September 22
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issue 22
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nfl players ask for "month of activism"

For a while now, NFL enthusiasts have opined that the league is starting to show signs of a slow-crumble.

Less people actually going to the games.

Fewer TV viewers.

Player strife, in-game protests, and overwhelming concerns about long-term health issues of those who play the game.

All of it adding up to a NFL product that appears to be showing signs of real wear and tear.

But Thursday's news might be the cake-topper for the NFL.

The NFL's promotion of breast cancer research and treatment was mentioned in a memo distributed to Roger Goodell, where players are asking the league to show the same kind of support for social injustice and criminal justice reform.

Four players -- no doubt supported by a much larger number within the league-wide roster -- have petitioned Commissioner Roger Goodell to have the league oversee a "month of activism" this November, where the NFL will attack head-on many of the issues that players have been publicly dealing with over the last 12-24 months.

The letter was authored by Michael Bennett (Seahawks), Torrey Smith (Eagles), Malcom Jenkins (Eagles) and former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who was with the Buffalo Bills when the memo was forwarded to Goodell but has since retired from the league.

"As players whom have been advocating for social justice for the past year, we appreciate the opportunity to engage with you, the league, owners, coaches and GMs to make our communities stronger," the memo reads. "As we shared with you, the silence following our individual and collective demonstrations around the national anthem to raise awareness to racial inequality and issues surrounding criminal justice reform has been met with inconsistencies in press coverage and perceived lack of support."

"To counter the vast amount of press attention being referred to as the 'national anthem protests' versus the large amount of grass roots work that many players around the league have invested their time and resources, we would like to request a league-wide initiative that would include a month dedicated to a campaign initiative and related events," the memo reads. "Similarly to what the league already implements for breast cancer awareness, honoring military, etc, we would like November to serve as a month of Unity for individual teams to engage and impact the community in their market."

The NFL has been involved with promoting breast cancer awareness for the last eight years, with players wearing pieces of pink apparel on game day in October to show their support for the continued improvment of research and treatment for the disease.

Likewise, NFL teams have long been involved in military support campaigns in their stadiums which include not only marketing and advertising, but uniformed military personnel assisting with the singing of the national anthem and the display of the American flag.

The "month of activism" request would ask the NFL to treat social injustice and criminal justice reform with the same sort of dedication as the breast cancer and military programs already in place.

To some, though, the message sent by the "month of activism" might be construed as working against police and law enforcement officials, who have recently been the target of NFL players, including Bennett, who was involved in a situation in Las Vegas last month that drew national attention.

This will be the slickest of the slippery slope issues the NFL will face when they make a decision on how much support to lend the activism memo. Give in to the players and potentially anger and alienate law enforcement officials? Or face even more hostility from the players, who are clearly gaining steam with their organized effort.

"To be clear, we are asking for your support," the memo reads. "We appreciate your acknowledgement on the call regarding the clear distinction between support and permission. For us, support means: bear all or part of the weight of; hold up; give assistance to, especially financially; enable to function or act. We need support, collaboration and partnerships to achieve our goal of strengthening the community. There are a variety of ways for you to get involved. Similar to the model we have in place for players to get involved, there are three tiers of engagement based on your comfort level. To start, we appreciate your agreement on making this an immediate priority. In your words, from Protest to Progress, we need action. This would entail you and other interested owners, coaches and GM's participating in a Listen & Learn tour (a one/two-day tour) to gain the same knowledge and understanding of the issues and impact on the community. This would include a prison tour, meetings with grass-roots organizations, policy makers/non-profit leaders, police, families in the community and formerly incarcerated individuals."

This is likely going to be a very divisive topic among the NFL fan base, in much the same way that a request from four players to have the league involve itself in a "month of Christianity" would create concern.

That, of course, is the interesting backdrop to the memo asking the NFL to engage in its "month of activism".

If it's approved and the league does step forward with a wide-spread show of support for the concepts addressed in the memo, wouldn't it also be fair to have December, for example, be "Christianity month" within the NFL?

Or is Christianity too controversial these days?

Make no mistake about it, the NFL is in a jam now that the memo has been made public and the demands of the players around the league are no longer secretly sitting on Roger Goodell's desk.

The league will now be forced to act.

And, most likely, the league will be forced to show their support for the "month of activism", whether they believe in it or not.

But the most delicate issue of all involves the fans, the very people who buy the tickets, wear the merchandise and watch the games on television.

Are they going to tolerate and accept the "month of activism" and the messasge it sends, juxtaposed against the other "campaigns" involving breast cancer and the military that most people have no problem approving of and supporting?

It's a scenario where the players might wind up getting what they want, but the NFL fan base might be torn apart in the midst of it.

Make no mistake about it, the league is likely in a no-win situation here.

No matter what they do in favor of the memo and the "month of activism" request, the NFL might not be able to do enough to satisfy the players. Anything they do wrong or fail to complete to the satisfaction of the request will be looked at as an inconsistent and half-hearted attempt to satisfy them.

If the league spends $20 million on promoting breast cancer awareness month, for example, they'll now have to spend at least $20 million on social injustice and criminal justice reform. If they don't, the players will spotlight that failure as an indication the NFL isn't "all in" on the program.

The players will be looking at every single detail to ensure their program isn't being slighted or treated differently, whether that's through promotional or financial support.

And the NFL, of course, knows there's also a waiting and willing media on hand to highlight the entire campaign and publicize, if necessary, the complaints of the players.

They're in a pickle. And Roger Goodell knows it, I bet.

"Give in to the players on a subject we'd probably rather not involve ourselves in -- and risk dividing and angering our fan base?"

That's the question Goodell and the 32 owners are facing today.

And the answer they give might drive a stake through the heart of the league -- no matter what that answer is, sadly.

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from the desk of
brien jackson

BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.

underappreciated duquette deserves more support

It's not official yet, but it's a near certainty that the Baltimore Orioles will finish the season with a sub-.500 record for the first time since 2011.

And despite the incredible run the team sustained between 2012 and 2016 (incredible when you consider where they were at the end of the 2011 season that is), the impending losing record has knives out all over town, demanding someone's head be offered up to the chopping block in penance for a season that can reasonably be classified as "disastrous."

The leading candidate to take the ax is general manager Dan Duquette, who's been a bugaboo for a lot of commentators for multiple seasons now. Duquette is blamed for everything from the team's "one dimensional" offense to a thin pitching staff, in addition to the team's failure to invest in international amateur talent or develop young pitching in house.

As the guy (ostensibly) running the baseball operations department that's fair, except that most of these issues have been problems for the Orioles since before Duquette was even in the organization, so it's hardly fair to make him the scapegoat.

Consider complaints that Orioles' hitters strikeout a lot and don't take many walks. It's indisputably true for both new acquisitions and players who come through the team's farm system....and it goes back to at least 2009.

Duquette may have brought in home run centric layers like Mark Trumbo, but at the end of the 2011 season the Orioles big league roster already boasted Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds, and Chris Davis (though the latter two are actually fairly high walk rate players even as they strike out a ton). Three of those guys, of course, would become key pieces of the 2012-16 run.

The pattern holds for players coming through the minor league system as well. Trey Mancini, Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, etc. can be called free swingers who focus on making hard contact rather than working counts, but the same can be said of the players the system developed before Duquette took the reins. That includes Manny Machado, (career 6.8% walk rate), Matt Wieters (8.2%, but only 3 seasons with a mark over that number), Jonathan Schoop (3.7%), and even Caleb Jospeh (5.9%).

You could toss Adam Jones into that mix if you want to, as he was never a high walk rate guy in the minor leagues even though he came up through Seattle's system.

And obviously, the Orioles had immense problems with developing pitchers LONG before Duquette became the general manager.

If anything, Duquette's impact on the pitching development system would seem to be a positive one, as Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are the system's two biggest success stories in well over a decade. Duquette arguably even deserves some credit for Chris Tillman's success, given that his first solid season was in 2012, Duquette's first year, and he finally cleared the 100 innings pitched mark (with a 3.71 ERA in 33 starts) in 2013.

Someone like Hunter Harvery or Tanner Scott might well get added to that list in the next few years as well.

And though this year was a total disaster for the rotation, the biggest factor in the rapid post-2011 turnaround might have been Duquette's ability to piece together a staff with largely unheralded parts. Duquette often gets criticized for winning with Andy MacPhail's players, but the starting pitching over the past half decade has been almost entirely void of MacPhail's fingerprints.

The 2012 group was buoyed over the year by Jason Hammel, Wei-Yen Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and Joe Saunders (the only four pitchers to start in the postseason), all of whom were acquired by Duquette. The 2014 ALCS team also featured Duquette acquisition Bud Norris, who produced a 3.65 ERA that season. These groups might not have been a re-creation of the 1990's Braves, but they were good enough to get into October with, and they were almost entirely comprised of players acquired by Duquette.

Which brings us to Buck Showalter.

Buck came into town in 2010 talking big about competing with the hated Red Sox and Yankees, went 34-23 after taking over the job that season, and immediately became the focus of the team's marketing campaign and a certified hero in Baltimore. It got so big so fast that his 69-93 last place showing in 2011 might as well have been erased from the record books altogether!

And thanks mostly to that marketing effort, Showalter has been Teflon Buck in town, not only immune from having criticism stick to him, but coming very close to having the mere act of criticizing him treated as a form of sacrilege. At least until last year's wild card game anyway.

In retrospect, some of the praise Showalter earned from fans and especially reporters in town is cringe worthy. The best (worst?) example I found in digging through old articles on Showalter and the team's young pitchers was written by Dan Connolly in 2013, and was specifically focused on the team's latest attempts to figure out Jake Arrieta.

Connolly's March 22nd column focused on Showalter giving Arrieta the tough love treatment, even after effective outings. "[Yet] Showalter commented on the lack of strikes from the windup," Connolly wrote. "Because Showalter knows what makes his players tick. And he knows that he needs to keep stepping on Arrieta’s neck. Keep making Arrieta feel like he’s not where he needs to be." Connolly paints Showalter as a bona fide savant, who always knows what buttons to push with players. He goes on to explicitly say that if Showalter can't straighten him out, it proves that Arrieta just wasn't going to hack it as a Major League starter.

Of course, this would prove to be hilariously wrong when the Orioles finally gave up on Arrieta that same year and he almost immediately turned things around before becoming a Cy Young winner and World Series ace in Chicago. Arrieta hasn't been particularly shy about voicing his displeasure at the way he was handled by the Orioles coaching staff either, presumably including Showalter himself.

The Arrieta debacle remains a focal point in trying to read the O's organization, if only because Arrieta has been so open about what he thinks went wrong for him here.

The most specific complaint, aside from not letting him throw the cutter that later became his signature pitch, was the way the organization insisted on altering his mechanics, demanding a more direct approach to the plate. That's consistent with a dynamic that's gotten a lot of attention from local Orioles' bloggers recently: The Orioles' development system is obsessed with their pitchers' time to the plate, and that's entirely because of Buck.

It's come into focus now because the Angels have attributed Parker Bridwell's success with them to "slowing down" his delivery, and his walk rate has plummeted as a result. Multiple national reporters have also relayed that "de-Orioleing" a pitcher is actually a term that other franchises use, and if Arrieta if the gold standard for this problem, you can't lay the blame at Duquette's feet.

Buck is the most prominent common link between the Duquette and MacPhail regimes, we know he has a lot more influence on front office and player development decisions than most other MLB managers do these days, and at some point he's got to start being held accountable for the persistent problems in the organization as well.

Of course, there's another possibility and it just so happens to be the one I personally subscribe to: There's no actual reason why the franchise HAS to make any major changes at all right now.

Part Two will appear in tomorrow's edition of #DMD.

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this weekend in
english soccer

Contributed by #DMD's English Premier League Reporter

The top half of the table is starting to take shape as we enter Matchday 6 of the English Premier League, with the blue and red side of the city of Manchester leading the way and defending champions Chelsea close behind in third. After three straight wins, Newcastle United is a surprise fourth but expect them, like Watford last week, to slip down to mid-table over the coming months.

Don’t forget about Tottenham, the model of consistency over the last two season who sit in fifth and have yet to hit top gear so far. Toss in Liverpool and Arsenal and its shaping up to be a wild year as these six sides will battle it out for the league’s top spot and top four over the next eight months! Settle in and enjoy the action with every game available live on the NBC family of networks or online at NBC Live Extra.

Saturday, September 23 (all times eastern)

7:30am – Tottenham @ West Han United – London Stadium, NBC Sports Network

After looking as if they had finally ended their Wembley Stadium voodoo only days before when they beat Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League opener, old demons surfaced once again when, despite getting off twenty-six shots with eight of those efforts on target, Tottenham were held to a scoreless draw against a rugged Swansea City to remain winless in the league so far this year at their temporary home. They will be on the road but not far away when they kick off the weekend action with an early Saturday morning visit to the capitol stadium for a London Derby with West Ham United.

After three straight defeats to open the campaign, the Hammers followed up their first three points of the season with their second consecutive clean sheet in as many weeks in a sleepy 0-0 draw with West Brom, with the back to back efforts and always important road point helping to ease some of the pressure that was building on manager Slaven Bilic to start getting results. Having taken three of the last four visits from Spurs to their side of the capitol (L1) and five of their last nine overall in the league (L3 D1), they will be confident of making it a third result in a row this weekend.

10am – Crystal Palace @ Manchester City – Etihad Stadium, NBC Sports Network

New manager Roy Hodgson has quite a task on his hands getting Crystal Palace back to a competitive side.

A new manager may now be roaming the touchline but the end result remained the same for Crystal Palace, with Roy Hodgson's first game in charge ending in a 1-0 home defeat to Southampton and the Eagles still searching for their first points and goal of the season now five games in. They will be hoping to avoid joining Portsmouth as the only team to lose their first six matches of a Premier League season when they travel to the Etihad Stadium to visit Manchester City, most likely the last side Palace wants to see right now after the Citizens rolled to a 6-0 victory over the up and coming Watford.

The win was the fourth straight for City across all competitions as Pep Guardiola clearly has his side purring along, outscoring opponents in those four games by a staggering 17-1 margin. City have won their last four league matches against Palace and nine of the last ten (L1) and it won’t stand to get any easier for Palace after the weekend either, as they return to Manchester next week to face second place United before hosting third place Chelsea in a London Derby the following, a brutal stretch against the top three that could potentially leave the Londoners in the table cellar for the foreseeable future.

10am – Manchester United @ Southampton – St. Mary’s Stadium, NBC Live Extra

Even though they technically conceded the top spot in the table to their noisy neighbors by virtue of alphabetical order of all things, Manchester United had little trouble matching their cross-town rivals result as they cruised past Everton, who officially now have a problem in the final third that rivals Crystal Palace as they lost for the third time in a row and were held scoreless again in the 4-0 defeat. The Red Devils will travel to the St. Mary’s stadium to take on Southampton, who moved back in to the top half of the table when they bounced back from their first loss of the season in the victory over Palace.

Despite what seems like massive roster and managerial turn over year after year, a steady pipeline of fresh talent from one of the top youth academies in Europe has kept Southampton firmly embedded in the top half of the table the last several years. They may however find it difficult to take anything from the matchup at the weekend, with United going unbeaten in their last three across all competitions (D1) and failing to walk away without points in only two of the last twenty-five get togethers between the two (W12 D3), including their last nine trips to the St. Mary’s Stadium (W7 D2).

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September 21
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issue 21
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this time around, red sox break out the brooms

Back in late August, the Orioles went into Fenway Park and swept the Red Sox in a weekend 3-game series.

They still hadn't climbed above the Twins in the fight for the second wild card spot, but at that point, people around town -- like the guy writing this -- started thinking that perhaps the O's were going to sneak into the post-season and make some noise.

Well, the only noise from the stadium complex in October will be on Sunday afternoons when the Ravens play.

Mookie Betts and the Red Sox kept their division title hopes alive with a 3-game sweep of the reeling Orioles, who are now 73-80 after Wednesday's 9-0 loss.

The baseball stadium will be the Orioles' bats were over the last two nights.

With their season still very much on the line, the Red Sox came to town this week and reversed things on the Birds. It was the Red Sox who brought out the brooms and swept the Orioles, winning 9-0 on Wednesday night. Even from my hotel room in London, I could follow along and feel the misery.

They still haven't officially been eliminated from the wild card race yet, but that's only because the Twins and Angels both keep on losing. The Orioles, however, are as done as done can be without -- well -- being done.

The Fat Lady is having a hot tea and her manager has just told her "5 minutes 'til show time."

We'll have plenty of days to re-hash what went wrong, who was responsible, and how to fix it going forward, but the simple explanation about the Orioles' September swoon is that their offense went in the gutter.

They failed to score in Tuesday's 1-0 loss or Wednesday's 9-0 shellacking. They only managed to scrape together a total of ten runs in three straight losses to the Yankees last week.

Maybe next season the Orioles should practice bunting and hitting to the opposite field more than they practice and rehearse their fancy post-home-run hand shakes and dances.

While performing the autopsy on the O's season, it's fair to point out the two teams that most recently clobbered them are pretty good. Boston has a real chance to make some noise in the playoffs and the Yankees could be dangerous, too. They're both better than the Orioles -- obviously.

So, three weeks ago when the e-mail came around asking mini-plan holders if they wanted "first dibs" on 2017 playoff tickets, I got suckered into buying my two seats for the post-season. Alas, that money will now go towards my 2018 mini-plan.

There will be sports activity at Camden Yards in October, but the ball in the air won't be round.

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having baked beans for breakfast

Our group of 25 arrived safely in London on Wednesday morning.

We're at the hotel this morning (3:30 am Baltimore time) having "a spot of tea" and baked beans for breakfast. It's better than it sounds, actually.

The famous London Bridge.

I've seen a lot of people wearing Ravens gear over the last 24 hours.

I haven't seen anyone sporting a Jacksonville Jaguars shirt or jersey, for those keeping score at home.

The hotel we're in is about a 4-minute walk from Wembley Stadium. I asked someone at the front desk yesterday if they were excited about the football game on Sunday. He said, "Does Chelsea play Sunday this week?"

I forgot. "Football" here is soccer.

When I said, "I meant the American football game" he replied with: "Is it at Wembley?"

Not everyone around here is as excited about the Ravens and Jaguars game as our group of 25 from Baltimore -- clearly.

From chatting with a Ravens front office staffer on Wednesday (via text), I get the sense the team and the organization aren't overly enthused with this trip across the pond.

At some point, I suppose, every team has to do it. But there's no NFL coach anywhere who wants to fly to England and play a football game that counts.

The Ravens don't want to do it this time around, but the saving grace is that they're playing the Jaguars.

I heard someone ask John Harbaugh in Monday's press conference if he planned on "doing anything" while he was in London this week. Harbaugh almost LOL'd at the question, as if he and his staff were supposed to build in three hours of daily sightseeing in advance of Sunday afternoon's game.

"We're going over there to work," he replied.

Let's just hope it's not a wasted effort.

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thursday sports with David Rosenfeld

DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

First of all, whoever wrote last week in this space that, and I quote, “the law of averages suggests the Ravens won’t force five turnovers in a game again for several years, let alone this season,” had no idea what he was talking about.

Second of all, the Orioles played 19 games against the Yankees this year and allowed 154 runs, an average of 8.1 runs per game. I don’t even know how to analyze that, except to say that somehow the local nine actually won seven of those 19 games!

But moving on to this week…

Jamie Vardy and other English "football" stars are the sports heroes in the U.K.

I hope the #DMD group had an excellent voyage to London, where the Ravens will face the Jaguars on Sunday. I’ve been to London twice, and it’s a “World city” in the same vein of New York or Tokyo or Paris. You could visit seven or eight times and still not come close to seeing everything you’d like to see. Plus, the local residents speak English, sort of.

London was only one of the places I visited on my first trip to England, which came with the women’s soccer team from Loyola University (then College) in 2000. The team played several “friendlies” around the country against very disappointing competition; the trip organizer did a poor job of understanding the level of play of a good Division I program.

For me, the highlight of the trip did involve soccer, though, and it was away from London. On a sunny Saturday afternoon in August, we sat in a 10,000-seat stadium in a town you’ve never heard of watching a team you’ve never heard of play a game in which no goals were scored.

Despite all of that, the game played at the Alexandra Stadium in the town of Crewe, about 35 miles south of Manchester, ranks among the top five sporting events I’ve attended as a spectator for sure. The local club, Crewe Alexandra, played an entertaining draw with Blackburn Rovers in its first home match of the season.

From the buzz around town in the hours prior to the game, to the pregame pomp and circumstance in the stadium, to the quality of the game itself, to the chance to meet some of the team postgame, it was a great day.

It was authentic. It was real. It was everything a 2017 NFL game isn’t, whether you’re watching on television or in the stadium. I still appreciate it 17 years later.

Crewe, though not far from Manchester, is far enough away to feel like its own area as opposed to the suburbs. It began as a railway town, and in 2000 it still had quite a bit of that industrial feel to it. The center of town, in the blocks near the stadium, was compact and gritty.

The chip shops, where they served the fish and chips on old newspaper, were filled with chatter about the match. Our tour guide for the trip was a local chap who had once been a member of the club’s development program, and he had plenty to say about the team’s prospects that season.

Inside the stadium, pregame featured one of the more amazing moments I’ve observed as a spectator. Earlier that week, the longtime owner of the Blackburn club has passed away. Crewe asked the crowd and players to observe a period of silence in his honor, but it wasn’t a moment of silence. It was a full minute, started and ended with shrill whistles from the referee.

This was total and complete silence, with nary a murmur. When the second whistle blew, the crowd responded with enthusiastic cheers. The whole experience was the greatest show of respect I’ve ever seen at a sporting event, and English soccer fans aren’t exactly known for their respect.

As for the play on the field, I was (and am) hardly a savant of the game.

I couldn’t have told you what formation each squad was using or which of the 22 men on the pitch was having the best run of play. But this was the First Division, now known as the Championship, the second-highest level of English football after the Premier League. Blackburn, certainly a more famous and well-known club throughout the soccer world, would finish in second place in the league table and be promoted to the Premier League for the following season. This was high-quality stuff, especially on the defensive end on that day.

There was even a bit of the famous English crowd behavior to make the game more exciting. Blackburn had a star player named Jason McAteer, an Irish national with the habit of getting underneath the visitors’ skin. After one play midway through the game, much of the crowd of 7,500 began a chant in unison. McAteer, they said, was nothing but a…um…“wanker.”

I’ll leave it at that…

Anyway, by the end of the game our players had fallen in love with several of the Crewe players, especially a central defender by the name of Efe Sodje. He stood about 6-foot-5 and must have weighed 250 pounds. He was exactly the kind of athlete who never would have played soccer in the United States, especially back then.

Our guide fished Sodje out of the locker room postgame, and he took some great photos with our players, many of whom were at least a foot shorter than he was. The team store had some customers after the game too, as most of us were eager to have a souvenir from our Crewe experience.

I was disappointed to read that both Crewe Alexandra and Blackburn have fallen on some hard times in the years since. Crewe now plays in League Two, the fourth level of English football, while Blackburn was relegated to League One (the third level) after finishing at the bottom of the Championship table last season.

In English football, like in professional sports around the world, money talks. Smaller clubs in smaller towns have less of a chance than ever before, and that’s especially the case in a system where the worst teams in each league are unceremoniously sent to a lower level.

I guess that’s something the NFL does better than English football. With its revenue sharing system, there really isn’t a big difference between one NFL team and another when they start hitting each other each Sunday.

Except for the Browns, I guess. Did I mention that they became the second team in as many weeks to cough up five turnovers to the Ravens?

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september 20
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issue 20
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This special edition of #DMD comes to you from a streamlined tin can seven miles above the Atlantic Ocean and hurtling at 800 feet per second toward Wembley Stadium.

making the coach proud

When you're the coach of a team, there are lots of things that make you proud.

Winning is always a source of pride, for coaches and for players.

Battling adversity, overcoming key injuries or bad breaks — you can derive pride from those things too.

As a high school golf coach, there's nothing better than seeing your "kids" go on and do great things in college.

And that goes for on the course or in the classroom.

A bunch of players from my 2013 championship team at Calvert Hall have already graduated from college! Some played Division I golf, including standouts from that title-winning team Nick Smearman, Jake Hormes, and Jimmy Grem. Those three played at Towson University.

Last October, I wrote a piece about another member of that 2013 team, Ryan Howard, whose story is so Hollywood-like it could be a movie.

Every team I've coached at Calvert Hall — five now in all — has left me with great memories of the young men who played for me.

Let's flash back to last May at Hunt Valley Golf Course, where we were facing an incredibly strong Loyola Blakefield side in the MIAA A-Conference semi-finals.

Ryan Camille (left) and Finn McGinnis were four-year members of the Calvert Hall golf team who met up again as opponents in their first college tournament this week in Hartford, Connecticut.

At day's end, the Dons produced some outstanding golf and we just didn't have it that day. High school golf is a pretty easy game to score. If you hit the ball well and make a bunch of putts, you're likely going to win. If you don't do those things, your team likely won't win.

We didn't do those things that day. It happens. The other team tries, too.

Afterwards,working hard to come up with something meaningful, I realized seven of those twelve players I was looking at all had one thing in common: They were going off to college.

I addressed the underclassmen first.

"This loss will sting for a little while," I told them. "For the guys returning next year, we need to remember what it was like to lose this way. It's not a good feeling. And let's figure out why we didn't have our best stuff today and work hard to not let it happen again."

I then looked at the seniors: "For those of you going off to college, this loss will fade fairly quickly. You're about to embark on four amazing years of your life. Enjoy it. Be smart. Work hard. GO TO CLASS! [That got a chuckle out of them.] And if you try to play golf in college, you need to realize the level of play is much higher there than here. You'll have to put the work in to make the team."

That was last May.

This past Monday, two of the seniors who heard those post-round words embarked on their college-golf careers.

In an interesting twist of fate, they not only played in the same tournament, but the two were paired together for Monday's first round at the event in Hartford, Connecticut.

Ryan Camille, a team captain in 2016 and 2017, and Finn McGinnis, a captain in 2016, made their old high school coach proud on Monday.

Camille was a walk-on at Holy Cross and not only made the team, but qualified for this week's tournament in Hartford, Connecticut by shooting 68-72, while McGinnis now plays for Fairfield University and figures to be a mainstay on their roster.

I'm proud of all of the seniors from last year's team. Several of them are in PGA Management programs at Penn State and Coastal Carolina. They're "in" golf as well, just not playing for their respective schools.

But Camille and McGinnis are college golfers now and I'm certain both of them are going to become key members of their teams over the next four years.

McGinnis was a rarity for MIAA golf, in that he started as a freshman. It's not often a ninth grader tees it up in the first event of the season, but Finn did that way back in 2014. We've had other freshmen play for me since then, but McGinnis was the first.

Camille also made the 2014 team as a freshman, but his playing time was limited. He played more as a sophomore and then didn't miss a match as a junior or senior.

Both of them were selected All-MIAA in 2017.

Like any coach, I enjoy winning. But at the high-school level, for certain, there's something much more important at stake. Seeing your players grow, from nervous ninth graders to poised, mature seniors, and watching their golf development at the same time . . . it doesn't get much better than that.

As I tell all of my players in our first pre-season meeting each January: "My goal is to get you to love golf more at the end of the season than you do now. If you do, I've succeeded as a coach."

Camille and McGinnis love golf more in 2017 than they did when I first saw them in January of 2014. And they're on their own now, in college, showcasing their talents for new schools and new coaches.

They both put in a lot of hard work. They've done this themselves. Their golf games are college-ready because they put in the time and effort required to improve.

I'm proud of them as golfers and as young men.

I sent them texts this morning to remind them of that.

And I ended it with, "Just make sure you keep going to class!"

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o's flaws might still be there in 2018

It's not over yet, so there's still this season to talk about, but it's also not a bad time to look ahead to what's in store for the Orioles in 2018.

Next season's schedule is already out. And who thinks playing baseball on March 29 in Baltimore is a great idea? Dumb, dumb, dumb . . . .

Without knowing in advance what the Orioles player budget will be in 2018, it's pretty difficult to add pieces to the roster.

So I won't do that.

What I will do, though, is suggest that unless some drastic personnel changes come along, I think the Orioles of 2018 are going to "play" a lot like the team we're watching right now.

In other words: Long live the three-run homer.

Here are a few notes about the current roster as it relates to 2018:

Chris Davis, here demonstrating one-man high fives and forearm bumps, will return in 2018 and almost certainly employ the same batting philosophy he used in 2017: Try to hit a home run in every at-bat. And strike out a lot doing so.

Chris Davis will be back because no one in the league will take him. So, first base is sewed up.

Jonathan Schoop will return at 2nd. Tim Beckham will be the opening day shortstop. Manny Machado will be at third.

Welington Castillo is 50/50 to return at this point. He has an opt-out on the second year of his 2-year deal with the Birds and given his production in 2017, it's likely he can do better than the $7 million he'd make in Baltimore next season.

There's always Caleb Joseph and/or Chance Sisco, so losing Castillo wouldn't be huge. Sisco isn't big-league ready yet. Joseph is a good defensive catcher and sometimes even effective with the bat. Some combination of Sisco and Joseph might work.

Seth Smith is gone. I'm not sure why the Orioles didn't try and move him at the deadline to a team that needed a left-handed bat. Maybe they tried and no one wanted him.

Adam Jones will be in center and Trey Mancini will be in left to start the 2018 campaign.

That is, unless the Orioles go out and get a full-time outfielder and Mancini shifts to the DH role.

Mark Trumbo will be back in 2018 unless the Orioles move him in the off-season. He'll probably start the year in right field.

With the notable exception of Beckham, next year's opening day lineup probably isn't going to look all that different than this year's.

Maybe Austin Hays makes the team in the spring and plays right field. I'd guess it's more likely he starts the campaign in Norfolk, but early reports on him look good.

Unfortunately, I don't see a major philosophical shift from the Birds next season.

They're still going to try to hit home runs every time they come to the plate. Even Beckham has started to show signs of that "home run or bust" theory after a scorching first month with the team.

Dan Duquette has talked openly about on-base percentage and driving in runners in scoring position, but he's done little to address those needs. The team's three biggest off-season signings of the last two years were a power-hitting first baseman who strikes out 200 times a year, a power-hitting DH/outfielder who hits .250 and strikes out 170 times, and a veteran catcher with good power who is extremely hot and cold.

The addition of Beckham does provide the O's with a guy who has the goods to get on base often, but his career OBP is only .312. And how much will he be influenced by all the power around him? Will Beckham be content to brag about his .340 OBP next year while Schoop and Machado are both hitting 35 HRs and setting themselves up for massive paydays?

We haven't even talked about the starting pitching. There's Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy and — well — that's about it right now. But we'll get to that later.

It's the Orioles offense that fizzled out in September this season. What happened? Who knows. The simple answer might just be that no team could continue to rake at the torrid pace the Birds authored in August.

Or it could have something to do with the team's long-ball thirst. When they face fly-ball pitchers and play in parks that yield home runs, they fare well. When they don't, they lose.

Ultimately, it comes down to the players you have and the strengths they employ.

Right now, on September 20, 2017, I don't see the 2018 edition of the Orioles being a whole lot different than the team we watched collapse down the stretch this season.

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who can win the fedex cup?

and how?

Thirty players tee it up on Thursday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for the final event of the FedEx Cup playoffs. The Tour Championship marks the end of real golf for the year, although a handful of silly-season events remain in the 2016-17 campaign.

This tournament will decide who wins the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize and likely will also determine who wins the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award.

All 30 players in the field have a chance to win the whole thing. However, it would take a miracle for the guy at number 30 — Jason Dufner — to come out on top. Wanna see how complicated it is?

For Dufner to leapfrog 29 players and win the FedEx Cup, here's what must happen:

     Dufner must win the TOUR Championship and

     No. 1 Spieth must finish 29th or worse; and

     No. 2 Thomas must finish in a three-way tie for 6th or worse; and

     No. 3 Johnson must finish T4 or worse; and

     No. 4 Leishman must finish T3 or worse; and

     No. 5 Rahm must finish in a three-way tie for second or worse; and

     No. 6 Fowler must finish T2 or worse.

Manifestly, Dufner has about a one-in-a-million shot of all those things happening.

But however slim it is, he does have a shot!

The top five share a much less complicated path to the Cup and the 10 million bucks — who wins the tournament wins the Cup.

Here are #DMD's odds of the top ten players coming out on top this weekend in Atlanta.

1. Jordan Spieth (4-1) — Can win anywhere, anytime, and has been playing well in the playoffs, but he's not hitting on all cylinders. Fatigue has historically been a late-season problem for him. And the President's Cup is next week. He's not the favorite at East Lake.

#DMD's pick to win this week's FedEx Cup? It's this man, Justin Thomas.

2. Justin Thomas (3-1) — It's his time to shine. After winning the PGA Championship and the second FedEx Cup event in Boston, Thomas is a win away from capturing the $10 million prize. He's #DMD's pick this week.

3. Dustin Johnson (5-1) — Like Spieth, he's capable of winning anywhere and anytime, but his putting is either spot on or not good. Last week in Chicago, it wasn't good until a final-round 64 salvaged his weekend.

4. Marc Leishman (5-1) — Has the hot hand after his 23-under performance in Chicago, but it's difficult to win two weeks in a row against elite fields. He is playing great golf, though.

5. Jon Rahm (6-1) — Still hanging around and definitely capable of winning, but he hasn't won anything quite this big in his career — and the thought of winning $10 million might be too much for him on Sunday afternoon.

6. Rickie Fowler (8-1) — Needs a couple of things to work out in his favor to win the $10 million, but the stage is not too big for him at this point in his career. Played well enough to win in Chicago but was soundly beaten by Leishman's scorching play.

7. Hideki Matsuyama (8-1) — Has cooled off after a hot summer, but could win the $10 million with a win and Spieth and Thomas both finishing outside the top two. He has the game to win in Atlanta.

8. Justin Rose (12-1) — Now it starts to get a little harder. Rose would have to win and the top three guys would all have to finish below the top two. It could happen, of course, but Rose would need Spieth, Thomas, and D.J. all to fall by the wayside.

9. Brooks Koepka (14-1) — Don't be surprised if he's the winner of the golf tournament on Sunday evening. But that likely won't be enough for him to win the $10 million first prize. The top four guys would all have to struggle in order for Koepka to win the FedEx Cup. But if you're looking for a well-paying wager for the TOUR Championship, take him to win on Sunday.

10. Paul Casey (20-1) — Nope. Ain't happening. Always hangs around but never closes the deal. Solid player, but basically no more than a money-maker at this point.

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September 19
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 19
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looking for a sports hero? he's in cleveland of all places

Adopting a sports figure as someone you admire is a slippery slope.

We know them as athletes, players, and men or women on the stage of the sport they play.

Little do we know about them as people.

Sometimes we find out they're human. They do things we didn't think they'd do.

They say things we didn't think they'd say.

They get suspended. Some athletes even wind up on the police blotter.

But growing up, we all chose to emulate a sports figure. When I was batting, I wanted to be Eddie Murray. When I was pitching, I wanted to be Jim Palmer.

I could copy the Murray batting stance fairly easily. Who couldn't, right? Just lazily rest the bat on your left shoulder, get your weight a little more on your left side, and get into that wide stance that Eddie used so well.

I wasn't very good at copying Palmer's high leg kick and wide-arc-throwing motion. But I wanted to be Palmer. So did a lot of other kids growing up around me in Glen Burnie.

When I got older and started taking golf seriously, I wanted my swing and my game to resemble that of Fred Couples. Far and away, Couples is my favorite player ever. He had that nonchalant attitude that's perfect for golf.

"I don't care where I hit it...I'll just go find it and hit it again, wherever it ends up."

10,000 consecutive plays...without missing a snap.

His swing was smooth and without any sign of stress. He picked the club up, put his hands above his shoulder, and delivered the clubface perfectly into the ball. Every. Single. Time.

He wasn't the best golfer on the planet in his day. Tiger Woods and others were much better. But Couples was definitely the coolest golfer.

And I always wanted to be just like Fred Couples.

I'm past the point now of wanting to "be" like anyone else. I'm having a hard enough time just being me.

But there's no denying that youngsters want to look, play and act like athletes they see on TV. You can talk all you want about not letting them adopt athletes as role models, but they're going to find their way there. Whether it's in school, where friends influence them, or on the internet or TV, where highlights and replays are everywhere, 24/7, kids are going to look up to athletes and say, "I want to be like him (her)".

The key thing: There's a difference between "playing like them" and "being like them". I wanted to "play" like Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer and Fred Couples.

My son is a soccer player. Like nearly every other youth soccer player in the country, he wants to play like Lionel Messi.

But when I talk to my boy about an athlete I want him to "be" like, that's all together different.

In reality, you and I should want to "be" like this guy, too.

His name?

Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns.

Thomas is the best male role model you can find for your children...that is, when it comes to wanting them to "be" like him an athlete.

This past Sunday, Thomas played his 10,000th consecutive snap against the Ravens in Cleveland's 24-10 loss to the Ravens.

Those numbers are correct. He's played ten thousand consecutive offensive plays for the Browns.

Thomas entered the league in 2007. He's never missed a game.

Never once has he had the flu, an ankle sprain, a hip injury or -- dare we say it? -- a migraine that was bad enough that he went to the sideline and said to the trainer, "I can't go back out there."

Joe Thomas is also a great player, a sure fire Hall of Famer, and quite possibly one of Cleveland's all-time best sports figures. Ever.

No one knows much about him because he's played -- and suffered -- with the Browns for eleven seasons.

What you know now, though, is that he's been there for every snap, every play, every loss and every terrible season in Northeast Ohio.

He hasn't begged out of a game. He didn't chase big money to sign with the Patriots or Steelers or Ravens or any other perennial contender who would have backed up the Brinks truck for him.

Instead, he's been faithful to the team that first employed him, has never missed a day of work, and has done it all with supreme expertise at his position.

“How did it happen?," Thomas says in response to a question about the 10,000 consecutive plays. "To be honest, I never set out to do it. It just sort of happened. It’s ingrained in you as a young athlete: ‘Get up! Play the next play!’ It’s the job. You know, obviously, the losing hurts. I’m human. But something I’ve found comfort in is, just do your job. I’ve got people in my family who get up and go to work every day and they don’t complain. Regardless of the record, I get to play a kids’ game. I am blessed to do what I love to do so much.”

I know what you're thinking.

"I sure wish they made more people like Joe Thomas these days..."

I thought the same thing when I saw that quote following Sunday's loss in Baltimore.

Joe Thomas is an athlete worth admiring. No dancing in the middle of the game. No showing up the other team. No beanballs at someone's head. No club throwing.

He puts on his uniform, reports to work, and stays in there no matter the circumstances. And those have been some awfully tough circumstances in Cleveland.

Sure, he's made a gazillion dollars playing football. So have a lot of others, but they've all missed games, taken a half off here and there, or switched teams and cities because they either didn't like losing or wanted less pressure on themselves.

Joe Thomas is the athlete we should all look to and say, "Now that's a man worth admiring."

You might not be able to play left tackle like him. But you can put in a honest day's work like him. And if you can do that, you're going places.

Best of all? You don't have to be a football player to "be" like Joe Thomas.

That's the best message of all for your children. You can "be" Joe Thomas and work at a bank, a construction site, or a car dealership.

Just show up every day, without complaint, work hard for yourself, your family and the company, and, as Thomas said on Sunday, "just do your job."

Get up every morning and be the best you can be. At everything you do.

Be like Joe Thomas.

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from the desk of
brien jackson

BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.

tuesday morning quarterback

For the second year in a row, the Ravens beat the Browns to move to 2-0 on the season, and now they're off to play Jacksonville and open the season 3-0 for the second year in a row. Wait, when you put it like that...

In all seriousness the Ravens turned in a complete victory on Sunday, dominating every phase of the game and even getting the passing attack involved after running the ball 42 total times in Week One. It wasn't all sunshine and roses though, so here are 6 winners and 4 losers from the latest victory over the Browns:

Winner: Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco didn't have any post-game quips about "not having fun" after the Ravens 24-10 win over Cleveland on Sunday.

Flacco didn't get much of a chance to assuage concerns over his health and readiness in week one, but that changed quickly in the home opener. The Ravens clearly wanted to get Flacco in rhythm early and keep him throwing, and he ended the day 25 of 34 for 217 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came in the first half.

The Ravens deployed a rolling pocket quite a bit, which seemed to keep Joe in rhythm and mechanically sound, while also showing off that there really aren't many concerns about the health of his back as well. And he avoided any awkward answers postgame as well, so it's all looking up for Flacco heading to London!

Loser: Marshal Yanda

There's nothing much to be said about Yanda's season ending ankle injury that hasn't already been said elsewhere. It's a true gutshot that hurts even more because Yanda walked off the field under his own power, making it appear that the injury wasn't especially serious. Speaking of which, how tough do you have to be to shove off trainers' assistance and walk off the field on a broken ankle?!

There's no way to replace the best interior lineman in the game, but every team usually deals with at least one major loss, so there's no reason to think this alone is a season killer.

Winners: The rest of the offensive line

Reviews of their week one performance were unenthusiastic at best, but they turned in another strong performance against a good defensive front for Cleveland, and even kept the offense churning after Yanda left the game. Ryan Jensen in particular was noticeably improved without having to go one on one with Geno Atkins.

Winner: Ben Watson

Speaking of season ending injuries, after suffering one in the first preseason game last year Watson finally got to make his first appearance as a Raven at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, and he made as solid a first impression as anyone. The veteran journeyman was Flacco's most consistent target, recording a game high 8 catches (on 8 targets) for 91 yards.

The tight end group as a whole had a very nice game, actually, with Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle both getting the chance to make some very good plays in the screen game. Altogether the trio tallied 13 catches for 121 yards, an encouraging sign as Flacco and the offense look to figure out a way to move on without Dennis Pitta.

Loser: Lardarius Webb

Webb had a career resurgence in the preseason and has a lock on the nickelback position with Tavon Young and Jaylen Hill hurt, but the veteran had a day to forget against the Browns. Webb was a consistent feature in replays of the Browns' biggest passing plays, whether it was getting turned around on a key grab by running back Duke Johnson or miscommunicating with his fellow DBs in zone coverage.

Webb did come up with a late interception in the endzone, but that was 99% on DeShone Kizer, who threw the ball both late and behind his receiver despite having an opening for a touchdown. With first round pick Marlon Humphrey looking solid in limited action and largely being blocked by Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr both playing well on the outside, it will be interesting to see if Dean Pees gives the rookie some chances to work inside.

Winners: Buck Allen & Alex Collins

Allen's strong performance from week one was largely overshadowed by Terrance West, but this week he was the clear standout in the running back group. Not only did he give the Ravens consistent positive yardage and finish the day with 66 yards on 14 carries, he showed explosive playmaking ability on a 37 yard run that set up Flacco's touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin at the end of the first half. Plus he was a consistent weapon in the passing game his own right, and showed excellent body control and strong hands in catching Flacco's first touchdown pass earlier in the game.

For his part, Collins went from the practice squad to getting the bulk of the carries as the Ravens were trying to put the game away in the fourth quarter, and looked determined to stick on the active roster. He showed explosiveness and a real ability to force tough yardage, ending the game with an impressive 42 yards on 7 carries. He was so impressive that he even avoided a trip to John Harbaugh's doghouse after losing a fumble, and the head coach even seemed to offer up a defense for him after the game.

It's a safe bet Collins won't be inactive in week three, and will get plenty of chances to continue to impress.

Loser: Terrance West

The leading rusher from week one managed only 22 yards in week two, and more jarringly only got to carry the ball 8 times despite scoring the team's first touchdown. And when you factor out his longest run of 12 yards, he's left with an anemic 10 yards on 7 carries, and Coach Harbaugh reported on Monday that West was dealing with a soft tissue injury and, presumably, that's why he saw limited action.

Or more accurately, is hopefully why he had a tough time getting it going in terms of production. West has showed the ability to run hard downhill and pick up positive gains, but Allen and Collins look more explosive and Allen is the best of the trio in the passing game, so West's position on the depth chart is in obvious jeopardy.

Loser: Mike Wallace

Two catches in two games for Mike Wallace. Not the kind of workload he hopes to carry in 2017.

For the second straight week, Wallace was limited to just one catch, and the box score only credits him with three targets on the day. That might just be the natural ebb and flow of playing receiver on a team that doesn't want to throw the ball 40+ times a game, but what was more worrying was that Wallace and Flacco didn't look like they were on the same page on either of the two incompletions thrown Wallace's way.

Flacco's lone interception was the clearest example of this, though that was totally on Flacco, who threw deep into the Brown's cover two scheme while Wallace broke off into the open space in the zone. He had a better game than Breshad Perriman anyway, who came up empty on four targets and looked scared to go after a couple of balls, and I wouldn't be surprised if getting number 17 more involved is a big part of this week's offensive gameplan.

Winner: Ozzie Newsome

Speaking of rookies playing well, it sure looks like the Ravens' GM hit a home run with this year's draft. After a few years of mediocre returns from guys picked in rounds two through four, the 2017 class is already contributing in a big way. Second round pick Tyus Bowser has been excellent covering sideline to sideline since the beginning of the preseason and came up with his first career interception on Sunday. Third rounder Tim Williams got to play in his first game as an injury replacement for Za'Darius Smith, and turned in an extremely impressive pass rushing performance against future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas.

The entire defense right now is a huge success story for Ozzie, who set out to build a unit built around redzone performance and creating turnovers and succeeded in spades. With a front seven that's maybe the best in all of football at tipping passes into the air and a secondary group full of ballhawks, I'd eagerly wager the Ravens will lead the league in takeaways at the end of Week 17, even if they won't get 4 interceptions every game (I wouldn't bet against that, though).

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Todd Schoenberger promises to deliver provocative commentary on the world of Baltimore sports. His no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners style of writing is certain to leave readers debating and disputing, but always thinking. Be sure to follow Tuesdays with Todd!

Twitter: @TMSchoenberger

hoping one of our readers can give the eulogy

I'm sure many readers of this column feel the same way I do about the Baltimore Ravens and their inevitable run of multiple World Championships. After all, the 2017 version of our football team is undefeated and a guaranteed lock to not only win this year’s Super Bowl, but be a serious contender for repeating next season.

And, oh, what a shame it is.

The Ravens picked a really bad time to start a dynasty because the NFL brand is soon to find itself on life support as fans turn their backs and seek alternative options for entertainment. The professional form of the sport is slowly dying and there doesn’t appear to be anything on the horizon to anchor a rebound and recovery.

Unless some gimmicky version appears, such as the XFL, apathy will reign and America will soon be reclaiming their Sunday afternoons.

The Los Angeles Rams aren't filling their stadium and neither are several other teams in the NFL in 2017.

Long before ESPN began the highly-acclaimed 30-for-30 series, the network provided fans with an inside look at pro football via a fictional story named Playmakers. As those who would probably guess, the show detailed an entire lineup of problems facing those who play in the league: Drug abuse, hiring hookers, having affairs, and breaking team rules.

Even though the drama was a ratings bonanza and huge fan favorite, the NFL pressured ESPN to shut down production and remove it from its on-demand archives. That wasn't surprising considering the network was on deck to air MNF games. The so-called worldwide leader in sports caved to the request and shuttered the show after only one season. If it wasn’t for YouTube, Playmakers would have simply vanished and never again be available to viewers.

The main issue with the show was it reinforced the stereotype many NFL fans already have of the players; and this created a giant problem for the league.

Playmakers aired in 2003, which also happened to be the time when high-definition televisions started becoming permanent items in fan’s living rooms. The league preferred to create a product built for TV and targeted an entirely new demographic: women and children. The result was a kindler-and-gentler version of the sport, which had players wearing pink and removing risqué touchdown celebrations.

The target market had changed for the NFL. They were now going after the family who parks themselves on the sectional sofa and cheers for their team from the comfort of home.

However…the problems in the 2003 NFL are not even in the same zip code as 2017 NFL, and the very group the league attempted to attract are heading for the exits and not looking back.

If Playmakers was brought back for a reboot now, we’d likely be seeing stories about star players sitting on their tails during the National Anthem or giving be some kind of protest sign during the pre-game festivities. Or, there would be an episode about a sports journalist who covers the NFL going on a public forum to slander the President of the United States by calling him racist.

There are two topics every profit-seeking business considers toxic: Race Relations and Abortion. If a business wants to manufacture a divide and instantly lose half of its customers, then relaying either subject to the public is the way to do it. Not even debates about equal rights for the LGBTQ community has as much power to influence.

Ever wonder why star athletes like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods stay away from hot button topics? The reason is obvious: They know all races and genders purchase their products and so choose not to alienate cash-in-hand customers ready to spend!

The NFL probably wishes it had the problems it faced circa 2003. These days, it seems the league is doing nothing but damage control, which is evident in the weak television ratings and low attendance. Fans are tired of the social issues hitting them in the face every time they turn on CBS or FOX at 1:00 on what should be a casual Sunday afternoon, and a time to break away from the stresses of everyday life.

It probably goes without saying that the sport itself is falling apart. Parents are no longer enrolling their boys in recreational leagues, which creates a supply issue for the next generation and devalues the talent level of players on the field. Subpar officiating due to an overregulation of rules, mixed in with below average talent, creates a difficult product to spend high dollars to see.

Add in the weekly in-your-face protests and fans are saying no thanks to owners seeking their discretionary incomes.

Here’s a forecast for you: The 2018 Super Bowl will be the first NFL Championship Game at risk of not selling out.

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September 18
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 18
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easy win over cleveland and 2-0 start dampened by injury to yanda

Talk about a buzz kill.

This is worse than the follow-up album to "Bringing Down The Horse" by The Wallflowers.

The Ravens cruised to a 24-10 win over the Browns on Sunday afternoon in sun-splashed Baltimore.

But the victory and their 2-0 record -- and imminent 3-0 mark after next week's beatdown of Jacksonville in London -- couldn't even be enjoyed for one evening once John Harbaugh delivered the news at his post-game press conference.

The excitement of a 24-10 home win over Cleveland was quickly diminished on Sunday when the Ravens learned that Marshal Yanda is done for the season with a leg injury.

"And Marshal Yanda...he's out for the season with a fractured ankle."


I repeated it to myself after Harbaugh said it to make sure I had the words right. "Marshal Yanda, out for the season with a fractured ankle."

That's not good.

There's no sugar coating the impact of Yanda's departure. It's huge. More than huge. When your team loses the best right guard in the entire league, you're going to suffer as a result.

Harbaugh got testy after the game when a reporter asked him how Yanda's injury affects his team moving forward. He got snippy because he knows the truth, I suppose. Losing Yanda leaves a massive hole to fill. I'm not sure why Harbs didn't just say that, but it's all good.

As is always the case with any key injury, the Ravens will have to move on and patch something together, quickly. The schedule will eventually get more difficult. Harbaugh and Company can't play the NFL's junior varsity teams forever.

Meanwhile, the short-term goal is win next week to move to 3-0 and then worry about how to win seven or eight other games without Marshal Yanda.

The Ravens are still very much a playoff contending team, but the reality is the loss of Marshal Yanda might cost them a game or two along the way. And that might be the difference between 10-6 and 8-8 or 11-5 and 9-7.

Enough of the doom and gloom, though. Let's talk about Sunday's win over Cleveland, which was much easier than the 24-10 score would otherwise suggest.

Cleveland's offense rang up a bunch of yards against the vaunted Baltimore defense, but they were never, ever going to do enough to win the game. DeShone Kizer got his indoctrination into playing on the road in the AFC North and it gave him a first half migraine. Kevin Hogan came in and looked legit for a series or two, but even he was limited in what he could do.

The Browns are still the Browns, no matter the draft picks they pile up or the assumption that at some point, soon, they simply have to get better by the law of averages.

Their defense isn't bad. But their offense is woeful.

Hue Jackson is in for another long season. They won't go 1-15 this year like they did in 2016, but they are in no way a threat to any good team they oppose.

And speaking of good teams, it appears as if the Ravens have one. How good? Well, that certainly remains to be seen. They'll beat the Jaguars next Sunday in London, but it might be one of those 16-10 borefests that goes in the "a win is a win" column.

Then, the Steelers come to town and we'll learn a lot more about the Ravens on October 1st in Baltimore.

Joe Flacco made some really nice throws yesterday. He looked far more comfortable in the win over Cleveland than he did in the season-opening triumph over Cincinnati. He moved out of the pocket well, threw a few balls into tight spaces with sublime accuracy, and appears like he's developing a nice combination with newcomer Jeremy Maclin.

The Ravens defense generated five turnovers for the second straight week, but in fairness, Kizer threw two balls right into their purple shirts, and fumbled another ball because he still has college football pocket awareness.

It's odd to say, but there are still plenty of question marks despite starting the season at 2-0.

But those question marks are there because the Ravens haven't really been tested. They've played two bad teams. And that's OK, because you play who the schedule maker tells you to play. But let's hope these Ravens aren't last year's Vikings, who sprinted out to a 5-0 start, then blew a gasket once they had to start playing real teams.

And losing Yanda isn't going to benefit them, that's for sure.

The thing to remember is this: Every team has injuries. Heck, there's a 70% chance Roethlisberger won't play in Baltimore in two weeks. He's always good for missing at least one game against the Ravens due to an injury. By the time the Raiders host Baltimore on October 8, Derek Carr might be out with a thumb injury. Maybe Marcus Mariota misses the game in Nashville on November 5 with a foot sprain.

I don't like seeing anyone get hurt. I'm not doing "wishful thinking" here. I'm just reiterating that you never know which team you're actually going to face until they post the lineups 90 minutes before the game. Someone else might lose their Marshal Yanda the week before the Ravens face them. Keep that in mind...

For now, though, the Ravens should bask in the glow of their 2-0 start and accept it for what it is.

Yes, their two wins have come against lousy teams, as social media reminded us over and over on Sunday night.

But I'd rather beat the Bengals and Browns than lose to either of them. People sometimes forget that when they're criticizing the team after a victory, including a certain sports writer in town who is always good for a Negative Nancy approach in the aftermath of a Ravens win over an inferior opponent.

It's true and it's boring and it sounds like coach speak, but it's true: A win is a win. And it's always, always, always better than losing.


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around the nfl in 95 seconds

Panthers 9 - Bills 3 -- What a thriller this must have been. Tyrod Taylor was the leading rusher in the game. He had 55 yards on the ground. He's Buffalo's quarterback. Refund requests should be directed to the Panthers front office.

Cardinals 16 - Colts 13 OT -- It probably felt like a loss for Arizona, needing overtime and all to beat the hapless Colts. Indianapolis plays host to the Browns next week. They can't possibly lose to them, right?

After these two were humbled in their home opener against the Chiefs, they went back to work and did some humbling of their own in New Orleans yesterday.

Titans 37 - Jaguars 16 -- Jacksonville's opening week win over Houston was obviously a fluke. Tennessee looks legit. Then again, they beat the Jaguars. Kind of like the Ravens beating the Browns. But every win counts.

Chiefs 27 - Eagles 20 -- That's a 2-0 start for Kansas City. Something tells me Philadelphia's going to be pretty good this season. I picked the Giants to win the division in my pre-season predictions piece, but if you'll give me a mulligan, I'll take the Eagles.

Patriots 36 - Saints 20 -- Well, we can tell the Patriots didn't take that opening night loss to Kansas City lightly. They lit up a terrible New Orleans defense. Tom Brady was 30-for-39 with 447 yards in the air. New Orleans stinks. But I think we all assumed they would.

Buccanneers 29 - Bears 7 -- Chicago can't get out of its own way. Who knows when they'll win a game? They do play the Browns, so there's at least one reasonable chance for a victory there. Tampa Bay might be a surprise this year.

Steelers 26 - Vikings 9 -- Pittsburgh off to a 2-0 start, with a visit to Chicago next week to go 3-0 vs. the Bears. Minnesota is an OK with Sam Bradford at quarterback. When he's out, they aren't competitive. They weren't competitive yesterday.

Dolphins 19 - Chargers 17 -- Jay Cutler a winning quarterback? Say it ain't so. Los Angeles missed a game-winning 44-yard field goal at the buzzer after Philip Rivers drove them down the field in less than a minute. His head blew off after that field goal miss.

Raiders 45 - Jets 20 -- As expected, it was a walk in the park for the Raiders. Michael Crabtree had 3 TD catches. The Jets didn't even score three touchdowns as a team.

Broncos 42 - Cowboys 17 -- Sure, they've played two home games and they're 2-0, but Denver looks legit. The Cowboys' defense didn't look so hot yesterday.

Redskins 27 - Rams 20 -- Washington's going to be a weird team all year, watch and see. They'll lose at home, win on the road, lose to teams they shouldn't and beat teams they shouldn't. The Rams are no good. Nice crowd out there, too. Not...

Seahawks 12 - 49'ers 9 -- There's something about this divisional match-up that brings out the worst in the Seahawks. It's a win and all, but how on earth can you barely squeak by a terrible San Fran team in your own building? I know the answer. Because it's the NFL, that's why.

Falcons 34 - Packers 23 -- If the Packers made a statement with their home win over Seattle last Sunday, the Falcons made one last night in their shiny new building in Atlanta. Green Bay was really never in this one. The Falcons appear highly motivated to rebound from their Super Bowl collapse of a season ago.

show me the money, week #2

It's not customary to send the guy who gives you the winning picks a little pick-me-up in the mail, but if you're a gentleman and you'd like to do that, I'll accept it.

After yesterday's 4-1 record -- thanks a bunch, Eagles, you creeps -- we're back to even-steven on the season at 5-5.

I hit the Steelers (-6.0) over Minnesota, Raiders (-13.0) over the Jets, Washington (+2.5) over the Rams and Bills (+7.0) covering against the Panthers.

The "Best Bet" went my way, too -- Pittsburgh over Minnesota.

I didn't use the Ravens as one of my picks (I never do), but I had them winning (and covering) 23-9. They won 24-10. I assume you're going to give me that one too.

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leishman moves into fedex cup top five with win in chicago

The PGA Tour couldn't have written a better script for the final weekend of their 2016-2017 campaign.

Three high-profile names are in the Top 5 of the FedEx Cup point standings and another favorite -- Rickie Fowler -- sits in the 6th position with a chance to win the whole thing at this week's TOUR Championship in Atlanta.

With a 5-shot win in the third playoff event of the season, Marc Leishman now has a chance to win the $10 million first prize by winning the TOUR Championship this week.

A host of players are still capable of winning the title and the $10 million first place check, but they'd have to win the tournament at East Lake and have a bunch of other stuff happen (mostly poor finishes by the top three, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson) in order for them to leapfrog over several players.

It's likely that one of the top five will win the $10 million, but Fowler has to keep in mind that Spieth won the big check and the trophy in 2015 and he was sitting in sixth place heading into the final event.

Jon Rahm (4) and Marc Leisham (5) are the other two in the top five who will win the playoff outright if they triumph in Atlanta. Leishman moved into the top five with an impressive win at the BMW Championship this weekend, posting a 23-under par score to pull away by five shots.

Spieth's the favorite, if only because he's won the playoff event before and knows what it takes.

He didn't win one of the first three FedEx Cup events -- those went to Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Leishman -- but he's played well enough all season and in the three playoffs events to hold the coveted top position heading to Atlanta.

The guy with the hot hand, though, is Leishman, who enjoyed an excellent "regular season" on the PGA Tour and now has a chance to capture the most important title of his career at the TOUR Championship. He looks a little bit like Billy Horschel did back in 2014 when he stormed through the playoff schedule and came from behind in the final couple of weeks to snatch the $10 million from Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy in the final event.

If you like watching guys play for $10 million in funny money, this week's final event should get your blood going. As has happened before, it all could all come down to the last shot, like it did in 2011 when Bill Haas made birdie on the very last hole of the tournament to win the TOUR Championship and the $10 million.

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we're heading to pittsburgh for ravens-steelers on december 10!

We're one game into the season and I'm already targeting Sunday, December 10 as a "must see game" on the Ravens' away schedule.

That's when John Harbaugh's team heads to the Steel City for a Sunday evening nationally-televised encounter with the Steelers, and #DMD is making the trip to Pittsburgh to see it all happen.

Our group will have upper level seats together, so those traveling with friends will be seated right next to one another. Pittsburgh's bark is much worse than its bite. I've been there a dozen times, probably, for Ravens-Steelers and the fan base is much more tolerant of visiting fans than urban legend suggests.

But it's still comforting to sit with other Ravens fans and those you traveled with to Pittsburgh. So our tickets are "group seating" where everyone is together.

We'll leave Baltimore at 12 noon, arriving at Heinz Field roughly around 5 pm for the 8:30 kick-off.

You will NEVER go hungry or thirsty when you travel with #DMD. Upon departing from Baltimore on our luxury motor coach, we'll supply everyone with lunch, plus there's always an extensive supply of DuClaw beer, soft drinks and water.

Upon arrival in Pittsburgh, we'll break out pre-game dinner for everyone, plus there's more food and drinks for our purple-clad travelers.

Oh, and brush up on your Ravens trivia. The winner of our trivia contest receives $100 in cash!

If you've traveled with us before, you know how our bus trips work. We'll sell only 40 of the available 55 seats, leaving a little bit of room for folks to stretch out on the ride up and back to Pittsburgh.

The bus will return to Baltimore immediately after the game ends.

We do it all for you. Bus ride, game ticket, all the food and drink you can handle, plus Ravens trivia. It's the safest and easiest way to travel to Pittsburgh to see the Ravens.

Eight of the available 40 seats have been pre-purchased by one of our corporate partners, leaving 32 seats for purchase.

Oh, and here's something new we're implementing for #DMD travel. You will be allowed to board the bus and select your seat(s) based on the date of your purchase. In other words, if you are the first person to buy a seat on our bus trip to Pittsburgh, you'll be first in line to board the bus.

It's not quite what they do on Southwest Airlines, but it's close. The sooner you buy your seat on our bus to Pittsburgh, the further up in line you are when it's time to board the bus on December 10.

If you're interested in joining us for the big showdown in Pittsburgh, just go here.

Help us Paint Pittsburgh Purple on Sunday night, December 10!!

Week 2

Sunday — September 17, 2017
Volume XXXVIII — Issue 17

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens

1:00 PM EDT

M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore, Maryland

Spread: Ravens -7½

I have friends who think today's tussle with the Cleveland Browns is actually going to be competitive.

They believe that more because they're not convinced the Ravens are good. We all know the Browns don't have much quality.

But given that it's the NFL, which is the craziest of all the sports leagues -- by far -- and with a tip of the cap to the person who said, "On any given Sunday...", I'll play along and act like the Browns deserve to be respected.

That said, if the Ravens lose at home today to a rookie quarterback and the Cleveland Browns, they should have to take a ferry boat to London for next Sunday's encounter with the Jaguars.

Lose to the Browns? In Baltimore? C'mon man...

Because the NFL is week-to-week and one team winning last Sunday has little bearing on what they're going to do this Sunday, there's little reason to review last week's results for the Ravens and Browns and put any stock in either performance.

But we do it anyway.

It's 2017. Still rebuilding in Cleveland.

The Browns played hard against what we believe to be a Super Bowl contending Steelers team, albeit in a losing cause. Losing to Pittsburgh by three points is no disgrace, but it's a loss in the same way the Bengals started 0-1 (now 0-2) after getting thumped by the Ravens.

And while the Ravens definitely had their "A game" against the Bengals, it was also one of those games where everything went right for Baltimore and wrong for Cincinnati. Anyone who has played competitive golf has had a day where every putt they hit went in, and every putt they hit missed the hole by two inches. There's no explanation for it. That's golf.

The Bengals probably showed more of their true colors on Thursday night when they lost at home to the Texans and their rookie quarterback. That was a bad Bengals team the Ravens throttled last Sunday. That doesn't diminish the victory, of course. It just reinforces that we don't know nearly as much about the Ravens, particularly offensively, as a 20-0 final would otherwise indicate.

But the Browns aren't coming to Baltimore and winning today.

The league is nuts, for sure. But it's not that nuts.

It will be worth watching the Ravens offense today to see if Joe Flacco and Company get untracked. Some would say they didn't do much of anything last Sunday in Cincinnati. I'm more of the mindset that they didn't need to do anything once they were ahead 17-0 at the half. It wasn't quite the old Dean Smith four-corners offense in the second half, but it was awfully close.

If the Browns somehow press John Harbaugh's team for 30 or 45 minutes today and keep the score close, we'll get a better idea of Flacco's capabilities. I remarked last week that even when he threw the ball in the first half, he didn't look all that great. Lots of short passes, dinks and dunks, and not much gunslinging from our (elite?) quarterback.

In a weird kind of way, I almost hope the Browns do present a challenge this afternoon in Baltimore. I'd like to see what Joe has under the hood. Don't get me wrong, a 20-0 shutout win over the Browns would be nice, but I'd feel better about Flacco if I get to see him air it out a bit.

Heck, I'm sounding like Flacco himself, now.

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keys to today's game

For the Ravens --

1. Establish the run, early -- The game plan and the 17-0 lead both helped last week in Cincinnati, but the Ravens ran the ball, ran it again and ran it some more last week in the win over the Bengals. While I'm not figuring they'll gain 157 yards on the ground again this afternoon, I'd like to see the Ravens use the run in the first half to put their own stamp on the pace of the game. The more they run it successfully, the better the odds are that the Browns will put another guy in the box and that should open up some passing opportunities for Flacco and Company.

2. Don't let Kizer get confident -- I know DeShone Kizer is a rookie and all, but he wasn't chopped liver at Notre Dame. However, this is his first-ever appearance in Baltimore to face the Ravens and he's going from six furlongs to a mile and a half today. Kizer was decent last week against Pittsburgh, but playing the Ravens in their building is much different than facing the Steelers in your own barn. The Ravens need to get to Kizer early and let him see what it's like to play varsity teams on the road.

3. Turnovers are the name of the game -- The Ravens generated five turnovers vs. the Bengals last week. If you're looking for the stat that decided the game, there it is (was). They need a similar turn of events today vs. the Browns. I'm not sure they'll get Cleveland to turn it over five times, but a forced fumble and two interceptions should be more than enough for the Ravens to come out on top this afternoon.

Tale of the tape for a Ravens win: Gain at least 60 yards on the ground in the first half, don't let Kizer get in the end zone in the first half, generate at least three turnovers on defense.

For the Browns --

1. Put together several lengthy first half drives -- Chewing up the clock and keeping the Ravens defense on the field are two priorities for the Browns today. Their goal should be at least two 10-play drives in the first half, with some kind of scoring attached to both drives. Just keeping the ball themselves and forcing the Ravens defense to stay on the field should help the Browns with their confidence while potentially frustrating Dean Pees and his troops. If the Browns can lead or be within a field goal at the half, they've done well for themselves.

2. Run the ball effectively -- This one's easier said than done, granted, but it goes along with Cleveland's attempt to "shorten the game". Running the ball and using the clock, all while staying in the game, is one of the best ways for the Browns to hang in there this afternoon. Can their running game break the 100-yard mark against the Ravens? That's a key figure for the Browns. Over 100 yards on the ground would help their chances.

3. Special teams need to be special -- Mistake prone teams are often an easy meal for the Ravens. All it takes is a muffed punt or a bad decision on a kick-off return and you're challenged for field position. Anytime the Ravens get the ball near the 50-yard line, they're only 12 yards away from a Justin Tucker field goal. It's important for the Browns to keep the Ravens away from Cleveland territory as much as possible. Special teams can help do that.

Tale of the tape for a Browns win: Keep the game close at half time, chew up clock in the second half with the running game and hit the 100 yard mark, and play well on punts and kick-offs.

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how drew sees today's game

I won't drag it out.

The Browns aren't beating the Ravens today. For the most part, it won't be close.

Expect another big day from the Ravens best offensive weapon.

Baltimore will score a touchdown on their first offensive series and tack on a second quarter field to lead 10-0. Cleveland will collect their own three points just before half to make it 10-3 at the intermission.

Like they did last Sunday, the Ravens will run the ball effectively all afternoon. They'll have 62 yards rushing at the half and finish the game with 131 yards on the ground.

Another Tucker field goal will make it 13-3 in the third quarter. Cleveland will climb to with 13-6 with a field goal of their own, but a turnover will give the Ravens the ball in Browns' territory and a Flacco-to-Perriman throw and catch will make it 20-6.

The Browns will cut it to 20-9, but a late Tucker field goal -- his third of the day -- will finalize the scoring.

Ravens win this one in fairly routine fashion, 23-9.

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show me the money

Much like the Bengals last weekend, I got off to a slow start in "Show Me The Money".

I finished week one at 1-4. The only game I got right? I called the Browns covering 9.5 points at home vs. Pittsburgh. The rest of the games I whiffed on, including the Falcons-Bears game where I had Atlanta (-6.5) and those creeps only won by six, 23-17.

No worries, though. At one point last year, I was 11-19 before I eventually worked my way back to above .500 for the season. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

So let's get going with my week two picks. If you're thinking about buying a nice car or a new boat, feel free to use these.

BILLS AT PANTHERS (-7.0) -- I do this to myself every year with the Bills. I always lean on them to do good by me and time and time again, they kick me in the family jewels. I have no idea why I'm doing it again, but here we go. I know Carolina beat up on poor old San Francisco last week and the Bills were sleepwalking their way through a win over an awful Jets team, but I love Buffalo to hang around and keep it close today. Carolina wins by four, but I'll take the Bills to cover the seven points in a 20-16 Panthers victory.

EAGLES AT CHIEFS (-5.5) -- Here I go, doing something stupid like going with two road underdogs right out of the gate. I think Philadelphia is a "mini" team to watch this year. Not quite sure they're good enough to make the playoffs, but wouldn't be shocked if they finish at 9-7 and lose out on a tiebreaker. If ever a team was set-up for a letdown, it's the squad that beat the defending Super Bowl champs in their own backyard on national TV to kick off the season. I don't see Kansas City losing this one, but I think the Eagles cover in a 27-23 Chiefs victory.

VIKINGS AT STEELERS (-6.0) -- With or without Sam Bradford, the Vikings are in trouble today. Pittsburgh will put up a bunch of points in this one and Minnesota will be gasping for air defensively. And with Bradford's status up in the air, this one could get ugly. I'll take the Steelers to win and cover, 36-23.

JETS AT RAIDERS (-13.5) -- It's a big gamble to take any NFL team to beat another by two touchdowns, but it happens quite a bit. You just have to be on the right side of the wager. I'm on the right side of this one, for sure. Oakland wins (and covers the 13.5) in a romp here, 40-17.

REDSKINS AT RAMS (-2.5) -- This is precisely the kind of game the Redskins win. Dumped at home last week by the Eagles while the Rams beat up on the hapless Colts, it would appear as if this isn't a good spot for Washington. Wrong. It's a great spot for them. Washington wins outright 24-23.

BEST BET OF THE WEEK -- I'll take the Steelers (-6.0) over the Vikings as today's Best Bet.




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hellickson, o's battered again in new york, 9-3

So, that Jeremy Hellickson acquisition in late July was a nice thought, but nothing more than that.

Hellickson was clobbered again on Saturday afternoon in the Bronx, giving up six earned runs in three innings of work, as the Birds fell, 9-3, and dropped to 72-77 on the year.

They've just put a bottled water out on a stool for the Fat Lady. It helps her when she's singing. She'll be doing that soon.

Buck Showalter is so tired of seeing Chris Davis strike out he gave him the day off in New York on Saturday. It didn't help. The O's still lost, 9-3.

Let's call it like it is: The Yankees have owned the Birds this season, particularly in New York. Who knows how far out the Orioles will actually finish when all the dust settles at the end of the month, but it's fair to say the Yankees have kept the O's from being legitimate wild card contenders this season.

Every team has an opponent that matches up well against them. New York is the O's nemesis in 2017.

Buck Showalter has apparently already entered "give up mode". He played Saturday's game without Mark Trumbo or Chris Davis, and inserted J.J. Hardy in at short and gave Tim Beckham the DH role.

In fairness to Buck, Trumbo and Davis both look like their tanks are empty. And rookie Austin Hays did manage to squeak out a home run in the 9th inning to help the club avoid being shut out.

But when you're intentionally playing Joey Rickard and Austin Hays in a game that mathematically matters -- and sitting Trumbo and Davis -- you look like you're mailing it in. That's Buck's right though...he's the manager.

It would help if Trumbo or Davis did anything of value at the plate. Alas, let's leave that dead horse alone and move on.

Hellickson will be a free agent at season's end, but let's hope Dan Duquette hasn't allowed the former Phillies starter to grow on him. As we predicted here at #DMD when the deal was made in late July, Hellickson's not a good fit in the American League and most certainly not at Camden Yards. His 7.29 ERA in nine starts with the Orioles should be enough evidence to sway Duquette against signing Hellickson in the off-season.

"Jeremy's a solid major league pitcher who will eat up some innings for us," Duquette said when the Birds traded for him.

No, he isn't.

But we knew that all along. Expecting Hellickson to come to Baltimore and overachieve was like expecting Saturday Night Live to return to greatness. No chance of that happening.

And now, with 13 games remaining in the season, the Orioles playoff hopes are all but extinguished. They'd have to go 13-0 now just to finish at 85-77. I hate to say it, but my pre-season prediction of 79-83 is looking far more realistic than even an 81-81 record.

Where did it all go wrong? The Orioles offense simply stopped producing. They've been dreadful in this series in New York, scoring just 10 runs in three games, three of which came on Saturday in the 9th inning when no one on either team (except Austin Hays) was really trying anymore.

And to think the Baltimore offense was tops in the majors in terms of batting and run production from mid-July through the beginning of September. When it went kaput, though, it went kaput in a hurry.

September 16
r logo#DMDfacebook logoVolume XXXVIII
Issue 16
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espn was right for not firing hill, but here's the thing...

As someone who once got fired for no reason at all, I tend to sympathize with just about anyone who is rumored to be on the chopping block.

Unless you're a Flyers fan. I think they should all lose their jobs. I'm kidding. Really, I'm kidding.

I don't like seeing anyone lose their job, particularly when I know or, at the very least, suspect that they enjoy what they do for a living.

ESPN broadcaster Jemele Hill was in the news this past Monday when she posted a pair of inflammatory tweets about President Donald Trump. Many folks called for her dismissal after Hill called the President a "white supremacist".

If you voice your opinion that this is disrespectful and wrong, you have to be willing to let someone like ESPN's Jemele Hill voice her opinion, too, even if you don't agree with it.

I'm sure of two things in this situation: Jemele Hill isn't the only broadcaster, sports or otherwise, who thinks the President is a white supremacist. And firing her wouldn't have changed the way a significant portion of our country views President Trump.

Hill just happened to be "that person", you know, the one who actually verbalizes what's inside her head. Except she hit "publish Tweet", which these days, is just as good as talking. No matter how she made her point, Hill was clear in her dislike for the President.

But here's the tricky part. Hill has a right to not like the President. She has a right to say that, too. And yes, while some would argue that she shouldn't be mixing politics and sports, the only folks saying that are the ones who currently sit in favor of the work President Trump is doing in D.C.

Had Jemele Hill come out in grand support of Trump with a series of tweets promoting his efficiency in the White House, the story would have been much, much different. Anti-Trump people might have reached out with their disdain for Hill, but the widespread furor wouldn't have run nearly as deep had Hill defended the President instead of attacking him.

So, I ask, what's the difference in Hill liking the President or not liking the President? If you're one of the folks who are upset with her tweets this past Monday or, if you're upset with her because "she's mixing politics and sports", you're only fanning those flames because you're a President Trump supporter.

If Hill would have tweeted something glowing about the President, you wouldn't be outraged by her use of social media and the platform she has at ESPN. An advantage that might be considered out-of-balance given her reach both on TV and via social media.

It's time we stopped getting bothered so much in this country by people who just speak their mind. And that goes both ways, for sure. The election was nearly a year ago, and yet we still hear and read people complaining about the surprising outcome. The thing is, though, as silly as they are for not coming to grips with a result that's now 10 months old, they are welcome to their opinion and can whine all they want.

Personally, I think what Jemele Hill said was in poor taste. I don't share her opinion on President Trump.

But I think she has the right to think it and say it. And it doesn't matter that she's a sports broadcaster. She has an opinion and a plaform -- as do I, here at #DMD -- and she can use it if she so chooses.

Musicians do it all the time. They have you and the other 18,000 people captivated, right there in front of them, and they're going to take that moment to offer you their wisdom on a particular subject. No one says you have to adopt their philosophies or agree with them. You have a brain...use it and make your own decision.

Bruce Springsteen is an outspoken liberal. He's also my favorite musician and an iconic figure in my life. When I go to a show, I know there's a very good chance at some point during the night, Bruce is going to offer an opinion or two on politics or the government. I'd rather hear him spend those two minutes on a short song like "Save My Love", but that's just me.

Springsteen's entitled to his opinion. I don't typically mesh with Bruce, politically, but that doesn't mean I'm any less interested in hearing him sing "Badlands" or "Adam Raised A Cain".

When I hear a musician, actor, actress or media personality offer their political opinion, it rolls right off my back. It registers with me what they're saying, but I'm not letting anyone or anything change the way I think. I'll change the way I think when I decide to and not a minute before.

Jemele Hill calling the President a white supremacist was disrespectful, but not a fireable offense. If the issue that makes it fireable is that she used her forum to promote her own political leanings, then you're also saying you would have asked for her termination even if she would have endorsed Trump's work.

You can't have it both ways.

Somehow over the last decade, our country has gotten soft. No one's allowed to joke around anymore. Every word in every social media post gets scrutinized. Over scrutinized, more like it. And everyone's feelings are always getting hurt. It's laughable how soft we've become, as a nation.

And asking for Jemele Hill to be fired is an example of our soft nature. We didn't like what she said, so fire her. That's essentially what people were saying all week.

Well, the people who support President Trump were saying that. The folks against Trump thought it was great that Hill was allowed the freedom to speak her mind.

ESPN did their part by admonishing Hill for her public comments on the President but we all know they were just trying to save face at that point. Their concern was collateral damage, not whether Ms. Hill was actually right or wrong about Donald Trump.

If we're going to be allowed to criticize someone who takes a knee during the national anthem, we also have to allow for a public statement of disrespect for the office of the President. It's not something I'm going to teach my children, mind you, but I understand how it all works these days in our country.

Everyone has a right to their opinion...right up until it doesn't mesh with your opinion. Then, you say, they need to keep quiet.

I'd prefer we go back to the way it was. Say what you want. Deal with any legitimate consequences that come your way as a result. And stop whining every time someone says something that you don't like.

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what do the orioles and kenneth dixon have in common?

There was a funny scene in the movie "Friday" where actor Ice Cube tells Chris Tucker he was fired earlier in the day after going to his plcae of employment on his day off to pick up a paycheck.

"You got fired on your day off??!!" Tucker asks in disbelief.

Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon had a similar situation happen to him yesterday.

He received an additional two-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. And he's not even playing this season.

An 0-for-4 night at the plate and a casual stroll to a ball that hit six feet in front of him right field made for a disappointing Friday evening in New York for Mark Trumbo.

Dixon was previously suspended for the first four games of the 2017 campaign for the same violation of the policy. Then, just prior to training camp, he was lost for the season due to a knee injury.

So his four-game suspension won't actually start until next season. Now, you can make that six games he'll have to sit out, after yesterday's news that he was receiving two additional games for once again violating the substance abuse policy.

Somehow, Kenneth Dixon got suspended while he was already suspended. Kind of like getting fired on your day off.

It's hard to say who is currently in more of a downward spiral: Dixon or the Orioles.

The Orioles unfortunate September swoon continued in New York last night where the Birds meekly limped through an 8-2 defeat at the hands of the Yankees.

The O's are now 72-76 on the campaign, still 5.5 games behind the Twins in the battle for the second wild card spot, but it's almost time to dust off the golf clubs and prepare for the off-season. If it's going to take an 86-76 record to snag that playoff berth, the Birds have to go 14-0 to make it. That seems unlikely.

If something like 84-78 will earn a wild card spot, the Birds will need to finish 12-2 and hope about 19 other things go their way between now and the end of the season. Again, that's looking like a real long shot.

I guess some people would say you deserve to lose out on a wild card spot when you're starting Gabriel Ynoa in a critical late-season game in New York. Ynoa was tagged with the loss last night, as the Yankees nicked him for a couple of earned runs in 4.1 innings of work, then turned the tables on Miguel Castro for two more runs in the 5th inning after Jonathan Schoop misplayed a ground ball.

Then there was a fly ball that dropped in front of an uninterested Mark Trumbo in right field in the 7th, part of a 3-run uprising that sewed things up for the Yankees, who are still just three games behind the Red Sox in the A.L. East.

Trumbo could never match Chris Davis for "failing to earn his keep", but the "effort" he gave on the fly ball in the 7th inning was something out of a beer-league slow pitch softball game. It was hardly "professional", that's for sure.

For those fans clamoring to see the likes of Austin Hays and Chance Sisco, it's almost that time. Once the O's reach, say, 78 losses, you can go ahead and play Nicole Sherry -- the groundskeeper -- if you like. We'll have plenty of time to go through the 2017 campaign once it's all over, but this September swoon and the complete erosion of the Orioles offense will be the situation we review the most.

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we're heading to pittsburgh for ravens-steelers on december 10!

We're one game into the season and I'm already targeting Sunday, December 10 as a "must see game" on the Ravens' away schedule.

That's when John Harbaugh's team heads to the Steel City for a Sunday evening nationally-televised encounter with the Steelers, and #DMD is making the trip to Pittsburgh to see it all happen.

Our group will have upper level seats together, so those traveling with friends will be seated right next to one another. Pittsburgh's bark is much worse than its bite. I've been there a dozen times, probably, for Ravens-Steelers and the fan base is much more tolerant of visiting fans than urban legend suggests.

But it's still comforting to sit with other Ravens fans and those you traveled with to Pittsburgh. So our tickets are "group seating" where everyone is together.

We'll leave Baltimore at 12 noon, arriving at Heinz Field roughly around 5 pm for the 8:30 kick-off.

You will NEVER go hungry or thirsty when you travel with #DMD. Upon departing from Baltimore on our luxury motor coach, we'll supply everyone with lunch, plus there's always an extensive supply of DuClaw beer, soft drinks and water.

Upon arrival in Pittsburgh, we'll break out pre-game dinner for everyone, plus there's more food and drinks for our purple-clad travelers.

Oh, and brush up on your Ravens trivia. The winner of our trivia contest receives $100 in cash!

If you've traveled with us before, you know how our bus trips work. We'll sell only 40 of the available 55 seats, leaving a little bit of room for folks to stretch out on the ride up and back to Pittsburgh.

The bus will return to Baltimore immediately after the game ends.

We do it all for you. Bus ride, game ticket, all the food and drink you can handle, plus Ravens trivia. It's the safest and easiest way to travel to Pittsburgh to see the Ravens.

Eight of the available 40 seats have been pre-purchased by one of our corporate partners, leaving 32 seats for purchase.

Oh, and here's something new we're implementing for #DMD travel. You will be allowed to board the bus and select your seat(s) based on the date of your purchase. In other words, if you are the first person to buy a seat on our bus trip to Pittsburgh, you'll be first in line to board the bus.

It's not quite what they do on Southwest Airlines, but it's close. The sooner you buy your seat on our bus to Pittsburgh, the further up in line you are when it's time to board the bus on December 10.

If you're interested in joining us for the big showdown in Pittsburgh, just go here.

Help us Paint Pittsburgh Purple on Sunday night, December 10!!

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