On The Ropes

Originally published in Baltimore magazine

It’s near dusk on a weekday in late summer, and at 1901 Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore that means work is about to begin. Dozens of kids and a few adults, too, will soon arrive at the Upton Boxing Center to train, spar, and take in the advice that coach Calvin Ford and a partially volunteer staff dish out nightly at this city-funded recreation facility.

“You ain’t nobody until you beat somebody,” Ford says while preparing stations, drills, and matchups for the next few hours. Sage words float around this place, much like the pops from leather gloves smacking training mitts, the beats of 92Q on the radio, and the late afternoon light piercing through a run of high windows in the converted basketball gym.

There are tires to flip. Boxes to leap. Ropes to pull weight. The boxing ring in the center of it all represents a sport, yes, but in the bigger picture, also a refuge from the realities of what’s outside.

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Heart on the Line

Originally published in Baltimore magazine:

The digital clock in the studio reads 11:45 and it’s Friday night, which means it’s time for Fran Lane to entertain her longest-tenured caller, a happily married, 59-year-old Annapolis college professor who goes by The Captain. Each week for the past 22 years, give or take a rare miss, The Captain dials in and plays a faux cat-and-mouse love game with the WLIF 101.9 nighttime host of Love Songs with Fran Lane, who does her best to play along. It started with his first request, “Nightshift” by the Commodores, way back when.

“It goes out to you and anyone else who may be working,” he told Lane across the airwaves, flirting with the woman who brings five hours of love-song requests and dedications to Baltimore every weeknight.

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Top Ravens Staffer Had To Convince Tom Brady He Actually Won Super Bowl

Originally published on Baltimoremagazine.net:

No, the Ravens weren’t in the Super Bowl. But, yes, that was the guy who works for them shadowing Tom Brady at midfield on Sunday night, amid the confetti, photographers, and reporters in the moments after the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl win over the Atlanta Falcons. His name is Chad Steele, now in his 15th year working in media relations for the Ravens. He’s tall—6-foot-7—and a former star basketball forward at Winthrop University in South Carolina in the mid-1990s. You might normally recognize him from post-game TV cuts, as the guy in the suit next to Joe Flacco when he marches onto the field to shake hands with an opposing quarterback and do interviews. “I get it quite often,” Steele said when asked if he’s recognized around town.

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Ray Lewis Says He’s Never Seen Joe Flacco’s Passion

Originally published at Baltimoremagazine.net:

In some ways, saying Joe Flacco doesn’t have passion is not breaking news. Even Flacco admits he’s certainly not the life-of-the-party type. In fact, he said exactly that in a podcast on BaltimoreRavens.com this week. But to hear the biggest icon in Ravens history say it, in the context of a critical analysis, is somewhat jarring to hear.

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Restaurant Review: 8 Ball Meatball

Originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Baltimore magazine

National Meatball Day—yes, there is one of those, too—seemed like the perfect time to visit the Fells Point restaurant that celebrates the round mounds all year long. And, apparently, we weren’t the only ones who thought so. On a spring evening, a pair of out-of-towners glanced at the sidewalk A-frame sign—featuring a chalk-drawn bowl of the namesake comfort food—and decided to give it a try.

Meanwhile, at a table in the spacious main dining and barroom, a group of middle-aged women merrily finished their meals. “You gotta live that meatball life,” said one, sounding particularly pleased. Soon Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman arrived with his wife, Cindy. They saddled up to two stools at a 14-seat marble island table and ordered to go.

At 8 Ball, there is something for everyone. And just to be clear: These aren’t your grandmother’s meatballs. These modern, golf-ball-size takes are better, and will leave your mouth watering until you return. The setup is deceptively simple. There are five main “balls” (get comfortable with the word here; it’s even on the bathroom doors —“Balls” for the men’s room; “No Balls” . . . you get the drift) that comprise the mix-and-match offerings, along with six sauces, including mushroom gravy and tomato.

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The Best Football Team Baltimore’s Never Seen

Originally published on Baltimoremagazine.net:

This is certainly not the big money world of college football. The 834 fans at Homewood Field who watched Johns Hopkins’ 52-20 rout of Western New England on Saturday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA Division-III playoffs attest to that.

So does the two hours and 34 minutes of real time it took for the nation’s sixth-ranked Division-III team to handle business against a top-20 opponent. There were no television timeouts or pre-packaged, in-game entertainment, unless you count what happened on the field. By the end of the first quarter, the Blue Jays led by two touchdowns and were on their way to a 38-0 halftime lead.

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It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, No It’s the Aberdeen Blimp

Originally published on Baltimoremagazine.net:

Captain Jim was curious like the rest of us.

“I’m wondering what is up in the air!” Harford County councilman Jim McMahan, an Army veteran and former local radio host, said a month into a military project that sent a 250-foot blimp-like figure into the sky above Aberdeen Proving Ground. Weather permitting, it has hovered there at 10,000 feet for the last eight months.

People asking the same question have nearly gotten into car accidents on I-895 while staring at the sky. Or they’ve snapped pictures from passing aircraft, Camden Yards, or their back porch. In the modern judge of a topic’s newsworthiness, a pair of social media parody accounts, @BmoreBlimp and @AberdeenBlimp, also sprouted, though it’s technically not a blimp, but something three-times larger called an aerostat.

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