In the end, the game comes down to one thing: man against man. May the best man win.
~ Sam Huff
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If boxing is on the ropes, you couldn’t prove it by the Washington, D.C. area. Legendary light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins is fighting Beibut Shumenov as part of a three-title fight Showtime boxing card at the D.C. Armory Saturday night.
Friday night there is live boxing at Rosecroft Raceway in a Keystone Boxing show featuring rising star and undefeated junior welterweight Mike Reed. Keystone Boxing does some of the best local boxing shows in the business.
The following Saturday, the flourishing amateur boxing in the area is on display when the Washington Regional Golden Gloves take place on April 26 at the Waldorf Jaycees Community Center in southern Maryland.
These fighters have to come from somewhere, and many of them come from local legendary gyms like Old School Boxing (where Buddy Harrison, at Rosecroft, runs a gym right out of central casting), and other locations, such as the Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing Center.
But gyms take on all different kinds of forms these days, and many have become hybrids – workout centers where average citizens can get in their kettle bell training alongside young kids fighting to be boxing prospects.
I found one right in my own Howard County backyard with Elite SFN in Columbia, Md, run by a former local fighter.
It’s a gym that promotes fitness for all, with different fitness classes and mixed martial arts training going on in the Red Branch Road gym. But there’s plenty of boxing as well, thanks to owner Kwame Ritter, 23, a former fighter.
“We started off small, but we’ve been expanding,” Ritter said. “We’ve doubled the size in the last six months.”
One of the programs he operates there is boxing for inner city kids from Baltimore. “I have a group from Baltimore to give kids a chance to get out of the city and come here to work out in Howard County,” Ritter said. “We talk about life and mentorship as well as teaching boxing.”
You can find good boxing and great gyms in all kinds of places in and around Washington, D.C. – as well as good fights like you’ll have this weekend.
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I’ve become a baseball owner – sort of, but not really. But I am part of the management of a baseball team, so it may be the closest I will ever get to owning a baseball team.
It’s an association I am very proud of. I am on the board of directors of the DC Grays, the Washington baseball team in the Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate Baseball League.
The DC Grays are as much about opportunities in life as they are about baseball. It’s a non-profit organization devoted to creating opportunities for inner-city youths and their families through baseball, by bringing in talented college ballplayers from around the country to play in a top-tier collegiate summer league and to conduct summer camps and clinics for inner city youths.
That calling is more valuable than ever today, because the opportunities that do exist in the game for inner city youths have dwindled, and in some cases, disappeared. Budget cuts and changing priorities have made places to play harder to find, and with it the people committed to teach the game. The DC Grays try to fill that void, by raising money to field a team of players from a variety of college baseball programs and then serve as mentors to inner city youths teaching them about baseball and “making the most of their opportunities.
This season, the Grays will help District youngsters in camps, and playing their home games, at the new Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, a $15 million complex that will open this spring.
This effort — a calling, if you will — relies on volunteers with a commitment to baseball and opportunities for youths in Washington, and raising money to continue the calling.
Baseball is part of the fabric of life in Washington, D.C., and it won’t go away, no matter how many times they try to kill it. Major League Baseball has come to town not once, but three different times, the latest incarnation being Montreal Expos franchise that relocated in 2005 and became the Washington Nationals.
When baseball returned in 2005, 34 years after the Senators left for Arlington, Texas — it came back to a different city — one where the game had not been grown among the city’s powerful and influential African-American population, a city where the game was foreign to inner city youth.
It took several men — Antonio Scott and Brad Burris, former baseball players at Howard University — devoted to grow the game again in the neighborhoods in this city, to build the D.C. Grays in 2006.
It was only right and appropriate to name the team the DC “Grays” — honoring the memory of the Homestead Grays, the great Negro League baseball team that played in Washington from 1939 to 1948 and featured such legendary baseball players as Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Cool Papa Bell.
When the Expos moved to Washington in 2005, one of the names that was a finalist for the relocated team was the “Grays.”
The “Nationals” was the name selected, and the DC “Grays” picked up the banner of those legendary Negro League teams.
The mission of the Grays was to create and develop a team that would become “ambassadors for baseball” in Washington. The main goal is to engage more inner-city youth and their families in the sport of baseball through the collegiate summer league team and the camps and clinics that spring from it.
The Grays played in the Clark Griffith League from 2006-2009. When the league folded in 2010, the Grays came back strong in the new Cal Ripken Collegiate Summer Baseball League, led by Washington lobbyist and former college baseball player Mike Barbera as team president, along with Antonio Scott and a new board of directors.
The Grays are a 501 c (3) not-for-profit organization — DC Grays Baseball. This calling to bringing baseball to inner city youths relies on donations from individuals and corporations, through sponsorships, gifts and partnerships.
Different levels of sponsorships will identify the commitment to the DC Grays, from advertisements in the game programs to in-game sponsor “Thank You” announcements, your logo on the homepage of the web site and free season passes and parking for all home games at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
I will be hosting a cigar fundraiser in the coming weeks at Shelly’s Back Room in the District to help raise money for the Grays. Details will follow shortly, and I hope you can be part of it.
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You can read about free agent signings and transactions and all the other news that comes out of Redskins Park from a variety of sources, including right here at ESPN 980 – on top of everything, with great analysis.
In this blog, I will feed that need for tradition, that thirst for history, the good feelings of the good old days, sometimes before many of you were born – good times, good memories.
I had the good fortune of interviewing dozens of former Redskins players from writing two books about this franchise. Here you can read those interviews verbatim as they were told to me – some of them from the most legendary players in NFL history.
I’m going to start off with the greatest Redskin of all time – some believe one of the greatest players in NFL history. Sammy Baugh played for Washington from the first year the team arrived in town from Boston in 1937 to 1952. He led the Redskins to two NFL championships – one in the inaugural 1937 season and again in 1942. He was a five-time All Star who was not only the best quarterback in football, but a top punter and defensive back. In 1943, Baugh led the league in passing, punting and, as a defender, pulling down interceptions.
Baugh died in 2008 at the age of 94. He recently would have celebrated his 100thbirthday. I had the honor of interviewing Baugh once, and here is that interview:
“The fans and Washington worked great that first year in 1937. We won the championship and I think there were about 10,000 people waiting for us when we got back to Washington. I never thought we have anything that big.
“In that 73-0 game (NFL title game vs. Bears, a 73-0 loss in 1940) where we got beat by the Bears, there was a lot of stuff in the newspaper that Mr. (George) Marshall (Redskins owner) put in there about Chicago. The Bears were mad at Marshall and we were too because he said some awful things about Chicago.
“I think (head coach) Ray Flaherty was one of the better coaches we had in Washington. Everyone respected him as a coach and I was hoping he would've stayed longer than he did. I think all the players respected him. Mr. Marshall was awfully tough on coaches. But he and I got along fine we never had a crossword that I could remember.
“We trained on the West Coast because we had a charity game we play there in Los Angeles that the newspaper put on. We would play against the Rams and then get on a train and make our way back to Washington.
“In 1947 we didn't have what I would call one of the better teams. But they had Sammy Baugh Day for me and the team decided that that day my pants weren’t going to get dirty. I wasn't going to get knocked around that day.
“That was the easiest game I ever had we played to Chicago Cardinals and they had the number one team in the league. They won the championship that year. We weren't supposed to be them, but we did 45-21. Our team really played a great game. I was proud of them.
“The fans gave me a car that day. My brother-in-law and his wife, my sister, were down from Philadelphia to see the game. I was going to take them home after the game. On the way up to Philadelphia I remember that I was supposed to go to some school back in Washington the next morning, a Monday morning. I had been intending to spend the night in Philadelphia and then come back but I had this appearance the next day, so I couldn't stay the night. I had to turn around and go back to Washington. At that time of night there were hardly any cars on the highway.
“I was driving down the road and I saw this car before it ever got to me it was coming across the middle-of-the-road too much. I slowed down a little bit and I thought he would straighten out, but he kept coming over toward me. So I moved over to the right a little bit. He kept coming toward me, so I had to do something. I went on the gravel. I thought he was going to hit me head on. When I hit that gravel, I slid right into the concrete bridge. That guy didn't stop just kept going. It destroyed one side of my car.”
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Wednesday, Jan. 8, was Elvis Presley’s birthday. Elvis was a big football fan. In an interview conducted at a World Football League game between the Memphis Southmen and the Charlotte Hornets in 1975 — what does that tell you about how big a football fan Elvis was? — the King spoke of his love for the game.
“I enjoy rugged sports,” Elvis said. “I’m not knocking people who like golf and tennis and other things. But I like rugged sports such as boxing, football, karate and things like that.
“I have a great ambition to play football,” Elvis continued. “I’ve always had and still have, believe it or not. The thing I keep up with most is professional football. I know all the players. I know their numbers and who they play for. I watch all the games I can. I get the films from the teams themselves if I can. Next to the entertainment thing and music, football is the thing that I enjoy best.”
Elvis was good friends with Cleveland Browns guard Gene Hickerson, who would send Elvis Browns’ game films which he would break down. He drew up his own plays, some of which have been sold at auctions.
Before the days of a daily diet of fried peanut butter sandwiches, Elvis loved playing sandlot football. He sponsored a team in Memphis called the “Elvis Presley Enterprises Football Team” and had jerseys made up with everybody’s name on the back.
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Tom Benjay is the author of a book about Lone Star Dietz, the former Redskins coach, and an expert in the history of American Indians and football. Here's what he wrote in a letter to the Boston Globe about the inaccuracies being written in the debate over the Redskins name and Lone Star Dietz:
Lone Star Dietz Dissed Again, This Time by The Boston Globe
Ninety-eight years ago, Lone Star Dietz was toasted by football fans across the country after his Washington State team defeated Brown University on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California. This great victory in an historic game not only established the Rose Bowl and all the others that followed but put long inferior West Coast football on an even footing with the East Coast powers. In recent years, activists bent on changing the Redskins’ name have found it convenient to assassinate Dietz’s character. Many thought Lone Star’s long awaited and much deserved 2012 induction into the College Football Hall of Fame would dampen this disrespectful treatment.
Instead, attacks appear to have intensified based on the opinion piece—the article is so riddled with errors and half truths it can’t be considered news—by The Boston Globe staff writer Kevin Paul Dupont for the December 29 edition.
To some extent, Lone Star is collateral damage because George Preston Marshall is the primary target. However, they apparently think it’s necessary to smear Dietz in order to get Marshall. Their strategy has been, and still is, to destroy Marshall’s claim that the team was named in honor of its coach and (four) players who followed Dietz from the government Indian school at Lawrence, Kansas to Beantown. Simply put: assassinate Dietz’s character, eliminate Marshall’s premise, and forget the Indian players.
This latest assault takes a different tack from earlier ones by contending that it was less expensive for Marshall to change the team’s moniker to Redskins than to some other non-Indian-related name. Central to Dupont’s argument is that Marshall was sitting on a pile of perfectly good uniforms and saved the cost of buying new ones by continuing to use them. The major problem with this, apparently unresearched, argument is that Marshall actually bought a whole new set of jerseys for his 1933 team!
A familiar strategy Dupont employed was to misrepresent the outcome of Dietz’s draft evasion trial held in the hysteria immediately following the end of WWI. That he had the location off by two states suggests that he didn’t read the transcripts or newspaper accounts of the most sensational trial of its day. The fact that the jury hung at eight to four in Dietz’s favor was conveniently left out of his article. The preceding are just two of the flaws found in The Globe article.
Tom Benjey, author of Keep A-goin’: the life of Lone Star Dietz and Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs: Jim Thorpe & Pop Warner's Carlisle Indian School football immortals tackle socialites, bootleggers, students, moguls, prejudice, the government, ghouls, tooth decay and rum is more than willing to address The Boston Globe article on a point-by-point basis, if necessary to get the truth out about this latest injustice to Lone Star Dietz.
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