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I always had great Eck-spectations for my best pal and Dundalk wrestling hero Kevin Eck

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I always had great Eck-spectations for my best pal and Dundalk wrestling hero Kevin Eck

Posted on 24 August 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been an emotional week for me on many levels with more big news forthcoming about WNST.net and its future, so please allow me a little space today to write a very personal blog that comes from the heart.

Kevin Eck – you probably know him as the “Ring Post” guy at The Baltimore Sun — has been in my life since 1979 and for large swaths of time we were as close as any brothers could be. We met at the Games store at Eastpoint Mall (remember that place?) at an autograph signing for Billy Smith. We also both met Al Bumbry, Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan and Rich Dauer (his favorite) there on the north end of the mall during that “Magical” summer. I was a legitimate “mall rat” at Eastpoint Mall in the early 1980’s – PacMan, soaping the fountains, that sorta thing.

As Bruce Springsteen once wrote so eloquently in the E Street Band classic, Bobby Jean: “We liked the same music, we liked the same bands, we like the same clothes.” That could’ve been the story of Nestor and Kevin. Except we liked the same girls, baseball, football, basketball, rock bands and, of course, professional wrestling of the WWWF and the land of Bob Backlund and George “The Animal” Steele.

This isn’t just a story about my lifelong best pal from Holabird Junior High and Dundalk Senior High. It’s not just a media or journalist story.

It’s really about a kid from Dundalk who dreamed of working in professional wrestling and next week is embarking on a journey of a lifetime.

I can say with all of the conviction in my being that Kevin Eck ate, slept, talked, walked, learned, researched, watched, critiqued, worked in and worked out of nothing but the world of professional wrestling.

The genesis of our friendship wasn’t born of the Orioles or Colts or any rock music band like Rush — and they’re all closer to the heart of our friendship. The truth: Kevin was the only other WWWF wrestling aficionado and wrestling magazine nut when I was in the 7th grade. It was our special bond – a love of the squared circle and the work of Bruno Sammartino, Superstar Billy Graham, Greg Valentine and Andre The Giant.

So, this isn’t just about another “Dundalk boy did well” story, it’s more like a Willy Wonka kind of story with imagination .

Look, I could tell Kevin Eck stories all night. Chasing girls in the 8th grade. Attending every middle school and high school dance. Girlfriends, births, deaths, jobs, journalism, careers, wives…we’ve done it all.  Crazy weeks in Jamaica. Long weekends in Ocean City. All-night benders in Las Vegas and San Diego. You name it. World Series games, crazy cab rides that I chronicled in “Purple Reign” when Eck was the first person in Baltimore to hear the news that the Browns/Modells were moving their NFL franchise to Baltimore.

Eck and I have been around the world together and have shared our lives together. If you want to see a bunch of crazy old, embarrassing pictures I posted them all on my Facebook page here. Please feel free to fan me and I’ll try to make you laugh more often.

And there’s nothing better in life than when your friends do well. Nothing!

Especially when your oldest friends succeed and thrive and live their dreams.

Kevin Eck’s life and dream came full-circle and into the squared circle a few weeks ago when he accepted a job to work on the WWE creative team with Stephanie McMahon, Triple H and Dusty Rhodes in Greenwich, Ct. He’s packing up his family and moving to take a job a lifetime at Titan Tower.

In baseball, we’d say he got the call to “go to the show.”

And this must be what it feels like when your brother or best friend or son makes his first big-league start.

You almost want to pinch yourself for them, you know?

Our lives and our career paths have followed a similar, strange path – we’ve worked directly in the same industry as competitors for the better part of two decades and somehow have managed to keep our friendship (and that’s not always easy with two fiery personalities).

I got a job at The News American in September 1984. He soon followed.

I got a job at The Evening Sun in January 1986. He soon followed at The Sun.

I left The Sun in January 1992. He left a few years later to go to work for Ted Turner and WCW as a magazine editor in the last 1990’s and was there during a turbulent corporate time when Vince McMahon’s then-WWF empire usurped the entire industry and my pal came back from Atlanta having to start his local journalism life all over again.

Because of his immense talent and deep depth of knowledge of local sports, Kevin got his job back on the editing desk at The Sun, right back in the sports department. He began writing his passion – a little blog called “Ring Posts” a few years ago and it quickly became a viral hit. (As I told him it would be…)

So many times I talk about expertise in journalism, integrity in reporting and fairness in news judgment and I’m proud to say Kevin Eck has all of that and has for the most part been a “behind the scenes” guy at The Sun, who never had a high profile beat but has been a rock star in his department on the high schools and the dirty work that so many don’t want to do in the journalism business — editing, planning, managing people.

He’s kind of like that lunch pail rock star football player – a Jarret Johnson, Kelly Gregg kinda underrated guy. But a guy you’d never want to lose. And he’ll be the first guy in the clubhouse and the last to leave.

The Sun is taking a major hit losing a guy like Kevin Eck, especially given his deep knowledge of Baltimore sports, which I sadly never put to better use. I always thought Kevin would’ve been a star doing local sports talk radio and I told him that. But he already had a gig and one that both of us dreamed of having as kids, which is what took us into the newspaper business back in 1984.

We both watched “The Odd Couple” as kids and wanted to be Oscar Madison, truth be told.

Meanwhile, the WWE is getting a rock star – someone who is so dedicated to wrestling that it honestly baffled all of our friends, especially when it became apparent through his mom taping every single episode of every single match on VHS tapes for the better part of 25 years.

Kevin Eck has watched as much wrestling as Mel Kiper Jr. has watched college football tape.

Seriously…

This summer, as a hobby, I took it upon myself to work on one project outside of direct WNST sales and development business and that’s been collecting all of my pictures, memorabilia and boxes o’memories to use on my Facebook page and in an upcoming reality TV show I’m participating in with a friend. (I can’t tell you more about it until they let me.)

Two weeks ago, at the bottom of a box, I found this gem of a memory.

And even though it happened on July 25, 1981, I remember it pretty well. Kevin and I were crashing at his Mom’s house and we began working on a project to quietly unseat Vince McMahon from his kingdom by publishing our own Pro Wrestling magazine. We were gonna make millions with this partnership venture.

His mom Shirley, who has struggled with her health lately and was like a second mother to me, was the only person we knew who could type so she was our typesetter and we had to go to the library to make copies and we planned to sell them for 25 cents.

Kevin and I worked all night to make the inaugural (and only) edition of Wrestling, Inc. with Dusty Rhodes on the cover.

That was 30 years ago last month. I don’t think Kevin has missed a WWE wrestling match since 1981.

Other than Dave Meltzer and perhaps Alex Marvez, my pal Kevin Eck is as expert about all things professional wrestling as anyone on the planet outside of Vince McMahon himself.

There’s not much Kevin Eck doesn’t know about pro wrestling, except now he’ll be on the inside of the WWE kingdom helping put on the show and make it better.

He’s off to the WWE to make a difference to follow his dream.

He loved The Baltimore Sun. He loves Baltimore sports and has quietly dedicated his life to it the way I did.

I was the loud boisterous pal. He was always the quiet one in the shadows.

I traveled the world, got syndicated, did my thing and he was always so supportive – like a brother – through all of my victories and challenges.

Kevin did the family thing, came back home to Baltimore to be a factor at his dream job in The Sun sports department and now he’s gotten the job of a lifetime at WWE and one that he’s richly deserving of and one where he’ll thrive and be the best in the world.

You should follow him. You should root for him.

I’m so proud of him and so happy for him that I could explode.

I just wanted to brag on my pal, spread his great news and tell him “good luck” in the most public way that I can because I’m proud of how his hard work has paid off for him.

And I have a feeling I’ll be watching a lot more WWE and SmackDown in 2012 and pining away for the days of Lord Alfred Hayes and Captain Lou Albano.

And if somehow they could only bring Bruno Sammartino back into the ring for one night at the old Civic Center!

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Three on the 4th: What do Peter Angelos, Al Davis & George Steinbrenner have in common?

Posted on 04 July 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

Well, since I’ve gotten your attention on the hot, sticky holiday here’s an amazing statistic that I think I sorta kinda knew, but could only be reminded of on the 4th of July.

On July 4, 1929 BOTH Al Davis and Peter Angelos were born. Yes, same day, same year!

And, just 365 days later, on July 4, 1930, Yankees tyrant George Steinbrenner was born.

Three of the biggest jerks of their respective eras. Three sports owners. Three wealthy men. Three widely unpopular men. And currently, all three are in various states of illusion, disillusionment and/or failure in their communities to some degree.

Of course, we could say that Steinbrenner — only after being banned and disgraced by his fellow owners — came out of the “dark ages” of the pinstripes with championships galore over the past 15 years. And, apparently his mental health is failing so we’ll try to be as tasteful as we can be about a guy who volumes of books were written about his eccentricities and temper over the years.

But this is some “club” huh, these three wack jobs…

Well just thought it was worth noting — other than comical efforts at public relations at various points in their lives and probably more lawsuits filed than any other three people on Earth — the mighty trio all share a birthday with the United States of America.

And in the land of freedom of speech, all three of these man have tried for decades to suppress free speech and all have at various points banned and attempted to intimidate members of the press and media.

Some fantastic representatives of America in this lot, folks…

Coincidence?

Or just dumb luck?

They will all have one thing in common into eternity on their tombstones: “Born on the 4th of July”…

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So long, Melvin, and hold your head up

Posted on 30 September 2009 by Luke Jones

As the Orioles fall toward the 100-loss mark with seemingly little resistance over the final week of the season, their elder statesman winds down his 10-year stay with an organization fixed in what feels like an endless era of losing.

Melvin Mora arrived in the Charm City after being traded with three others from the New York Mets for shortstop Mike Bordick in Syd Thrift’s infamous fire sale of 2000.  The 28-year old utility player was coming to a struggling team with a future Hall of Famer (Cal Ripken) winding down his career and its best hitter (Albert Belle) only months away from retirement due to a degenerative hip condition.  The Orioles were completing their third-straight losing season in 2000. Change was needed.

Mora’s addition, along with the 13 others acquired in the five summer deals, would pump youthful energy into an aging organization and eventually bring the Orioles back to where they belonged at the top of the standings, right?

If only.

Of course, we all know the story. Despite the quantity of players coming to the organization for veterans such as Bordick, Charles Johnson, B.J. Surhoff, and Harold Baines, Mora would be the only acquisition to contribute beyond the next couple seasons. Most would never contribute at all.

Mora debuted with the team as a role player on an 88-loss club and will take his final bow this weekend on a club trying to avoid becoming the third team to lose 100 games in the 56-year history of the franchise (1954 and 1988 were the others). In his 10 years, the Orioles averaged 92 losses a year, finished in fourth place seven times, and landed in the basement twice—one of those this year.

He played for four different managers, five different general managers (or whatever the organization was calling the job at the time), and saw the beautiful Oriole Park at Camden Yards transform from one of the chic places to be (3.1 million fans in 2000) on a summer night to a mostly desolate palace (less than 2 million fans in 2009) infiltrated by Boston and New York fans 18 times a year.

During Mora’s 10-year stay in the Charm City, the Orioles finished in third only once (2004), but the high-water mark came in the early stages of 2005.

The Orioles enjoyed a two-month reign at the top of the American League East, and the long rebuilding process appeared to be on the right track. However, Mora saw his team collapse in the second half with a disgraced teammate’s steroid suspension (Rafael Palmeiro), injuries, and management’s failure to improve the team down the stretch (trading Larry Bigbie for Eric Byrnes is going to get you over the hump?).

Needless to say, Mora has had little to smile about in his 10 years with the Orioles. You almost have to feel sorry for the guy.

As he is resigned to the reality of this almost certainly being his last season in Baltimore (the club will not use a $8 million club option for 2010), people will overstate the importance of his disappointing 2009 season—at age 37, mind you—and his mid-summer spat with Dave Trembley when judging his 10 years as an Oriole.

His disappointing final season cannot—and should not—shortchange his accomplishments playing in an absolutely miserable era of Orioles baseball.

The super-utility player that came to Baltimore flashing the leather at a variety of positions—left field, center field, and shortstop to name a few—steadily improved his game and eventually became an All Star, albeit for a bad club needing a representative in 2003. Mora would earn a second trip to the Midsummer Classic in 2005.

Ironically, Mora was excluded from the All-Star squad in 2004 despite being the best third baseman in baseball that season. Yes, before you ask, better than that guy wearing pinstripes in the Bronx.

It was the best season of his career and one of the finest seasons ever by an Oriole.  His .340 average was, and still is, the best single-season clip in club history. Mora also led the American League with a .419 on-base percentage and finished in the AL’s top 10 in batting average (behind only Ichiro Suzuki), slugging percentage, runs, hits, total bases, and doubles. His play earned him the Silver Slugger award (awarded to the best offensive player at each position) and solidified his status as an everyday player.

While Mora would never approach his tremendous 2004 numbers again, he would continue to provide solid numbers and steady defense in his remaining years in Baltimore, even throwing in an amazing second half of the 2008 season for good measure.

Regardless of the sour aftertaste created by his 2009 campaign, Mora is unquestionably an Orioles Hall of Famer, ranking in the franchise’s career top 10 in home runs, hits, doubles, runs batted in, and runs. And with apologies to Doug DeCinces’ fans, Mora may rank as the second-best third baseman in club history (The 1979 hero’s best years came with the California Angels).

Perhaps more important than his diamond achievements when pondering his legacy in Baltimore is the fact that Mora truly embraced the Charm City and adopted it as his home. Mora and his wife Gisel had their famed quintuplets in Baltimore—and chose to raise their six children right here.

While nearly every Oriole of the past decade waved goodbye to the city at the end of September and didn’t return until the new baseball season in April, Mora and his family stayed in Fallston—and plan to continue doing so.

Others wanted little to do with the community or even went as far as to demean the city (Aubrey Huff), but Mora thought highly enough of it to make it his home.

Make no mistake, the organization treated Mora very well financially (probably too well), but he understood the importance of sharing that good fortune with the local community through various charitable endeavors.

Simply put, Mora got “it.”

It’s an idea not to be taken for granted in this modern age of so many high-paid mercenaries completely void of any pride, philanthropy, or connection for the city in which they play.

Mora’s role in the community was never more apparent than in late-December 2005. Longtime bullpen coach and leading community ambassador Elrod Hendricks had passed away just a few days shy of Christmas, yet Mora was the only active Oriole to attend the coach’s funeral on December 29.

It was more an indictment on the sorry state of the organization than a tremendous gesture, but at least Mora WAS there. It was something the 24 others could not say, regardless of the pathetic excuses claiming it was too close to the holidays.

As an Orioles fan, I chastised the missing players but also appreciated Mora being there to represent the current team, pathetic as it was. Mora understood not only what Hendricks meant to the organization but to the entire city.

One might say it doesn’t take much effort to embrace the local community, so why such praise for Mora? He was being paid millions, right?

Well, easy as it might be, he was one of the few to care enough to actually do it.

Even in his final weeks with the Orioles, Mora demonstrated one more example of understanding what it means to be a Baltimorean. When learning the organization planned to honor him for playing the second-most games at third base in franchise history, Mora requested the man ahead of him on the list, Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, to be present.

So, despite little publicity or fanfare (a different issue entirely), Mr. Oriole was there to celebrate the accomplishment with the Orioles’ current third baseman. Who knows if Mora can tell you how many Gold Gloves Robinson won at the hot corner or what year he even retired, but he knew enough to understand Brooks needed to be there. That’s saying something.

Unlike Brooksie, who played a large portion of his career in the Orioles’ glory days, Mora is likely to be remembered as the figurehead—along with another good player and nice guy, Brian Roberts—for the franchise’s miserable era of losing baseball that is yet to end here at the conclusion of the 2009 season.

“Mora had to stink, or the Orioles would have won while he was here, right?”

But let’s admit, save for the infancy of his career and a two-year window of fantasy baseball in 1996 and 1997, Ripken didn’t exactly play in the Orioles’ glory years either.

The truth is though Mora certainly wasn’t the type of player that could carry a winning team by himself, he also wasn’t the reason the team stunk for the decade he was with the organization. In his best years, Mora undoubtedly would have been a valuable member of a contending club.

No one will suggest that Mora belongs in the same stratosphere as the Orioles’ royalty of the Robinsons, Ripken, Palmer, and Murray. Not even close.

And even the casual fan would never confuse his baserunning prowess with the legendary Rickey Henderson, or even Willie “Mays” Hayes for that matter.

Mora may not have always said the right thing, but he was occasionally willing to speak up in a way so many frustrated fans could admire. His declaration that some Orioles didn’t know what it took to win in 2007 and his famed “Who is going to pitch for us?” query in 2005 may have ruffled some feathers in the Warehouse, but it was music to the ears of fans wanting a terrible organization to take accountability.

Ultimately, Mora should be remembered as a good player and one of the few to perform admirably through a miserable period of Orioles baseball.

He represented the city with pride and is one of the few I felt proud to cheer over the last decade.

So long, Melvin, but we’ll see you around town.

It’s a shame we didn’t have much fun at the ballpark.

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An example of great journalism by Yahoo’s Mike Silver

Posted on 20 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

We spend plenty of time “outing” phonies and charlatans in our business. But, alas, there are many, many dedicated, responsible and interesting journalists in the cyber-universe and when I find them, simply put, I celebrate them.

If you’ve been following this Raiders story closely — and I am, mainly because of the bizarre nature of the management, ownership, leadership and discipline of the Oakland Raiders, whose success and franchise closely mirrors the Baltimore Orioles in many ways — this story by Yahoo’s Mike Silver is a must-read.

So just when you think the Orioles are really bad, just consider that you could be a Raider fan as well.

Angelos and Davis really do have a lot in common: old world owner, a little too involved, no one who is competent or wise wants to work for them, etc.

But, like Bob Haynie, I digress…

This is one of the best “exposes” in recent memory on the dysfunction of the Raider Nation under Al Davis.

Keep in mind: Davis is in the Hall of Fame and Art Modell is not.

Feel free to comment below…

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Al Davis

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I knew the Raiders were screwed up, but c’mon…

Posted on 17 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Three months ago I had the privilege — well, actually, it was more disgusting than enjoyable — of sitting two feet behind Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis on a flight from Southern California to the Bay Area. He was pleasant, filthy and old. Like, VERY old.

At the owner’s meetings, you can only imagine the treatment he’s given after treating the first “establishment” like enemies — moving his team, suing them and coining the phrase “abstain” during any of the league’s votes on various issues from collective bargaining to television deals.

The Oakland Raiders have always been a little kooky because, like the Orioles, they have a kooky owner.
Al Davis

Davis is eccentric, borderline senile and clearly marches to his own beat.

But tonight, with whispered words leaking that his current head coach Tom Cable might’ve assaulted one of his own assistant coaches (defensive assistant Randy Hanson) in a meeting and went as far as to send him to a clinic for an apparent broken jaw, this puts the league and the rest of the teams on red alert as to how weird and uprofessional a place that Oakland is to work in the NFL. (Later tonight, ESPN refuted the intial report and now the word is it could’ve been an altercation between defensive coordinator John Marshall who fought with Hanson).

Among the people I know in the league, the Raiders are a lot like the Orioles — they are the LAST place in the league you’d want to work because the place isn’t run like the rest of the “premier” teams in the sport.

Peter Angelos

In this SI.com piece, the magazine named Angelos and Davis as the “two worst owners in sports.” So, please, don’t think that I’m being “original” on any level making this comparison.

But Oakland is clearly a zoo on a lot of levels. It must really suck to be a Raiders fan, especially when you hear this kind of stupidity and childish behavior.

Clearly, Roger Goodell is going to find this on his desk tomorrow morning and the fans and the pundits will be piling on Davis and how screwed up the Raiders are.

And this is on top of all of the allegations of Mike Shanahan from 20 years ago and Lane Kiffin’s bizarre departure last season amidst a sea of turmoil.

Geez…beating up your own assistants!

And these are the people RUNNING the organization?

Can you imagine John Harbaugh punching an assistant coach? Or Brian Billick? Or Marvin Lewis?

It just wouldn’t happen.

Now, of course, at least Rex Ryan could say that he has it in his DNA based on the Buddy-Kevin Gilbride episode.

Here’s a sample of an Al Davis press conference:

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Rod Woodson states the obvious: Art Modell belongs in Canton

Posted on 08 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

9:34 p.m. –Rod Woodson just talked about Baltimore and about Art Modell.

“Without Art Modell, old school owner. And I hope the voters get this right — by putting Art Modell in the Hall of Fame, he belongs there.”

With that came the usual cascade of classless “boos” from the Cleveland fans in Canton.

Woodson shook his head and responded visecerally:

“You can boo him because you disagree with him moving them but you can’t disagree with he did as an owner.”

He then said: “We had fun in Baltimore in 2000.” He thanked Marvin Lewis, Steve Bisciotti, Ray Lewis and Shannon Sharpe but left Brian Billick out of the speech.

This is my column from earlier in the evening:

9:05 p.m. — I sat down to the watch the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies tonight and really expected to be moved by great speeches made by great football players.

But before Rod Woodson even got a nanosecond of face time, I was watching Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson having the ultimate honor wearing the gold jacket and entering the hallowed halls of Canton. And as his family rose to his feet and Chris Berman “circled the wagons” it makes me sad and sick to think that Arthur B. Modell will never have a night like tonight, which he so richly deserves.

Wilson is talking about the AFL. He is talking about the legend of Lamar Hunt. He is talking about the merger. His is waxing on about Carroll Rosenbloom. He is talking about Buffalo and the players and the fans and the induction committee. He thanked the usual cast of thousands.

His speech just ended and he did not say the words “Art Modell” in a rambling 15-minute speech.

What a shame and what a cowardly act. Wilson, more than anyone, should’ve made a stand or statement regarding Modell’s significance to the NFL.

The sick truth: the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL doesn’t really to see Modell inducted while he’s alive. They don’t really want to hear his name uttered anyone near the shrine.

The real truth: They wouldn’t want the trouble the Browns fans would bring 40 miles south to Canton and the bad blood. It’s sad, but this is the truth. That, and the biased small group of men and women who control this vote make a decision each February that has cheated Modell while rewarding his contemporaries like Al Davis, and tonight, Ralph Wilson.

In my opinion, both of those men deserve to be in the Hall of Fame because the story of the NFL couldn’t be written without them. But the same goes for Art Modell, who is now being held hostage in part because of the proximity to the Hall of Fame to Cleveland.

Modell is now 84 years of age. He doesn’t have a lot of time left. Last year, I went nuts distributing signs with a relatively luke-warm effect inside the stadium on the frigid night the Ravens beat the Redskins.

I’ve written tomes on why Modell should be in the Hall.You read everything I think by simply using my blog roll under ART MODELL.

I don’t vote for Baltimore. Scott Garceau does.

It’s HIS responsibility to get Art’s name into the room and create a lobby for Modell. I’ve grabbed several of the voters myself and have implored them to ignore the internal “pressure” of Canton and do the right thing.

I’m not the only one. Washington Post editor Len Shapiro has also publicly stumped for Modell. Several other members of the cabinet are aligned with the reality of Modell’s achievements and contributions to the NFL.

We don’t harp on this issue because of mere sentimentality. I think it’s a pretty cut and dried case and the track record is well documented.

It’s insane that Modell isn’t in the Hall of Fame. It cheapens the entire institution in my opinion and I’m a football nut and true historian. (Not to mention the goofy fact that every Baltimore NFL record lives under a sign that says Indianapolis down the hallway!)

There is no legitimate case to keep Modell out of the Hall of Fame, especially when you consider that he truly birthed the NFL in TWO cities. He created a sound franchise brand in Cleveland over 35 years and left the city its dignity and legacy. He brought Baltimore back its civic identity and pride.

He should be rewarded for that. And any self-respecting Ravens fan should fight for Art Modell’s good name in Canton, Ohio.

I’ll keep this one brief tonight – because I’m emotional about this. I’ve also been reading John Steadman’s book “From Colts to Ravens” over the past two weeks and the stories and vivid images of our time without a team is a daily reality in my reading.

Art Modell should’ve been on that stage tonight next to Wilson.

The truth: the NFL doesn’t want Modell in the Hall.

Just think about the scene the Browns fans would create. They’d organize and do everything in their power to wreck the event.

I know it. The NFL knows it. The Browns fans know it.

And, I think that’s the real story.

And it’s very, very sad that politics are keeping a man like Modell out of the Hall of Fame.

Watching Ralph Wilson go into the Hall of Fame tonight only reminded me of how wrong it is that Art Modell might never live to see his summer night in Canton.

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Orioles update: They’re still in last place

Posted on 06 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

While we were all busy following the tragic death of Steve McNair over the weekend the Orioles were still busy losing and playing bad baseball. It seems like the franchise goes further into the witness protection program when they play on the West Coast but all of the mistakes and lousy pitching hasn’t been lost on me.

I actually watched all of the late-night garbage over the Fourth of July weekend.

Where to begin?

Well, they’re still in last place at 36-46. They managed to cross the official “midseason” point in the cellar. They still manage to regularly find ways to blow big-early game leads. And, thankfully for me, Jim Palmer is still employed by MASN so I can actually have a few chuckles with my unending yield of losses after midnight.

Palmer continually called it “bad baseball” and reinforced his opinions with many facts, observations and criticisms that would qualify as comedy after midnight if it weren’t so sad. I think he’s almost bored with it and was more interested in making funny faces with Gary Thorne than watching the Orioles blow one more game after a decent starting effort.

I could itemize the entire weekend and point specific fingers but I’ll limit my abuse to simply discussing the Nick Markakis-Brian Roberts fiasco in right field on Saturday night and wonder how the team’s two best players – Adam Jones’ All-Star berth not withstanding – could watch a game-changing routine, can-of-corn pop up land at their feet late in the game.

Of course, after giving up six more runs in the ensuing innings, this boneheaded play seems irrelevant but it was the greatest source of my personal frustration over the weekend.

The Orioles lost three of four in Anaheim. They’re now headed to Seattle before coming home to play Toronto here this weekend. Something tells me there will be a giveaway or a special “2110” promotion.

All I want is some quality baseball and some decent pitching.

Another All-Star Break looms at week’s end and the Orioles are once again in last place.

Some things never change…

I’ll be back on the air at 2 p.m. to discuss all of the baseball you didn’t watch over the weekend because you had better things to do than watch this lousy team lose again after midnight.

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Who will the Ravens pick this weekend? Some clues here…

Posted on 24 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

You gotta love the NFL. The league hasn’t snapped the football in almost three months and the buzz is as strong for the draft as it is for Week 7 of the regular season. It never ends this love of American football. So much enthusiasm and energy and talk about the 26th pick on Saturday for the Ravens.

Amidst that, there are all sorts of stories and storylines:

What will happen with Anquan Boldin and are the Ravens really involved?

My gut AND my sources tell me that it’s not very likely. The notion that Ozzie Newsome would trade a No. 1 and a No. 3 and then have to back up a brink’s truck for Boldin is highly unlikely. Plus, the cap issues of taking on another superstar making a super premium salary seem daunting. If the Ravens had that kind of money, they should’ve kept Bart Scott, right?

Who are the players the Ravens really like and would select at No. 26?

It’s always a crapshoot on draft day when you pick so low. The Ravens were greatly affected by the Atlanta trade for Tony Gonzales yesterday because it’s clear that the Falcons won’t be taking tight end Brandon Pettigrew with pick No. 24. Every name that comes off the board in the first 25 spots – and every trade up or back, and we expect a few – will affect what’s left when the 26th pick hits the clock.

So, when people ask me today and all day tomorrow, “Who will the Ravens pick?” I tell them the same thing every year: “Even Ozzie Newsome has no idea who they’ll wind up getting with a pick so low.”

That said, I’ll take a low pick on draft day every year into perpetuity. The joy of a single-digit pick is far outweighed by the agony of dealing with 16 weeks of bad football during a 6-10 season. Let Cincinnati and Cleveland pick early every year from now until the end of time.

All of these weeks and months of mock drafts are just that: a mockery. One unexpected trade on draft day – and with lunatics like Al Davis, Mike Brown and Daniel Snyder running drafts there’s always somebody doing something – not to mention other legitimate trades for more picks or value, it’s more impossible to predict a mock draft correctly than filling out a perfect March Madness pool. I think you’d have a better chance of hitting the lotto tonight for $150 million.

And once one team or one player goes awry, the whole draft changes. Everyone tries to handicap it but it’s a futile effort.

But this much I know: The Ravens would LOVE to trade a few times over the weekend, which is all the more reason to be on our text service. They only have six picks. They’d rather have seven or eight.

Here are some names of guys — and some key positions of need for the Ravens — that you should keep an eye on over the weekend as the names come off the board:

Center – Alex Mack, California. The Ravens brought him into town and checked him out thoroughly. He’s a tough, smart “Raven” kinda guy. If they trade out of No. 26 to move backward (and I still think this is VERY likely because they really want more picks), Mack would be a early 2nd rounder that will help the team. The only question is whether he can help the team at guard because the team already has a two-year solution at center in Matt Birk.

Tight end – A “dream” scenario for the team would be if Brandon Pettigrew fell to them at No. 26. The Philadelphia Eagles at No. 21 would be the one team to tie them up but that’s looking less likely. Again, the Falcons deal yesterday to acquire Gonzales helps the Ravens if they indeed covet Pettigrew, who is a beast at 6-6 and could help the pass protection and provide a safety valve for Joe Flacco.

Wide receiver – While the whole universe seems to think the Ravens are desperate for a wide out, I’m not convinced they’ll take one in the first round. Perhaps they’d select Kenny Britt of Rutgers if he’s still on the board but I don’t think Hakeem Nicks will be their choice. I’ve been saying for two months that WR is not the team’s most acute need nor should they burn a first-round pick on the riskiest of all positions on draft day.

Defensive back – Vontae Davis and Darius Butler. You can never have too many cornerbacks. They’re like pitchers in baseball. If you don’t get one in the first round you’re probably not getting one you feel comfortable in calling a starter. It’s the toughest role this side of QB to fill in the NFL. Davis comes with some immaturity and a little bit of baggage, but he’s the closest thing to a poor man’s Chris McAlister in this draft.

Defensive line/LB – Rey Maualuga. He’s probably the only player in the No. 26 range that the Ravens would consider and this isn’t their greatest need. If they were to take a LB here it would tell you a lot about how highly rated this player would have to be on their overall board. Honestly, all of the USC linebackers look attractive and will almost certainly be gone by the time the Ravens get on the clock in the second round with pick No. 55.

Here’s my hope: Brandon Pettigrew

Here’s my “prediction”: Rey Maualuga

The real story of the Ravens’ drafts and their relative success since 1996 has been tied to what happens AFTER the first round. Between Newsome, Eric DeCosta and Phil Savage and their staffs, over the years the Ravens have become the best team in the league on the last weekend of April. It’s how Newsome and this department has survived so long in one place. It’s an absolute anomaly.

Think about it: What were the odds that in 1996 when Ozzie Newsome passed on Lawrence Phillips and selected Jon Ogden and then went on to take Ray Lewis instead of Leland McElroy at the No. 26 pick that he’d STILL be here in April 2009 making decisions for Baltimore’s football team?

Newsome is still here because he’s really, really great at evaluating talent. He’s got a gift. He’s not always right but he’s been right more than virtually anyone on the planet at doing this.

And most experts say this draft is NOT deep for starting talent beginning Sunday morning. For whatever reason, most scouts aren’t feeling great about finding the next Adalius Thomas or Jason Brown late in the day on Sunday.

It’s a great weekend to be a football fan. It’s a great weekend to be a draftnik. Or just a nerd, like me.

I’ll be bellied up to the bar at Padonia Station at 3 p.m. drinking $2 Michelob Ultras and watching the draft and sending texts to everyone on the text service.

We’re having a “Textathon” weekend because this is the one weekend when we know we’ll be sending you a lot of stuff.

We hope if you’re not on the service you consider joining. And, if you are, we hope you’ll forward our texts to your PSL, purple-loving friends so they know the news and know about WNST.net and our cool text service.

Thanks!

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CMS 2009 Major League Baseball Predictions

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CMS 2009 Major League Baseball Predictions

Posted on 06 April 2009 by Chris Bonetti

Drew

National League

West

1.  ARI  2.  LAD  3.  SFG  4.  COL  5.  SD

Central

1.  CHC  2.   STL  3.  CIN  4.  MIL  5.  PIT  6.  HOU

East

1.  NYM  2.  PHI  3.  ATL  4.  FLA  5.  WAS

American League

West

1.  OAK  2.  LAA  3.  TEX  4.  SEA

Central

1.  CLE  2.  CHW  3.  MIN  4.  KC  5.  DET

East

1.  TB  2.  BOS  3.  NYY  4.  BAL  5.  TOR

Awards

N.L. MVP:  Dave Wright

N.L. Cy Young:  Dan Haren

A.L.  MVP:  Mark Teixeira

A.L. Cy Young:  Roy Halladay

Postseason

N.L.

ARI over PHI

NYM over CHC

ARI over NYM

A.L.

OAK over TB

BOS over CLE

BOS over OAK

World Series

The Arizona Diamondbacks over the Boston Red Sox

Glenn

National League

West

1.  ARI  2.  LAD  3.  SFG  4.  COL  5.  SD

Central

1.  CHC  2.  HOU  3.  MIL  4.  STL  5.  MIL  6.  PIT

East

1.  PHI  2.  NYM  3.  ATL  4.  FLA  5.  WAS

American League

West

1.  OAK  2.  LAA  3.  TEX  4.  SEA

Central

1.  CLE  2.  MIN  3.  CHW  4.   DET  5.   KC

East

1.  NYY  2.  TB  3.   BOS  4.   TOR  5.   BAL

Awards

N.L. MVP:  Dave Wright

N.L. Cy Young:  Brandon Webb

A.L. MVP:  Matt Holliday

A.L. Cy Young:  C.C. Sabathia

Postseason

N.L.

ARI over PHI

CHC over NYM

CHC over ARI

A.L.

NYY over OAK

CLE over TB

NYY over CLE

World Series

The New York Yankees over the Chicago Cubs

Chris

National League

West

1.  LAD  2.  ARI  3.  SFG  4.  COL  5.  SD

Central

1.  CHC  2.  STL  3.  MIL  4.  CIN  5.  HOU  6.  PIT

East

1.  NYM  2.  FLA  3.  PHI  4.  ATL  5.  WAS

American League

West

1.  LAA  2.  OAK  3.  SEA  4.  TEX

Central

1.  CLE  2.  DET  3.  CHW  4.  MIN  5.  KC

East

1.  NYY  2.  TB  3.  BOS  4.  TOR  5.  BAL

Awards

N.L. MVP:  Carlos Beltran

N.L. Cy Young:  Carlos Zambrano

A.L. MVP:  Grady Sizemore

A.L. Cy Young:  Justin Verlander

Postseason

N.L.

CHC over ARI

NYM over LAD

NYM over CHC

A.L.

NYY over DET

TB over LAA

TB over NYY

World Series

The New York Mets over the Tampa Bay Rays

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THE COMPLETE ART MODELL PRIMER & FAQ REGARDING HIS HOF CANDIDACY

Posted on 03 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Here is a primer on all things Canton, Pro Football Hall of Fame voting, the politics, the rules, the history and most importantly “Where Art Modell stands” in his lifelong quest to be bronzed and rightfully enshrined amongst the greats of the NFL game. You can also listen to Tuesday’s interviews with Peter King and Len Shapiro in our audio vault for more discussion about the reality of Art’s bid. Shapiro wrote a huge piece yesterday in The Washington Post pimping Modell’s candidacy and calling it a “travesty” that he’s not in Canton. It’s a must read!

(Incidentally, I’d love to link to a story in The Baltimore Sun regarding Modell’s candidacy, but once again our friends on Calvert Street are asleep at the wheel. Nice job of sticking up for your own, boys!)

This getting into the Hall of Fame business is more about politics and less about achievements these days if my research and the people I’ve chatted with who are in the room are really being honest.

The “clear cut” guys – this year it figures to a slam dunk for Rod Woodson, Shannon Sharpe and Bruce Smith as inductees – are mere formalities in many ways. Wide receiver Cris Carter is a bit of a holdover from last year, and figures to be a major factor with his gaudy stats. So, for the sake of argument, let’s just make them automatic and play for the bottom of the card, which appears to be the remaining one or two inductees. No one needs to make any strong argument for the non-bubble guys. It’s always the fringe people or the overlooked people who create the emotional stirs and long, heated debates in the minds of the voting committee.

There are 43 men and 1 woman who vote for the inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. There are 12 at-large members plus one representative from each of the 32 NFL cities/teams on the committee. Scott Garceau is Baltimore’s local rep. Mike Preston was formerly on the committee until 2004, when the Tribune Company decided to make it “against company policy” to vote on such committees because of “conflict of interest” concerns.

The 2009 list of 25 candidates will be pared down to 15 before Dec. 17th, when all 44 members must have their ballots and recommendations received. On Jan. 31, 2009 – the day before the Super Bowl – this group of 44 will enter the same room in Tampa and arguments will be given for all 15 candidates, plus the two senior committee nominees (this year it’s Claude Humphreys and Bob Hayes up for induction).

Let’s be straight: Virtually none of the candidates have anything left to “give the game” outside of Art Modell and Ralph Wilson, whose legacies and franchises live on in Baltimore, Cleveland and Buffalo. Paul Tagliabue is the only other “non player” on the current ballot of 25 names. All 22 of the others will be judged by their play on the field over the years, and virtually everyone on the HOF committee of 44 feels that “players” trump “contributors” when it comes time for voting. So, at best, Modell’s candidacy could be derailed by most anyone who actually stepped between the lines and played the game.

For the record, Tagliabue has many supporters among the 44, who all came in direct contact with His Commissionership many times over the last 20 years as he was the ultimate power broker in the sport for nearly a generation.

SO, HOW DOES ART MODELL GET INTO THE HALL OF FAME?

Good question. At this point, I believe it’s simply a matter of someone in our community (us?) making a stir and making it a viable, public outcry of support for Modell. Trust me, no one in Cleveland and not many amongst the 44 people in the room feel inclined to “jump on the table” for Art Modell. Other than Garceau, who is a staunch supporter of Modell (but who admits that having worked for the club as a play-by-play voice for a decade appears as a conflict of interest in that room), only Len Shapiro of The Washington Post has shown any partiality or inclination to grandstand on behalf of Modell. Another retired former voter and proponent of Modell is former USA Today columnist Gordon Forbes, who sends information to the current panel each year on behalf of Modell.

Here is the official “selection process” from the Pro Football Hall of Fame site.

I don’t think it’s as much about the facts of Modell’s contributions since 1961 to the NFL at this point. I think there’s some clear politicking – or lack thereof – going on. I’ve been told there are two major factors at play:

1. The move from Cleveland has created a “he’ll never get in because of that” mentality amongst some in the room and all of his other accomplishments have been diminished like Pete Rose’s sin of gambling on the game in baseball or Mark McGwire’s “not here to talk about the past” confession. For some, Modell is a lifelong pariah never to be recognized after “kicking the dog” on the cover of Sports Illustrated in Nov. 1995.

2. Over the years, some of Modell’s detractors have minimized his role and the legend of his involvement in the basic tenet of the merit of his candidacy: his role in the television negotiations and growth of the game with the networks and revenue. Time and the death of his contemporaries has definitely hindered Modell’s bid for Canton as much as anything because the very people who knew, felt, respected and lived through his many contributions are not the ones making a case for him at this point. Pete Rozelle, Wellington Mara, George Preston Marshall and Lamar Hunt are not here to be involved in the discussion although all of them no doubt believed in Modell’s Hall “worthiness.”

It’s now in the hands of the storytellers and some on the committee have heard conflicting reports as to whether Rozelle was the “smart one” and Modell was simply a guy who was the “No. 2” and simply got the credit of associating with the league. Of course, the mere fact that Modell came from a background of New York television in the late 1950’s would tell you that his network expertise was a key factor in the exponential growth of the league and its revenue during his tenure on the “television committee” for nearly 30 years.

From the Thanksgiving doubleheader to Monday Night Football, from winning an NFL Championship in Cleveland to winning a Super Bowl in Baltimore, from being involved at the game’s highest level since 1961 and being a massive part of shaping the sport for longer than most of us have been on the planet, Modell certainly deserves a better fate in Canton during the September of his life.

Certainly, most on the committee must believe that if Art is going to live long enough to see his own induction, the time is NOW for some action here in Baltimore.

We plan on creating some noise this week and hope that you’ll join our Facebook effort to help Art and raise awareness in Baltimore this week in anticipation of having a national audience here on Sunday night for the Redskins game.

WHO ARE THESE 44 GUYS ANYWAY AND HOW DID THEY GET ON SOMETHING AS IMPORTANT AS THE HALL OF FAME VOTING COMMITTEE?

Below is the list of the Hall of Fame voting committee, as selected by a board at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio:

Bernie Miklasz, Bob Gretz, Bob Oates, Charean Williams, Charles Chandler, Chick Ludwig, Clare Farnsworth, Cliff Christl, Dan Pompei, Dave Goldberg, David Climer, David Elfin, Don Pierson, Ed Bouchette, Edwin Pope, Frank Cooney, Howard Balzer, Ira Kaufman, Ira Miller, Jarrett Bell, Jeff Legwold, Jerry Green, Jerry Magee, Jim Trotter, John Clayton, John Czarnecki, John McClain, Kent Somers, Len Pasquarelli, Leonard Shapiro, Mark Gaughan, Mike Chappell, Mike O’Hara, Nancy Gay, Paul Domowitch, Paul Zimmerman, Peter Finney, Peter King, Rick Gosselin, Ron Borges, Sam Kouvaris,  Scott Garceau, Sid Hartman, Tony Grossi, Vinny DiTrani and Vito Stellino are the list of people.

Obviously, some of these names are more familiar than others. Some are frequent contributors to WNST. Some of them you know from television. And two of them – Miklasz and Stellino – were journalists here in Baltimore and covered the Colts leaving for Indianapolis. So, there’s plenty of perspective here on the NFL and plenty of expertise.

WHO ARE THE 25 NOMINEES ON THE CURRENT BALLOT?

Cris Carter Wide Receiver 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins

Roger Craig Running Back 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings

Terrell Davis Running Back 1995-2001 Denver Broncos

Dermontti Dawson Center 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers

Richard Dent Defensive End 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles

Chris Doleman, Defensive End-Linebacker 1985-1993, 1999 Minnesota Vikings, 1994-95 Atlanta Falcons, 1996-98 San Francisco 49ers

Kevin Greene, Linebacker-Defensive End 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers

Russ Grimm Guard 1981-1991 Washington Redskins

Ray Guy Punter 1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Charles Haley, Defensive End-Linebacker 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys

Lester Hayes, Cornerback 1977-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Cortez Kennedy, Defensive Tackle 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks

Bob Kuechenberg Guard 1970-1984 Miami Dolphins

Randall McDaniel Guard 1988-1999 Minnesota Vikings, 2000-2001 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Art Modell, Owner 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2003 Baltimore Ravens

John Randle, Defensive Tackle 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle Seahawks

Andre Reed Wide Receiver 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins

Shannon Sharpe, Tight End 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens

Bruce Smith, Defensive End 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000-03 Washington Redskins

Ken Stabler, Quarterback 1970-79 Oakland Raiders, 1980-81 Houston Oilers, 1982-84 New Orleans Saints

Paul Tagliabue Commissioner 1989-2006 National Football League

Steve Tasker, Special Teams-Wide Receiver 1985-86 Houston Oilers, 1986-1997 Buffalo Bills

Derrick Thomas Linebacker 1989-1999 Kansas City Chiefs

Ralph Wilson, Owner 1960-current Buffalo Bills

Rod Woodson, Cornerback-Saftey 1987-1996 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers, 1998-2001 Baltimore Ravens, 2002-03 Oakland Raiders

HOW SIGNIFICANT IS TONY GROSSI OF THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER?

Six years ago, when Modell’s candidacy had its best chance – while Art still owned the team and was fresh off of the Super Bowl XXXV victory – it was shot down in a legendary way when Tony Grossi, Cleveland’s representative and outspoken hater of all things Modell on behalf of the greater Cuyahoga and Northern Ohio area, gave an impassioned speech about how what Modell did to his hometown should forever forbid his enshrinement to Canton. This much is public record.

Now, what influence that actually had on the other committee members is debatable. My sources tell me that there are “anti” candidate guys all over the room. As an example, I have a feeling Scott Garceau, who was the reporter told by Tagliabue to “build a museum,” won’t be voting the former Sun King commish into bronzeness anytime soon on behalf of Baltimore’s  shoddy treatment in 1993.

Over the years, my mentor John Steadman lobbied against John Mackey’s induction. It’s just the way these things go. Some people have an axe to grind. Some just legitimately look at a candidate like punter Ray Guy and say: “I’m not putting a punter in the Hall of Fame.”

In the case of inducting Modell, there is obviously plenty of precedent given Al Davis and Lamar Hunt and other contemporaries have long been inside the walls of Canton. There are also several owners in the Hall of Fame who have moved franchises from one city to the next.

If these 44 people entrusted to “get this right” are going to hold a business decision (and one that many of them couldn’t possibly understand) against inducting Modell into the Hall of Fame when that business move made a community like ours whole is preposterous.

I will be writing more later in the week about Art’s specific contributions here in Baltimore since 1996.

Feel free to comment and please spread the word about our plans for Sunday night and the Baltimore fans’ ability to affect this vote and get Art rightfully inducted into Canton.

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