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The Podcast Returns

Click above to listen to Frank and David discuss the Redskins upcoming season, forgetting last season, and the rumored Twins sequel.

 

Here’s the link as well:

TheBlooshReturns7/24/14

What’s in a Name?

What the hell is it with D.C? A crack smoking mayor got another job, blowjobs in the Whitehouse shut the city down, total gridlock in Congress and no bipartisan cooperation have made Obama’s life a living hell, and the changing of offensive team names has become commonplace. Is it the fact that it’s the nation’s capital and we shouldn’t have a basketball team named the Bullets (guns don’t kill people, bullets kill people) to set some sort of example? I’ll never come around to the name Wizards, and rightfully so, it’s ridiculous. Having said that, the Washington Redskins find themselves in a similar predicament and my biased fan brain doesn’t know how to act.

I’m coming into this argument without numbers; without extensive research or a clear road map of what I want to say. I’ll be letting my brain throw thoughts out there, hoping a few of them stick. In other words I’ll be doing exactly what the assclowns talking heads on ESPN do every day, only I’m not getting paid to tell Disney’s lies and sell you Bud Light.

I have sympathy for the Native American population that feels the name Redskins is offensive, I really do. Europeans landed here, stole their land, founded a new country atop the ashes of their dying culture and traditions, then eventually killed almost all of them and marched the survivors to unwanted land in the Midwest (which we later stole, again). I get it.

I understand that there was a mass genocide of original Americans and what remains of their population should be a reminder to every American today where we came from and the evils that we are capable of. It takes an understanding of historical context and only a small amount of humility to see that the name Redskins should simply go away when looking at it in this light.

“How to piss people off and ignore the minority” by. Dan Snyder

Still, I don’t know where I stand on the issue. And like many Redskins fans I resent the fact that 27 years into rooting for a team I love, I find out I’ve been retroactively racist towards Native Americans my whole life. That was never my intention, I swear it. Every time I sang “Hail to the Redskins” I didn’t have hate in my heart, I wasn’t screaming the word Redskins to anger anyone. To me, it’s just the name of the football team I love; whether or not that’s me simplifying a complex issue, or me fighting back against the constant stream of political correctness sweeping the country, I don’t know. But as the news spread and public opinion did a complete 180° from apathy to outrage, I found myself asking why?

It’s becoming too much, this “you can’t say that” way of thinking. Everywhere you turn there’s someone getting offended, someone reading too far into harmless comments and ruining the fun for everyone else. Not to say the name Redskins is harmless, or that the ones offended are in the wrong; but it’s been the team’s name for eighty plus years and as far as I know our poor treatment of the Native American population has little or nothing to do with a professional football team in Washington D.C.

Yes, former owner, George Marshall was a fulltime racist during his tenure as owner. It’s hard to forget that the Redskins were the last franchise to segregate (1961), and even then it was a begrudging acceptance of times changing that forced Marshall’s hand. If you think Donald Sterling is a sonofabitch you clearly don’t know George Preston Marshall.

So, the team has a rich and powerful bigot in its distant past, a name that invokes outrage in a growing percentage of the population, and most importantly, an owner who doesn’t give a shit. Why doesn’t Dan Snyder care what people are saying about his team? Has he watched the commercial that’s making its rounds across the country? Does he think starting the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation was a good idea? He put the word Redskins in the name! Is he that out of touch or just a complete idiot?

I don’t have the answers to those questions, except to say YES, Dan Snyder is an idiot.

Like many lifelong Redskins fans though, Snyder is blinded by his biases; he remains the Fanboy we all see him as, not the strong owner and compass the organization needs right now. It’s been his unwavering stance on not changing the name that has lit the fires hotter and brighter amongst the protestors. If he had shown even the smallest amount of understanding when they (once again) voiced their problems with the team name, things may have gone differently.

But no, he’s gone as far to say the following:

 “We will never change the name of the team…It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

He went on to add that Redskins fans understand the great tradition of the name, what it’s all about and what it means. Are you sure about that Dan? Redskin’s fans aren’t the ones who matter in this instance; in fact we’re the only people still on Dan’s side. It seems everyone else (news outlets, public officials, almost the entire NFL community, etc.) has made up their minds; the name’s gotta go.

The Redskins trademark is also under attack. Since 1991 lawyers all around the country have been fighting to remove the trademark protection of the name “Redskins”; the removal of such protection would make it legal for anyone to make and sell Redskins merchandise. This tactic aims to take a bite out of Snyder’s bottom line, hoping that if he loses some money he’ll wake up to the moral ambiguity of his own stance. Earlier this month, the trademark was ruled “disparaging to Native Americans” and if the case survives the appellate process Snyder may have to actually deal with this issue.

Until then though, we’ll be the Washington Redskins this coming NFL season for sure. So, on top of the questions surrounding RG3’s knees, DJax’s personality disorder and the other Gruden brother coming to town; in addition to actually fielding a football team, the organization will be answering questions on bigotry and race. That won’t lead to any distractions for the team, the fans, or ownership, right?

 

I’ve flip-flopped on this issue countless times now. I still wear my Redskins hats, shorts, shirts, and socks. I’m still living in a mindset that can’t see a new team name for them, just like Snyder. The Bullets—Wizards swap was enough for one lifetime, and now it seems almost inevitable that the Skins will be no-more sooner rather than later. I’ll use this coming season as a farewell tour, I suggest you do that same. When the name changes it’ll be sudden and final.

It says a lot about fanhood when all common sense tells you one thing, all rational thought says, “Dude, the name’s racist…it’s a straight up slur.” and even still I find myself torn on the issue. Most likely Redskins fans are the only people left defending the name, and it’s only because we don’t know any better. It’s our team and you already took our basketball team from us, what the hell!?

Still, at the end of the day what we think really doesn’t matter and what we think we know about the issue matters even less. There’s a small sect of our population that’s taken shit since the day we stepped onto their beaches. We took their land, we systematically poisoned and murdered them by the millions, and throwing casino money at them 300 years later simply isn’t going to cut it.

It’s time to wake up, Skin’s fans. The name, the symbol, this way of thinking, it’s all antiquated. I’m a Wizards fan now, against my will, but a diehard fan nonetheless. I got over the loss of the Bullets. I think I can manage to buy a few new shirts in exchange for giving a people who demand and deserve respect their long awaited recompense.

 

 

Shaping the Future, Forgetting the Past: The 2013-’14 Washington Wizards

It takes heartbreak for you to truly find yourself.  It takes climbing a mountain to fully appreciate the view.  I’ve been a Bullets fan too long to be disappointed in my team after last night’s Game 6 loss at home.  But I’m not blind either; we let this series slip away.

Was it youth and inexperience that did us in?  Coaching and shot selection?  Is Roy Hibbert still traveling wherever he is right now?  It was a six game series where realistically we should’ve won five of the games, not two.  Our guys will hopefully be thinking about that all summer.

I’ve grown so accustomed to the Wizards being bad that I was numb through much of this improbable playoff run.  When EVERY SINGLE pundit chose the Bulls to beat us in round one, I actually found myself agreeing with them.  “The Bull’s actually play defense, Wall and Beal will struggle…” I said these things.  My tortured fan-hood couldn’t grasp the idea of success; I was predisposed to being disappointed.

For years I’ve harked on how hard it is to be a Bullets fans.  It’s a different level of commitment than any other DC franchise.  I wasn’t around for the Bullet’s lone championship in ‘78; I was barely a person when C-Webb and Howard got crushed by Jordan and Pippen.   I watched as Jordan almost ruined his legacy, and our franchise, with his two-year farewell tour.  And most recently I lived through guns in the locker room, paying Gilbert Arenas $130 million dollars, and a Nick Young-JaVale McGee-Andray Blatche “Big Three”.

It’s been a journey, it’s been a struggle, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The tiny optimist in the back of my head spoke up for the first time in years last night.  “It’s okay, Frank.  Wall’s only 23, Beal’s only 20, these guys have nowhere to go but up!”  But the rational pessimist that normally calls the shots, fired back: “It’s the Wizards, Frank.  Ernie Grunfeld is still in charge, they’ll fuck it up.”  And you know what?  They’re both right.

The team has potential, sure.  Beal is a budding superstar if he can improve his handle and figure out how to get his shot off the dribble.  Wall struggled mightily against a defense as good as Indiana’s. They got in his head and they didn’t allow him to get into his comfort zone;  so much so that after the game four loss he told the coaches he was frustrated and couldn’t figure out how to get going.  He’ll learn a lot from the tape of this series; the unforced errors, the bad shots and poor decision making, it’s all right there in the tape, easy to fix.

The team is at a crossroads as well, two of the key cogs in our machine this season will be unrestricted free agents this summer: Ariza and Gortat.  It’s exactly the type of situation that Ernie Grunfeld has messed up and will continue to mess up in the future.  Do you overpay for a journeymen small forward who’s coming off the best shooting season of his career?  How much is an aging Ariza worth moving forward?  The same can be said about Gortat, who had a strong season after being traded here early-on.  How much is he worth and do we want to tie up our future cap space in these two guys? I won’t bore you further roster speculation, but there are moves to be made and not made this summer that are vitally important to the long term future of the franchise, and I have zero confidence in the man in charge.

When I say “man in charge” I’m referring to GM Ernie Grunfeld, not the best team owner in DC, Ted Leonsis.  He is the anti-Sndyer, the owner this city needs right now.  Did you see him courtside last night?  I thought he was about to punch a ref at one point, but that’s what I want from my owner.  I don’t want some rich asshole hiding in the shadows of his luxury suite, I want a guy who cares more about the team than me (and he should, it’s his money!).  What Ted has done since taking over the team from the late, great Abe Pollin has been remarkable.  Top-to-bottom he’s transformed the franchise and almost washed away the stink of thirty years of shitty basketball.

Hugs all around

We have the owner, I guess Grunfeld’s not going anywhere unless the fan’s violently protest, and it looks like Randy Wittman implausibly will be our coach a least another season; so where do we go from here?

Continuity is important in every sport, but I can’t think of a sport where it matters more than basketball.  Being able to keep the same guys together gives you a big advantage throughout the long 82 game grind of a regular season.   If you’ve ever played basketball you know what I mean; it’s like dancing.  The more comfortable you are with your partner the more confident you are, and the less likely you are to fall on your ass.  So, in theory, another year together should reap the benefits of another deep playoff run, right?

So say we bring the whole band back together next season, what then?  Is Otto Porter actually a basketball player?  I mistook him for a towel boy too many times this season.  Are we ever going to develop a big man of our own?  Or do we just hope Nene and Gortat stay healthy (Nene’s only played all 82 games in one out of his eleven seasons) and ignore the fact that a 32 year old Drew Gooden was the first big off our bench in the playoffs?

Too much went right this season for us to stand-pat.  This was the bizzaro Wizards season.  Usually everything goes horribly wrong in the first twenty games and the last sixty games don’t matter.  This season, not only did we hover around .500 for much of the year, but everyone managed to stay healthy, save Nene.  On top of our health, almost everyone on the team had career years statistically.  The likelihood of that happening again is close to zero, and as fans we should prepare ourselves.

Last night’s loss stung more than any loss I’ve felt as a Wizards fan.  Even when young LeBron traveled his way through my favorite Gilbert team, it didn’t hurt this bad.  You know why?  I started to believe this time.  For years I’ve hoped and hoped something like this would happen, and when it finaly happened I wasn’t ready.  That’s what that feels like, huh?  Is this what fans of winners feel like all the time?  It just doesn’t feel right in Washington.

At the end of the game the crowd stood and cheered for their fallen heroes.  The team stood there together, both shocked and humbled that they could only win one out of four home playoff games.  You could tell they were emotional, you could see the camaraderie.  The team watched, holding one another, as the remaining crowd stood and clapped thanking them for a great season.  It was a moment unlike any I’ve witnessed as a fan in DC.  Usually when a team around here loses it’s met with silence and indifference, rarely appreciation and revelry.

Next season is a long way off.  Beal and Wall will likely play some international ball this summer, maybe learning a thing or two along the way.  Ernie will do what he does, for better or a lot worse, and the team will come back together in October.  What we look like then is up in the air, but how we feel about ourselves has changed, hopefully for good.

We’re not the lowly Bullets anymore, snapping at the ankles of the powers that be in the East.  We took our first step toward legitimacy these last few weeks.  I can’t see the future and I wouldn’t want to; all I know is this is my favorite sport, this is my favorite team, and they’re not going anywhere.

Wait, the Wizards are good this year?

They have country music, we have Go-Go.  They have a former Georgetown Hoya manning the middle; we have a big Brazilian who only needs one name.  They have a young coach who (until a few weeks ago) is widely respected around the NBA, we have Randy Wittman.  Their GM is one of the best basketball players in the history of the sport, ours is a guy who should’ve been fired about thirty times by now.  They have a collection of vets and young players who will do anything and everything to win a game, and guess what?  So do we.

The two cities featured in this series couldn’t be any more different.  Indy is the town that Peyton built, while D.C. is the town that Dan Snyder is slowly burning to the ground.  They have the Indy 500; we have a lot of people who don’t watch the Indy 500.  Their population is mostly white (86.6%) while D.C. is only 43% white, and over 50% African-American.  I don’t know why I felt obligated to add that stat, it just seemed too staggering to ignore.

Indiana is the Mecca of basketball, no one denies that.  Hoosiers, IU, Larry Bird, and Bobby Knight’s love of chairs will forever be synonymous with the sport.  D.C., well, we’re the most fair-weather city in professional sports, but I’ll take it easy on us for a change (where’d all the Caps fans go?).

And tonight, we’ll meet in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

If you’re a Wizards fan, read the above sentence a few more times, really let that shit sink in.

This is uncharted territory for any Wizards fan that wasn’t alive the last time the franchise won anything (1978).  Sure, Gilbert’s team made it to the second round once (only to be swept mercifully by the Shaq/Flash Heat), but this team doesn’t have the same feel as those Arenas-led Wiz teams; this version of the Wizards feel less like a side-show and more like the main event.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid of Indiana.  Sure, they’re slower than molasses and twice as boring, but they’ve been here before.  Paul George, when he’s not sending dick pics, is a hell of a player.  Roy Hibbert didn’t match up well with Atlanta, but you can bet your ass he watched a ton of tape on Nene and Gortat, and now he’s rested after playing sparingly their last few games.  And as long as Lance Stephenson and David West don’t fight each other, they’ll be a thorn in our side all series long.

Can Nene keep up his level of play?  Will Wall or Beal or both struggle under the bright lights and added pressure? Will our role players continue to contribute (Booker, Miller, Ariza)? How badly will Randy Wittman get outcoached?  How in the hell did Ernie Grunfeld build this team?  Was it an accident?  All these questions are a few short hours away from being answered.

I’m nervous, thrilled, scared, anxious, queasy, exasperated, and excited all at the same time.  Is this what success brings?  I’ve never rooted for a successful franchise before…

So tonight, when you sit down and watch the Wizards, think of me.  Think of that friend of yours who’s loved the Bullets/Wizards forever.  Think of anyone who ever dragged you to a game, or put a Wiz game on at the bar.  If you can give them a hug (or a beer) and tell them you care.  For us, this is the culmination of years of watching shitty basketball (I’m looking at you, Nick Young!), this is our told-you-so moment.

I could end this with the poltically correct win-or-lose answer, but that would be a bunch of bullshit.  I only know one way to end this that truly feels right:

Puck the Facers, this is our time #DCRising.

Perpetual Organizational Failure

After four ill-fated seasons, Shanny’s done in Washington. But what now?

I couldn’t sleep last night.  It was one of those late Sunday night/early Monday mornings where I couldn’t get my brain to shut down long enough to fall asleep.  Lots of stuff was floating around up there: why no one has asked Peyton Manning to pee in a cup yet, how Aaron Rodgers continues to flog the upper Midwest, whether or not Jerry Jones died years ago and the man we now know is some sort of super-robot, stuff like that.

My brain has the capacity to not give a shit when it’s time for bed.  It’s a gift and a curse, for sure.  I’ve come up with every great idea I’ve ever had (that’s two ideas to date) while in my nocturnal quasi-functional state.  So, as I lay there last night with a limitless universe of ideas, thoughts, hopes and dreams at my disposal…imagine my disappointment when the Washington Redskins were the only thing on my mind.

This morning, around the time I was finishing my second massive cup of coffee, Dan Snyder asked Mike Shanahan into his office for the last time.  After four seasons at the helm and an abysmal record of 24-40 in that time, Shanahan was relieved (and I do mean, he was incredibly relieved)of his duties as head coach, effective immediately.  He made nice with the media on his way out, checked his bank account one final time, and got the hell out of town.

What’s there to say that hasn’t already been said?  Shanny wasn’t the guy for the job? I knew that before we hired his sunburnt ass.  Shanny and Dan Snyder didn’t get along?  Tell me something I don’t know.  The news of his termination is academic at this point, he wanted to be gone and he got his wish (plus $7 million dollars guaranteed for next year).  With Shanny gone it will allow the organization a fresh start (albeit we go through this “fresh start” thing every three or so years).

Now it’s time for us, as a fan base, to look long and hard in the mirror and accept a few things.

  •  Robert Griffin III is not the savior of the franchise we thought he was.  He’s not capable of carrying a mediocre team on his shoulders.  He was hurt last year against the Ravens, played out the rest of the season on a bad wheel, and his knee injury was clearly an organizational failure from top-to-bottom.
  • The subsequent marketing blitz by RG3’s representatives (along with the Redskins marketing team) put our young (and still very injured) QB in a situation to fail before he could even limp onto the field.
  • Due to unfair practices during the uncapped year, our organization (in another full-fledged organizational debacle) lost $36 million in cap space over 2 seasons.  That’s enough money to buy some safeties that can cover, or an actual second wide receiver, or maybe some steroids to keep London Fletcher young just one year longer.

So, if you’re keeping score at home, we went into this season defending NFC East Champions (quite on accident) with less money than every team in football, less talent on defense than (almost) every other team in football, a one-legged QB who was so full of himself he forgot he was human, and still the worst owner in professional sports.

And all of this was Mike Shanahan’s fault?  I’m not sure I agree.

So, now I’m going to say something that needs to be said.  It’s sure to be an unpopular opinion but the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one in the first place; and let me tell you guys, we have a big goddamn problem around here.

We, us, the fans are terrible.  For all the trash talking I do about Steelers fans or Patriots fans, or even Cowboy’s fans, at least those fan bases know who they are and who their team is.  Who are we?  Who the hell is this team we field every Sunday?  When your organization is constantly rebuilding itself it’s impossible to create any identity, any sense of team.

That being said, this season alone I’ve purchased a new Redskins hat, socks, two t-shirts, and a bottle opener (all for the low approximate price of $4,500).  In other words I bought more pieces of useless team apparel than the team had wins this season…and Snyder took that money with a smile on his face.

This guy is an asshole

Throughout this terrible season and it’s been god awful in every conceivable way, there was one silver lining that I hope everyone noticed.  At halftime of the Chiefs game (when we were down something like 101-3) the CBS cameras flashed a shot of FedEx field and it was almost entirely vacant.  The top bowl all the way down to field level was deserted; the national TV audience got a live look at Redskins fans saying “Enough is enough”.

Whether Snyder looked up from his gold-plated IPad long enough to notice our frustration we may never know.  He’s slowly but surely turning into Jerry Jones 2.0; he’s younger, he’s somehow less football savvy, and he care’s even less for what his fans and team want.  If there are any fans out there who don’t know this, listen up: Snyder is the one reason this organization can’t find consistency, he’s the reason I lost sleep last night.

As the news of Shanny’s inevitable firing came out this morning, no Redskins fans batted an eyelash, it’s commonplace for our team to make waves during the offseason.  We pour our hearts and souls into each season; last season culminating in one of the greatest Week 17 finishes we could’ve hoped for, this season ending with a resounding and deafening thud.

Looking at the video of Shanahan driving away from Redskins park, he looked more like a free man on his way home than an unemployed man thinking where he’d gone wrong.  Four years and forty losses later and this fan base still sees no signs of life from ownership.  All we can hope is health for RG3 and our other remaining stalwarts; everything else is entirely out of our control.

You see, I lost sleep thinking long and hard about the context of this 3-13 season.  My brain wouldn’t let me rest knowing there were ways we could’ve avoided this disaster, knowing there are still ways this team can climb out of hell.  Sadly, something tells me Dan Snyder sleeps just fine not thinking about those things, and that’s the fucking problem.

Hail.

The NFL Mid-Season Awards Spectacular!

For my money this has been one of the least predictable NFL seasons I can remember.  Granted, many of the familiar favorites from years passed are still relevant, still capable of getting hot and winning it all; but it’s the overall quality of the teams, the league depth that has peaked my interest thus far in the 2013 NFL season.

If the Ravens winning the title last year proved anything, it proved any good team can get hot at the right time and win a championship.  Going into last year’s playoffs I remember how average the Ravens seemed.  They’re offense didn’t scare anyone, their defense was old, and Joe Flacco was more famous for his poor mustache choices than his actual play on the field.  As that team kept winning games, eventually surviving the 49er’s late comeback in the Super Bowl, I kept asking myself, “How is this happening?”

Today, the defending camps are sitting at 3-5 in their division; behind the upstart Bengals and the…Cleveland Browns (?!) led by none other than the one, the only, Mr. Jason “Al Saunders ruined my career” Campbell.  The Cleveland Browns are alive! (Cut to every Browns fan silently waiting for the bottom to fall out).

Long story short, as I sat down to hand out my mid-season awards it was apparent just how wide-open this season has been.  Nearly every division is up for grabs; injuries have leveled the playing field all around the league, and an influx of young playmakers on both sides of the ball has created excitment for almost every franchise (sorry Jacksonville).

As we head down the final stretch we’ll find out who’s for real and who was just pretending.  Who, if anyone, wants to win the NFC LEast?  With Aarron Rodgers slated to miss time, can the Packers survive, or did they just conceed the division? Is Tom Brady back? Can the Chiefs beat the Broncos and win the AFC West? Is Case Keenum the second coming of Ty Detmer (cut to Ty Detmer sitting on his couch eating Cheetos, nodding)? Will (can?) the Jaguars win a football game?

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited.

Let’s get to the awards:

Your 2013 NFL MVP

OMVP: Peyton Manning, QB Denver Broncos (2nd: Calvin Johnson , DET, 3rd: Cam Newton, CAR)

Say what you will about Peyton in cold weather or Peyton in the playoffs (and there’s plenty to say), but this guy’s been robotic the first half of the season.  He’s already thrown for 29 TD’s with only 6 INT’s while piloting the #1 offense in football.  Need I say more?

I put Calvin Johnson 2nd because I’m convinced if he wasn’t on the Lions, they’d be a 2 win team at this point.  And Cam, oh Cam, I’ve never been a fan, but the Panthers would be dead in the water without him.

There’s a ton of football left to be played, but barring an unforeseen injury, this one’s Peyton’s to lose. 

DMVP: Robert Mathis, DE Indianapolis Colts (2nd: Justin Houston, KSC, 3rd: Sean Lee, DAL)

This one was tough, mostly because at the halfway mark there’s no clear favorite.  I went with Mathis because he was second-fiddle to Freeney for so many years, now he’s leading the league in sacks as the #1 pass rusher for the Colts (also, currently on pace to break the sack record, but don’t hold your breath). 

ORookie of the Year: Eddie Lacy, RB Green Bay Packers (2nd: Geno Smith, NYJ, 3rd: Keenan Allen, SDC)

Maybe watching Lacy gash the Bears D last night on MNF is what did it, but man he’s starting to look like the real deal (cut to Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson Alabama highlights).  While there are plenty of impact rookies to consider, Geno Smith being the next man up, Lacy has a shot at being the best of the bunch (the injury to Aaron Rodgers might hurt Lacy’s chances, or bolster them…I’m not sure)

DROY: Kiko Alonzo, LB Buffalo Bills (2nd: Star Lotulelei, CAR, 3rd: Tyrann Mathieu, ARZ)

Let’s be honest, unless you’re a Bills fan you don’t know who Kiko Alonso is.  Furthermore, unless you’re a Bills fan you don’t know where Buffalo is, but that’s beside the point.  He leads the team in tackles and INT’s, and hasn’t missed a snap for a surprisingly good Bills front seven.

Comeback: Robert Griffin III, QB Washington Something’s (2nd: RG3’s left knee, 3rd: RG3’s right knee)

As a Redskins fan, the health of RG3’s knees has become one of my pastimes.  I read about them, watch them on every play, and sometimes even dream about them.  Is there anyone else making a comparable comback this season? He’s still way too reckless for my liking, but nine weeks in he’s starting to look somewhat like himself again.  Kudos to Washington for handling RG3’s rehab the only way they knew how; terribly.

Coach of the Year: Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs (2nd: John Fox, DEN, 3rd: Mike McCoy, SDC)

Every shot of Andy Reid in a bright red windbreaker is worth the price of admission.  Also, wishing John Fox good health and I’m legitimately surprised by Philip River’s improvement in year one under new HC, Mike McCoy.

 

Biggest Surprises:  The New York Jets, Terrelle Pryor’s upside, the Browns defense, any Browns QB not named Brandon Weedon, the Packers running game, hey look it’s a fun Buffalo Bills Team!, the AFC West, the NFC West, Cam Newton figuring it out, the Titans D, Greg Schiano still has a job.

Biggest Disappointments:The Atlanta Falcons, exporting the Jaguars and Vikings, the New York football Giants, the Houston Texans running game, the Bears defense, the Chip Kelly revolution (game, blouses), the Miami Dolphins buddy-system, Justin Blackmon’s long-term career goals, paying Joe Flacco $20 Million, the devolution of Ray Rice & MJD, “With the 3rd pick in the 2010 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns select…Trent Richardson.”

 

My Division Winners:

NFC East: That team in Texas NFC South: New Orleans NFC North: Detroit  NFC West: San Francisco

AFC East: New England             AFC South: Indy                   AFC North: Cincy        AFC West: Denver

 

Super Bowl Pick:  

                                                                   San Francisco vs. New England

 

Aldrick Robinson Still Can’t Catch, RG3 Still Can’t Slide and Regression to the Mean

With the game tied, RG3 dove head first and swung momentum back to Detroit with his early 4th quarter fumble

Man, rooting for these guys is tough. 

My love for the Redskins is deep and complicated.  Deep because I don’t know any better and have no chance of ever getting over them, and complicated because I hate them more often than I love them.  The Redskins and I have long been that couple that shouldn’t be together anymore, but we stay together because the condo’s paid for and dating sucks. 

Yesterday’s 27-20 loss at home to Detroit was hard on me, hard on us, to be sure.  After two weeks of some of the worst first-half football I’ve ever seen the skins were—gasp—tied at halftime!  And although every ounce of me was thinking: They’ll blow it, there was a small hint of optomism floating around my house.  If there was ever a game the Skins would win by accident, it would be at home against the Lions who: A) hadn’t beaten the Redskins at home since 1933, and B) know how to blow a game better than almost every team in the NFL. 

Alas, Aldrick Robinson still can’t catch, RG3 still can’t slide and the Redskins are 0-3. 

So, where do we go from here?  The last time I wrote about the Redskins was more than three weeks ago, just prior to the Monday Night ass-kicking at the hands of the Oregon Ducks, er I mean, the Eagles.  That game scared the shit out of every Redskin fan.  Our offense turned the ball over, our defense resembled Swiss cheese, and our beloved QB savior looked, for lack of a better term, just awful.  Sports talk radio the next day felt like someone had just died, and the people calling for Kirk Cousins to play weren’t necessarily wrong, they were just too late.

At this point it’s clear, at least to me, that RG3 shouldn’t have started the season.  He certainly shouldn’t have played week one after not playing for so long, but we’re all-in at this point and there’s no going back.  All the talk, all the endorsements and commercials, the “All In for Week 1″ bullshit that RG3 and the team embraced all offseason has officially blown up in their faces.  He wasn’t ready, the team needed him to be ready to win, and now this has all the makings of a very tough season in the nation’s capital.

Now granted, it’s not all on RG3; hardly any of it should be the way the defense has played through three weeks.  This is the same defense from a year ago, the same defense that gave up huge plays down the field hasn’t changed, but the offenses ability to out-score opponents has.  Slow starts in the first two weeks led to garbage time passing from RG3 and the offense, inflating his stats and making his numbers respectable; when really he’s been unable to sustain drives, inaccurate at the worst times, and making bad decisions when flushed from the pocket.

This is the bed we’ve made, so it’s time for everyone to be quiet and lay down.

Moving forward, we’ll play the Raiders this Sunday.  They’ll be coming off a short week after playing the Bronco’s Monday night, they’re starting a glorified receiver and QB, and I legitimately don’t know who their coach is off the top of my head; so this has all the makings of another loss…just kidding, I hope.

After Oakland we’ll go into our bye week either winless or 1-3, either way it’ll be a bye week full of questions and media-driven speculation.  Last season the fans got spoiled by an overachieving team that got hot at the right time.  This season we’re witnesses to an expected regression to the mean.  There’s still time to turn this season around, did you hear, we’re in the worst division in football! 

Taking it one game at a time is what got us into the playoffs last year and it will be the only mantra around Redskins Park for the rest of the season.  I fear, however, with the way we’ve been playing it won’t be like last year where everything went right; sometimes things just go wrong, and it might just be our turn.

 

The 2013-’14 Washington Redskins: Denial, Acceptance, and the ACL Holding it all Together

Redskin’s fans are an interesting bunch.  Like most fan bases there are different versions of fan hood throughout the region, and the nation.  Me, I’ve always been a realist and cynic when it comes to my teams.  I can’t help it.  That’s what comes from an upbringing devoid of winning, or even competence most seasons.  Seldom has there been a time when optimism has crept into my mind while thinking about the Redskins.  I think what could go wrong, before I think what could go right.

There are those who are hopeless in their optimism.  Fans that see the light at the end of the tunnel, regardless of the long line of darkness clearly ahead of them.  I wish I was one of those people; football would be so much more fun that way.  I wish I could look at the upcoming season and ignore the red flags; ignore the reconstructed knee and terrible secondary, or the hardheaded coach and his complicit son, but I can’t do that.

The casual fans are some of my favorites.  They don’t live and die with every snap, nor do they know many of the players on the team, but they still show up almost every Sunday and root as if they care.  We can call them Miami Heat fans.  They remain in a state of detached apathy ninety percent of the time, only letting their guard down when it’s safe.  I truly wish I wasn’t as invested in this game, I wish I didn’t care as much, but I do and there’s no turning back now.

The diehard fan mentality is dangerous for those who practice it.  You put so much of yourself into the accomplishments of a team you personally have no affiliation with.  Every win or loss can have a major effect on your mood for the week.  As your team goes so go you; I like that.  I like sharing in the dread because it makes sharing in the triumph that much sweeter.  I’ll be damned if I sat through Shane Mathews, John Beck and Rex Grossman for nothing.

Still, this season and the offseason that has led up to it has the cynic in me screaming.  The Redskins overachieved last season.  They burst onto the scene with a rookie QB and RB tandem, running a fast-paced option-based offense, and they clearly took teams by surprise.  That worries me.  The all-knowing Shanahan put his prized rookie QB  in situations no quarterback should ever be in; exposed, alone and running for his life.  Now, with a rebuilt knee (his second reconstruction in four years) what are we to expect, more of the same?  I hope not, for our sake and for the sake of a young player who clearly doesn’t understand his own limits.

A leg is not meant to bend that way

Anytime I’ve listened to Griffin talk this summer there’s an arrogance about him.  Some people will call it swagger, and good for them, but it’s not swag, its ignorance.  This kid either really thinks he’s invincible or he’s incredibly naïve, or both.  How many times does he have to get hurt until he understands his limitations?  How many times are we, as a fan base, going to have to watch him limp off the field until it’s all over?

Last season was incredible.  A rags-to-riches team rides a hot rookie quarterback to a surprise division title and home playoff game; that’s about as good as it gets for a fan.  But now there’s uncertainty and apparent division between the coach and quarterback, don’t tell me otherwise.  It was clear during the playoff loss to Seattle that Shanahan and RG3 both botched the decision to play on his bum knee. I’m in the minority who said from the moment his knee was initially hurt against the Ravens he should’ve been shut down for the remainder of the season.  Why risk the future of the franchise?  Think long term, am I right? Isn’t that why we drafted and groomed the talented Kirk Cousins?  Did he not show enough against Cleveland to earn another start? Was I the only fan who watched as RG3 limped at half-speed the final three games of the season?

The final snap of his knee was the end of a long line of decisions that ultimately brought our season to an end.  From the concussion against Atlanta, to the incredibly hard hit by Haloti Ngata of the Ravens, to the gut wrenching final game when it was clear he wasn’t able to run; it was a laundry list of mistakes that the team did not learn from. RG3 is too full of himself to know how to lose; he’s too brash and confident to understand that he too will fail if he continues this way.  Shanahan needs to do better, he should’ve known better, and his legacy now rests in the right knee of his young star.

 

Are the 2013 Redskins better than last year?  I’d say yes.  There are holes on every roster in the NFL and the Redskins have a few more glaring than others; namely both safety spots and depth along the offensive line.  We’ll have an improved pass rush with or without the oft-injured Brian Orakpo in the lineup.  Ryan Kerrigan continues to improve every facet of his game; he should be a Pro Bowler (if there is such a thing) for years to come.

When your teams’  best player in the secondary is DeAngelo Hall it’s hard to be confident in the pass defense.  Still, a strong pass rush makes the back-end look better and that’s clearly what DC Jim Haslett will be going for this season.  If the preseason has shown us anything it’s that we finally have enough pass rushers who fit in the system to compete in the NFC East.  Containing Mike Vick and Tony Romo is important, while hitting Eli Manning every single snap wouldn’t hurt either.

The defense was strong against the run last year; good for 5th best in the NFL (they were 30th in pass D).  There’s room for improvement.  The cynic in me says it’ll be more of the same for the Redskins defense.  Solid run D but way too many big plays down the field will lead to shoot-outs for the offense; that’s not how you sustain winning in the NFL, you have to get stops.

The offense is predicated on a healthy RG3 at the helm.  If he plays at or above the level he played last season for 13 or more games, we’ll have a chance to repeat as division champs.  If he struggles with rust after not playing all preseason, or worse gets hurt and misses substantial time, the offense will sputter and the defense will fold and that will be the tale of the 2013-2014 Washington Redskins.

It’s only ten days away, you know?  The start of the NFL season.  Once it starts there’s no stopping the machine.  Will it end in the same heart breaking fashion as last season, with our hero clenching the dirt, writhing in pain?  Will we surpass all odds (18/1 Super Bowl odds to date) and keep getting better?  Or will the team regress to the mean and fall back to Earth after the offense surprised people last season?

There’s no way to know.  All I know is I’m invested like a dad watching his kids play little league.  The coach is an asshole who doesn’t listen to anyone, the fans range from not caring to overly invested, and all the players want to do is play and forget about all of the outside distractions.  I’ll be watching, white-knuckled and tortured anytime my adopted son runs down the field.  I only hope we haven’t seen the peak and we’re descending into the valley now. 

Like our QB’s knee, my heart was broken last year.  He say’s he’s 100% healed, I’m not so sure…only time will tell.

 Next Game: Redskins vs. Eagles —Monday, September 9th

Defending A Legacy

All season long, in the honeymoon period following his first NBA title, LeBron James seemed to be effortlessly scaling the mountaintop to basketball immortality. He turned in the best statistical season of his career, leading the Heat on an unprecedented 27-game winning streak and drawing comparisons to Michael Jordan as potentially the greatest player of all time.

Oh, but how quickly we forget. Three games into the fourth NBA finals of his career, James looks like a mere mortal as his Heat trails the seasoned San Antonio Spurs two games to one. Through the first three games, James looks like a shell of the mythic figure that dominated the league this season and looked well on his way to joining the pantheon of greats who have come before. He has been passive and looks lost as the upstart Spurs are dominating the action. Greatest of all time? James hasn’t even been the best player in the series. That distinction has belonged to Spurs’ point guard Tony Parker, who is in the midst of bolstering his own legacy as the best player on a championship team.

So what’s really at stake here? If the Spurs go on to win this series, with LeBron continuing to post pedestrian numbers, he will fall to 1-3 in NBA finals appearances, 1-2 since fleeing Cleveland to join the Heat. He is in serious danger of doing irreparable damage to his legacy in a sport where success is quickly forgotten, but failure has a way of lingering.

James is and will remain the preeminent player in today’s NBA, regardless of the outcome of this series. His size, strength, athleticism and court vision are unparalleled and he is a marvel to behold. Physically and maybe even from a skill set standpoint, he is superior to anyone who has ever played the game, Michael Jordan included. But the truly great ones, and there are really very few of them, aren’t measured by mere skill, it’s there transcendent will and refusal to lose that really sets them apart. It’s a pretty played out phrase that some players love to win and others hate to lose, but greatness really is that simple to measure.

The one quote that always resonated with me when defining Michael Jordan’s greatness came from long-time NBA coach, George Karl. “People don’t understand that it’s not his jumping, or his jump shot or his defense. It’s his inner guts and his inner heart. You’re gonna have to cut Michael Jordan’s heart out to beat him.”

Could that ever be said about LeBron James?

Jordan rose to the moment time and time again on the game’s biggest stage. He always seemed to save his greatest performances for the NBA finals, with adversity staring him straight in the face; going 6-0 and delivering indelible, historical moments in almost all of them.

1991: Switching hands against the Lakers
1992: Six three pointers in the first half against Portland
1993: The three point play against Charles Barkley
1997: Pouring in 38 with the flu in Utah
1998: Stripping Karl Malone and hitting the game winner

The only finals that doesn’t really have a lasting image was in 1996 against Seattle, which the Bulls still wrapped up in a tidy six games.

Now this doesn’t mean that we should condemn LeBron for his playoff failures, but can we please cease with the absurdity of comparing him to Jordan? LeBron is a transcendent talent and we should all appreciate that and enjoy watching him play, but he isn’t close to Jordan.

That being said, if James wants to keep his legacy intact, he had better find a way to come out more aggressive in game four and start to dominate the action. Great players can’t disappear on the game’s grandest stage and not seriously damage how they are perceived.

To this day, I still think that the greatest basketball performance I have ever seen was the 48-point game LeBron posted against Detroit on his way to willing an undermanned Cavaliers’ team to the finals. So we’ve seen it. There’s no denying the talent and the flair for the dramatic is there.

But do you have to cut out Lebron’s heart to beat him? Or simply put him on the game’s grandest stage?

It’s showtime, LeBron. What are you going to do now?

Protect the King: LeBron’s Moment is Here

Tonight the Eastern Conference Finals will come to a close in Miami.  One way or another the defending Champion Miami Heat or the young upstart Indiana Pacers will represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, that series is slated to start Wednesday night.

In the grand scheme of our world the outcome of tonight’s game means very little; it won’t bring peace to warring nations or prosperity to the underprivileged.  Still, within the confines of the NBA Universe, this is the most important game since Michael Jordan pushed off on Bryon Russell to clinch his sixth and final championship.

Nine seasons into his NBA career LeBron James has done almost everything he’s been expected to do.  Four MVP trophies, three trips to the NBA finals (1-2 in those trips), two Olympic Gold Medals, and he, and he alone, holds the title of “Best Player on Planet Earth” to date.  He’s the best player we’ve seen since Jordan, whatever side of the argument you’re on; everyone admits there’s an argument to be had.

It’s win or go home for the Man who would be King

There’s never been a more polarizing figure in the NBA.  LeBron tiptoes that line between most hated athlete and the guy who clearly wants people to like him, and like his brand.  Jordan never gave a shit; love him hate him, he was going to rip your favorite teams’ heart out right in front of you and make you respect him.  LeBron shows flashes of Jordan’s levels of stubbornness and attitude at times, but when he teamed up with his friends in Miami he lost any and all leeway the media may have given him had he stayed in Cleveland.

LeBron needs to win tonight.  For himself, for the NBA, for Pat Riley and Eric Spoelstra, for NBA Commissioner David Stern and future Commish Adam Silver, for Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, and for every fan of his who mentions him in the same sentence as His Airness.

When the Heat were cruising on there way to a modern-day NBA-best 27-straight victories earlier this season they looked like the best team the NBA had seen in at least half a decade.  A healthy Wade and Bosh had learned how to play off a mind-bogglingly efficient LeBron while the Heat’s veteran bench seemed to get better as the season wore on.  Players like Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers, and even “The Birdman” Chris Anderson looked as though they fit perfectly with the Heat’s Big 3; a second straight NBA Title looked all but assured.

Still, no team is infallible, no team is without weaknesses and throughout their mid-season domination there were always national pundits harking on the Heat’s glaring holes.  For instance, any team with a dominant front court (big guys who can clog the lane, defend, and block shots at the rim) would give the Heats’ undersized big men trouble, and make slasher’s Wade and LeBron work for every basket they got.  Also, an injury to any one of the Heat Big 3 would spell doom for their playoff hopes; simply put: LeBron can’t be expected to do everything.

Game seven’s are the perfect storm in sports.  The teams truly loathe one another after playing six tough games.  The coaches have made so many adjustments, counters, counter-adjustments, and changes to their game plans even they would admit a game seven always comes down to the old adage: who wants it more?  It all comes down to the best player in the series; they’re supposed to find a way, any way, to lead their team to a victory.

Roy Hibbert has carried the Pacers throughout the playoffs.  The one-time young stiff center from Georgetown University has, quite remarkably, transformed himself into a top three center in the NBA.  Watching Roy at Georgetown was like watching Frankenstein’s monster lumber up and down the court; today Roy’s an updated version on Dr. Frankenstein’s creation; a monster with post moves, great hands, and perfect positioning and timing on defense.  He’s been the best player in this series, arguably.  Sure, LeBron’s stats, even with

Roy Hibbert’s size, toughness, and improved game have transformed the Pacers into contenders during these playoffs

limited help from his counterparts have been phenomenal, but it’s the Pacer defense anchored by Hibbert that has turned this into a series.

The very future of the NBA is hanging in the balance tonight.  Cap restrictions paired with two failures in three years would all but force the Heat to make significant changes to their roster if they were to lose.  LeBron, Wade and Bosh are all under contract for next season, with player options for a fourth run-at-it.  If they lose tonight with Wade and Bosh looking like shells of their former selves while LeBron continues to revert back to his Cleveland playing style (over-dribbling, isolations that go nowhere, selfishness) this will be the last game these three play together.

A loss would also change our newly formed perception of Champion LeBron.  Don’t forget it was only a year ago that he had the best season that any professional basketball player had ever had; winning a NBA Title, Olympic Gold Medal, NBA MVP honors, and Finals MVP.  Is LeBron in jeopardy of losing much of the respect and admiration he earned just a year ago if he can’t find a way to bounce these pesky Pacers?

To be fair, if the Heat do lose tonight all of the blame shouldn’t go to LeBron, but it will.  He’s the only reason the Heat are even still in this series (having saved their asses in Game 1).  He’s the best player on the planet, a once-in-a-generation type of player, but what does it say about him in year nine if he still has to prove doubters wrong?

If you want to go down as the greatest of all time it’s on him, and him alone, to win this game.  The Pacers know it, the Heat know it, everyone in the area will know it.

On June 14th1998 Michael Jordan watched as John Stockton hit a three to push the Jazz up three with forty-two seconds left.  What happened next is the reason Michael’s the best ever, anyone arguing otherwise just needs to watch the tape.  The greatest player of all time simply decided he wasn’t losing.  Down 86-83 Jordan scored on the next possession cutting the Jazz lead to one.  With less than nineteen seconds left Jordan stole the ball from the Jazz’s best (arguable) player, Karl Malone.  Down one, on the road facing one of the best tandems in NBA history, nothing was going to stop Jordan from winning number six.  We all know the story; the shot over Russell (the push off), and moments later the Bulls were celebrating their final Jordan championship on their opponents home court.  It was a game the Bulls had no business winning, but they won it because Jordan didn’t know to fail.

MJ’s final shot as a member of the Bulls, the shot that cemented his legacy

It’s not about skill anymore, or pedigree, nor is it about the number of wins or trophies you collect along the way.  Right now, this time of year it’s all about your will to win, the simple act of wanting it more than everyone else on the planet.

RUSSELL, MAGIC, BIRD, JORDAN

They’d die before they lost a game seven on their home court to a lesser team; it’s time to find out about our reigning King.

1998 NBA Finals Game 6 (Click for Video)