odds and ends

Not much to share with the class today, but here’s a few things to help kill some time on a Thursday afternoon.

For starters, we have my bi-weekly Hobotrashcan column, called Note to Self. This week, I’m a little angry at the sports world and decide to vent. Everyone from Don Imus to Kobe Bryant to Barry Melrose to Jim Bowden is in my sights this time around, so I hope you enjoy.

Once you plow through that, there’s a Washington Times feature story on the blacksheep Ovechkin. Alex’s brother Mikhail is profiled, but really, we don’t learn much about the 26-year-old other than he works for the Mystics and he chain smokes. This is roughly a halfstep away from living in a van, down by the river.

WUSA Channel 9 has video of Shaun “Shazam” Suisham “kicking an amazing 110-yard fieldgoal.” Since I’ve seen him blow ’em from half that distance with the game on the line, I’ll go ahead an say this might not be 100 percent real. If nothing else though, it gives me an excuse to post this awesomely legit video of Jason Campbell from last year, completely two passes like you’ve never seen before.

And even though I took a potshot at Suisham, at least he’s capable of actually making a fieldgoal in his video. Arizona Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers shanks four fieldgoal attempts in this video, and then actually looks pleased with himself. Let me just say, Rackers wasn’t so quick to pat himself on the back when I was standing next to him last season after he blew a chance to beat the Redskins on a last-second fieldgoal at FedEx Field.


zorn to be wild

Let me start by saying, we’re absolutely in the leanest portion of the football offseason. Training camp is still a month away and there aren’t even OTAs to help pass the time. With the NBA and NHL seasons concluded, it’s pretty much baseball or nothing. Since baseball in D.C. is nothing, here’s something to help pass the time.

A popular topic on some of the Redskins message boards, is the topic of “What can we expect from Jim Zorn?” Because he is of the people and for the people, Ryan O’Halloran of The Washington Times was kind enough to email me with a detailed breakdown of just what kind of offense Jim Zorn called back in January when the Seahawks defeated the Redskins 35-14.

Seattle offensive formations vs. Redskins in playoff game (54 snaps total)

3WR-1RB: 17 times
4WR-1RB: 14 times
3WR-2RB: 10 times
2WR-2RB: 8 times
1WR-2RB: 4 times* (three of which came after taking 28-14 lead)
5WR: 1 time

Looking at this breakdown, would it be fair to surmise that there actually might be enough touches to go around for Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El and a occasional rookie wide out, as well as Clinton Portis, Chris Cooley and a certain rookie tight end with a faulty alarm clock?

[Update: Turns out that Ryan actually put together a post using all of his great research. Go show him some love, so he’ll continue to provide goods like this down the line].


nat pack: the team

Remember when Ryan Zimmerman christened the brand-new Nats Park with a game-winning solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning? Or that this 2008 squad actually started the season 3-0? Yeah, we didn’t think so.

That’s because the Nats went 9-17 in the month of April and haven’t been any better since. It hurts to say it, but by my estimation, the current roster is the fourth reason to go to a ballgame in D.C. these days. First, you’ve got the new park. Second, you’ve got the racing presidents. Third, you’ve got the shirts vs. skins controversy. And finally, you have this rag-tag bunch that general manager Jim Bowden slapped together (and yet, has somehow managed to keep his job).

Warning: this is the paragraph that hurts.

The Nats have the second worst record in the majors. They’ve scored the fewest and have allowed the third most runs in the big leagues. In fact, only two players are currently batting over .300 this season (Christian Guzman and Jesus Flores), and Zimmerman leads the team with a measly eight homers, even though he’s played 26 games less than the next guy in line. And they’re not getting better with age — they’re currently 6-15 in the month of June. One could argue that right now, there are a grand total of three players on the Nats worth watching — Chad Cordero, Zimmerman and Flores. That’s it.

This is the part where I focus on a fairly simple statement that I feel needs to be reiterated — D.C. went without a baseball team from 1972 until 2005. Hardcore sports fans will still be around, but people aren’t really used to having a home team in the District, so if you want to attract new fans you actually have to give them something worth caring about. That doesn’t mean bringing in every single “I’m over-the-hill and clutching on to my last chance to play in the majors” sob story or players who need a change of scenery (as long as their legal troubles still allow them to leave the state).

While Kobe Bryant has been busy “instilling his DNA into the rest of the team,” the Nats have no such luck. This is a team with no payroll, no identity and no real reason for optimism over the next few years. Because a bunch of no-namers have overachieved, Bowden continues to trot out pitchers who should not actually be allowed to collect a big-league paycheck. That’s why no one in their starting rotation will be confused with an ace, or even a number two pitcher on an actual major league roster. They’re currently 26th in baseball in ERA, and some might say they’re playing better than their talent would suggest they’re able of sustaining.

And don’t think that the pitching is the only issue. It’s actually better than the hitting. The Nats bats scored a grand total of one, I repeat — ONE FREAKING RUN — over 27 innings earlier this month. They’re so pitiful that local newspapers coverage actually applauded the team for not losing the night they were rained out. I’m not talking about columnists trying to be funny, I’m talking about beat writers connecting on more shots than the Nats offense. These guys are in need of something drastic (i.e. – talent). In the absence of that, I’d at least suggest a slump buster.

To be fair, last year’s draft was considering very strong and early reports are that Missouri pitcher Aaron Crow, whom the Nats drafted this year, might be the best college pitcher in the draft, but these guys are a long way away from contributing. Anyone in the organization within earshot of a microphone or tape recorder toes the company line and says, “We’re trying to build a team that will be competitive for more than just one year.” And that’s understandable. I’m just saying you’re not going to run fans off by winning games in the interim.

I’ll leave you with one final (and sobering) fact. At 221 lbs., the 2008 Washington Nationals are the second fattest team in baseball (behind only the White Sox at 227 lbs.) As a team, they average 23 lbs. more per person than the Kansas City Royals. Congrats Jim Bowden, you’ve built a team of fatties who can’t actually hit home runs. Am I wrong for thinking this is some sort of cruel joke?

Overall grade: D


baseball & football

In murf by b murf / June 23, 2008 / No Comments

By George Carlin (1937-2008)

Baseball is different from any other sport, very different. For instance, in most sports you score points or goals; in baseball you score runs. In most sports the ball, or object, is put in play by the offensive team; in baseball the defensive team puts the ball in play, and only the defense is allowed to touch the ball. In fact, in baseball if an offensive player touches the ball intentionally, he’s out; sometimes unintentionally, he’s out.

Also: in football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and all sports played with a ball, you score with the ball and in baseball the ball prevents you from scoring.

In most sports the team is run by a coach; in baseball the team is run by a manager. And only in baseball does the manager or coach wear the same clothing the players do. If you’d ever seen John Madden in his Oakland Raiders uniform, you’d know the reason for this custom.

Now, I’ve mentioned football. Baseball and football are the two most popular spectator sports in this country. And as such, it seems they ought to be able to tell us something about ourselves and our values.

I enjoy comparing baseball and football:

Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.
Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park. The baseball park!
Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
Football begins in the fall, when everything’s dying.

In football you wear a helmet.
In baseball you wear a cap.

Football is concerned with downs – what down is it?
Baseball is concerned with ups – who’s up?

In football you receive a penalty.
In baseball you make an error.

In football the specialist comes in to kick.
In baseball the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting and unnecessary roughness.
Baseball has the sacrifice.

Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog …
In baseball, if it rains, we don’t go out to play.

Baseball has the seventh-inning stretch.
Football has the two-minute warning.

Baseball has no time limit: we don’t know when it’s gonna end – might have extra innings.
Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we’ve got to go to sudden death.

In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there’s kind of a picnic feeling; emotions may run high or low, but there’s not too much unpleasantness.
In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at least 27 times you’re capable of taking the life of a fellow human being.

And finally, the objectives of the two games are completely different:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! – I hope I’ll be safe at home!



I got a press release in my inbox late yesterday that I felt needs to be shared with the class.


The Washington Redskins announced Monday that the Redskins Broadcast Network won three 2007 Emmy Awards at the 50th Annual Awards Gala on Saturday, June 14 in Washington, D.C. This marks the team’s first-ever Emmy Award and nomination since the debut of the Redskins Broadcast Network in 2005. The Redskins were nominated for three Emmy Awards and won in all three categories.

“We are very proud of this honor,” said Mitch Gershman, Chief Operating Officer of the Washington Redskins. “These shows and broadcasts provide our fans with great content, live game action and a unique perspective of Redskins history.”

The Redskins Broadcast Network won 2007 Emmy Awards in the following categories:

– Sports – One-Time Special – 75 Years of Redskins Football Built on Tradition
– Sports – Program Feature Segment – Remembering #21
– Sports Event/Game – Live/Unedited – Redskins vs. Steelers, NFL Preseason Football

75 years of Redskins Football Built on Tradition, narrated by CNN broadcasting legend Bernard Shaw, chronicled the greatest moments in Washington Redskins history. This one-hour documentary was produced by Larry Michael, Executive Producer, Tim DeLaney, Senior Producer and Marc Dress, Director of Photography/Lighting Director.

“The Redskins lived this story, we merely consolidated the impact,” Shaw said. “We are grateful for the ending.”

Remembering # 21, a special tribute regarding the untimely death of Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor, and The Redskins vs. Steelers, NFL Preseason Football game were also honored. Michael and DeLaney served as executive and senior producers, respectively. Brad Baker was an assistant producer on Remembering # 21.


Let me take a minute to congratulate Larry Michael, Marc Dress, Tim DeLaney and Brad Baker. Over the last couple of years I had the chance to get to know each of these fine gentlemen (and Marc), and mean it when I say this is all well deserved. The Sean Taylor tribute video, in particular, was so amazing that I saw beat reporters in tears. These are people who get paid to cover the team – not fans. And they were so moved by the fitting tribute that they couldn’t even hold back tears on the sidelines. These guys do wonderful work, and I’m glad they’re getting this kind of attention.

My only question is this – is an Emmy like the Stanley Cup? Do they get to take it home for a night and break it in with the wife, or do they each get one of their own?


forgiveness is never overrated

In murf by b murf / June 16, 2008 / No Comments

Dear sports fans,

I suck. Yes, I know it. You guys gets used to fresh content on a regular basis, and then all of the sudden – nothing. You’re suddenly cut off, cold turkey. This is not by design. I’m stranded in Denver for a week thanks to that other job of mine, and completely missing all the good stuff like Tiger Woods winning on one leg, or Ovechkin already cementing his status as best player to ever suit up for the Capitals. Trust me, no one feels worse than I do right now. So when I get back in town next week, I promise to make it up to you. Until then, read a book or something.




nat pack: the grub

Last week, we tackled the look and feel of the soon-to-be-corporate-sponsored Nationals Park. While it’s lacking in overall curb appeal, we still gave it high marks for the overall game-day experience. Today, I wanted to dive into one of the absolute highlights of the new ballpark — the food.

Typically, when you’re trying to get some food and a beer at any kind of sporting event, the lines are unbearably long and the folks behind the counter are painfully slow. Maybe it’s because the team on the field isn’t very good, so there’s not a ton of people attending games yet, but the lines at Nats Park are a non-issue. Some quick research showed why — there are 48 concession stands, up from 35 at RFK Stadium.

There’s also an amazing variety of eating establishments to choose from — including many with local flavors. The headliner is easily Ben’s Chili Bowl, which has been a staple in the District since 1958. There’s also Gifford’s Ice Cream & Candy, which first opened its doors in Silver Spring, Maryland, back in 1938. Fans in the mood for a taste of D.C. can also enjoy Five Guys, Red, Hot & Blue, and Boardwalk Fries.

Seeing as it was my first night at the park and Ben’s Chili Bowl was staring right at me, I jumped in line and within two minutes was ordering a hot dog and a bowl of chili. I don’t remember exactly how much it cost, but they could have charged me double. The food definitely lived up to the hype. The guys from Skinscast got the same thing and we scarfed it down as if we hadn’t seen food in months. Seriously, you’d have lost a digit if you attempted to take the hot dog out of John’s hand.

The second night, I made sure that my buddy Jason tried Ben’s Chili Bowl and he was equally impressed. And while my wife might not have approved, I went ahead and ordered a chili dog since I was waiting in line with him. Later on that evening, during our two hours of exploring the ballpark during the rain delay, we found Gifford’s. We each decided to get a cone with one scoop, and let me tell you — they’re not bashful about their serving size. This thing was as big as my head, and I would have taken my time and enjoyed every once of it if it weren’t so humid out. Instead, it was a race to finish it before I ended up wearing it.

The biggest downside to your typical dining experience is that you very well might have to sell a child (preferably one of your own) to afford dinner
at the park. Beers are $7.50 a draft, which hurts even more when you’re stuck with Miller Lite and MGD at most of the beer stands. They also had Bass and Stella, which aren’t terrible, but it took a little more digging to find some of the better stuff. The most random beer we ran across at the park was Corona. While it’s a common (and refreshing) beverage, we’d never seen it sold in a can before.

While prices were a little excessive, I will tell you that it wasn’t nearly as big of a deal to us because every single person we came across in the two nights at the park we extremely polite and friendly. Call it the anti-FedEx Field, if you will, but these employees didn’t actually look at customers as if they were keeping them from their break. It’s an amazingly simple point, but it’s worth stressing — people don’t mind paying an extra dollar or two as long as the food and service is on point. After two long days at Nats Park, I can say with confidence that they hit a home run in both of these areas.

Bottom line, you can’t go wrong with your food selection at the ballgame. Treat yourself to a chili dog, a beer and maybe even an ice cream. You deserve it, and while you might have to pick up an extra shift or two at work, it’ll be worth it.

Overall grade: A

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