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where amazing happens

Brendan Haywood earned the scorn of the national media when he delivered a “hard foul” to LeBron James, sending King James into the third row of seats in the first game of the Wizards-LeBrons series. DeShawn Stevenson, depending on which talking head you listen to, either attempted to clothesline James or use a close-handed fist to straight up pop him in the dome in game four. Judging by the number of times folks in the national media have called for a Wizards player to be suspended, clearly, no one paid to cover basketball is up for any sort of physical contact — especially when it involves The Savior.

Well, that got me thinking. Maybe the Wiz are better off openly embracing the role of the villain. I mean, they’re already down three games to one and nobody outside of the beltway is rooting for them. So go with it. Cue up the intro music for Iron Sheik or Nikolai Volkoff from the WWF’s glory days and come out playing the part of the bad guy. Start one of your expendable bench players like Andray Blatche and the first time LeBron James goes for a dunk, a layup or even a drink of water, you knock his ass out. We don’t need to start a brawl like the trash in Detroit, but we can send a message that this Washington squad isn’t going down without a fight.

Which brings me to my last point — come out in Bullets jerseys. In fact, announce tomorrow morning that the franchise is embracing its roots and returning to a name that never should have gotten away. Team owner Abe Pollin has ruined two names — changing the Bullets to the Wizards back in 1995 because the name “carried violent overtones” and then being honored by the District when they renamed Fun Street to Abe Pollin Way. So he’s turned the local basketball team soft and taken the “fun” out of Washington. Thanks for nothing, dick.

You want people to take you seriously, Wizards/Bullets? Well, I want to cheer for a team not named after a Harry Potter character. Let’s work together and see if we can’t fix this sad situation. For starters, break out the old red, white and blue Bullets jerseys, grab a steel chair and show the good people of Cleveland that you’re ready for a shot at the title. If nothing else, it’ll give us all something to talk about during the offseason (besides the fact that this team is better off without Gilbert Arenas in the lineup).

Oops … did I say that?

UPDATE: Dan Steinberg’s latest entry proves the Wiz are completely on board with my suggestion. DeShawn Stevenson didn’t come out onto the court to the Iron Sheik’s music — he did one better. He arrived in Cleveland for game five wearing a Mike Vick jersey. It’s so simple, I’m stunned I didn’t think of it. Why go back 20 years, when you go sport the jersey of public enemy number one who is currently in jail for killing dogs for fun? This is especially effective when you’re in the city with a diehard group of fans who call themselves … you guessed it … the Dawg Pound. Did I mention D.C. is like no other sports town?

(courtesy photo)


shawn carter update

As previously mentioned, Shawn Carter, a.k.a. – Jay-Z, took time out of his busy schedule to dive into the DeShawn Stevenson-LeBron James feud. Thanks to the reader who was kind enough to pass along this link to the hip-hop icon’s track that was played at Love nightclub in D.C. this past Friday night while the Cleveland LeBrons were enjoying a night out on the town. Getting Soulja Boy to show up at a game, sit courtside and sport your jersey is one thing, but having Jay-Z make a custom-track and sending it to the club you just so happen to be at with your boys … well … that’s taking it to the next level. Needless to say, the freestyle lyrics flowing from Mr. Carter are not exactly work safe. Keep that in mind when you check it out.

And sadly, unless the Wizards learn to rebound, take smarter shots and stop with the careless passes this series (and the off-court drama that comes with it) will be over in the next few days. Can’t Gilbert Arenas blog about Nas and get him involved? If I remember correctly, Nas and Jay-Z aren’t exactly the closest of friends.


going 5 hole: the draft

Five thoughts on the day after the NFL draft:

1. The Washington Redskins continue to defy logic. All too often, 31 teams have a way of thinking and then there’s the Redskins. When 31 teams decide it’s best to build a championship contender through the draft, the ‘Skins happily toss away picks by the dozens justifying the tactic by saying they’d rather have a proven veteran commodity rather than rolling the dice on a rookie. But then that “proven” player ends up being T.J. Duckett or Brandon Lloyd, meaning they might as well have set the draft pick on fire.

This year Vinny Cerrato and the powers that be opted to give this NFL draft thing a shot. They did their best to keep their draft picks heading into the weekend and promise to actually have a draft board this year. Once the draft began, Redskins fans all held their breath to see how this “new” tactic would play out. Much to our surprise, the front office seemingly made a great move when they traded out of the 21st pick and acquired some extra ammo for their newfound draft strategy. Unfortunately, once they got those picks, the ‘Skins front office couldn’t help themselves. As I stated in my day one recap, the team drafted three pass catchers in the span of 16 picks to go on an offense with plenty of name players (Moss, Randel El, Cooley, Sellers and Portis) who already come into a game expecting to touch the ball from time to time. Not making a move to bolster either the offensive or defensive line with any of the three second-round picks, regardless of how many receivers you had ranked as “first-round talent,” is negligible. At this point, Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas spend as much time on the Redskins sideline as I do. Wouldn’t it be wise to have someone — anyone — under the age of 30 qualified to play on the offensive line this season?

2. The second day of the draft was kinder to the Redskins, if for no other reason than they didn’t draft another wide out. With the 96th overall pick, the ‘Skins drafted Chad Rinehart, an offensive lineman from Northern Iowa. I heard Mike Mayock, the NFL Network’s answer to Mel Kiper, had this guy as a seventh-round caliber player, but that should matter to anyone in D.C. The team brought is a 6’5″, 320 lb. country boy who Joe Bugel should be able to mold into a guard for the future. With their fourth rounder, the ‘Skins selected my personal favorite player from this weekend, J.T. Tryon, a cornerback from Arizona State. He’s 5’9″ and 190 lbs., but he already thinks he can go toe-to-toe with Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens and basically said he didn’t care who the Redskins had as cornerbacks on the roster, he’s coming in to win the job. My buddy, Papa John, is convinced he’ll be the first rookie ducktaped to the goalposts during minicamp.

3. Two other players of note worth mentioning — the Redskins picked up both Georgia Tech punter Durant Brooks and Hawaii QB Colt Brennan in the sixth round. I love the punter pick if for no other reason than it very well mean the end of Derrick Frost Era. Frosty, while a “highly” enjoyable interview (unless you ask him, like I did, if the reason he still has a job is because he has naked photos of someone in the front office), scares the hell out of me every time he lines up to punt. You honestly never know if he’s going to punt it 60 yards or six. That’s probably because he doesn’t know either.

About the new quarterback — he’s Jordan Palmer with a new name. A year ago the ‘Skins took a flyer on Carson Palmer’s brother in hopes of developing him from a raw talent into an NFL quarterback. He didn’t last because Mark Brunell was still collecting his pension … er … paycheck here. This year, they took Brennan, who set 21 NCAA passing records in his three years over the rainbow. On the one hand, Brennan comes into a safe situation, with no expectations and a head coach who knows a thing or two about getting the best from his QBs. On the other, this guy is a short, injury-prone, side-armed quarterback who finds himself on the wrong side of the law from time to time. We have Jason Campbell showing up to neighborhood birthday parties, not Pacman Jones making it rain. If this guy even shows up to a meeting late, I’d send him on the next bus to Hawaii. Besides, if were up to me, I would have drafted Dennis Dixon, the Oregon quarterback who was drafted by Pittsburgh in the fifth round. That kid is a flat out playmaker.

4. Stepping away from the Redskins draft, I wanted to take a moment to highlight the top three drafts from this weekend. Now, I openly point out that it’ll probably be two years before we truly know how each of these teams fared in the draft, but we can still see some teams have reason to be optimistic sooner rather than later. First of all, the Kansas City Chiefs, led by Herm “We play to win the game” Edwards was phenomenal. Defensive tackle Glen Dorsey is the real deal, and was the number one overall player on the ‘Skins draft board. Branden Alberts, the guard from Glen Burnie High, is exactly the type of offensive lineman I would have traded your kid to get on my favorite football team. Brandon Flowers was one of the most consistent players on a stout Virginia Tech defense, and Jamaal Charles is the type of running back who can break a 60-yard touchdown at any moment. Those are four really good players from four legit college programs who should be making Kansas City proud for the foreseeable future.

I also really liked the Arizona Cardinals’ draft. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a very talented cornerback out of Tennessee State. Calais Campbell is the defensive lineman out of University of Miami pipeline, who I was convinced the ‘Skins would draft. Early Doucet is a productive wide out from LSU who should take full advantage of his situation and learn from ultra talented wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. And finally, I liked how the Pittsburgh Steelers spent their weekend. Rookie Rashard Mendenhall and Willie Parker should work nicely in the Steelers backfield. Limas Sweed was a dependable wide out during his sentence in Texas, and I’ve already mentioned that I’m a fan of Dennis Dixon, the quarterback from Oregon. There’s a reason the Steelers are consistently competitive.

5. This isn’t completely draft related, but it happened over draft weekend, so work with me. After hearing months of nagging, I finally got my act together and uploaded some of my best photos taken of the Washington Redskins over the past three years. If you were one of the people kicking me to get my act together, or if you just want to see some decent shots of your favorite ‘Skins players, then click this link.

(photo by Brian Murphy)


only in the district

“There will never be a rivalry between me and DeShawn.”

Those are the words of Cleveland Cavs superstar LeBron James from this past Friday. Thankfully, King James’ words to the media and his actions are not on the same page as this first round playoff series continues to find new ways to become more and more enjoyable. Let’s take a step back to get everyone caught up:

After the Wiz defeated the LeBrons back in March, Stevenson called LeBron “overrated.” It had less to do with King James being on the cover of Vogue that month, and more to do with stopping LeBron from hitting a game-winning shot at the buzzer. When asked for a response, James declined, saying responding to Stevenson “would be like Jay-Z saying something bad about Soulja Boy.” (Trashtalking For Dummies breakdown: I’m the best there is and he’s a one-hit wonder).

DeShawn is a smart guy, so he uses that slight as a reason to contact Soulja Boy. He catches the rapper up on the feud and invites him to join the Wizards in their playoff quest to dethrone mighty King James. Fast forward to this past week, when Soulja Boy sat courtside for the Wizards first home game of the playoffs, a 36-point rout of the Cavs, while rocking a DeShawn Stevenson jersey. If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, here’s a link to the video (courtesy of the Washington Post) of Soulja Boy doing his trademark dance and even throwing in Stevenson’s “I can’t feel my face” hand wave at the end.

Beat writers jokingly asked LeBron if Jay-Z, who by the way is a minority owner of the New Jersey Nets, would be appearing in James’ corner for game four. “No. Come on. We don’t … I’m not even going to say what I want to say,” was his response. So that’s it, end of story, right? Not by a long shot.

Mike Wise’s column from Sunday’s edition of the Post breaks the news that Jay-Z
made a diss record on Friday about DeShawn Stevenson, with Mr. Beyonce Knowles freestyling over the beat from “Blow The Whistle” by Too Short. Read that last sentence again. The biggest rapper alive crushed DeShawn Stevenson in a track specifically made for this feud that was played at Love, the same D.C. hotspot where Gilbert Arenas’ million-dollar birthday jam was held last year. Ladies and gentlemen, all we’re missing is an owner like the unstable Mark Cuban or a cameo by “Iron” Mike Tyson and this could end up becoming the biggest sports story of 2008.

People wonder how I’ve been able to brainwash my wife, who knew nothing about sports before I “saved” her five years ago. The truth is, this town does sports like no other. We’ve got Clinton Portis playing dress up during press conferences. Chris Cooley wears booty shorts and marries a Redskins cheerleader (only after she gets fired for being with him in the first place). Alex Ovechkin, the league’s best player, like to hit people as much as score goals. Sergei Fedorov was married to Anna Kournikova. Gilbert Arenas blogs about killing himself. Caron Butler went on Oprah to tell her about being a thug as a child. DeShawn Stevenson and Drew Gooden have a beard-growing competition — first one to shave reportedly loses $25,000. Seriously, this isn’t professional sports — it’s an MTV reality show. It’s the kind of crap-tastic drama that fills her gossip magazines and airs weekly on Big Brother or The Real World. You can’t pry her away from this stuff. Where else in the world would Jay-Z feel the need to pause his 43rd comeback tour to freestyle a rap dissing the fourth most popular basketball player on the team?

Only in the district. And thank God for that.


livin’ on a prayer

Day one of the NFL draft is in the books and if you’re a Redskins fan you’ve had no choice but to scratch your head at least once during the day. Let me start by saying I’m thrilled the team was able to trade out of the first round and improve their selections, thanks to a deal with Atlanta. Some of the names we’d heard the ‘Skins liked were there when it was time to make a decision about the 21st pick, but they resisted the urge to reach on a player who likely would have still been available later on. I was genuinely pleased with how things played out — trading away the pick and then still landing Devin Thomas, the wide out from Michigan State who they had rated as the best receiver in the draft.

Vinny Cerrato, the man calling the shots for the Redskins on draft day, said if they weren’t ablt to make a move they would have drafted Thomas at 21. Luckily, they made the move and still got him with the third pick in the second round, while also helping themselves out by improving later pick (they got the 34th, 48th and 103rd pick overall for the 21st, 84th and 154th selections in the draft). This is an impulse team that likes to make the big splash whenever possible, so seeing them rewarded for playing it safe and trading back gives one hope that they learn to be a little more like the guys calling the shots in New England, Pittsburgh and the rest of the elite front offices.

But just when you think you’ve got them figured out, these Redskins go and do something that completely baffles you. A team in dire need of help on both the offensive and defensive lines decides to use the newly-acquired second rounder on a tight end named Fred Davis from USC. I’m fairly sure if we were ranking the biggest areas of need on the current Washington Redskins football team that tight end would not rank in the top five, maybe not in the top 10. Chris Cooley is a premiere player at the position, Todd Yoder does a fine job backing him up and occasionally blocker and Tyler Ecker is a young guy who the ‘Skins drafted a year ago for depth at the position. With Calais Campbell, the defensive end from Miami (a.k.a. – The “U”) sitting there waiting for the Redskins to ask him for this dance, I thought the team would continue to impress us all today. Instead, we got Fred.

If that’s not enough, then the ‘Skins went one step further and drafted another receiver, Malcolm Kelly (you know, the guy I compared to Rod Gardner in an earlier post). I fully understand that the Redskins flew down to Oklahoma for a private workout with the kid this past Thursday and they legitimately considered drafted him with the 21st pick, meaning that he looked very appealing to them 30 picks later, but this is simply overkill. Unless they’re planning on putting 100 lbs. of weight on Fred and Mr. Kelly and teaching them to play on the offensive line, I cannot be on board with these picks. You’ve got Santana Moss, Antwan Randle El, James Thrash and Anthony Mix at wide out already, as well as Clinton Portis, Chris Cooley and Mike Sellers also around to get the ball to. When exactly are Thomas, Davis and Kelly (they sound like a law firm, don’t they?) going to touch the football? Sure, you’re trying to surround Jason Campbell with as much talent as possible, but that should also include help on the O-line.

Heading into day two the team has a third, fourth, sixth and two seventh rounders to get some depth on the offensive and defensive line, safety, cornerback and a back-up quarterback. Considering it’s virtually impossible for nine rookies to make the 2008 squad, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this team will still have some holes to fill once the draft is done. That’s means you either cross your fingers and pray like hell that a veteran or two gets cut in June or you go into the season praying injuries don’t cripple you at vital positions. Either way, that’s cause for an awful lot of faith with the big guy upstairs.

One final note – For what it’s worth, Cerrato told the media out at Redskins Park that drafting 17 receivers today basically means that they’ve given up on trying to acquire Chad Johnson, Anquan Boldin or Roy Williams in a trade.


easy on the eyes

There is no offseason for my buddies from Skinscast, who went above and beyond the call of duty to bring you, the general public, photos from the 2008 Washington Redskins cheerleader auditions. I’m not sure why you’re still reading this when you should be clicking this link and getting your first look at the 2008 First Ladies of Football.

The photo on the right is actually one I took last season, but for some reason I figured that you guys wouldn’t mind seeing Anabel Dela Cerna one more time. If you like her, then you’ll probably enjoy this link to her photos from last year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Can you tell NFL draft day puts me in a good mood?

(photo by Brian Murphy)


feeling a draft

(photo by Brian Murphy)

I take my Redskins very seriously. At times I’m like an overprotective parent, hoping to shield my little mess of a kid away from all the harm and negativity in the world — even if it means, at times, trying to protect it from itself.

Let me say for the record, I don’t have a problem with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. I have never once thought that his heart wasn’t in the right place. He’s loved the ‘Skins, just like I have, since day one. If for no other reason, I’ll always be cool with The Danny for that. But damn if the man doesn’t just make for public enemy number one with the media, who by the way are the people the cover his team on a day-to-day basis. Maybe it’s the perceived arrogance or the limited media availability or it’s just the fact that he’s mega-rich young guy who bought himself a silver spoon and one of the most successful sports franchises around. Whatever the reason, the folks charged with covering him and his team just plain don’t like him, and he gets no free passes from them. Especially this time of year.

It’s fitting that I bring up The Danny the day before the draft, because his name is always floating around out there during the offseason. How many NFL owners have a personal airplane? Couldn’t say. But we do know The Danny has Redskins One fueled up and ready to go on the first day of free agency or if there’s a personal workout that needs attended in the days leading up to the draft, as was the case this week when he watched a handful of kids go through one final session before finalizing the Redskins’ draft board.

There are a few names out there that are being repeated often enough to make ‘Skins fans take notice. The first name mentioned was Virginia offensive lineman Branden Albert, but at this point everyone’s fairly convinced he’ll be gone at least 10 spots before the Redskins are on the clock. With Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas seemingly unable to stay healthy for more than two games in a row, and the rest of the starters all over 30, it would seem wise for the Redskins to use their first rounder adding some youth to the line. But nothing’s that easy with the Washington Redskins, is it?

Another name we hear as a possible addition to the maroon and black (sorry Mr. Zorn, it’s too funny not to reference every once in a while) is Phillip Merling, a defensive lineman from Clemson. He’s one of the aforementioned player who worked out for The Danny and friends 48 hours before the draft. He’s also the gentleman who has dropped on some draft boards because of health issues, specifically a sports hernia. I read on the Redskins Insider blog that some scouts consider him a kind of Phillip Daniels 2.0, of sorts. While I like Daniels — he’s solid on and off the field and has the wingspan of a Buick — he’s never been someone the opposition has to gameplan for. And when we hear about the sports hernia, the locals can’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling. A sports hernia is no fun, and it doesn’t just magically go away one day. It’s the same injury that caused Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb to end his 2005 season prematurely. Call me a pessimist, but I get a sneaking suspicion that if the Redskins draft Merling the best-case scenario is he turns out like linebacker Rocky McIntosh, a talented young player who had health issues when the ‘Skins drafted him in the second round of the 2006 draft and continues to have trouble staying on the field because of various injuries. At least they can work together rehabbing from whatever ails them. (In the immortal words of Tenacious D — “That’s fucking teamwork!”)

The other name floating out there is Oklahoma wide out Malcolm Kelly, who I would rather not see holding up a Redskins jersey at any point this weekend. He’s the guy who ran a terribly slow 40-yard dash and then blamed everyone else. Then he set up a “do over” on a faster track on campus and still ran a disappointing 4.63. He’s a player who, like Merling, finds himself sliding down the draft board, only his reason is called “character issues,” which is NFL code for “the guy’s an asshole.” He’s a big target, who isn’t very fast and has questionable character. Where have we heard that story before? Oh, that’s right — the ‘Skins drafted a guy by the name of Rod “Stone Hands” Gardner back in 2001, who is the poster child for that description. If ever a team should be afraid to walk down the aisle with a player like that, it’s the Redskins.

That’s why I’m openly praying for a trade — either dropping out of the first round to pick up additional selections, or to acquire a proven wide receiver like Anquan Boldin, Roy Williams or Chad Johnson. Sure, Johnson is carrying on like a jackass in Cincy, but he’s a Drew Rosenhaus guy, and we all know that The Super Agent is in The Danny’s “Fave Five.” As soon as he gets to D.C., he’ll be smiling and sitting courtside with Clinton Portis at Wizards games or in the front row with Jason Campbell at Capitals games.

At the end of the day, the Redskins need help on the offensive line, defensive line, at receiver and at safety. They would also like to draft a third-string quarterback now that New Orleans has decided to take on a charity case by the name of Mark Brunell, leaving Washington with only Campbell and Todd “The Tasty Drink” Collins behind center.

I traded emails with a few of the professionals who earn a living covering this team, and none of them can say with any amount of certainty what the Redskins will do at around 6:30 p.m. Saturday evening when it’s time to make the 21st pick in the draft. Names like LaRon Landry, Sean Taylor and Jason Campbell might lead fans to think that’s the Redskins will have no problems bringing in another cornerstone with their first rounder, but guys like Patrick Ramsey and Rod Gardner have also been first rounders over the last decade. My advice? Crack open a frosty and refreshing beverage, cross your fingers and pray like hell the front office brings home the goods, one way or the other.

In the words of Terrell Owens (when he’s not appearing on porn websites) get your popcorn ready.

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