Sunday, October 26, 2008

To Be a Lions Fan

As you probably heard, Sunday's Lions-Redskins broadcast was blacked out in the Detroit metropolitan area because the game wasn't sold out. It was a blessing in disguise, really. Why watch Dan Orlovsky attempt to navigate the mysterious boundaries of a football field when you can watch the apparent sequel to Brokeback Mountain? Check out the synopsis of Alias Smith and Jones:
A good-natured buddy Western about two charismatic outlaws who are trying to stay straight for one year so they can earn a pardon from the governor for their past misdeeds.
It'll probably take more than a year for the Lions to earn a pardon from their frustrated fans.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The true meaning of Jamey Carroll

The following is a response to a recent column on I didn't change most of the words because I'm lazy and I'm not perfect either, but hey, I'm still standing. Or something. This will make no sense unless you read the offensive column linked above first.

Let's be clear: Shin-Soo Choo, regardless of what happens to the global economy, is the new face and future of baseball. He's everything the game needs, everything it's supposed to be about. Daisuke Matsuzaka should be angry.

Sitting 15 to 20 feet away -- and 2 inches below -- him in the dugout during a game is Choo's teammate who may be more important to the game than Choo is destined to be. But little does Jamey Carroll know that just as Choo must realize the game's future is in his possession, the same tag applies to him. As one of the central players in the Indians' unremarkable 81-81 season, Carroll has elevated himself -- with the aid of a booster seat -- as the face and future of "rural" baseball. A face that has been slowly disappearing in the game. To be considered the future of a sport is a gift and a curse no athlete really wants placed on them, especially when that athlete only weighs 170 pounds. With it comes a quasi-responsibility to "save" something that may or may not be on its way to dying. In Carroll's case, he has unknowingly become the one player that Geoff Blum and Craig Counsell have been looking to who can bring the game back to the farmlands in a way no other young white player in the game has been able to do.

He has put on display both the feel for the game and the look of the game that resonates with those Future Farmers of America who have decided that cow-milking and corn-growing provide a brighter future. His permanent 5 o'clock shadow (which almost every 12-year-old male who hits puberty early has sported, but there's something about Jamey's), his high socks, his slight build, his Leprechaun-ish features, his low slugging percentage. He's the player the kids who have lost interest in baseball -- or who never had an interest at all -- can see themselves in. The one they can see themselves dressing up as for Halloween, because Carroll is, after all, about their size.

Maybe not on the same level, but with similar reverence, Carroll might become to Caucasians in baseball what Dice-K has to Asian players or what Papi has to players in the Dominican Republic. The player who corresponds with a culture; a player who may not be mentioned by a player in next year's College World Series, but if a team from Des Moines or Topeka makes it to the Little League World Series five years from now every one of the players will claim nothing runs like a Carroll instead of a Deere. The fact that Carroll's not perfect makes him perfect. His propensity to strike out (as witnessed in September when he whiffed on three different occasions in a game against Boston), the fact that he hit .094 in games played on turf this season, his pedestrian stolen base rate, allowed question about his lack of ability to surface. All display a flaw in him that almost works to his advantage when kids and wannabe players look at him and say "I can't hit either, but look, he still has a job." And he's standing in a way and in a place that no other homegrown player of Caucasian descent has stood on this stage at this age since David Eck or J. McEw in their primes. And it's happening without Carrol saying he wanted to be the one to make it happen. The kid's simply playing ball and being true to who he is, and he's connecting in a way that could help raise the percentage of white players in the major leagues in a few years. Crack. Another infield single. Pop. Another lazy fly ball settling into the centerfielder's glove. The lateral movement he possesses at second base, the way he covers first base on a grounder to the right side, the Billy Ripken remix style he has in getting into ready position.

So rural.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Meet Jose Theodore

17 shots against, 4 goals. Jo-please-se this isn't a sign of things to come.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The NFC East Meets "The Office"

What do you get when you combine the best show on television with the best division in football? Far-fetched comparisons, for one. The Mottram Bros. have already identified the tremendous likeness between Redskins owner Dan Snyder and Dunder Mifflin boss Michael Scott, but what about the NFC East's four coaches? Who are their kindred spirits in Scranton?

In order of their current standing in the division:

If things don't work out with Andy, Angela could always cozy up -- or whatever hard-asses do together -- with the Giants' Tom Coughlin. I'm sure she could plan one hell of a Super Bowl party, with red streamers, not green, because green is whorish. Obviously.

They're both goofy. They both have adoring fans. They once shared the same hairstyle. And if you don't think Jim Zorn could score with Pam Beesly, well, you're sorely mistaken. Hail to the Redskins, indeed.

Besides kind of looking alike, Wade Phillips and Creed share the same dry sense of humor and propensity for dropping one-liners. Phillips, on the welcome he received from fans during his first practice with the Cowboys: "That's the last time I'll get a standing ovation, I'll tell you that." Creed, who is slightly more creepy than Phillips: "Oh, I steal things all the time. It's just something I do. I stopped caring long ago."

Take this to the bank: Andy Reid and Kevin can both fit more M&M's in their mouths than you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Those Tricky Redskins

ARE the QB > ARE the WR > ARE the PR

When Antwaan Randle El connected with Chris Cooley for a touchdown pass in last Sunday's win at Philadelphia, it marked the eighth consecutive season that a non-quarterback has thrown a touchdown pass for the Redskins. Randle El, who starred as a dual-threat QB during his college career at Indiana, has thrown two touchdowns with Washington, while Clinton Portis leads all current Redskins non-QBs in career touchdown passes with three.

For comparison's sake, I looked at the non-QB passing statistics for the entire NFC East going back to the 2000 season, the last year a non-QB failed to throw a TD pass for the Redskins. The numbers, which include the first five weeks of 2008, may surprise you:

14-for-25, 9 TD5-for-17, 3 TD5-for-13, TD0-for-3

Given Steve Spurrier's penchant for trickery, I fully expected the Redskins to lead the division in most attempts by a non-QB, but I had no idea that their unconventional playcalls had produced such positive results. The Cowboys and Giants' numbers are somewhat skewed, as Ryan Leaf and Jared Lorenzen both technically qualify as quarterbacks and their stats are not included. Two of the Giants' paltry three attempts were by punter Jeff Feagles, so Tom Coughlin is apparently a conservative play-caller. Who knew? One of the Eagles' three TD passes was by Brian Mitchell, who was 5-for-13 passing during his Redskins career, on a fake punt.

With two touchdown passes apiece, Rod Gardner and Kevin Lockett accounted for the other four Redskins passing touchdowns by non-QBs since 2000. Gardner threw two TDs in 2003, including one to Trung Canidate to beat Seattle in one of the few feel-good moments of the Spurrier Era. Surprisingly, that play only qualifies as the second most unlikely scoring combination in recent Redskins history. Lockett, who retired with 1/4 as many TD passess as TD receptions, and Derrius Thompson earned that distinction when they hooked up for a 14-yard score in 2001.

If you're scoring at home, ARE has a career 154.8 QB rating; Clinton Portis' is only 130.8. It's time to step up your game, CP.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Modern History of Hip Hip Hooray!

What exactly does Heath Shuler have to do with Hip Hip Hooray? Not much.

Thanks to their zany, by-golly leader Jim Zorn, Hip Hip Hooray is fast becoming the rallying cry of this year's Redskins (get your t-shirts here!). The cheer, which some claim has ancient origins, hadn't been used much in NFL circles since George Allen coached the Redskins until Zorn unearthed it in the Texas Stadium visitors locker room two weeks ago.

That's not to say that Hip, Hip, Hooray wasn't invoked at all in the last 20 years...

December 17, 2003:

Toronto Globe and Mail sports columnist Allan Maki lamented the increasingly over-the-top nature of NFL endzone celebrations the week that Joe Horn infamously caught a touchdown pass and retrieved a cellphone from underneath the goalpost pad as part of a choreographed act.

He conlcuded: "So remember: players who score touchdowns can grab their teammates, be hugged by fans and shout a mighty, "Hip hip hooray!" They cannot, on any occasion, grab a lower body part and gyrate, make throat-slashing gestures or pick up a cellphone to make a call -- unless it's to find a job in another line of work."

A man after Zorn's own goofy heart, it turns out that Maki was five years ahead of -- and 30 years behind? -- his time. I think even Maki might have excused Zorn had he grabbed his crotch in Philadelphia on Sunday after Clinton Portis converted that crucial fourth down.

July 26, 1994:

After signing the richest rookie contract in NFL history to end a 12-day holdout, Marshall Faulk was quoted in USA Today: "I didn't have time to celebrate -- no champagne, no hip, hip, hoorays." Even as a rookie, Marshall Faulk apparently knew how to party. Perhaps the Redskins should keep a few bottles of Krug and Dom Perignon on ice for the postgame celebration this Sunday.

Incidentally, the same brief included the following update: "Also, the Washington Redskins and quarterback Heath Shuler, the No. 3 pick, are closer to a deal, says agent Tom Condon."

Hip, hip, -- uh, nevermind.

December 16, 1988:

A young Michael Wilbon wrote a column in the Washington Post about Cincinnati Bengals head coach Sam Wyche's memories of his former coach and original hipster George Allen.

"George used to come in after a win and would say he wanted to hear three cheers for the Redskins. And he'd yell, `Hip, hip, hooray. Hip, hip, hooray. Hip, hip, hooray.' And he'd jump up in the air and get himself all fired up."

"Well, we [the Bengals] went to Philadelphia the second game of [this] season. They had just beaten Tampa Bay and everybody was talking about the Eagles for the Super Bowl. It was a pretty big game at that time, and we won it, on the road. We came into the locker room afterward and I had a flashback.

"I hollered, `Hip, hip, hooray,' and the room was quiet. It was a little bit louder on the second time. And on the third one, everybody was saying, `Naw, we're not doing this.' In the early '70s, under George, it was fun. Every now and then, I hear one of our guys behind me going, `Hip, hip!' "

Naw, we're not doing this? That's hardly the spirit, though it should hardly come as a surprise. The fact that the Redskins didn't have a similar reaction 20 years later is either indicative of Zorn's serious gift for endearing himself to his players or the fact that this is one ridiculously kooky team. It's probably a combination of the two. Oh, and I'm sure it had nothing to do with the hip, hip, hooraying (albeit half-assed), but the Bengals finished 12-4 that season and lost to Joe Montana and the 49ers in the Super Bowl. Just sayin'.

November 24, 1988:

During the 1988 football season, the Washington Post ran a guest prognosticator column each week. This particular week, author and playwright Larry L. King broke out the ol' triple-H before making one of his picks.

"Monday night might be a good opportunity to catch up on lost sleep, the 6-6 Seattle Seahawks hosting the 6-6 Los Angeles Raiders, even though the lead in the AFC West is at stake. Hip-hip-hooray and all that, but somehow here in Washington that isn't of equal importance with the national deficit or even whom President-elect Bush may name as third assistant undersecretary of nuts and bolts. I'm tempted to call the Monday night game a 6-6 overtime tie, but here's a weak vote for the Raiders-getting three-to cover. The Raiders have won four of six on the road outright, the Seahawks don't scare anybody, and likely the Raiders have more grit. So take the Raiders and the points, but don't risk large sums."

For the record, Dave Krieg would outduel Steve Beuerlein in a thrilling 35-27 Seahawks win. It's unknown whether head coach Chuck Knox led the team in a locker room cheer afterward.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Strike Up the Bandwagon

In Week 5 of the 1991 season, the Redskins shut out the Eagles 23-0 at RFK Stadium. It was Washington's fifth straight win to open the season and third shutout at home. Tony Kornheiser, whose Bandwagon was gaining steam, wrote: "The Redskins lead the O's in home shutouts, 3-2. They could be playing in Group F."

Flash forward to yesterday.

In Week 5 of the 2008 season, the Redskins defeated the Eagles 23-17 at Lincoln Financial Field. It was Washington's fourth straight win after opening the season with a humiliating loss against the New York Giants and the Skins' second straight win against an NFC East rival on the road. Mike Wise, who is more than bald enough to succeed TK as Bandwagon chauffeur, wrote: "Did we mention the Redskins, barring a major injury, are going back to the playoffs? They are, and I don't want to hear anything to the contrary after this surreal 4-1 start."

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I lived in Casper, Wyoming for nearly two years, so the latest Easterns Motors commercial takes on some added significance for me. For my first and only Halloween in the Cowboy State, I went as Cap'n Comin' Backatcha, a character inspired by Clinton Portis' Sheriff Gonna Getcha and Reverend Gonna Change. The costume featured a life preserver inscribed with "S.S. Playoffs", a Heath Shuler jersey, a black velvet jacket, cowboy boots, a stick-on goatee and some dollar-store stunna shades. Unimpressed, the Redskins would finish the season 5-11.

For the record, I never encountered a liger in Wyoming, though it's possible they were hiding in one of the state's four trees. I did see a a lot of pronghorns and one night I bumped into Casper native Mike Devereaux in a bar.

There's more on the new Easterns spots at the D.C. Sports Bog.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Stick to Movies, Gheorge

Former Washington Bullets 7-foot-7 center Gheorge Muresan -- You the man! You the man! -- was on the Doc Walker Show yesterday, marking the first time in the illustrious history of the program that a guest was more difficult to listen to than Doc himself.

Muresan was promoting a book he co-authored/endorsed that will be released this weekend, The Boy's Fitness Guide: Expert Coaching For the Young Man Who Wants to Look and Feel His Best. Muresan spoke to Doc about the challenge of getting kids off their fat, Twinkie-eating asses and outside to exercise. To paraphrase Muresan's message: "Kids these days just want to play video games all day. Sports aren't necessarily for everyone, but kids need to be getting exercise. My kids don't have video games. I tell them 'If you want to play, I'll play with you. If you want to get video games, I'll get you video games.' But they don't have video games." (One can only wonder how Gheorge's hand-eye coordination would have benefited from a little Mario Brothers action.)

If Gheorge's interview with Doc was any indication, this book won't motivate kids to put down the Playstation controller. One of the many brilliant nutrition tips included in the book that Muresan was kind enough to share on the show was -- spoiler alert! -- "avoid junk food." Another was "watch your rations." The longer the interview went on, the more I had to resist the urge to drive into oncoming traffic. (I could have also changed the station, but the conversation was equal parts mesmerizing and mind-numbing). Look, I'm all for fitness education and it's good to see one of my favorite Bullets joining the cause, but if you're going to write a book for boys on the subject, tell them something they don't know.

The following is from the free excerpt on
Physical fitness is a way of life -- a commitment to exercise, eat right, and care for your body.

Being fit has many rewards. Your body is healthy and strong. Your weight is proportional to your height. You feel good about yourself. You're alert, able to think clearly. And you look your best.
I'm pretty sure that the first sentence would be easier to read if it were written in Romanian. Muresan will be autographing copies of the book at Tysons Corner this weekend, so put down that ice cream and get out there. The book could make a nice stocking stuffer this holiday season, if only for the fact that the cover includes the unintentionally hilarious phrase "endorsed by NBA Star Gheorge Muresan."

Movie star? Maybe. NBA star? Not so much.