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Award-winning journalist, Richard Ben Cramer, dies

Award-winning journalist, Richard Ben Cramer, dies

WASHINGTON (AP) Richard Ben Cramer, a fearless and dedicated author and reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for his journalism and wrote the classic presidential campaign book ``What It Takes,'' has died. He was 62.

Cramer died Monday at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore from complications of lung cancer, his agent, Philippa Brophy, said. Cramer lived with his wife, Joan, on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Cramer won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting from the Middle East while with the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for seven years. He was known for an in-depth reporting style that involved spending significant time with the subjects he profiled and recreating scenes with vivid color and dialogue. His 1986 profile of Ted Williams in Esquire magazine traced the arc of the hitter's career - including his personal relationships and feelings on fame - from early days to post-baseball life in the Florida Keys, where, Cramer wrote, locals might run into him at the tennis club, coffee bar or tackle shop.

``It was forty-five years ago, when achievements with a bat first brought him to the nation's notice, that Ted Williams began work on his defense. He wanted fame, and wanted it with a pure, hot eagerness that would have been embarrassing in a smaller man. But he could not stand celebrity. This is a bitch of a line to draw in America's dust,'' Cramer wrote.

Many readers knew him best for 1992's ``What It Takes: The Way To the White House,'' a 1,000-page narrative of the 1988 presidential race that was equally heartfelt and irreverent. It is often ranked with Timothy Crouse's ``The Boys On the Bus'' and Theodore H. White's ``The Making of the President'' as masterpieces of political reporting. Cramer delved into the lives and careers of the candidates, explaining how eventual winner George H.W. Bush had early in his political career resisted the urging by advisers to speak openly about his war record or the death of his young daughter from leukemia - personal topics he later discussed movingly during his presidential campaign.

Vice President Joe Biden ran for the White House in 1988 and Cramer described at length how his campaign was brought down in part by revelations that the then-U.S. senator from Delaware had lifted words from a British party leader for his own speeches. But Biden said on Tuesday that Cramer was an unmatched talent

``It is a powerful thing to read a book someone has written about you, and to find both the observations and criticisms so sharp and insightful that you learn something new and meaningful about yourself,'' Biden said in a statement.

White House spokesman Jay Carney called Cramer the greatest political journalist ever and said ``What It Takes'' captured affectionate portraits of the candidates.

``They are appreciative of each individual, their qualities, and their failings. But everything is done with great affection for the process, and the individuals. It's a joy to read. So, if you haven't already, go get it,'' he said.

Cramer's gifts were memorably demonstrated in the book's opening section, a long and occasionally farcical account of the events leading up to the most innocuous of rituals - then-Vice President Bush throwing out the opening ball at the Astrodome for a 1986 playoff game between the Houston Astros and the visiting New York Mets. Cramer details the extraordinary logistics behind this simple action. It described the coordination between the vice president's office and the White House needed for Bush to travel, the holding rooms and command posts that were established for security at the Astrodome and the booklet prepared outlining Bush's schedule.

The story of the opening throw gained extra meaning years later when a minor character at the time, Bush's eldest son George W., himself became president. The younger Bush - ``Junior'' - was then around 40 and had never held elective office. His most important contribution to the day's events was throwing a fit over the tickets he had received to the Astrodome, far from where his mother, Barbara Bush, and the vice president were sitting.

``They were screwing around with the wrong guy,'' Cramer wrote of the future president. ``Junior was the Roman candle of the family, bright, hot, a sparkler - and likeliest to burn his fingers. He had all the old man's high spirits, but none of his taste for accommodation.''

Cramer was born and raised in Rochester, N.Y., attended Johns Hopkins University and graduated from Columbia University's prestigious journalism school. Before joining the Inquirer, he worked three years at the Baltimore Sun, and he also wrote for Esquire and Rolling Stone. He began work on ``What It Takes'' in 1986, writing in the book's introduction that he wanted to learn what inspired presidential contenders to ``bend their lives and the lives of those dear to them in one hugely public roll of the dice in which all but one would fail.''

Cramer did not hesitate to take on public figures, whether politicians or athletes. Cramer's 2000 biography of DiMaggio, ``Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life'' made best-seller lists and offered a complex, multi-faceted portrayal of his life and career, revealing a sour and often unlikeable man behind the facade of grace and elegance. In recent years, he had been working on a biography of another New York Yankees star, Alex Rodriguez. But the project was abandoned last year and the publisher, the Hachette Book Group, sued to recoup Cramer's $550,000 advance.

"We had been trying to contact Mr. Cramer for well over a year, to no avail, and were not aware that he was ill,'' Hachette spokeswoman Sophie Cottrell said in a statement. ``We were surprised and saddened to hear of his passing.''

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Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- It might be quite a while before we see John Wall on the court playing for the Wizards again.

It was already well-known Wall will miss extended time as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon, a rehab that usually takes at least 11 months. But it is starting to sound more and more like he won't play in the 2019-20 season at all.

Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis shared that harsh reality on Monday during a press conference at Capital One Arena.

"Our highest-paid player, our five-time All-Star, may not play at all next year. He probably won't play at all next year," Leonsis said.

If Wall follows the general timeline for the surgery, he could come back sometime early in 2020. A 12-month recovery would have him return in early February.

If Wall missed all of next season, he would return to start the 2020-21 campaign after a 20-month recovery. That would be nearly double the rehab time many players have taken for the same injury over the years. He would be 30 years old by then.

But Wall and the Wizards have reason to be extra patient. He is entering the first season of a four-year, $170 million supermax contract. Punting the first year, even if he is making $38 million, could be worth it in the long run if it means he returns to his All-Star form.

The Wizards are also likely to have a gap year of sorts anyways. They retooled their roster with young, inexperienced players. The odds they make the playoffs this season are lower than they have been in years. The Wizards are taking the long view and they know getting Wall's rehab right is paramount.

Leonsis and team officials currently get daily reports on Wall's progress. After making the supermax investment, they are taking extra measures to ensure he is holding up his end of the bargain. The Wizards closely monitor his weight and have a rotation of physical therapists working with him every day.

If it were up to Wall, he would be more likely to return next season. The team is the side taking extra caution.

"Trust me, nobody wants to get back to the court more than John Wall," GM Tommy Sheppard told NBC Sports Washington. 

"But I've tried to manage this with him and say there is no calendar or clock that is going to tell you to come back. You're going to come back when you're 100 percent healthy. Anybody who has watched him in the playoffs play with broken hands and all of the aches and pains he's had over the years and he still showed up and played at a high, high level. You know you need to monitor him a little more than most. That's the kind of player that is going to try to sneak back on the court any time he can."

What Leonsis said publicly has been the belief behind the scenes in the Wizards organization for quite some time. They are preparing for next season as if he won't play, 

"We have to see if John Wall comes back and how he looks and how he plays," Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington. "If John Wall can come back at 80 percent the year after [in 2020-21], I would be really happy because then we would have a great, great backcourt."

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Redskins365 Episode 1: The Future Starts Now

Redskins365 Episode 1: The Future Starts Now

Over the 2019 offseason, the Washington Redskins periodically released episodes to a new series called "Redskins 365". Here, viewers can get an all-access look into all the important moments leading up to the 2019-20 season. In episode 1 titled "The Future Starts Now" the Redskins begin their journey toward improvement following the conclusion of the 2018-19 campaign.

The episode begins immediately following the disappointing end to Washington's season as players participated in locker cleanout day. A somewhat somber atmosphere, the likes of Shaun Dion Hamilton, Adrian Peterson, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams reflect on the season and look ahead to 2019.

Following that, it's on to the additions and changes on the coaching staff. Head coach Jay Gruden gives his thoughts on new defensive staff hirings Ray Horton and Rob Ryan as well as Kevin O'Connell's jump to offensive coordinator. Ryan and O'Connell also explain their excitement for next season in their respective roles.

With the coaching staff puzzle becoming clear, the episode transitions to the NFL Combine. Gruden along with Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams, President Bruce Allen and Director of College Scouting Kyle Smith take you through the Combine process. Discussions about the interview process and what the Redskins are looking for in players give insight into how evaluations are done. 

The Combine portion has a heavy focus on players Kyler Murray, D.K. Metcalf and Montez Sweat among others. Released on March 20, one can see and hear from Sweat before the idea of him becoming a Redskin came to fruition and listen to Metcalf's thoughts on Jay Gruden.

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Chad Englehart also makes an appearance, discussing his viral moment with Ed Oliver at the combine and the fraternity-type bond conditioning coaches in the NFL share.

Washington's journey toward success in 2019 began the moment the clock ran out on the 2018 season. Episode 1 of "Redskins365" picks up right in that preliminary stage.

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