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from russia, you’ll love

(photo by Luis M. Alvarez)

The story of the night for the Washington Capitals heading into the game against the St. Louis Blues Thursday was clearly the home debut of goalie Simeon Varlamov. The 20-year-old won his NHL debut by a score of 2-1 in Montreal last week, so this was D.C.’s first glimpse of the highly-touted rookie.

(For the record, the other story coming into this game was Alex Ovechkin bobblehead night because seriously, who doesn’t love bobbleheads? Okay, where were we?)

Speaking of netminders, Varlamov was matched up against Blues 22-year-old goalie Ben Bishop, who was playing in just his fifth game of the season. With both rookie goaltenders so early into the professional careers, both sported plain, white hockey masks – which is an NHL first since 1973 (in a stat we completely made up).

After seeing the young Russian first hand, we can say this – Varlamov is very quick and very athletic. When he makes a kick save, the first-rounder is talented enough to launch the puck perfectly to a teammate breaking out at the blueline. It’s something Caps fans haven’t seen in a long, long time and actually gives the home team and chance to turn a routine defensive play into a fast break the other direction.

The Capitals defeated the Blues 4-2 thanks in large part to steady play of Varlamov throughout the game. With his team’s powerplay embarrassing itself and many Caps players getting outhustled, there was about a 10-minute stretch during the second period when Varlamov was the only player in a Capitals uniform who didn’t look like he was going through the motions. Had Varlamov not played at such a consistently high level throughout the night, there’s little reason to think the Caps would have picked up their fifth-straight win and improved their home record to 13-1-1 for the year.

“He played well,” said veteran defenseman Tom Poti of Varlamov. “I thought he was really good at challenging the shooters and coming out of the crease. He played sharp tonight and had a great game.”

Doesn’t he seem to have a lot of confidence for such a young kid?

“Yeah, definitely,” Poti said. “He knows his job is to stop the puck and that’s it, and he’s been doing that. My hat’s off to him. He played very good tonight.”

The highlight of the night came with less than six minutes remaining, when Varlamov absolutely stoned Blues left wing Keith Tkachuk, who was on the breakaway.

“I knew (Tkachuk) was going to deke,” Varlamov said through an interpreter. “He’s an older player and I knew when he made the first move I shouldn’t go down so fast.”

With the Blues having closed the score to 4-2 and last week’s near third-period collapse against the New York Islanders still fresh on the team’s mind, that play was huge.

“I thought he played really well,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “The big one on Tkachuk’s breakaway – it was 4-2 at the time – took the wind out of their sails a little bit. He’s pretty good and I think he’s got a bright future in front of him.”

Through his first two professional games, Varlamov has stopped 61 of 64 shots for an impressive 1.50 goals against average and a .953 save percentage. If there’s something that can rattle him, opposing teams haven’t found it yet.

Goalie Brent Johnson has been stellar this year, but is eligible for free agency after the season and the Caps other goalie, Jose Theodore, hasn’t exactly recaptured lightning in a bottle since he came to town this past offseason. If these first two games are any indication of the type of NHL player Varlamov is going to be, then the team just might have found their long-term solution for the biggest question mark on the roster. Trust us when we say that by all accounts, Varlamov is the real deal.


remembering sammy baugh

(file photo)

Things are hectic at Homer McFanboy headquarters today, but we wanted to ensure that we helped our readers find a way to make it through their work day (without, you know, actually working). As you know by now, Washington Redskins legendary quarterback Sammy Baugh passed away last night at the age of 94.

The Washington Post has a classy obituary recounting the Baugh-era Redskins. Tom Boswell writes that the Redskins are the biggest ticket in town because of Sammy Baugh. The Redskins Blog has some old-school videos up, as well as a statement from owner Daniel Snyder.Rich Tandler has a piece on what was likely Baugh’s best game – in which he threw four touchdowns and also had four interceptions.

Some folks have also discovered a well-written history lesson done back in 2005 by John Jeffries, a good friend of this blog. Also, Baugh’s career statistics can be found here. And just like Jason “Hollywood Fabulous” Fabini, Baugh has his very own IMDB page.

We encourage people to swing by the Pro Football Hall of Fame site to see Sammy’s official page, where you can also read his HOF enshrinement speech. Sadly, Baugh was the last surviving member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s inaugural class of 1963.

Just know that out of the five football championship D.C. has been lucky enough to win, Baugh was responsible for two of them.


heart and soul

Raise your hand if you think London Fletcher should have made the Pro Bowl.

Here’s hoping Washington Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher wasn’t wearing any valuables yesterday, because he got robbed.

Of course, if we know Fletcher as well as we think we do, there’s no way he was wearing anything flashy. That’s simply not his style, which is probably why the 11-year veteran has never received a Pro Bowl nod.

While it’s true that the NFL’s version of an all-star game is completely irrelevant, it still would have been nice to see Fletcher finally get the recognition he deserves. Since the first moment he arrived in D.C., Fletcher has been the heart and soul of this defense (which, by the way, is routinely ranked in the top 10 in the league).

Even though he’s been dealing with a foot injury for some time now, there’s zero chance of Fletcher actually missing a game … or even a play. Don’t take our word for it, listen to Fletcher’s boss.

“If you listen to my wife, she said I’d have to be in the hospital, strapped down to the bed,” Fletcher said. “Not just in the hospital, but actually strapped to the bed.”

In the violent world of the NFL, where everybody is banged up to some extent during the season, Fletcher is always there. In fact, Fletcher has played in 133 consecutive games and you better believe he takes that streak seriously.

”If I feel I can go out and help the team win, then I’m gonna do my all to be out there and play,” Fletcher said.

Not to take anything away from the four Redskins players – running back Clinton Portis, fullback Mike Sellers, tight end Chris Cooley and tackle Chris Samuels – who were voted to the Pro Bowl, but if only one person from the burgundy and gold was sent to Hawaii, it should be Fletcher.

He’s currently got 118 tackles, which is fifth best in the NFL. But more importantly, he’s the one player on the entire Redskins roster they can’t afford to play without. Even during this recent losing streak, when more than a few people are wondering which Redskins players have given up on the season, Fletcher refuses to mail it in. While still dealing with a lingering foot issue, he’s managed to rack up 32 tackles in the last three games. If that doesn’t show the true type of player he is, then nothing will.

And besides, one of the guys who got the nod ahead of Fletcher, San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis is listed as an outside linebacker on How is he getting voted to one of the inside/middle linebacker slots over London? And do we need to mention that four players from the anemic Redskins offense made the Pro Bowl, but not one player from the team’s perennial top-10 defense was chosen?

We don’t want to make personal attacks on Willis or anyone else that made the Pro Bowl roster. The purpose of this post is simply to say that if ever there was someone who truly deserved to be honored for his talented and dedication, it’s London. He’s much too classy to make a big deal out of the snub, which is why we felt compelled to speak on his behalf. Frankly, this entire ordeal is making us sick to our stomach.

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Update: David Elfin of The Washington Times has some awesome quotes from London Fletcher in response to being snubbed by his peers. Here’s an sample:

“I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t a first-round draft pick, I don’t do some kind of dance when I make a 10-yard tackle, I don’t go out and get arrested. I believe in playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” Fletcher told Elfin.

Click here for the rest.


chief zee is cooley’s homeboy

(photo by Matt Terl)

Let’s go back to better days. Back before the wheels officially came off on the 2008 Washington Redskins. Back when cautious optimism was the overwhelming feeling throughout D.C. Let’s go back to August.

Some fans may remember that ‘Skins superfan Zema Williams, who is better known as Chief Zee, had his tomahawk stolen while he was signing autographs before the preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.

“I had that thing for 25 years. Anytime you saw me, I had my little tomahawk,” Williams, told The Washington Post at the time. “I don’t see what they would do with it, but I’m sure whoever took it was playing a trick. I sat in the parking lot long after the game was over thinking someone would come out with it.”

Just when all seemed lost, Williams received help from an unlikely source – Redskins tight end Chris Cooley.

“It was actually Christy,” Cooley said. “We were sitting in Starbucks and we were just reading the paper – and we don’t read the paper all that often, but we were sitting in Starbucks, having a coffee and reading the paper and she said, ‘Look at this. Someone stole the Chief’s tomahawk.’ She’s been a Redskins’ fan her whole life and knows all about the traditions and all that stuff. She said we should use the blog to get it back, so I called Tanner right away and we put something up.”

The Cooleys posted a note on Chris’ wildly popular blog and retrieved the stolen item almost instantly.

“It was really easy,” Cooley said. “We got it back in like two hours. It was really quick.”

In an era when players commonly choose the biggest payday over team loyalty, Cooley bucked the trend by getting involved when he didn’t have to.

“He’s a good guy,” Cooley said of Chief Zee. “He’s a good guy and it’s cool to have that kind of tradition with the team.”

Wanting to somehow show his appreciation to the Cooley family, Williams thought of possible ways to show his appreciation. When Chief Zee teamed with Homer McFanboy to launch the “Chief Zee is my Homeboy” t-shirt, Williams had an idea. Last week, he signed a couple t-shirts and had them delivered to Chris at Redskins Park.

“With them putting that out to help get my tomahawk back, it just goes to show you,” Williams said. “I really didn’t think anyone would care. With someone like Cooley stepping up, that gives me more reason to go out and do my part and to spread the good word to fellow fans around the world. I really would like to thank the Cooleys for all their help.”

Instead of dwelling on all of the negatives surrounding the team these days, we figured we’d share one story that has a happier ending. Those interested can purchase the “Chief Zee is my Homeboy” t-shirts here.


bengals playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

1. “Dead and Gone” by T.I. (with Justin Timberlake)

It don’t get any worse than this folks.

In fact, tight end Chris Cooley, who has played in 78 games since he joined the team in 2004, said the Washington Redskins’ 20-13 loss to the lowly Cincinnati Bengals Sunday represented a new low.

“This is by far the worst loss I’ve experienced since I’ve been on the team,” Cooley said in the locker room following an embarrassing loss that all but guaranteed the ‘Skins will be home for the holidays watching other teams compete in the NFL playoffs.

Cooley’s candor aside, several of his teammates echoed the tight end’s words and were left to try and figure out exactly where things went wrong. How did the Redskins go from being mentioned among the league’s elite at 6-2 to here, last in the division and still free falling at 7-7? More specifically, how did they manage to lose to the Bengals, when they came into the game a pitiful 1-11-1?

2. “No Excuses” by Alice in Chains

There are two possible explanations for where the Washington Redskins currently stand. One, the team has quit on head coach Jim Zorn. The other option is that this team just isn’t very good. Neither option is good. Mostly because both mean changes, once again, will be taking place this offseason at Redskins Park.

Was this a playoff-caliber team when Jim Zorn took over or were they simply a squad that got hot at the right time and overachieved to reach the postseason last season? Once that question is answered honestly, then we can begin to determine just how much work needs to go into rebuilding this franchise.

3. “Breakin’ Old Habits” by The Notorious B.I.G.

The problem is, well … the sheer number of problems this team is currently having. The offense can’t score points. The defense can’t make a fourth-quarter stop. Special teams should have clown music playing whenever they take the field. Honestly, we should just say the things this team is doing well instead of focusing on everything not going right. It would save time.

Take for example the punt return game. Everyone knows Antwaan Randle El has been absolutely worthless returning punts. Well, they put Santana Moss back there twice and he’s actually capable of making something happen. So what happens? Both times Moss had a punt return, the team was penalized. It’s as if they’re not used to having a competent returner back there, so they didn’t know what they were supposed to do once Moss took a return more than three yards.

While we’re on the subject of special teams, it’s readily apparent Shaun Suisham is not planning on being a member of the Redskins next season. Not only does he routinely miss field goal attempts, but then he decides to kick the ball out of bounds on a kickoff. He apparently tried to sneak back into the bench area after the play until Zorn screamed for him. An ear chewing followed that included many words not suitable for print. For the record, the only other time we saw a serious reaction from Zorn was after the team had to settle for a field goal to make the score 17-10. He just lowered his head and muttered under his breathe about the fact that the offense couldn’t get into the endzone. Clearly he said what most of us were thinking.

4. “Predictable” by Korn

And speaking of that offense … where do we begin? Most days “poor execution” is to blame, or at least that’s been the coach’s go-to response week in and week out. Not today. This loss falls squarely on Zorn. How can you have one of the best running backs in the league and not use him on the goal line at least once? Mike Sellers is a very solid player, but if the 280 lb. fullback couldn’t get in the first time, then why go back on the very next play? Why not give the ball to Clinton Portis, who at last check was the NFC’s third-leading rusher? Seriously, this isn’t rocket surgery (to borrow a phrase from Joe Theismann). Stop trying to over think things and give the ball to your playmakers.

The offense has become stale and predictable. They don’t challenge opposing defenses at all and don’t take chances (unless you count throwing a four-yard pass on third and six).

While the losses are piling up, folks around town are jumping all over Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell, who admittedly needs to play at a higher level if this team is truly going to be competitive with the league’s elite. But here’s the thing – it’s not like everyone else on the roster is lighting it up while Campbell struggles. There are issues nearly everywhere you look.

Campbell got outplayed by a nobody quarterback named Ryan Fitzpatrick. But so did Portis, who got outplayed by Cedric Benson, the same Cedric Benson who was last seen getting pepper sprayed by police for drunk driving a boat. Sadly, this was the case for most of the positional comparisons between the ‘Skins and the lowly Bengals. For a creative offensive head coach, Zorn sure does run a predictable operation.

5. “I predict a Riot” by Kaiser Chiefs

All that being said, the Redskins absolutely should not fire Jim Zorn after just one season. Is he in over his head? Possibly. Do changes need to be made? Absolutely. But it would be a mistake to run the first-year coach out of town after his inaugural campaign. Management must resist the urge to do what comes all too easy at Redskins Park – overreacting in an attempt to save face while criticism mounts.

Zorn did something right at the beginning of the year and was able to get a flawed team to 6-2. He’s still the same coach capable of putting together a winner. He just needs some help, whether it be in gameplanning or transforming the roster to better be able to run a true West Coast offense. Don’t do it. Don’t fire Zorn. The right coach is on board. Instead of focusing on possible coaching replacements or other bad ideas, spend your time devising ways to help put him in the best position to succeed.

Bonus track: “Bengals Growl” by Bird’s Band

If nothing else, this link should serve as a reminder that things could always be worse. Not only have the Bengals been terrible for as long as folks can remember, but they also have the most embarrassing excuse for a “fight song” in the history of football. This is the actual song played at Bengals home games when the team scores. Seriously. We couldn’t make this stuff up.


a fabulous hollywood update

(courtesy photo)

Earlier this week, we broke the story that Washington Redskins reserve offensive lineman Jason Fabini surprisingly appeared in the movie Made, a 2001 comedy featuring Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn.

Well, here’s visual evidence of Jason “Hollywood Fabulous” Fabini’s cameo in the follow-up to sequel to Swingers. (Sorry to go all “Perez Hilton” on you with the crude drawing on a screen capture).

As you can see, Fabini really nails his role as “Doorman #3” while sharing the screen with the likes of Favreau, Vaughn, Dustin “Screech” Diamond, Sean “P Diddy” Combs and Federico “Furio from the Sopranos” Castelluccio. He’s both a) wearing a suit and 2) standing by the door, ready to spring into action whenever the door needs opened. If there’s a better man for the job in all the land, we haven’t met him.

This officially ends the most blogged about week of Fabini’s life. In addition to some love here at Homer McFanboy, the little-used lineman has also appeared in the D.C. Sports Bog, The Official Redskins Blog and in a player profile on Chris Cooley’s blog. Oh, and he also drives a smart car.

Is it too late to add this guy to the Redskins … er … NFC Pro Bowl roster?


what just happened?

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Holy shit.

That was our reaction when a friend sent us a link to a Sports Illustrated feature story on Washington Redskins rookie safety Chris “The Predator” Horton. In it, writer Lee Jenkins talks to Horton about following in his idol Sean Taylor’s footsteps, but one particular passage caught our eye and elicited the above reaction:

Redskins’ blogger Homer McFanboy started referring to Horton as The Predator — because of his shoulder-length hair and aggressive style — and somehow the nickname stuck. Horton is so enamored with the moniker that his website is

Needless to say we weren’t expecting to be mentioned by the biggest name in the business when we woke up this morning. We haven’t been this excited since we got some love on Alex Ovechkin’s official website. So thanks to Jenkins and Sports Illustrated for the shoutout and to Horton for being such a good dude and a nice story for ‘Skins fans to enjoy this season.

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