Easy to see Sugar’s love of the Sweet Sci­ence

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Some years ago, Kids in Trou­ble, the Dis­trict-based char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion founded by sports­caster Harold Bell, pre­sented Life­time Achieve­ment tro­phies to box­ing writer Bert Ran­dolph Sugar and yours truly. I don’t re­mem­ber what I said at the awards din­ner and nei­ther does any­one else, be­cause Sugar stole the show. As usual.

Wav­ing a cigar and wear­ing a fe­dora, both trade­marks of his, Sugar re­galed his au­di­ence with tales of the days when box­ing was a real sport in­stead of a cha­rade. When this na­tive Wash­ing­to­nian died last week­end of a heart at­tack and lung can­cer at 75, he had outlived his sport by a gen­er­a­tion or so — or since the hey­day of an­other lo­cal Sugar baby, Ray Leonard.

In his life­time, Bert tapped out dozens of books and ar­ti­cles on box­ing, most of them in­ter­est­ing if you cared about the sport. With his out­go­ing per­son­al­ity and of­ten out­ra­geous pro­nounce­ments, he was as much a char­ac­ter as the peo­ple he wrote about.

I can re­late to Sugar’s love for this seamy sport. When I was a young writer who thought he knew it all, I cov­ered box­ing for the late and lamented Washington Star. The first thing I learned was not to be­lieve any­thing any­body tells you. The sec­ond thing was to deal with the fight­ers them­selves rather than the pro­mot­ers and man­agers who tried to rob them blind.

Most of the box­ers came out of the in­ner city, were ed­u­cated min­i­mally if at all and re­sponded to a writer who was gen­uinely in­ter­ested in them. I never heard any­body say he liked fight­ing. Those guys did it be­cause they had no bet­ter way to earn a liv­ing, mea­ger though it might be.

Some of them even had a sense of hu­mor. Once I wrote that a fancy lo­cal boxer named Her­bie Lee Dol­lo­son “hit with all the force of a spring shower.” The next time our paths crossed, he had his one-lin­ers (if not his fists) at the ready.

“Hey, pal,” said Her­bie Lee, af­fect­ing a men­ac­ing scowl. “Want me to show you what a spring shower feels like?” Oops. Lo­cal light-heavy­weight Bob Foster

ing as Kriss Proc­tor’s backup and will be around the rest of Cum­mings’ ca­reer. An­other group of quar­ter­backs al­ready has spent a fall in the Mids’ sys­tem in the class be­hind Cum­mings.

All of which made it sen­si­ble for Cum­mings, who played in two games last sea­son, to make a switch.

“You want to give a kid a full spring and a full fall to get a chance to show what he can do,” Jasper said. “Some­times, if the guys are in the same class — and I didn’t see him beat­ing Trey out and that’s the rea­son I talked to him. I said ‘Hey, you’re prob­a­bly not go­ing to beat Trey out. Do you want to sit be­hind Trey or do you want to go some­place where you can play?’ “

That doesn’t al­ways make it the most wel­come news. Lead­er­ship, of­ten over­stated be­yond the point of cliche in sports, is a fact of life at the academy. No po­si­tion on the field is im­bued with as much of the qual­ity as quar­ter­back.

Nonethe­less, for­mer quar­ter­backs still can thrive for the Mids. Jeremy Mc­Gown is one of the best ex­am­ples, en­joy­ing a strong ca­reer as a de­fen­sive back in the mid­dle of the last decade. More re­cently, Jarod Bryant was used as a slot­back as a se­nior in 2008, and Mike Stukel emerged as a use­ful slot­back last sea­son af­ter be­gin­ning his ca­reer as a quar­ter­back.

That knowl­edge, cou­pled with the op­por­tu­nity to play at a po­si­tion where Navy re­mains in­ex­pe­ri­enced, bol­stered Cum­mings.

“As soon I got done with the meet­ing, I took it in full-heart­edly and said I was ded­i­cat­ing my­self to this po­si­tion,” Cum­mings said. “There’s no point mop­ing around and say­ing ‘They changed me from quar­ter­back.’ Just take the new po­si­tion and learn it as fast as I can.”

The man de­liv­er­ing po­si­tion-change news to quar­ter­backs knows what it’s like to be on the other end of the con­ver­sa­tion. Jasper was a quar­ter­back and then a slot­back at Hawaii in the early 1990s, and Cum­mings was far from the first player he’s told will be on the move.

It’s prob­a­bly not the last time Jasper will have such a talk. But he said some­thing that helps is play­ers are ap­prised of the pos­si­bil­ity of chang­ing po­si­tions dur­ing the re­cruit­ment process and again af­ter each sea­son. Af­ter all, only one quar­ter­back can play at a time.

“It’s some­thing I have per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence with and I was fine with,” Jasper said. “The main thing is al­ways be up front with kids and let them know. Then you should be OK. I know it’s tough. At the same time, if the guy in front of you is bet­ter than you, what are you go­ing to do?”

Cum­mings, like many be­fore him, opted to em­brace the change. He played some de­fense in high school, usu­ally as a safety who could roll down and play out­side line­backer. At 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, he looks phys­i­cal enough to han­dle him­self on de­fense.

“We’re re­ally ex­cited about him,” coach Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo said. “He’s done some good things at out­side line­backer. He’s made a smooth tran­si­tion, but I’ve been ex­cited just by his at­ti­tude. He’s not sulk­ing. He doesn’t have his head down. He’s been a team player.”

Cum­mings is third on the depth chart at one of the out­side line­backer slots, be­hind a pair of sopho­mores. And while he ac­knowl­edges he still has a long way to go, he in­tends to use the spring as a chance to pick up as much as pos­si­ble and learn how to rec­og­nize of­fen­sive ten­den­cies from a much dif­fer­ent an­gle.

There is, af­ter all, life af­ter quar­ter­back.

“As a quar­ter­back, you’re a leader,” Cum­mings said. “I’m com­ing to out­side line­backer, and I’m go­ing to try to be a leader there. I know the Sam line­backer and the safeties are the guys mak­ing the calls, but you can use lead­er­ship any­where on the field.”


Jarvis Cum­mings’ decision was easy when given a choice be­tween play­ing at out­side line­backer for Navy or sit­ting be­hind quar­ter­back Trey Miller.

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