help wanted

This week, Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post mentioned on his blog that the Washington Redskins are looking to hire a full-time blogger. In fact, the team even brought in Steinberg, the man behind the D.C. Sports Bog, to see if he could be the man for the job. While Steinberg said it isn’t going to work out for him, he went on to say, “The idea of a behind-the-scenes, video-and-photo-heavy, well-written and authentic Redskins.com blog, composed by a real blogger, is a tremendous one that will almost certainly succeed.”

On the flip side is Stet Sports Blog, who posted Five Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Blog For the Washington Redskins. In their opinion, whoever is hired will:

1. Have no creative license
2. Say goodbye to facts
3. Be hated by the Redskins players
4. Be fired within 48 hours
5. Lose their independence

Finally, we have Michael David Smith, of AOL Sports’ Fanhouse weighing in on the subject of a possible Redskins-blogger marriage. Smith says, “This is good news for Redskins fans, for bloggers, for blog readers — for everyone who likes football and likes going online to get information about football.

So why do I bring all of this up? Well, for more than three years now I’ve been afforded incredible access to the Washington Redskins. I’ve been allowed to take photos on the sidelines during minicamp, training camp and even games — both home and away. I’ve conducted countless interviews with everyone from Vinny Cerrato to Jimmy Farris, and everyone in between. I’ve covered everything from the Sean Taylor Memorial at Redskins Park to Renaldo Wynn’s Car Show, from Art Monk and Darell Green’s Hall of Fame press conference to Joe Gibbs’ final playoff game in Seattle. I’m not bringing any of this up for a pat on the back, I’m simply letting folks know I’ve been around the team long enough to form an opinion on this subject.

Whoever ends up being hired as the full-time blogger for the Redskins will be given the opportunity to do something completely groundbreaking. It’s one thing to come out to Redskins Park on behalf of the team’s messageboard or a newspaper and hunt for blog-able content, but it’s a whole new ballgame when you’re officially part of the team. Think about your current place of employment — just being there day in and day out you can’t help but learn fascinating tidbits about your co-workers that would otherwise go unreported.

For my full-time gig (sorry folks, Homer McFanboy ain’t paying the bills just yet) I work for the government. While that isn’t very exciting in the context of sports, on my floor alone we’ve got a guy who just bowled a perfect game, a gal whose cousin is a highly-talented rookie shortstop with the San Francisco Giants and another fellow whose related to a big-name rookie wide receiver in Pittsburgh. The bottom line is — stories are everywhere, as long as you’re willing to put in the work. So if you’re at the Park daily and afforded the kind of access the team is talking about, you can’t help but come across content no one else can provide.

Before I wrap this entry up, I want to tackle one very common misconception about the front office. Like I mentioned earlier, this is the fourth season I’ve been allowed to roam the ‘Skins sidelines. Not once during that time has anyone on the Redskins payroll pulled me aside and told me not to cover something or asked me to slant my coverage one way or the other. They’re fully aware of what I’m doing and what I’m writing, but no one is standing over my shoulder making me delete a comment if I say Devin Thomas looked lost on day one of minicamp or that Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas are injured so frequently that they spend as much time on the sidelines as I do. If you’re good at what you do and don’t embarrass yourself or the team, chances are the team will leave you alone.

When you read something like the “Five Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Blog For The Washington Redskins,” just know that’s coming from someone who has never actually worked with the team in any capacity. But as I said to that author, congrats to you – you’ve managed to “save your independence” by becoming a sheep and repeating what you’ve heard from all the other talking heads. You go girl.

This is a good thing, and whoever ends up as the first-ever Redskins blogger better bring the goods. Otherwise, this will be another case of an incredible opportunity wasted.


the man, the myth, the mullet

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Man, I hate these things. Speaking at someone’s wake … er … wedding is never pleasant. Okay, where should I begin?

It’s easy to see why Chris Cooley is one of the most popular athletes in town. For starters, he might be legally insane. Doubters need only talk to the folks at Cooley’s banking institution of choice in Leesburg, Virginia, where they’re still trying to recover from the time he went to the drive-through window to deposit a check. Not just any check, mind you. No, this particular check on that fateful day was a multi-million-dollar signing bonus with his name already signed on the back. Apparently walking in the building with his biggest paycheck in his young career wasn’t an option, but putting the check into the little thermos-like-contraption and sending the golden ticket to a Pacman Jones’ “Makin’ it Rain” party through the tube was a better idea. Just another day in the life of a semi-mormon tight end.

One of my first chances to talk with Cooley was after a 2005 preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Regardless of how he played in that game, I knew I needed to corner him a get some answers to the hard-hitting type of questions people have come to expect from me — like, “What’s up with the mullet?”

Cooley laughed, caught slightly off-guard. Even though there were dozens of media members in the post-game locker room, it seems I was the only one in the room who noticed the always fashionable hairstyle. He explained that teammates persuaded the second-year tight end to shave his hair into a mullet before the game, and to take it to the next level, Cooley had taken a magic marker and drawn a big, curly mustache on his face just for kicks. When I asked him about it, he kind of shrugged his shoulders and explain that training camp gets old really quick and he wanted to lighten up the mood in the locker room. Mission accomplished.

That was the 2005 Chris Cooley, only embarking on his second season of professional football. The following season, now feeling completely at home, he decided to sport an afro – again, just for the hell of it – that I was fortunate enough to capture in all it’s glory and can be seen at the top of this entry.

Other highlights with our wacky Pro Bowler include Cooley hitting the field for training camp dressed like one of those pricey role-playing hookers only disgraced politicians and Eddie Murphy really get to encounter.

Or arriving to camp with a spiffy buzz-cut look, severely limiting the options when planning on any shenanigans, so to make it up to everyone, he grew a pornstache, for no apparent reason.

And that, my friends, is just the tip.

Cooley was the first NFL player to talk openly about being involved in fantasy football. In fact, he’s on the record for costing himself a fantasy football playoff game because he scored three touchdowns against the hated Dallas Cowboys, only to discover his opponent that week had “Fantasy Cooley,” who scored him more than enough points to send the tight end home empty handed.

And we can’t forget the birth of Captain Chaos. Former teammate/fellow metalhead Brian Kozlowski bet Cooley $100 he wouldn’t introduce himself as Captain Chaos to the St. Louis Rams’ captains before a game. “There were five captains,” Cooley said. “I looked every one in the face and said: ‘I’m Captain Chaos. Nice to meet you.'” Reebok made a T-shirt, and the name stuck. No word on if Koz ever paid up though.

These days, with a firm grasp on the potential gold mind here, Cooley has started his very own Outside Football blog. If you ever wanted to know Chris’ thoughts on a possible jell-o wrestling match involving Cooley and his fiance’ Christy taking on Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson, it’s only a click away.

In fact, his blog is so open and honest that within the last week, Cooley has posted about his pending wedding to the former First Lady of Football set for this Friday and wrote a very well thought out entry on the owner’s decision to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement. He’s enjoying doing it, and more importantly, he’s good at blogging. I had a few moments to catch up with Chris and to ask him about his new roll as a tight end/h-back/blogger. Click here to listen to the full interview.

So now, let’s wrap this thing up with a toast to the man of the hour – everyone please raise your glasses.

“To lesbians and virgins – thanks for nothing.”


damn it feels good to be a gangsta

It’s becoming more and more apparent that these aren’t your parent’s Washington Capitals anymore.

The big news today is that Alexander Ovechkin has been named The Sporting News’ Player of the Year. This may be a no-brainer considering how he will presumably sweep most of the individual awards when the NHL hands out hardware at the end of the season, but it’s still a big deal because, if we’re being honest, Capitals players typically don’t get much love and respect outside of the beltway.

It should also be pointed out that congrats are also in order for Capitals defenseman Mike Green, who joined Alex the Great on The Sporting News’ All-Star team. All of this comes a few days after Team Russia, led by a top line of Ovechkin, Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Semin, took home the gold medal after defeating Team Canada (and Mike Green) in overtime 5-4 at the world hockey championship. Semin even chipped in two goals in the championship game.

Like I said, these ain’t your daddy’s Caps. This is probably a good time to mention that the season tickets are still available. Get them now, because I have a strong feeling this is going to be one of the most difficult tickets to get in town in the not-too-distant future.


center of attention

It is often said that the quarterback of the Redskins is the second most important position in Washington, behind only the president. Well, I’m here to tell you – this may be a QB’s town, but it certainly isn’t a place that shows the center much love.

Casey Rabach is a forgotten man. Chris Samuels, Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas are all bigger names on the offensive line. Hell, even the guy running the O-line, Joe Bugel, is more well known than the center. I’d argue that even the team’s long snapper, Ethan Albright, gets more attention than Rabach. Between making the Pro Bowl last year and the infamous Madden feud, the “Red Snapper” has definitely made more of a name for himself than the mighty Casey. I mean, what has anyone heard about Rabach in the last year? Not much, other than the fact that the rookie head coach doesn’t like the angle of his rear end when he’s got the ball in his hands.

Did Rabach complain or tell the rookie coach to pipe down? Not a chance. He simply said, “If raising my butt an inch or two is going to help, whatever, I’ll accommodate them. It’ll take a little time. It’ll feel awkward at first, but we’ll get it done.”

All of this to ensure that whichever golden boy lines up behind him gets the football delivered as smoothly as possible. Heaven forbid a quarterback actually do any work back there. Damned divas.

In the interest of full disclosure, after more than three years of being around the team, Casey Rabach is one of my favorite ‘Skins players to interview. He’s definitely not stuck up or worried about his public image. He’s very comfortable in his own skin and knows who he is and what he brings to the table at this point in his career. So much so, that often he’s standing there in the locker room with nothing more than a towel wrapped around him and with dip in his mouth. You can take the boy out of the country, but … well … you know the rest.

Anyone watching a ‘Skins practice can’t help but notice he always seems to be having the time of his life.

During minicamp, all eyes are on the rookies, right? Folks around town want to know every detail possible about the newest additions to the team. With that in mind, I asked Rabach how rookie offensive lineman Chad Rinehart looked after practice one day during minicamp and he replied, “Which number was he?” Kind of puts a rookie in his place, huh?

During another day of camp, Rabach could be seen chasing Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley 30 yards downfield after a catch-and-run, all the while yelling “
I’ve got your back! I’ve got your back!” over and over. I guess he wanted Cooley to know if he was winded and needed to pitch the ball to a 300 lb. lineman, he was there to help a brother out.

He’s also a guy who enjoys ice fishing while enjoying a few ice cold brews during the offseason. Or renting an RV with buddy Jon Jansen during training camp. Or flashing the batwing at an unsuspecting teammate. Or mooning the FOX Morning Show’s live shot. And while we’re on the subject, I’m 99 percent sure that Rabach also mooned a group of Redskins fans for good measure, when they gathered for a send-off at Redskins Park as the team was leaving for New Orleans a couple seasons ago. But let’s be honest, they probably deserved it.

All I know is that if I were on the team and had to suffer through the dog days of summer, Casey Rabach is one of the very first guys I’d want on the team to keep things light and enjoyable. The fact that he’s one of the better centers in the NFL is merely a bonus.

(photo by Brian Murphy)

mandatory training

(courtesy photo)


No matter how much you try and coddle them or prepare them for the real world almost universally they all end up learning the hard way.

I saw the potential for a problem at minicamp and tried to head it off at the pass with rookie tight end Fred Davis. During an interview with Davis, I asked him which football player he used to emulate as a kid and his answer was Michael Irvin. I quickly reminded him that he’s a member of the Washington Redskins now and answering “I used to pretend I was one of the hated rivals” is probably not the best route to take on his first day in town. We both laughed, and he quickly changed his tune to Jerry Rice and promised to stick with Rice’s name in future interviews.

Fast forward to last week, where it seems Redskins rookie wide out Devin Thomas won the 2008 Rookie Madden Bowl. Thomas competed against such names as Matt Ryan, Brian Brohm and Rashard Mendenhall and came out on top, calling the win “the greatest moment of his NFL career to date.” Here’s the problem – Thomas used the Dallas Cowboys in the video game tournament.

I guess no one sat him down (shame on you, Redskins media relations) and spelled it out. Something like “Hey Devin, don’t use the Cowboys when you play in a video game tournament that people will find out about. That’d be like us making you wear Michigan colors during a TV interview in East Lansing.”

I (half-jokingly) explain to folks that I’ve been a ‘Skins fan for so long that my parents put me in Dallas diapers and told me to aim for the star. During my Army time, when I was stationed in Texas for two and a half years, I would make it a point to be at the local sports bar the minute the doors opened every Sunday to ensure the Redskins game ended up on the biggest Plasma screen in the bar (which meant the Dallas fans had to watch the home game on one of the dinky TV screens above the bar). Sure, I nearly got my teeth kicked in on a weekly basis by pissed off Cowboys fans, but it was worth it. That’s what this rivalry is all about.

I most likely won’t get another chance to chat with the rookies until training camp, but in the meantime I am pleading with someone at Redskins Park to please sit these guys down and brief them on exactly who George Allen was and what this rivalry means to this town. If they’re going to be a part of the biggest rivalry in professional football, they need to know what’s expected of them.


programming note

In murf by b murf / May 13, 2008 / 2 Comments

The Washington Capitals season has come and gone. Ditto for the Wizards. The Redskins are in the OTA portion of the offseason, which means we won’t have much to talk about on that front until training camp. The Nationals … well … the season, if not their bats, is in full swing. So with things relatively quiet on the homefront, I decided to sneak off for a week’s vacation in Hawaii (which may or may not have anything to do with my escapades in Richmond a week ago).

I’d like to say I’m sorry that there won’t be much to report here on Homer McFanboy for a week, but let’s be real – I’m drinking Mai Tais on the beach and enjoying the scenery. I even tried to catch a little bit of the Celtics-Cavaliers series yesterday, but the game was on at 3 p.m. here, and everyone knows that’s happy hour on the beach. Why should I watch LeBron cry because someone fouled him when I can send strawberry daiquiris to the cute chick at the end of the bar?

If you’re really hurting for your local coverage, then let me point you to the latest episode of Skinscast. John and I go toe-to-toe once and for all to prove he’s a twit and the media needs to remember what it was like to be young and away from home for the first time.

And to throw a bone to the jealous types who may not be thrilled that I’m sitting on a beach instead of patrolling the sidelines, I wanted to pass along a link to a story from the good guys over at Hog Heaven. Apparently some lucky fan is going to win a chance to go to Aruba to watch the Redskins Cheerleaders Calendar Photo Shoot. For the safety of everyone involved, little blondes need not apply.

Until next time …

(photo by my wife)


olie the goalie

In hockey by b murf / May 9, 2008 / No Comments

Today is a sad and rainy day in town, which is fitting because a staple of sports in the District is saying good bye. Washington Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig has let it be known that he will enter free agency and will not return to play for the only team he has ever known in his NHL career.

Since he was drafted with the 19th pick in the 1989 NHL draft, Kolzig has been the face of the franchise. He earned a steady roster spot backing up a one-hit wonder named Jim Carey in net in the mid-90’s, and has been a mainstay ever since. While league rules prevent goalies from wearing the captain’s “C” on their sweater, there was never any doubt who was the vocal leader of the Caps. If the team needed a kick in the pants to get them going, Kolzig had no problem breaking a stick over the net or having a word with a sluggish teammate.

He was in the crease for the good times, like the 97-98′ Stanley Cup Finals run and in 2000, when he earned the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender. He’s also been around for the not-so-glorious years, even after veteran names like Bondra, Konowalchuk, Nylander, Witt and Jagr were shown the door so management could blow up the roster and start from scratch. While he might have been teamed with minor-league caliber comrades on the ice, Kolzig was still nothing but class off of it.

After the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, Kolzig wanted to do his part to help the families of the victims.

“I’m a big guy who plays with a lot of emotion. I wanted the mask to show that. I sent three to the artist, and we came up with the concept together. After 9/11, I had him put the Pentagon on the left side to pay tribute to those people. Once the season is over, I’m going to auction off the mask and donate all the money to victims of 9/11,” Kolzig said in an ESPN the Magazine article from January 2002.

If my memory serves me correctly, that goalie mask, which Kolzig autographed, raised more than $30,000. Just another day at the office, for a guy who is also involved in programs such as Athletes Against Autism, Olie’s All Stars and the Carson Kolzig Foundation.

In January 2007, I was fortunately enough to sit down for a one-on-one interview with Kolzig, who might very well be the most down to Earth athlete I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing. One of the questions I asked him that day was, “
How important is it for you to play your entire career here in Washington?”

“There have been some question marks about that these last couple years because of the rebuilding that’s going on here,” Kolzig told me. “But I committed myself last year and was really optimistic about where this organization is going and the kind of players we have here. I thought that getting traded might give me a better shot to win the Stanley Cup in the short term, but at the same time you lose that stature that you’ve established with one team.

“You go to a new team and even though you’re a veteran you have to get to know all new guys and you’re lower on the totem pole,” he said. “With my comfort level here I didn’t really want to go through that. I thought there wouldn’t be a better story than starting and finishing my career with one team and winning the Stanley Cup. So I’m trying to give myself an opportunity here with my team the next three or four years to win the Cup. Ultimately that would be the best scenario.”

Echoing the same sentiment in an interview with the Washington Post, Kolzig said this week that his only regret was never winning the Stanley Cup with the Caps.

“It’s unfortunate, because they have a good team here now. It’s a fantastic team, fantastic group of guys. Not to be a part of that is going to be tough, especially after 17 years and three years of what we went through post-lockout,” Kolzig told the Washington Post.

It was tough for diehard fans to see Peter Bondra in a Ottawa Senators jersey, and it’ll be equally as tough to see Kolzig wearing anything other than the red, white and blue of our nation’s Capitals. But he’s earned the right to end his prolific career any way he sees fit, even if that means closing it out in Vencouver, Ottawa or elsewhere. And if the right offer doesn’t come along, then Kolzig admits he has no problem moving on to the next chapter of his life.

“I’ll just sit by the pool with a six-pack,” he said.

So the next time you crack open a cold one, think of the man they call Godzilla. After nearly 20 years of giving his heart and soul to the town, he deserves the proper send off.

(Random fact: While with the Western Hockey League’s Tri-City Americans, Kolzig scored a goal on November 29, 1989.)

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