Mids coach Johnson adds lotus position to Navy's football depth chart

September 06, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

WHEN YOU ATTEND a game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, you know that you're going to get equal measures of football, military tradition ... and Eastern philosophy?

"It was like we didn't have any karma in the first half," said coach Paul Johnson, after the Midshipmen overcame a string of early mistakes to defeat Duke on Saturday night and score their first victory over an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent since 1996.

Did he say karma?

Maybe for this Saturday's game against Northeastern, Johnson should scrap the pre-game pep talk and just encourage his players to reach a higher level of consciousness before they take the field, which - now that I think about it - might be preferable to his motivational strategy last week, when he publicly called on his team to "play like their hair is on fire."

The clean-cut Mids hardly have enough hair for kindling, so it took most of the first half just to figure out what he was talking about, but they eventually settled into an impressive offensive rhythm behind new quarterback Aaron Polanco and preseason All-America fullback Kyle Eckel.

Johnson has done an amazing job of re-energizing the Navy football program, which won eight games and the Commander in Chief's Trophy last year. The fact that he's an eclectic quote machine is just a bonus.

The third phase of the renovation of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium went right down to the wire - and there were "Wet Paint" signs all over the place on Saturday to prove it - but the 45-year-old Annapolis landmark has truly been transformed.

The remodeled perimeter maintains the traditional feel of the football field that was dedicated in 1959 to all who have served in the Navy and Marine Corps, and the inner ring still reminds Navy football fans of the great battles that have been fought by American sailors and marines throughout the nation's history. But the three-year, $40 million project has gracefully brought the facility into the 21st century.

Former Orioles manager Johnny Oates continues his brave fight against brain cancer, but he still finds plenty of time to root for his old friend Buck Showalter and the surprising Texas Rangers.

"I'd say we watch the Rangers [on satellite television] about two out of every three nights," Oates told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

There is no cure for the aggressive cancer that struck Oates three years ago, but medication has kept it under control. He recently became a grandfather for the fifth time.

"I have my good days and my bad days," Oates said, "but overall I just thank the Lord because I'm doing good."

Former O's pitcher Jason Johnson is at it again. He hasn't won a game since July 29, but he complained bitterly when Tigers manager Alan Trammell didn't consult him before removing him from a game last week.

"That frustrates me," said Johnson, who had given up five runs after the Tigers staked him to an early 5-0 lead Tuesday. "That makes me mad because I'm not some rookie who has one year in the big leagues."

No, he's not. He's an eight-year veteran who is 26 games under .500 (44-70) and has had one winning season (8-7 for the O's in 1999). As the saying goes ... shut up and pitch.

Forget about the possible postseason ramifications of his self-inflicted hand injury, New York Yankees pitcher Kevin Brown has accomplished something that theologians have spent more than a century dreaming about.

He has disproved the Theory of Evolution.

Charles Darwin explained the progressive development of species with the concept of natural selection, by which nature winnows out flawed organisms and encourages only the most adaptable and intelligent to reproduce. If that theory were true, Brown never would have survived beyond adolescence, much less signed a $105 million contract and eventually sabotaged the Yankees dynasty.

Contact Peter Schmuck at peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

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