Some years, it feels like a stretch to find 10 widely memorable stories from the cozy Baltimore sports scene. This was not such a year.
UMBC men’s basketball gave us a dash of the miraculous, and the mighty colt Justify added a dose of the majestic. We celebrated one of the greatest athletes in the city’s history, Ray Lewis, and threw a little love to the hockey team from our neighbor to the south.
But at its core, 2018 was defined not by games but by the complex and sometimes tragic stories that accompany them. From Jordan McNair’s death at the University of Maryland to the stew of racial and class tensions around St. Frances football, Baltimore sports gave us many sobering issues to ponder.
So here they are, the 10 most important sports stories of the year:
Jordan McNair dies, leading to the eventual firing of Maryland football coach DJ Durkin
It began as an intimate tragedy, felt by Jordan McNair’s family, his Maryland teammates and the peers and teachers who loved him at McDonogh School.
At times, Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette seemed likely to keep their positions. They were the chief architects of a Baltimore baseball renaissance during which the Orioles won 78 more games than they lost from 2012 to 2016.
Baltimore prep teams refuse to play St. Frances in football, prompting a race-class debate
In 2017, St. Frances made headlines by establishing a new world order in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association football under coach Biff Poggi. The upstart Panthers outscored opponents 342-50 and finished No. 4 in USA Today’s national rankings.
The Eagles’ 198-game winning streak began in 2009, three months after Barack Obama began his first term as president. Adam Jones had just begun his second season with the Orioles, and Joe Flacco had recently completed his first as Ravens quarterback.
The first hint of vulnerability came when coach Chris Robinson, the architect of the program, stepped down before the season to pursue other business opportunities. McDonogh nonetheless won its first 20 games of the season.
When it was all over, Eagles coach Nancy Love brushed past the short-term disappointment, saying: “Let’s have a huge party and celebrate what this was.”
“In its history and its DNA, this organization was once considered the smartest, most forward-thinking, most progressive team in baseball,” Elias said, singing the exact tune fans wished to hear. “The fact that that was the case here before means it's possible for that to be the case here again. We are here to restore that reputation.”
Justify wins the Preakness on his way to the Triple Crown as Pimlico faces an uncertain future
He did not make his maiden start until Feb. 18, less than three months before he’d line up as the Kentucky Derby favorite. He ran his last race June 9 in the Belmont Stakes.
But in four months as an active runner, the powerful colt Justify did more than enough to guarantee his place in thoroughbred racing history, winning all six of his races and the Triple Crown.