Posted on 12 January 2013 by Nestor Aparicio
Posted on 12 January 2013 by WNSTV
Posted on 04 November 2012 by Nestor Aparicio
Let’s get this out of the way right away – the Baltimore Ravens are 6-2 and any complaining about Sunday’s 25-15 win over the Cleveland Browns won’t change their slim lead in the AFC North or color the obvious breakdowns and weaknesses that are apparent to anyone who has watched their choppy work.
But as a Ray Rice told me at the podium on the shores of Lake Erie after another win: “There are no bad wins in the NFL.”
We can deal with the offensive inconsistencies later but my concerns center around a defense that will continue to take the field with a squad of patchwork underachievers and glaring fundamental issues.
The four deadly sins of defense continue to haunt the Ravens, if only for the first 80 yards of the field in Cleveland on Sunday. Rushing the passer. Stopping the run. Covering in the secondary. And tackling in general.
Let us count and assess the issues one by one…
The Ravens have no pass rush. Despite having the return of a seemingly spry Terrell Suggs in Houston two weeks ago, he was no factor in Cleveland. Joe Thomas ate him up and most teams will simply get some help on No. 55 if he becomes a pest and the Ravens lack a backup quarterback chaser with any push. Paul Kruger hasn’t been effective. Pernell McPhee, who flashed some visions of a pass rush specialist last season, has been mostly invisible this year and was an injury scratch on Sunday. Haloti Ngata continues to struggle physically and the leaks continue all around him on the defense.
Of course, no pass rush leads to trouble in the secondary with any quarterback and wide receiver tandem that has is given ample time to make a play. This will be an especially daunting issue when the Ravens see the Steelers in two weeks as Ben Roethlisberger has made a Hall of Fame career by making positive plays happen after the play breaks down.
With the injuries to Lardarius Webb, the Ravens secondary has been stressed tremendously because Cary Williams is now carrying the weight of marking every team’s No. 1 receiver. Aside from the obvious with Sergio Kindle being unable to play after his brutal fall and head injury, Jimmy Smith has been the Ravens’ most disappointing first-round draft pick since Travis Taylor. He’s the most penalized defensive player on the team and is consistently getting beat by top-notch receivers on a weekly basis. To my eyes, they’re simply targeting him and the likes of Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and the Manning brothers will literally be frothing at the mouth awaiting a chance to throw the ball into this secondary.
After more than a decade of dominance against the run – and a source of massive pride of a local fan base that would routinely chant “you can’t run” from my seats up in Sect. 513 – the Ravens’ run defense has been porous as it’s been four straight weeks of allowing running backs to gash the front seven and get deeper down the field where the secondary becomes a de facto part of the tackling corps.
And all over the field tackling has been a consistent source of frustration. You can blame not-so-new-anymore defensive coordinator Dean Pees. You can talk about the loss of personnel like Ray Lewis via injury or Jarret Johnson, Cory Redding, etc. to free agency, but there have been leaks all over the field when it comes to second chances and fellows in purple flailing and missing.
Eight games into the season, the Ravens are 6-2 and there’s ample reason to be energized by their gaudy record and seat atop the AFC North.
The offense has certainly been capable as witnessed by their early-season success and it even managed 25 points yesterday on the road in Cleveland by managing to play about 20 minutes of decent football and still spending more than an hour without a first down. But there have been many times recently when Joe Flacco and the offensive crew have been stumbling their
SEE PAGE 2
Posted on 24 September 2012 by WNSTV
Posted on 08 December 2011 by Nestor Aparicio
Originally published on March 28, 2010, I think this is appropriate for this week’s game. (nja)
Twenty-six years ago today I awoke to see my father crying in my kitchen in Dundalk. It was one of two times that I ever saw him cry. The Baltimore Colts’ infamous ride of the Mayflowers out west on I-70 just two months after I started interning at The News American defined the end of my childhood at 15 and the beginning of my lifelong education about money and the real world of sports for the remainder of my sports fan and business life as a journalist.
It’s been a tumultuous quarter of a century plus a year for my feelings of anger, anguish, desperation, loss and bad vibes about the Colts leaving Baltimore on March 28, 1984. My Pop died in 1992 and never got to see the Ravens come back to town to avenge the loss of the horseshoe. I never got to go to one more football game with my father. And over the years, it’s really been a civic badge of honor to hate on all things Irsay and Indianapolis.
I’ve been to Indianapolis more times than I can count since 1996 – always for a football game or the annual March combine. There’s never been a time that it hasn’t taken me 15 minutes on the ground there to get ill seeing the horseshoes and “Go Colts” kind of marketing that is ubiquitous in Indy from the minute you land at the airport. It drives my wife batty — my almost irrational instant anger, ranting and self-inflicted torture when I’m in Indianapolis. I’ve always figured that I’d proudly be like the old dudes in Brooklyn, still pining away about the Dodgers 50 years later.
Here’s an example:
It’s taken me years of internal therapy and self soothing to calm myself when I see the game day experience there in Indy as those Midwestern hillbillies parade around in my father’s stolen laundry. In many ways, our “friend” Merton From Indianapolis (and no, none of us has any idea who he is or where the whole gimmick started – honest to God!) sort of exemplifies the entire experience of dealing with their fans when you travel to the “friendly heartland.”
My loathing of all things Irsay and Indianapolis is a bit legendary – there are plenty of pictures of me carrying Bob Irsay’s head on a stick through the streets of Indy — and my rants and raves throughout the 1990s are all very “on the record” and still accurate. What happened to this community at the hands of Bob Irsay and how I saw it affect my father and the psyche of the citizenry here will never been forgotten. The degrading and demoralizing “begging” to get back into the league that fell on Herb Belgrad. Paul Tagliabue’s “build a museum” expansion declaration in Chicago. All of it…I’ll remember those feelings and emotions for the rest of my life. Most Baltimoreans older than me — and I was born in 1968 – still can’t begin to imagine a world without the Colts of that generation. If you’re from Baltimore, sports is etched into your DNA.
(And if you doubt those feelings, imagine how you’d feel if the Ravens packed up and left tomorrow morning and never played another game here? For you young’ins that’s essentially what happened here in 1984…)
But after long and careful consideration – and as today’s 26th anniversary of the dastardly
Posted on 07 November 2011 by WNST Staff
Posted on 08 September 2011 by Ed Frankovic
The Washington Capitals held Media Fantasy Camp down at Kettler IcePlex on Wednesday and the event started with Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and assistant coach/video Blaine Forsythe providing the media with a tour and demonstration of the video room. The room is quite nice with very comfortable seats positioned in front of a 100 inch plus screen. Boudreau started the presentation by showing us a clip of the “old way” the Capitals used to play in their own zone. In that method, the strong side wing (the one on the side where the puck currently resides) was positioned high in his own zone on the near side defensemen. Boudreau noted that this tactic often resulted in quick transition for his club, which the highly skilled team took advantage of in previous seasons. However, due to the drop in goal scoring early on in 2010-11, the bench boss opted to change that strategy to one that is more closely used by the other 29 teams in the league where the winger is positioned down lower in his own zone. That tranformation, which was often painful to watch last December, was chronicled on HBO’s 24/7. But at the end of the season, the strategic move paid off as the Caps ended up 4th in the NHL in goals against average at 2.33 per game behind Vancouver, Boston, and Nashville. Note that two of those three were in the Stanley Cup Finals while the Predators gave the Canucks all they could handle in round two. From my vantage point, Boudreau absolutely did the right thing changing things up in his own zone last season, but more on that a little later on.
An interesting part of the video session was a one on one chat I had afterwards with Forsythe about the software technology involved in breaking down game tape. Today’s products make it very easy to get that done as soon as a period is over and the assistant coach stated that he is able to show the coaches and/or players whatever they want to see after each stanza. Back when I was doing statistics for the Capitals in the early 1990′s, then video coordinator Tod Button often did that task after the game, but while the game was going on he had software that allowed him to mark portions of the tape as even strength, power play, penalty kill, face-off, etc so that he could break it down quickly for then coach Terry Murray. Button would also use that software to break down game film of other teams, which he recorded via Satellite at Piney Orchard and sometimes at the old Capital Centre. Forsythe told me that he still relies on the Centre Ice Package to record the games of future Capitals opponents. As expected, Forsythe’s software, 20 years later, is leaps and bounds better than what Button had to work with. The video coach also stated that certain buildings provide much better angles than others, with Madison Square Garden being one of the best (so I guess Rangers fans do have something to chant about next year, eh?!). Video coordinators prefer that they get all of the game footage from faceoff to final buzzer so Forsythe’s biggest issue is one that Button didn’t like dealing with either in the 1990′s: the play starting in the corner! It seems even technology can’t replace a tv producer who prefers showing other footage while the puck is being dropped.
Once the video session was over, the media was treated to a practice and instruction session that was run by assistant coaches Bob Woods, Dean Evason, and Forsythe. It was truly a fun day out at Kettler.
Now back to the Caps and their defensive zone play. On a very recent trip to the Great White North, I spoke with an NHL scout who was adamant that the way to win the Stanley Cup was via solid team defense and goaltending. He opined that a team must have a goalie that can flat out win a game for a team when needed in the post season, as Tim Thomas did for the Bruins on several occassions this past spring. The list of those type of netminders includes mulitple Stanley Cup winners Ken Dryden, Billy Smith, Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy, and Martin Brodeur. Having witnessed every Capitals season since their inception and many painful post seasons, it is hard to disagree with the scout. Washington’s biggest problem in the post season over the years has primarily been goaltending. In 1998 the Caps received the best netminding they’ve ever had as Olie Kolzig basically carried Washington into the Stanley Cup Finals. Looking back on very recent history, the best example of a Capitals goalie stealing a game or two was Semyon Varlamov’s play in the opening two contests of the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins series. If you go back and look at the quotes from the Pens you will see that many of them talked about how good Varly was playing. That was one of the reasons I was hoping that Varlamov would remain a Capital but his agent sealed that fate with some crazy negotiating and now that ship has sailed. So the question now becomes is Tomas Vokoun the guy that can take the Capitals to unchartered waters in the post season? That’s not to say that Michal Neuvirth can’t be that guy, after all he’s won two AHL titles, but #30 was unable to steal a game for Washington against Tampa this past spring when the Caps needed that desperately to change the momentum in a tight series. Clearly we can’t hang the series sweep primarily on Neuvirth, team defense was horrendous at times and all you have to do is go back and watch the Jeff Schultz giveaway in game one that led to Steve Downie’s tying goal or Eric Fehr’s disastrous clearing attempt in game three with the Caps up 3-2 in period three.
Here are some other Caps Odds and Ends:
- It was revealed by The Washington Post that John Erskine underwent shoulder surgery this offseason and he may not be ready for the regular season meaning the top six healthy defensemen are Mike Green, Dennis Wideman, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Roman Hamrlik, and Schultz.
- In that Varlamov trade, the Caps received Colorado’s first round selection in the 2012 NHL entry draft (they also received a 2nd round pick). When speaking with an NHL scout who is focused on the amateur side of the business, he mentioned that next year’s draft class was very good. He also felt that Colorado could very well struggle in 2011-12. So GM George McPhee and company could end up with a top five pick in a strong draft year!
- Capitals rookie camp opens on Sunday, September 11th at Kettler IcePlex with a rookie game in Philadelphia against the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, September 15th at 5 pm. The veterans will officially hit the ice on Saturday, September 17th at Kettler IcePlex.
- Single game Capitals regular season tickets are now available via washingtoncaps.com
- Tickets are still available for the Capitals pre-season opener in Baltimore at the First Mariner Arena on September 20th against Nashville. Go to washingtoncaps.com for purchasing info.
- Finally, my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in and connected with the tragic plane crash in Russia on Wednesday. God Bless.
Posted on 06 September 2011 by WNST Staff
With the offseason being a locked out blur, we lost one of our annual traditions in June when we couldn’t do our Ravens Rookies live show with Miller Lite but we’ll be changing that tonight as we’ll host a number of the purple youth to the Greene Turtle in Owings Mills for a special 7 p.m. live show on Ustream and WNST.net.
We invite a myriad of young players and we have commitments from Torrey Smith, Jah Reid, Tandon Doss, Pernell McPhee, Chykie Brown, Anthony Allen, Tyrod Taylor and LaQuan Williams. There’s also a chance a few veterans will join us including Sergio Kindle, who was the star of the June 2010 show we did at Casey’s.
It’s always good to kick the season off with a full house and we hope you’ll join us at the Green Turtle in Owings Mills tonight for some Miller Lite, great food and purple cheer as “Pittsburgh (Still) Sucks” week gets underway in Baltimore.
Come and meet the future of the Ravens and enjoy some community cheer with WNST and fellow Baltimore sports fans.
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.
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!
Posted on 03 August 2011 by WNST Staff
As first reported by The Los Angeles Times, former Baltimore Colts defensive end and tackle Bubba Smith was found dead in Los Angeles today at the age of 66.
The Times reported: “The L.A. County coroner’s office said it has not determined a cause of death, but officials believe he died of natural causes. Smith was found at his home on Sunlight Place in Baldwin Hills by a caretaker, police said.”
His myriad of work — on the field and off the field, from starring roles in the Police Academy films to his famous words about Super Bowl III as a member of the losing Baltimore Colts — will all be examined at length all day on Thursday at WNST.net.
Whether you knew him as Bubba Smith the defensive monster or Hightower in the police uniform or the pitchman for a bunch of local downtown Baltimore lawyers, everyone has a memory of No. 78.
If you have a Bubba Smith memory, feel free to post below.