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rock the vote

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Longtime fans of the Washington Redskins know that their favorite football team, more than anything else, has a direct effect on who wins the presidential election every four years. Since 1936, the ‘Skins on-the-field results have decided who spends the next four years in the White House (well, except four years ago when the referees took back a would-be Redskins touchdown because of a bogus penalty on wide receiver James Thrash, but we believe they’ve been punished more than enough since then).

So if the Washington Redskins are willing to go to the trouble to select the most powerful leader in the free world, then the least you can do is thank them by showing your support for ‘Skins players in the Pro Bowl voting. Year in and year out, discouraged ‘Skins fans lament the lack of maroon and black players in Hawaii, well this is your chance to do something when you Vote The Redskins Ticket For The 2009 Pro Bowl.

So head over to and cast your vote. Otherwise, we just might have to live in a world where a dozen Dallas Cowboys earn Pro Bowl status year in and year out. None of us want that.

Vote early. Vote often.

* – This message is approved by Cornelius Griffin, who, in the above photo, is rocking his inner “Johnny Drama.”


ready for prime time

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time once again for what has become our weekly conversation with rookie safety Chris “The Predator” Horton. Last week, the topic of conversation was on his Hollywood-inspired nickname. This week, we had even better news for everyone’s favorite rookie.

That’s because this past Sunday, while heading into FedEx Field, we saw something special – we saw Redskins fans tailgating before the game in number 48 Chris Horton jerseys. We even stopped the fans sporting the brand-new burgundy Horton jerseys and were promised that their apparel was not, in fact, custom ordered. We knew the kid was catching on, but we had no clue he’d reached a point where the NFL already felt the need to try and cash in. Since this was news to us, we figured it was as good an excuse as any to catch up with The Predator.

How special does it feel for a seventh-round draft pick to already have his jersey for sale roughly a month into his first season?

“It’s exciting,” said Horton. “I feel privileged that the Redskins gave me an opportunity and that they drafted me. I’m just making the best out of it. A lot of teams passed me up because they said I couldn’t play, but the Redskins saw something in me and said, ‘This kid could be special one day.’”

Have you seen any fans sporting your jersey yet?

“Not yet,” he said. “But it’s going to be exciting, you know. I’m glad they’re showing their support for me. I’m going to continue to keep coming out and giving them my best football.”

And most importantly, why should fans spend their hard-earned money on a Chris Horton jersey?

“Because I feel like I’m the underdog,” he said. “No one ever gave me a chance to come out and play, and I think [the Redskins] got a guy with great character who does everything the right way on and off the field. I’m going to give Redskins fans everything I’ve got every Sunday.”

A personal promise from Horton to thank fans wearing his jersey by giving 110 percent each and every Sunday? If this isn’t enough to make diehard fans spend their paychecks on a Horton jersey instead of other frivolous items such as gas or groceries, then we don’t know what is.


shaun of the dead

(photo by Brian Murphy)

During a normal work week, Wednesday is my day off. But then again, during a normal work week the Washington Redskins don’t sign a former NFL most valuable player. So instead of sitting around in my boxers playing video games all day, I opted to put some pants on and head over to Redskins Park to catch up with running back Shaun Alexander, the newest edition to the maroon and black.

What can you tell me about the Washington Redskins?

“Growing up I wanted to be like John Riggins,” Alexander said. “I wore number 44 as a kid and wanted to have my hair cut into a Mohawk.”

How did that happen?

“My family loved the Redskins,” he said. “My father would show us clips of them. We looked at them like the Alabama of the NFL, because they were so classy with Joe Gibbs and everyone.”

So you’re happy to be here then?

“To me, this is the perfect situation,” he said. Alexander then went on to rattle off the names of Chris Samuels, Cornelius Griffin, Jason Campbell, Mike Sellers and Shawn Springs as players he’s excited to play alongside.

“I guess I’m back to being Little Shaun,” Alexander said with a smile of being teammates with Springs again.

So why were you, a former NFL MVP, out of football for so long?

“Because it takes time to heal,” Alexander said. “I was banged up with a couple different nagging injuries and needed time to get better.”

What do you say to those who are concerned you may come into the organization and be disruptive or try to start some kind of running back controversy?

“I’ve never been that kind of player,” he said. “I’ve played with other backs like Ricky Waters and [Maurice] Morris throughout my career. I have no problem doing whatever my coaches ask of me.”

And for those who are interested, Alexander is already engaging in talks with injured safety Reed Doughty to acquire the number 37 (Dan Steinberg has more on this and says Doughty will likely switch to number 23). Alexander said he’s worn that number since high school, when one of his coaches told him to pick a jersey number that no one else wore. His advice was, “Wear a number that when people see, they think of you.”

All in all, Alexander genuinely looked thrilled to be a member of the Washington Redskins. He said his main mission is to get fullback Mike Sellers into the Pro Bowl, but that was probably just because Big Mike was nearby. In fact, everyone who walked by us during our four-minute chat had something to say to the newest addition to the locker room. It’s not every day a backup running back gets this much attention, but that’s mostly because it’s not every day a former NFL MVP wanders into the building asking for little more than minimum wage and an opportunity to show he’s still got game.

I’d share highlights from my interview with punter Ryan Plackemeier, but really, other than admitting when he was a kid he thought the Redskins were located in Washington state, there wasn’t much else to talk about.


unleash the fury, version 2.0

(courtesy photo)

All apologies are due up front, as I hoped to get this up prior to the Washington Capitals’ season opener late last week. Unfortunately, things got hectic on the McFanboy front and our 2008 season preview was put on hold for a few days. What’s lacking in timeliness will hopefully be made up for in quality (or maybe word count). So here are the top five questions facing Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals as they head into their most anticipated season in recent history:

What will Ovechkin do for an encore?

Last year, Ovechkin led the NHL with 65 goals and 112 points to capture the Rocket Richard and Art Ross Trophies. He also won the Lester B. Pearson Award as the top player voted by the NHL Players Association and the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player (making him the first Washington-based athlete to be named a league MVP since Redskins QB Joe Theismann back in 1983). Oh, and he signed a 13-year contract extension worth a record $124 million and was even given a key to the city by D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty.

There’s absolutely zero chance Ovechkin turns dumb, fat and happy with his new contract. He’s much too talented and driven to go into cruise control. And unlike when the team dished out big-time money for moody diva Jaromir Jagr, Ovechkin is only 23. As good as his numbers were a year ago it’s safe to say his best days are ahead of him, which is why Caps fans are already convinced he’s the best player to ever play for the franchise.

Who will take the next step?

Whether we’re talking about defenseman Mike Green, center Nicklas Backstrom or center Brooks Laich, a host of players took a big step forward last year. Green went from scoring just two goals and 10 assists for 12 points in 70 games during the 2006-07 season to recording 18 goals and 38 assists for 56 points in 82 games as the Caps sure-fire number-one defenseman. His 18 goals were tops in the NHL by a defenseman and his eight powerplay goals a year ago helped anchor the Capitals’ lethal powerplay unit to a top 10 ranking mostly because opposing players were afraid of Green. Don’t believe me? Let me put it this way – would you want to pull a Patrick Thoresen and take a Mike Green slapshot in the beanbag? Me neither.

Backstrom started the 2006-07 season slowly (although an argument could be made that the entire team started slowly), but stepped up after two key moments. The arrival of head coach Bruce Boudreau and an injury to fellow Swede Michael Nylander that elevated Backstrom to the top line with Ovechkin kick started the rookie’s inaugural season. Backstrom finished his rookie campaign with 14 goals and 55 assists for 69 points in 82 games, which was good enough to earn him runner-up honors as the NHL’s rookie of the year.

In his previous two seasons with the Capitals, Laich scored 15 goals and 24 assists for 39 points in 146 games. Last season however, Laich tallied 21 goals and 16 assists for 37 points in 82 games. What the stats don’t show was that on a team comprised mostly of finesse players, the guy known as the “Ladies Man” was the one player in the Caps lineup that showed a consistent willingness to stand in front of the crease and do the dirty work. (Seriously, if you missed it, go back and click the “Ladies Man” link. You’ll thank me).

During the off-season, Green signed a 4-year contract extension with the Capitals, which averages $5.25 million a year. Backstrom is still playing out his rookie contract, but Laich signed a three-year, $6.1 million deal. Can any of these three players build upon their highly-successful 2006-07 seasons or will it be someone like Nylander, left wing Alexander Semin or right wing Tomas Fleischmann who takes their game to the next level?

How much of a concern is the defense?

Make no mistake about it, rookie defenseman Karl Alzner should be playing in the NHL right now. For those not familiar with Alzner, he was drafted in the first round, fifth overall, by the Capitals in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. After leading Team Canada to a gold medal at the 2008 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, Alzner captained the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League, where he was named defenseman of the year and WHL player of the year.

Right now, without having played a game at the NHL level, Alzner is a top four defenseman – especially on the Capitals. So why is he starting the season in the minor leagues? While general manager George McPhee would have you believe otherwise, he’s hanging with the Hershey Bears for salary cap purposes only, which is unfortunate considering that many of the diehard Caps fans we’ve spoken with don’t trust defensemen Milan Jurcina, Jeff Schultz or John Erskine at all. Let me put it this way – if things were so rosy with the Capitals on defense then why exactly is a first-ballot Hall of Fame center like Sergei Fedorov spending time back on the blue line?

Will the puck stop here?

Last season, the Capitals traded for goalie Christobal Huet and rode his incredibly hot play all the way to the team’s first division title since 2000-01. By all accounts, the team did everything they could to resign Huet during the off-season, but he opted for a bigger payday in Chicago. The Capitals quickly turned to Plan B, announcing the signing of free agent Jose Theodore before the news of Huet to the Blackhawks was even made public.

But what does the team have with Theodore? Is he the goaltender who earned the Vezina and Hart trophies back in 2001-02, or is he the goalie known more for his erractic play and his choice of off-rink compainionship? With both Huet and long-time crowd favorite Olaf Kolzig elsewhere this season, it’ll fall on Theodore and backup goalie Brent Johnson to keep the Caps competitive in the Eastern Conference this year.

If you build it, will they come?

As the Washington Nationals clearly proved this season, D.C.-based sports fans will find better ways to spend their time and money than watching a deadbeat team get trounced on a nightly basis. Before there was the pitiful Nats, there was the rebuilding Caps, who sold off players like Jagr, Nylander and Peter Bondra (for Brooks Laich) in an effort to tear it down and build it back up. Instead of going the Wizards route and building a team good enough to make the playoffs annually but never win anything, the Capitals went the unpopular route by cleaning house and starting over.

Now, with talented youngsters like Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and Green, our nation’s capital is routinely treated to one of the youngest and most talented squads in the NHL. Add in veterans like Fedorov, Nylander and captain Chris Clark, and this is clearly a team that can compete with anyone.While the team once struggled to barely meet the league’s minimum salary cap, owner Ted Leonsis has stepped up and put his money where his mouth is, green lighting general manager George McPhee to spend as he sees fit (which has put the Caps near the max in terms of salary cap spending). But will the fans continue to embrace this team, especially when money is tight and the economy is less-than-ideal?

Actually, yes. The Caps season ticket sales are apparently up 4,000 from a year ago to around 10,000. Even on a Monday night against a rebuilding Vancouver Canucks team the Caps are drawing solid crowds, with D.C. enjoying the chance to “Rock the Red.” And if you’re one of the last kids in town to jump on board what could be possibly be the Caps’ first Stanley Cup championship season, then please, buy a ticket and join the party now. Trust me, you’ll want to be around when Ovechkin and friends unleash the fury.

(And finally, for an explanation of the photo at the top of this preview showing one D.C.-based heavy hitter embracing another, click here).


rams playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

1. “Hurt” by Johnny Cash

The previously winless Rams came into the game ranked 31st on defense and 30th on offense, and had been outscored by more than 100 points (147-43) through their first four games of their season. The Redskins came into the game riding high on a four-game winning streak that featured quality road wins over the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. So what happened? The Redskins offense gave the game away, getting careless with the football and turning it over three times in the first half after going an NFL record five games without an offensive turnover to start the season. Though the ‘Skins were able to battle back after being down 16-7 to take a fourth quarter lead, the erratic play of the offense clearly made the game much more difficult than it needed to be.

“That’s what hurts the most,” said wide receiver Santana Moss. “Knowing you didn’t play your best as a team.”

2. “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg & Pharrell Williams

With time winding down in the first quarter, tight end Chris Cooley fumbled after an 11-yard catch. Early in the second quarter, center Casey Rabach’s poor snap got away from quarterback Jason Campbell. Right before halftime, guard Pete Kendall caught a tipped pass from Campbell and tried to … well … we’re not sure what he tried to do. All we know is Rams linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa stuck his helmet in there, caused Kendall to fumble and Oshiomogho Atogwe scooped it up for a 75-yard back-breaking touchdown.

“It’s hard for me to know that I let down the 52 other guys in this locker room, the coaches, owners, the fans,” said Kendall. “If I knock that ball down, whether we make the field goal or not, we win the game today.”

Considering the Rams offense was shut out on the day, that’s probably an accurate statement. The Rams finished the game with the defensive touchdown on Kendall’s ill-advised effort and four fieldgoals.

3. “Gone Daddy Gone” by Gnarls Barkley

Rookie punter. Nuff’ said.

4. “Don’t Bring Me Down” by OK Go

The defense was stout for much of the afternoon. The Rams first drive of the day ended with linebacker Marcus Washington stripped the ball from Rams running back Steven Jackson and safety LaRon Landry recovery the fumble on the three yard line. One play later the Redskins were up 7-0. If the Redskins offense that we’d become accustomed to over the last four games — no turnovers, time-consuming drives — showed up, then this would have been a blowout, like every other game the Rams have been involved in. Rams quarterback Marc Bulger finished with 136 passing yards. Jackson rushed for just 79 yards. The Rams offense only gained 200 yards on the day and had just eight first downs. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the ‘Skins offense and special teams play, but don’t spend too much time hating on the defense. For the most part, they got the job done.

5. “Tear It Up” by DMX

Redskins running back Clinton Portis might be the only Redskins offensive player who can say he earned his paycheck this week. With 21 carries for 129 yards and two touchdowns, he was the offense. When Portis rushes for nearly as many yards as Bulger, a Pro Bowl quarterback, passes for, you know he’s getting it done. Through six games, Portis has rushed for an NFL best 643 yards and six touchdowns. He’s currently averaging 4.7 yards per carry, his best effort since he came to Washington and .2 yards better than his career average. In his last three games alone, Portis has rushed for 395 yards and three touchdowns. Not only is he looking like the Clinton Portis who used to wear a WCW championsip belt around his waist during games in Denver, he’s looking like the NFL’s most valuable player through the first six games of the season. WHile there’s plenty of football left to be played, it’s great to see Portis return to the league’s elite status.


easy money

(photo by Brian Murphy)

When you have a name like Homer McFanboy sometimes you have no choice but to put your money where your mouth is. That was clearly the case this past weekend when the wife and I snuck away to Las Vegas for a mini-vacation. It had been nearly a decade since I last visited Sin City, so pretty much everything seemed new. But one thing that hadn’t changed was the sheer number of sports books ready and willing to help me prove my undying devotion to the Washington Redskins.

With this being the first game of the 2008 regular season I wasn’t on the sidelines for, I felt obligated to show my favorite football team some love. So the wife and I went to Caesars – home of the Pussy Cat Dolls Lounge and PURE Nightclub – and placed our bets on the ‘Skins to win. While a lesser man might have taken the 6.5 points Vegas was gladly offering against the Philadelphia Eagles, the wife and I were so confident that the Redskins would come out victorious that we threw cash down against the money line, no point spread needed.

As you all know by now, the ‘Skins won. So while the team was heading off the field, we were giving our best “Hip Hip! Hooray!” after collecting a cool $300. The only question became – what should the wife and I do to celebrate with our winnings? Since the Redskins won the money for us, it seemed only fair that the players should have a say in how we spent it.

“You got kids,” asked running back Rock Cartwright.

Nope, none that I know of.

“Maybe you and your wife could buy you something nice together. Maybe you guys could go out and treat yourself to a fancy dinner. Look at it as a blessing and do whatever you need to with it. Maybe you could pay a bill with it, you never know. Three hundred dollars can go a long way, so hopefully we can continue to win you guys some money.”

Pay a bill or take the wife out for a fancy dinner? Both sound ideas, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask a few more guys, so I headed over the veteran defensive end Andre Carter, one of the key players in the 23-17 win in Philly.

“Congratulations,” Carter said. “Go ahead and take the wife out for a nice, little dinner. You can spoil her with a nice dinner at Ruth’s Chris or Morton’s.”

Sensing the irony of the situation, offensive tackle Chris Samuels came up with a different solution.

“Buy me something,” he said. “Because I was the one out there taking the licks so you could get that money. Nah, I don’t know. Go to a nice dinner on the Redskins.”

And right when I was all set to make reservations at a swanky restaurant, offensive lineman Randy Thomas came in as the voice of reason in this less-than-perfect economy.

“Save it for gas money,” he said.

Who knew the Redskins were so practical?


to name a predator

(photo by Brian Murphy)

With the way things have gone here at Homer McFanboy over the last couple weeks I was worried we were heading into high school gossip territory. Even though we weren’t saying anything negative, we’ve been sitting here talking about a certain player behind his back lately, and we just didn’t feel comfortable about it. So today, we confronted the situation and pulled rookie safety Chris Horton aside.

We’ve got to bring something to your attention. It seems the fans have given you a nickname …

“I think I already know it,” Horton said. “The Predator?”

This really was becoming high school, with Horton surprising me by already having the nickname get back to him. Rattled, I tried to press forward.

As a safety who seems to have a knack for being around the football that’s a compliment, right?

“Yeah, it’s a funny name, but when I think about how that guy looks I don’t know if that’s so much of a compliment,” he said with a laugh.

My guess is, unlike in basketball or other sports, the fans can’t really see your face. They just see the helmet and the hair as you swoop in and make another play.

(Laughs). “It’s a good thing, I guess,” he said. “The Predator, his role, he’s a deadly guy. Some of the things he did and some of the weapons he had in the movie were insane. So I guess it’s a good thing.”

And what are some of the weapons you have?

“I love to hit,” Horton said. “I love to try and hit guys as hard as I can.”

So its official – Chris Horton approves of his new nickname “The Predator,” which is great because my neighbor kid has already put “gave an NFL player a nickname” on his resume.

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