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Unleash the fury…Harry Kalas and other “non-radio” tidbits

Posted on 29 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

First, I hope Ray Bachman has fun doing the show from 2 til 6 today. (He won’t admit it, but he really loves talking sports and doing the show. And he loves when I’m not there.)

I’m having a “business/strategy” day of respite and I’ve been catching up on sports since 11 p.m. last night when Bruce Springsteen walked off the stage at the Spectrum. (Set list here…)

I watched the Washington Caps win Game 7 on the DVR but only after someone in my life who will remain “unnamed” wrecked my evening by texting me the result while Springsteen was in the middle of singing “She’s The One.” (MAKE A NOTE OF THIS: DO NOT EVER TEXT YOUR FRIENDS A SCORE!!!! A simple, “Hey dude…do you want to know who’s winning?” would suffice. And, honestly, with the score of any game in the universe a click away on my phone why would I want you to wreck my midnight viewing by texting me the result. It’s just unacceptable!)

But, I digress…

Alas, I did watch the game in its entirety this morning (and it’s NOTHING like not knowing the result) and the Capitals are as lucky to be headed to the second round as the Ravens were to escape Nashville three months ago. That third period was amazing and the vibe at the phonebooth looked electric. I missed a pretty special evening, but these are the decisions and memories you create.

(Gotta admit, when Springsteen played “Fire” by request last night and was rocking “Land of Hope and Dreams” I wasn’t thinking about the Caps. And I had no idea someone would send me a random “Caps win” text.)

There’s nothing better in professional sports than Game 7 of a Stanley Cup series. Last night’s win was a memorable evening. These are the games the Caps have consistently lost for a whole generation.

As for the sport itself, I even got a few emails this morning from former “doubters” who watched last night’s game and are more “believers” than they were 24 hours ago. Hockey kinda does that to you.

I saw Brent Harris at Ravens Camp on Sunday. His beard is scraggly. The Comcast Sportsnet/Caps promotion for the beardathon is great. I wish I had participated in someway but I look beyond crappy with a beard. (Insert joke here…)

I’m monitoring the Orioles today as well. Mora comes back, gets three hits and Adam Eaton looked, well, like Adam Eaton and his 7.17 ERA. Let’s see how Koji Uehara does against the Halos.


One other note, my pal who is a Philadelphia sports fan dropped this one on me this morning:

Here’s his running commentary:

“The biggest mistake the Orioles ever made was getting rid of Jon Miller. What I’ve realized through this whole Harry Kalas thing is how badly they messed that up. Baltimore had its Harry Kalas and Angelos chased him off.

“The players all come and go. Harry Kalas is something that can’t be replaced by Mike Schmidt or Steve Carlton. He’ll live longer than Dutch Daulton or Lenny Dykstra or Curt Schilling. They’re all gone. Harry was eternal. I’ve got Harry Kalas on my ipod, man!

“Jon Miller should have been the Orioles announcer until he chose to die in the broadcast booth. Those days are done. Miller is the last of those radio guys.

(My pal didn’t mention Chuck Thompson, but I will…and Eckman and Steadman and all of those guys who Baltimore loved with their Orioles and Colts and Bullets and Clippers and horse racing and crab cakes.)

“No one listens to baseball anymore on the radio anymore. Kalas was only doing one inning a night on radio. He’d do the first three innings of TV, only fourth inning on radio and then the 8th and 9th on TV. Kalas was bigger than the radio or the TV. He was eternal.

“That’s the biggest mistake. No matter what happens to Nick Markakis or what he ever does, Jon Miller would’ve been there before him and after him.

“When you’ve got him, you’re guaranteed to have an ambassador for your team.”

Amen, Philly friend. Amen.

Clearly, Peter Angelos didn’t see it that way. And his vote was the only one that counted.

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Adam Eaton pitches a gem, Birds beat Pale Hose 6-0

Posted on 23 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Well, just when you think you’ve seen it all, right? Tonight Adam Eaton, the former O’s No. 5 starter, went 7 1/3 innings and held even his harshest skeptics spellbound with a dazzling 6-hit, 9-strikeout effort while surrendering just two runs upon his exit in the EIGHTH inning.

Lo and behold, the Orioles have won yet another series, beating the White Sox 6-2 tonight at Camden Yards. Everyone got into the act with some offense. Aubrey Huff, Ty Wigginton and even Felix Pie contributed two hits and Adam Jones, Nick Markakis Luke Scott and Cesar Izturis also got hits.

I think Buck Martinez did himself proud with this profound statement: “I like pitchers but I’m happy to have seen only three of them tonight!” Amen, Buck!

The game was a brisk 2:31 affair. Good pitching. Good hitting. Hasty baseball. There were only about 6,000 there but they were treated to an old-school Orioles effort tonight.

Adam Eaton showed some heart tonight. The offense battled early, stranding runners all over the place. But they proved tough. Next up: Koji Uehara and the Rangers and the Saturday “doubleheader” with purple caps.

Bring on the summer weather!

9:15 p.m. — Adam Eaton just walked off the hill to a standing ovation from about 6,000 faithful at Camden Yards tonight. I’ve been watching in amazement as he looks like Steve Stone in his prime to me. Maybe the Steve Stone appearance on WNST yesterday made me think about his greatness during the 1980 season.

His line against the Chicago White Sox is a gem by any standard: 7 1/3 IP, 6H, 0R, oW, 9 strikeouts.

WOW. I’ve been speechless most of the night. Who knew? Late maturity? A one-night wonder? The beginning of a trend?

Of course, at 102 pitches, Dave Trembley just came to get him and he’ll rest up to go again next week.

It’s 6-0 Birds up in the 8th. Jim Johnson is trying to get the White Sox back into the game with the bases loaded.

The crowd tonight looks so light on TV that they’re having trouble finding packs of people standing together to shoot. I’ve honestly never seen it more empty than the last two nights.

I hope the Ravens giving tickets away actually gets some people to walk in on Saturday night. And the weather is supposed to be crazy good!

Jim Thome has just knocked in two runs. So much for the shutout…

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Orlando Pace coming to Baltimore?

Posted on 18 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Ozzie Newsome continues to recruit, court and host more veteran NFL players. The next two days figure to be busy as word leaked late tonight that veteran St. Louis Rams tackle Orlando Pace is scheduled to come to Baltimore, according to NBCSports.com. In addition, the Ravens have also cut Samari Rolle and signed Chris Carr.

On Thursday, the Ravens will hold a press conference with Ray Lewis, Steve Bisciotti, John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome officially re-welcoming No. 52 back to the only home he’s ever known in Owings Mills. The line of questioning and what the press conference indicates will be of great interest to many Ravens fans who saw Lewis’ negotiating tactics as an embarrassment to his legendary status here in Baltimore. All the talk of the Jets and Cowboys will no doubt be revisited, even if the event does figure to have a “time limit” on it due to it being held during halftime of the Maryland Terps’ first-round game against California in Kansas City.

But Ozzie Newsome, just as he said a few weeks ago, clearly isn’t done with the free agency period.

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Steve Bisciotti’s Thursday dilemma: Ray or Gary?

Posted on 16 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I sorta knew that Bob Haynie’s “schlep rock” (or whatever the hell he calls it) would be at work on the Maryland Terps this weekend when the Baltimore Ravens called a 4 p.m. Thursday press conference in Owings Mills to march Ray Lewis out to the local firing squad for questions about loyalty, community, commitment, Hall of Fame inevitability and his future plans as a “Baltimorean” among other inquires. But now word broke around 11 p.m. last night that the Maryland Terps will be in the second half of their game against the California Golden Bears in Kansas City at that hour on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

So, that begs the question, where will Steve Bisciotti be at 4 p.m. on Thursday? Hmmmm…

Bisciotti broke his long silence on the Gary Williams/friendship/support/vote of confidence front last week, getting front page love in The Sun with “I love Gary” quotes and basically stating that the reason he’s a Maryland financial backer during these tough economic times is because Gary Williams is the coach.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I gotta think Bisciotti’s never, ever missed a March Madness postseason game? He’s the biggest Terp fan of them all. He IS Hell in a Shell!!!

So, what’s gonna happen here? Something’s gotta give, right?

Prediction: Someone over in Owings Mills (Kevin Byrne?) is gonna have to pick up the phone and get with Ray Lewis and “re-sort out” this press conference on Thursday to accommodate scheduling for local hoops mania. There’s no way the Ravens can do this thing in the middle of the Terps game.

And besides, the press conference won’t have the same impact without Bisciotti. And Bisciotti must be in Kansas City (at least that’s what I think…)

What do you think?

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Stover says he’s gone…so who gets the job?

Posted on 05 March 2009 by Drew Forrester

With Matt Stover telling the world tonight that the Ravens have given him the boot (OK, sorry, just to had get that in there), the biggest question now is…

Is it a mistake to let Stover go?

My answer:  I have no idea if it’s a good move until I see who they bring in to replace him.

A slew of free-agent kickers are available.  Some are of decent quality, some are not. 

I wrote about the kicking issue five days ago at WNST.net…you can check out the stats of a couple who are still free agents.

Two names in that blog are no longer available.  Mike Nugent signed with Tampa Bay on Wednesday and Jay Feely re-signed with the New York Jets on Thursday.  With Nugent moving to Tampa Bay, it would appear Matt Bryant is out of job.  Here are his numbers.

Matt Stover hinted on Thursday that the Jets were a possible destination for him now that the Ravens have sent him on his way.  I assume that was BEFORE the Jets brought Feely back into the fold.  With Feely returning, Stover doesn’t have an option to join Rex Ryan at the Meadowlands.

Stover can still kick – successfully – in the NFL.  If Hall of Fame voters took kicking seriously, as they should, #3 would be in Canton someday.  He’s been that good.

I talked to a Ravens official yesterday and he said the team’s biggest concern with Stover has more to do with the team’s need for two kickers than a general concern about Matt’s actual place-kicking production.  

“The coaching staff would have to battle every game to decide whether to put (Steve) Hauschka on the game-day roster or another special teams guy,” said the staffer.  “You would rather not deal with that issue in a perfect world.  Dressing two kickers is a luxury and those roster spots are precious on game-day.”

The Ravens perfect world no longer includes Matt Stover.

So, back to the original question we go.

Who’s the new kicker?

Shaun Suisham?  Not as consistent as Stover.  

John Carney?  He (44) is OLDER than Stover (41). 

Martin Gramatica?  He’s only attempted 24 kicks in the last 4 years.  Injury prone.

Or, do the Ravens just hand the job over to Hauschka and say, “Keep making kicks, kid, and you’ll have a job here.”   That’s a fairly risky proposition, particularly when one game, one win or one missed 44 yarder can cost you a trip to the post-season.  Sure, you have to give a young player his trial at some point, but field goal kicking is some high-wire stuff.  Better be able to handle the pressure.

Kicking being what it is, it’s easy to determine if a guy is a “good replacement” or a bad one.

Does he make kicks?  Does he win a game from 42-yards out with 4 seconds to play?  Does he kick the ball deep enough on kick-offs and help your team with field position?

If he does, he’s employable.

If he doesn’t, he’s not.

Stover was always reliable and that’s why he spent 17 years in the league.  

Let’s hope the next guy is reliable too.

If he isn’t, it was a bad move to boot Matt Stover right now.

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Strange daze for Ray Lewis and the Ravens

Posted on 28 February 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ve had the rare good fortune that most of you haven’t had over the past six weeks. Sometimes it kinda gets lost on me that as a media member for 25 years here in Baltimore, I get to do what every PSL owner and fan would love to do: actually sit with Steve Bisciotti and Ray Lewis and ask them questions.

In one eight day span last month, I got to sit with Bisciotti in Owings Mills (on video here) and with Ray Lewis in Tampa (one of four videos here) and ask them the exact same question: “Do you think this contract thing could get awkward for you?”

Both of them sort of skirted the question. You can see their exact answers for yourself with a click so there’s no need for me to transcribe here. The bottom line is this: I think six weeks later it’s a pretty fair question and I give myself bonus journalism points for asking the question of both men. I really don’t know if anyone had mentally taken the “free agency” train into the reality of yesterday’s situation and lo and behold, yesterday, the day of reckoning arrived and it wasn’t pretty and still stands to potentially get uglier.

It is the strangest of strange days for the organization, for Ray Lewis and most certainly for the fans who just want to know what’s going on. From WNST.net to AM 1570 to all of our Facebook accounts, Baltimore was abuzz with “Raymania” all day Friday.

Is he staying? Is he going? Will it be the Cowboys? Or the Broncos? Or the Jets? Or some darkhorse team we didn’t know was in the mix? Plenty of other players were on private lear jets and commercial flights and the NFL free agency media web mania began in earnest just after midnight. Hell, I got a text message from Peter King about Bart Scott at 2:15 AM! (No, I’m not kidding!) For the record, Peter King gave me the Namath guarantee at 8:15 a.m. this morning that Bart Scott would be a New York Jet by the end of the day. (I have no idea when the man sleeps but I love him!)

But as Jason Brown was running off to sign a $37.5 million deal with the lowly St. Louis Rams (so long JB…we’ll miss ya, man!) and Bart Scott was trying on a green cap and bringing Hot Sauce to the Big Apple, Ray Lewis was sitting at home in Florida trying to do damage control. And as we all know, public relations isn’t No. 52’s strong suit.

Let’s count the stories, tales and tacky details of this messy – and yes ‘AWKWARD’ – negotiation.

It started right after the Steelers beat the Ravens in Pittsburgh. Ray Lewis ducked the media and all questions about his future. Fair enough. Ten days later he sat on our set at Radio Row in Tampa for 15 minutes (his first interview with me since 1999) and talked a LOT about God deciding his fate. He told Anita Marks even less than that and she asked softballs as usual so nothing came from that “public appearance.”

About five days later in preparation for the Pro Bowl, he was canoodling with Jamie Dukes in a “shoot” interview on the sands of Hawaii. He openly and happily broached the possibilities of becoming a New York Jet and/or a Dallas Cowboy. Fans here in Baltimore bristled more than a little. Word is strong that Steve Bisciotti bristled as well (I have no confirmation on that one, just the same rumors you’ve heard!) He decided to pass on an in-game field interview with Andrea Kramer of NBC during the Pro Bowl, eliminating the possibility of putting his foot in his mouth.

And so for nearly a month, we’ve fielded call after call, read words upon words about what the outcome of “Ray-Gate” would be in 2009. Would No. 52 be a “Raven for life” or would he take the autumn of his Hall of Fame career elsewhere for a larger payday?

Many observations exist:

Ray has closed his Canton BBQ restaurant and is ready to move on…

Ray is perturbed that the Ravens have only offered him $12 million in guaranteed money…

Ray told Demarcus Ware he wants to be a Dallas Cowboy…

Ray (heart) Rex Ryan…

Blah, blah, blah. It was all “talk is cheap” kinda stuff in anticipation of Black Friday, the day Ray Lewis would head for greener pastures (and maybe not even the Jets?)

And when yesterday finally came, when the time came for the owners to open their pocketbooks via their GM’s and personnel folks and everyone from Albert Haynesworth to Bart Scott to Jason Brown to Ryan Fitzpatrick was jetting off somewhere to have a press conference and some free appetizers, future Hall of Famer and Baltimore legend Ray Lewis was sitting at home in Florida waiting for the phone call from the second wife that never came. Like Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn in the greenroom in New York on the third Saturday of April, he paced the cage waiting for someone other than Ozzie Newsome to show up with a Brink’s truck.

And, worst of all, NFL.com’s very respected Adam Schefter reported a source close to Ray Lewis (clearly believed to be Rod Woodson or Deion Sanders, since they are co-workers of Schefter and co-friends on No. 52’s speed dial) as saying Ray was “done” with the Ravens and offended beyond repair. That report surfaced around 9 a.m. By 4 p.m. and with seven solid hours of silence and a major disturbance from the fan base here in Baltimore, apparently Lewis had heard enough and called Woodson in Los Angeles to retract, run away from or disassociate himself with anything regarding purple potty talk and Jerry Jones. Of course, we’d love to know who or what entity is giving Ray Lewis this “advice” on public relations and skilled negotiation since his real agent David Dunn is in the NFL’s pokey for being a lousy agent.

Which brings us to today, Day Two of free agency: what does this mean for Ray Lewis and Ravens?

Well, if Ozzie Newsome were being honest – really honest – he’d probably tell you that he would’ve predicted this all along. That Ray Lewis would be sitting by the phone and it wouldn’t be ringing because his offer was always going to be the best offer. He’d probably come completely clean and say in his Southern drawl, “I had it all sized up from the beginning. I gave him what he’s worth, maybe even more than he’s worth to any other team. He’ll be a Raven because we want him the most and we’ll pay him the most. But he might have to sit at home by the phone and find that out on his own.”

I had several league insiders tell me that Ray Lewis was going to get his feelings hurt yesterday and they were right.

Of course, Newsome will never say that. But I will. Newsome has said publicly that it would only take one team, one major offer to Ray Lewis to change the game and the course. It was never even intimated that Newsome would move off of his “number” for Ray Lewis. You know the Newsome credo: right player, right price. And everyone from Steve Bisciotti down said that the owner would stay out of this negotiation.

The Ravens are reportedly offering Ray Lewis – a 34-year old aging superstar on a team that was four minutes away from the Super Bowl – about $17 million in guaranteed fresh money for the autumn of his career and some sort of “implied” final contract to make him a “Raven for life.” He’ll be lauded and feted into perpetuity here in Baltimore as a legend. Bob Haynie, Drew Forrester and I had the debate last week at Sullivan’s Steakhouse about whether No. 52 is on the Baltimore “Mount Rushmore.”

Now, the question remains: Will he take the Ravens deal?

Or are his feelings really hurt? Did he really want the Cowboys to call? Was all of this about getting leverage to push the negotiation with the Ravens, who’ve never wavered from the fact that they want Ray Lewis forever? Or was his “mystery” NFL Network friend telling the truth, that Ray Lewis is less than thrilled about continuing his career in Baltimore?

Who knows if we’ll ever know?

But you have to believe that we’re now past the point where his phone will be ringing with a higher offer later in the weekend from Jerry Jones or Pat Bowlen. If a team was serious about Ray Lewis, wouldn’t they have called already? And wouldn’t he be gone already?

We know one thing: Daniel Snyder didn’t want him to be a Redskin!

Strange daze indeed.

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Has Ray Lewis vs. Ravens turned ugly already this morning?

Posted on 27 February 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Adam Schefter of NFL.com just posted a bombshell on the Ravens and Ray Lewis on the league’s official website. Schefter, quoting ties close to Lewis, says that Lewis is miffed beyond repair at the offer from the Ravens and the negotiating and that Lewis will not be coming back to Baltimore. Essentially, Schefter says that Ray Lewis will sign anywhere BUT Baltimore. Or potentially retire (which we find VERY hard to believe).

I’ve been saying for years – YES, YEARS – that when it was time to end his playing days in Baltimore that I would be shocked if it ended with peace, harmony and that long-awaited “statue” of Ray Lewis wearing his No. 52 at M&T Bank Stadium. It’s fairy tale stuff and gives us the warm fuzzies but it’s always been a longshot given the economic climate for a 34-year old linebacker whose legend will now outweigh his future contributions.

My views are well founded and well researched after 13 years of following Lewis’ career here and his business dealings. Ray’s play on the field has been superhuman. His “off the field” decisions have always been a bit suspect and flawed. I have simply called Ray Lewis “mercurial.” Just the fact that this story has been written from “inside the league” shows how emotional this is becoming.

The fact that free agency has begun and that Lewis is up for the highest bidder should be a clear indicator that he’s not loyal to Baltimore or the Ravens in any significant way. Perhaps Bisciotti has been naïve in believing that it would never come to this.

But it has.

Ray Lewis is a free agent today. He can go anywhere he wants to go. The Ravens feel like they’ve been fair. We’re 11 hours into free agency and no one has truly topped their number — not yet, anyway. And word is coming from Camp 52 that Ray is quite unhappy with the treatment and offer he’s received from the Ravens. Is it posturing? Who knows?

Meanwhile, last night the Ravens leaked to their media partner that they’ve upped their guaranteed money to $17 million.

But the battle is public now and Ray’s “feelings” come from a very credible source, the very source employed by the league to report accurately on these matters.

Schefter’s views are there and a click away, but today’s topic will be quite heated at 2 p.m. when “Limited Access” brought to you by Royal Farms convenes.

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Ravens: “We’re reluctant to franchise Ray”

Posted on 21 January 2009 by Drew Forrester

The year-end press conference at Owings Mills today didn’t produce much real news.  There were questions about nearly every facet of the organization and most of those were summed up here in Nestor’s live blog from 1 Winning Drive.

The hot button topic with Owner Steve Bisciotti centered on the team’s desire to re-sign Ray Lewis and to what extent Bisciotti will be involved in those discussions.

“We want Ray to sign here and we’re confident he will, “Bisciotti said,  “But that’s ultimately up to Ozzie to work out in concert with Ray’s agent.”

Both Bisciotti and a Ravens official commented on the potential use of the “franchise tag” for Lewis if the team fails to sign him to a deal by late February.

“Again, that’s really Ozzie’s area, but I don’t see franchising Ray as our best solution,” Bisciotti remarked.

A Ravens staffer told me later: “We’d be reluctant to franchise Ray simply due to the fact that we’re not looking to have a yearly negotiating session with him.  Ozzie and his agent will strike a deal or they won’t. Putting the franchise tag on him only puts off it for another year and Ray’s not getting any younger.”

One veteran Ravens player told me on Monday that Ray spoke about “next year” with several of the players following Sunday’s loss to the Steelers.  “There wasn’t one moment where he said, ‘If I’m here next year’ or ‘if we’re all together again next year’ when he spoke after the game.  Everything was ‘this is what we need to do next season and here’s what we learned this year that we can carry over to next year’. Ray will be back. His heart lives in Baltimore.” 

Rumors continue to float around about the Dallas Cowboys having interest in Ray Lewis, but those stories are as wild as tales of the tooth fairy and Jack and the Beanstalk.  For starters, the Cowboys can not even talk with Lewis or his agent until March 1st.  And, if the league learned that Dallas officials have engaged in conversations with Lewis about 2009 and beyond, tampering charges would be filed and the verdict would be quick and decisive.  The Cowboys franchise would suffer greatly if they were found guilty of that kind of conduct.

Don’t believe for one minute that the Dallas Cowboys have talked to Ray Lewis about a $25 million contract/signing bonus, because they haven’t.

That’s not to say that Dallas might not make him an offer if Ray becomes a free agent in March.

But, for now, the only team permitted to negotiate with Ray Lewis is the Baltimore Ravens and they plan on doing everything they can to have him signed prior to the beginning of the March 1st free agency period.

Last summer, the Ravens proposed a new contract to Lewis that included a $12 million signing bonus and #52 politely declined.  His agent floated the $20 million figure out there and the Ravens politely declined.

I’m sure Ray’s price tag has gone up now that the Ravens have produced a 13-6 season and advanced to the AFC title game.  That’s the gamble Ozzie took when he offered a $12 million bonus last August.  

If it doesn’t get settled soon, things might not be so polite in March.

Ray Lewis will sign with the Ravens and finish his career in Baltimore.  But it’s going to cost the Ravens some serious money.

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What’s in a name?

Posted on 21 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Today is Day Two of being “back on the air” for me. Yesterday was a lot of fun and just prepping for a daily show brings back many memories of the 13 years where I did four hours a day every day with guests, calls, concepts, promotions and laughs. So far, I’m really enjoying the thoughts of being back on the radio for a while. And people have been super nice with a bunch of kind emails, well wishes and general happiness.

But with the new show comes a few questions, including what the name of the show should be. I literally never gave it any thought until I went back on the air and bristled at the thought of calling the show the “Sports Forum,” which was its name for all 13 years of its existence (except for the two years when I did “Nasty Nationwide”). It’s a new show, a new time and I’m 40 years old now, so anything “Nasty” is off limits at this point. I just want to be Nestor and do a show and have some fun interacting with people who grew up (or are who are currently growing up) loving Baltimore sports.

So, the suggestions have been rolling in on email. So far:


“Afternoon drive”

“No access” (so far, this is my favorite, a nod to Greg Bader and Peter Angelos who continue to pretend that Baltimore’s No. 1 online sports media entity don’t exist)

And of course, there are the emails telling me to get the hell back off the air and hire someone else. I am amused by these as well! All contributions are welcome!

If anyone has some suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comments here.

I’ll be back on the air at 2 p.m. ready to chat about this morning’s Steve Bisciotti/John Harbaugh “State of the Ravens” annual press conference, which happens at 11 a.m.

I’ll also be LIVE BLOGGING from the Owings Mills complex during the actual event.

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The joys of Nashville and a playoff weekend

Posted on 09 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

So this morning I’m pretty freaking excited. I’m packing my bags on a journey that might be one of those trips I remember for the rest of my life. A true playoff vibe, in a cool city that I always love to visit, Nashville – what’s not to love? If you’re not excited about the Ravens now then what are you waiting for? This is what it’s all about. One hundred and twenty minutes from the Super Bowl. A win brings either a trip to San Diego – America’s greatest city – or Pittsburgh, where the passion and tension of Ravens vs. Steelers for all the marbles would be a meeting of the century for any Baltimorean.

But as Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers once said, “There ain’t no tomorrow baby, there’s just right now!” And now is Nashville, home of beautiful Southern women, country music and a great hospitable environment for football.

I don’t like country music at all but there’s always been something intriguing about Nashville. I’ve had girlfriends in Nashville. I’ve done business in Nashville. And most significantly, I have many of my best friends in town, which is how I found Limelight and Graham Central Station (our party headquarters tonight and tomorrow) in the first place. I come in for Predators games all the time. Barry Trotz is one of my best friends in sports. And Jim Schwartz is someone who I’ve had many, many good times with as well. Schwartz has been calling into WNST every Friday faithfully for eight years. These are some of my favorite people in the world.

It’s another long weekend with the Ravens on the road, trying to do some good street wnsTV reporting, legitimate reporting and hang and mingle with fans and meet cool people who like the Ravens as much as I do and are crazy enough to take bad flights, long car rides, stay in cheap hotels, bad cabs, good restaurants and perhaps to even partake the in adult nightlife of The South, but more than anything else to have a little fun when all else in life sucks (as it has for most people over the last eight months).

Oh, and we’re gonna throw a little party tonight and again tomorrow and paint the town purple!

The Ravens have breathed life into our community this week and the community is rallying as only Baltimore can. Well, truly, as any good sports town with a passion can. I’m currently sitting on a plane full of Ravens fans, who are all anticipating one of the great weekends of their young lives in Nashville.

We got the buses off at 6 a.m. – and it was a complete sellout. We had 2 empty seats on three buses of 164 people and at one point we thought we were gonna have to strap people to the roof. (Feel free to fill in your joke here about me flying…but at some point we’re gonna have as many as 1,000 people showing up for a 7 p.m. tonight and someone should probably be at the WNST party to greet them. I’m expecting the buses to arrive in Nashville around 5 p.m. so it was kinda close if I didn’t fly. I actually LIKE long bus rides…I get a lot of work done on those! But tonight’s party was too significant and too big of an undertaking to not arrive early.)

Lots of people are asking me about Nashville and “what to do.” Obviously, I’m partial to the two parties we’re throwing but we’re also slated to hit the Predators-Blackhawks game tomorrow night downtown after the Ravens game. Drew Forrester wants to drink a beer with Barry Trotz so I arranged that. Like me, I think Drew really enjoys chatting with coaches.

I’ve been inundated with calls from Nashville media over the past 36 hours because of the McNair fiasco and they’ve all gone on the offensive with me, which kinda cracks me up because I’m probably the biggest Predators fan on the planet outside of Nashville. Hell, I’m probably the ONLY fan of the Predators outside of Nashville! I’ve recounted the story before, but I’ve known David Poile and Barry Trotz since I was a cub reporter for The Evening Sun in the late 1980’s. They are great men and they have built an amazing franchise in Nashville against all odds. Trotz is the ONLY COACH IN THE HISTORY OF THE FRANCHISE. Poile holds the same designation as the general manager. And they’ve always been competitive and have overachieved regularly. “I like it, I love it, I want some more of it. Don’t know what it is ‘bout the Predators scoring…”

And Trotz is an amazing man for many reasons — just one of the good dudes walking the planet.

As for Schwartz, my affection and love/hate with Schwartzie goes back to his days as a Ravens’ assistant to Marvin Lewis when I didn’t even know who he was and he was always omnipresent as a faithful WNST listener. If you knew Jim Schwartz you would’ve hired him instead of John Harbaugh as the Ravens coach. No one would’ve appreciated him more than you because he’s one of us. He’s a TRUE DIEHARD Baltimore sports fan, a guy who grew up loving the Orioles, Colts and Terps. And this crazy rivalry that has been berthed during his time in Tennessee must be a tad bit bittersweet even though he never admits it. I said it last year and I’ll say it again: If I owned the Ravens and was in the market for a coach after Brian Billick, I would’ve hired Jim Schwartz because he feels about Baltimore the way that Bill Cowher did about Pittsburgh because he was “one of the people.” And he’s a helluva coach and someone in the NFL will give him a head coaches job in the near future. Hopefully, it’ll be next week!

Almost enough babbling about Schwartz, but needless to say, he’s my guy 364 days of the year, but tomorrow he knows that I’m “all in” to see the Titans take a royal asskicking. And when the game is over – win or lose – I’ll see him on the field and wish him luck. (And no doubt, if the Titans win he’ll pick me up at the airport in Nashville at some point in the spring and lock me in his office and torture me with the game film the way he did in 2003. He also gave me a tour of their facility, which included an entire Hall of Fame worthy retrospective of the history of the Houston Oilers, who were my first love as a child.)

I love Nashville. I love seeing football in Nashville. I have amazing memories of fun times, strip clubs, country juke joints, great meals, great dates, great concerts and amazing hockey games in Nashville. And I’m hoping everyone who goes south to follow the Ravens – and I’m currently on an aircraft with 137 of them – has an awesome experience and great time on Broadway. As for tips? Well, I’d tell you about my favorite pancake place but I’d never get a seat on Sunday morning so I’ll keep that one to myself.

The videos and stories will be coming soon. Nashville and beautiful memories await…

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