a brief time named Chris O'Donohue. I don't recall his credentials, but I think he came from New York. Chris was of Scottish descent and he was handicapped. When WJZ-TV would broadcast an away game, the on-air team and producer would travel with us. Back then, Lou Tilley would handle the play-by-play and O'Donohue would deliver color analysis.

O'Donohue's wheelchair and seating on airplanes required extensive boarding time, as you can imagine. He would then have to be assisted throughout the airport and to the team hotel. While he was very self-sufficient, there was still a need for support and assistance for O'Donohue.

Charley had a soft spot for O'Donohue. When he traveled with the team, Eckman would always offer to help push his wheelchair through the airport.

We landed in St. Louis for the '83-84 Championship Series. A large travel contingent accompanied us and two buses were required to escort the team, staff and sponsors who made the trip. As we picked up our bags at the luggage carousel, Eckman barked out to me, "I'm bringing Chris out...don't leave us!"

The buses filled up and we waited for Eckman and O'Donohue. Out they came, Charley trying to push O'Donohue, who had two or three large bags on his lap.

As they neared the bus, Charley motioned for the door to open.

He stepped on and yelled out, "Someone needs to come out here and help me with 'Wheels', we have these bags to store and I have to get him on the bus."

The bus broke into the nervous kind of laughter you hear when you're not quite sure if you should be laughing or cringing. Charley had referred to O'Donohue as 'Wheels' and no one really knew what to think about it.

As a few people helped get O'Donohue on the bus, Charley said, "You OK, Wheels? You comfortable there, Leader?"

"Yes, yes, Charley, I'm great," said O'Donohue in his Scottish accent. "Thank you so much for looking after me."

There was silence on the bus as everyone took in the moment. Charley had referred to a guy in a wheelchair as 'Wheels' and the guy in the wheelchair didn't seem to mind one bit. He was just happy to have a friend who cared about him.

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thursday quick hits


Has there ever been a better player who couldn't stay healthy than Cardinals' defensive end J.J. Watt?

On the eve of Arizona's home showdown tonight vs. Green Bay, reports surfaced that Watt will undergo shoulder surgery sometime soon and will miss the remainder of the '21 season.

Watt played all 16 games in his first five years in the league, but in the six years thereafter, he's managed to play all 16 just two times.

Aaron Rodgers got a good night's sleep on Wednesday evening in Glendale, Arizona, that's for sure.


Alex Ovechkin is now just three goals shy of tying Brett Hull after scoring his 738th career goal last night vs. Detroit.

The Washington Capitals have played seven games thus far and have yet to lose in regulation. That's the good news.

The bad news is they've played three overtime games this season and have lost all three of them, including last night's 3-2 decision at home to Detroit, where D.C. squandered a 2-0 second period lead to the Red Wings.

Alex Ovechkin continued his hot start to the season with his 8th goal. That's more good news. He won't catch Wayne Gretzky this season or anything like that, but he's probably going to score enough goals in '21-22 to make it interesting over the next couple of years.

The Caps could be a 7-0-0 team if they could find the magic in overtime. Alas, their 4-0-3 start still has them in first place in the Metropolitan Division.


The PGA Tour season is in Bermuda this week. No one can really figure out way, honestly. The field is so watered down and weak that an online chat session yesterday included a poll about the event someday inviting the top 20 college players to give them all a taste of what life on TOUR is all about and let them see how their games stack up against other professionals.

There are only 132 players in the field this week, down from the normal number of 156. A large number of the best players opted out for various reasons, but chief among them is Bermuda's national mandate that anyone and everyone on the island must have a Covid-19 vaccination.

So with that mandate in mind, a number of big names said "no thanks" and stayed stateside.

Based on the reaction of a lot of people on the worldwide web, you would have thought those PGA Tour players were opting out of mandatory military service. The backlash was harsh.

It's funny how we've been made to work in the United States. If something fits our own personal agenda, we're there to trumpet the cause and speak glowingly about others who follow suit. But the minute someone goes against our agenda, we bash them. The notion that perhaps both people have a valid point has ended in the U.S.

I've said this time and time again. I received the Covid-19 vaccination. I was happy to get it. I have good friends who have elected not to get it. That's their decision. I think nothing more or nothing less of them. It's their decision. I'd never think to criticize them for not getting something put in their body.

Sadly, a lot of people in the country can't follow that philosophy. Just surf the web for an hour on a flight and you'll see it all there in hi-definition. It's sad.

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breakfast bytes


NFL: Despite sore toe that could require surgery, Rodgers, Packers turn back Rams in Green Bay, 36-25.

Broncos (6-5) beat Chargers in Denver, 28-13, will play for AFC West lead next Sunday night in Kansas City.

NBA: Curry scores 33 as Golden State improves to 18-2 with 105-90 win over Clippers in Los Angeles.

College football: Lincoln Riley leaves Oklahoma, takes vacant USC job.




SCOREBOARD
Sunday, November 28
AT HURRICANES
2
CAPITALS
4

CAPS GOALS: Ovechkin (19), Protas (1), Orlov (4), Carlson (5)

GOALTENDER: Samsonov

RECORD: 14-3-5

NEXT GAME: 11/30 at Florida