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Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

A Football Town Becomes a Baseball Town

August 14, 2012 1 comment

Something’s seriously changing

The Washington Post had something like ten reporters covering the Redskins training camp this year.  And on the eve of the pre-season debut of RGIII, you had to work pretty hard to find any Nationals story above the fold on the Post’s sports page.

These things happen because the Redskins won a few Super Bowls a generation ago.

Meantime, on the banks of the Anacostia River, there is a baseball stadium now hosting a minimum of 30,000 fans a night and a team that is no longer a flash-in-the-pan or a charming curiosity.  It is, in fact, the most dominant team in the sport.

You see, there are three basic elements in the game of baseball; hitting, pitching and fielding.   The Washington Nationals, as homegrown a team as I can remember, have led both the American and National leagues in pitching all season.   It’s now well over a month after the All-Star break, and since the mid-season classic, no team has scored more runs than the Nationals.   So, we have offense and defense covered.   As for fielding, they rank 3rd in the NL right now.

It is expected that in a couple of weeks, the Nats will get their All-Star shortstop, Ian Desmond, back (poor things have gone 17-5 in his absence) and for the first time all year, the Nats will have their intended line-up in place.   It does not seem to matter that a dozen players have hit the disabled list this year.  They are 28 games above .500.  They are on pace to win 100 games.   They have an embarrassment of riches.

Take the San Francisco Giants, for example.  They lead the NL Western division and are not exactly chumps.  Sure, the Nats swept them in Washington earlier in the season, but it was so long ago.  According to Bay area media, there has been great anticipation about this week’s visit by the Nationals- a test of what the playoffs may hold in store.

The Nationals led 14 to 0 after five innings of the series opener.  They ended up winning 14-2.   Next up, the Giants face Jordan Zimmermann, who has been so dominant on the mound that his last performance triggered considerable Cy Young award talk around the league.  He now has the lowest ERA in all of baseball.  He can thank his teammates for that.  The San Francisco pitcher his teammates roughed up last night was the only hurler ahead of Zimmermann in ERA.  And then Wednesday, the Giants get to face Stephen Strasburg.

All of which offers some perspective on Washington’s heretofore favorite sports franchise- the Washington Redskins.   The contrast of how these two teams have been built is startling.   Over in football world, Redskins owner, Dan Snyder, has spent well over a decade bringing in a revolving door of coaches, buying splashy free agents past their prime and, until recently, ignoring the more traditional and boring aspects of team development, like stockpiling draft choices and sprinkling in a few non-splashy free agents.

Over in Nats land, they got really bad over the years in order to get really good.  They played a patient game that emphasized the basics; scouting, drafting and developing young talent.  They did sign one huge contract when they went for Phillies outfielder, Jason Werth, two years ago, but it was meant as a statement to the rest of the league.  Every now and again, in addition to developing what is now widely considered the best farm team in baseball, they showed they were willing to open their wallets and spend.

And they made a trade last year, giving up some of their hard-earned prospects for a young, proven pitcher named Gio Gonzalez who’s turning out to be having a career year and gives Washington the absolute rarity of three frontline-, #1 aces on the mound.

There is no doubt there is a sense of excitement about Robert Griffin III.  His limited play in the Washington pre-season opener showed he has great presence and patience and real talent that was only made more obvious after back-up quarterback, Rex Grossman, got into the game and stunk up the joint.  And the Skins seem to have a pretty powerful defense.  But numerous injuries along the offensive line spark questions as to how much RGIII will have to be running for his life in his rookie season.

Anyway, in this town, it’s the Redskins that have something to prove.  They come off a 5-11 season and two decades of futility since their last NFL title.  They do have a real talent at quarterback for the first time in a long, long while- but it’s early and they have accomplished nothing.

Meantime, the now universally recognized best team in baseball, keeps chugging along piling up the most wins of any team in the sport, the highest run differential, the best pitching the game has seen in decades, and led by Davey Johnson, one of the best managers in the business.

Longtime WRC-TV anchorman, Jim Vance, did a wonderful on-air commentary on this Nationals vs. Redskins business a few weeks ago.  And one of his closing lines simply cannot be improved upon.  “The ‘Skins promise.  The Nationals deliver.”

Doctor- I Don’t Think I Can Handle Another Game #7

Capital's Netminder, Braden Holtby (Photo by Patrick McDermott - Getty Images)


Actually, I didn’t do so well through game #6 between the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals. It’s just so excruciating. And with hockey, there’s no time for rest- for the players or for the fans. A mad rush on goal is the next second’s defensive collapse. And vice versa. For three friggin’ hours.

And these teams are so evenly matched, it’s ridiculous. Never before in the entire history of the National Hockey League have six playoff games in a single series each been decided by one goal.

I do think Cap’s coach, Dale Hunter, has the right attitude and maybe that’s what really matters. He says “you have to enjoy it.” “It” being the opportunity to even be in a game #7. Certainly, the Caps have exceeded all expectations already.

So…yeah…you players…go on and enjoy this. As for me, I’ll be sitting on the edge of the couch either screaming or crying, hyperventilating as I pace around the living room, biting my nails, or answering phone calls in a totally unfriendly manner (the audacity of anyone ringing or texting me during playoff hockey is more than I can fathom).

I don’t know what you call all that….but I don’t classify it, technically, as fun. There is, however, an intriguing possibility. What if they win? It could happen, you know.

There is a victory dance I have developed in recent weeks after Caps and Nationals wins. It frightens my pets and simultaneously startles and amuses my girlfriend, but I have danced this dance many times in the month of April already. It’s a combination of the Twist and the Mashed Potato, and involves a lot of gyrating arm and wrist action with considerable doses of White Man Overbite.

It’ll be that or sitting in my chair in the bedroom/office. In the dark. Shaking my head. Don’t make me go there, Caps. Please. I would respectfully ask that you ignore any past histories, omens, jinxes and victim mentalities and jam that little black puck in the Bruin net early and often.

Go. Red.

Health Care, Sex Offenders and Viagra

It’s going to be an interesting couple of days as we watch how a bill becomes law in the United States Senate. Despite all the health care signing hoopla over the past 24 hours, the fact remains that the Senate must pass the exact language the House approved earlier this week. If a single amendment is added it has to go back to the House again for another vote.

So Republican Senators trying to scuttle the measure any way possible are proposing amendment after amendment to put their Democratic colleagues in excruciatingly uncomfortable positions. The most interesting such amendment has been offered by Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn. According to Congressional Quarterly, his amendment would “prohibit insurance coverage for erectile dysfunction drugs for convicted child molestors, rapists and other sex offenders.”

I don’t know if it actually happens this way, but in my mind, I picture a late night pizza-fueled session with clever legislative aides thinking of ways to embarrass the opposition party. Under such a scenario, can you imagine the laughter in the room when the idea gets blurted out- “Hey…let’s make them vote in favor of Viagra for pedophiles!!!!” Many high-fives, giggles and snorting laughter all around. “Gives a new meaning to the phrase, ‘soft on crime!'” More hilarity and fist-bumps. “Hey, pass me a pepperoni slice!”

There are less eyebrow-raising amendments also being offered. John McCain is honing in on all the sweetheart deals that made it into the legislation in order to coax a few more wavering Democratic votes. An amendment is being introduced to ferret out waste, fraud and abuse in federal health programs; another one from Team Coburn.

The Dems will likely, dutifully turn down every one of these, along the way creating great fodder for the campaign commercials you’ll be seeing this fall ahead of the mid-term elections. Cut to the grainy, dark footage of Senator X with sinister music in the background. “Did you know Senator X voted against a ban to give Viagra to sex offenders?” “Did you know Senator Y voted against cutting fraud, waste and abuse in health care programs?”

I will tell you right now I would expect the same to happen if the shoe were on the other foot and it was Dems in a position to scuttle GOP legislation. It’s the nature of our system and of politics. If you find it a little unseemly at times, I would suggest looking the other way because its not going to stop anytime soon. And nobody is going to hang a sign on top of the Capitol building saying- “Don’t Look- Sausage-making in Progress.”

Creating Villains: A Self-Defeating Strategy

March 23, 2010 1 comment

It is a bi-partisan failing. Liberals do it. Conservatives do it. And it’s not effective. Making villains of politicians or policy, like health care, is a dead-end strategy.

I distinctly recall the attempts to make Ronald Reagan into some kind of dangerous, evil figure. He was an out-of-control cowboy. A B-movie actor whose claim to fame was making a film called Bedtime for Bonzo. He was an intellectual lightweight. Except that in the Presidential debates and in his news conferences, he actually looked rather affable, optimistic, and while no policy genius, certainly in command enough of his facts. His presence, his charm, his sheer skills as a politician, belied the epithets. He ousted an incumbent President then racked up one of the largest electoral majorities in American history when he ran for re-election.

The tirades against George W. Bush were truly venomous. He was a murderer, a buffoon, a fascist. And a two-term President. So was Bill Clinton who took more slings and arrows than George Custer. In the 2008 Presidential campaign, when his opponents tried to paint Barack Obama as a socialist and a possibly non-American interloper, just as in the Reagan example, his non-threatening demeanor just didn’t jive with the extreme rhetoric. All these four guys did was win election after election because no one could possibly live down to the nasty caricatures made of them.

A similar fate may well await the American public’s initial perception of the health care reform bill. “Armageddon,” was the phrase some Republican lawmakers were using after passage. Last time I checked- that’s a reference to the end of the world. Then there were the death panels; images conjured of faceless bureaucrats deciding to kill off Grandma in favor of saving younger lives.

Well, a health care reform bill has passed and there is a high probability it will not be the end of the world. Six months from now, Grandma will not have gone before even one death panel.

I’m not saying the bill’s perfect, effective, or the right or wrong thing to do; in fact, there are both liberals and conservatives who think the legislation is deeply flawed- that it goes too far or not far enough. To be honest, I don’t know what the hell is in it besides tax breaks for small business, tax hikes for those making over 200K a year, keeping your kid on your insurance until they’re 26, banning denial of coverage for children with pre-existing conditions and making all Americans get health insurance or face the equivalent of fines.

But it’s not the end of the world. Life will go on. You’ll get your mail. You’ll watch TV. You’ll go out with your friends and go to your neighbor’s barbeques. Some people may begin to wonder what all the fuss was about. That wouldn’t be because it’s a good bill necessarily. It would be because in the game of setting expectations, health care reform was demonized beyond all reasonable proportion and didn’t actually turn out to be the end of the Republic.

The Health Care/Mid-term Election Debate

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment

(AP)

I thought it was a pretty good show, actually. Not that the big Health Care Summit had absolutely anything to do with reaching a policy compromise. Let’s face it. It was all politics aimed at the 2010 mid-term elections. Viewed through that primal prism, both sides did well enough.

The Democratic strategy is to position Republicans as obstructionists and they need vehicles to do this. Enter the “summit.” The visuals were striking. The President looked in command and did his best cool and reasonable-sounding Obama-thing. He carried all the water getting no discernible assistance from most of his Democratic congressional buddies.

Republicans were prepared with numbers and framed their less-government philosophies pretty well. Wisconsin Republican Congressman, Paul Ryan, was impressive as was Oklahoma Republican Senator, Tom Coburn. GOP House Minority Leader, John Boehner, I believe, needs to reassess whether a deep tan is really appropriate for February.

I did not find this to be a boring affair. I thought it was rather interesting and even a little healthy to see both sides of this important issue making their cases in a public forum that went over seven hours. Obama was right when he said the philosophical issues will be settled at the polls in November.

That’s what this was. It was a “mid-term” version of a Presidential debate and as political theatre, it was fascinating to watch. Not a lot of fireworks, but the issues and disagreements were pretty clearly framed. Appropriately, the people will decide eight months from now.

Days Gone By- My 1st Radio Station Bites the Dust

February 4, 2010 2 comments


I started my broadcasting career at WAGE-AM Radio in Leesburg, Virginia a little over 32 years ago. I learned recently that last August, it went dark. I felt like a little piece of my life kind of died. Certainly, a piece of Loudoun County died too.

The station had a strong tradition of local news and did remotes at local businesses, covered High School sports, and kept what was then a fairly tight-knit, agricultural community very well informed.

One of our most popular features was the obituaries we read after the local noon news. I remember the time new management rode into town and thought reading the obits was too quaint and tried to kill them. It didn’t last long. The station was overwhelmed with angry complaints. The people of Loudoun County demanded to know which of their neighbors were no longer among the living and that was that.

But you could see the end of WAGE Radio coming like a freight train barreling down the tracks. First, development took its toll and where there were once 63 dairy farms in 1977, there were just three by the turn of the millennium. Houses, McMansions, country clubs, and ribbons of highways and overpasses were testament to the fact Loudoun had turned into one of the fastest growing counties in America.

It also morphed from a community where people said hello, nodded and smiled at one another into another faceless, sprawling Washington suburb. The mom and pop shops that used to advertise on the station gave way to Wal-Mart conglomerates and their ilk.

You gotta laugh

We not only informed the people of Loudoun County, we gave them a few grins too. My favorite blooper was the time an unnamed news anchor, trying to explain the cause of a recent heat wave, pinned the blame on a “stagnant mare’s ass.”

Another anchor, while reading the community events calendar, referred to an appearance at the Sterling Park library by the famous author of the Three Faces of Eve and actually called the book the Three Feces of Eve. I was in the studio at the time and nearly fell to the floor in barely stifled laughter.

The station was owned for many years by Huntington Harris, as in the Harris Bank of Chicago. He loved classical music and gave himself his own time slot on the weekends to spin his albums. This also required that he read liner cards. The station’s motto used to be WAGE- in the Heart of the Hunt Country. Regrettably, Mr. Harris gave a memorable rendition of the phrase that would have made a sailor blush. The very next week WAGE became the Sparkling Sound of Loudoun County.

And, yes, I had my own contributions to the blooper reel. Like the time I was doing the noon news live at the 4-H Fair near the hog pavilion, complete with an audience of farmers and their kids and referred to the “23 million dollars in crap damage” the county had suffered in a recent drought.

RIP

But all hilarity aside, it was here I cut my teeth as a journalist. I covered school board meetings, raging barn fires and car accidents. I covered a small plane crash. I got dirty looks from Senator John Warner back when he and his then-wife Elizabeth Taylor threw annual dinners at their Atoka mansion. Apparently I asked a political question during what was supposed to be a social event and it didn’t go down very well. I moderated a live on-the-air clash between the Board of Supervisors and representatives of a very angry Loudoun County Taxpayer’s Association.

I have one of their pay stubs framed as a reminder of my humble roots. I made $155 a week. WAGE Radio, I used to joke- a contradiction in terms. But as I think back on it, I would have worked for them for free if it would have added just another two weeks to its once central and intimate role in the life of Loudoun County. How sad and ironic that I have just written its obituary.

Hello World

February 1, 2010 3 comments

Hello, hello? Is the mic on? Is this thing on. TAP TAP. Hello? Test, test, test. Oh, there you are!

Well, it seems I have been reconnected with the world once again, courtesy of Comcast, one of the most incompetent and customer-hostile companies in the United States. But having survived them (for now) – I have successfully moved to Washington, DC!

First off, for those of you who may have read a recent post on my previous household moves with my cats, I am happy to report all felines are in working order and adjusted in a record four days! Not that there weren’t several pathetic episodes of extremely neurotic behavior, but that’s quickly behind us.

My CPU’s survived the trip- what a sweet sound, plugging in those babies and hearing the whir of the fan and the purr of the spinning hard drive.

The President, the Snowstorm and the Arena

And how perfect that I got an immediate, representative dose of all that is cool and ridiculous about our nation’s capital all in the same day. I moved in Saturday- in a crippling Washington snow storm! The meanest four inches of snow I have ever experienced. Plows, what plows? I actually drove around a lot that day, including a heroic trip to DC’s only Home Depot on Rhode Island Avenue. I saw ONE plow that afternoon in the District.

As for the cool part- I now live right next to the Verizon Center, home of the best hockey team in the nation (the Caps are on a 10-game win streak) and the place that has also been home to the Washington Wizard’s Gilbert Arenas and some of the most sophisticated weaponry to ever grace an NBA locker room.

And our neighborhood got a little surprise visit during the great blizzard. The tip-off; about 300 police cars blocking off 6th street, including the alley me and my movers were using to off-load the furniture and boxes. Could it be? Yes- the Leader of the Free World had come to my friendly neighborhood arena to watch a Georgetown basketball game. Barack and Michelle Obama, one of the two kids, Vice President Biden and David Axelrod all made a snowy jaunt to watch some hoop action.

I had forgotten all about the security when the American President travels in this town. I was reminded immediately as I tried to take a forbidden right turn onto G Street. Directly from that creepy speaker system all cop cars have, came the voice of one of DC’s finest: “White mini-van, DO NOT turn right, I repeat do not turn right.” Very well then! Not wanting to spend my first night behind prison bars, I dutifully complied.

Yuppies-Everywhere

The Verizon Center has really livened up this part of town- Chinatown/Gallery Place. It’s terribly hip. I don’t think I have ever seen such a dense concentration of rich, white yuppies. My apartment building is crawling with them; the parentally subsidized sons and daughters of privilege-turned young professionals, pulling in a fat 50K working for some Congressman or Senator.

In an elevator with one of them, I got that look I’ve received a few times in my life- the one that indicates deep concern that I may have just lowered the neighborhood’s property values. Can’t say I blame the little yuppie dick-head. I was decked out in moving clothes- my U.S. Open Beth Page baseball cap, cheap reading glasses, a crappy sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers and covered in a long winter coat- the Latino version of Aqualung. So I shot back an equally dirty look and privately vowed to put on a nicer shirt the next day.

The Cable Company

As for Comcast. My cable technician did not arrive in the scheduled three-hour window. But he did have the courtesy of calling me nine minutes before the end of said window. Did I mind wasting three hours of my life, anxiously awaiting reconnection to the digital age? Damn right I did. He couldn’t come, he said, because of the big blizzard. Something about how he nearly died in a car accident in the last great snow-fall around New Year’s Eve.

I calmly indicated I thought he was a snow-wimp, and that since it had been blizzarding ALL day long, maybe a phone call a little earlier in the cable window might have been in order. I called to complain too. The Comcast “customer services” representative- the one whose conversation with me might be recorded for training purposes- hung up on me. I hope her supervisor listens closely to the tape.

“Thank you for choosing Comcast, how can I help you this evening?”

“Yeah, well, I’m calling to complain that I wasted three hours of my life waiting for a service technician who called me nine minutes before the end of the window to tell me he was too scared to drive here in the snow.”

Click.

A Comcast technician did arrive the next morning; a nice Jamaican fellow who used to live in Brooklyn. I love you D.C., but it took a New Yorker brave enough to drive through hardened slush, to get me reconnected to the World Wide Web.

It’s going to be an adjustment process- but I’ll get there. Gotta get back to dealing with the invasion of the cardboard boxes now.