If football is a gut-check, the gang at Towson State is passing with flying colors -- in spite of the Tigers' 0-2 record.
It's hard to imagine a team facing as much adversity as Towson State -- the near elimination of the sport from the school's athletic program last year, followed by heart-breaking losses in the first two games this season (10-8 to Boston University, 13-7 to Delaware State).
The Tigers have handled it, and are amazingly upbeat as they prepare for Saturday's 1:30 p.m. home game against Rhode Island.
"These kids have a great attitude," says coach Phil Albert. "They're working hard every day in practice and they're much improved defensively. They've only given up 23 points compared to 80 at this point last year.
"We're a better football team. You just have to look deeper than wins and losses to see it."
Towson's problem is offense. The quarterback, senior co-captain Gary Worthington, is learning the position after having played three linebacker spots and two defensive back positions.
"He's a Tom Matte," says Albert, in his 20th year at Towson. "But Matte only had to play a couple games at quarterback for the Colts. Gary has to play there the whole season."
Rhode Island is also 0-2 but has been beaten by good teams, Delaware and Richmond.
"We're not going to go out and win games 35-10," says Albert. "We know we're going to be in a dogfight every week. Right now we need something positive to happen."
At this point, Towson deserves a break. Saturday wouldn't be too soon.
* Baltimore's Mack Lewis has been in the fight game for 47 years so he ought to know a contender when he sees one. He thinks he has one now in local boxer Vincent Pettway, who fights Juan Rondon Oct. 9 at the Pikesville Armory.
"This fight means everything to Vincent," says Lewis. "If we win, we're going for a junior middleweight title shot against Franco Rossi.
"Rossi is from Italy so we don't want to fight him there. We want a neutral site."
Is Pettway, who's sponsored by Merry-Go-Round, ready to fight a champion?
"Vincent has been boxing since he was 8 years old," Lewis says, "and he's 25 now. I think he's capable of fighting anybody."
Lewis' nephew, by the way, is Dunbar High and Northeastern University product Reggie Lewis, who has developed into one of the top players of the Boston Celtics. When Reggie comes to Baltimore, he still goes to the playground on Eden Street in East Baltimore and plays basketball with the kids.
* The rainy weather this week hasn't helped, but there seems to be a charity golf tournament almost every day and all of them are being well supported.
The Jim Palmer tournament for Cystic Fibrosis on Monday at Turf Valley raised more than $70,000, according to Marc Kantrowitz, CF's director of special events. At auction, Joni Palmer paid $700 for Earl Weaver's jersey.
There are still a few openings for Monday's Bruce Crampton Invitational at Eagle's Nest to benefit the Ciccarone Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The center, named for the late Hopkins lacrosse coach Henry Ciccarone, who died three years ago at age 50, is dedicated to the prevention and cure of heart disease.
Crampton, a longtime tour golfer, will play in the tournament. If you would like to join him, call chairman Dave Huntley at 296-1081 or 337-0531.
* Maury Schwartzman, tennis pro at Bare Hills, saw his first football game at College Park since he got out in 1938 when he took old pal Sam Silber to the Maryland-West Virginia game last week. What's the biggest change?
"Tailgating," says Schwartzman. "I couldn't believe the enormity of it. It seemed like a million people in that parking lot. I thought tailgating meant people got in the back of their cars and ate a sandwich. But no, they have barbecue grills. Smoke's going up. Whether people got to the game or not seemed immaterial."
The second biggest change: ticket prices. They're $22 per now. Schwartzman guesses they were $2.50 or $3 when he went to Maryland.