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American Pharoah helped make 2015 special

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American Pharoah helped make 2015 special

There were many great performances in the area in the year about to come to an end. Kirk Cousins, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Alex Ovechkin, John Wall.

Who will ever forget Paul Pierce’s called shot?

To me, another form of artistry stood out. It was witnessed by a crowd far larger than at Ravens or Redskins games and three times bigger than those at Orioles or Nationals games.

It was history.

For the first time in 37 years, Marylanders witnessed part of a Triple Crown when American Pharoah romped to a seven-length win in May’s Preakness at Pimlico.

Thirteen times since the last Triple Crown winner, a horse had won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but failed to win the Belmont.

American Pharoah changed all that, and fulfilled one of my remaining wishes in my writing life.

When I was a little boy, my grandparents came to our house in Brooklyn each Saturday. Every week, my grandfather and I, joined occasionally by my father, his son-in-law, watched “The Race of the Week” from New York and Florida tracks. I became a horse racing fan.

In 1973, the great Secretariat won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and was highly favored to beat a small field in the Belmont.

And beat the field, Secretariat did, winning by an unfathomable 31 lengths. His winning time for the 1 ½ miles was a record 2:24, more than 2.6 seconds faster than American Pharoah’s time.

I’ve watched the amazing video of Secretariat’s win countless times knowing I’d never see anything like that. Neither did my grandfather.

A few months after the Belmont, my grandfather died, and the weekly race viewing at my house stopped. I kept up with horse racing, always watching the Triple Crown races.

Four years after Secretariat’s win, the underrated Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown, and a year later, Affirmed won it in a stirring Belmont duel with Alydar.

Then, the drought began.

As a young reader of sports pages and magazines, I learned there might never be a Triple Crown winner again. Secretariat’s win was the first Triple Crown since Citation in 1948—a gap of 25 years.

While good horse after good horse failed to capture the Belmont, various theories were thrown out. Horses are bred for speed, not distance. They don’t race enough, and the Triple Crown calendar is too brutal.

Tom Chuckas, who ran the Maryland Jockey Club for six years until his resignation in Nov. 2014, darkened his final Preakness Day by again publicly campaigning for a lengthening of the Triple Crown schedule.

Instead of three races in five weeks, the Kentucky Derby’s first Saturday in May should be followed by the Preakness on the first Saturday in June and the Belmont on July’s first Saturday, Chuckas said.

American Pharoah’s triumph ended that crazy talk.

In my father’s and grandfather’s time, a Triple Crown winner was known by everyone—just like the name of the heavyweight champion.

Now, except for these three races and perhaps the Breeder’s Cup, there’s little public attention on horse racing.

Most tracks have been reduced to veritable off-track betting parlors with small crowds watching live races. Few young people are fans of the sport. Ninety seconds or two minutes of action every half hour aren’t enough to hold their attention.

They’d rather play poker or fantasy football.

For a moment, American Pharoah changed all that. For six months, he reigned supreme—from the Derby to his farewell win at the Breeder’s Cup in Keeneland, Pharoah was a champ.

American Pharoah suffered a loss in last August’s Travers Stakes in Saratoga, but it doesn’t diminish his greatness.

For those of the more than 131,000 at Pimlico who braved a pre-race monsoon, they saw a great horse do something that hadn’t been done since 1978—and gave me the chance to say I covered part of a Triple Crown winner.

MORE YEAR IN REVIEW: 50 of the best DMV sports photos from 2015

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: What the Ramon Sessions signing means for Tomas Satoransky

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Associated Press

Wizards Tipoff podcast: What the Ramon Sessions signing means for Tomas Satoransky

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller offered their reaction to the Ramon Sessions signing and how it could affect Tomas Satoransky. Plus, how the Wizards match up with the new-look Cavs and how Kelly Oubre, Jr. broke out of his slump.

Chase also explained his epic fail with an Oubre interview and they revisited an Instagram post from months ago that foreshadowed much that has gone down this season.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Maryland reacts to latest FBI investigation reports

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USA Today Sports Images

Maryland reacts to latest FBI investigation reports

The world of college basketball has been on high alert since last fall when reports first surfaced of a long-term FBI investigation into the worst-kept secret in sports: college athletes being paid to play.

News surrounding the scandal died down after the inital wave of arrests, but Yahoo! Sports released a warning of sorts recently and followed it up on Friday by naming players (both past and present) for the first time. There were dozens of programs and players implicated, including Maryland's Diamond Stone.

Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon released the following statement Friday afternoon.

"Late last night we were alerted of a report associating one of our former student-athletes with an agent. We are extremely disappointed, and we will fully cooperate with any investigation. I do not have a relationship with Andy Miller or anyone from his agency, and at no time have I ever had a conversation with Andy Miller or his agency regarding any Maryland basketball player. We remain steadfast in upholding a program of integrity that reflects the values of our University community."

Stone played for the Terps during the 2015-16 season, after which he left for the NBA. That Terps team was highly-ranked entering the season but ended up losing in the Sweet 16 to top-seeded Kansas.

RELATED: DIAMOND STONE ADMITS TO 'MISTAKES' DURING FRESHMAN YEAR AT MARYLAND

Andy Miller is the agent whose financial records were used to implicate so many players in the Yahoo! Sports report. It's no surprise that Turgeon would deny having a relationship with Miller regarding any of his players, but the question remains: What does this mean for Maryland basketball?

You can be sure that Turgeon will be meeting with both past and current assistant coaches Friday to confirm they have not had any involvement with Andy Miller. He'll also certainly be meeting with higher-ups at Maryland, as they try to cover their bases. 

That said, it seems unlikely Maryland would take an action as drastic as firing Turgeon over these allegations. There has been no evidence released so far that implies Turgeon had any knowledge of Stone's actions. Barring further information coming to light, it seems as though this is a case of Stone developing a relationship with Miller's agency separately from Maryland.

Some of the more vocal members of Maryland's fan base would like to think Turgeon is on the hot seat. The truth is, given his long-term contract and the current state of Maryland's finances, it's not currently feasible to fire him and expect to afford a more accomplished coach. Though if further reports indicate Turgeon was complicit, then all bets are off.

It remains possible the NCAA will impose punishments on the schools involved with this scandal, in the form of reduced scholarships, postseason bans, or worse. But that's likely off the table until further evidence comes out regarding how much schools and coaches actually knew. It is a near-certainty that some schools were in cahoots with Miller and other agents; the problem is identifying which schools were intentionally breaking the rules, and which were simply unaware. Ultimately, however, some degree of responsibility falls on the head coach.

For now, the biggest worry on the minds of Maryland fans should be vacated wins. If Diamond Stone was ineligible, then it's possible the victories Maryland recorded during the 2015-16 season will be erased from the record books. Unfortunately, this could include their run to the Sweet 16, which was the program's first in more than a decade.

Given the expectations surrounding the team during Stone's year in College Park, his tenure could already be considered a disappointment. Losing those wins would further dampen the memories fans have from that season.

On the bright side, at least the Terps didn't have a Final Four run to lose.