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30Oct

note: no we can’t

(courtesy photos)

I know we’re less than a week away from officially replacing George W. Bush, and that news alone is enough to give folks reason to smile during these not-so-rosy days, but there’s something I feel obligated to remind people.

Your vote doesn’t count. I’m sorry to break it to you, but that’s just the way it is.

Sure, all these college kids are excited to “make a difference” for the first time in their life and are happily forwarding emails claiming that in 1824 some guy won some election by one vote. Yeah, that’s all nonsense. Your vote means as much as one diet pill being shoved down the gullet of our overly obese society.

“Um … why doesn’t our vote matter?” asked the pimply-faced college kid going door to door in my neighborhood last week.

“Because the results will already be determined by the time Tuesday morning rolls around,” I tried to explain to the obviously confused poor soul who could do nothing but give me a blank stare for my troubles.

The Washington Redskins have determined who will win every presidential election since 1936. Well, except four years ago, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Not counting 2004, the Redskins have correctly predicted who would win 15 straight presidential elections. If the ‘Skins win their last home game before the election, then the incumbent party remains in office. If they lose, then the incumbent party loses. It’s really that simply.

You don’t need to go stand in line for hours just to pull some lever for some guy you really hope might reside in the White House over the next four years. No, just tune in Monday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers come to town to take on the Redskins. If the Steelers win, Barack Obama wins. If the ‘Skins win, it’s John McCain-Sarah Palin time.

So I know you’re wondering – what happened four years ago? How did a tried and true formula go wrong? That’s why I’m here for you. Gather ‘round for story time.

The Washington Redskins hosted the Green Bay Packers at FedEx Field Sunday, Oct. 31, 2004. It was an evenly-matched battle between two middle-of-the-pack NFC teams. Here’s the lede from Associated Press article on the game:

Clinton Portis celebrated the apparent winning touchdown with a leap into the end zone, capping a 43-yard reception that gave the Redskins a one-point lead with 2:35 to play.

Oops. Scratch that. Flag on the play.

Receiver James Thrash was whistled for illegal motion, a call Thrash didn’t understand and one that Washington coach Joe Gibbs called “an absolute mystery.”

On the very next play, Packers cornerback Al Harris intercepted Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell and Green Bay won. But here’s the story within the story – referee Tom White and his crew had clearly had enough after four years of George W., and tried to take matters into their own hands. Even though there was no penalty on the play, in their minds they needed to take action to ensure “the Bush stopped here.”

There’s just one problem – the football gods would never sit idle while cheaters prosper. So Bush was re-elected and we’ve been treated to more war, more embarrassment and another depression. Thank you Tom White, you dickhole.

One good thing did come out of this though – the football gods officially decided it was time to take back the game once and for all, which is why, in 2006, they sent us a Terminator by the name of Roger Goodell. Since he’s settled into the role of NFL commissioner, Goodell has ruled with a much-needed iron first. Where Paul Tagliabue was content to let teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals collect thugs, assholes and convicts, Goodell is the man willing to hold both the teams and the players accountable for stupid actions.

Throw out a couple heavy fines and suspensions around and suddenly the divas and drama queens think twice before driving drunk or slapping their girlfriends around. Look at just last week – the Steelers took it upon themselves to bench wide out Santonio Holmes because he was caught driving around town with weed out in the open. In Cleveland, the Browns took action against tight end Kellen Winslow II and benched him after making critical comments about the organization to the media. In Kansas City, the Chiefs sat running back Larry Johnson after word got out that he assaulted a woman in a nightclub.

Do you realize how long overdue this was? I mean, Michael Irvin stabbed a teammate in the neck with a pair of scissors because he wanted to get his hair cut faster. Needless to say, the Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s couldn’t have even fielded a team under Goodell. Now, owner Jerry Jones can collect parolees like “Pacman” Jones, Tank Johnson and friends, but both the team and the players have been told, in no uncertain terms, if anyone screws up, then everyone pays.

Which brings us back to the election. Everyone has paid for four brutal years. It’s time for a fresh start, one way or the other. So the football gods will once again let the Washington Redskins determine who wins the White House. Let’s just hope the mere mortals involved with the game don’t do anything else to upset them.

Note to self is a weekly sports column written for HoboTrashcan.

29Oct

ask a cheerleader (part two)

(photos courtesy of Washington Redskins)

MEET STEPHANIE

She’s 18 years old and is orginally from Baltimore, Maryland (but we won’t hold it against her). This is her first year on the team and she’s in the mood to answer some of your questions.

FedExField is the largest stadium in the NFL. What was it like for you the very first time you stepped in front of 90,000 fans? Were you nervous?

The first time I ever stepped on the field in front of 90,000 fans I was very nervous. I took every minute of it in and it was the best feeling ever. The fans are amazing. It’s a great feeling to step out there knowing you’re doing what you love.

What is the most and least rewarding part of being a cheerleader with the Washington Redskins?

The most rewarding part of being a Redskins Cheerleader is the friends you make, the fans you get to know, and being able to pursue your dream. The least rewarding part of being a cheerleader would be all the stress you obtain for hoping your team will be the best in the NFL.

Since cheerleaders don’t travel with the team, what do you do on the weeks when the team has an away game? Do you watch the Redskins game with other cheerleaders? Are you off that week?

When we don’t travel with the team, I tend to stay home and watch the games. I never miss one. I enjoy going out with the girls, and cheering on our team.

MEET ANABEL

As a fourth-year cheerleader, you’ve probably noticed Anabel on the sidelines by now. If not, then you’ve probably seen her in Sports Illustrated, FHM or Maxim. Yeah, she’s big time.

Tell us one thing people would be surprised to learn about being a cheerleader for the Redskins.

One thing that people would be surprised to learn about being a cheerleader for the Redskins is that we arrive four and a half hours before kickoff on gameday. We are die-hard fans just like everyone else!

29Oct

ask a cheerleader (part one)

(photos courtesy of Washington Redskins)

MEET HEATHER

She’s 29, originally from Stafford, Virginia, and is enjoying her fifth year as a member of the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders. And most importantly, she’s kind enough to answer your questions.

On average, how many hours a week do you work out with the cheerleaders? Workout in the gym? Work your regular job? And how many other events a year do you work as a cheerleader for the Redskins?

The cheerleaders have practice Tuesdays and Thursday from 7-10:30 p.m. Early in the season, or if it is a game week, we may add extra practices. Some ladies workout a lot, while others use our practices as their weekly workouts. I personally work out six days a week for about 45 minutes to an hour and alternate cardio and lifting. I have a nine-to-five job that is pretty flexible on when I work, but every week its 40 hours. All of the cheerleaders do around 20-30 charity and promotional events throughout the year. These are chosen by each individual cheerleader based on their schedules. These can range from performances, autograph signings or events helping around the community.

Speaking of your regular job, what do you do and are there any similarities between your two jobs?

I am an engineer and a consultant for the Defense Department, mostly with the Navy. My focus is with materials and paints. Yes, I’m a nerd. There are absolutely no similarities between my two jobs. This is great because it allows me to use both sides of my brain. When my day job gets rough, I always have the ‘Skins to clear my head.

Just how often do you get hit on by fans at a typical Redskins game? What’s the funniest/most bizarre thing a fan has done or said to try and impress you?

It definitely happens to all of us, a handful of times per game. It’s probably the best, when the fan is seated in a higher section and tries to give you their phone number and get you to call using sign language. I once had a fan who wanted me to do a promotion event that was two hours away. He sent me tons of mail, including a picture of the venue with a cutout of myself taped to it and a map that highlighted the route from the stadium to the event.

MEET JAMILLA

She’s 32, originally from Newport News, Virginia, and is in her sixth year as a Redskins cheerleader. She’s also a captain of the team, so don’t get on her bad side.

Why did you want to become a cheerleader? What made you initially try out to be a Washington Redskins Cheerleader, and just how tough was it to make the squad?

I love performing and I am a huge Washington Redskins fan, so it gives me the opportunity to cheer for my favorite team and enjoy what I love to do – DANCE! I initially auditioned for the team because a friend of mine was a member of the squad. She helped me prepare for auditions, but I got my best information from attending prep classes. This gave me the opportunity to learn the dance style of the team and workout with some of the current members of the squad. Auditions are pretty tough because there are several rounds to get through – freestyle, choreography, interview, but attending prep classes definitely helped a lot.

We’ve heard that the Redskins cheerleaders don’t get paid. Is that true? Also, what perks or benefits come with being a Redskins cheerleader?

No this is not true, but what we all enjoy most about being a cheerleader, besides performing, are the opportunities to be in the D.C. Metropolitan community. As a cheerleader, you are required to have a full-time job, be a full-time student or a full-time mom so this is not our full-time job. We do enjoy the opportunity to travel to exotic locations for our calendar trip and to travel overseas to perform for the troops. We have some great sponsors as well that provide us with services needed to be a Washington Redskins Cheerleaders, like Robert Andrews as our hair care sponsor, Sport & Spine as our chiropractic sponsor, D.C. Smiles to keep our smiles pretty, Washington Sports Club as our gym sponsor, and the list goes on.

How many of the cheerleaders actually know the game of football? And how many are actually Redskins fans?

I truly believe that the majority of our team knows a great deal about football. If you pay close attention to the cheerleaders you will see us watching intently from the sidelines. Sometimes we are supposed to be dancing, but because a great play is happening on the field you will catch us jumping up and down celebrating. We truly love the game, and we have the best seats in the house (besides the football team). I have never heard any of the ladies say that they are fans of another team, and I assume that if they liked another team they would have auditioned to be on their cheerleading squad.

28Oct

run portis run

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Life for running back Clinton Portis and the Washington Redskins is pretty darn groovy at the midpoint of the 2008 season. For starters, he leads the league in rushing with 944 yards, which is 260 yards more than anyone else in the league. That also puts Portis on pace to finish with 1,888 rushing yards, or roughly 300 more than his previous best season. But even with Clinton putting up monster numbers on a weekly basis, he still doesn’t sound overly concerned with personal accomplishments.

“All the personal stats and personal ideas [about putting up big numbers], wanting to do this and wanting to do that is out for me,” Portis said last week. “I want to win. It does not matter if I have 175 yards or if I have 75 yards, if we come out with a win, I come out with a smile on my face.

“I think we are playing great team ball right now, and that’s what is going to take us down the stretch,” Portis said.

And while that’s great for Portis to say – especially when so many people out there paint him as a “me-first” kind of guy – the truth is the Redskins have needed him to do the heavy lifting through the first half of the season and he’s delivered, which is why the ‘Skins stand 6-2 at the halfway point of the season.

We decided to break down the first half of each of Portis’ five seasons with the Redskins and see what the number crunching showed. Here’s what we found out:

In 2008, Portis has 187 carries for 944 yards (5.0 per carry) and seven touchdowns. Most importantly, the Redskins are 6-2.

In 2007, Portis had 151 carries for 629 yards (4.2 per carry) and six touchdowns. The ‘Skins went 5-3.

In 2006, Portis had 127 carries for 523 yards (4.1 per carry) and seven touchdowns. The ‘Skins went 2-6.

In 2005, Portis had 148 carries for 620 yards (4.2 per carry) and four touchdowns. The ‘Skins went 5-3.

In 2004, Portis had 204 carries for 810 yards (4.0 per carry) and two touchdowns. The ‘Skins went 3-5.

Most importantly, the Redskins are 10-2 when Portis rushes for at least 100 yards during this timeframe. Now that we’ve laid the case for Clinton, please allow us to play devil’s advocate.

Hey Casey Rabach, here’s your chance to tell us Portis is just rushing for all these yards because his offensive line is so awesome. What say you?

“I can’t say that,” he told us last week. “As a whole the offensive line is playing pretty well, but definitely credit goes to Clinton. He’s running hard, he’s making yards after contact and breaking tackles. He’s definitely a huge part of this offense.”

So much for that line of thinking. What do you think of the steam Portis is gaining as a possible NFL most valuable player candidate?

“That would be awesome if he could pull that out,” Rabach said. “That’s what an offensive lineman dreams for – to see a guy you’re playing with excel and earn that honor.”

If he does win the award, what should the offensive line get as a thank-you gift?

“You know, it doesn’t matter,” he said with a laugh. “It’d definitely be appreciated, but …

Have you guys talked with him about it yet?

“Oh, Randy [Thomas] definitely has talks with him here and there,” Rabach said. “He’ll definitely take care of us, that’s for sure.”

Next up, we wanted to ask some of the defensive players what it means to have someone like Portis, capable of sustaining time-consuming drives, on the same team. How great it is to sit on the sidelines all fresh and relaxed while he’s running wild on opposing teams?

“He’s looking good, man,” said rookie safety Chris “The Predator” Horton. “And that offensive line is doing a great job of giving him holes and letting him run. He’s a great back and if that offensive line continues to give him big holes … I could run through them.”

Wait a minute. Did you just say you could put up the numbers that Portis has this year behind that offensive line? Pete Kendall had a carry and we saw how that turned out.

(Laughs). “Not at all,” Horton said. “I’m going to continue to do what I do and try to get better at what I do on the defensive side of the ball. Maybe some day [Horton can worry about offense], but not right now.”

Even though Horton realized he’d put his foot in his mouth and began back pedaling as quickly as possible, it didn’t stop us from having a little fun at his expense.

Hey Marcus Washington, Chris Horton said the offensive line is playing so well that even he could run through those holes. What do you say to that?

(Laughing. A lot). “I don’t think he could run through those holes,” Washington said while still laughing at the thought of Horton playing on offense. “We won’t mess with him right now. He’s playing well too, so we won’t mess with his confidence too much.”

So aside from Horton, pretty much everyone in town sees just how impressive Clinton Portis’ play has been thus far this season. Needless to say, if he continues at this level of play for the remainder of the season, then the Redskins will most likely be involved in some meaningful games come January. That’s news any Redskins fan can be proud of.

27Oct

lions playlist

(photo by Eric Leichter)

1. “Cocky” by Kid Rock

Yes, the Washington Redskins defeated the Detroit Lions 25-17. That doesn’t mean everything is necessarily peachy though.

Before the game even began, one couldn’t help but be concerned. Less than an hour before kickoff, the Redskins announced their inactive list and while running back Ladell Betts and the regularly injured duo of cornerback Shawn Springs and wide out Malcolm Kelly were out, there were a few surprising names also on the list. Safety Chris Horton, tackle Chris Samuels and defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin were all being held out of the game due to various ailments.

Word began to spread that if this were a playoff game all three would most likely be active, so immediately the question was raised – were the ‘Skins taking the Lions too lightly? Did they go into this game almost as if it was a preseason game, resting their starters as if the outcome was never really an issue? Whatever the rationale, Redskins fans couldn’t feel good that just two weeks after losing to the previously winless St. Louis Rams, the ‘Skins seemed to assume a league doormat would just roll over simply because the all-mighty Redskins were in town.

2. “My Name Is” by Eminem

Thank the lord for wide receiver Santana Moss. If not for the continued resurgence of “the other Moss,” the ‘Skins would probably be doing a lot of soul searching the day after another humbling loss to an inferior opponent. As he’s managed to do for much of the 2008 season, Moss simply outmatched whoever drew the assignment of trying to slow him down.

This week, Moss finished with a season-high nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. They went to him early and often in Motown and the Lions could do nothing to stop the speedy wide out. Moss touchdown, a 50-yard bomb in the third quarter, was text-book Santana – catch the ball and make people miss.

(Editor’s note: This officially ends the tribute to Detroit music portion of our playlist).

3. “The Way You Move” by Outkast

Okay, let’s get the negative part out of the way early – running back Clinton Portis and head coach Jim Zorn had what Portis termed a “misunderstanding” during the game. At the end of the first quarter, Portis checked out of the game, reportedly with an equipment issue, and didn’t let Zorn know what was going on. And then, early in the second quarter, with the equipment issue resolved, Portis checked himself back into the game. Well, Zorn again was left out of the loop with which running back was going to be in the game on what play. After the drive the cameras clearly showed Zorn unhappy with how things played out and letting Clinton know it.

Of course, Portis went on to have another stellar day. He had 24 carries for 126 yards in route to his fifth consecutive game with at least 120 yards rushing, and now leads the league with 944 yards on the ground – an amazing 260 more than anyone else. Think about that for a moment – Portis could take the next two weeks off and still possibly lead the NFL in rushing. Not too shabby.

4. “Get Back” Ludacris (w/ Sum 41)

It’s been a troubling year for special teams coach Danny Smith. While his unit has routinely ranked as one of the better units in the NFL, his guys have struggled to handle the basics this season. Both the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints returned punts for touchdowns this year, the rookie punt ended up getting fired for being the worst in the league in every meaningful category for punters and Antwaan Randle El has officially become the anti-Devin Hester, a.k.a. – the most disappointing punt returner in the game. But other than that, how did you like the play Miss Lincoln?

Fast forward to this week and magically things were much more enjoyable. Kicker Shaun “Shazam” Suisham connected on four of five field goal attempts and someone finally tripped up Randel El before he made it onto the field for another uninspired return. Moss, in the game in place of Randel El, bounced off teammate/would-be tackler Devin Thomas and raced 80 yards for his first punt return for a score since 2002.

Game, set, match.

5. “Rearviewmirror” by Pearl Jam

The Redskins now find themselves in rare company, as one of four teams with six wins. With a 6-2 record at the midpoint of the season, the ‘Skins have blown through every conceivable expectation set prior to the season on a team with a rookie head coach. Even if the team plays .500 ball the rest of the year, they finished with a 10-6 record that pretty much always means playoffs.

There’s a lot to like about this team. Quarterback Jason Campbell is in the top five in the NFL in QB rating. As previously mentioned, Portis leads the league in rushing by a landslide. Moss is in the top five in receiving yards. Middle linebacker London Fletcher is in the top five in tackles.

There’s also reason for concern with this bunch, which seems, for better or for worse, to play to the level of their competition. That’s fine when you’re playing the Super Bowl champions or your hated rival, but not so much when you’re going up against winless punching bags. There’s also the subject of injuries, which seem to be plaguing the Redskins training room. Several of the guys on the offensive line have been banged up and the same goes for key players on the defense like Fred Smoot, Griffin and the oft-injured Springs.

Throw in minor bumps and bruises to Campbell, Portis and Moss and there’s a concern that the key contributors might not be able to play all the way down the stretch. While this team does have more depth than they’re given credit for, there’s always a breaking point. One untimely injury to Portis or Campbell could derail an otherwise promising campaign. But if the ‘Skins can avoid any major injuries and continue to play competitive football week in and week out, fans just may be able to continue this enjoyable ride.

24Oct

losing london’s lunch

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Apologies are due up front, with the lack of action on the blog this week. We’ve been sick all week long (which makes the above photo even more appropriate) and haven’t had much in the way of energy to dedicate to the blog. While Homer McFanboy has been home resting, Dan Steinberg has been getting it done, folks. This week he even managed to tackle a topic that we planned on pursuing this week — middle linebacker London Fletcher’s pre-game ritual of … um … losing his lunch.

“I’m a vomit guy,” Fletcher told Steinberg. “I’m SUCH a vomit guy.”

Fletcher never puked before a game in college, but has been doing throughout his NFL career. He’s not sure what triggered it once he turned pro, but he attributes it to anxiety and nerves.

“By the time it’s game day,” he said, “my stomach’s just so queasy, so to speak, that I have to get out some things before the start of the game.”

Click here for Dan’s full article, if you have the stomach for it.

21Oct

feels like home

(photo by Brian Murphy)

As far as debuts go, running back Shaun Alexander’s start to his Redskins career was a tame one. His first carry went for eight yards, but his two other carries went for one yard and a loss of one. Three carries for eight yards isn’t what one might expect from a former NFL most valuable player, but we’re willing to give Alexander a pass as he gets back into the weekly grind. After the game we had a chance to catch up with Alexander in the locker room to get his take.

Shaun, your first game as a Washington Redskin is in the books. How do you feel?

“It feels good to get a win,” Alexander said. “This is a good thing and I’m honored that I’m a part of such a great team. It was good to get out there and play a little bit.”

It might have taken a little bit longer than you anticipated, but how does it feel to finally be a part of the 2008 season?

“I knew I was eventually going to play,” he said. “I think it was just about when was I finally going to heal up and finding the right team. I thank God every day that it was the Redskins.”

So how did it feel to get a couple carries and to get some hits in there?

“It was good,” he said. “Football is football, you know. It was exciting to go out and play and I’m excited to be a Redskin.”

Is this place starting to feel like home?

“It felt like I was someplace special from the very beginning when I saw Chris [Samuels] and Cornelius [Griffin] sitting in the locker room when I first got here,” Alexander said. “It’s already feeling like home to me.”

More than a few Seattle Seahawk fans warned us that Alexander would be moody and difficult. We’ve had the chance to chat with him twice and have seen nothing but a guy who seems genuinely thrilled to be a part of this tight-knit team with so many players and teammates he has experience with and considers friends. Maybe it’ll happen and he’ll turn the corner for the worse, but in the meantime the ‘Skins have found themselves a cheap and reliable backup for the stretch run.

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