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State of Baltimore Sports Media Fall 2010 Update: WNST.net continues to grow beyond radio and into web dominance

Posted on 25 October 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

One of the few joyful benefits of being the “independent” voice in Baltimore sports is that we never have to kiss anyone’s derriere or ask for permission to speak the truth or make our point. We’re afforded the rarest commodity in American media today – “free speech” – and most days that ain’t even close to being free. And now that our newest product, “The WNST Morning Newspaper” powered by Blue Sky Factory and presented by Toyota, is reaching nearly 15,000 of you every morning I thought I’d take a little time during the bye week to update everyone who cares about us here at WNST.net with a “state of the local media” report.

With another successful Ravens season reaching the halfway point – and I stand on the side of the room that is delighted with 5-2 for Halloween — it’s always a good time to take stock in where we are as a company and where we’re heading in the future as Baltimore’s measurable sports media leader on the web and in mobile at WNST.net.

We’re not doing a lengthy survey this time around with a “State of Baltimore Sports Media” update, but I do want to thank all of you who participated in February. Of the 1,850 who took our poll, more than 91% of you essentially told me that you “wanted a new newspaper” in our survey.

Daily Newspaper question

And lo and behold in May we started in a beta form a daily e-newspaper that we send to your inbox free of charge every morning. It’s had its hiccups and bumps, like any new product, but we’re now getting it consistently out and the boom to our web traffic has been significant.

There can now be no logical dispute that WNST.net is the fastest growing new media site in Maryland. Google Analytics says our traffic is up more than 48% over the last year

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Week 6 Coach Speak

Posted on 14 October 2010 by Brian Billick

My broadcast partner, Thom Brennaman, and I had another tight game on FOX as Tampa Bay beat Cincinnati in the final seconds at home. The first five weeks of the NFL season have been hard to figure out, and I tackled some of what is going on in the league during this week’s Coach Speak for FOXSports.com.

I talked to the winning coach of the Tampa Bay-Cincinnati game, the Bucs’ Raheem Morris, about Tampa Bay’s fast start, the evolution of the Tampa 2 defense and what’s ahead for the Buccaneers. I also talked to John Harbaugh about the Ravens’ victory over Denver, and how Baltimore is preparing for a big AFC matchup at New England this Sunday.

In my Billick 101 segment, there is a lesson in how to execute a play-action pass from Falcons quarterback coach Bill Musgrave, and Giants special teams coach Tom Quinn shows how to block a punt.

I take a look at how the Giants managed, even with harsh fans and lots of media in New York, to rebound after a tough start to the season. There was never a reason to panic, and I hope the fans and media have learned a lesson in how NFL fortunes can change week-to-week.

Lastly, we check out the Never Say Never Moment of the Week, including Jason Campbell coming off the bench to give the Raiders a huge win at home over the Chargers.

Here is this week’s version of Coach Speak:

Coach Speak: Week 6

This week, because of the NLCS on FOX, Thom moves over to work with Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver, so I will team with Chris Myers to call Seattle at Chicago.

If you miss any of my appearances on the station this week, please check out the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to listen to all of the great interviews on WNST & WNST.net.

Talk to you next week …

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Week 4 Coach Speak

Posted on 28 September 2010 by Brian Billick

After my broadcast partner, Thom Brennaman, and I called an exciting overtime game in New Orleans when the Falcons beat the Saints, I taped this week’s edition of CoachSpeak for FOXSports.com.

I talked to the winning coach of the Atlanta-New Orleans game (and my brother-in-law), the Falcons’ Mike Smith on why he went for it on fourth down so much against the Saints and how he plans to keep his team focused this week after such a big win. I also spoke to the losing coach, Sean Payton, about how last Monday night’s game at San Francisco did to his team’s schedule, and the adjustments coaches have to make in that situation.

In my Billick 101 segment, we get a look at the Vikings check system with quarterback Brett Favre and running back Adrian Peterson through the eyes of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. We also go on the field with Ravens running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery, who shows us the keys to a proper QB-RB exchange on handoffs.

I take a look at the 49ers’ firing of offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye this week, what that might mean to head coach Mike Singletary down the line, and what new OC Mike Johnson needs to do to help turn around the 0-3 49ers fortunes.

Lastly, we check out the Never Say Never Moment of the Week, including Leon Washington’s two kickoff returns for TDs for the Seahawks.

Here is this week’s version of CoachSpeak:

Video: Coach Speak: Week 4

This Sunday, Thom, field reporter Charissa Thompson and I head to Green Bay this Sunday as the Packers try to bounce back after a tough loss at Chicago as they host Jim Schwartz and the Detroit Lions on FOX.

But before that, I will be on WNST several times to talk about what’s going on in the NFL. If you miss any of those appearances, please check out the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to listen to all of the great interviews on WNST.

Talk to you next week …

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Gearing up for another season of Coach Speak

Posted on 15 August 2010 by Brian Billick

As many of you know, I’m doing another great season of NFL coverage on the radio here in Baltimore at WNST and again with Fox Sports and the NFL Network.

I just thought I’d provide a link to where I’ll be providing a lot of online content and insights and interviews with NFL head coaches each week via the Fox Sports platform and “Coach Speak.”

Hope you’re enjoying this training camp and hope that you’re readying up for what appears to be a promising season for the Ravens with the addition of Anquan Boldin.

Here’s a link to a full Ravens preview I did for “Coach Speak”

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New Beginnings .....

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New Beginnings …..

Posted on 13 January 2010 by Rex Snider

Have you noticed all the high profile job openings that have been created and filled over the past couple weeks? From the revolving door in D.C. to the “late night mess” in Hollywood, recent headlines have been dominated by HIRINGS and FIRINGS.

Sure, early-January becomes a “Silly Season” of sorts for passengers on the NFL coaching carousel. However, in these first couple weeks of 2010, we’ve witnessed an usually high number of tumultuous incidents in the sports/entertainment industry – beyond the customary head coach slayings.

Just look at all the action …..

Mike Leach FIRED at Texas Tech
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What does TEN bowls in as many seasons get you? Canned – if you’re gonna be less than honest with your superiors about discretionary incidents.

By now, everybody knows the roundabout details. But, if you’ve spent the past month on Gilligan’s Island or LOCKED IN AN OUTDOOR SHED, I’ll provide a quick review of the incident leading to Mike Leach’s departure from the Red Raiders program …..

Adam James is a quirky, unmotivated third stringer on the Texas Tech football team. James acquired a concussion; we’re not certain how third stringers get injured, but he did. Mike Leach evidently ordered assistants to lock James in the unofficial “Texas Tech Concussion Chamber” (aka – outdoor shed) during practice.

In turn, Adam James told his dad about Leach’s treatment. Former NFL player and current ESPN analyst, Craig James, is Adam’s dad. He made a stink about the incident. Leach was reportedly untruthful with administrators. He was ultimately fired.

Pretty low, huh?

But, guess what? I’d hire Mike Leach to replace this guy, right now !!!!
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Sure, tell me it’s about the money. We all know that. But, I’ll guarantee Mike Leach can OUTCOACH Ralph Friedgen any day of the week – regardless of what Adam James and his dad say.

In fact, if Mike Leach became Maryland’s new coach, he would probably make the football team the school’s TOP sports program within three years time. But, you’ve gotta PAY for such results and leadership.

I’m pretty sure the above statement will get my name booted from Glenn Clark’s Facebook Friends List. But, it’s accurate, right?
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American Idol FIRED By Simon Cowell
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Okay, I’ll admit it ….. I spent last night with one eye on the Maryland vs. Wake Forest game and the other eye on the TRAINWRECK ROUND of Amercan Idol. That’s right, the most popular show in American television made it’s season debut, last night.

And, it made the splash amid some stirring controversy. NO !!!! Paula Abdul is not returning.

But, another judge is leaving.

FOX has announced Simon Cowell will be leaving ‘Idol at this season’s end. But, don’t feel badly for him – he’s starting FOX’s new reality show “X Factor,” which begins airing in the fall of 2011.

Don’t get me wrong, FOX tried to persuade Simon to do both shows – and reportedly offered him $50 million, but he turned it down. Did you hear that? $50 million, YEARLY, to be brutally honest with people. Can you imagine what $50 million, yearly, buys …..
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That’s right !!!! You could pay nearly TWO A’Rod’s …..

You could pay nearly THREE Derek Jeter’s, FIVE Brian Roberts’, THREE Ryan Howard’s, FIVE Joe Mauer’s, SIX Carl Crawford’s, NINE Hanley Ramirez’s, TEN Grady Sizemore’s, FIFTEEN Ryan Zimmerman’s, FIFTY Kendry Morales’, SEVENTY FIVE Tim Lincecum’s, NINETY Josh Hamilton’s, NINETY FIVE Jay Bruce’s and ONE HUNDRED Jacoby Ellsbury’s with the yearly salary offered to Simon Cowell.

Unreal.

In fact, you could pay these Baltimore Ravens with Simon Cowell’s offered salary …..
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And, you think pro athletes are overpaid? How in the heck can a network afford to pay a guy $50 million and still make a profit? I suppose this really serves as an example of how much money can be made from shows about normal people trying to become stars.

Hmmm ….. I wonder if Simon Cowell has any additional skills, beyond the ability to tell the truth? To quote the great Don King, “Only In America …..”
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Lane Kiffin Hired At USC
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There was a time when I thought Lane Kiffin was the VICTIM ….. of a bad situation with Al Davis. Now, I’m not so sure. In fact, I’m suspecting the two guys were brought together by a common trait.

And, perhaps, their divorce was more indicative of two ALIKE people not getting along with each other – you know, the “opposites attract” argument …..

In case you missed it – while we were sleeping last night, Lane Kiffin jumped at the chance to escape ‘Ole Rocky Top for the beaches of Southern California. That’s right, he accepted the job as Head Coach at USC, amid the reality he was no higher than 5th on the school’s list of prospective successors to Pete Carroll.

This sucks.

In fact, it’s probably the single most daunting thing I dislike about college sports. Many of these coaches have no allegiance beyond the value of money. There is no INTEGRITY, PRIDE or COMMITMENT. All three of these qualities are vital in sports competition – yet, the men tasked with instilling them in impressionable student athletes fail to live the LIFE.

Regardless of championships and WIN/LOSS records, the character of these coaches is quite questionable …..
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Of the above coaches, Bobby Petrino and Nick Saban blurred the lines between the NFL and NCAA programs. But, they still shafted franchises for nothing more than their own selfish gain.

Where is the honor and credibility with a guy like Lane Kiffin? How can he walk into a kid’s house and make promises? The truth is HE CAN’T ….. and, if he does, it’s worth NOTHING. After all, he’s shafted the kids at Tennessee and created some friction by starting turmoil with other SEC powerhouses, like Florida and Alabama. Thanks, Lane.

I hope Glenn Clark is sitting down – IF he’s reading this …..

God bless Gary Williams. For all the jesting shots I’ve taken at Gary, he’s loyal to his kids and the University of Maryland. He could’ve undoubtedly parlayed his success following the 2001 NCAA Championship, into a bigger program. But, he didn’t.

I’ll never question Gary Williams’ integrity. And, on a day like today, he looks even better in my eyes.
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IN With Jay, OUT With Conan …..
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Admittedly, I like the late night shows – following my local news, of course. And, while I’m partial to David Letterman, I’ve always liked Jay Leno’s schtick.

He’s genuinely funny …..

He’s pretty modest and self-depricating …..

And, he’s a noted NASCAR fan …..
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On the other hand, I’ve never really found Conan O’Brien very funny.

I’m not a fan of the dry humor or inate references requiring deep thought. If I’ve gotta figure it out – it ain’t funny. Keep it simple, stupid.

Oh yeah, and I really hate that part in Conan’s HAIR …..
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That said, it does seem odd that Conan O’Brien had only seven months worth of rope to hang himself or pull up the ratings. Obviously, the latter didn’t happen. I have no concept of what’s acceptable or not as far as ratings go. When Howard Stern bolted for satellite radio, in 2006, his replacement, David Lee Roth, lasted just 3 months.

I guess networks can’t be too patient – after all, they’re paying some guys up to $50 million, per year, for being truthful and snarky. In fact, the rumor is Conan O’Brien will be leaving NBC with his $30 million salary, intact.

That’s a pretty costly mistake.
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Mike Shanahan Comes To D.C. ….. And Brings His Kid With Him
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Are we really surprised to see a new Head Coach for the Washington Redskins? Indeed, they’re among the most tumultuous organizations in professional sports – and they’re owned by a man with a penchant for trying to win a Super Bowl with a dimwitted Fantasy Football philosophy.

Redskins’ owner, Danny Snyder, has a proven track record of less patience than the dudes who call the shots in the “Jay Leno/Conan O’Brien” Puppet Show.

In the DECADE since purcahsing the Redskins, Snyder has spearheaded the ill-advised signings of Deion Sanders, Mark Carrier, Jeremiah Trotter, Mark Brunell, Bruce Smith, Jeff George, Adam Archuleta, Antwaan Randle El, Brandon Lloyd, and most recently, DeAngelo Hall and Albert Haynesworth.

Fantasy Football signings, right? It’s pretty fair to say Dan Snyder is enamored with “quality of name” over “quality of play” …..
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It doesn’t stop there, either. Mike Shanahan is the 7th Head Coach to serve under Dan Snyder’s 10 years of ownership. That’s right, the AVERAGE Redskins Head Coaching tenure is 22 games.

To put it in perspective, John Harbaugh, has coached 10 more regular season games than the typical Redskins Head Coach – under Dan Snyder.

And, there is ANOTHER factor. Only 800 police officers in Anne Arundel County will get this – but, it’s common knowledge that SNYDERS and SHANAHANS cannot work together. It’s impossible. In fact, the prospect of putting a SNYDER and SHANHAN in the same situation, is predictably combustible …..
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You know what I mean?

I can’t speak for Mike Shanahan – he coached an organization located 1523 miles from my front door. But, lets just say if the accomplishments during his coaching tenure vaguely amounted to …..

A – changing the team’s uniform colors

B – bringing in a couple inexperienced female coordinators to run the Offense and Defense

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C – leaving the place a virtual mess

I wouldn’t be surprised.

In getting back to the “REAL” Mike Shanahan, he has the increased pressure of hiring his son, Kyle, as the Offensive Coordinator. I mentioned this factor in one of last week’s blogs – I cannot seriously fathom the self-imposed pressure in having to possibly FIRE one’s son.

Additionally, if the Offense struggles, will fan perception undermine the Redskins mission – and, most notably, Dan Snyder’s patience? God knows he acts like a fan and listens to their popular consensus.

I’m betting we won’t see this face on the Redskins sideline, in 2013.
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Just remember ….. 22 games.

HAVE A GREAT WEDNESDAY !!!!

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The latest ‘Coach Speak’ – Week 13

Posted on 04 December 2009 by Brian Billick

The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills kicked off Week 13 in the National Football League last night and this morning we’ve uploaded the thirteenth edition of my ‘Coach Speak’ series to WNST.net.

This episode of ‘Coach Speak’ has a little different feel than the rest; instead of speaking with more head coaches from throughout the league, I wanted viewers to get a first-hand account of what an NFL position coach’s role is in game-planning and getting their unit ready for Sundays.

The featured conversations on this week’s ‘Coach Speak’ include Carolina Panthers Strength and Conditioning Coach, Jerry Simmons, New York Jets Defensive Backs Coach, Dennis Thurman, Detroit Lions Quarterback Coach, Jeff Horton, Washington Redskins Running Backs Coach, Stump Mitchell, Green Bay Packers Secondary Coach, Joe Whitt, and Dallas Cowboys Quarterbacks Coach, Wade Wilson.

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Do the White Sox covet George Sherrill?

Posted on 29 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

We’re getting down to the nitty gritty on the MLB trading deadline. The Cliff Lee deal today and a few other minor deals will have folks buzzing over the next 36 hours.

Ken Rosenthal floated some information today that was interesting in regard to George Sherrill at Fox Sports.

From Rosenthal:

“As many as eight teams are pursuing Orioles closer George Sherrill, and two or three are “actively engaged” with Baltimore in discussions, according to a major-league source.

The Orioles expect that the number of teams serious about Sherrill actually might grow once the big-name starting pitchers get traded — or not.

The Dodgers have maintained interest in Sherrill, and a number of their prospects appeal to the Orioles. The Angels are “mildly” involved, according to one major-league source.

The Phillies are unlikely to act on Sherrill now that they are preparing to trade four prospects for Indians left-hander Cliff Lee.”

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Soccer ??? Nobody Cares …..

Posted on 26 June 2009 by Rex Snider

So, leave it to me to downplay the hype of the U.S. soccer team’s upset victory over Spain, yesterday. And, the same can be said for this whole “Confederations Cup” thing. The masses of American sports fans really couldn’t care less.

While we’re told this big win was equivalent to the upset over the Soviet Union, in the 1980 Winter Olympics, I’m simply asking how many of us knew there was a crucial soccer game being played nearly 8000 miles away?

I knew it.

But, only due to Nestor’s non-stop coverage, during his Wednesday edition of “Limited Access” …..

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the game of soccer, above youth leagues, is irrelevant on the American sportscape. Sure, it has a core crowd. And, so do bullriding, track and field, lacrosse and martial arts.

I’m not suggesting soccer is anything less than an extremely exhilarating sport. The competitors have my unconditional respect, as pure athletes. I don’t know of a sport that takes more physical endurance or ultimate conditioning.

Case closed.

But, the American audience, as a whole, will not embrace the sport of soccer. I think the mystery of “WHY” is every bit as interesting as what goes on between the lines. And, I’m sure everyone has a theory.

My immediate guess would include two distinct elements …..

(1) American sports fans gravitate toward athletes, as personalities. To a degree, many American athletes are “worshipped” by fans. I personally find this pretty weak, but it’s what drives our society. That said, it seems like many soccer players are of foreign descent and language/cultural barriers prevent them from optimizing marketing potential.

(2) We like SCORING and tangible excitement. You surely know what I mean by scoring – touchdowns, homeruns, slam dunks !!!! But, the “excitement” factor is key, too. We love the knockout punch …. blood on the ice …. and a car flipping over a few times on the frontstretch at Daytona.

I’m not saying Americans don’t like soccer. We all know people who are CRAZY about it. But, soccer has never caught on as a mainstream sport, in the United States. And, its failures are not resulted from a lack of attempted marketing.

A couple years ago, David Beckham was hailed as the guy who was going to reinvent the game, from California to New York. Yet, we stand here today and realize he’s just fodder for another tabloid story or a moving target for paparazzi.

How do we know our culture is materialistic? Victoria Beckham’s wardrobe choices sell more magazines than any soccer periodical. The Beckhams have become a sideshow to soccer in this country. They’re merely cult-celebrities.

Look, I’m not disparaging soccer. And, I don’t mean any offense to the hardcore, devoted fans.

But, the truth is we live in a country where more people are interested in turning on their television and watching 43 cars run around an oval track, than watching a couple soccer teams run up and down the field.

If you disagree, ask yourself why FOX, ESPN and TNT spend hundreds of millions for the rights to broadcast races. It is what it is …..

I’ll concede Jozy Altidore is a far more superior athlete than Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr. The two racers can’t carry Altidore’s lunch, when it comes to athletic ability. But, they’re marketable and they resonate with the typical American sports fan.

Once again, it is what it is.

With the bevy of hype now surrounding the championship game in the Confederations Cup, I’m willing to bet anyone the next NASCAR race will garner a greater TV share. It probably won’t even be close.

Uh-huh, a few readers are sitting back and saying “so what …. TV viewership doesn’t solidify the status of a sport.” And, if you’re really thinking this, reconsider your position. In fact, it’s exactly why soccer isn’t succeeding in this country.

People aren’t watching it …..

Sponsors won’t buy prime air time …..

Networks won’t consistently televise it …..

It’s a culmination of factors. But, the dominating theme, for me, is people just don’t care about soccer. And, until you change this, it’s a futile debate.

A large percentage of the “consumers” in the American sports market didn’t even know the United States was playing Spain, on Wednesday. Indeed, they didn’t know about the big win until it was in the books.

And, this is a problem …..

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President Obama Commits To Saving The Chesapeake Bay ….

Posted on 09 June 2009 by Rex Snider

Let’s face it, as Baltimoreans, Marylanders and Ravens/Orioles fans, we tend to focus on the things that have a primary purpose in our lives. All too often, things are taken for granted, right?

For years, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries have fallen into this “taken for granted” column. Oh yeah, we love steamed crabs, the inner harbor and the view from the bay bridge, as we drive to Ocean City. But, most of us have blindly assumed the bay will take care of itself.

Count me as guilty …..

I’ve benefited from many life-defining moments on the Chesapeake Bay. I can distinctly recall times as a kid, when my dad and I would troll for bluefish under the main span of the bay bridge. While I’d certainly rather eat rockfish, nothing and I mean NOTHING fights like a 15-pound blue …..

I’ve also netted my fair share of crabs, while working a 1200-foot troutline, from about 5am til noon. Heck, when I was a teenager (early 1980’s) we could be limited out with 3 bushels by 10am, and home by noon.

I’ve swam in nearly every creek between the Patuxent River and Bodkin Point. I’ve had my photo taken while standing on the Seven Foot Knoll, when it was in the Patapsco, and NOT outside McCormick and Schmick’s inner harbor restaurant. I’ve camped on the callsway, at Point Lookout. And, I’ve watched the Blue Angels fly mere feet above the surface of the Severn River.

My childhood was every bit as entrenched in the pleasures of the Chesapeake Bay, as it was rooting for Earl Weaver’s Orioles and a very bad Colts team. I loved spending time on the water.

Yet, somewhere along this path of growing into adulthood, I’ve lost my way …..

Yeah, I still love the O’s, regardless of 12 years in the tank, and I consider the Ravens MY TEAM. But, I’ve neglected any interest in the Chesapeake Bay. It’s almost as if the trophy fish, bushels of crabs and countless boating excursions of my youth never happened.

So, a few days ago, I read an article detailing President Obama’s interest in resurrecting the Chesapeake Bay. And, it dawned on me ….. I’ve abandoned my roots !!!!

Going lengths to repair such misgivings is gonna be a personal endeavor. I want my daughter to see and experience some of the natural resources I’ve enjoyed, when I was her age. It’s summer and this is the perfect time.

In getting back to President Obama’s commitment – I am extremely pleased to see he is dedicating financial resources and personnel from federal agencies to the mission of saving the Chesapeake Bay.

President Obama’s 2010 budget includes $35 MILLION, which will be solely devoted to the “milestone” efforts of cleaning and reinvigorating the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The program will be overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency, with contribution from Maryland and Virginia.

While we live in an era and society that suspects partisan politics whenever we utter the names of elected officials, I can wholeheartedly attest that my gratitude is entirely tied to my love for Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay. I have no underlying interests or agendas.

Whenever crews for ESPN, ABC, CBS, NBC or FOX come to Baltimore, they ALWAYS mention “crabcakes” and other seafood as the indigenous delicacies for visitors. Those same delicacies and the attraction of our inner harbor are tied to the health and vitality of the Chesapeake Bay.

In the coming months, I’ll be working on repairing my roots and involvement in the bay’s natural treasures. But, today I’m saying THANKS to the President for thinking of us….

We’re certainly living in tough economic times and he has an entire nation to consider in his budget. I’m glad to see a true treasure like the Chesapeake Bay isn’t being forsaken – even in the eyes of a recession.

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Changes coming to Monday Night Football and the World Series

Posted on 18 May 2009 by Luke Jones

A new addition to Monday Night Football and an overdue change to the Fall Classic should make many fans happy this fall.

ESPN has announced former NFL coach Jon Gruden will replace Tony Kornheiser in the Monday Night Football booth this fall, joining play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico and analyst Ron Jaworski.

Kornheiser, a longtime sportswriter, was maligned for not having a background as a player or coach, instead choosing to focus on the lighter side of the game.  It reminded too many fans of the failed Dennis Miller experiment that ABC tried at the beginning of the decade.

While I enjoy Kornheiser with Michael Wilbon on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, he never found his place in the MNF broadcast booth.  He often seemed disinterested—if not in over his head—compared to the insightful analysis provided by Jaworski.

Listening to Kornheiser provide color commentary reminded me of someone that tries to engage you in football discussion, but after a few minutes, you realize he just doesn’t know that much about the game.  While he is certainly an accomplished writer, his football insight left much to be desired.

Kornheiser’s excessive discussion over Chad Johnson’s Hall of Fame jacket charade ruined the Ravens-Bengals telecast for me on Opening Night 2007.  He just didn’t bring anything to the broadcast that made you want to listen to him every week.  He was an unwelcome distraction from the football game—not an enriching supplement like a commentator should be.

With Gruden’s hiring, ESPN continues a commitment to appeal to football fans on Monday nights—a welcome change from the celebrity hording that plagued the broadcast a couple seasons ago.  If ESPN wants to boost ratings, they shouldn’t hire a funny guy to provide color commentary; they should hire someone that knows the ins and outs of the NFL and will give viewers a deeper look into the game they love.  Jaworski does this already, and the coaching experience and insights from Gruden will be a welcome change from the superficial Kornheiser.

Ultimately, viewers tuning into Monday Night Football are watching it for, get this, the football!  What a novel idea.  It’s fine trying to reach other demographics, but alienating your core audience in the process is not the way to do it.

A second announcement coming from Major League Baseball and Fox is a move that’s far overdue.

After record-low ratings in last year’s World Series, they are moving up the start time of games this year.  Weeknight games will begin at 7:57 p.m., more than 30 minutes earlier than last year’s starts.  This will mark the first time weeknight Fall Classic games have started before 8:00 since the 1971 World Series between the Pirates and Orioles.

Fans have screamed for earlier start times for years, both for those getting up early the next morning for work and for children rarely getting to watch more than an inning or two on a school night.

Kids are simply not watching baseball, and the sport does an embarrassing job marketing itself to youth.  How can you expect kids to grow up to become baseball fans—and paying customers—when they’ve never even seen a World Series game on television?

Hopefully, Monday’s announcement is a small step toward more change.  No one realistically expects—or even wants—games to return to afternoon starts during the week, but it’s perfectly logical to start weeknight World Series games at 7:00 or 7:30 p.m.  My apologies to the West Coast, but it makes more sense for those fans to miss the first inning or two getting home from work than it does for East Coast fans to stay up past midnight to watch the end of a game.

Commissioner Bud Selig also approached Fox about the possibility of a weekend afternoon World Series game, but the network shot it down, believing the ratings would be too low.

How is it even possible to project ratings when there hasn’t been an afternoon Fall Classic game since 1987?  Just try it out on a Saturday afternoon.  If the ratings flop worse than last year’s World Series, dump the idea.  Marketing it as the first afternoon World Series game in over 20 years would create some buzz, not to mention give kids an opportunity to watch an entire World Series game.

Regardless of where this year’s changes lead in the future for the World Series, baseball gets the nod for finally getting something right—even if it’s more than 20 years late.

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