Monday, September 29, 2008

Only 4.5 Months 'Til Pitchers and Catchers Report!

I meant to post this video a few months ago. It's from better times, when losing 100 games was unfathomable, and would have to make any "Top 10 Happiest Moments at Nationals Park" list.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rustico and Redskins

I went to the Virginia Wine Festival on Saturday at the Prince William County Fairgrounds, where local Redskins and Cowboys fans alike were flaunting their allegiances in advance of Sunday's showdown (Chris Cooley jersey, good; pink Redskins hat, bad; "D.C. stands for Dallas Cowboys" and "Tony Romo for President" t-shirts, ugly).

Having run a 10-miler that morning, I was feeling pretty good after one tent's worth of tasting. Around the same time, I learned that Maryland had come back to beat Clemson. Things would only get better. My friends and I moved to the second tent, which featured the Virginia Wine Lover magazine table. In addition to a wine glass, every festival attendee was entitled to a free subscription to the magazine. I wasn't planning on taking advantage of the offer until I saw Todd Collins' goofy, grinning face on the cover of the latest issue.

I picked up a complimentary copy and examined the cover more closely. I'm not sure that this photo wouldn't have been a better choice, but that's why they pay wine magazine editors the big bucks. Collins is holding a bottle of Rustico from Villa Appalacia in the photo, so I checked the festival program to see if Villa Appalaccia had a table. No doubt they did.

My girlfriend and I approached the tasting table and Villa Appalaccia's wine grower, Dr. Susanne Becker, noticed what I was holding. Like a proud mother, she took the magazine from me and excitedly pointed out that Todd Collins was gripping a bottle of her wine like a brand new Wilson.

"I know," I said. "That's why I'm here. I sought you out. You must've had a lot of Redskins fans stopping by today, huh?"

"No," Susanne said. "You're actually the first who noticed us on the magazine."

Impossible. Does that make me creepy? I asked her if she was a Redskins fan.

"No," Susanne said. "We're located in Virginia Tech country (Floyd, VA). There aren't a lot of Redskins fans there."

She later told me she was from Finland and didn't really follow football much. Sadly, she also didn't know anything about cover boy and oenophile Todd Collins. I asked if she had framed the magazine or enlarged it to display on a wall in her cellar. No and no. She keeps a copy at her winery, but is otherwise taking her newfound celebrity status (read: at least one new fan!) in stride.

At some point during this conversation I tasted the Rustico, which is made from the Corvino grape and is delicious. When it hit my lips, images of Todd Collins zipping spirals to Santana Moss flooded my mind and there was no question I was going to buy a bottle. In hindsight, I should've bought a case. Susanne was happy to pose for a photo with me, Todd, and the Rustico.

I read the cover article, written by the Examiner's John Keim, when I got home. It rehashes Collins' well documented propensity for sniffing things, including footballs and wine, and also includes a few original choice quotes:
"The general culture is more involved in wine and a lot of athletes have moved beyond beer. Not that they're turning their noses up at beer or anything, but I think they appreciate some other things, they get into wine and start tasting and they combine wines with meals and they go to nice places and they're not afraid to spend for a top bottle and then they start buying and cellaring and start talking about it."
-- Former Kansas City Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil

"I didn't know Virginia made so many different types of wine."
-- Todd Collins, whose aging Keim compared to a quality Brunello or Cabernet

Clearly, the only way for Virginia Wine Lover to top this is to put Clinton Portis in costume (Sommelier Jerome?) on the cover of the Winter edition. I will eagerly await its arrival. As for my bottle of Rustico, I plan to let it age until the Redskins win the Super Bowl or lose a game in particularly brutal fashion, whichever comes first. At that point, I will proceed to down the entire bottle in one sitting, pausing only occasionally to sniff its sweet aroma. Todd Collins wouldn't have it any other way.

The 12th Man on the Grassy Knoll

Leading 23-17 with 6 minutes to play, the Redskins faced a third-and-2 on the Dallas 31. The Cowboys stuffed Clinton Portis for no gain, apparently setting up a long field goal attempt. There was a flag on the play, however; the officials ruled that Dallas had 12 players on the field when the ball was snapped. After Dallas head coach Wade Phillips appeared ready to throw his red challenge flag, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman attempted to count the Dallas defenders using the very latest in telestrator technology. Numerals!

According to the resulting screenshot, the Cowboys' 12th defender on the field (upper left) was the ghost of Roy Williams. Dallas fans were undoubtedly screaming for Phillips to challenge the call at this point, but wisely he didn't. (There are two Dallas defenders behind the No. 2).

Zorn Again!

Portis pockets straight. Suisham field goals straight. Campbell passes straight. Horton interceptions straight. I still don't really know what any of that means, but I do know this: The Redskins' 26-24 win in Dallas was straight up awesome.

Where to begin?

Jason Campbell's passer rating was 108.4 and he has now thrown 6 touchdowns with nary an interception this season. Against Dallas, he used his legs to elude the Cowboys' pass rush, buying extra time in true Tony Romo-fashion on a couple of occasions to find Santana Moss wide open downfield for big gains. Campbell's most incredible Houdini act resulted in a touchdown pass to Antwaan Randle El on a broken play that was nullified by a penalty. Campbell pocket presence straight. (A well articulated description of Campbell's improved decision-making here).

Moss had another monster game, Randle El and James Thrash made touchdown grabs, and Chris Cooley had four catches, including one on a crucial third down in the fourth quarter. Portis had his first 100-yard game of the season, though he did nothing to dispel the recent knock on him that he gets winded and takes himself out of the game too often. Given how many shots there were of Portis on the sideline during Redskins drives, you'd think Brian Mitchell was in the production truck directing the camera traffic. "Stay on Portis! Keep that tight shot! Zoom in on his pockets! Yeah, right there. Yeah, what's up now, man? You want to steal me now while you huffin' and puffin' on the sideline?"

Portis had a touchdown run wiped out by a penalty, which is a shame, because the ensuing celebration was top-notch. Or straight, whatever. First Portis mocked Terrell Owens' lame, gimme-a-T-gimme-an-O celebration. Then he mimed using a bow to shoot an arrow that apparently struck Portis, who was perhaps still acting as T.O., in the ass. I hope -- and fully expect -- video of the whole charade will surface this week.

Update: Video evidence is already on YouTube, thanks to the Mottram Bros. at Mister Irrelevant. Their video of a violently giddy Jim Zorn is also worth a look.

Washington's defense shut Marion Barber down, effectively forcing Dallas to completely abandon the run. The dangerous Felix Jones didn't have a single carry or reception. While the Skins' defensive line never got to Romo, the secondary was more than up to the challenge. Rookie Chris Horton made a key interception by jumping a sideline route and Shawn Springs helped keep T.O., who burned Washington for four touchdowns in Big D last year, in check. Carlos Rogers wasn't at his worst, which in this game was good enough.

On special teams, Shaun Suisham drilled all four of his field goal attempts and Durant Brooks wasn't chewed out on the sidelines by Zorn.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Please Don't Fire Groh

I can't wait to see the update at after Saturday's 31-3 loss at Duke. If the "momentum was building" after the UConn game, it's now gathering speed like a runaway freight train. I'm also eagerly anticipating the write-up in the Cavalier Daily, which took a glass-half-full approach in the article previewing the game:
The tenuous 24-13 win against Duke in 2007 sparked something for the Cavaliers, and fans can only hope the same will be true this season.
Keep holding out hope, 'Hoos fans. The only thing yesterday's game sparked was a fire on the unintentionally hilarious UVA message boards.

If Maryland blasts Virginia in Charlottesville next weekend -- if this doesn't happen, um, Fire Ralph Friedgen! -- the Scott Stadium security force should begin to surround Groh in the waning minutes as if he's a goalpost, fending off the masses who want to carry his body out of town.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jacquizz The Shizz

For all the USC fans out there wondering who that elusive dude in the No. 1 jersey was last night, this is Oregon State freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers. I have no idea what he's wearing in this photo, but when you rush for 186 yards and two touchdowns in an upset of the nation's top-ranked team, you can pretty much wear whatever you please. Fight on indeed.


Hours after the Sports Bog featured a mini expose of Skins, uh, provanity plates, I saw an EGLSUK license plate while driving home. If I ever decide to replace my sweet, randomly generated 3-letter 3-number combo, I might consider this nod to Joe Gibbs:

If Sunday's showdown in Big D turns into a Big Debacle, this might better express Skins' fans sentiments during the Monday morning commute:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Juan More Time

Former Maryland star Juan Dixon is returning to the Wizards, which means the Dixon bobblehead on my desk is now only a throwback in the sense that it's from a time when some people thought he could score 20 points per game as a full-time starter.

Washington selected Dixon with the 17th pick in the 2002 draft and even then some wondered whether that was too early to take the spindly 6-foot-3 guard. I like Dixon as much much more than the next guy, but six years after he carried the Terps to their first national title, it's clear that he will never approach the same star status in the NBA. In nearly 400 career games, he has averaged 9 points while making only 34 percent of his three-point attempts. Still, based on what became of some of the players selected after Dixon that year, the Wizards could have done much, much worse. Take a stroll down memory lane, which in this instance is littered with trash.

18. Curtis Borchardt, C, Stanford: Drafted by Orlando and promptly traded to Utah, the oft-injured Borchardt missed his rookie season and then averaged 3.1 points in parts of two seasons with the Jazz. He's now playing in Spain.

19. Ryan Humphrey, F, Notre Dame: Humphrey averaged 2.3 points in 85 games with Memphis and Orlando. He's now playing in Italy.

20. Kareem Rush, G, Missouri: Drafted by Toronto and traded to the Lakers. Has averaged 6.8 points in over 300 games.

21. Qyntel Woods, F, NE Mississippi CC: Drafted by Portland, Woods fit right in with the Jail Blazers. During the 2004-05 season he plead guilty to first-degree animal cruelty for staging dog fights at his house. On the court, Woods played more like a pitbull with lipstick during his forgettable NBA career. He's now playing in Bologna.

22. Casey Jacobsen, G, Stanford: Put it this way: The highlight of Jacobsen's post-college career was winning finals MVP of the 2007 German Basketball Championship -- with a team called the Brose Baskets.

23. Tayshaun Prince, F, Kentucky: OK, so picking Prince might have been a better decision.

24. Nenad Krstic, F, Yugoslavia:

25. Frank Williams, G, Illinois:
Deron Williams > Dee Brown > Frank Williams > Kenny Battle

26. John Salmons, F, Miami:
Has blossomed in Sacramento the last two seasons after four years as a reserve with the Sixers.

27. Chris Jefferies, F, Fresno St.:
He played 72 games in the NBA, averaging 3.9 points.

28. Dan Dickau, G, Gonzaga:
At least his girlfriend was hot.

Monday, September 22, 2008

An Open Letter to Carlos Rogers

Dear Carlos,

Heck of an interception, man. Nice return, too. The Redskins couldn’t have won yesterday without you. You know all those nasty things I’ve said about you recently, comparing your hands to those of Chubs in Happy Gilmore and whatnot? Well, I think I probably, uh, kind of, owe you – hold on.

I think you cemented your reputation in my mind as having cement hands back in ’06. You were in Seattle, playing the Seahawks in the second-round of the playoffs after an improbable run to the postseason and a win over Tampa Bay the week before. You guys were up 3-0 in the second quarter, the Qwest Field fans were unusually quiet, and they were about to be reduced to silence. Matt Hasselbeck dropped back to pass and eyed Maurice Morris in the flat. You, playing Cover 2, read the play like a book and jumped the route, nothing but daylight – light rain, really – between you and the end zone. You were about to go ahead 10-0, on the road, in the playoffs. Strike up the band, Hail to the Redskins, this magical streak was going to continue. But you dropped the ball, Seattle eventually scored a touchdown on the drive, and you never led again.

“I had it in my hands, for a second,” you told reporters after the game. Little did anyone know at the time that those words would define the first few years of your career. You were abysmal in 2006 and sadly blew out your knee last year. If only you had torn three ligaments in one of your hands, you wouldn’t have had to miss any time because, well, you don’t use them anyway. You worked hard in rehab during the offseason, though, and it was good to see you back on the field against the Giants in Week 1. Until, that is, Eli Manning decided to pick on you and I wished you were on the sideline. To your credit, you bounced back and played well the following week against the Saints.

And then there was yesterday. The interception, with the assist by Leigh Torrence, was a thing of beauty. As the tipped ball fluttered into your hands – and (gasp!) stayed there – Redskins fans at the bar where I was watching shot up out of their seats. Two guys in front of me knocked over the same bottle of beer twice while slapping hands during the ensuing celebration, a fitting display if there ever was one after an interception by you!

So what I was trying to say, ‘Los, is that I shouldn’t have been so quick to compare you to Edward Scissorhands. You’re more like Roberto Duran. But seriously, I hope you savor the win, rest up, and watch a lot of video of Patrick Crayton. And Carlos? I'm finally confident you won't drop the remote.


[Photo: The Washington Times]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The 'Tana Man Can

In the span of 10 days after a humiliating season-opening loss to the Giants, the Washington Redskins re-learned the intricacies of football; namely, the orange first-down markers on the sidelines are not pre-Halloween decorations and throwing the ball beyond them from time to time is generally a good idea. Jason Campbell, who showed a presence in the pocket that was lacking in Week 1, delivered a beautiful deep ball to Santana Moss for the winning touchdown. A Redskins QB hasn't thrown a ball that far since Mark Brunell, who watched from the Saints' sideline Sunday, hooked up with Moss for two miraculous touchdowns to beat Dallas in '05. Clinton Portis complemented the Skins' aerial attack with a game that can only be described in true Gibbsian fashion as hard-fought.

The defense was stout, with Chris Horton finding himself in the right place at the right time for a pair of interceptions that even Carlos Rogers could have made. Cornelius Griffin came up with a huge sack, Jason Taylor played like the All-Pro that he is, and LaRon Landry continued to show why he will be the hard-hitting face of the defense for years to come.

Arizona comes to Landover next Sunday and could provide a stiffer test, believe it or not, than the Saints. While New Orleans was without star wide receiver Marques Colston and several starters on defense, Arizona's offense is rolling behind Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin. That trio figures to test Rogers, Springs and Co. all afternoon; Todd Yoder willing, they'll answer the challenge.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Phelps: Australian for Fast

Poor Michael Phelps. After delivering an unspectacular performance as host of SNL's season premiere, the Golden Boy Dolphin was probably hoping to watch Sunday night's Browns-Steelers game while drinking what appears to be Foster's out of the spotlight. Let's just hope he was adhering to the "No Guzzling" rule.

Ryan Zimmerman is Todd Boeckman

Though both of their respective teams lost, Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman had a decidedly better individual performance Saturday night (2-for-3, BB, R) than Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman (14-for-21, 84, 2 INT). Or did he?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Poor Carlos Quentin

By now you've heard that White Sox wunderkind Carlos Quentin broke his wrist by slamming his right hand against his bat after fouling off a pitch on Friday. Methinks Quentin was actually more angry about the fact that his alma mater's game at Arizona State tonight is only on Fox Sports Net Arizona than a silly foul ball.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Coming Out Flat

I'll say this about Jim Zorn's head coaching debut: It sure made watching the Republican National Convention afterward seem enjoyable. In their first meaningful game since upsetting the previously undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl, the Giants spoiled another bid for perfection with an easy 16-7 win over the Redskins at the Meadowlands. So much for 19-0; 0-16, though, looks attainable.

Where to start?

Carlos Rogers belongs in the Arena Football League. No, he belongs in AFL2. He can't cover, he can't tackle, and he evidently can't catch. I know he and Fred Smoot are defensive backs and not wide receivers for a reason, but they both have two hands, 10 fingers, and, unlike Sen. McCain, can lift their arms above their shoulders. Combined, the chopstick-handed duo dropped three balls that should have been intercepted. A shortlist of potential replacements that Vinny Cerrato should invite to Redskins Park this week: Edward Scissorhands, Jim Abbott, and Antonio Alfonseca.

I know Halloween is right around the corner, but those first down markers on the sidelines aren't just for decoration. Why, then, did the Redskins repeatedly call plays on third down that left them a yard or two short of the sticks? Credit the Giants for making open-field tackles when they had to, but come on, Jason Campbell and his receivers need to be more aware of where they are and how many yards they need on a given play.

Zorn's clock management late in the game left something to be desired. Running the 6-minute drill when you're trailing by 9 points isn't going to cut it. The play-calling as a whole was atrocious. Campbell looked flustered in the pocket, the offensive line allowed too much penetration and the revamped defensive line showed little push for most of the night.

I'm not about to jump off the Bandwagon and I don't think that criticizing the Redskins for one of their most embarrassing performances in recent memory makes one a disloyal fan. Bring on New Orleans. 15-1 aint' so bad.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

New Englanders Still Bitter

As of this posting, 65% of voters throughout the country predict the Giants will defeat the Redskins in tonight's season opener. Only two states are polling pro-Washington and neither of those two is Virginia (56% voted G-Men) or Maryland (53% voted G-Men). The dissenters? New Hampshire and Massachusetts, where residents evidently haven't forgotten the humiliation Eli Manning and David Tyree helped inflict upon the Patriots in February.

Haters in the House

So let me get this straight: Eli Manning is still the Giants' quarterback, Osi Umenyiora is out for the season, and Michael Strahan is flashing his gap-toothed smile on a beach somewhere, yet 8 out of 9 "experts" -- plus most of the country -- predict the Redskins will lose tonight. I'm not saying the Skins will win, but I don't think this game is as much of a lock as people are making it out to be.

You go, David Fleming. Dare to be different.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

High Octane Offense

This is for all the doubters who say Jim Zorn is in for a rude awakening in his first year as an NFL head coach; for all the wannabe NFL general managers whose idea of running a team involves taking LaDainian Tomlinson with the No. 1 pick in their fantasy drafts and who say Jason Campbell is no better than an average quarterback; for all the fans who are worried sick that the Skins will get embarrassed tomorrow night on national TV.

Calm the f%#* Dallas down.

So getting outscored 71-6 by Carolina and Jacksonville wasn't exactly the most uplifting way to close out the preseason. Watching the offense stall more often than Tuesday's traffic was frustrating, but at least you didn't have to stomach the pain of watching the defense, because it wasn't there.

The Skins will be fine. The offensive playcalling in the preseason was vanilla; tomorrow it will be petroleum. The Redskins offense practiced with gas pumps and matches this week -- another one of Zorn's zany ideas! -- in an effort to spark the struggling unit. The exclusive photo above, taken during Tuesday's practice at Redskins Park, shows Chris Cooley heading up field after making a catch, looking for a would-be defender to douse with gasoline. Mike Sellers and Rock Cartwright both practiced with diesel fuel pumps.

No, really, I think the offense will play much better. I mean, it has to. Right?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wake Up, Washington

In today's Washington Post, Antwaan Randle El discusses his role in helping rookie receivers Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas adjust to life in the NFL.
"It's not just going to class, waking up and then going to practice," Randle El said. "This is all you have, and a lot of people are depending on you."
So that's the secret to breezing through college. See, I did the whole waking up thing before going to class -- I swear, the stuff they don't tell you in freshman orientation! Let's just hope Skins rookie tight end Fred "Sleepy" Davis has mastered the 'waking up' part of going to practice by now.