The end of summer holiday and some recent news involving a few of the things and people that have been written about in this column over the years make it a fitting time for a retrospective:
•Unpack your transistor radios, Nats fans: The days of the delay are done. When WWVZ/WWZZ-FM—better known as Z-104—the most powerful station in the Washington Nationals radio network, switched to a digital signal earlier this year, the change resulted in an eight-second lapse between on-field action and play-by-play man Charlie Slowes’ call’s reaching listeners’ ears (“Starting With a Bang!” 8/12). The pause, which station personnel blamed on the way the digital signal was processed, made listening to Nats games while watching them on TV or at the stadium a real chore.
But as of the Aug. 24 Nats-Reds match at RFK Stadium, Slowes and his “Bang! Zoom!” could be heard in real time for the first time in the station’s digital age.
“We got e-mails from fans about the delay, and we really wanted to work it out,” says Joel Oxley, senior vice president of Bonneville International, which owns the station. “And one of our engineers figured out a way where we could do this, do a fix on it.”
Asked if he could explain to a lay audience how his engineer was able to override the digital delay, Oxley thinks for a few seconds and, with a laugh, says, “No.”
•Damien Wilkins wasn’t done in by a kiss after all. Wilkins was expelled from St. John’s at Prospect Hall in the spring of 1998 after being accused of making out with another student in the hallway when he should have been on his way to study hall (“Touch Foul,” 4/3/1998). Wilkins’ father, NBA veteran Gerald Wilkins, and Deborah Mathis, a White House correspondent for USA Today whose daughter was the target of the younger Wilkins’ affections and was also kicked out of school for violating the no-smooching policy, quickly filed a federal lawsuit hoping to get the kids reinstated at the Frederick Catholic school. But the suit was dropped by the next school year.
The expulsions caused all sorts of racial strife at the school—Wilkins, who was a junior at the school, and his paramour were black, while the school’s administration and student body were overwhelmingly white—and before the tumult subsided, the St. John’s basketball program had been gutted. At the time, St. John’s had the top-ranked team in the entire country. Coach Stu Vetter, a local legend who had posted a 136-10 record at St. John’s and in 1998 was USA Today’s national coach of the year, was asked to follow Wilkins out the door.
But news out of Seattle last week indicates that Wilkins survived the expulsion: The NBA’s Sonics matched a five-year, $15 million offer from the Minnesota Timberwolves to keep Wilkins, a forward, on the team’s roster.
Vetter survived, also: He now coaches Montrose Christian in Rockville, and, according to the school’s athletic department, his 23-3 record there last year leaves him with 699 career wins heading into the 2005– 2006 season.
•Thus far, Chris Kelley’s greatest moments on a football field came in high school. By his junior year at Seneca Valley, in Germantown, a season in which he played quarterback and linebacker and returned punts and kickoffs for the state champion Screaming Eagles, Kelley was among the most dominant players this area had ever seen (“Believe the Hype,” 11/27/1998). He was among the most sought-after recruits in the country when he signed with the University of Maryland after his senior year at Seneca Valley to play QB for Ron Vanderlinden’s Terps.
But a blindside tackle in the Super 44, a meaningless summer all-star game held just weeks after his high-school graduation, brought Kelley the first of what would be three serious knee injuries. Rather than give up on the game, Kelley reinvented himself as a safety for Vanderlinden’s successor at Maryland, Ralph Friedgen, and played well enough during his fifth-year-senior season to get honorable-mention status on the 2004 All-ACC squad.
During NFL tryouts, he impressed Baltimore Ravens scouts enough to get an invitation to their training camp. He made enough of a name for himself there by getting interceptions in intrasquad drills and in a Ravens– Redskins scrimmage held three weeks ago in Baltimore to survive the first cut-down, which was announced earlier this week. So Kelley’s football future could hinge on how he does in the Ravens’ final preseason contest, on Sept. 1, also against the Redskins, a team he’s rooted for all his life. Anybody who saw Kelley play for Seneca Valley, even the hardest-dying Skins fan, has to hope for him to play big.
“This game will really determine a lot,” says his agent, George Mavrikes. “He’s going to get to play a lot, and it could come down to this.”
Final cuts are this weekend.
•Brandon Snyder keeps living up to the promise he showed back in grammar school. “I can see Brandon going all the way to the majors,” said a little kid from Snyder’s Centreville neighborhood through her braces back in 1999, just after a 12-year-old Snyder hit the league-championship-winning home run for the Rockies of the Southwestern Youth Association’s Little League (“Little Boys of Summer,” 6/29/99).
Snyder has darn near made that youngster’s scouting report come true already.
He was named a high-school All-American for Westfield in Chantilly, and in June the Baltimore Orioles made him their top pick in the amateur draft, 13th overall. He gave up a scholarship to Louisiana State University when the O’s offered a $1.6 million deal. Playing catcher for the Bluefield Orioles, the entry squad in the O’s farm system, he led the team in home runs this season. And on Aug. 27 he was rewarded by being among four Bluefield players promoted up to the Aberdeen Ironbirds.
•The “Only White Hope” is still playing basketball, just not around here. Matt Causey was handed that moniker, which was occasionally also shortened to OWH, by posters on Georgetown University hoops message boards in 2003 after he signed to play for Coach Craig Esherick and the Hoyas (“The New Guard,” 4/5/2003). The name, bestowed with love and chuckles on the high-school All-American from Georgia, came in honor of Causey’s being Georgetown’s first white recruit of note in more than a decade and one of only a handful of Caucasians in the last quarter-century who were expected to get real court time in a Georgetown uniform.
Causey did get some minutes with the Hoyas, and his career-high 12 points and five assists in the last game of his freshman season, a loss to Boston College in the Big East tournament, portended a future at the school. But, alas, Causey withdrew from Georgetown in June 2004, just after Esherick was fired and replaced by John Thompson III.
Turns out Causey transferred to a place called North Georgia College and State University. In his first year playing for the school—a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, not the NCAA—Causey was named first-team All-American and conference player of the year.
Last week, Georgetown had a major recruiting coup when Vernon Macklin, a rising high-school senior from Portsmouth, Va., and one of the most sought-after players in the country, gave an oral commitment to the school. Like all Georgetown signees since Thompson took over, Macklin ain’t white. That leaves Serbian forward Sead Dizdarevic, a rising junior and Esherick holdover who scored 14 points in 37 minutes last season under Thompson, as the reigning OWH.
•Fairfax resident Mark Addison and his family really tried hard to recover the letter jacket he earned playing football for Jefferson High School in the late ’70s (“The Scarlet Letter,” 11/26/2004). The beloved garment was accidentally included in a load of unbeloved shirts, pants, and overcoats that the Addisons had assembled in late 2003 to donate to a variety of local charity organizations. After realizing the mistake and being told by one Goodwill after another that the coat could be in China by now, he and his wife posted signs at thrift stores all over the D.C. area offering a $500 reward for the return of blue jacket with white sleeves and a big red J. Not just any Jefferson coat would get the bounty—only the one with his name written on the label.
In this case, no news is hardly good news: Addison never got his letter jacket back. He still wants it.—Dave McKenna
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Photograph by Charles Steck.