For the last two years, my December print column has looked ahead to the coming year with wishes for the Baltimore sports community.
Looking back on my wishes for 2018, it's sort of a mixed bag, but I got a lot that I wanted.
I knocked my first wish out of the park. I hoped to see at least one of the five Division I college basketball teams in the greater Baltimore area return to the NCAA Tournament. Not only did that happen, it was nearly the singular reason this particular issue of PressBox could even exist.
My second wish was to finally see a sense of "direction" for the Orioles. As painful as it seems it will be, the rebuilding process indeed will provide that for Baltimore baseball fans. My third wish was to feel more of a "touch" in the community from the Ravens. Obviously that's a bit more difficult to define, but the relationship between team and city still isn't quite what it once was.
So let's try this again. Here are my Baltimore sports wishes for 2019. You might think something like, "Boy, this is a played out trope for a columnist at the end of the year," but when you think about it, that's absolutely correct.
My first wish for 2019 is that as a city, we can show Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco the appreciation he deserves.
Look, it's clear the franchise is moving on from its all-time greatest signal caller. There are a lot of different opinions about Flacco's recent years, and many Ravens fans believe Flacco's hefty contract is the reason the team spent so much of the post-Super Bowl XLVII era mired in mediocrity. That opinion isn't shared by all, but that doesn't matter anymore. Flacco's tenure in Baltimore is almost certainly ending, and whatever your opinion might be, he deserves to be celebrated.
Obviously, the Ravens should put Flacco in their Ring of Honor after his playing career ends. Hopefully the love will be reciprocal, and the Super Bowl MVP will be inclined to return to Baltimore regularly during his post-playing career to be feted by fans, even those who have shared less than glowing opinions of him while he donned purple and black.
My second wish for 2019 is to finally get an answer about the future of the Preakness Stakes -- no matter what that answer might be.
I've fought the good fight for years. But honestly, at this point I'm kind of exhausted.
"We're going to keep the Preakness in Baltimore," Mayor Catherine Pugh reiterated during a Glenn Clark Radio interview Dec. 5.
As appreciative as I am of the sentiment, the issue has worn on our city for, what, 15 or so years now? Obviously, I'd still like to see this work out with Pimlico Race Course (or a new track in the area) being the permanent home for an event that I have loved in some form or fashion for my entire life, but the move to Laurel Park just feels inevitable.
If the race's future in Baltimore actually can be salvaged, it would be really nice to see some genuine progress made this year that can give us reason for hope. There have been studies and forums in recent years, but there's been nothing that has actually occurred to make us believe the move won't ultimately happen. If there is some sort of reason for hope, it would be nice to feel that sometime, anytime soon.
My third wish for 2019 is that we can finally feel good about Maryland men's basketball at the end of a season in the Mark Turgeon era.
I've admittedly been rather tough on Maryland's basketball coach during his tenure in College Park, Md. It's my genuine belief that a coach at a major basketball program should have achieved SOMETHING of significance within his first eight seasons.
Whatever your opinions might be of Turgeon's handling of late-game situations or development of players, the biggest problem is the Terps have never done anything of significance at the end of a season. Not only has Maryland missed the NCAA Tournament during four of Turgeon's first seven seasons, they don't have a single Tournament win against a single-digit seed. Any time they've faced an 11th seed or better they've lost by double digits.
I'm not demanding a Final Four run. I'm just asking for … something. Anything. Just any sort of postseason accomplishment that could make Maryland fans believe there is some sort of "there" there.
And if it's not too much, I wouldn't mind seeing an Orioles prospect flourish to help make baseball viewing a little more entertaining. Happy New Year, Baltimore.
Issue 250: December 2018 / January 2019
Originally published Dec. 19, 2018