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Trade for Smith is Washington being Washington; how’s that working?



Washington’s NFL franchise doesn’t do simple. It doesn’t do clever or competent, either.

No, pro football in the nation’s capital is a ham-handed operation, one series of shaky decisions followed by another. It’s a sequence of questionable rationalizations and a string of baffling moves.

Sound judgment and stability? Insightfulness and foresight? Hah! Those are foreign concepts in Ashburn, treated like enemies of the state. The franchise’s operation manual apparently can be summed up thusly: “Determine how New England, Pittsburgh or Green Bay would proceed, and then do the exact opposite.”

We figured Kirk Cousins had played his last game in burgundy and gold after two years of painful irresolution. Adore him or abhor him, he likely was heading elsewhere next season, freeing us from the daily, mind-numbing debate on his worthiness to receive a market-value contract.

Of course, smart organizations don’t position themselves to lose a homegrown, highly productive quarterback entering his prime. For that matter, neither do clueless organizations. Washington’s ineptitude in reaching this stage is a well-documented precedent, the NFL’s first instance of back-to-back franchise tags slapped on a quarterback.

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Our daughters deserve better treatment from college athletic departments



I have two daughters, one at Morgan State.

The other goes to Michigan State.

But no matter where my girls attended college – be it Mississippi State, Montana State, Missouri State, or a school that doesn’t have MSU for initials – I would be just as concerned about them and other female students on campus.

Having spent part of my young adulthood in dorms and at college parties, I understand the dangerous situations young women can face at institutions of higher education. Being away from home and on their own – surrounded by mind-altering substances and men often with one thing in mind – is risky enough.

The peril only increases when those young men are athletes in revenue sports.

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New format, but same ol’ All-Star Game?



First, the NBA All-Star draft definitely should have been televised.

Don’t talk to me about hurt feelings. The final player selected would have no choice but to get over it. Someone must be last when captains pick squads on the playground; besides, it’s better than not being chosen at all.

Considering how Stephen Curry had the penultimate selection in Thursday’s draft, I figure either Kevin Love or Kyle Lowry was left to become LeBron James’ “Mr. Irrelevant.”

Accused of being a shadow GM in Cleveland, James might have a future in the position. The consensus is he made Curry look like Ernie Grunfeld. In an era where increasingly-shorter players are used to spread the floor, James will turn the notion upside down with his starting lineup.

His frontcourt measures 6-foot-9 (Kevin Durant), 6-foot-10 (Anthony Davis) and 6-foot-11 (DeMarcus Cousins, who’s out with a season-ending injury suffered Friday).

Welcome to Tall Ball.

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We were dead wrong about these Wizards



The late Dennis Green unleashed a classic rant following his Arizona Cardinals’ defeat against the Chicago Bears in 2006.

“They are what we thought they were, and we let them off the hook,” Green shouted after Arizona blew a 20-0 halftime lead. “… If you want to crown them, then crown their (expletive).”

The Washington Wizards are the exact opposite.

They are not what we thought they were. We cannot let them off the hook. And we have no desire to crown their (expletive), unless the title is NBA’s Most Schizophrenic.

In terms of star power, the Wizards have met expectations. Bradley Beal on Tuesday was named to his first All-Star Game. Backcourt mate John Wall earned his fifth consecutive selection. Eastern Conference head coaches picked the pair, acknowledging their status as top-tier guards.

But the Wizards were drubbed a day earlier by one of the league’s worst teams, Dallas. The Mavericks shot 44 percent compared to the visitors’ 31 percent in a 98-75 rout.

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Rizzo, not Harper, is Nats’ biggest pending free agent



Baseball’s hot stove might as well be a deep freezer this offseason.

Based on CBS Sports’ ranking, eight of the top 10 and 12 of the top 20 free agents remain unsigned with spring training a few weeks away. The word “collusion” has reared its ugly head as players who expected to break the bank – J.D. Martinez, Yu Darvish and Eric Hosmer among them – wait impatiently by the phone.

The calls will come, eventually, though for a variety of reasons the dollars could be fewer than expected.

Many of the top free agents are older with worrisome injury histories. Agent Scott Boras controls an inordinate slice of the top tier. Additionally, lots of teams are either tanking/rebuilding, enjoying their revenue-sharing profits without trying to compete, or waiting for next year’s mind-boggling free-agent class.

Those factors undoubtedly contribute to the slow pace of signings. Another is front offices’ growing reliance on analytics, which are less-than-flattering when applied to several of this crop’s leading names. So instead of prices continuing to rise unabated, regardless of who’s available, the market is undergoing a slight correction.

In short, teams appear to be wising up.

Unless we’re talking about the Washington Nationals.

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Many of sports’ vital lessons have little to do with sports



Athletic competition can teach us a lot. Through sports, we’re able to learn about athletes and fans, as well as coaches and owners.

The most obvious lessons center on principles like sacrifice, dedication and commitment. No one comes close to, or reaches, championships without paying a price, whether in team or individual sports.

But some of the most important takeaways have nothing to do with our fun and games.

Instead, we’re presented valuable instruction on real life and death, issues like human rights and civil liberties.

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‘Gruden Bowl’ has a snowball’s chance



Reaching the Super Bowl is hard enough for an NFL coach, who must fend off 15 contenders in his conference.

The odds of his brother doing likewise in the other conference, in the same season, are astronomical. Mainly because his brother would never coach an NFL team, in any season.

But five years ago, the sun, stars and moon aligned just right, giving us Baltimore and San Francisco in Super Bowl 47, aka the “Harbaugh Bowl.” It was a family affair, with Ravens coach John Harbaugh pitted against his little brother, then-49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

Brothers had never coached against each in the Super Bowl. Harbaugh Bowl II is out of the question with Jim now coaching the University of Michigan. But with Oakland’s newly hired head coach, it’s possible that the NFL one year will witness another sibling rivalry on the sidelines on the first Sunday in February.

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Revenge of the so-so quarterbacks



The adage about quarterbacks receiving too much credit for wins and too much blame for losses doesn’t fully explain weekend results in the NFL playoffs.

Four quarterbacks who played in a Super Bowl took the field. Three had won a Super Bowl and two had enjoyed multiple victories. All were former league MVPs.

The other half of the QB field was a motley crew of mediocrity, a quartet of pedestrian passers. Their careers were either long enough to be typecast as so-so, or short-and-not-sweet enough to lean in that direction.

Either Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Dew Brees or Matt Ryan have participated in nine of the last 14 Super Bowls. Entering the weekend Case Keenum, Blake Bortles, Nick Foles and Marcus Mariota combined had one game of playoff experience.

That proved to be irrelevant. The quarterbacks in Sunday’s conference championships will form history’s all-time easiest, “Which of these don’t belong?”

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For Lakers, LaVar Ball brings undesirable meaning to “Showtime”



You want to say LaVar Ball is crazy and there’s some truth to that.

But he did draw 1.6 million viewers for the inaugural game of the Big Baller Brand Challenge in Lithuania. That’s the tournament he created and convinced his sons’ team, Prienu Vytautas, to host.

I guess the team is nuts, too.

Vytautas shifted around its entire season to accommodate Ball. It skipped the Baltic Basketball League in favor of the tournament, a series of five friendly matchups against other Lithuanian clubs. It slapped the BBB logo on the halfcourt circle and restricted area arcs.

Even the referee uniforms featured the logo, which makes you think visiting squads shouldn’t expect a fair shake. Given that Vytautas promised extensive playing time for LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball, they’re probably not worried about foul trouble.

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Ninth in All-Star vote a joke for Beal; should be fifth at least



Bradley Beal is having a great season for the Washington Wizards, which has led teammates, fans and local media to lobby for his first All-Star berth.

But to the chagrin of his supporters, Beal ranked just ninth among Eastern Conference guards when the first round of fan voting was released last week. The indignity was amplified by Dwyane Wade (a shell of his former self) and Isiah Thomas (who had played one game at the time) being ahead of Beal.

Wade and Thomas clearly have no business in the sixth and seventh positions, respectively, based on performance. By that measure, John Wall (fifth), who has missed 11 games due to injury, should trail his smooth-shooting backcourt mate, too.

However, All-Star ballots are about popularity more than production.

Wade had been a Top 3-vote getter from 2005 until last season, when he was knocked to fourth place by Thomas’ MVP campaign. There’s also an advantage when you play on a national-darling franchise with LeBron James, which could be worth a quarter of Wade’s 165,000 votes.

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