Archive for January, 2013

Beyonce Settles it Once and For All

January 31, 2013 Leave a comment


I love that woman. Not in a creepy Brent Musberger/Katherine Webb sort of way. In a marveling, how-could-anyone-possibly-be-this-classy sort of way.

First of all, I never had a problem with the so-called lip-syncing scandal on Inauguration Day. If it had been an absolute, total lip-syncing incident, Beyonce pulled it off so well, who the hell cares. I believe it was CNN’s Anderson Cooper who, echoing these sentiments, mentioned that had he been alive, Francis Scott Key, himself, would have sent her a dozen roses for that incredible rendition.

But in fact- she did sing along with her pre-recorded track- because she’s a perfectionist and between the cold weather and the fact she didn’t get to rehearse with the U.S. Marine band, it was just the prudent thing for a perfectionist to do. We know this without a doubt now because she told us so at her Super Bowl press conference today.

If you missed it, it was an unmitigated master stroke.

Beyonce came for out for the news conference, asked everyone to stand for a moment and then belted out an a cappella version of the National Anthem that left everyone in attendance both stunned and then cheering wildly. Then when she wrapped up the performance, she looked at the roomful of reporters and asked, “Any questions?”

Uh, no, mam.

She confirmed she will not be lip-syncing for the 12-minute Super Bowl performance coming up on Sunday and admitted she’s a little nervous.

She has nothing to worry about.

Flu 1 Inauguration 0

January 22, 2013 3 comments
Influenza Virus- Centers for Disease Control

Influenza Virus- Centers for Disease Control

I was just minding my own business. I got home Friday night, looking forward to the weekend and the NFL playoff games Sunday. Little did I realize I was about to be the not-so-innocent bystander in an epic battle between the virulent flu germ of 2013 and my trusty but subtly aging immune system.

Like the volleys into Fort Sumter 150 years ago that continued for 36 straight hours, the flu virus launched its assault on Saturday afternoon. There was this cough that came out of nowhere. Not cool. I haven’t smoked a cigarette since early October- I thought I was done with this lung stuff. Then the beginnings of the fever hit. The trumpets were sounding. My immune system soldiers were desperately rallying against the foreign invader.

The war escalated on Sunday. By the time the 49ers had rebounded to defeat the Falcons a 100 degree fever had tipped into 101 territory. I should have known this flu meant business because my sure-fire recipe for nipping this kind of crap in the bud- two shots of Nyquil- did absolutely nothing the night before. I switched to a new weapon- Tylenol Severe Cold and Flu. You would think a product with “severe” in the name, would mean business. The flu bug laughed. It picked up Mr. Tylenol Severe Cold and Flu by the lapels and threw him out like a beefy bouncer at a night club tossing a drunk into an alley.

By the time the Baltimore Ravens upended Tom Brady and the Patriots, the health picture looked bleak. The thermometer read 101.8. And the invasion had expanded. My girlfriend Millie was now coughing and quickly hitting 100.

It was Sunday night and Monday was Inauguration Day. In 36 years in the journalism business, I have never missed an Inauguration Day. In one form another, I’ve been in Statuary Hall covering them, or writing newscasts about them, or running a newsroom that was covering them. Nothing was going to stop me from missing this one. I would come into the newsroom, and if I still felt bad, I’d go home a little early. This, of course, would be a totally selfish and egotistical move on my part that could easily have spread the flu to many others.

By 4:30am Monday it was case closed. The battle was still raging. The thermometer flashed 101.6. The flu had won. The inaugural streak was over. I would watch it helplessly beneath a mound of blankets.

Turns out that was the high-water mark for Mr. Flu Virus. For me, anyway. Meanwhile, Millie was exactly 24 hours behind. With my war deescalating and hers just heating up, I was now in the role of caretaker. The worst moment came Monday night when she hit 102.2. I quickly googled “fevers of 102.” Not something you want to have for more than a day. But also not an emergency like hitting 104.

Millie pronounced that she was officially in mortal fear. She said, accurately, “Thousands of people die from this every year!” I went into all-business mode. I presented two Advil tablets and an orange juice. “Take this now. You are not going to die. You’re not 88 years old. You’re a healthy woman in her 40s. There is also no mystery what the cause is- you have the flu.”

We added some wet towels to the equation. Within an hour we got her down to the 101’s again and eventually to 100.5. I felt a little like Florence Nightingale.

The fever’s gone and I’m marching back to work in the morning but I have to say, every muscle in my body still aches as if the flu and my antibodies had just spent three days in a no-rules, anything-goes fight with knives and broken bottles.

This story is being replicated in millions of households in 48 states at last count. I have no idea why Hawaii and Tennessee are the only places not reporting a flue epidemic but either one of them is looking like a pretty good place to hang out right about now.

I Love Stealing Players from the Yankees

January 16, 2013 Leave a comment


I’ll admit to being an intermittent Yankee fan through the years. It’s what happens when your own hometown doesn’t have a baseball team for over three decades. But now that we have this very cool ball club called the Washington Nationals, it was outrageously wonderful to learn yesterday that we had stolen last year’s closer for the Bronx Bombers.

That’s right, Rafael Soriano, the guy who stepped up for the great and injured Mariano Rivera last season is now going to be wearing a curly W on his hat. Analysts have been writing that the Nationals sent a statement by agreeing to pay so much money for the best free agent relief pitcher on the market. The statement being, basically, “Screw All of You.”

See, the traditional baseball world made up of general managers, managers, owners and ornery old scouts who still spit tobacco products- doesn’t like the Washington ball club very much. They think we were crazy to sit Stephen Strasburg just to protect the young kid’s arm a year after Tommy John surgery. They see arrogance in Washington GM, Mike Rizzo’s approach because shutting down your star pitcher implies you’re keeping him healthy for all the future division titles, playoffs and World Series wins you’re going to be piling up.

Many in the traditional baseball world are also just plain crazy jealous. In Strasburg and Bryce Harper, the Nats lucked into two of the most remarkable players to come down the pike in about 20 years. The baseball establishment liked the Nats better when they were a doormat; a sorry little team from a rich but fickle market that used to have to pay a King’s ransom for any marquis talent (see Jason Werth).

But after a 98-win season and the realization that 87-year-old Nationals owner Ted Lerner is, in fact, one of the richest men in the world and certainly the wealthiest owner in the sport, suddenly old DC doesn’t looks so bad as a destination for premier talent.

But the fun part about stealing a Yankee is that back in our old insecure days, that’s what we beleaguered Washington fans thought was surely going to be the fate for our diamonds in the rough. That sometime in 2016 or 2017, Bryce Harper was going to be wearing pin stripes instead of the curly W- that it would be just a matter of time before Stephen Strasburg would someday be the opening day pitcher for the Yankees.

And now we have the Yankee closer- a decision that no doubt was actually made shortly after a chilly October night at Nationals Park when young relief ace, Drew Storen, picked the worst possible moment in the world to collapse. Blowing a six run lead in the deciding game of a playoff series is something you remember. And vow to never repeat.

Drew will get his chances in 2013, but it will be the Yankee closer, the 33-year old veteran Rafael Soriano who will be shutting the door on most nights. Young Drew will learn. But right now, it’s time for the formerly forlorn Nationals to rule the baseball world. And to their detractors: here’s a little tobacco juice in your eye.

Tough Call on RGIII- Lay Off Shanahan

Wild Card Playoffs - Seattle Seahawks v Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins did the right thing when they sat RGIII against Cleveland, the week after the Baltimore game in which he injured his right knee. They did the right thing in the weeks that followed by altering their offensive game plan to fit RGIII’s new and temporary limitations. Now Coach Mike Shanahan is getting buried in criticism for not having pulled the kid in Sunday’s playoff loss to Seattle despite being obviously injured. I think some understanding of both men is in order.

What if the kid had been able to rally the Skins to a game-tying touchdown? Would the critics still be piling on Shanahan? Doubtful- which says to me a lot of this outrage is less about RGIII and more about a decision that may have cost the Redskins the game. And the outrage comes chock-full of hindsight. Who knew a bad snap from center would cause Griffin to awkwardly hyperextend the knee again on the god-forsaken mud hole that passes for turf at FedEx Field?

From a competitive standpoint, I think most will agree RGIII should have been pulled in the 2nd half after a 9-yard run out of bounds in which he basically dragged his right leg along like it was hanging by a thread. That looked alarming. But Shanahan is nothing if not loyal. The most compelling argument RGIII made at half-time to convince the coach he should keep playing was his insistence that he had earned the right to stay in there and give it his best shot. To me that’s indisputable. The kid, through most of 15 games did everything humanly possible to earn the right to stay in there.

But was it misplaced loyalty? Does the Head Coach have an obligation to overrule a competitive player who will always say he’s healthy enough to play whether he is or not? Yes and Shanahan admits it. He says he trusted his gut on this but that his gut isn’t always right and that he would, indeed, second-guess himself over the decision.

Even RGIII admits he endangered himself when he continued playing after having tweaked the knee just before his 2nd TD pass in the 1st quarter. But this was the playoffs. You think RGIII was the only player out there playing hurt? When Kirk Gibson came in to pinch-hit for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the bottom of the 9th inning of a World Series game when Gibson could barely stand, much less walk, did people think that was abusing the athlete? Of course not. Because he hit a homerun that won the game.

It turns out RGIII is not indestructible but is, in fact, all too human. Both in his stubbornness and his physical health. Mike Shanahan is human too. I would argue, if anything, he put his loyalty to his QB above the strategic dynamics needed to win that game. And in retrospect- yes- he made the wrong decision. But I don’t think he deserves to be vilified or fired for it.

Everyone will learn from this and especially RGIII and Mike Shanahan, There is a point where steely determination and sheer grit begin to provide diminishing returns. RGIII will learn to be a little less reckless. Coach Shanahan now knows there will be times where he’ll have to stop RG from being his own worst enemy.

What I can’t stop thinking about, is the cruelty of fate and the vulnerability of even the most talented and ferocious of athletes. I will never forget the Skins game against the Minnesota Vikings this year when Griffin scored on a 78 yard touchdown run. His Olympic-class speed was breathtaking to behold. It was the longest scoring run by an NFL quarterback in 16 years. Griffin piled up 138 yards rushing that day.

And then I picture the botched snap from center on Sunday when the same gifted athlete could not bend down and pick up a dropped football without collapsing in a heap on the muddy turf.

Because of his work ethic and desire, however bad this knee injury turns out to be- it will be overcome. He may never be able to run again like we saw with astonishment this season- but he will be back and 80% of Robert Griffin III is way better than 100% of most others.

But painful lesson, indeed, for both he and his coach. None of it should take away from the amazing, ridiculously unexpected result of this Redskins season when a 22-year-old man/child led a 3-6 team to a divisional title through guts, leadership, and, yes, ironically, the kind of unflinching toughness that ultimately cost them in the end.

The Silly Practice of Attacking Presidential Vacations


All partisans do it and, frankly, it’s getting old and predictable and if you think about it, makes no sense whatsoever. Note to those whose favorite politicians are not occupying the White House at any given time: the President does not need to actually be at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to conduct business.

From the screen shot of the Drudge Report website today you can see the “outrage” of it all.

“Unemployment up to 7.8%” screams the headline. Actually joblessness is unchanged at 7.8% from the previous month, so saying it’s “up to” is not accurate, but I digress. There’s no particular news today about the debt, but coupling it with the unemployment report creates a handy feeling of economic panic- which- as you can plainly see- is not being addressed by our lazy, loafing President who is eating sno-cones, body surfing and golfing in HAWAII, of all places (so what if he grew up there, it’s HAWAII, dammit).

Back in the George W. Bush days, Democrats were equally apoplectic about W’s vacation time. In July of 2002, then Maryland Governor, Paris Glendening, who was Chairman of the Democratic Governor’s Association, lambasted President Bush for planning to spend his summer vacation in Texas “while the stock market was plunging and foreign affairs were volatile.” Just out of curiosity, has there ever been a time foreign affairs were not volatile? The President should only go on vacation when the Dow Jones Industrial Average is on the upswing?

And Bush really caught it when one of his summer vacations was interrupted by Hurricane Katrina. Presidents, apparently, are caped crusaders who can magically fly to natural catastrophes and wave a magic wand and make bad things go away. The problem with Katrina was not that Bush was on vacation, it was that there was a pitiful federal response by people who had been hired long before Bush ever planned his vacation. His political mistake was having his picture taken aboard Air Force One looking down over New Orleans instead of having landed a chopper there and gotten himself on the evening news that night.

And Bill Clinton took hits for where he vacationed. Camp David was not good enough, barked the critics. He’s off in Martha’s Vineyard– at some guy’s house that he’s renting. A house whose property, by the way, “is complete with jogging trails, tennis courts, swimming and boating.” Oh, the humanity.

At the turn of the previous century, Theodore Roosevelt scandalized the nation by taking a vacation at his Oyster Bay home “so soon” after he took office after the assassination of President McKinley.

Harry Truman had the smartest approach. He made the press his vacation accomplices. He was one of the first to take reporters and aides with him on vacations, often leaving wife and daughter behind, presumably because those reporters and aides were willing and able poker players.

Here’s the thing about being President of the Unites States- especially in the modern era. No matter where they go, Presidents are plugged in. There are aides with them. The “football” is in close proximity at all times (the brief case carried by a military officer that contains the nuclear codes). I don’t doubt they can get live video feeds of a drone strike in Pakistan if necessary and they certainly can talk to anyone in the planet they choose to converse with.

But the silliest thing is the implication of all the criticisms of vacationing American Presidents; that our leaders should stay at their house/office in northwest Washington, D.C., with their nose to the grind stone sorting, fixing, repairing whatever the given crisis of the day is. Since there is always a crisis somewhere on the planet, they should never get time off at all. In fact, they should not even sleep lest they get this disturbing headline:

“President Naps with World in Crisis.”