Archive for December, 2010

John Harbaugh (Photo by Owen Sweeney III)

As Christmas approaches, Joe Flacco has one thing on his mind: the Cleveland Browns.

According to transcipts from the Baltimore Ravens’ Wednesday media day, quarterback  is not too worried about other matters.

Asked  what Christmas means to him, Flacco said: “Just time to spend with your family and have a nice meal.  I don’t think too much of that will be going on with my family this year.  We’ll be traveling to Cleveland.  So, it’s usually just a time to spend with your family and have a good time.”

And what about what he does outside of football during the holidays? “There are a bunch of guys on our team doing things in the community.  Whether it’s going over and helping kids shop and giving them some time to enjoy themselves or making a visit to a hospital to see some kids or to see some people, I think our team and the people that are in charge of that do a great job of getting us out in the community.”

But, pressed about world peace at Christmas time, Flacco wasn’t playing.

“No.  No I don’t think about that,” he said.

OK, then.

John Harbaugh, Anquan Boldin and Ray Lewis were in much more reflective moods.

Said Harbaugh, a Catholic, of Christmas:

“We could have a sit down, 60-minute conversation about the holidays.  I love Christmas.  I think most people love Christmas.  In our house, we try to keep it focused on the reason for the season a little bit.  Of course, we’ve got a lot of presents for our little girl.  It’s just a very special time of year.  We’re going to make sure on Saturday our guys get a chance in the morning to get time with their families.”

But, the father of a young daughter said there is no “normal” Christmas as an NFL coach.

“I’ve never had a normal [Christmas].  Well, with college coaching I guess we did.  Not in the pros.  Not since we got to the NFL.  There’s always a game or practice or something.  We’ll get the morning off.”

Boldin, a wide receiver, told the media that he was honored to win the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. His favorite gift as a child was a Payton jersey.  He said giving back to the community is important for NFL players.

“I see it as almost an obligation for us,” Boldin said.  “I feel like we’re here for a specific reason, and it’s more than to play football. We are here to make a difference in our communities, because if it wasn’t for those people supporting us, we wouldn’t be where we are today.  For myself, honestly speaking, I was a kid in need growing up, so I stay real attached to the community where I’m from and also the cities where I play football.”

Lewis, the Pro Bowl linebacker, said he relies heavily on the Holy Bible. Does he have a favorite passage?

“Yeah, I just read a lot, really. Psalm 91 and pretty much whatever Proverbs, based off the date – whatever the date is that day – is pretty much what I read,” Lewis said.  “I grab something from that day, and then I hold onto that throughout the whole day, and that’s what I try to focus on that day. There are a lot of things I do read and I do go over, but there are some things I definitely stick to – whatever passages that grabs me that day.”

Bible study, Lewis said, brings many players together.

“ Sometimes, Rev. [team chaplain Rod Hairston] will get up there and deliver his message. Then, sometimes the guys will just get in there and we’ll have discussions ourselves, which really opens it up to a totally different thought process when you see how we actually interact with each other about that type of thing.”

Lewis was asked what Christmas meant to him and he was unabashedly Christian.

“First of all, we’re talking about the True Creator – the creator of all,” he said.  “Jesus Christ was the creator of all. When you think about Christmas, we’re talking about birth; we’re talking about giving; we’re talking about sharing time of love. That’s what it’s all about when you bring all your family in town and everybody comes together. That’s what we’ve got to really get back to. I don’t think even… What I’m trying to train my kids to [understand about Christmas], it’s not about presents, per se. I know we go buy all these great gifts, but it’s really about fellowship; it’s really about servant hood; it’s really about love and coming together with family and being able to help the unfortunate who can’t have Christmas and who don’t understand what Christmas means. So for me, Christmas has a lot of different meanings.”

The inspiring Kleintank story

Posted: December 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

If you haven’t yet done it, I encourage you to read my story on Nathan and Kate Kleintank’s adoption of their son, Joshua. Be sure to check out the Dec. 23 print edition, which includes some incredible photos by Owen Sweeney III and a beautiful design by April Hornbeck.

Their story is inspiring during this Christmas season. For now, check out this short video with more pictures by Owen Sweeney III.

I’m going to to use the blog to post pictures and videos from vivid Christmas displays from all around the Archdiocese of Baltimore. If you have festive display videos and photos, please feel free to send them to or post them in the comments section below. We’ll update this post as we get entries.

First up, is a house located in Bel Air that times their lights to music on a radio station.

How about the home of Baltimore sports broadcaster Scott Garceau? Pretty amazing.

What about 34th Street in Baltimore?  It’s a Hampden Christmas, hon. Oh, no, I said “Hon.” I better lawyer up.

Remember these feel-good stories here and here about the Baltimore-based School Sisters of Notre Dame obtaining a rare Honus Wagner baseball card that went up for auction?

Well, the person who won the auction apperantly never paid. Someone else has stepped up, though, paying the amount it took to win the auction.

It seems a Philadelphia cardiologist is now the lucky owner of the card. The School Sisters get the money for their outreaches, too.

A week ago, I shared my list for top five worst Christmas songs. Now, here’s the best part, literally. These are my favorites, a list to surely debate below in the comments section. Merry Christmas.

5. Welcome Christmas: Narrator: And he puzzled and puzzed, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”

4. Christmas Time is Here: We’re two songs in and we’ve got two songs inspired by cartoons, so you’re no doubt thinking this list is formulated by an eight-year-old boy. Maturity-wise, you’re correct. But, just hearing this song makes me think of fireplaces, more innocent times and 10-year-olds in need of Rogaine.

3. Carol of the Bells: It’s hauntingly beautiful in its repetition. With the right chorus, it can be utterly sublime.

2. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming: Below, you’ll see of the most self-serving video embed of all. It’s from a recording of my 1995-1996 chorus at DeMatha Catholic High School. With or without the wistfulness of my teen years, the 16th century song is incredible in any incarnation, telling the story of Mary and Jesus and centuries of hope coming down to one night in a humble manger. The Christ child had come.

1. The Christmas Song: In 1946, a black man defined the sweetness of the American Christmas experience at a time when racial division defined the country. Sixty-four years later, Nat King Cole’s voice is still tucking in millions of children on Christmas Eve and bringing people of all walks of life together. It is impossible not to feel a moistening of the eyes by the end of the song.

In the Dec. 23 edition of The Catholic Review and on, you’ll be able to read a story on Loyola Blakefield senior Dwayne Thomas. He’s an inspiring, selfless young man.

Here’s a two-minute video that introduces you to him and stayed tuned to for more.

John Mitchell

John Mitchell has impacted my family since before I was born.
He’s been the director of music at DeMatha Catholic High School in Prince George’s County for the last 41 years. He taught my cousin and godfather, Daniel Miller, when he attended DeMatha in the 1970s, my cousin John Martin in the 1980s and my brother, Jeff, in the 1980s and 90s.
He didn’t even teach me, but attended my graduation party. He is revered in my family for his quiet dignity. Mr. Mitchell, as he is known to parents and students alike, has the incredible ability to make each student feel as though they have greatness inside and then pulls it out of them.
It would be easy to assume that a music teacher at DeMatha would be overshadowed by people like basketball coaching legend Morgan Wootten at DeMatha. Wootten’s in the National Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s hard to top that, but if there’s a DeMatha Mount Rushmore, Mr. Mitchell is right next to Morgan Wootten.
He announced this week that this is his last full-time year at DeMatha. That feels impossible.
Along with Jim Roper, Mr. Mitchell has built arguably the finest high school music program in the country.
I’m 32 years old, 15 years out of high school, and I can’t help but use the “Mr.” in front of their names. That’s how much respect I have for them.
About 400 of the 1,000 boys who attend the school are involved in the music program. Think about that for a second. Forty percent of the school. If there’s one program that is the pulse of DeMatha, it’s the music program.
The program has an entire building dedicated to it now and it’s because of the tireless work of Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Roper.
Mr. Mitchell’s was named one of seven National Educators of Distinction by the National Catholic Educators Association in 1993. He was given The Washington Post’s Outstanding Private School Teacher Award in 1996. During a 20-year span, the school’s Wind Ensemble, under his direction, was named the top Catholic high school band in the country 18 times. Since 1970, 1,000 students have been chose to Maryland All-State Bands, orchestras and chorsues and the same amount in Archdiocese of Washington teachers council bands.
Performing music groups have received 40 gold medals at national competitions.
Mr. Mitchell is a transformative figure. When I see representations of music programs on television, like in Glee, I see kids worrying about being the outcasts. At DeMatha, football and basketball players play alongside once painfully shy students. He has created an environment for young men who thought they were outcasts to be stars.
Students have spent years walking into his office just to talk with him and. He’s always there for them. When DeMatha talks about being a brotherhood or a family, it’s because of men like John Mitchell.
He is the foundation of that family and there will never be another like him.