Blog Home » Archives for September 2017

Wizards’ ‘House of Guards’ has work to do as super duo


So-called NBA “Big 3’s” have been the rage since LeBron James and Chris Bosh relocated to South Beach to team with Dwyane Wade. That union resulted in four consecutive trips to the Finals and a pair of titles.

The concept is hardly new. Bird-McHale-Parrish and Magic-Kareem-Worthy played virtual ping-pong with the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the ‘80s. The difference nowadays is superstars’ power to join forces with select other superstars.

Oklahoma City is the best example this season, where reigning MVP Russell Westbrook gets new running mates in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. But not every team has three players on that level and no one besides Golden State has four (Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green).

Here in the District, the Wizards can boast of a super duo in John Wall and Bradley Beal. Otto Porter’s game isn’t quite to the level for a “Big 3,” but the other two could make up the difference.

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Hard to grasp how sneaker money for players is a federal crime


Shock and outrage lurk every day, ready to erupt over the next update, sound bite, or tweet. The newsflashes are like chicken wings and we’re the hot oil, bubbling and popping and splattering when they’re dropped in our pan.

Federal authorities have given us a family pack, indicting four NCAA assistant basketball coaches and six other people in a fraud and corruption scheme.

Maybe I’m cynical and jaded. Or maybe my oil isn’t hot enough anymore. Whatever the reason, this isn’t worth the contempt and consternation that regularly flares up nowadays.

According to Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a three-year investigation that included wire taps and undercover agents revealed “the dark underbelly of college athletics.”

The allegations are neither shocking nor outrageous.

College athletics’ dark underbelly has long been exposed, like a backside lying on the beach. Some schools get burnt; most get tanned. We wear sunglasses to protect our eyes and soothe our conscience, but we feel the heat and become acclimated.

Pass me a cold drink.

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Trump’s foray into sports unwisely puts politics in offensive stance


Keeping politics out of sports has been a losing battle.

Who knew keeping sports out of politics was the next frontier?

That’s usually a non-issue (aside from proposed stadium deals), primarily relegated to elected officials’ friendly wagers on big games between their home teams. In a Ravens-Saints Super Bowl, for instance, Baltimore’s mayor might put up crab cakes against gumbo from New Orleans’ mayor.

The only controversy in such instances is how many staffers from the victorious City Hall can partake of the scrumptious meal.

Times were much simpler back then, last week, before President Trump unleased on NFL and NBA players who take issue with the current state of affairs.

Want to protest during the national anthem? You should be fired! Want to vote on visiting the White House? You’re no longer invited!

President Trump’s tirades over the weekend mixed politics and sports like no else can. Colin Kaepernick lit the fuse but the White House dropped the bomb. The Golden State Warriors were mulling their celebration at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but Trump’s preemptive strike electrified the tradition.

Religion and politics supposedly are off-limit subjects in polite company. Trump has added sports to the list of third-rail topics that inspire raging debates.

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Washington over Oakland just more proof we don’t know squat


Sunday’s early games should have provided a clue. Very little about Week 3 would follow the script of expected outcomes.

New England needed a touchdown with 25 seconds remaining to get past Houston at Gillette Stadium. Jacksonville routed Baltimore. League darlings Denver and Tampa Bay were upset by Buffalo and Minnesota, respectively. Dismal Chicago beat Pittsburgh and even the moribund New York Jets tasted victory, against Miami.

That was the backdrop as Oakland and Washington prepared for kickoff at FedEx Field. The only sure bet? Players on each team would take a knee or protest in some other fashion during the national anthem.

Most of the Raiders sat or kneeled.

Then Washington kneed them in the groin and sat on their chests in a 27-10 dismantling.

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Surprise, surprise – Barkley has ignorant take on new NBA schedules


“Back in my day …”

That’s the gist of Charles Barkley’s rant against the NBA. The league reduced the number of back-to-back games and eliminated four-games-in-five-nights scenarios to produce a better overall product.

But the Hall of Famer views the move as coddling spoiled athletes who are making “30, 40 million dollars.

“I think it’s a travesty that the NBA didn’t just tell these guys to play basketball two days in a row,” Barkley told an audience Wednesday at Southern Methodist University. “Moving the season up, it’s just a joke to me.

“I’ve sat with older guys who took trains and played three days in a row,” he said. I think it’s a joke and travesty that these guys won’t play back-to-back games with all the private jets and stuff that they got. The NBA caved in, instead of making them play back-to-back games.”

He sounds like the grumpy old man telling kids to get off his lawn, jealous of their youth, wishing he was young again and able to enjoy their toys – nine-figure contracts, charter flights and less-demanding schedules.

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Kevin Durant, RG3 a wee bit too touchy-feely for their own good


Suffice it to say these aren’t your father’s pro athletes.

That’s not all bad.

A lack of introspection, empathy and sensitivity retarded emotional growth for decades among many of my gender, particularly those in the sports ethos. While the rest of society typically put work aside to attend their child’s birth, mourn the loss of relatives or celebrate family milestones, team schedules usually dictated the decision in sports.

Paternity leave? Get out of here!

Fast-forward to 2017 and many athletes are more enlightened if not totally progressive. They don’t fear their manhood being questioned if they share concerns about health and safety. Or if they’re unbothered that a future teammate might be gay. Or if they criticize their sport for being lenient in cases of violence against women.

Great. I loved the Geico cavemen but that’s the extent of my affection for Neanderthals.

I support guys who are in touch with their emotions and know their primary love language. However, there’s still a line and it was crossed this week by Robert Griffin III and Kevin Durant on Twitter.

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Washington gets ‘W’ but ‘F’ is for football through Week 2


Fans of the Washington NFL team can breathe a bit easier with 0-16 off the table.

Joyful outcomes might be few this year, but at least the Skins prevailed in their first “must-win” game. Thoughts of whiffing against the Los Angeles Rams, with Oakland and Kansas City up next, cast a pall over the season entering Week 2.

Instead, Washington proved it can win (27-20) by running the ball and playing defense. The Rams were gouged for 229 rushing yards while Kirk Cousins passed for a meager 179. Coach Jay Gruden channeled former Rams coach “Ground Chuck” Knox, calling for 36 handoffs.

“It’s important,” Gruden told reporters about pounding the football. “It keeps your defense fresh, you’re possessing the ball and the linemen love it. They have more fun doing that than pass protecting all day against Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn and those guys. We had a lot of success and the backs liked it. The receivers will eventually get to like it because it’ll open up a lot of play action and shock plays for us.”

So we learned something new about this team. But looking around the country, we learned something else in the season’s second week:

If the Skins are destined to produce mostly bad football, they’re going to have lots of company.

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Ovechkin can assign blame for missing the Olympics far beyond NHL


Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin was determined to represent Russia in the 2018 Winter Olympics, despite the NHL’s decision to prohibit players from participating. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis had indicated he would support his superstar’s desire, even at the risk of being punished by the league.

But Ovechkin has resigned himself to staying put in February as the PyeongChang Games proceed without NHL players, ending a streak of five consecutive Olympiads. After complaining in a statement Thursday that “it sucks we will not be there to play,” Ovechkin had soothing words for the man who writes his checks and the fans who support his team.

“My focus as it always is this time of year is on my other dream as a kid, to try to win the Stanley Cup,” he said. “I am excited training camp has started in Washington and the time for talking is done. … I will try my hardest to help my teammates win like I do every year since I came to the NHL.”

He’s right; the situation does suck. For the players who love lacing up for country. For the youngsters who look up to the stars. For the hockey fans who want their sport’s best on the Olympic stage.

It also sucks for the NHL and the International Olympic Committee, but they brought it on themselves. Finding two organizations less worthy of sympathy would be difficult.

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Neither Elliott nor his accuser get fair shake from arbitrary NFL


His name is Ezekiel Elliott. Her name is Tiffany Thompson.

One might have victimized the other, through heinous deeds or defamatory words.

But both have been victimized by the NFL.

While many fans are ready for some football, the league can’t get out of its way. Once again, commissioner Roger Goodell has performed more like a henchman and the NFL is being dragged as a result. His interpretation of “protect the shield” seems to be “test the shield,” seeing how much outrage it can invoke and withstand.

In the Cowboys’ season-opening victory against the Giants, Elliott rushed for 104 yards and caught a career-high five passes for 36 yards. He clearly will be the focal point for as long as he’s available. His image will flash across TV screens hundreds of times per week.

If his denials are true and he really didn’t commit domestic abuse against Thompson in July 2016, many viewers still view him as guilty based on the NFL’s attempted six-game suspension. The damage to his reputation, wobbly already, won’t be repaired easily or quickly.

But if Thompson is telling the truth – which the NFL apparently believes – she probably dies a little whenever she sees him. And a little bit more every time folks in the court of public opinion call her a liar.

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Vegas taxpayers just the latest victims in NFL’s stadium shakedowns


Oakland’s long goodbye begins Sunday with the Raiders’ home-opener against the New York Jets.

Fans of the Silver and Black who grew up admiring the wild owner, Al “Just Win, Baby” Davis, are counting down the home games until their team departs for Las Vegas. After next season, the rabid followers with their spikes, skulls and garish face paint no longer will flock to the Black Hole. The Oakland Alameda Coliseum, a dump that rivals RFK Stadium in decrepitness, will go dark on NFL Sundays.

Raiders fans might mourn but the city of Oakland should rejoice.

Residents of Clark County (Nev.) are the folks who should be crying. They’re contributing $750 million to the Raiders new arena, a record amount for a sports facility. The funds, which amount to about $354 per resident, will be taken from an increased tax on hotel rooms that currently pays for schools and transportation, among other things.

We can be selfish as sports fans, closing our eyes to the absurdity of giving millions to fund billionaires’ playpens. We can buy into the inflated malarkey about stadiums’ economic impact, even though NFL facilities have the weakest argument with a measly 10 games per season. We can talk about the sense of community that sports teams spark in a unique way.

But you know what they can’t do in Clark County now that the Raiders are coming?

They can’t improve their schools and transportation, among other things, with the $750 million that’s going toward a $2 billion stadium.

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