Uncertainty Awaits Athlete Alumni in 2013

Published by Hope Schwartz on January 01, 2013 at 11:34PM

With the year and the NFL regular season coming to a close, The Back Page takes a look back at the ups and downs of Harvard alums in the big leagues. While some found success and others faltered, the Crimson made its mark on professional sports in 2012.

On the gridiron, Baltimore Ravens Center Matt Birk ‘98 is the only Harvard alum slated to make an appearance in the NFL postseason. After a 17-23 loss to the Bengals on Sunday, the Ravens will take on the Colts next Sunday in the AFC Wild Card Round. The Ravens finished atop the AFC North for the second straight year, ending the season with a 10-6 record despite losing four of their last five contests.

Birk made a splash off the field this season, coming out against gay marriage in an editorial in the Minnesota Star Tribune. While some may take issue with his politics, Birk’s anchoring presence in the Ravens’ defensive line this season has been undeniable. Before helping secure a playoff spot for his team, Birk was named a finalist for the 2013 Bart Starr Award, an honor bestowed by Athletes in Action to the NFL player who shows the strongest commitment to family and community as decided by a vote of NFL players.

In Buffalo, Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05 was unable to guide his team to the playoffs, and he might not get another chance. After failing to make the postseason for the 13th season in a row—the longest streak in the NFL—the Buffalo Bills have begun to jettison their staff. Among those already fired is coach Chan Gailey, who put up a 16-32 record in three losing seasons with the Bills.

It remains to be seen whether Fitzpatrick will remain the Bills’ starting quarterback in 2013, as rumors have been circulating all season about finding a replacement. After inking a six-year, $62 million contract last year, Fitzpatrick has failed to develop into the offensive catalyst the Bills’ front office had hoped he would. This season he finished 17th in the league in passing.

In addition to Jeremy Lin ’10’s success in the NBA, it was an exciting year for 2011-2012 men’s basketball captains Keith Wright ’12 and Oliver McNally ‘12, who each inked contracts to play professionally abroad. In Canada, point guard McNally leads the NBL in assists and assists per game for the Moncton Miracles. The Miracles hold a 10-11 record, good for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Overseas, forward Wright—who signed with Swedish team Uppsala in October—ranks second on the team in points per game, with 14.82. Entering the new year, Uppsala  sits in second place in the league, having won four of its last five contests.

With the NHL lockout reaching day 108, the NHL and the NHLPA met in person today to resume negotiations after a three-week hiatus. Games have already been cancelled through mid-January—more than 50% of the season—and it remains to be seen whether the likes of Alex Killorn ’12 and Alex Biega ’10 will have a chance to play in the top league in 2013.