Wednesday, December 28, 2005
~~In other news, The Washington Post has recently instituted a cool little survey at the top of their article pages that one can click and the the votes are immediately calculated. Today's link, found at the top of the lead article on Washington's win, asks this probing query: Which wild card is most likely to advance past the first round? Jaguars -- Panthers -- Redskins -- Steelers. Two thousand votes later, guess which team Washington Post readers think has a 76% chance of advancing? Hmm...
~~There's one other thing I noted while writing this week's Hog Heaven, and I don't believe anyone else, except maybe the crazy diehards at ExtremeSkins.com, has noticed: when the Redskins win their all-white uniforms, they don't lose. That's right. Look at the team as they swept through the NFC East, the Cardinals and the Rams. Barry White on Betty White. I was so shocked by this sweeping revelation that I double checked the Washington Post and the NFL's official photos. Seeing how the Bucs tend to wear their red shirt/pewter pants combination, how can the Redskins lose on Saturday? My medicore Photoshop skills tell it all:
~~Last, but not least, it's funny how life can change in just a short few months. As a quasi-accredited member of the NFL media, I have the opportunity to dig around the NFL's media site. They have a section where one can request credentials to such cool events like Owner's Meetings, Hall of Fame ceremonies, the Pro Bowl, and, of course, the Super Bowl. There's no cost and, like Mom used to say, the worst they can say is "no."
So felling a wee full of myself, I sent in my request for week-long credentials for Super Bowl XL back in September, hoping that I could scrounge up a pass that Mike Tice hasn't scalped. Via email, I received the following response:
Dear Jeffrey: We have received your request for credentials to Super Bowl XL on Sunday, February 05, 2006 in Detroit. We will be pleased to consider your application if the following team(s) advance to this year's NFL title game: Washington Redskins.
Thank you for your interest and best wishes.
Leslie Hammond Director of Media Services
At the time, Washington was 3-1 or so but hardly postseason material. That was then, and now we're three wins from going to Detroit. If wasn't a bleeding-burgundy-and-gold fan BEFORE...
~~Hurrah! Gregg Williams is staying in Washington! You know what that means: Joe Gibbs has a worthy successor for the 2007 season! Now, let's focus on the Pirates of Pewter Pants.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
It was a rare and wondrous treat. No flukes, no last minute blown coverages, no excuses. The Redskins won fair ‘n square in the worst beatdown of the 45-year old rivalry.
Sure, it may not have been particularly “sporting” or in concert with the widely accepted definition of “sportsmanship” for me to throw salt and cracked pepper in the wounds of the Cowchip Faithful; certainly it wasn’t very nice of the Public Address Crew at the stadium to continually play “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” during Dallas’ futile final drive.
But these are the moments that solidify the status as Greatest Rivalry in the NFL, as Sports Illustrated noted last week. It's George Allen firing up his 1972 Redskins for their championship game against Dallas with a well-timed f-bomb, it's Troy Aikman hitting Rocket Ismail in 1999 for a overtime-winning 76-yard touchdown, and it's Daryl Grant intercepting Gary Hogeboom in 1982 and high-stepping into the end zone. And now we have the 2005 games, instant classics in a battle that spans generations.
By the way, I just LOVE how some Dallas fans, via the anonymous safety of Internet commentary, find lukewarm comfort despite the game's outcome. One poster (poser?) offered this rebuttal to my happiness: I know you skins fans are happy to finally sweep us (after getting swept all those 7 years by us)…but the season is not over my fiend (not a typo). But you are right Bill (Parcells) and Jerry (Jones) are both crying their eyes out all over the Cowboy’s 5 (count 'em) Lombardi trophies! ….That is what counts.
As tempting as it was to pass along the number to a great anger management counselor (plus an English major), I offered the following: I love how some Dallas fans want to suddenly minimize this playoff-implication/avoid the sweep/decades-old rivalry game now that their team didn’t bother getting off the bus. I’m sure the last thing on Parcells and Jones’ minds are those trophies in the Cowchip lobby. Don’t kid yourself.
Quit the gloating and be afraid. Be very afraid.
God bless the Internet.
If there is one day, nay, one week for Redskins fans to stick their chest out proudly, it is now. Regrettably, it’s been so long since we dominated
I love this picture because it shows my favorite Cowboy, #41 Terrance Newman, mere moments before he gets completely trampled by Cooley en route to his 30-yard touchdown. If Newman, who was burned twice by Santana Moss back in September, isn't YOUR favorite Cowboy then I question your Redskins Loyalty.
Keyshawn Johnson, not ready for his close up. In the first half, Keyshawn launched an expletive-filled tirade at kicker Billy Cundiff after he'd missed a field goal, apparently disappointed at Cundiff's poor performance. Keyshawn's final numbers? 2 catches, 20 yards. Physician, heal thyself.
No, this wasn't from Sunday, but from the Cincinnati pre-season game. Just seemed appropriate. Kids, don't drink alcohol. Our read t-shirts.
The FOX production crew ought to be ashamed of this, the first use of IN/SYNC that night, to show a Dallas fan missing his team going down 35-0 in the third quarter. Even after the cheers, he didn't budge. Kids, did I already mention the dangers of alcohol?
A classic shot worthy of desktop wallpaper, home office decoration, and Christmas ornaments.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Holy smokes! Not only did we sweep "America's Team," but we took them to the FedEx woodshed and stripped them of their very manhood!
Who knew that the feeling that we Redskins fans knew back in September could be more than replicated but surpassed in such beautiful fashion!
While it would have been great to watch the game live, the FOX broadcast had its share of golden moments:
* Keyshawn resurrected the "Just Throw Me the #$@@ Ball" face after only the second drive of the day. He was livid at someone, likely kicker Billy Cundiff who missed a 38-yard field goal. It's never a good sign when your receivers are complaining in the first quarter.
*The Bll Parcells Cavalcade of Facial Expressions. His eye-cutting at Terrance "Beat Me Deep!" Newman sliced right through him and when Cundiff tried to sit down after his miss, Parcells, like any good mother figure, let him know that his seat was over there. By himself. Pure comedy. Otherwise, Ol' Bill stood stoically on the sidelines, stone-faced, trying not to let the world know that he was watching his house burn down with his John Lennon-signed autograph still inside. Meanwhile, during the first half, FOX showed Gibbs' NASCAR driver Tony Stewart on the Skins' sidelines and I dunno what was running through his mind, but he apparently left some wedding pictures in Parcell's burning house. Fortunately, he looked more alert in a fourth quarter shot.
* You knew this was a Rivalry Game when John Hall, a place kicker, for crying out loud, gets into a shoving match during a trackle.
*I can only imagine how loud that stadium must have been. I could hear "Dallas Sucks!" and "Hey! You Suck!" very, very clearly. Not to mention "Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" played over the PA system. I need a audio clip.
* There were some great quotes: Troy Aikman, End of the second quarter after Dallas moved into Skins' territory: "For (Dallas) to put something positive together here...and potentially come away with points, it's going to go a long way as to how they feel going into halftime..." Next play: interception returned 42 yards by Marcus Washington. During the halftime show, Terry Bradshaw asked Howie Long why he was smiling. His response: "I'm laughing at the massacre." Aikman added later not only that the Redskins wanted the game more than Dallas, but "This is as bad as you can beat a team..."
* Clinton Portis doing the MC Hammer "2 Legit 2 Quit" in the second half. Bigups for dusting off that non-classic.
*The best moment of the night, unequivocally, was Bill Parcells' exchange with FOX's Pam Oliver at halftime:
Bill: Have you ever been an athlete?
Bill: Have you ever had your butt kicked?
Bill: Then you know how this feels.
'Nuff said, Bill, 'nuff said. For today.
Friday, December 16, 2005
I realize that this has been a very long, intense five or six days for you. I bet you've been up late every night this week, watching video and throwing down 40 ounce Ovaltines. Who wouldn't blame you if you haven't gotten but a few hours of sleep; it's Beat Dallas Week and nothing would make our Sunday--no, our season--like sweeping our most hated of rivals. You remember that it's only happened three times in, oh, the last 91 attempts. Even better if we can add a not-so-gentle shove to Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells outside the playoff picture.
Forgive me in advance for stepping out of journalistic character, but I CAN'T BELIEVE HOW HUGE THIS GAME IS!!! GREAT ALLEN'S GHOST, WE HAVEN'T HAD A GAME THIS BIG SINCE, LIKE, SUPER BOWL XXVI!! DID YOU KNOW IF WE WIN AND THE CHIEFS WIN, WE CAN PLAY FOR THE NFC EAST TITLE NEXT WEEK?!? I'VE GOT GOOSEBUMPS!!! GO SKINS!! ...BRAVES ON THE WARPAAAATH...!!!
That said, permit me, if you would, to give you a suggestion or three on how to make Sunday end in your favor. I concede that my few years of sports writing are nothing compared to your decades of leadership and success. I won't insult your intelligence and suggest the usual drivel like "don't turn the ball over" or "control the time of possession" or even "slip Hennessy in their Gatorade." You already know to do those, and I trust that you've already planned to accomplish them all.
I also salute you as a man of faith. So call it strategy, call it a game plan, call it a prayer request list; just make sure you do the following and I'll bet my Dad's 1987 "Doug Williams- A Touch of Class" t-shirt that we win.
1. Pray for Mark Brunell. Though the Redskins have won in fairly decisive fashion against the Rams and Cardinals, Brunell hasn't looked like the same player who was an early front runner in the Career Resurrection category of the ESPYs. In fact, his numbers have been low since that poorly-officiated Tampa Bay game. (Alstott was down.) He's had only three interceptions in those four games, but the concern is that in the same period he has a pitiful two touchdowns.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Clinton Portis is the key to offensive success on Sunday. And it's true that he and Rock Cartwright's play in the last must-win games was pivotal. But the preseason predictions for Washington were true to this degree: the play of the quarterback steers the course of this team.
I'm certain the images are burned in your memory (they are in mine), but in the Redskins' triumphant win over Dallas in September, it was Brunell's 25-yard scramble on 3rd and 27 that saved the comeback opportunity. Then Mark mustered all of his strength and launched two accurate touchdowns to Moss. All that after he was battered by Roy Williams for 55 minutes. We needed Mark to look the impossible in the face and not blink. He did so and with some late help from the defense, Washington revived a rivalry. So in your quiet time, please remember Mark.
2. Keep your head to the sky. The worse our weather, the better your chance to win. Cold, damp, miserable weather means that Jon Jansen, Chris Samuels, and the rest of the Dirtbags dictate the game's tempo. And from what they've shown recently, they're more than up to the challenge. What a treat to see Redskins Football, the kind we used to play back in the '70s and '80s where the fourth quarter was just a slow death for opponents, used with intent to beat Dallas. We have the tools to do exactly that, and the weather sure would help. I'm sure you'd take the Portis/Cartwright combination over the Julius Jones/Marion Barber threat, right?
Out of their last four games, the Cowchips have played three at home in the comfortable temperatures of Texas Stadium. 'Round here we just had a snow and ice storm, with temps dipping well below 30, and in some places as low as the teens. As of Friday, the predictions for Sunday are for a high of 37, a low of--and here's where the advantage comes in--22 degrees. I suspect we'll be a lot closer to 22 than 37 come 4:15PM. You can't control the weather, but you do control how you prepare for it. Make sure the training staff outfit our boys with the very best footwear possible. Those heat-loving Cowchips will be slipping and dropping balls right before your eyes.
3. Hit Bledsoe. Hard. It's OK to hurt him, if you like. A month ago I made an argument, opposed with some fervor by Dallas fans, that Brunell was not only a better overall quarterback than Dallas' Drew Bledsoe, but more valuable because of fewer mistakes and playmaking ability. At this point, it's a bit of a toss up. Bledsoe's home performance last week probably tilts the advantage his way, but let's be real here: they were playing the Chiefs, whom we would have put 35 points on if we had stopped fumbling.
Bledsoe ain't bad at the play action and can make a team pay if he's given time by going deep to Terry "Don't Call Me Aaron" Glenn or mid-range to Meshawn--I'm sorry, Keyshawn--Johnson. But his receivers can quickly get open if Gregg Williams sends the corners or linebackers. So yes, what I'm saying is that the front four, led by Cornelius Griffin, must sack Bledsoe early and often. Or at least make him run out of the pocket. You know he'd prefer to stand around like an electronic football piece. Once out from his protection, somebody in burgundy needs to lay the lumber. Legally. Ahem.
And watch out for that flea-flicker. I dunno how it keeps working against teams, but they love digging out that play for touchdowns.
4. Support Homogeneousness. I'm not talkin' orientation here. I mean keep any pro-Dallas people out of FedEx Field. That's right. If security sees anyone wearing silver and blue, have them led to "special seating" area near the rear dumpsters. I know that's next to impossible--I've been to Redskins/Cowchip games and I have been shocked at how many Washington fans give up their seats to the Big D faithful. It's revolting. But that was back when the Skins were consistently being beaten like the family mule. Times have changed, and the 12th Man needs to show support for their team like never before.
After that great Monday Night Football win, I wondered how many Redskins fans would have stayed to the very end of that game, when with five minutes left their team looked dead in the water. How many turned off their TVs and missed Redskins history in the making? See, your team may not win every game, Joe, but those games ain't over 'til Tony Siragusa sings. If you know what I mean. So come what may for three quarters, you need the Redskins faithful to be, well, faithful. And loud. Very, very loud.
While you're at it, make sure that we especially don't see these people:
Well, Crazy Ray can show up since I hear he's fallen on tough times. Just as long as he leaves that horse-on-a-stick at home.
There's plenty more of advice to give, Coach. You know about the long injury list, including most of the people paid to play in the secondary. I'm sure you're aware that the word on the street is that we probably won't win and even if we do, Washington will have to play its best football of the year to make it past the Giants and Eagles later. We'll let tomorrow take care of itself.
For now, take a quick nap, take a deep breath, think of it as another game to plan for. Even if it's considered the greatest NFL rivalry of all time. No pressure. Go Skins!
Still waiting on that interview,
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
(Remember that TiVO commercial years ago with the guy watching soccer, and his team is about to attempt a game-winning penalty kick? He pauses the game and runs 25 blocks, breaks into a church and apparently prays for a win. Then he scoots back home and unpauses the game. Cute stuff, but completely unnecessary. I have my own Redskins-themed prayer bench in a separate room.)
So this season I've been enjoying the freedom of digital recording while keeping up with All Things Redskins. Of the nine regular season games played, I've watched two live in person, two live on TV (Dallas and Philly). Every other contest I've caught hours later after playing Snake Eyes and avoiding every possible reference to the progress, score, or outcome of the game.
Sure, it's very beneficial when taking notes for here or Hog Heaven and avoiding the 25 showings of Jonathan Ogden dancing on GEBCO Insurance commercials. Can't put a price on that freedom. And I really appreciate being able to start watching Monday Night Football a full hour and a half after its scheduled start and catch up to the fourth quarter just in time to see Philadelphia hand the game and their season over to the Cowchips in just under two minutes.
But for watching Redskins football? The convenience is beginning to ruin the very reason one spends time watching a game: to intimately experience the highs and lows, the thrills and the anguish that the team is experiencing as it happens to the team. I've discovered that that experience is what separates the Journalist from the Fan, the Die Hard Supporter from the Apathetic Score-Finder. And don't slip up and see any reference to the final score--you've immediately erased every bit of the suspense that makes the NFL interesting. Kind of like finding out who Keyser Soze was in "The Usual Suspects." Sure, you could watch and see how crafty Verbal really was, but that's small incentive to sit through two hours of exposition.
And so it is with this 2005 Redskins season. Quite frankly, I cannot resist stopping my recording and peeking at the post-game scores. I have become weak, a cheater, and it almost turns me into an emotionless observer of football rather than a passionate fan. I can't stand that. I emphasize almost because my brother Herbs called, downtrodden, just as I sneaked a peak at the Buccaneers/Skins final and when I asked if I should bother watching the game, he replied "only if you want to be angry."
I watched anyway and found myself cheering when Ladell Betts ran a kickoff back 94 yards and booing lustily when the Chris Simms threw his 30-yard touchdown. And after the late-game ref's review I was knocking glassware over as I vaulted my coffee table to mash my finger on the TV glass, pointing at the grass between Alstott's elbow and the goal line. And yep, I was righteously indignant like Coach Gibbs about the officiating.
But it felt good. I felt like a fan.
Speaking of fans, I should reference the sadness of one coworker and Baltimore Raven fan, Guido. He thought--get this--that Kyle Boller's return would signal a difference in the Raven offense. So much so that he bet me weeks ago that Boller's first game back under center would be a win or he'd buy the office breakfast.
As I sat back enjoying a jelly-filled Dunkin Donut, I was left to wonder--is there a worse feeling than learning that the backup quarterback that you thought was The Spark, that Deserved a Chance, and can Move the Ball is equally as inept as the starter you wanted replaced? I feel for the fans who cheered when Anthony Wright stepped in after Kyle got the Turf Toe of Hades during the first game of the season in Indianapolis. Even after stinking up the rest of that contest, fans and local writers thought they could still get to the playoffs.
See, they still held onto the tranquilizing Great Football Hope: that they guy on the bench is better than the one playing. They said with vigor that Anthony Wright was the deep-throwing, comfortable, mobile slinger the Baltimore offense needed. A string of touchdownless games later, it's clear that Boller or Wright ain't the quarterback of the future. Maybe they should've made a play for Patrick Ramsey after all...
One other note. The other week at Hog Heaven I poked fun at the blatant marketing decision by the Redskins to sell black-themed Redskins jerseys. In retrospect, I'll admit that the jerseys are still garbage, but their greyscale dress tie may be a step in the right direction for the desk-jockey fan. Also, there is finally a Redskins Super Bowl DVD retrospective available that has extra NFL Films footage and some cool extras about the Fun Bunch. It may not be as authentic in the live-every-play-again sense of the unofficial DVDs floating around, but it is still a nice addition to your Redskins game library.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Eagles' Owens doubtful with sprained ankle
PHILADELPHIA (Nov. 2, 2005) - - Terrell Owens might not play against Washington because of sprained right ankle that forced him to miss the Eagles' practice Nov. 2.
Owens sprained the ankle -- the same one on which he had surgery last year -- in the loss to Denver and limped around the locker room after the game.
"He is hurting," coach Andy Reid said. "He is sore. It's going to be a fight to get him there for Sunday. We're taking it day by day. He's made progress the last couple of days."
Owens is considered doubtful, meaning he has a 25-percent chance of playing against the Redskins...
Quarterback Donovan McNabb, who has put off surgery for a sports hernia, bruised a rib against the Broncos, and also missed practice. McNabb complained of soreness and stiffness, but said he'll play in Washington.
McNabb was injured when he fell on offensive lineman Shawn Andrews...
Defensive end Jevon Kearse is questionable with a shoulder injury.
The Eagles also put punter Dirk Johnson on injured reserve and signed rookie Reggie Hodges, a sixth-round pick of St. Louis who punted in five games for the Rams.
Three-time Pro Bowler David Akers could return to kick field goals against the Redskins. Akers hasn't played since tearing a hamstring earlier this season against Oakland.
Thanks, T.O., for a perfectly-timed injury. So the Redskins defense will face an offense that (a) passes too often with (b) a quarterback more banged up that O.J. Simpson in "The Naked Gun," and (c) will have its premier receiver at around 50% power, if he plays at all.
I have two quick suggestions for Gregg Williams (who, by the way, gives really good interviews. I saw him on the Comcast PostGame Live Sponsored by Tischer Acura, Brought to You by Ledo's Pizza and Shagnasty & Associates Report on Sunday and not only did he politely answer questions from Kelli Johnson like "Coach...after a game like this, you must feel, you know, awful. [long pause] Right?" but he managed to look cool, calm and collected, even though you know mentally he was gauging whether slow-torturing every defensive player would be considered justifiable homicide. Gregg, you're my rock.)
First suggestion: Key on Brian Westbrook and L.J. Smith. Westbrook leads NFL running backs in receptions; Smith is third in receptions (seventh in yardage) for tight ends. Without Owens, these guys have to be big in the Eagles' offense, and that means that the Redskins' linebackers must have an equally big game.
Second suggestion: Sacks = win. In the alternative, get some pressure on McNizzle. Look, you know and I know that Donovan isn't going to be breaking any 54 yard scrambles like he did back in 2000. In fact, how about the defense dare him to scramble, and let Arrington tee off on him once or twice. Let's see if we can make him regret resting that sports hernia .
The Eagles have won seven straight over the Redskins. May the planets be in alignment for an end to the streak...?
Monday, October 31, 2005
As I mentioned over at Football Outsiders, you know you're a Redskins die-hard fan when your team manages to collapse in such a brilliantly craptacular way--when it really counts--and yet you come back to cheer them on again seven days later.
My modus operandi this season has been to record the Redskins' 1PM games on my Comcastic DVR and catch up on the action a few hours later. Now usually I'm pretty good about not watching any 4PM games and accidentally seeing the early game's final score. In fact, I pride myself on the maturity and discipline it takes to avoid the Internet, sports radio, and conversations with friends (which usually involves putting fingers in my ears and humming "Battle Hymn of the Republic") to preserve the games' suspense.
After two quarters and one play of gut-wrenchingly pitiful play, I had had enough. When Ladell Betts fumbled the second-half opening kickoff, I knew that this day would get no better, and for mental stability I should abandon all hope of a comeback. I stopped the recording and switched to the Eagles/Broncos contest, which conveniently was wrapping up the halftime show. And there, in the top ticker-tape, was the final Redskins score: 0-36.
At that moment I was torn between two responses: dumbfounded paralysis or banging my fists on the floor in teary torment, yelling "I've done all you wanted me to do! Why?!?" like John Locke over the "Lost" hatch.
Actually, I picked a third response, to which any modern football fan would likely revert: I watched the Eagles and Broncos game, hoping my fantasy players would come through for me. And yes, Jake Plummer and Terrell Owens had fantastic days, so there was some measure of joy on Sunday.
(Oddly enough, it is in this baffling loss that I've noticed a serious spike in hits here and at Hog Heaven. Maybe people love to see how Redskins fans tap-dance their way out of support for their team. I dunno. But I'm going down with a fight, even if I have to eat a cold plate o' crow after announcing at CBS Sportsline that Mara's death wouldn't mean a win for New York.)
So what does this loss mean? Well, my buddy Tony the Shark--a devoted Cowchip fan--believes that it virtually locks in New York for the NFC East playoff spot. Sabado Gigante's final games, however, include only two near-guarantee wins, San Fran and Minnesota, plus one probable win at Oakland. That'd take Big Blue to a healthy 8 wins, two losses. But ah, they still face this Murderer's Row: Philly (twice), at Dallas, Kansas City, Washington at FedEx, and at Seattle. That could very easily be six more L's for New York.
Cowchip fans, likely soaking up the "Giants and Dallas are the class of the NFC East" bottom-kissing, should note that their final games include only *one* near-guarantee win, Detroit. St. Louis is their probably win, and the remaining contests are actually tougher than the Giants': at the Egos, Denver, at the Giants, Kansas City, at Washington, and at Carolina.
Philadelphia's final schedule looks like so: near-guarantee wins over the sloppy Packers and Cardinals, probable win against St. Louis. After that, it's Washington twice, Dallas, twice versus the Giants, and home for Seattle. Ouch.
And so it is, then, that every team in this competitive NFC East will be in contention for both a division crown and wild card spot in the final weeks of the year. My prediction is that the losses or wins to the St. Louis Rams, of all people, that will make the difference. You read it here first.
Oh yeah, lots of love to the good people at Deadspin.com, who were kind enough to spread the word about Hog Heaven and the Redskins Review. The Review has been online for exactly one year and Hog Heaven for just under nine months, and it's nice to get a "well done!" from your readers.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Things that have crossed my mind lately...
~ ~ If there’s a downside to the return of LaVar Arrington during Sunday’s smackdown of the witless 49ers, it was that, well, all the Arrington vs. Redskins talk comes to an end. Aside from the team’s 4-2 start and Mark Brunell’s resurrected career, the majority of the Redskins buzz has surrounded the benching of the team’s most popular player. Media types from radio to print to Internet weighed in, usually finding that Arrington deserved to play because of his raw ability to be a playmaker.My two cents? It was fun seeing Arrington flying around the field, decapitating quarterback Alex Smith, and playing to the home crowd. But amid the put-him-in-on-reputation arguments was lost this simple truth (which some folks at ExtremeRedskins.com don’t want to hear): the guy playing in front of him played and practiced better. Lemar Marshall replaced Arrington last season, and until Sunday led the team in tackles. He did exactly what he was asked to do, so the better question is: why bench Lemar? The week before the SanFran game, Arrington practiced well and—surprise!—he played on Sunday. I don’t doubt that there were some soft apologies exchanged during last week.
~ ~ What I really regret, seeing Arrington return to play, is the instantaneous vaporization of my Pulitzer-winning headline: LaVar: Putting the “Err” In Arrington. I had even formed a unique angle for Arrington’s demotion and eventual replacement, referencing Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill, and New Edition. Let’s just say that the article was writing itself.
~ ~ This week’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback notes the recent NBA-imposed player dress code and how the NFL requires coaches to wear Reebok-styled clothing on the sidelines. Gone are the days of Tom Landry and his fedora. TMQ posted a letter from a reader who suggested that since some coaches would prefer to wear more formal wear, “[L]et the NFL introduce a line of suits, sports jackets, dress slacks, ties and accessories, all with tasteful team logos.” TMQ said the idea was “ridiculous, no one could believe anyone would ever put down good money for it.”
Are you kidding me? It’s a brilliant idea! I work in law, and the dress code in my workplace is business, rarely entering the zone of Casual Friday because of the necessity of impromptu court appearances. So what do professional fans do to express their team loyalty? Place a flag on your sticky board? Drape a Darrell Green jersey over the back of your chair? How gauche. What D.C. day trader wouldn’t want to be seen around the office in an NFL-authorized black single-breasted suit with a fancy Redskins crest sewn into the breast pocket?
~ ~ Are you like me? Are you completely annoyed by the lack of plot development in ABC’s Lost? We’re up to episode six—which airs in mid-November—and only four Lost days have passed since Walt, Sawyer, Michael and Jin set sail into Sharkticon-infested waters. Sure, we know that the Others walk softly and don’t bathe; and yeah, we’ve seen the Execute button sequence, and we know that Ana Lucia acts like Donald Trump but without the money, android assistants, and toupee. Want to learn anything of any use, like, I dunno, where are the rest of the tail section people? and the characters engage in egregiously vague fact-dodging conversations.
For instance, tail-section castaway Libby was walking in the jungle with front-section castaway Michael, who was just freed from a dirt prison by Libby’s other surviving passengers. Here’s their conversation (courtesy Lost-tv.com), and tell me if your final question would be the same as Michael’s:
LIBBY: Sorry, Michael.
MICHAEL: Sorry about what?
LIBBY: You know, about throwing you and your friends into the pit.
MICHAEL: I guess I just never thought about it like that. I mean, I guess one of them is my friend.
LIBBY: I'm guessing not the redneck.
MICHAEL: Yeah, not the redneck.
LIBBY: I don't think I've ever seen someone so scared in my life. And I know about scared.
MICHAEL: That why you threw us in the pit -- because you're scared?
LIBBY: And we've got trust issues.
MICHAEL: Huh, how about that? Where the hell are all the fruit?
Fruit? You just learned that the Tailsectionists not only are deathly afraid of unnamed persons but also tragically distrustful of each other--and by the way, there are 18 of them missing, possibly eaten by the five remaining—and you’re asking about grapes ‘n mangos? Sigh. There’s a thin line between mystery and trifling with an audience’s patience, and Lost is sidlin’ closer to the latter by the hour.
~ ~ Living in
I listen, then, to “Ravens Radio” on ESPN’s AM station. (If you haven’t suffered through second-string has-beens giving their two cents while eating wings at Bill Bateman’s, make sure you tune in.) And this year, it’s been a sadistic treat to hear everyone from former players to show hosts and call-ins blasting offensive guru Brian Billick, Jamal Lewis, and even Pro-Drinkin’ Ray Lewis. If Robert Irsay hadn’t already stolen the idea, they’d probably pack up the team in trucks and drop it off in
Just the other morning the hosts—I have no idea what their names are—griped at length about the impotent offense, the ridiculous penalties, and suspect winning percentage of Billick over his last 12 games. Not only did they paint the Ravens guilty of believing their own hype machine but unsolicited comments from former Raven Mike McCrary strongly suggested that felonious Jamal Lewis is intentionally not giving 100%. There’s talk of franchise favoritism because Todd Heap got a contract renewal while Ray, Jamal, and other big names have to wait.
Normally, I wouldn’t gloat, but after
~ ~ Lastly, ain't it great when corporate sponsor underestimate the Redskins offense? A couple of years ago, Domino's Pizza had a gameday promotion that offered $1.00 off a pizza and a free 20oz. soda for every touchdown the team scored. That was the year the Redskins, under Norv Turner, went buckwild, never scoring less than 17 points per game, maxing out at 35, 38, 48 and 50 points some weeks. It was beautiful. I remember going to Domino's with my Pops, getting two pizzas, five sodas, and walking right out. That promotion mysteriously disappeared the next season.
Now comes Papa John's, the next official pizza of the Skins, offering one free topping for each touchdown, doubled if the team wins the game. Monday, Redskins fans across the D.C. area challenged their digestive systems with a maximum fourteen free toppings. Silly pizza people. When will you learn? If I ran a pizza joint, I'd offer a free medium one topping pizza for every interception returned for a touchdown or five cents off for every patently ridiculous comment by Tony "Put Portis In Spandex" Siragusa during a Redskins broadcast. Based on this season, the latter promotion would've put me out of business.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Nothing so memorable happened as I watched the Redskins versus Broncos ,but it sure was dramatic.
Every story worth repeating begins with the words “my mother-in-law,” and this one is no different. My mother-in-law’s birthday was this past Saturday, and on Sunday her family decided to celebrate her [censored]th birthday with dinner at a local restaurant. She and the family were traveling back from an early hiking trip and estimated their arrival at the restaurant at around 5PM. The Redskins game was scheduled to begin at 4:15PM. Apart from faking a serious illness (such as typhoid fever), there was no getting out of the birthday dinner.
My wife and I had spent the early afternoon traipsing around Bowie after church, waiting on when to meet her family. When we got word of the 5 o’clock estimate, I guessed I had just enough time to head home, hit Record on my DVR and prepare to leave for dinner. And that’s what I did. I was actually able to see Portis’ fumble before my wife pulled me out of the house.
Throughout dinner, of course, my mind wandered back to the Redskins game—how bad were the Broncos winning? Would we keep fumbling all day? Can Moss continue being clutch on third downs? Is my team for real this year? It was maddening. I nonetheless felt comfortable, knowing that the game was being recorded and that if I could deftly avoid any and all mentions of the game, it would be like watching it live. Sort of.
I wasn’t able to watch my recording until near 9PM. I sat down with pen and paper, ready to take in every aspect of the game and enjoy the freedom of rewinding plays and skipping commercials ad nauseum. The game was highly entertaining, and I’m proud to say I resisted the urge to fast forward through plays, then rewind if something interesting happened. Call me a disciplined Redskins fan.
Midway through the third quarter, when the game seemed destined to be a close finish, I realized that my DVR didn’t record the game, but CBS’ estimated three hour, fifteen minute block of time for the game. “Surely,” I assured myself, “this game will end on time. Not too many penalties, few injuries…”
Perhaps you see where this story is headed.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Redskins were down by 11, but I was the one getting desperate. The Redskins kicked a field goal to pull within eight, the defense forced Denver into a three-and-out, and with four minutes left in regulation—and six minutes of recording—the Redskins began the potential tying drive on their six yard line.
Each play seemed to take forever (“Why aren’t we in hurry up?!?” I exclaimed to Washington, who still had four minutes to play), and when a referee was steamrolled by Robert Royal, I felt for him—I really did—but I sat aghast at the resulting mandatory television time out. Another 1:30 of commercials.
With fifteen seconds left of recording, the Redskins had used four game time minutes and managed to only reach their own 49 yard line. But that was okay, because Gibbs and company were facing a fourth and ten with just over two minutes remaining. “This is for the game,” the broadcast team reminded the uninformed viewer. I nodded my head in agreement.
Mark Brunell dropped back, and…was sacked for a nine-yard loss. My recording stopped on the image of Denver tackle Gerard Warren celebrating while Brunell peeled himself off the ground.
“Well, that was that,” I informed my very patient wife. “We fought hard, but it just wasn’t meant to happen tonight. Hey, 3-1 and first in the East ain’t so bad, huh? Those Cowchips did us a favor by beating the Eagles.” The Missus addressed my astute insight with a yawn. It was now near midnight and I started to summarize my game notes and evaluate the Redskins’ performance.
At this point, I’m singing “Just Once” by James Ingram: “I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough…”
Before I decided to retire, I decided to watch my recording of the 7:30 PM NFL Primetime. The benevolent wife agreed with the continuing of the late football smorgasbord…if I’d rub her feet. Using my internal Husband Calculator (which computes two birds, one stone into 5000 different situations), I agreed to the offer.
Chris Berman and Tom Jackson ran through the scores and highlights, and in my increasing drowsiness and foot rubbing I’d missed the Redskins game results on the sports ticker. The Skins/Broncos game highlight began, and eventually Brunell was sacked for a nine yard loss. “But wait! Ooh, Tom, there was a defensive holding call!” bellowed Berman.
I jumped up, throwing my wife’s feet off my lap, and paused the recording. “Did you see that?” I asked my wife’s direction. “The game wasn’t over then! Great Scott, we could have still won!” In an instant, I was teleported back twenty minutes, and I resumed sweating. Never before had I cared so much about an ESPN highlight show.
Berman continued “Now with 1:15 left, Brunell from the Denver 11…touchdown to Chris Cooley!” I paused the show and went bonkers, proclaiming the genius of Gibbs, Brunell, and, for good measure, George Allen. “I don’t believe it! We have a team! Undefeated!” I explained to the spot on the couch where my wife used to be.
We all know what happened next. The next play showed Brunell’s errant two-point conversion to David Patten that effectively ended the game.
And there I silently sat, hoarse, dejected, and ten seconds from marital discord.
It’s obviously my mother-in-law’s fault.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
There was quite an uproar when Mark Brunell emerged from the tunnel. One month ago, he would have received polite applause, like the Oscar winner for "Best Documentary Short."
I obtained an exclusive interview with Brunell. Me: Seems like every week you're making the play of the game with your scrambling, huh? Mark: Yep. Remember, this is an exclusive.
The fans were divided on whether running back Rock Cartwright's stature was impressive.
There was no doubt that tackle Ray Brown is a man of great girth. By the way, I'm not sure which Hogettes are legit and which are mere posers. Can anyone tell me?
I wish I'd thrown up my gang sign with star running back Clinton Portis. I don't regret that as much as forgetting to ask how much he paid for the basement stripper's pole he showed off on "MTV Cribs."
Man, kickoff returner and wide receiver James Thrash has one purposeful stride.
Superstar LaVar Arrington didn't endear himself to the cheering fans when we refused to sign any autographs, acknowledging everyone only with a mumbled "I gotta go."
The tent for the players and famlies had great food, televisions, and tight security. That's Ray Brown's family and friends at the table behind us. My only regret is that His Joeness didn't come through. Hard to complain with free food in your mouth.
The Redskins Marching Band warms up. Yes, Mr. Announcer, we know they're more than sixty years old. Thanks for telling us for the fifth time.
A full hour before gametime, Seahawk punter Leo Araquz (#2) practiced giving the Redskins an easy safety.
Early in the first quarter, the Redskins offense huddles up and decides how much time to leave for Seattle. The concensus was about 1:49.
Seahawk cornerback Marcus Trufant, four seconds from being beaten in the end zone by Santana Moss.
Santana celebrates a touchdown that was overruled by replay. I haven't watched game tape, but I'm fairly certain you can see me and Pops in the stands. I wish I'd taken a pic of his footwork.
Who is this guy? How does he have carte blanche to wander anywere in the stands? Is he on the payroll? If so, can we get him some dental benefits? I'm losing sleep over this.
Tight end Robert Royal (#88) celebrates his touchdown with fullback Mike Sellers. Royal's bizarre gyrations, an exercise in the loss of motor skills, are even more odd to see in person.
Speaking of dancing...cheerleader Brittany leads the crowd in, well, nothing. Is it me or have NFL cheerleaders become little more than in-game flesh exhibition commercials? Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Ever have one of those days where every moment continues to ascend to greatness, eventually ending in an amazing, surreal experience? You ever have a day when, for six hours, you think "there's no way this can get better." And then it does?
(The last time it almost happened to me, I was sitting at a concert, slack-jawed, glowing from the manifold radiance of She Who Is Fine, Sade. I elbowed my wife, who for some reason wasn't watching the stage, and rhetorically asked "Isn't she dreeeeamy?" Let's just say that the evening didn't end well.)
Well, Sunday was one of those days. Not only did I get to partake of great football on a gorgeous afternoon, but I witnessed the Redskins win in overtime, scoring all of their touchdowns right in front of me. I'm fairly certain that if you put your TiVo on slow-mo, you'll see me hollering like a banshee. I've said it before, I'll say it again: there's no substitute for being at a Redskins game. If that wasn't enough, my Pops and I happened to see an old friend of his in the parking lot pre-game, and he offered us passes to the Player's Lot to see if we could meet some of the Skins.
At the risk of sounding like a naive, hero-worshipping groupie, let me say that meeting some of the Redskins was one of the highlights of my life as a Redskins fan. I appreciated that most were cordial, even friendly, and took the time to sign hats, tickets, and shirts. That is, except for LaVar Arrington. More on him later.
With no further ado, allow me to present my Gameday Photo Essay: Pregame/Gametime and Postgame.
But some of the other fans don't know what in the world they're talking about. Even when they're down, they have to find a way to pick on the Redskins. To wit: I've been reading some Dallas fan sites, scanning to see their analysis of their suddenly-.500 team. What do I inevitably see? Skins-bashing. They say that we've been lucky for two straight weeks, that our offense is dismal. My MVN colleague Will Parchman runs the Cowboy Roundup site, and dared say that the Redskins were the "worst 3-0 team in recent memory."
I couldn't help myself. I logged in and posted the following:
I’m certain that Cowchip fans were searching for Quaaludes or something when the Redskins/Seahawks stats were shown. The Skins dominated the game for much of the contest, controlling the clock and dictating the tempo. Apart from a blocked figgie and a tipped interception, our game wasn’t all that close. (Of course Dallas fans remember the MNF debacle when you owned Washington statistically but laid up late at night wondering how you lost.) The ‘Hawks and Cowchips are playoff-caliber teams, right?
If winning three close games makes us the worst team ever, so be it. We’d rather be bad and undefeated than America’s Team and .500!
In all seriousness, if scoring points made your team great, then the Indianapolis Colts would be the '72 Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs would have three fantastic seasons of success. But neither is true because, well, there's more to football than buckets of points. You think that the 2005 New England Patriots wouldn't love to be undefeated? Think they'd excuse their victories if they weren't all against Indy and the Steelers? Of course not. Nor shall Washington verbally forfeit their wins.
What I love about Washington's two recent victories is that the naysayer's dire predictions (they can't win because of the quarterback position) have been safely detonated offshore via the play of Mark Brunell. Indeed, it's been because of his scrambling and accurate throwing--two abilities few thought he still possessed--that we are undefeated. His legs may give out before season's end, but my hat's off to him. Watching him on Sunday and on Monday Night Football was pure magic.
And not to put too fine a point on this, but how bad can Washington be if they beat Dallas? Is it our fault if your safeties and corners get beaten twice on the same play by the same player? Did we tell Patrick Crayton to run a three yard route on fourth and four?
Well, now I and my fellow Redskins fans are past such post hoc reasoning. In fact, up here in the Undefeated Atmosphere, your pitiful ramblings are nothing more than angry, gentle murmurings that give us peaceful rest. Kind of like soft rain. See, when you take the moral high ground, there's no need to stoop to poking fun and calling names.
But y'all are ugly and your mother dresses you funny.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
I may have soiled myself just over an hour ago.
At one point, I was on the verge of tears.
And yet I cannot stop smiling.
Forgive me, this is going to be just a rambling, fan-wanking gush-fest of Redskins love.
We have beaten the Cowboys. In Dallas. When it mattered.
So much for entering Aikman, Irvin, and Smith into the Cowchip Ring-Ding of Honor, eh? I'm sure this is a day that Dallas fans will not forget for a long, long time. For all the wrong reasons.
So much for Bill Parcels and his 77-0 winning streak when leading by 13+ points in the fourth quarter, too. And sayonara to Washington being the only team not to score a touchdown this year. And we can forget MNF's stat (where do they get these things?) that Washington can't win when losing entering the final period.
So much for Madden's prediction that "the team that makes the first big play will win this game." Thanks for your vote of confidence, John. And yes, we all heard you do a complete 180 when Moss caught his second touchdown, saying "these Redskins just hung in there and never gave up..." Thanks for the late love.
Wow. I have so much more to discuss, such as my original title for this piece, "Grand Theft Offense," the play of Brunell, the play of Santana "Speed Kills" Moss, the gutsy bend-not-break of Gregg Williams' offense, the joy of soaking in this moment for the next two weeks...
Dallas' defense choked like the 2004 Yankees, allowing a team that had the guts to keep fighting back into a contest. Roy Williams, you had a brilliant 58 minutes. But it's those two minutes when you were torched that have me wondering--how do you get beat on the exact same play for touchdowns? Mere moments after each other? How do you let any receiver get beyond you when you know Washington has to score six points? Oh, to be in on the Dallas team meeting tonight.
Look at how close that Cowchip defender is to intercepting or disrupting that pass play. For years now, Washington fans have felt that we've been star-crossed, destined, and cursed to lose to "America's Team." Few expected the Redskins to be competitive, much less succeed. Heck, after three periods I was prepared to go home and begin to forget the whole sorry episode.
It was if it was meant to be. When I look at Moss' catches, and the needle that was threaded in sheer desperation, I see that it we were supposed to be the victors on this night. Finally, God winked our way.
And that makes for happy Redskins fans all across the nation. It's now after 2AM. I think I can now get to bed where my very patient (and Dallas-biased) wife has already retired.
I assure you my dreams will be most peaceful, dipped in burgundy and gold.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
I had originally considered writing this to the tune of Prince's "Alphabet Street" or Van Halen's "Panama," but time constraints proved prohibitive. So, with apologies to Robert Frost, e. e. cummings and Chuck D, I present
This is the Ballad of Ramsey
star of the school Tulane
Of how his star was the brightest
now dim and ne'er the same
'02 the Skins drafted Patrick
his strong right arm the news
He spent his time subbing Wuerffel
worse only to Shane Matthews
'03 he started for Spurrier
The Fun 'n Gun's glaring weakness
was that it didn't protect
Oh! were the hits from the Eagles and
Cowboys and Bills and Bucs!
But Ramsey not once complained, tho'
it clear the offense sucked
Poor Ramsey was left to flounder
slow rising from his sacks;
Writers pitied this young hero
often getting shellacked
His Joeness returned in '04
new hope began to swell;
Fo'ty million later, who should start
but past-his-time Brunell!
So Ramsey again sat sidelined,
losses began to mount;
Returned Week 10 'cuz Mark's rating's
too low to even count
Coach Gibbs was quite impressed with him
"He starts for us next year!"
But post-draft day some wondered if
his promise was sincere
"Ramsey's our guy" the coach assured,
sanguine in his stance;
but truth be told, his words were cold
he never had a chance
The leash was decept'vely short
fair shake it didn't approach;
how apt to be blindsided by
the man he called his coach?
So now he knows, his time draws close
the faith in him shown lack;
not what it seems, this thing called team
Godspeed and don't look back.
Monday, September 12, 2005
Chicago 7, Washington 9
I count myself very fortunate to be able to attend some of this season's games at near ground level in the Dream Seat section of FedEx Field. Thanks to the suspiciously manipulative pecuniary vision of Daniel Snyder, the Redskins' stadium now has a row of seats so close to the end zone that fans can confirm which cheerleader needs to do more crunches and accurately guess which deoderant the opposing players are using. (I salute you, Right Guard.) When the players turn to exhort the crowd, they aren't gazing up at Section 440. They're looking right at you.
Sunday I got my first taste of the very-good life, courtesy my Pops. We've enjoyed games during the last four years in various places at FedEx, from the rafters (where our hot chocolate froze one November day) to the Loge level (with its carpeted, leather-seated, plasmas-in-the-lobby experience). I am indebted to ol' Pops for enduring the waiting list since the RFK days and making the financial sacrifice--which increases by 5% annually--to grab better seats when available. In honor of him, I have already decided to keep the tickets in the family for generations. Not that I'm, y'know, rushing Pops or anything.
For my dollar, the best time to attend a Redskins game is early in the season, when the weather's comfortable, the teams are fresh, and the Skins haven't taken themselves out of playoff contention. (So, by "early in the season" I mean September.) And there is something even more magical about attending the Season Kickoff; in the past Snyder has made sure to dazzle the crowd with costly pyrotechnics, military flyovers, and, um, Britney Spears.
Sunday's Pop Icon Performance was from the saccharine duo of Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, who belted out "America the Beautiful" backed up by No Name Band #6. Unlike Mrs. Spears, the couple actually appeared in person at the stadium...and promptly ducked out after the song's final bars. This left us with the disappointing announcement that the one and only Roy Firestone would be singing the national anthem. I must not have been the only person thinking "wasn't Roy the anchor of the first season of ESPN's "Outside the Lines" or something?" because at halftime the stadium announcer reminded us that Firestone is a platinum-selling, Grammy-winning artist. Ohhhh. That Roy Firestone.
Early in the afternoon, my section was dismayed to learn from our preteen Food Maven that both ketchup and mustard were no longer available. Honestly, how does an entire stadium run out of two major condiments on the first regular season game in the first quarter? Were the fans that hungry? People are paying over a thousand bucks for seats and the stadium staff can't run to Giant for a couple bottles of Heinz?
(Speaking of food, to cleanse my mouth of a lead-based hot dog and sun-warmed Coke, I enjoyed a piece of tropical fruit Trident. On the ingredients panel, there is a prominently displayed, bold-face pronouncement: Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine. Does more than 3% of the total United States population have any clue what two of those three words mean? Trident is still gum, right? Somebody needs to look into this. Meanwhile I'll just keep enjoying this long-lasting, rich mango flavor.)
There are some distinct drawbacks to attending games at FedEx Field, and they do detract from the gameday experience. First and foremost, ticket prices are stupendously high...but as my Pops mentioned before kickoff, "every time I think these seats cost too much, I come to a game and change my mind." Second, they never show enough replays on the jumbo screens. Instead of showing us replays after turnovers, we go straight to the same hospital, courier, and airline commercials they've been feeding us for years. You know how the fans knew what happened to Ramsey or Portis' yardage on the day? We listened to the radio after the game.
By the way, this is where the Ravens' M&T Bank Stadium clearly trounces FedEx--their screens are roughly three times the size of Washington's and the clarity is so much better, it's like laser printer vs. dot matrix. If that's not bad enough, the Baltimore fans get to see the down, yardage, and other stats right there on the same screen (you know, like they've been doing on television for the last 25 years). So their fans got to watch their team lay a prime-time stinkbomb Sunday night in high-definition!
There are moments, though, when there is nothing better than sitting in that stadium. When the Bears began their final, game-winning drive, they committed an incomprehensible three false start penalties in a row. With every mistake, the noise level grew. One play later, they turned the ball over and the game was effectively sealed. This huge change in momentum wasn't the result of the Washington defense's pre-snap shifts, nor that the Bears offensive line suddenly turned timid. It was me and 91,000 of my closest allies who together created a cacophony that prevented Chicago from performing the most basic of tasks.
Lord willing I'll be in Section 30 on October 2, sipping hot soda, yelling myself hoarse and dreaming that I and my Redskins can go home victorious, singing "Hail to the Redskins" loudly, mumbling the lyrics, and off-key. Doesn't get much better than that.
For my game review, check out Hog Heaven soon!