Tag Archive | "tony"

Thirty years after Mayflower crime, I’ve pardoned Irsay and moved on from the hate

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Thirty years after Mayflower crime, I’ve pardoned Irsay and moved on from the hate

Posted on 28 March 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

(Originally published on March 28, 2011, I think this is appropriate for where my life stands with #JennStrong & #BmorePositive mojo. nja)

Twenty-seven 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.

Nestor and Mini Bob

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

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Chapter 12: A Dundalk guy becomes a San Diego dude

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Chapter 12: A Dundalk guy becomes a San Diego dude

Posted on 16 March 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

(Originally published as a prelude the “Free The Birds” walkout in Sept. 2006, this is Part 12 of a 19 Chapter Series on How baseball and the Orioles berthed WNST.net. We’re planning some civic action on Thursday, April 5th. We hope you’ll join us an participate.)

There’s nothing like the first time you do anything in life, and that goes without saying.

That 1993 World Series experience in the streets of Toronto was super cool and hard to compare with anything that would follow.

So I suppose I could bore you with war stories about my night in the Atlanta Braves clubhouse when Ryan Klesko soaked me with champagne in the celebration, or I could tell you how cold it was in Cleveland before Game 4 of the World Series in 1995.
I could tell you that I was in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium when Wade Boggs rode the white horse and the Yankees won their first championship in 18 years on that night in 1996.

In 1997 the hangover from the Tony Fernandez made me not want to go to the World Series, but I went to Cleveland for Games 3, 4 and 5. The Series went 7 games. I only went to the middle three games because the Ravens existed at that point and I had football duty on the weekends in October.

It was during this time in my life that I discovered that seeing a city win a World Series and being in the middle of it was always a lot of fun, even in New York. I also found out during the falls and ACLS of 1996 and 1997, coming to close to winning a World Series really sucks.

And it kinda makes you not even wanna go, or even watch, the World Series at all.

For you other purple folks, imagine how hard it would be to watch the Super Bowl this February in Miami if the Ravens lost the AFC Championship Game in Baltimore to the Steelers, 20-19, on a 56-yard field goal as time expires.

Would you really want to watch the Steelers play the Redskins two weeks later?

I didn’t think so.

The World Series thing would never really be the same for me after that Tony Fernandez homer off Armando Benitez.

Because when you feel your team can’t win, you don’t really want to play. Or even pay attention to baseball at all, really.

And for a lot of others around town, and now for me as well, October is 100 percent football season — not Oriole baseball playoff season.

And that’s really a shame, because one of the greatest sports days of this generation’s Baltimore sports fandom came because they both had clout on October 5, 1997.

That was a day to remember.

The Ravens were lining up to play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Memorial Stadium (they blew a huge halftime lead and lost as Kordell Stewart went nuts) and later in the day, the Orioles would clinch a berth in the ALCS by beating Randy Johnson and the Seattle Mariners, 3-1, behind ace Mike Mussina’s two-hitter less than four miles away at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This pic of me congratulating Alan Mills (and Jeffrey Hammonds) in the Camden Yards clubhouse.

Ten days later the Orioles lost Game 6 to the Tribe downtown, and they haven’t played in a meaningful game since.

These nine years have been long and hard on anyone who ever loved Brooks and Frank and Cal and Eddie.

We want to send a message on September 21st that we’ve had enough. That’s what The Rally is all about!

When a poor kid from Dundalk doesn’t even want to go the World Series on a press pass junket anymore, something’s very wrong.

My World Series memories are all very vivid and cool to me, but 1998 was definitely my favorite.

In 1998, I finally got tickets to a World Series I could get excited about and actually root FOR a team a instead of against one.

San Diego has always been a special place in my life. Since that first trip to California in 1985 with my family, I’ve been back more times than I can honestly count — maybe 50 times, I dunno. But enough that I never need a map!

My favorite relative of all time, my Aunt Jane (she was my Pop’s sister from Scranton, Pa.) lived there high on a hill overlooking San Diego State University and Interstate 8 off College Avenue. She was an over-the-top “Reagan Republican” and had passion about two things in life: “saving” America in that Rush Limbaugh kinda way and the San Diego Padres.

She also paid attention to the Chargers and went to games, she had a cool garden and a really cool white dove that lived in a cage in her kitchen, but the Padres were right up there. She, like my Pop, had been to Yankee Stadium. She, like my Pop, absolutely LOVED baseball.

She was so involved at one point that she joined the “Madres,” which was the local community

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Orioles today: There’s nothing wrong with giving Showalter more control

Posted on 11 October 2011 by Drew Forrester

There’s lots of chatter among the 1,534 people in Baltimore who still REALLY care about the Orioles and it mainly centers on whether or not giving Buck Showalter “additional power” is good for the long term health of the franchise.

I’ll intervene here and provide some clarity on the subject.

Answer:  YES, IT’S A GOOD THING TO HAVE SHOWALTER MORE INVOLVED.

One of the issues, evidently, is this notion that the manager shouldn’t “have a say” in player personnel matters.  There are folks who believe giving Showalter the opportunity to impart his wisdom and wishes is somehow going to block the Orioles from succeeding in the post-Andy MacPhail era.

Huh?

The team hasn’t succeeded with guys like Frank Wren, Syd Thrift, Jim Beattie, Mike Flanagan, Jim Duquette and MacPhail calling the shots.  We all know there were reasons why…but facts are facts.  None of those men steered the Orioles to greatness.

I say let Showalter play a role in the decision making.  Hell, last spring he all but begged MacPhail to part company with Felix Pie prior to the team coming north, but MacPhail insisted they gave the “5-tool talent” one more crack at making an impact with the orange and black.

Who was right on that player personnel decision?  Right.  Buck was.

Detractors will note that a manager of a major league team can’t possibly watch the minor league action and stay in touch with both camps.  Agreed.  Showalter isn’t going to do it all himself.  He’ll have help.  It might be Tony LaCava, it might be Scott Proefrock…point is, another pair of baseball eyes will be in place to work in tandem with Buck on the on-field product. Showalter isn’t chopped liver when it comes to helping put rosters together.  He was part of the team that helped build the Yankees of the mid 1990′s and the Diamondbacks (from scratch, remember) in the early part of the last decade.

He forgot more about baseball than anyone with a desk at The Warehouse knows about baseball, that’s for sure.

Is it somewhat unconventional to have the manager actively involved in the off-season daily happenings of the front office? Sure. Frankly, most managers just want to call the in-game stuff from April until September.  They’d rather NOT be in the kitchen preparing the food over the winter.

But that doesn’t mean Showalter’s increased authority with the Orioles is a bad thing.

I’m a dummy from Glen Burnie and I know what the Orioles need:  BETTER.  PLAYERS.

I didn’t say “JUST SPEND MORE MONEY” either, although it’s very safe to say that any formula for improvement in baseball MUST include spending significant money on players if you’re a bad team trying to get good.

I don’t know much, but I know this:  If you’re a bad team spending $65 million on players —  you’re not going to become a good team spending $65 million on players.

I’m not saying the Orioles have to spend $150 million to get better.  But spending $65 or $75 million (or even the $85 million they spent this year) isn’t going to get the job done in the AL East…not when you were a bad team to start with.

Now let’s be fair for a second — if Showalter has more authority on a day-to-day basis but the owner won’t allow him to spend freely on BETTER PLAYERS then Buck won’t be able to produce any off-season magic in Baltimore.  That’s a fact.  This is a case where size DOES matter — as in, size of the checkbook Buck carries around.

But getting BETTER PLAYERS is the key to the Orioles becoming more competitive.  And that means signing them, trading for them, drafting them and grooming them in the minor leagues.

Who better than Showalter to help bring in BETTER PLAYERS?

He is, after all, the guy saddled with the task of managing those 25 guys for 162 games.  Shouldn’t he have a say or two on who those 25 players are next season?

I think so.

And I don’t see it as that much of a hinderance to the man who comes in as the team’s replacement for Andy MacPhail, for the cards are on the table in front of him from the first time he interviews for the position.

Buck Showalter is going to be involved in player personnel decisions in Baltimore.  If that’s NOT something a guy like LaCava or Proefrock or anyone else considered for the GM position can deal with or handle, I would suggest they don’t apply for the GM position.

Most people who follow the Orioles will use the Showalter-as-de-facto-GM situation to beat up the club for “not doing it right”.

I’m not in that camp.

Buck Showalter knows baseball.

He knows baseball players.

Let him run around this winter and try to convince good players to come to Baltimore and help him rebuild the team.

Ask yourself this, based on what you’ve seen over the last four years:

Hindsight being what it is, would you rather have Showalter chasing players or would you rather have Andy MacPhail re-hiring Dave Trembley, signing Garrett Atkins, force-feeding Felix Pie on the manager, handing Justin Duchscherer’s bad arm a free $700,000 and giving Kevin Gregg the closer’s role over a cup of hot tea with his agent?

Right.

I agree.

Welcome aboard, Buck.  Go get ‘em.

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Maybe now Cleveland will leave Art Modell alone?

Posted on 09 July 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

I’m not an expert about much but Cleveland is something I know a lot about. As much as I like to have some fun with our cousins to the Midwest – it’s been a healthy rivalry ever since Art Modell stepped foot into Parking Lot D in Nov. 1995 – today a little piece of me is angry for them.

It’s true – anger is to Cleveland what fake breasts and sunshine are to California. People in Cleveland are perennially angry. They hate the Browns. They hate Art Modell. They hate losing. They hate whoever is the quarterback of the Browns. They hate that they haven’t won a championship.

They hate me.

And this morning, for the first time since Modell brought us the Ravens, they have a right to be burning 23 jerseys and “M-F-ing” Lebron James into perpetuity.

Sure, “King James” had the freedom to play wherever he wanted to play. Sure, Miami has prettier girls (although I always had a good time in Cleveland, wink, wink) and more sunshine and Chris Bosh and Dewayne Wade and Pat Riley.

But Cleveland held something intrinsic and legitimate that Lebron James sold away in one sentence last night, something that can’t be bought with a check from South Florida (even if it’s just with the tax money saved and put back into his deep, Ocean Drive pockets).

It’s called authenticity.

Lebron had it the way Cal Ripken had it and Tony Gwynn had it. The way Derek Jeter, despite being an outsider, will always have it in New York and Kobe Bryant will have it in Los Angeles, just like Magic Johnson before him.

But even more so, Lebron James was “one of them.” He was an Akron kid who never left home and created a basketball craze in Cleveland that you’d have to see to believe. There’s a whole city of commerce and bars and jerseys and enthusiasm in a forever depressed and decaying community.

It gave people in Cleveland the most precious commodity that sports provides and one this is sorely lacking in Baltimore regarding baseball: hope.

In my private times with Art Modell, it’s the one thing he always talked about that was essential for any fan of a sport or a franchise. If you have hope, you have something that gets people interested.

I don’t need to tell you that Cleveland has been the armpit of America for years and hope is a wonderful thing for depressed communities.

This is where I should tell you that I really love Cleveland. I’ve gone there religiously for almost 20 years and despite having some of the worst sports fan in country (only contested by Philadelphia, in real terms) I pull for Cleveland to at least not be a doormat.

Cleveland and Baltimore are a lot alike. And it wouldn’t take you a few hours there chatting with the people to see it and feel it.

In my humble opinion, “Cleveland rocks!” (Just don’t tell anybody I said that…)

Cleveland was spurned last night. And they’re angry. And they’re burning jerseys. And they should. Hell, it’s what I’d be doing if I gave my soul to Lebron James and the Cavaliers over the last five years.

For the same reasons we collectively booed Mark Teixeira last Opening Day at Camden Yards, the people of Cleveland will forever hold a special place in their hearts for the anger and outrage of what Lebron James has chosen to do.

Like any other self-interested mega-star who is treated like a “King,” Lebron James eschewed any civic responsibility and chose to abandon his community.

Tsk, tsk…

Most of you know, I used to be a pretty huge NBA fan. The last 10 years I’ve chosen to ignore it and it’s been a fine decade for me. I think the players come off as a bunch of collective douche bags, the games are awful to watch and I have zero interest in the personalities or the standings.

But, this isn’t about Lebron James or basketball or the NBA. This is about doing the right thing. The thing that’s bigger than you. The thing that REALLY makes you “special.”

Lebron James chose selfish. And any 25-year old is allowed that privilege.

But Cal Ripken didn’t run off to the Dodgers. And Tony Gwynn didn’t run off to the Mets.

And they will forever reap the rewards of their “sacrifice.”

Lebron James, the man, will forever be remembered for an absurd evening of a July “Lebronathon” on ESPN where he took every negative stereotype consistent with “Rod Tidwell-ish” behavior and displayed it on worldwide TV and chose THE WRONG PLACE!

There was no Jerry Maguire, no happy landing for this imbecile. Wait’ll that first Christmas Day when the Miami Heat come to Cleveland to play a lunch time game. Just wait…

There will be a price to pay for the rest of eternity for Lebron James, even if he wins seven rings and surpasses Michael Jordan — and only time will tell how that script will be written.

But last night was memorable – for all of the wrong reasons. The NBA jumped the shark for a lot of people last night with that display.

I know I’ll always cheer against him. The Miami Heat are interesting to me because they’ll be my least favorite team in my least favorite sport.

The ultimate price for Lebron James will be that he can never go home again.

Somewhere in Northern Baltimore County Art Modell has felt the weight lifted from him.

Lebron James will be the guy they burn in effigy in Cleveland for the next 20 years.

Maybe Lebron should give Art a call for some advice.

Last night, Cleveland – the city that hates — was given a fresh, new gaping wound that will probably never be healed unless the next Lebron James is on some playground in Parma Heights right now.

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At least one Harbaugh is a rock star…

Posted on 19 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

John Harbaugh is 5-4. His brother, former Ravens QB Jim Harbaugh, is 7-3 at Stanford and fresh off of knocking off USC and Pete Carroll last weekend. If you saw the game, you know that Harbaugh rubbed Carroll’s nose in the dirt when going for up a two-pointer while up 27 points in the 4th quarter.

I ran across a great story about Jim Harbaugh’s new-found rock star status in Palo Alto on www.sportsline.com written by Dennis Dodd. A great read!

I had a great time with Jim when he was with the Ravens in 1998. We did some radio shows together and he had a very quirky way about him, even then.

A funny guy, we once went to see Hootie and The Blowfish together with Tony Siragusa and Michael McCrary. I wrote about it in my book, Purple Reign. It was crazy night with a lot of twists and turns but I’ll never forget Harbaugh carrying a girl who was on crutches down a flight of steep stairs trying to help her.

He was really a good guy and he’s now the toast of the football world and the hottest coaching prospect in the business.

Good for him!

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Hey Baltimore: Where is the fight in you on this Art Modell issue?

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Hey Baltimore: Where is the fight in you on this Art Modell issue?

Posted on 12 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I am a little embarrassed to be from Baltimore these days. And it has nothing to do with the 30,000 Red Sox fans who invaded the Inner Harbor two weeks ago.

Look, no one loves the city or the sports teams or the “culture” of Baltimore more than me and I dare you to find someone who has displayed more civic pride over the last 25 years in the sports circle here than me and/or WNST.net.

But, honestly, I don’t know what that’s worth these days.

Every Facebook user and tweeter I can find within earshot all share the same opinion: DAMN, I’m glad it’s football season!

Hear, hear…

Yet the man who brought the team here, Art Modell, continues to be coldly left out of the Hall of Fame and no one here seems to be interested in picking up the torch and taking the slight a little more “seriously” or “personally” as a civic cause.

As a community, we were the city that fought desperately and embarrassingly through the loss of the Colts and the frequent use of our metropolis and tax payers by the NFL machine as a $20 hooker for more than a dozen years. The sham of the Paul Tagliabue era still stings. I remember the “museum” comments. I remember the Sundays without a team. I remember the disgusting expansion process. I remember the Saints-Dolphins game on 33rd Street. I remember the Charlotte and Jacksonville coronation.

I remember the desperation and the loss of hope like it was last night.

What these writers and disgruntled Cleveland Browns fans with an axe to grind — one that really isn’t based in true damage — are essentially saying is this: “We should all be embarrassed that the Baltimore Ravens even exist!”

And I find that unacceptable and an issue worth “fighting” for. And Art Modell’s Hall of Fame candidacy – or what’s left of it because it’s pretty clear he’s been blackballed and if there were any doubts before the reaction to Rod Woodson’s words there are none after the local reaction in Canton Saturday night – should be a MAJOR, MAJOR civic cause here.

The guy who brought the team here in the September of his life because Cleveland never took care of him deserves better treatment from all of the PSL owners and the people here in Baltimore who think the Ravens are pretty cool and pretty special.

I wonder if we can find 50,000 people who are willing to fight for Modell. Or even 50…

Steve Bisciotti once said to me: “You’re a cause guy!”

Well, yes I am, and I’ve started a Facebook page for Art Modell’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Feel free to join it and spread the word…

Here’s the direct address: http://www.facebook.com/search/?q=art+modell&init=quick#/group.php?gid=60824460336&ref=search&sid=1740947610.1010947778..1

It’ll be interesting to see how many people think that Cleveland and the NFL machine spitting on Modell is essentially spitting on Baltimore.

These Browns Backers are people with very short memories for facts and very long memories for acrimony and anger and bile.

As I said to the Cleveland blogger who wrote a typically-negative “Art doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame” piece after Woodson’s mention of Modell in his induction speech: the residual damage a decade later is ZERO! As a matter of fact, it’s been a GAIN not a loss.

It’s like being mad at your ex-wife after you’ve remarried and found a better life. They’ve gotten a better stadium, their name, their colors and their records. They got an ownership family with the Lerners that they allegedly were going to like more than the Modells. Other than a few 5-11 seasons 13 years ago, they’ve missed NOTHING and restored everything!

But again, we’re talking about Clevelanders. In general, my experience with their hospitality and intellect has been less than impressive.

And I’ve got a LOT of experience with Cleveland. I’ve been going to Cleveland for 25 years. I was in Cleveland Stadium on the 1986 day that John Elway drove 98 yards to send them home from the Super Bowl.

I’ve probably seen 75 sporting events in Cleveland over the years along with various concerts, events, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Flats – I’ve done it all.

And their fans stink!

The boo their team every single year that I’m there — win or lose. They hate virtually everything. And, let’s be honest, they haven’t won anything in my lifetime and their hometown hero, LeBron James, is about to drop all things Ohio like a habit and run to New York to try to win a championship elsewhere. (Imagine Cal Ripken pulling that in 1992?)

It’s kind of sad. It sucks to be a sports fan from Cleveland. Ask Drew Carey…

And the people in Cleveland have plenty to be angry about – including the crappy weather, economy and the current state of their football team – but to continue this petty grudge against Modell is almost silly and continues to further ingrain their shortcomings.

And for Tony Grossi or Peter King or anyone else in their camp to make a paper-thin argument that a man who owned the team for nearly 40 years and helped manage the league through prosperity that no other league in the history of the planet has ever seen is just downright small and petty. And to put Al Davis or Lamar Hunt or Ralph Wilson on a higher pedestal than Modell is a testament to the vindictive nature of this group of voters and their agenda.

The merger. The TV deals. Monday Night Football. A .600 winning percentage over the course of his ownership. Free agency. Revenue sharing. The salary cap. The rules. Modell voted in every meeting and was a leader in many areas, including moving his NFL team to the “AFL” after the merger and convincing the Colts and Steelers to come with him.

Oh, and there’s that little accomplishment that NEVER gets mentioned – the restoration and growth of Baltimore football in the shape of the Ravens, which this city is obsessed with 365 days a year. Oh, yeah, and the Super Bowl win as well…

Modell “rebirthed” the NFL in Baltimore and over the past 14 years I dare you find a more successful franchise at recruiting the community and feeding the fire with positive energy and great people in the organization from Ozzie Newsome straight on down.

Art Modell created Baltimore football as we know it.

Doesn’t that count for anything?

Well, it only does if we say it does.

Don’t expect anyone from Cleveland to lead the charge to get Modell into the Hall of Fame.

That has to come from Baltimore. That, quite frankly, has to come from you.

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Death of Eagles Jim Johnson is hitting Harbaugh hard tonight

Posted on 28 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I went to Westminster today and hung out for an hour. It’s always great to know that football season is here and the games, tailgates, travel and fun of the NFL campaign is upon us again. (Just to get geared up, I’ve been reading John Steadman’s book, “From Ravens To Colts.” God, I miss Steadman a lot!)

I even got to spend some quality time with Lenny Moore. Video is in the vault to the right…I’d embed it here but it’s not the appropriate place for it.

About 15 minutes ago my wife called me to tell me that Jim Johnson died. I just Tweeted it and I thought I’d throw a quick note together because I feel like I want to share my “link” to Jim Johnson.

And this is sure to get complicated.

But let me say that I actually pulled John Harbaugh up after practice today at 10:45 a.m. and specifically asked him about Jim Johnson. And Harbs said: “I’m not hearing anything good. I wish I could say I did.”

I didn’t know Jim Johnson. I never met him.

But, WOW, do I know a lot of people who do and people who really thought the world of him.

Let’s start with John Harbaugh. They worked together in Philadelphia for a decade before Harbaugh, the lowly special teams coach “passed” the 67-year old Johnson, who was once interviewed by the Arizona Cardinals for a job. Johnson’s claim to fame is being a blitz genius and a guy whose defense took the Eagles to multiple NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl in Jacksonville.

In addition, Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback of the mid-1990′s Ted Marchibroda Colts. Jim Johnson was the defensive coordinator there. Tony Siragusa played for Jim Johnson in Indianapolis as well.

Then there’s the Philadelphia Eagles and media folks in the city, guys like Brian Baldinger who just loved Jim Johnson and learned from him.

Last Friday, I went to breakfast with the Chief Marketing Officer of the Washington Capitals, a guy named Tim McDermott, who came on my show two weeks ago to promote the Sept. 21st Capitals Festival in D.C. to kickoff the season. An hour after I left him, his brother, Sean McDermott (who also worked with John Harbaugh with Andy Reid in Philadelphia), was named defensive coordinator of the Eagles.

These are all quality people who loved Jim Johnson immensely and respected his work and work ethic through an entire life as football coach and a teacher. If you don’t take anything else I say seriously, believe this: football coaches are my favorite people on the planet. I’ve met dozens and dozens of NFL coaches and some of them are my best friends “away from work.” I can’t say that I’ve met a handful that I haven’t liked and learned something from over the years.

I know I would’ve really liked Jim Johnson, too. I’m sorry I never got the chance.

He leaves behind a heckuva legacy and it’s a sad evening for many people in my life who knew Johnson and really loved him. His legacy is one of working with and being admired by many, many people.

Here’s a press release the Ravens just issued and a statement from Harbs:

JOHN HARBAUGH ON THE PASSING OF EAGLES’ DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR JIM JOHNSON

“I loved Jim Johnson. This is a sad day for so many people who were touched by this great man. Ingrid and I, the Harbaugh family, and the Ravens have Jim’s wife, Vicky, and the Johnson family in our thoughts and prayers. Jim was a tremendous teacher of football and life. He had a special ability to bring out the best in people while getting you to see the best in yourself. He saw potential and developed it. He made me believe I could coach at this level. In football, he was a pioneering and brilliant strategist, changing the way defense is played in the NFL. For me, he was a father-type mentor, and above all, a cherished friend. He belongs in the Hall of Fame. I will miss him so much.”

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

Posted on 24 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my hope: Brandon Pettigrew

Here’s my “prediction”: Rey Maualuga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks!

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Bad news for local skate and bike community: Dew Tour dusts Baltimore

Posted on 02 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I can’t say that I was a skateboarder or a biker as a kid (I left that to my friend Chip Cowan), but I did attend the Dew Tour’s 2007 stop here in Baltimore and got a chance to meet with fellow Dundalkian Bucky Lasek. But it’s not really about what I like (and I really didn’t understand much about the scoring or the rules but I did get to see the Tomato Kid, Shawn White from the Olympics, go wildly up and down the ramps on the southside of our football stadium). The sad news for locals who love the X Games and the bike and skate action sports: the Dew Tour will not be coming back to Baltimore this summer.

As someone who lives downtown and sees the daily plight of the downtown business community with how many millions of live bodies the Orioles have sucked out of downtown on summer nights, it was awesome seeing the drawing power of the Dew Tour. The Baltimore Sun said 52,000 people attended last year. And they came early, stayed late and hung around downtown. Trust me, it was a big boon to the city. And now it’s gone as the Tour as opted to move most of their events into arenas instead of stadium parking lots.

The setup and the lugging in of dirt, ramps, stages and temporary bleachers must’ve been a cost drain.

But it’s a big loss for the city and the young folks who live, eat and breathe Bucky Lasek and Tony Hawk.

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R.I.P. to The Baltimore Examiner and “So you wanna be a sports media star?”

Posted on 16 February 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Where have the old-time “voices in sports media” gone in our community? Who are the commentators who “matter?” Does ANYONE’s opinion on radio or TV or in the newspaper or on the web matter?  Did it ever? And where is the internet heading and what lies ahead for the next generation of sports media in Baltimore? These are all topics and questions on my mind as The Baltimore Examiner closed its doors on Valentine’s weekend. So stands the old white “masthead” lights over the harbor tonight — the light in the ‘r’ is ironically burned out on Pratt Street — and another dream has been vanquished for another “out of town” media entity whose management thought they would whisk into Baltimore, urinate on highly unpopular (yet unchallenged) bully of The Sun, which is such a corporate “lamb” these days that it’s in bankruptcy, and dominate the market with a concept and a primary medium whose time has clearly passed.

Today’s blog will not be about sports as much as it will be about local sports media and how it works in 2009. And how much of a “mess” it is these days to be involved in old world media. For those of you who have been wondering where I’ve been for the past four years as the C.E.O. of WNST, I’ve been busy trying to build a dream called WNST.net. I’ve loved sports and newspapers here in Baltimore for 40 years and I’ve examined the marketplace and the changes from the front lines over the past 17 years as an independent and authentic voice in a sea of corporate mediocrity in local sports journalism. Quite frankly, it’s the reason WNST and I can exist in a world full of formerly fully-funded media giants like CBS, Hearst, MASN, Tribune, Clear Channel, etc.

I might be stupid, but I’m not a dummy. In the old days, little WNST-AM and it’s 5,000 watts during daylight and 237 watts at night couldn’t keep up with the 50,000 watts WBAL was throwing out from Nova Scotia to Florida. Or the clarity and reach of the FM signal. And we certainly didn’t have a TV antenna to broadcast video anywhere outside of cable access. The best we could’ve done was a late-night show or a Sunday morning “roundtable” discussion ala Tom Davis. Or something along the lines of Wayne’s World over at Essex Community College. (I really wish we would’ve done that, by the way!) And we didn’t have a printing press – well, aside from the “Nasty Newsletter” every few months anyway – to distribute news and information and opinions to our AM listeners.

But, voila, via the internet we can distribute our honest and authentic brand of media — video, audio, news, text, blogs, pictures, contests and promotions — via this little website you’re reading right now. And, according to all of our indicators, you’ve been coming to WNST.net in a big way as our website has gotten more mature. (Wait’ll you see what’s coming in the next few months here!)

The loss of The Baltimore Examiner has given me reason to believe that we’ve now seen the last “newspaper” that will ever try to come to Baltimore and “beat The Sun.” And of course, what The Sun will become over the next decade remains to be seen. I have no axe to grind with the world of newspapers – I spent my entire childhood wanting to be involved with one and all of my adolescence living and working inside of The New American and The Sun, thriving on Calvert Street, living out my childhood dream running around with athletes and rock stars and cool writers like Rafael Alvarez, David Simon, Jacques Kelly and other throwbacks who were true “reporters” of the story of life in Baltimore. I dreamed of being Oscar Madison and Charley Eckman and John Steadman and Howard Cosell all rolled up into one. My Pop loved the newspaper and I loved the newspaper and I chased that dream the first 30 years of my life.

And when newspapers fail, a little piece of my life and my soul dies with them. All I ever wanted to be as a child was a newspaper reporter. (It was that or a baseball player and I wasn’t built for it and I would’ve had to have shot up with steroids and watch my gonads shrink, anyway, if I would’ve been good enough t be a big leaguer. I would have “arrived” in the prime of the “culture” of the juice and the needle and clear and the cream. I would’ve looked like Bret Boone for crying out loud!)

Inevitably, when a newspaper dies locally I have dear friends who lose their jobs like several did this weekend. My old boss and mentor Mike Marlow worked there. So did Anne Boone and Sean Welsh. And Michael Olesker and Gary Gately and Matt Palmer at one point. So, for all of them, I’m not the least bit cheerful. But I have a horror story to tell about my experience with The Examiner and how the world works in this environment of corporate media and “localization” of their homogenized “product” and their “branding initiatives.”

When the announcement came in early 2006 that The Examiner was coming to town I heard the buzz like everyone else. Someone was coming to Baltimore to try to compete with The Sun. Another big market daily newspaper was to emerge amidst a total recession and regression in the newspaper industry. Many advertisers and local ad agencies lined up to buy ANYTHING that “wasn’t The Sun.” Some feelings were hurt for sure. That was almost three years ago. Today, you can go to The Examiner’s website and see “final columns” from Frank Keegan, Bob Leffler and many others who worked hard to make The Examiner successful but failed in their mission to sustain a profitable local business. You can also see other ex-Sun’ers blogs like David Ettlin’s here, lamenting the loss of another major market voice in print. There are opinions ablaze all over the web. There’s a whole network of former newspaper workers who are all linked up on Facebook.

Because I believe in freedom of speech and disclosure, I want to tell the only story I honestly have about my dealings with The Baltimore Examiner. And I’ll give my honest assessment of its impact on my life as a reader, albeit I’m much more of an online consumer of media these days like anyone else under the age of 50 who has been exposed to Facebook and mobile devices.

Back to Spring 2006: The nice folks at The Examiner contacted me repeatedly all spring and summer about writing a sports column for them. I told them I had a “gig” being the C.E.O. of a growing media company that I own but I’d be interested in writing for the newspaper. I was taken to a series of happy hours and dinner, being wined and dined and being wooed by their top brass. I sat with the publisher. I sat with the editor. They talked about “loving” my “loose cannon” approach. I told them I would speak the truth, nothing more inflammatory or controversial than “the truth.” They told me all of that old rhetoric about “free speech” and “shoot from the hip” and “stir things up,” like some sort of halftime pep talk. It was like a “win one for The Gipper” speech. Again, I told them I’d write the truth — nothing more, nothing less.

They were offering me a deal I could’ve easily refused. They wanted me to write for their tabloid newspaper for free – as a “promotional” piece for my then-radio station, WNST-AM 1570. I’d write three columns a week. They’d get a free, professional and authentic Baltimore voice. Oh, and did I mention I OFFERED to do it FOR FREE! (Not that it was probably worth much more than that…but it also spoke volumes about their business plan and the payroll.)

They still wanted to negotiate ad rates on and around my columns and we finally agreed to a deal. We shook hands. I got some free print ads to promote WNST in exchange for my work. It was a fair deal for both of us. I have all of the emails with the contractual details. We agreed I’d write for the inaugural edition, which coincided with the first day of Ravens training camp. I vigorously promoted the fact that The Examiner would be featuring my daily column on WNST-AM 1570. We even did ads on the radio for it. I wrote about it on our crappy old website. As a kid growing up wanting to have a column in The Sun or The News American, it was still a thrill to be getting published in a major metropolitan newspaper as a sports columnist.

So, the day before the first publication I wrote a “drinking the purple Kool Aid” piece about the hope we all get on the first day of NFL camp. It was a very innocuous piece about the Ravens. Nothing particularly controversial at all, just the fan in me talking about how great the first weekend of August is for anyone who loves football.

A few weeks earlier, during the 4th of July weekend, I had started to write a column (then called “The Moon”) on WNST.net about Peter Angelos and the Orioles and why no one cares and why no one would do anything to protest the team’s shody treatment of the community. Alas, after a few thousand emails from angry ex-Orioles fans and ticket buyers, I was plotting a “Free The Birds” protest on Sept. 21, 2006. Word got to The Baltimore Examiner about my blog and instead of calling me and telling me the deal to be a columnist was “off,” they nixed my column at the 11th hour and my work never appeared in the paper. I got a phone call at 7 p.m. the night before the first edition. I was fired before I was hired and they made it clear that “free speech” and a true voice wasn’t welcomed at The Examiner.

They basically told me that I was “too controversial.” They said something about “free speech not being free.” So, after all of the promotion I did for their publication and my association with them (they paraded me around their “corporate kickoff” event at the Maryland Science Center and introduced me to all of their sponsors as their “lead sports writer”), I got kicked to the curb the night before their first editions hit the street. What could I possibly say at that point, after promoting The Examiner on the radio for three weeks and doing guest segments on WNST all day about my “columnist” status?

I just told the truth: The Examiner thought my stance against the Orioles and Peter Angelos would cost them money and they threw me out before I ever got in. They didn’t want to challenge Angelos. They wanted to take his money instead and “dummy up.” They thought I would use my column in their paper to rally troops and support for Free The Birds. I suppose they thought I was one of those dreaded “community organizers?”

Fair enough? No column for me in The Baltimore Examiner. Shoot, I wasn’t getting paid anyway and I still have my voice at WNST.net, I thought…

Then I saw the product. Honestly, the first few days that I picked it up it didn’t have Oriole game stories, box scores and didn’t have an iota of information that I didn’t already know (again, I stopped reading The Sun in “newspaper format” about six years ago…I only read sports information online). It became pretty clear to me that they weren’t committed to properly covering Baltimore sports anyway, and it’s one of the first wake-up calls I had that I needed to create a bigger and better WNST out on the web. After seeing it the first week, I was actually happy I wasn’t involved because it was clearly not a good situation. As you know, I later did a twice-weekly column for ‘b’ The Magazine (a Tribune/Sun offshoot) that no one ever read. I wrote 34 columns for ‘b’ between April and August of last year. Not ONCE did anyone ever walk up to me and mention anything they’d ever read. Not in four months!

Back to The Examiner: I can honestly tell you that I haven’t read The Examiner in at least two years and it rarely made it to the doorstep of WNST. Sometimes it was there, sometimes it wasn’t. No one ever called WNST to talk about an Examiner story, other than when their cool sports blogger Tony Giro (a legit Baltimore dude) had his Camden Yards upper deck ejection at a Red Sox game go public two summers ago and was told by The Examiner’s poobahs to cool it. Yo Tony! WNST needs you, man! (I’m a big Giro fan, by the way!)

Back to The Examiner and why it sucked for me: plain and simple, the news was old. At least a day old in the world of web, which to me is an eternity.

Like I said, I feel horribly for my friends who were employed there but that thing was doomed from the beginning. It was a newspaper in 2009 for crying out loud! It might as well be an “oldspaper” at this point in the game when a website like WNST.net is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week right in the palm of your hand for free. And our coverage is droves better and more accurate and legitimate, with live radio, the text service for instant news, the best audio vault, cool videos of what’s happening around town and new features coming every month (wait’ll you see the additions for wnsTV this spring!!!). Oh, and we’re essentially a NONSTOP daily newspaper online. You might even call it a “sports section on steroids.” But that might be politically incorrect, right?

Which brings me to my own story and how the death of one medium begets the strength of another.

I’m back on the air. I love blogging. I love making videos on wnsTV. I’m having fun but I’d much rather give another person a shot at doing it who is better than me here at WNST.net. For 17 years, many folks have called me, written me letters and even told me personally, “Hey Nasty…YOU SUCK!” And sometimes, I’ve even agreed with them. But, alas, here is YOUR chance to think about doing this “sports media” thing for a living.

Or as my wife said to me on Friday night when I started talking to her about this “work” stuff, she said: “So, you call doing THAT work? Talking about sports for four hours a day and writing about it on the web?”

Yeah, it’s kinda like work. But you be the judge? Put your words and your thoughts and your mouth where the microphone is and tell me why you’re the next big Baltimore sports media sensation. I’m openly encouraging anyone who thinks they can REALLY do this for a living to Twitter me. Get involved.

My Facebook page is there for the friending. If you think you can do four hours of radio a day, write a legit blog 7-10 times per week, find sponsors to help support your work and shoot some video and go to events and report on events and do community events, drop me a professional resume and a cover sheet to nasty@wnst.net. We’re already No. 1 so you’d be joining the winning team. And we’re looking for winners.

Honestly, I’m really and truly looking for someone who is better at this than me. Is that you?

More to come…

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