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The New “America’s Team”- For One Night Anyway

December 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Not!

Not!


Back in 1979 when the Dallas Cowboys annoyingly anointed themselves “America’s Team”- at least they were good. They won Super Bowls in 1972 and 1978 and made appearances in title games in 1971, 1976, and 1979.

Then they almost made it four Super Bowls in a row in the 1990’s, winning it all in 1993, 1994 and 1996. Since then, however, it’s been 16 years without a Super Bowl appearance. In fact, they only have one playoff win at all in those last 16 years. They may call themselves “America’s Team,” but no one else in America does.

A non-scientific ESPN internet poll proves it emphatically. At last check, 73% of Americans (or at least 200,000 people with an internet connection whom we presume to be mostly Americans), are rooting for the Washington Redskins this Sunday night when they host the former “America’s Team “ in a battle for the NFC East title. Winner goes to the playoffs, loser goes to the showers and then to a golf course in a moderate climate somewhere.

State-by-state, the ESPN poll shows 49 of them are rooting for the Redskins and one is backing the Cowboys. And Texas is not really a state- it’s a Republic plus they’ve engaged in a lot of secessionist talk over recent years.

Powered by three engaging rookies, quarterback, RGIII, running back, Alfred Morris and Kicker, Kai Forbath, these Washington Redskins are a quite loveable group and surprising, to boot. CBS Sports.com prognosticator, Pete Prisco, predicted they’d finish the year 3-13. Looked good there for ol’ Prisco when the Skins went into their bye week with a 3-6 record.

But something magical happened in that off week. Coming off a humiliating home loss to the Carolina Panthers and with head coach, Mike Shanahan publicly stating the players were now playing for next year- RGIII would have none of it. He reportedly gave a Knut Rockne-type speech that would have made Rockne himself proud. It was so inspiring, in fact, that his teammates immediately voted to make Robert one of their captains.

Now here it is six straight victories later. The Skins have even been victorious in one game without RGIII (thank you Kirk Cousins and Mike Shanahan). Last week, they proved they could win with RGIII’s arm and without his legs.

The previously porous defense now comes up big whenever it seems absolutely necessary.

The most humble kid in the universe who has a 20 year-old car and still sleeps on is parent’s couch when he’s visiting his old home is named Alfred Morris and the young rookie is just 104 yards away from setting the all-time Redskins single season record for rushing.

And Kai Forbath, a former UCLA kicker, who could not hook up with another NFL team gets picked up in the middle of the season and responds by going to the Hall of Fame. Or at least the ball did- the one that marked his 17th consecutive field goal without a miss- the best career start for any kicker in NFL history.

So what’s not to love about the new America’s Team? Even if they lose, these Skins have given their fans more than anyone could have hoped. But I don’t think they’ll lose.

This feels, for all the world, like a Redskins-Cowboys matchup at old RFK stadium 40 years ago- a game the Redskins won 26-3 before going off to face the undefeated Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII (back when you could still tell what the Roman numerals stood for).

That game was for the NFC championship- but this one- after a mostly sorrowful 20 years in the wilderness for Redskins fans- seems every bit as big. Americans- we thank you for your support.

Thoughts on the Deaths of the Innocents

December 18, 2012 2 comments

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I run a newsroom so I couldn’t avoid the sudden immersion into the evil and the insanity. The Newtown shootings story unfolded in seeming slow motion last Friday but, finally, about three hours after the last bullets were fired, the scope and brutality of the event became clearer and clearer until it was finally laid bare for all to see.

The immersion into this gruesome, horrifying nightmare of a story continued all that Friday as journalists walked a minefield of rumor, assumption and misinformation. Into the night and the next day there were conference calls, pleas for extreme caution with the facts and the constant monitoring of the cable networks.

It was after the Sunday news talk shows when I finally threw in the towel. No more of this, please. I need a break. We all need a break from this. A fever and a sore throat that set in on Sunday were welcome because it meant I could stay home and avoid the story some more on Monday.

Unfortunately, for the victims of violence or the desperate parents of mentally ill children who could be the next Adam Lanza, there is nowhere to run and hide like I was able to for a couple of days.

In the course of my self imposed black-out on the Newtown massacre, I missed a few things that I discovered this morning as I returned to work. Turns out even previously 100% pro-NRA voting members of Congress like West Virginia Senator, Joe Manchin, were now saying it was time to consider legislative action of some kind. Dick’s Sporting Goods stores announced a moratorium on the sale of modern sporting rifles.

And brave, courageous and desperate parents like Liza Long were coming out of the woodwork talking about the fear they live with everyday with their mentally ill and psychologically unstable children. Please read this account if you haven’t already, of her life with her son, Michael, a genius who is sweet and kind most of the time- and an absolute life-threatening terror on too many occasions. She says she has been told by mental health professionals that the only thing that will help her son is when he gets in the hands of the criminal justice system.

By then, of course, it’s usually too late.

It is unfortunate it would take the cold-blooded elementary school murders of twenty children and six adults to start the important conversations that seem to be underway in earnest now. After all, these are not the first innocents to die in the line of fire and mental illness. I could list them for you if you’d like- the mass shootings that have taken place in this country in just the last two years. But I won’t.

If you have been unable to detach yourself from this story; if you are unable to avoid it in the course of your mass media consumption- I would highly recommend pulling the plug for a bit. It’s ok to get away from this thing. In the meantime, take heart from the famous quote by Winston Churchill- “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing after they have exhausted all other possibilities.”

Redskins Face the Strasburg Question- RGIII Needs to Heal

December 11, 2012 Leave a comment

NFL- Baltimore Ravens at Washington Redskins

He is entirely too special to risk suffering any long-term damage. Even short-term thinking- one week’s rest, at a minimum, is the least the Redskins should do for their once-in-a-lifetime quarterback.

And it’s a decision the Redskins may need to take out of the kid’s hands because based on what we saw last Sunday at FedEx Field, Robert Griffin is a selfless warrior who would claw and scratch to get back out on the field, no matter how many of his limbs are hanging by a thread.

It’s not just about his health and the “mild” sprain of a right knee. Imagine winning a key playoff-atmosphere game led by your other rookie quarterback. Oh, that’s right- that’s precisely what Kirk Cousins already pulled off last Sunday against Baltimore. But can he lead the team for an entire game and claim a win over the suddenly resurgent Cleveland Browns?

I think so. First of all, the Browns haven’t exactly been beating the elite squads of the NFL. They beat a 7-6 Pittsburgh team without their starting quarterback. Then they edged the 3-10 Oakland Raiders and last week, the 2-11 Kansas City Chiefs.

The Browns won’t be a cakewalk, but any victory by the Skins without RGIII would do the team enormous psychological good. The kid’s will to win has already become contagious. Let’s prove the theory this Sunday in Cleveland without him.

For the short-term, a one-dimensional, pocket-passing, less mobile RGIII may very well win over the Browns- but it’s the two games that follow and potentially the playoffs after that where the Redskins will need his arm and his legs. And considering the intensity with which he plays and that this may not be the last time he sits out a game or two, it cannot hurt to give your back-up QB practice and game time.

And for the long-term, it would end up as the most tragic story in all of sports, if Robert Griffin were to have a career-threatening injury. It is hard to justify risking all that promise for the temptations of the present.

Granted, this doesn’t really compare to what the Washington Nationals decided to do with their young pitching ace, Stephen Strasburg last year. Strasburg was not even hurt. That was a much gutsier decision. But there is a similarity in the basic question of whether the future is worth considering, protecting and nurturing.

Baseball is much more of an annual marathon with its 162 games over six grueling months. The very nature of the sport and its lengthy seasonal slog lends itself more to long-term thinking. The NFL is the polar opposite. It is a sport premised on the future-is-now philosophy of immediate gratification. They only play 16 games. Each contest is 6% of the regular season. It’s a do-or-die each week.

This decision will be quite the test. Go for the brass ring now? Or rest the kid, let him heal a bit and put yourself in a position to reach for a half dozen brass rings over the next ten years- and maybe even one later this year? For this season and for the many more ahead; for the two divisional games that follow in Philadelphia and home against the Cowboys- this is a no-brainer. For this week- let RGIII lead the team from the bench.

RGIII’s Special Skills Wasted on Sports

December 5, 2012 Leave a comment

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To say Robert Griffin III is an inspiration is a considerable understatement.

He seems to have single-handedly willed what, on paper, is a mediocre football team into a playoff contender. He shows up at the Verizon Center to take in a Wizards game and the doormat of the NBA somehow rises to the occasion and knocks off the defending champion Miami Heat.

I see no reason he cannot pinch hit, pitch relief and run the bases for the Washington Nationals from time to time. I suspect he wields a pretty mean slap shot if the Caps can use a little help and if they actually play hockey this year. DC United could certainly use a forward with blazing speed.

But we’re thinking way too small here.

In his primary job as quarterback of the Redskins, since he is already uniting Democrats and Republicans in Washington D.C., I propose that RGIII be immediately made an honorary member of Congress and the chief negotiator in the fiscal cliff talks. Trust me on this, if you can take something built by Daniel Snyder and make it look good, you are capable of anything- including finding a solution to the debt crisis.

With Hillary Clinton about to step down after four stellar years as Secretary of State there is an obvious void. Oh, the President likes Susan Rice for the post, but congressional Republicans threaten to block her nomination, so it would seem a natural that you-know-who be tapped as our emissary to the world.

Can RGIII mediate a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Please.
Could RGIII talk Assad into leaving Syria? Must the question even be posed?

With that smile, that work ethic, that humility and composure, and all the raw skill and talent, not to mention an IQ I would wager is close to Leonardo da Vinci’s, there are many, many more useful things Mr. Griffin ought to be doing than throwing a friggin’ football for Dan Snyder.

All that said, if he does it for just one more decade and ten playoff appearances, I can see RGIII’s first campaign appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire around 2024 or so.

And you can sign me up right now.