Thursday, November 19, 2015

Richard Lee Ranger (1923-2015)

I have been remarkably fortunate to reach my thirties with three living grandparents, especially when all of them were born before things like penicillin, television, and the Great Depression. And I have been even more fortunate to have them all be an integral part of my life for all of that time. Which I suppose is what makes it so difficult to, for the second time in a little over two months, lose one of them. My grandfather and namesake (one of them - I'm named after both grandfathers) lived a fairly remarkable life over ninety-two years.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Team Endless Sports

Many of you may be aware that after a two-and-a-half-year absence from coaching, I returned to the sidelines this spring, coaching ninth and tenth-grade boys for a non-profit organization called Team Endless Sports that is based in District Heights, Maryland (just southeast of DC on Pennsylvania Avenue). I had decided, way back in mid-February in the depths of winter,* that I wanted to coach again, and more specifically that I wanted to coach basketball, which I still believe I know the best of any sport. And (with absolutely no offense intended to the dozens and dozens of wonderful young women that I worked with at NCS and Holy Child) I wanted to return to coaching boys.

*Though it has just twenty-eight days, February really is the longest month, isn't it?

Monday, November 2, 2015


Ninety-nine percent of the time, this is what happens when we follow sports. This is what happens when we spend so much attention on a group of young and middle-aged men playing a funny, somewhat slow-paced game on roughly two and a half acres of quirkily shaped grass and dirt in what are basically pajamas. It doesn't even have to be baseball; it can be any sport. Every season ends sadly for twenty-nine of thirty teams, or thirty-one of thirty-two in football. But to get so close, to blow three leads with four, five, and three outs to go stings just a little bit more.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Hot Stove Outlook: Washington Nationals

Okay, Nationals fans, what conclusions can we draw from this season's massive disappointment? The Nats were supposed to win 100 (or more) games, but instead scuffled around at .500 and finished a distant second in the National League East. To add insult to injury, their last regularly scheduled home game featured a mid-season trade acquisition attempting to throttle their 22-year-old MVP. Lots of questions surround Washington this winter, especially after Washington Post reporter Barry Svrluga wrote a three-part expose on the season, culminating with an absolute torching of (now former) manager Matt Williams. Why don't we take a look at some of them?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

2015 MLB Awards

With the 2015 major league baseball season concluding this weekend, it is time to hand out some awards, including several categories invented for this express purpose. We will highlight surprises, disappointments, fielders, hitters, top rookies, and all of the usual awards except things like Manager of the Year, which I have no real use for. So strap yourselves in and prepare to read many, many words as we wait for playoff games to start next week. Let's start in the field, shall we?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Choke Job

The Washington Nationals' train wreck of a season came to a practical end on Saturday night when the Mets officially eliminated them from the playoffs with a 10-2 win in Cincinnati, but that apparently wasn't enough for them; on Sunday, in full view of a paid attendance of 28,661, recently acquired closer Jonathan Papelbon decided to pick a fight with presumptive National League MVP Bryce Harper* after a routine fly ball, grabbing Harper by the throat shortly after he returned to the dugout and slamming him into the wall before several players and coaches jumped in to separate them. The moment perfectly encapsulated what has gone wrong with this season for the Nationals, as both Joe Posnanski and Mark Zuckerman have explained.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Margaret Carnahan Keeler (1925-2015)

I write mostly about sports here in this space, and one of the primary virtues that we extol in all of our athletes, no matter what level, is toughness, specifically players who come through when they're hurt. Sandy Koufax pitching until his arm practically fell off. Kirk Gibson hitting one of the most famous home runs in World Series history on one leg, limping around the bases while pumping his fist. Ronnie Lott getting a fingertip amputated so he wouldn't miss any time. Willis Reed walking out of the tunnel with a torn thigh muscle and igniting the Garden in Game 7. These are all indelible moments in sports history. But toughness obviously doesn't just apply to sports, it applies to ordinary people who don't see their names in the paper or on the internet. And the toughest person I have ever known was my grandmother, Margaret "Peggy" Keeler.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Greatest Athlete I Ever Knew

The greatest athlete I ever knew was something of a diva. She was barely coachable. She would frequently pretend not to hear you and go off to do her own thing. She was incredibly fast and stronger than she looked, and she could run all day long without tiring (or swim, for that matter). She was smarter than many people gave her credit for. She was pretty and knew it, with her golden-brown hair and big ears. And she had a weakness for mushroom stems and belly rubs. The greatest athlete I ever knew was Mocha, our chocolate lab/"Chesapeake Bay" retriever.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Decay of the College Game

About three weeks ago, in my NCAA Tournament preview, I promised that I would write something about the malaise of college basketball as compared to the NBA. Several of my similarly basketball-crazy friends have more or less stopped watching college basketball because for them it isn't very entertaining anymore, and to that end they are right. But why is that? We are experiencing probably the deepest talent pool in NBA history, and yet the college game is full of rockfights in the fifties and low sixties. Most NBA players still come from the American college ranks, and even if they only stay a year or two, they should still theoretically be making the game better with their presence. Where have we gone wrong? (Although the recent tournament, which by and large was full of exciting, good basketball, provides some hope.)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

And Then There Were Four

After an exciting first day of the tournament that saw two three-seeds get upended early in the day, including many people's sleeper Final Four team in Iowa State (Baylor took a much less surprising pratfall), this year's NCAA tournament has gradually settled into a chalky affair (with the exception of the East regional, which lost its top two seeds) that in all likelihood will lead to the first undefeated season in almost forty years. And so the world turns. Some notes from the first two weekends:

Monday, March 16, 2015

March Madness 2015

The best time of the year is here! College basketball may be suffering from a few seasons of a much less interesting product and also from an incredibly entertaining NBA that is enjoying a heyday like they did in the eighties, but that's a topic for a later post (hopefully as part of a tournament wrap-up). Today, we're not here to nitpick the college game's many obvious flaws or their possible solutions; we're here to revel in the release yesterday of this year's 68-team bracket and spend the better part of the next two days poring over matchups or mascots (if that's your style) for the office pools that involve roughly $9 BILLION of people's money. Before we dive into the various regions, let's ask a few more general questions, starting with the most obvious.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Spring Training Preview: New York Mets

Being a Mets fan is rough. I've been suffering since I was almost six years old, when my dad's good friend from college, Rob Karin, took me with his daughters to what I recall as this game at Shea Stadium (I distinctly recall Gooden pitching and Strawberry hitting one of of multiple Mets home runs, and I'm pretty sure it was against the Dodgers). I had always liked baseball, but that was the moment that I became a rabid fan of any team. This became difficult growing up in Alaska, because the Mets were rarely good enough for national television in the nineties, which meant that I subsisted on rigorous reading of the daily box scores in the Anchorage Daily News (which I delivered for two years) and whatever games were televised against the Braves and Cubs on TBS and WGN. Since my conversion, the Mets have rewarded me with...three playoff appearances in twenty-six years? And those three appearances ended with Kenny Rogers walking in the series-winning run against the hated Braves, an excruciating World Series loss to the crosstown Yankees in which three of the five games were decided by one run (and the other two by two runs)*, and Carlos Beltran getting frozen by an Adam Wainwright curve over the middle of the plate in the exact situation that literally every baseball-loving child dreams about (Game Seven, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, full count)? Hold on while I pour myself a stiff drink.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Spring Training Preview: Washington Nationals

What a wild winter it has been in baseball! The great news is, pitchers and catchers are only a few days from reporting to spring training sites in Florida and Arizona, which of course is always something to look forward to during the dark, cold days of February. And while there has been a lot of moving and shaking going on, perhaps no team more boldly announced its intentions to gun for a World Series title in 2015 than the Washington Nationals with their mid-January acquisition of Max Scherzer in free agency.* That bombshell followed a relatively quiet off-season for the team that saw them make only one potentially puzzling move, a trade of premiere setup man and great clubhouse guy Tyler Clippard to Oakland for malcontent shortstop Yunel Escobar, who will in all likelihood be the second baseman this year. Let's run down what has happened so far and what might still come before the start of the season for the presumptive National League favorites in the nation's capital city.