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Kissing the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas with Barry Trotz and bringing it to Baltimore

Posted on 10 June 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’ve done lots of good things in my life and I will continue to do that, and so I wasn’t getting consumed with what was said or what my future holds or whatever. I’m in a pretty good spot.”

Barry Trotz

2018 Stanley Cup champion

Head Coach

Washington Capitals

 

 

I’M NOT SURE THAT I EVER really thought about what would happen if my lifer friend Barry Trotz or the Washington Capitals ever won the Stanley Cup. As a passionate hockey fan and Baltimore’s sole candle bearer for pimping the puck in the local media over a quarter of a century, it would have been a helluva personal gift to me if either ever happened individually – let alone simultaneously and in Las Vegas, no less.

I’m also not sure that I had any tangible image or pre-determined vision of the kind of joy that was expressed on the face of Alex Ovechkin as he hoisted the chalice toward the Nevada sky, beaming like the bright, radiant “forever” light shining outward from the Luxor and into the heavens above the desert on Thursday night just a few steps from The Strip.

Two hours later, in a town of broken dreams, big gambles and bigger payoffs – there I was sitting with my wife on the 3rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental overlooking Las Vegas Boulevard. Ovechkin was suddenly towering over the table of the last head coach the Baltimore Skipjacks would ever have – “Here, Boss, I brought The Cup over for you!” – as he plopped it in the middle of the corner table, where Trotz’s son Nolan was happily listening to music and doing some late night artwork.

Over my 27 years of doing sports radio, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a few of these post-championship champagne soaked celebrations. I’ve attended three Super Bowl parties and one ridiculous bash with the New York Yankees in a club in Manhattan in October 2001 that I’d never be able to identify let alone recollect. The Ravens soiree in 2001 was a giant wedding under a tent in Tampa. Music, dancing, booze, etc. I saw Steven Tyler hand Robert Kraft the Lombardi Trophy in Houston while singing “Dream On” with members of Aerosmith as Kid Rock stood 10-feet away from me with Jamie Presley on his shoulders. More recently, I was at the Philadelphia Eagles throwdown/shitkicker on a sub-zero, frozen Minnesota night three months ago that featured 2,000 rabid fans in a giant atrium convention hall partying with the players until 5am.

This, however, was a different kind of event – an almost breathing point and place of happy solitude in taking stock of what had just happened before all of the mayhem of first pitches, baseball games, drunken fountain jumping and the monstrosity of a parade that awaited them in Washington, D.C. in the coming days.

Other than random Scandanavians jumping on a table and leading choruses of “Seven Nations Army,” this one was mostly tame. No loud music. Nothing more opulent than the setting

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Chapter 1: Meet the new boss, not the same as the old boss

Posted on 12 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

Proverbs 29:18 says: ‘Where there is no vision the people perish.’ I guess that’s why I feel like we stuck to the vision and the team grew into it.”

— John Harbaugh (March 2013)

 

IT WASN’T EXACTLY A RESTFUL sleep for Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick on the night of Dec. 30, 2007, but the 27-21 home victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier that evening snapped a dismal nine-game losing streak to end the season on some semblance of a bright note and his agenda for beginning 2008 was clear after a disastrous 5-11 finish in a season that was steeped in promise with a 4-2 start.

Earlier that week, Billick sat for hours with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and General Manager Ozzie Newsome, as he frequently had, reviewing and evaluating the state of the Baltimore Ravens roster and future. After the final game with Pittsburgh, he visited emeritus owner and founder Art Modell in his box at the stadium feeling good about defeating the Ravens’ arch rival and snapping a nine-game losing streak to finish 2007 with a modicum of success and a hint of some future achievement.

The long, exhausting season was over, but while December 31, 2007 wasn’t officially 2008 just yet, Billick’s sleep deprivation had to do more with future planning than a future canning. He had repeatedly been told his job was safe during the agonizing losing streak and the team’s public relations machine moved earlier in the month to announce publicly that Billick wasn’t going to be fired. He was “safe.” Plus, he was only concluding the first of a four-year, $24 million contract he signed after the 2006 Ravens went 13-3, but suffered a tough loss to the Indianapolis Colts during the playoffs.

Yet, on what is always known around the NFL as “Black Monday” for its many coaching staff firings, many sports media outlets were still speculating about the state of Billick’s job security.

At 8:40 a.m., during a 25-minute phone call, he was insistent that his job security was, well, secure. Billick was always candid, always painfully honest and up-until-this-point, always “in the know” when it came to the state of the Ravens. Over the previous nine years, his integrity, honesty and information had been in his words “unfiltered” — meaning the unvarnished truth.

At 10:10 a.m. the internet and local sports world exploded with multiple reports that Brian Billick was out as the coach of the Baltimore Ravens.

The shots heard round Owings Mills were not only unexpected by Billick, but by most of the media, many members of his coaching staff, and everyone else in the organization who reasoned that the three years left on his contract — still damp with just 11 months of tread on it and $18 million more of Baltimore Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti’s money guaranteed — made him amongst the safest coaches on the continent.

Sure, the Ravens had a bad year amidst a sea of injuries and another season of dreadful quarterback play with a broken down Steve McNair, an overmatched former Heisman Trophy winner in Troy Smith and the unfulfilled potential of 2003 first-round draft pick Kyle Boller, but firing a decorated coach was certainly a major risk (and expense) for Bisciotti.

Newsome was powerless and only became aware of Bisciotti’s intentions hours before. This was Steve’s decision and Steve’s alone.

The head coach who had led the Baltimore Ravens to the playoffs in four of his nine seasons and a 2001 Super Bowl title was unceremoniously fired and suddenly an NFL head coaching job was now available, where only moments before there was a franchise with a clear leader and a clear direction that had

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