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Upon further review, keep ’em coming

 

By DERON SNYDER

No one is perfect. Not players or coaches, owners or GMs, ushers or vendors.

And certainly not referees.

The chances of every call in every game being correct, are roughly the same as the Browns’ odds of going 16-0. Mistakes will be made, with or without instant replay as an officiating tool.

But few judgments have been as baffling and infuriating as the absurdity in Sunday’s Bills-Patriots game.

Buffalo wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin appeared to make a beautiful catch in the right corner for a 4-yard score in the Bills’ 37-16 loss in New England. He extended for the ball, planted his right foot and toe-dragged his left foot just inside the sideline as he secured control of the ball. The field judge raised both arms. Touchdown!

All scoring plays and turnovers are automatically reviewed, but surely the play would stand as called. The rulebook states that decisions are reversed “only when the referee has clear and obvious visual evidence available to him that warrants the change.”

There was none in this instance, but the play was overturned anyway, leading to righteous indignation from everyone except Patriot fans.

Read more…

Wizards still trick-or-treat after Christmas win

 

By DERON SNYDER

Thoughts of the 47-point loss to Utah or the 35-point loss to Brooklyn weren’t dancing through Wizards fans’ heads on Christmas.

But visions of those nightmarish outcomes haven’t faded completely from memory, not even after Washington’s 111-103 victory at Boston.

In a sense, the Wizards triumph came as no surprise. They often play their best basketball when facing the best competition. They entered the contest with a better record against winning teams than their mark against losing teams.

Playing up or down to the opponent’s level is practically standard operation procedure.

When the Wizards play to their potential – which they perhaps maxed out against the Celtics – they’re legitimate threats to reach the Eastern Conference finals. On Monday, every starter recorded double-figures in scoring and three had at least 20 points: Bradley Beal (25), John Wall (21) and Otto Porter (20).

Washington came close to its goal last season, reaching Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Good health contributed to consistency. But neither has been present this season, with Wall missing 11 games and Markieff Morris missing eight.

“This is as close as we’ve played this year to last year,” coach Scott Brooks told reporters Monday. “Everybody was locked-in during timeouts. Whatever they did before the game, we need to keep doing it.

“It’s obviously a special environment we’re playing in on Christmas day, but you have to do this for 82 games and not let the ups and down of a long season control your emotions. I thought [Monday] was as good as we could possibly play.”

The question is how they’ll play against conference-worst Atlanta on Wednesday, or when they face next-to-last Chicago on Sunday.

Until the Wizards regularly produce more decisive efforts against inferior teams – like the 27-point beatdown against Orlando last Saturday – we’ll continue to wonder whether they belong among the East’s elite.

Golden State has an excuse for underachieving over the course of 82 games. Winning two of the last three NBA Finals gives the Warriors a pass for regular-season lapses. That’s not the case for the Wizards, who haven’t reached the Finals in 39 seasons.

Glimpses of excellence like we saw in Boston are great, evidence that Washington can be a real treat.

But we need further proof to be sure it’s not a trick.

— Follow Deron on Twitter @DeronSnyder and email him at deron1067thefan@gmail.com.

 

‘All of the above’ behind drop in NFL interest

 

By DERON SNYDER

Books can’t be judged solely by their covers and news articles can’t be judged solely by their headlines.

But the fact is we consume far more titles than actual articles, only occasionally taking the time to click or read further.

A prime example occurred last week when a slew of headlines proclaimed that a Baltimore Ravens official attributed lagging attendance to kneel-downs during the national anthem. Here’s a sampling from assorted media outlets:

“Ravens president believes player protests to blame for empty seats”

“Ravens say protests ‘surely’ have led to no-shows”

“Ravens president blames empty seats on anthem protests”

A quick take of those captions makes the matter seem cut-and-dried. But Ravens president Dick Cass didn’t declare that players’ actions were a one-size-fits-all answer to Baltimore’s lagging attendance.

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Washington gives fans a gift in home finale

 

By DERON SNYDER

LANDOVER – It was the night before Christmas and all through the DMV, fans wondered what Washington would leave under their tree.

Would the season’s final home game bring a coal-like lump of a loss, another demoralizing defeat to ensure a sub-.500 record?

Or would coach Jay Gruden’s squad present DC’s faithful with a shiny parting gift, a professional effort and third consecutive win at home?

Skeptics will argue that Sunday’s 27-11 triumph against the Denver Broncos was meaningless. They’re right, in the most-cynical sense of empty victories – i.e., those that occur after playoff hopes have ended.

But using that logic, every victory is meaningless for 31 of the 32 NFL outfits each season, the exception being the sole team that posts a ‘W’ in the Super Bowl.

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NFL owners on alert after Richardson scandal

 

By DERON SNYDER

Me too?

That’s what NFL owners should ask themselves as the current events make “stick to sports” impossible.

The outside world has crashed their party and beat up one of their own, leaving everyone to ponder who might be next. Like lots of powerful men lately – and 85 percent of NFL owners are of that gender – Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has been brought down by words and actions that once were prevalent but not discussed publicly.

Sports Illustrated dropped a bombshell on the league prior to Sunday’s kickoff when it reported that several former Panthers employees have received “significant” monetary settlements due to workplace misconduct by Richardson. The infractions included sexually suggestive language and behavior, as well as directing a racial slur at an African-American employee.

The article, and an announcement that the team was launching an investigation, led Richardson to declare he’s selling the franchise. Just like that, the 81-year-old self-made billionaire who brought the NFL to Charlotte, is on his way out.

“Jerry is one of the really, really, really outstanding men of football that I’ve ever met and I really admire him,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters Sunday. “I know he made it the old-fashioned way; he worked for it.”

He apparently was too old-fashioned, overly fond of antebellum mores and values.

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Can’t blame Bryce Harper if he decides to leave

 

By DERON SNYDER

Washington has been Bryce Harper’s home since he reached the major leagues. The team has been successful. He enjoys the city and has a good relationship with management.

Those are the reasons he might stay after next season if all things were equal.

But all things are never equal.

The New York Yankees are the game’s biggest brand. The Los Angeles Dodgers, another iconic franchise, are a few hours away from his native Las Vegas. A third famous organization, the Chicago Cubs, has one of Harper’s childhood friends at third base (Kris Bryant) and plays in Wrigley, which Harper named his dog.

All three clubs enjoy national followings. All three have won World Series titles. And all three likely will offer Harper more money than the Nationals are willing – or able – to pay.

What would you do as a 25-year-old superstar who enjoys the spotlight and loves baseball history?

Me? I’d do whatever my heart told me.

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Ewing chose cupcakes now, hoping to devour steaks later

 

By DERON SNYDER

Georgetown fans experienced a blast from the past Saturday at Capital One Arena.

Syracuse was in town. Orange-clad fans were in the stands. Venerable Jim Boeheim stalked the visitors’ sideline and towering Patrick Ewing sat on the hosts’ bench.

Aside from Ewing wearing a suit instead of a uniform, you could’ve closed your eyes and been transported to 1985, when the Big East Conference supplied three-quarters of the Final Four.

But this was different, with the Big East no longer home to Syracuse, a charter member. A bigger dissimilarity was the level of competition, as Georgetown faced a name-brand opponent for the first time this season.

The Hoyas were in control for most of the game before a late collapse led to an overtime defeat, 86-79. It marked their first blemish after an 8-0 start, against the nation’s easiest non-conference schedule according to KenPom.com.

Ewing gets the Hoyas back on their cupcake diet with games this week against North Texas and Alabama A&M, before beginning conference play against Butler. His decision to eschew serious threats aside from Syracuse has been a major talking point in his inaugural season as coach.

Folks have called the schedule a joke. A disgrace. Dreadful. An outrage. Ewing has been unfazed, saying his philosophy won’t necessarily change when he’s more experienced with an older team.

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Washington wins, still down in the dumps

By DERON SNYDER

LANDOVER – Sunday at FedEx Field was overcast, a gray and dreary day.

Oh yeah. The sky was gloomy, too.

More-depressing victories are hard to imagine. Washington couldn’t breathe easy until Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, an alltime NFL great, failed to corral a pass inside the 10-yard line with 16 seconds left.

Before Kendall Fuller and D.J. Swearing combined to break up the fourth-down pass attempt, the tense, final moments threatened to end in another heartbreaking defeat. But the Skins held on for a 17-12 win, a triumph that felt as empty as the stands.

Don’t get me wrong. There were upsides and positives in the first game with Washington officially eliminated from postseason contention. However, the bright spots only highlighted the futility of it all.

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Stanton signing re-ignites Yankees’ love-hate relationship

 

By DERON SNYDER

George Steinbrenner died seven years ago. But he must be smiling as the Yankees begin to resemble the franchise he owned for nearly four decades.

“The Boss” believed that New York’s best show should play in the Bronx, not on Broadway. He collected star players like kids collected trading cards, eventually putting his stamp on seven World Series championships and 11 pennant winners.

Steinbrenner set the mold for modern sports owners, starting the wave of big-spenders in free agency, turning off peers and baseball fans alike along the way.

However, last season’s squad was different than the traditional versions we’ve grown accustomed to. Affectionately called the “Baby Bombers,” they were led by a core of affable players in their mid-20s, not grizzled mercenaries with All-Star backgrounds.

But thanks to Monday’s acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees have shredded the warm-and-fuzzies they engendered while reaching the 2017 ALCS.

Read more…

Like all terrible organizations, Skins rot from the top

 

 

By DERON SNYDER

It’s always something with Washington’s NFL franchise.

Rarely is it something good.

Welcome to the non-competitive portion of another season gone off the rails. The Skins have suffered back-to-back blowouts and four losses in their last five games. Injuries or not, the team’s effort and preparation have come under fire, raising the temperature under coach Jay Gruden’s seat.

Remember when he signed a contract extension in March, a deal that would keep him in Ashburn through 2020? Many observers deemed it a rare, savvy move for the organization. Washington had lost offensive coordinator Sean McVay, was about to fire GM Scot McCloughan, and was bungling another round of negotiations with Kirk Cousins.

Locking up the coach was supposed to provide a semblance of continuity, proof that owner Dan Snyder could commit to more than his wallet. After all, Gruden had just led the team to unprecedented heights in Snyder’s tenure – back-to-back winning seasons.

But now, this season has cratered like most of them and Cousins is closer to leaving than staying.

Read more…

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