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Dan Rodricks

Dan Rodricks: Nobody asked, so I will: Is Navy football about winning or building leaders? | COMMENTARY

Ken Niumatalolo is Navy’s all-time winningest football coach. He was fired after 15 seasons after Navy's loss to Army in double overtime Dec. 10.

Nobody asked me, but the firing of Navy’s all-time winningest football coach, Ken Niumatalolo, right after the double-overtime loss to Army last weekend was low and cold. The Midshipmen struggled in recent seasons, but if you believe Vice Admiral Sean Buck, the Naval Academy superintendent, Niumatalolo had a “huge impact” on his players. “He has led our football team to many successful seasons,” said Buck. “But, more importantly, he has developed resilient leaders of character for our Navy and Marine Corps.” Excuse me, but if that part of coaching at Annapolis is “more important,” then why was Niumatalolo fired? Sounds like priorities are skewed. What’s the Naval Academy for, building leaders or winning football games?

Nobody asked me, but Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby honoring his wife, outgoing Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, with a resolution in the council chamber suggests one of the following: Nick is oblivious to how many citizens feel about his federally indicted/defeated-for-reelection wife or he’s developed a full martyrdom complex or he has no concern for what could appear to be a conflict. I vote for all of the above.

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Nobody asked me, but I hope next season the Orioles go easy on salutes to the 1983 team that won the World Series. Instead of giving us warm nostalgic feelings, they will serve as cold reminders that it’s been 40 years since the team even got to the series.

Nobody asked me, but I’ll never understand the billionaire who, empowered to do gobs of good, works 24-7 to build a legacy as one of the world’s biggest jerks. Instead of tweeting juvenile comments from my couch, I’d spend all my days flying around the country writing checks to do-gooders and bringing excellent sandwiches to caregivers.

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Nobody asked me, and I don’t have a vote, but the 311-pound fullback Patrick Ricard should be a candidate for Ravens’ Most Valuable Player of 2022. Ricard blocks and protects his teammates, he runs and catches. He’s generally fun to watch in his bull moose role, and now, eating large portions of food in a Pizza Boli TV commercial, he’s the complete football player.

Nobody asked me, but there’s nothing wrong with ordering a chicken entree in a fine restaurant. Some people think it’s a waste — that, when you splurge on dinner in a place with linen tablecloths, you ought to order a seafood dish, beef or lamb or duck. Chicken? Why order something you have too often at home? But I like to see what a chef can do with poultry. I’ve raved about the sizzling roasted chicken at Marie-Louise Bistro in Mount Vernon and recently chose grilled chicken breast for lunch at the Milton Inn in Sparks, reopened last summer under Foreman Wolf ownership. Allow me to salute Executive Chef Chris Scanga for the excellent achievement: The thinnest layer of skin as crispy as the white meat was tender, served with butternut squash and green beans. It was perfect.

Nobody asked me, but, even if you’re not a vegetarian, there are certain dishes involving meat that you probably seldom eat. For any number of reasons — health concerns, environmental considerations and financial constraints — there are dishes that, if anything, have been reduced to something like annual treats. I put in that category spaghetti alla carbonara, fried chicken livers, expensive cuts of beef or lamb, and scrapple. The latter, of course, is a Pennsylvania Dutch concoction of pork scraps, flour and cornmeal. It’s sold as a loaf. You slice off a piece and crisp it in a pan or on a griddle, usually for breakfast. Some people love it, some abhor it. Scrapple is now the subject of a documentary by Kurt Kolaja, a former WBAL-TV videographer and old friend of mine who lives on the Eastern Shore. Kolaja went on a quest to learn scrapple’s culinary and cultural history. He journeyed with camera from Maryland through Delaware and into Pennsylvania, along what he calls “Scrapple Road,” the title of his amusing and informative doc. Warning: The film shows scrapple being made; even lovers of the stuff might not want to see that.

Nobody asked me, but outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan doesn’t leave much of a political legacy. It’s not exactly his fault, with Donald Trump mostly to blame for the mess that is the Republican Party. Still, in blue Maryland, you’d think Hogan’s consistently high popularity would rub off on candidates or spark a surge in new Republicans. But it didn’t happen. Since Hogan took office eight years ago, the GOP saw a net growth of 5,000 new party members per year; new Democrats averaged 26,000 per year.

Nobody asked me for one, but here’s a musical suggestion for the day before the day before the day before Christmas: Find a video or recording of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, listen and be spellbound for 20 minutes. It’s a stunning masterpiece that hints at the composer’s great work ahead, his Ninth Symphony. The Choral Fantasy for piano, orchestra, soloists and chorus was first performed as the finale of a benefit concert on Dec. 22, 1808 in Vienna, with Beethoven conducting from the piano. The program that evening included the premiers of Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and his Fourth Piano Concerto. Imagine that. When they come up with time travel, that’s where I’d want to be — in Theater an der Wien, Vienna, on that day before the day before the day before Christmas.


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