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Happy to be back home after a whirlwind autumn. Not a single airplane is on my horizon until I leave for down under in mid-January. I just spent a few days down in Vero Beach, FL helping tennis player Mardy Fish with his annual charity event to benefit the school children of his home county. Serena Williams, Sam Querrey, Melanie Oudin and the Bryan Brothers chipped in as well. Tennis players have an off-season that lasts approximately 35 minutes. I’m always impressed by those who decide to spend theirs doing good. Not all athletes are self-absorbed.
A couple of random sports thoughts before we chat…
1) I Am Drinking the Tebow Kool-Aid. Why not? I mean, hate him if you want – as long as you also hate winning. Okay, so his throwing motion is unconventional and his release is slow. Let’s go down the list of college quarterbacks who had perfect mechanics who are selling insurance right now (nevermind, it's too long). Scouts and GM’s spend a lifetime searching (especially in quarterbacks) for those ineffable things known as intangibles. Tebow clearly has them in spades. He is a born leader, and what he lacks in traditional throwing skills he seems to be more than making up for in football instincts. He knows when to tuck it and run; he knows when to pull up just short of the line of scrimmage and hit a receiver in the soft underbelly of the cover-two. And I’ll be honest – the religion thing doesn’t bother me – and it usually does. Something about the way he invokes his faith seems genuine to me, not proselytizing. He doesn’t suggest that God wants him to win more than his opponents. He merely thanks God and acknowledges his relationship with him. No harm in that. Not shoving it down my throat. Will it last forever? Probably not. Some defensive mastermind will figure out a scheme to slow him down, but if I were building a team, I’d look for 52 guys with his character, self-belief and will to win – and one with a rocket arm.
2) Ryan Braun must forfeit his NL MVP. If not, what are we screaming about with respect to PED’s in baseball? There is a vast inconsistency with how we view steroid use. Alex Rodriguez and Jose Canseco admit using the drugs and we allow them to keep their individual awards, but Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro are tainted by the same scandalous substances and they seem to have no earthly shot of making the Hall of Fame. Let’s come up with some uniform judicial process for dealing with people who violate the rules on this front, and then let’s stick to it. If you believe the use of performance enhancing drugs constitutes cheating, why should the achievements of those found to be cheating stand – especially those achievements that occurred during the timeframe covered by the cheating?
With that, let’s chat.
Was I the only one that heard the ref in the Amir Khan/Lamont Peterson fight continually warn Khan about his pushing? Why was everyone so surprised about the deducted points?
I’m with you. I don’t get the outrage. Mike Wise wrote of the referee in his column in the Post on Monday: “Not once did he ever give Khan a bona fide warning.” So I went back and looked at my TiVo recording of the fight and unless you had the sound down, the warnings from Joe Cooper were hard to miss. In the 7th round, you could clearly hear Cooper utter the following: “This is your last warning.” It was moments later that he deducted the first point. How egregious were the pushes from Khan? Well, the website www.boxingnews24.com went so far as to count them. Their tally was 50 – and that included 18 pushes before Cooper deducted the first of the two points from Khan. A couple of things to keep in mind: much of the outrage has emanated from the fact that warnings and deductions for pushing are not called in pro boxing as frequently as are warnings and deductions for holding, low blows and head butts. The relative obscurity of the offense is part of what caught so many fans off-guard. Add to that the fact that Joe Cooper is a Virginia-based referee and Peterson is a DC-based fighter. Boxing fans, who are often on the lookout for a fix (and with good reason), started assigning a motive to Cooper’s calls – a motive that I believe did not exist.
What is David Stern doing to Chris Paul?!?!?
Clearly, this ordeal with CP3, the Lakers and the Hornets is a colossal conflict of interest. How can the NBA simultaneously own and operate a franchise and also be the judge and jury on what is and is not in the best interest of the teams against which that franchise competes. It’s the exact same paradigm through which the Nationals suffered during their nascent period in Washington. For several years, Major League Baseball (i.e.: the owners of the other 29 teams) ran the Nats – and ran them into the ground. What possible incentive would the other owners have for making investments in scouting, player development and minor league infrastructure in a franchise in which they had no long-term interest? That of course is a rhetorical question, but I’ll answer it anyway: NONE. So they didn’t make any. Consequently, when the Lerners took over stewardship of the team, they did so at a major handicap compared to their competitors. Say what you will about the Lerners being frugal for their first several years in power, but in my mind, it’s a minor miracle they’ve been able to rebuild things as quickly as they have. Huge credit to Stan Kasten, Mike Rizzo and yes – Jim Bowden. But I digress. The Hornets are now in the same unenviable position as the Nats were. The only possible motivation I can infer from Commissioner Stern's actions is that after last year’s chaos with LeBron and Bosh joining Dwayne Wade and the Heat, Stern is trying to avoid the assemblage of another “Super Team” in Los Angeles. Perhaps he believes that if the Lakers successfully secured the services of CP3 and Dwight Howard to go with Kobe, they would be untouchable in the West just as the Miami became untouchable in the east. If the NBA morphs into a league with two or three powerhouse franchises amid a sea of mediocrity, that is not a good business model . If Stern is operating to avoid such a scenario, good on him. He just needed to find a more artful way to execute it.
Is the Wizards roster set now? Should we expect any moves at the trading deadline later this season?
I hope the Wizards aren’t done. I like the fact that they reacquired Roger Mason, Jr. Frankly, I think letting him leave in the first place three years ago was a mistake by Ernie Grunfled. Mason was very productive in San Antonio and New York and there’s a good chance that his period away from Washington will end up being the most productive period of his career (He’s now 31). Classic example of a team coveting someone else’s talent more than their own for no good reason (see: the Redskins for the past 11 years). The Wizards added Aaron Pettway and Mardy Collins, but neither of those guys is an impact player. The biggest difference in the team this year will be the three draft picks: Jan Vesley, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack represent the deepest class the Wizards have collected in a while. How quickly will those guys be able to make an impact? John Wall made an impact in year-one, but he had very little in the way of complimentary players around him. I still believe the team needs to deal Andray Blatche. I don’t care how many leadership books Flip Saunders sent him over the summer. My money says, a) he didn’t read them and b) even if he did, he possesses little capacity to employ their lessons. The guy has been more or less of a clown off the court, but his size and his inflated numbers from last season (that’s what happens when you’re on a roster with no scoring stars) should make him marketable. Let’s package him with Mack (we can spare a guard) and see what we can get.
Hi Brett, Is RG3 a given for the Skins in the next draft? Thx.
Griffin is far from a given for the Skins. Obviously, Andrew Luck is going to Indy (despite Archie Manning’s protestations). If you believe, as most do, that RG3 will be the second QB taken, then the Redskins getting him is contingent upon those teams ahead of them in the draft not wanting him (barring a trade). Right now, the Vikings, Rams, Bucs, Panthers, Jaguars, Browns and Dolphins all have records equal to or worse than the Redskins. St. Louis, Carolina and Tampa are set at QB, the others are not. It's quite possible Griffin gets snapped up by one of those teams depending upon how the final draft order falls. USC’s Matt Barkley might be an option if Griffin goes early. Then again, as I’ve said repeatedly, unless and until the Redskins solve their offensive line issues, drafting a young quarterback and sending him on a weekly suicide mission, seems somewhat self-defeating.
I gather that Wizards single game tickets are on sale. Which visiting teams should a casual fan be excited to see this season?
The one I want to see is March 26th vs. Detroit. That will be the third game in a sequence of games on three consecutive nights. Somehow, the Wizards are avoiding this fate until almost the end of the season. They have to do it again on April 4-6, but that’s it. Other teams have more instances of back-to-back-to-back games. The fatigue by that point should cause high comedy. As for high-level opponents, the Heat come to town on February 10th and the season finale on April 26th. The Lakers come to town on March 7th. But I want to see the other LA team. The Clippers play at the Phone Booth on February 4th. They already have Caron Butler, which should make for a dramatic homecoming. They might have CP3 by then as well. Sadly, the Mavericks aren’t coming to town at all – one of the casualties of the abbreviated schedule. Does that mean they won’t be going to the White House to meet the hoopster in chief?
Hi Brett, Why do you think the Redskins have looked better on offense the last few weeks? Can we safely say that Helu is our feature back now?
Helu (or Hell-YEW, as Dan Fouts insists on calling him) has been good. He’s gone over 100 yards rushing in each of the last three games, but I would temper all praise of the Redskins’ offensive performance last week with the following fact: the Patriots’ defense stinks on ice. They are giving up 416 yards per game – that is dead last in the league. Rex has been decent the past few weeks. This Sunday against the Patriots he threw for 252 yards with two touchdowns and only one pick. Gaffney and Stallworth combined on 10 catches for 188 yards. Winning numbers, to be sure -- except down the stretch they commit an offensive Pass Interference call on the would-be game-tying touchdown and then Santana Moss hands the ball to Jerod Mayo in the red zone to seal the defeat. These are the things bad teams do. Are you excited about the offense because Kyle Shanahan called one lousy option pass? Because they scored 27 points in a game they lost? I can’t get excited about an offense whose two best players just got suspended for smoking weed. Sorry.
Did the NBA lockout really work if Kwame Brown is getting $7 million a year?
Kwame Brown is always going to get paid despite his track record of extreme mediocrity, and there’s one simple reason for that: he’s tall. He’s seven feet tall, to be precise, and those guys are simply hard to come by. Look at Brendan Haywood – the guy was a solid rebounder, but he has extremely limited offensive skills, and yet he became a backbone of the Wizards franchise and ended up being a lynchpin to the Mavericks winning a championship. My point being – Haywood achieved all of that, and he’s not that good. He’s just tall. So until Kwame Brown shrinks, he will continue to get mid-level one year deals from teams who feel they are one big man away from contending – even though Brown may go down as one of the greatest draft busts in NBA history. Thanks, MJ.
Hi Brett, How do you rate Dale Hunter's first few weeks on the job?
Dale Hunter’s first few weeks have been middling at best. The team is 3-4 under his gidance and just when they had put together back-to-back wins and seemed to be emerging from their funk, last night happens. That was one of the worst stinkers of the year. Ovechkin was a minus-2, Semin was a minus-3. Voukoun let in three soft goals and got yanked. The Caps have now lost 12 of 18. And here’s my most alarming stat on them – they have given up 5 goals or more in 9 out of 29 games this year. That is putrid. They NEED Mike Green back. I hear he is traveling with the team today, but he still hasn’t skated with the full squad. There are always going to be growing pains with a team learning a new system. Or are there? When Gabby took over four years ago the team turned around immediately. That has not been the case here. It’s hardly time to panic. Old #32 just needs some personnel to bolster his blueline.
I saw a segment on Tim Tebow on Access Hollywood last night. I can't imagine John Fox saw that coming at the beginning of the year.
Access Hollywood, The Today Show, CNN – I’ve seen stories about Tebow in all manner of non-sports media. The guy was high profile based on what he did in college, but what he’s done over the past month has made him transcendent in terms of being a media celebrity. How about Lindsay Vonn “Tebowing” on the medal platform after winning a World Cup race, and the guy on the “Biggest Loser” “Tebowing” after he stepped off the scale and saw how many Lbs. he dropped? I think more than anything, America’s fascination with Tebow has to do with the country’s desire to find a genuine hero we can count on. The guy appears to walk the walk when it comes to his faith and his character. We have been disappointed so many times by our idols, that Tebow, who has demonstrated his character both on and off the field, may be the perfect storm of integrity and athletic skill at just the right time.
Would Matt Kalil be a better move for the Skins than a QB? Will he last past the second or third pick?
Listen, I’m always in favor of drafting an offensive lineman. I think to have two bookend tackles in place would pave a path of success for whichever quarterback winds up taking over the team. We’ve got one tackle in Trent Williams, and assuming he can lay off the chronic he should be in place for a decade. Kalil is 6-7, 300 pounds and athletic. He would be a remarkable addition to the Redskins line. But remember, he is an underclassman and he hasn’t fully committed himself to the draft. In fact, as recently as Monday there were stories coming out of LA that he planned to go back to school. However, if he comes out, I’ve seen a number of mock drafts that have him going second overall after Luck to the Rams. Truth is, St. Louis needs him to protect the banged up Sam Bradford even more than we need him. Doubt they let him slide if he comes out.
What will the Skins final record be?
I think they’ll get to 5-11. I think there’s absolutely no way they beat the Giants this weekend AT the Meadowlands given the playoff implications for Big Blue. Eli has turned the corner this season and you can argue he has become one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the league. I think they could beat the Vikings at FedEx in week-16. They’re just as dysfunctional as the Redskins. Perhaps they can share their McNabb disappointment stories. The toss-up game is the season finale against the Eagles. Philly is out of it as far as the playoffs are concerned, but they have played better in the 2nd half of the season and I think both Andy Reid and his players know that this is going to be his last game with the franchise – it’s being played in Philly and I think he wants to go out with a win, and I think the players (most of whom genuinely like him) want to send him out that way. I think it will be an emotional day in Philly – a place where the Redskins struggle under normal circumstances. These will not be normal circumstances.
Any chance at all the Peterson/Khan rematch will be in DC?
There is no earthly chance the rematch will be here. A lot of people believe the hometown fix was in for Peterson this time around. Why would Khan possibly agree to come to the other guy’s backyard again? For the record, I have witnessed any number of miscarriages of justice when it comes to boxing decisions over the years. In my mind, this fight wasn’t really one of them. Even if you feel Referee Cooper was slightly over officious, he wasn’t unfair. As mentioned in my introduction above, the pushing by Khan was egregious and he called it. There were ample warnings which went ignored. Khan has no one to blame but himself. As for the judges. You can quibble about a card in every fight that’s ever taken place. The fight was close. The cards were close. The two point deductions were the difference. That said, the perception that DC was to blame for a controversial conclusion to a big fight will probably ensure that we don’t see another one for a very long time on our soil.
Thanks for the chat everybody. Watch this space next Wednesday for my latest Washingtonian column. Happy holiday shopping to all. If you're looking for a bargain, plenty of cut-rate Redskin McNabb jerseys at NFL.com (the preceeding was not an advertisement, merely a snarky comment.)