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The Washington Generals are finished. By Benjamin Freed
Typical suffering. Photograph by Ferenc Szelepcsenyi via Shutterstock.

The Wizards are now officially Washington's only professional basketball team, following a report from NBC Sports about the demise of the Washington Generals, longtime patsies of the Harlem Globetrotters. The Generals, Joe Posnanski writes, folded earlier this summer when the Globetrotters ended their 63-year-old business partnership with the ever-suffering club.

Of course, the Generals, who lost an estimated 14,000 games over their run, had no actual connection to Washington beyond their their name. The team was created in 1952 by former Baltimore Bullet Lou "Red" Klotz with the explicit purpose of giving the Globetrotters a permanent opponent as the more famous team toured arenas across the United States. While the Globetrotters—who were actually formed in Chicago, not Harlem—started out as a competitive, barnstorming team, the rise of the nascent National Basketball Association turned them into the comedy act they're known as today.

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Posted at 11:06 AM/ET, 08/13/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
How former DC high-school tennis star Leon Vessels got back in the game. By Josh Rosenblat
Leon Vessels prepares a court for a Citi Open match. Photograph by Josh Rosenblat.

Leon Vessels hadn’t picked up a tennis racket in a few years. The DC native had received an All-Met honorable mention during his senior year at DeMatha Catholic High School in 2005 and ranked as high, he estimates, as No. 150 in the US junior rankings, but he was nervous. It wasn’t some recreational player standing across the net.

It was summer 2010, and Vessels had just graduated from Hampton University, where he was supposed to play tennis but never joined the team because he was “gassed out.” As a summer job, Vessels landed a spot with the operations team at the Citi Open at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center, maintaining the grounds for the week-long tournament.

But American pro Rajeev Ram needed a practice partner, and a tournament official asked Vessels to step in.

“He got me pretty much good with the cobwebs out,” Vessels says. “And once it was like, ‘Oh, he didn’t complain?’ they kept sending me out there.”

Vessels, 28, has become a staple on the Citi Open’s practice courts, preparing players for their matches and rediscovering his passion for a sport he had fallen out of love with.

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Posted at 02:24 PM/ET, 08/07/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Denis Kudla serves during his Citi Open match against Blaž Rola. Photographs by Josh Rosenblat.

In the middle of the best summer of his tennis career, Denis Kudla is frustrated.

Despite a breakthrough at Wimbledon by reaching the round of 16 and reaching the semifinals of an ATP World Tour event in Atlanta last month, the 22-year-old isn’t satisfied, especially after a three-set loss to Slovenian Blaž Rola on Tuesday at the Citi Open.

Since turning pro in 2008, the Arlington native has played his hometown tournament five times. He has yet to win a match.

“It sucks,” Kudla, sporting a black Washington Nationals cap, says after his latest defeat. “This city has been behind me for a long time. I love playing here, but again, the results aren’t all there.”

Kudla first played the qualifying rounds of the tournament in 2009 and 2010, before receiving main draw wildcards in 2011 and 2013. But he missed last year's tournament with a severe case of mononucleosis that kept him off the court for almost three months, a spell that dropped him to a ranking of No. 150 as recently as April.

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Posted at 02:00 PM/ET, 08/05/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Falls Church-bred UVA star is adapting to the rules of pro tennis. By Josh Rosenblat

Shane reacts after winning a point during Virginia's NCAA team final victory over top-ranked Oklahoma. (Matt Riley/UVA Athletics)

On August 1, Ryan Shane will play his first qualifying match at D.C.’s annual major tennis tournament, the Citi Open. Just two days before the match, he keeps bringing up examples of his relative naïveté when it comes to professional tennis.

READ ALSO: Citi Open 2015: What to Watch For

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Posted at 09:42 AM/ET, 07/31/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Photo by Lev Radin /

The 2015 Citi Open gets underway August 1 at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center in Northwest DC, featuring one of the deepest fields since the tennis tournament began in 1969.

The annual tournament is one of just a handful of US events to include a men’s and women’s tournament concurrently.

World No. 3 Andy Murray, a two-time Grand Slam champion, headlines a field that also includes both of the finalists from the 2014 US Open: fifth-ranked Kei Nishikori and fellow Top 10 player Marin Cilic.

The Top 6 American men will also be in Washington preparing on the hard courts. Veterans John Isner and Sam Querrey are looking to capitalize on the North American hard court season after months in on the clay and grass of Europe. Up-and-coming star Jack Sock is looking to make a breakthrough against some of the top players on tour.

Although the women’s tournament in Washington has to compete with the higher-level Bank of the West Classic in California the same week, it was still able to attract many of the WTA’s brightest young stars.

Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka is continuing to work her way back from injuries and is undoubtedly looking forward to getting back on her favorite surface. Youngsters Eugenie Bouchard from Canada, Americans Sloane Stephens and Christina McHale, and Britain's Heather Watson have all made runs in major tournaments and will be searching for more consistency in the nation’s capital.

The all-time great doubles duo of Americans Mike and Bob Bryan will also take their 16 Grand Slam doubles titles to the court next week in an effort to win the tournament for the first time since winning back-to-back-to-back titles in DC from 2005-07.

This weekend will feature qualifying matches featuring a few local players before the upper echelon of players get going. Denis Kudla, a 22-year-old from Arlington who reached the final 16 at Wimbledon this year, and Ryan Shane, the 2015 NCAA singles champion from Falls Church, will both attempt to qualify for the men’s main draw in their home city.

The draws and schedules for the tournament will be announced at a ceremony Friday. You can find more information and ticket prices on the tournament's website.

Posted at 10:15 AM/ET, 07/30/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Dream big. By Benjamin Freed
Image via Washington 2024.

In an instance of Boston losing a sporting event before it even commenced, the United States Olympic Committee announced Monday it is canceling that city's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. Mayor Marty Walsh refused to sign a contract on the city's behalf with the USOC because it could have put Boston residents on the hook for any cost overruns.

Without the contract, US Olympic organizers had to ditch Boston. "We have not been able to get a majority of the citizens of Boston to support hosting the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games," USOC Chief Excecutive Scott Blackmun said in a press release. "Therefore, the USOC does not think that the level of support enjoyed by Boston’s bid would allow it to prevail over great bids from Paris, Rome, Hamburg, Budapest, or Toronto."

Even though Boston's bid is done for, the USOC still has until September 15 to formally submit a city to the International Olympic Committee, which will select the 2024 host sometime in 2017. So organizers of Washington's bid, which was defeated in January when the USOC picked Boston, have seven weeks to get back together if they want to make one last run at the 2024 summer games. Here are a few reasons why they should:

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Posted at 03:42 PM/ET, 07/27/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
We feel you, Chewie.

The Washington Nationals are really playing up Sunday's promotion of Star Wars Day. But fans planning to attend in costume are going to develop a bad feeling when they read a press release from the team about rules for the special day.

"Fans are invited to come dressed in their favorite Star Wars attire," the team says. "However, adults are not allowed to wear masks that cover their face. Young children under the age of 10 can wear masks when accompanied by an adult 21 years or older. Children wearing masks must be accompanied by an adult throughout the duration of the game. Any props resembling weapons will not be allowed into Nationals Park (this includes lightsabers and toy guns)."

In other words, leave your Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Stormtrooper, and Greedo costumes at home. Even worse, the ban on toy lightsabers means anyone planning on dressing up as a Jedi knight will just be someone who wore a bathrobe and sweatpants to a crowded baseball stadium in mid-July.

This is going to be the worst Life Day ever.

Posted at 04:20 PM/ET, 07/16/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The "Battle of the Beltways" is mostly fought by the lawyers. By Josh Rosenblat
Photograph via Shutterstock.

The Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles begin a three-game series Friday night, marking the 10th season of the so-called “Battle of the Beltways.” But any on-field rivalry has yet to come close to matching the animosity off the diamond—a long-running legal feud over broadcast revenues and a television market that the Orioles, until professional baseball returned to Washington, had to themselves for more than 40 years.

Not that area baseball pundits haven't longed for some in-game antics.

“The surest, quickest way to ratchet up the intensity level of a rivalry is to start throwing baseballs at each other's heads,” Washington Post staff writer Dave Sheinin wrote about the rivalry before the Nationals’ inaugural season. “Empty the bullpens and benches. Body-slam the bench coach.”

But there have been no map-shredding incidents like the Yankees' Roger Clemens chucking a bat at the Mets' Mike Piazza in the 2000 World Series, or Cubs catcher Michael Barrett slugging White Sox catcher AJ Pierzynski in the face following a collision at home plate in 2006. Even with both teams being perennial playoff contenders in their divisions, the Nationals and Orioles are far more likely to meet in another courtroom before an Interstate 95-rupturing World Series.

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Posted at 04:40 PM/ET, 07/10/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The lawyer for the Native American activists who won the case says the team's name is "forevermore" tainted. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph by Flickr user Kevin Coles.

A federal judge in Northern Virginia on Wednesday agreed with a 2014 US Patent and Trade Office ruling that the Washington NFL franchise should lose the trademark protections over its name and logo because they disparage Native Americans. Judge Gerald Bruce Lee's opinion is another win for a suit filed nine years ago by a group of Native American activists who find the team's name offensive.

While recent public opinion has shown a diminishing majority of Americans who support leaving the football team's name intact, the case decided today was over whether the term "redskin" was offensive in 1967, when team filed six now-invalidated trademarks. The Patent Office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled last year that the trademarks were inelgible following a complaint by Navajo Nation member Amanda Blackhorse and other activists.

Blackhorse's case appeared to be following a similar trajectory of one filed in 1992 by Suzan Shown Harjo. While the trademark board also agreed with Harjo's petition, the federal district court in DC overturned that trademark cancellation. Blackhorse's case has now gone one step further in the federal court system, and her group's lead attorney, Jesse Witten, is confident today's ruling will hold up under additional scrutiny.

"I don’t think this opinion could have been written any better for us," Witten, a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath, says in a phone interview.

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Posted at 10:25 AM/ET, 07/08/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Left photo via Twitter, right photo courtesy HBO.

Besides the fact that the Nationals erred in making Calvin Coolidge their latest Racing President, there's something else off about the team's newest mascot: this Coolidge looks nothing like the actual President. But the Nationals don't have to call it a complete wash. Their "Coolidge" does resemble another important, historical figure, albeit a much more recent one.

Posted at 03:45 PM/ET, 07/06/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()