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Jan. 16, 2017 — The Boston period

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King is synonymous with many Southern cities, such as Selma, Birmingham, and Memphis.

But King’s formative period occurred between 1951 and 1955, when he attended his Ph.D. in systematic theology at Boston University.

My former rector at college, The Rev. W. Murray Kenney, often told stories of Dr. King, especially when he visited the church in early 1967.

Here, in his own words, are his recollections of that day, as told to parishioner Paul Hirshson:

He came to Cambridge to make an anti-Vietnam [War] speech. I was told the day before that he could not get a place where he could have an international press conference with Dr. Benjamin Spock.

I wasn’t sure what would happen, so I had an enormous amount of anxiety when I got that phone call. They assured me this would be all bona fide press. Well, I had seen King in St. Louis, and I saw the kind of security [he had]. I figured two people most in danger of assassination would be King and Bobby [Robert F.] Kennedy.

My wardens were both out of town. I could make the decision to have him [here] but, because he was coming basically for a political reason, I could not let him speak in the church. But there was the Parish House, sitting there. It was clear [if] Harvard didn’t give him space, nobody else, for whatever reasons, would give him space.

So, with grave reservations, the basis for my decision was: Here’s a national leader; here’s a Baptist minister; here’s a leading Christian in the world. If we don’t give him space and a platform, we would set back race relationships in this place maybe fifty years, and we’d had a fairly good record as a parish. So I got personal security, and lawyers, and then King had his security. Of course, the feds had their security and the Cambridge Police.

It was a huge thing–seven or eight television cameras here–and he and Dr. Benjamin Spock on the stage gave their pitch. I never met them. I was way in the back worrying about everything.

It was a risky time in America, where there was racial tension and animosity in the days of desegregation.

And it was only a year later when King was assassinated in that Memphis motel.

While King is remembered today as a figure in the abstract, focusing mostly on the aspiration of racial harmony, it is instructive to remember that he was also a political figure. The week he was assassinated, he was in Memphis to organize the sanitation workers into a labor union.

It was part of a movement called the Poor Peoples Campaign, which sought economic equality, not just legal and social equality.

Despite the passage of nearly 50 years, as well as the election of many minorities as national leaders, the aims of the Poor People Campaign remain elusive.

So, it’s instructive to note that the establishment of a federal holiday to memorialize Dr. King is not an end unto itself. There is a lot more work to do to realize his dream.

Jan. 15, 2017 — From the middle out

The U.S. women’s lacrosse team managed to breach the 20-goal mark twice this weekend in friendlies against Notre Dame and the University of Florida.

This should tell you and everyone in the lacrosse community that the forward line is more than ready, six month out from the FIL World Cup.

As for the rearguard? That’s a little more questionable.

Two-time World Cup champion and UWLX MVP Devon Wills was held out of this weekend’s games in Florida due to injury, and I think it took a while for the American defense to get used to each other, especially in the second half of the Florida game. But in the Notre Dame game, the States were barely headed and they dominated.

Still, it’s going to be interesting to see if the American team is going to be able to maintain the level of speed and intensity that was shown during the weekend matches. That especially goes from the starting midfield of Marie McCool, Taylor Cummings, and Katie Schwartzmann.

Yep, Ricky Fried has paired two multiple Tewaaraton Trophy winners with the junior from Moorestown, N.J. who is the odds-on favorite to win the honors this spring. From all reports, the three played seamlessly when they were together.

Still, with only 18 roster spots to work with, the selection process for the final team is going to result in exhilaration for some, agony for others. We’ll know more soon as to what the team will look like.

Jan. 14, 2017 — One last weekend

The IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. will represent the final hurdle for the current roster for the U.S. team that will take part in this summer’s FIL Women’s World Cup in England.

A weekend of games against the University of Florida and Notre Dame will allow head coach Ricky Fried and his coaching staff to make the final cuts to get the team down to the 18 roster players and two alternates who will form the World Cup team.

In all phases of the game, Fried has uncomfortable choices. Who will share the ball on attack? Which four players will be assigned to try to lock down the best from Canada, Australia, and England? How will Fried use three very talented goalies? And can a three-time Tewaaraton Trophy winner be integrated into a stacked midfield?

Let’s have a look at the roster, by specialty:

ATTACK (eight current; cut to six): I think only three of the players currently on Fried’s roster are locks: Alyssa Murray, Michelle Tumolo, and Kayla Treanor. Danielle Etrasco is a veteran player who always seems to make the right decisions. Brooke Griffin and Alex Aust cannot rely on just having played for Maryland in order to make the team. Kylie Ohlmiller has done great work recently and is very much in play here. Cortney Fortunato, like Ohlmiller, will be playing in the NCAA this spring.

MIDFIELD (eight current; cut to six or seven): You can’t go to a World Cup and not take your three most physically gifted players. That would be Taylor Cummings of Maryland, Kelly Rabil of James Madison, and Laura Zimmerman of North Carolina. I believe Katie Schwartzmann of Maryland, Shannon Gilroy of Florida, and veteran Sarah Bullard of Duke will get the nod here. I would also likely take Ally Carey of Vanderbilt as a player who could flex into attacking midfield.

DEFENSE (six current, cut to four): Becca Block, Kristen Carr, and Jenn Russell are my starters, plus I’d have Alice Mercer subbing in to keep them fresh, even in games where they might not have much to do.

GOAL (three current, cut to one or two): Devon Wills is my No. 1. Gussie Johns would make a fine No. 2 goalie, but I’ll keep Liz Hogan as my first backup for the World Cup, then give Johns the job later in the summer when the team goes to Poland for the World Games.

If nothing else, this weekend’s games will give some insight as to what Fried and his staff are thinking for the summer. The games are being streamed live beginning this afternoon.

Jan. 13, 2017 — Missing inaction

What do a pair of London-based soccer players, a superstar basketball player, two college football players, and a NASCAR driver have in common?

All of them have made news the last two weeks for, oddly enough, not competing.

This weekend, Diego Costa of the Chelsea Football Club and Dmitry Payet of West Ham United are sitting out Premier League matches because of not only disagreements with their managers, but reportedly because of some big money being floated by teams in the upcoming transfer window.

The transfer window is a twice-yearly occurrence in which players worldwide can exercise their rights as free agents in order to seek teams willing to purchase or sign new contracts with teams. Very rich teams can also pay transfer fees to buy the services of a single player outright, with the player receiving a percentage of the fee.

Under the current rumors, Costa would be playing for Tianjin Quanjian, which is coached by former Italian international Fabio Cannavaro. Payet would be playing for Chelsea or Marseille.

Now, London wasn’t the only world metropolis where player absenteeism occurred this week. Derrick Rose of the New York Knicks went missing less than an hour before a game with New Orleans last Monday, only to turn up in Chicago visiting his mother. This occurred after he was benched the previous two games.

He was fined a game check (nearly $200,000), but it’s anyone’s guess as to the long-term implications of his not playing. He is one of a number of free agents brought into the Knicks organization for the express purpose of winning a championship, but the team has played below .500 ball and would miss the playoffs if they started this week.

While collegiate football has a rudimentary playoff, there are still more than 40 bowl games. But the Sun Bowl and Citrus Bowl were without a pair of prominent running backs. Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and LSU’s Leonard Fournette opted not to play for their college teams in the postseason, citing their NFL draft value.

It’s not a worry without some precedent. Several years ago, Miami back Willis McGahee went down with a severe injury in a bowl game. While he still gained some 8,000 yards in a solid 10-year career, many in the places he played wonder what might have been had he not taken that hit on his knee in 2002.

And last year, there was the situation of Jaylon Smith, a Notre Dame linebacker who tore ligaments in his knee during the Fiesta Bowl last year. He has not played a single down of pro football.

But while football sees injuries on a weekly basis, NASCAR drivers face even more serious injury and even death on a regular basis. And that was one reason why Carl Edwards, a man who was a hair away from winning the NASCAR Chase on more than one occasion, stepped away from his racecar this week. This allows Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez, the defending xFinity Series champion, to take his seat.

Edwards, an affable gent from the midwest, saw a number of his peers step away from the sport over the last couple of years like Jeff Gordon, Nico Rosberg, and Tony Stewart. His career included 28 wins, but also saw some white-knuckle moments, inlcuding one in which he was turned upside down and into the catch fencing at nearly 200 miles an hour.

“I can stand here healthy and that’s a testament — after all the races I’ve done and the stupid stuff I’ve done in a race car, that’s a true testament to NASCAR, to the tracks, to the people who’ve built my racecars, to the competitors and to the drivers who have come before me who haven’t been so fortunate,” Edwards said at a news conference this week.“Having said that though, it’s a risky sport. I’m aware of the risks. I don’t like how it feels to take the hits that we take and I’m a sharp guy and I want to be a sharp guy in 30 years.”

Given the number of NASCAR drivers killed over the last 30 years, it’s a laudable reason, even if the tracks and cars are now designed for driver safety much more than ever before.

Jan. 12, 2017 — The value of a good scorekeeper

In October, the championship of the Ontario University Athletics women’s lacrosse tournament was held at McMaster University in Hamilton.

The two teams making the final were the University of Western Ontario and Trent University. When the final whistle blew, both teams figure they had won the game by the identical score of 11 to 10. Seems that somehow, during the first half, one of Western’s goals went on the scoreboard for Trent.

Neither the official scorer, nor the student scorers, nor the table umpire, nor the game officials (who usually take down the scores in a black book holding their penalty cards) caught the mistake.

As is usual in Canada, the controversy went into a period of inquest. An appeal by Trent led to a recent decision by Ontario University Athletics to, in essence, “split the baby.” While Trent keeps the OUA title and the championship banner, the Western Ontario players get the winner’s medals.

Can you imagine anything like this happening in the NCAA? Not with all the eyes fixed on every move made by coaches, assistant coaches, and even the fourth official.

Jan. 11, 2017 — One sound, gone worldwide

There’s still a disc somewhere containing some of the experimental recordings I did on a Sony MiniDisc when I went to the opening day of the 2007 Pennsylvania field hockey season. It was Aug. 30, 2007, and the opponents were Levittown Pennsbury (Pa.) and Flourtown Mount St. Joseph Academy (Pa.).

It was a typical late-summer afternoon in Pennsylvania, on a grass pitch which had been freshly cut out for the season. Pennsbury, for years, has played its home matches under a small grove of trees at the corner of the school where Penn Valley Road turns into Hood Boulevard.

Through the Sennheiser boom microphone, I tried a number of different experiments with sound, trying to pick up the sounds of birds in the trees, trying to pick up conversations, and tire noise from the cars leaving the school.

And then, through the microphone and stereo headphones, I heard this “click.” It wasn’t a smack, a slap, or a clank, but a click that told you that the player — whoever it was — had struck the ball flush on the front face of the stick. It was a sound borne of purpose, hundreds of hours of technique, and deadly purpose. It’s the kind of sound you don’t hear all that often.

The player wielding the stick on this occasion was Katie Reinprecht. The high-school senior had a pair of goals and an assist on the day. Also on the pitch that day was her sister Julia, and she had the fourth goal for the Magic in a 4-0 win over Pennsbury.

The Reinprecht sisters have done a lot together. They were on the cusp of PIAA championship success, they brought Princeton University a national championship in 2012, and they combined for some 500 appearances for the U.S. women’s national field hockey team.

In those 500 caps, Katie and Julie Reinprecht were integral to the rejuvenation of the U.S. team’s fortunes after some two decades in the Olympic wilderness (save for the time they qualified as hosts in 1996). The sisters were part and parcel of not one, but two Pan American Games gold medals. They also played on the team that won the first major trophy in the history of the U.S. women’s national program when they won the 2014 FIH Champions Challenge.

Yesterday, they announced their retirement from international field hockey. They will leave gaping holes in the midfield and on defense; Katie Reinprecht was a fine attacking player who distributed to the front line with speed and accuracy. Julia Reinprecht was an amazingly effective corner flyer in an era where the rules and tactics almost made a flyer obsolete. But the younger sister showed immense personal courage during her career, competing even after suffering a severe head injury.

Their departure comes at an interesting time in the development of the game in the United States. With a number of young players competing both indoor and outdoor on the U-21 and senior levels, there is a cohort of record-breaking talent out there.

But they’re going to have to go some distance to match the Reinprechts’ accomplishments on the pitch. They’ll be missed.


Jan. 10, 2017 — Dark shadows in Lansing

Today, a lawsuit was filed by 18 women, including gymnasts, field hockey players, and swimmers, alleging that Larry Nasser, the former team physician for the U.S. gymnastics team, engaged in a nearly 20-year pattern of sexual misconduct on the job.

Nasser was also employed by Michigan State University as a team doctor, and, through testimony and media reports, is alleged to have leveraged his position to gain access to young women.

This lawsuit comes a month after Nasser was arrested on federal child pornography charges and three months after Nasser was fired from Michigan State following an investigative report put together by The Indianapolis Star.

Nassar, 53, had been a faculty member at the MSU’s college of osteopathic medicine, and used that prestige to become the team doctor for several Spartan athletic teams. He worked with USA Gymnastics from 1986 to 2015, departing under a cloud shortly before the Rio Olympics.

It would appear as though that cloud has caught up to him.