Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pro Bowling

Willis McGahee is a damn good bowler. After all, he beat both Magic Johnson and Ed Reed during Ray Lewis' celebrity bowling tournament last summer. But Willis was hoping for bigger and better things in 2007, and although the Ravens didn't make it to Arizona, McGahee will get to make a trip west this February as he was named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster today.

Willis rushed for 1,207 yards this season and scored eight touchdowns en route to his first appearance in the Aloha State. He was a second alternate at first, but an injury to Willie Parker, followed by today's announcement that Ladanian Tomlinson had decided to not to play, forced McGahee to make some last minute travel plans.

Damn it Feels Good to be a...


At least that's what Rex Ryan is saying after being retained as Defense Coordinator for the purple and black, not to mention a new title - Assistant Head Coach. In his press conference, Ryan told reporters, "Man, it's great to be a Raven. That head coaching stuff, I was just kidding about that."

I don't think he was kidding, but I'm glad the Falcons and Dolphins were just kidding about hiring him a their head coach. With the addition of John Harbaugh, Cam Cameron and newly appointed Special Teams Coordinator, Jerry Rosburg, the Ravens appear reloaded for a successful 2008. Damn that feels good.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

True or False?

Ray Ray is clearly looking for all the media exposure he can get these days. Why else would he submit to a lie detector test on The Best Damn Sports Show Period. In any event, #52 was wired and ready for the onslaught. The result? Apologies to Trent Dilfer...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Six Degrees of RavensNation

Last Thursday, Cam Cameron was hired as the Ravens offensive coordinator, the first major move from new head coach John Harbaugh. As a result, Cam will be sure to have a profound effect on the Ravens fortunes on offense and their overall success during the 2008 season. What may not be as obvious, however, is that although Cam will play a role in determining the Ravens’ future, he has also had a hand in determining much of the Ravens’ past. In the spirit of Kevin Bacon, I present the Six Degrees of Separation between Cam Cameron and RavensNation.

6. Kevin Bacon
First of all, to validate my premise…
  • Cam Cameron played basketball at Indiana University for legendary Coach Bobby Knight.
  • Bobby Knight coached All-American Isaiah Thomas during their 1981 NCAA Championship season.
  • Isaiah Thomas won an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons, on the same team as Dennis Rodman.
  • Dennis Rodman won an NBA title with the Chicago Bulls, on the same team as Michael Jordan.
  • Michael Jordan appeared in a Hanes commercial with Kevin Bacon.

There you go, and in just 5 degrees. Now on to the relevant information.

5. Jim Harbaugh
Cam Cameron coached the other Harbaugh at the University of Michigan during one of the most prolific offensive years in Wolverine history. The 1985 team posted a 10-1-1 record, beat Nebraska 27-23 in the Fiesta Bowl, and finished #2 in the final polls. Harbaugh’s success in Ann Arbor would result in a first round selection in the 1987 draft by the Chicago Bears. Eleven years later Harbaugh would land in Baltimore and for better or worse, the team’s lack of success contributed to the departure of Ted Marchibroda and the arrival of Brian Billick. Two years later, the Ravens were World Champions.

4. Elvis Grbac
While roaming the sidelines alongside Bo Schembechler, Cameron guided Grbac to two Rose Bowl appearances, earning Elvis a chance to make it in the NFL. After a Pro Bowl season in Kansas City, Grbac arrived in Baltimore in 2001 amidst criticism and controversy. The Ravens had just won Super Bowl XXXV and both the fans and the media were less than thrilled with the change at quarterback. Elvis would eventually ‘leave the building’, and the NFL after that season, setting in motion a signal-calling carousel that is still spinning.

3. Philip Rivers
Of course, before the end of Billick’s reign there was one remarkable run in 2006, resulting in a 13-3 record and an AFC North title for the Ravens. There were many memorable moments that year, however, one game on the first day of October may have given the team the confidence it needed to make their march into the post-season. The battle in question was against Cam Cameron’s San Diego Chargers, who would go on to earn the #1 seed in the AFC that season. However, the Chargers weren’t really Cam’s, he just ran the offense, and he had a veteran head coach calling the shots. Marty Schottenheimer made his mark that Sunday, giving new life to the term ‘Marty Ball’ as he and Cameron kept their quarterback, Philip Rivers, under wraps for most of the second half as Rivers threw just 8 passes in the final 30 minutes. Todd Heap’s leap towards the end zone would prove to be the game winner, but the offensive shut down by San Diego played a large part in propelling Baltimore to a bye week of its own.

It’s worth noting that Marty and Cam let Rivers loose during the remainder of the season, resulting in a 14-2 record due in large part to the team’s scoring success. That offensive onslaught was enough to earn Cam the head coaching spot in Miami the following season.

2. Greg Camarillo
The end of the Billick era may have been sealed with a slant route to Greg Camarillo. Camarillo caught a Cleo Lemon strike in overtime and sprinted sixty-four yards to give Cam’s Dolphins their only win of the 2007 season. Of course the one win wasn’t enough to secure his position for 2008, thus making him available to travel north to Baltimore, but the embarrassing loss may have been the nail in the coffin for Coach Billick’s time in the Charm City. Cameron’s ‘Fins did everything they could to allow the Ravens to escape South Florida with a victory, but after opting for OT, Matt Stover missed a field goal attempt which led to Camarillo running Brian out of Baltimore.

1. John Harbaugh
The last link in the chain is a direct connection between Cam Cameron and John Harbaugh. Harbaugh coached under Cam at Indiana in 1997, a forgettable season for both men as the Hoosiers posted a 2-9 record. Their last win together came against the University of Illinois as Harbaugh and the Indiana defense held the Illini to just two Neil Rackers’ field goals (yes, that Neil Rackers). More than ten years later, the two men are now reunited with a chance to plot a new course for the Ravens franchise, which shouldn’t be too hard. After all, Cam Cameron has been guiding the ship for years.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

You're Hired! Now What?

In the words of newly named Head Coach John Harbaugh, “Let’s go baby.”

Harbaugh was appointed king of the castle last Saturday and before the ink had time to dry on his contract, the third leading man in Ravens franchise history appeared just as ready to move on to the 2008 season as his new flock of fans as he told Ravens President Dick Cass, “Can’t wait to get started,” followed by a moment of honest enthusiasm as he quipped, “Let’s go baby.”

And who could blame him? After spending 21 years on the sidelines, he has finally been handed the reigns to run things as he sees fit. He will get to pick his own coaching staff. Pick his own plays. Pick which players play for him, rather those relegated to special teams. And he will probably be allowed to pick the meals on our team flights (Note to coach: please keep the crab claws and warm cookies on the menu, but feel free to add cheese steaks to make you feel more at home).

Other than slightly higher cholesterol levels amongst Ravens employees, what can Ravens fans expect now that the Harbaugh era has begun? No one knows. Consider Brian Billick’s offensive prowess before donning the purple and black. Consider Marvin Lewis’ legendary defensive distinction before becoming a head coach himself. And now, with Harbaugh, even the most speculative spectators have only special teams tapes to scour. So, if we can’t predict the brand of product scheduled for release this fall, what can we expect from the company’s new spokesman?

First of all, he can handle the pressure. And not just from the throng of media members that awaited him at his first press conference as a Raven. Before he was thrown to the wolves, Harbaugh showed his resolve under fire while signing his contract in triplicate. About to make his life long dream official, the pen he was using failed him, or as he remarked, ran out of “juice”. Not to worry; calm, cool and collected, Harbaugh took a second offering from Mr. Cass and finished the job in black ink.

Second, not only does John come across as genuine, but his relationships with his parents appear as common as those amongst the Barone’s on Everybody Loves Raymond. When John first saw his mother and father on signing day, his first words to his Mom Jackie summoned the mama’s boy inside all of us as he asked, “Still disappointed I’m not a lawyer?” The joke evoked laughter from all of the men in the room, including Steve Biscotti and Ozzie Newsome. To complete the too-good-to-be-true circle of life, John greeted his father with two strong man-to-man hugs and whispered sincerely as he pulled away from his dad, “Because of you. Because of you.”

Third, he’s a sports fan. A loyal sports fan. As Jim was introduced to Art Modell, he unabashedly informed him that he was a Browns fan. He didn’t say, “I grew up a Browns fan,” or, “I used to be a Browns fan.” No, his first words after taking a seat in Mr. Modell’s office was, “I’m a Browns fan.” He went on to recall memorable moments in Browns history under Modell, including a near victory over the Dolphins’ during Miami’s 1972 undefeated season. Not to worry Ravens fans, John certainly knows which color he’ll be wearing come September, but his commitment to his hometown team, and the passion he displayed while discussing days gone by, should prove positive for those in purple.

Fourth, he’s got connections. Not only did his father Jack coach for 41-years, but John’s brother Jim is the current head football coach at Stanford. John made reference to the fact that Jim was on a recruiting trip over the weekend and gave a little encouragement to the high schooler in question to head west to join the Cardinal. Maybe Jim will return the favor by promoting the Ravens to the Pac-10’s most promising players. John also has connections with the Big East, albeit on the hardwood. His brother-in-law, Tom Crean, is the head basketball coach at Marquette. Not only do the Golden Eagles now play up and down the Eastern Seaboard, but they also represent the alma mater of Kevin Byrne, the Ravens VP of Public Relations. Although considering Marquette does not have a football program, I think the best use of those connections would be to help this blogger’s alma mater pick up an extra win or two this season (after witnessing first-hand Monday night’s nail-biting loss to Georgetown in overtime, Syracuse could use it).

Fifth, no matter how you analyze, dissect, scrutinize, study, or review him, John Harbaugh is the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Consider that less than 30 minutes into his first press conference, Harbaugh was asked about the Ravens struggles on offense. Remember that he not only coached the two other phases of the game while in Philadelphia, but when he thinks Ravens QB, his first thought is still probably his brother, circa 1996. Of course, this is Baltimore. These are our Ravens. And we haven’t had a consistent quarterback from Harbaugh to, well, Harbaugh. So he’ll have to excuse our eagerness and inquiry. RavensNation is equal parts distressed and delighted. Fearful and fired up. Petrified and passionate. But we must be patient. “The process begins today.” said Harbaugh during his press conference and then later on WBAL, “The euphoria wears off quickly. You realize it’s time to go to work.”

Let’s go.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Flipping Out

Pitchers and catchers don’t report for another month, and most Baltimore baseball fans probably wouldn’t mind if they didn’t report at all. The NBA and NHL register just below the Lady Terps when it comes to Charm City sports stories (15,000 for a women’s hoops game?). The Daytona 500 is still a few weeks away. The Australian Open is taking place, well, in Australia. And when is the last time you met your friends at the bar to watch Nadal vs. Federer anyway? So with more than two months to the NFL Combine and the Ravens knee deep in the search for a new head coach, Baltimore sports fans are about to flip out. Or at least flip flop. Consider the following streams of consciousness that may or may not represent the subconscious of RavensNation.

Event 1. Jason Garrett arrives in Baltimore on Monday Night
Rejoice. Our savoir. Did you see what he did with Tony Romo? He’s an offensive genius. He went to Princeton - so smart. Like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, he’s going to draw up plays on the boardroom windows in Owings Mills so the players on the practice field can see what he’s thinking. How great is it that the Cowboys lost. Now we can sign our coach this week. Cam Cameron? Remember San Diego in 2006! Dom Capers? Sure. Fans will start dyeing their hair red. “Brian without the Brain” t-shirts will pop up all over town. Let’s go Garrett!

Event 2. Jason Garrett leaves Baltimore Tuesday Night

Revolt. A sinner. Did you see what Tony Romo did last weekend? He’s only been an offensive coordinator for one year. He went to Princeton - to play football. Like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, he’s going to make fans mutter to themselves and throw their furniture out the window. If only the Giants lost, we could be interviewing Steve Spagnuolo this week. Cam Cameron? Remember Miami in 2007! Dom Capers? Unsure. Fans will start pulling their hair out. “Brian, where have you gone?” t-shirts will pop up all over town. Go home Garrett!

So which argument will stick? It all depends on how Jason Garrett and the Ravens brain trust handle the next few days. Garrett will either be endeared or despised by Baltimoreans. And as Ravens fans wait for the other shoe to drop, you can be certain that once the decision is made, there will be no flip-flops; we either fit him for a glass slipper or give him the boot.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I'm With You Jessica

The Final Four is set. Patriots, Chargers, Packers and, gulp, the Giants. The gulp is due to the fact that I not only grew up a Cowboys fan living in New Jersey, but I spent the weekend in Atlantic City with a few high school friends for my friend Jay's bachelor party and the Tropicana was bathed in Big Blue (I know AC is closer to Eagles territory, but New Yorkers down for the weekend were clearly in the majority.) So now what?

Petyon? Gone.
Eli? Still playing.
Tony Romo? I suggest a vacation a few million miles away with Ms. Simpson and the Witten's this weekend. The Dallas press, let alone all of SportsNation, is about to come down hard on the latest 'it' couple. Even the paparazzi will be prowling the locker room as the cancellation of the Golden Globes will result in some sparse spreads in the pages of People and US Weekly. Headline prediction for Monday morning? "D'oh!"

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Billick to Stay on the Beltway?

According to ESPN's John Clayton, one potential candidate for the newly vacated Head Coaching job with the Washington Redskins is Brian Billick. This could allow Billick to continue work on his Eastern Shore estate, stay 'friends' with Steve Biscotti, and move one step closer to actually becoming a politician. At least the press will be accustomed to his loquacious lexicon.

A Thank You to 128 Baseball Writers

For the second year in a row, Mark McGwire received 128 votes for induction in to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Last year, that was enough to earn him 23.5% of the vote. Apparently someone forget to send in their ballot this year as the same number of votes bumped McGwire up to 23.6% of the vote. None of this means anything to most sports fans, after all, the real story is that Goose Gossage finally got elected after 9 years on the ballot, and Jim Rice did not (even when everything in the Boston sports world is going right, Rice can't catch a break). But McGwire, as many of you know, will always hold a special place in my heart, or at least on my mantle, as I followed his career religiously, from his 1985 Topps USA Baseball Card to the moment he was pinch-hit for in the 2001 playoffs (by Kerry Robinson!). I even rooted for him during a pro-am celebrity golf tournament that represented his last moment in the sun before those fateful moments before congress.

In any case, to the 128 voters (127 + Jayson Stark) who deemed McGwire worthy, thank you. At this rate, he will still be on the ballot when Clemens and Bonds become eligible...unfortunately for you O's fans reading this, Brady Anderson will not. He received one less vote than David Justice, zero.

Complete 2008 Baseball Hall of Fame Voting Results

Rich "Goose" Gossage 466 (85.8%)
Jim Rice 392 (72.2%)
Andre Dawson 358 (65.9%)
Bert Blyleven 336 (61.9%)
Lee Smith 235 (43.3%)
Jack Morris 233 (42.9%)
Tommy John 158 (29.1%)
Tim Raines 132 (24.3%)
Mark McGwire 128 (23.6%)
Alan Trammell 99 (18.2%)
Dave Concepcion 88 (16.2%)
Don Mattingly 86 (15.8%)
Dave Parker 82 (15.1%)
Dale Murphy 75 (13.8%)
Harold Baines 28 (5.2%)
Rod Beck 2 (0.4%)
Travis Fryman 2 (0.4%)
Robb Nen 2 (0.4%)
Shawon Dunston 1 (0.2%)
Chuck Finley 1 (0.2%)
David Justice 1 (0.2%)
Chuck Knoblauch 1 (0.2%)
Todd Stottlemyre 1 (0.2%)
Brady Anderson 0
Jose Rijo 0

Hey Dickie V!

Not only does Syracuse super frosh Donte Greene dominate on the court (19.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG) but the kid can jam!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Baltimore Sun-day

What a day for the Baltimore Sun on Sunday. At least for this blogger as the Charm City paper made it's dramatic debut on HBO's crime-drama, The Wire. The fictional newsroom will become a center piece in the show's fifth and final season and in last night's episode, the plot pointed out the perils of modern day journalism and the struggle smaller papers must endure to remain in existence.

With such pending doom in mind, a shining moment in a season that would end with defeat at the hands of Steve Young and the San Francisco 49ers. Of course, like most mortal men, both Garrett and Young have moved on, while Favre still manages to shine on the field. Who made the right decision? Hard to argue with Brett, but Young has a cushy job at ESPN and its possible that Garrett will get to be the boss in Baltimore once the Cowboys' run is complete. I'd go wtih Garrett as far as decision making, after all, as Klingman writes, "He is, they say, the brain without the Brian." Well said, Mr. Klingman. The blogosphere applauds you.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Orange Super Bowl

It's possible that another Orange alum could end up with a ring this year. Five former Syracuse stars were on the roster for the World Champion Colts in Super Bowl XLI (Dwight Freeney, Marvin Harrison, Ryan LaCasse , Josh Thomas and James Mungro). Here's hoping at least one of these current NFL players are victorious in Arizona this February (NOTE: There are no Oranges on the Patriots - yet another reason to root against New England!)
  1. Anthony Smith (Pittsburgh)
  2. James Wyche (Jacksonville)
  3. Tanard Jackson (Tampa Bay)
  4. Keith Bulluck (Tennessee), Rich Scanlon (Tennessee)
  5. Steve Gregory (San Diego)
  6. Dwight Freeney (Indianapolis), Josh Thomas (Indianapolis), Marvin Harrison (Indianapolis)
  7. Kevin Sampson (Washington)
  8. David Tyree (New York Giants), Tom Coughlin (New York Giants)
Thanks to Rappstar for the tip.

Runaway Beer Truck

West Virginia won one for the Big East tonight ("Let's Go Orange?") as they defeated Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, 48-28. One key to the game was the blocking and running of full back Owen Schmitt, who is shown here 'sprinting' for a 57-yard touchdown in the 2nd quarter. In the quote of the Bowl Season thus far, Matt Vasgersian caleld Schmitt a "Runaway beer truck" as he recorded the longest touchdown run in Fiesta Bowl History. See clip below (Credit to Awful Announcing for beating me to the punch):

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Vote for Troy

Troy Smith is one of five candidates eligible for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week award after leading the Ravens to a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. As of Wednesday morning, Troy ranked 2nd to Green Bay's Brandon Jackson in the voting. If you can find it in your heart to think about the 2007 season just one more time, give Troy your support. Click here to vote.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Sidney in the Snow

I promised someone (yes, you P.Wayne) that I would watch at least a few minutes of the "NHL Outdoor Classic" on Tuesday. And what do you know, I stuck around for more than an hour.

For the majority of you who didn't realize hockey was still played in the US, the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins played a game outdoors on New Years Day at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home to the Buffalo Bills. For better or worse, the lake-effect loomed large during the game with snow falling throughout all three periods and a thin layer of the white stuff still stuck to the ice as the contest went to a shoot out. In what must have made NBC executives and NHL brass collectively weep, the 'it' kid of the sport - Sidney Crosby - had a chance to win the game for the Penguins on the third and final shot of the shooting match. I confess, I was glued to the TV - even flipping to my channel guide to be sure and DVR the start of the Rose Bowl.

Sid the Kid sliced through the snow, made a few hockey moves that I'm sure have technical terms - picture a point guard dribbling down the lane - and as he approached the net, he must have seen a small opening between the goalie's pads (the "5-hole" as some might say) as he scored a winter wonderland game-winner. Congratulations Sidney, Dick Ebersol, Gary Bettman, P.Wayne, M.Brevet, Don, the Helfmans and Alexis (those are the only 6 people I know who ask bartenders to switch to the NHL Network) - for at least 10 minutes, the sports world was watching your favorite sport. That's all I got, the Rose Bowl is already in the second quarter...