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In the end, the game comes down to one thing: man against man. May the best man win.

~ Sam Huff                    



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What is the Lifespan of a Stadium?
by Andy Pollin
Aug 29, 2014 -- 3:05pm
FedExField

 

Hats off to Chick Hernandez of Comcast Sportsnet for landing a sit down interview with Redskins owner Dan Snyder.  The full interview airs September 1st, but an excerpt released Wednesday had Snyder revealing that plans are in the works for a new stadium.  He doesn’t have a site or projected date for completion, but he says they have already talked to architects about what it will look like.

 

In discussing the story Thursday with Kevin Sheehan and Thom Lovero on the “Sports Fix” on ESPN 980, Scott Van Pelt asked a very good question.  “What is the life of a stadium these days?”

 

He pointed out that FedEx Field opened only 17 years ago and we’re already talking about replacing it.  It’s not like the Redskins will have a new home tomorrow.  The FedEx lease runs through 2026.  However, it’s possible FedEx Field will be have gone from foundation to rubble in a period of less than 25 years.  As Van Pelt said, “some people keep cars longer than that.”

 

Realize the original home of the Redskins had already been open for more than a quarter of a century when they moved there from Boston in 1937.  Griffith Stadium, built on the site where Howard University Hospital now sits, opened in 1911.  President William Howard Taft threw out the first ball at the Senators opener.  It held only 29,000 people, but ably served as the home of the Senators and Redskins until 1961 when both teams moved out.  Griffith Stadium was 50 years old by then.

 

Both teams moved into D.C. Stadium (it was renamed RFK Stadium after the assassination of Robert F Kennedy in 1968) for what figured to be another long run.  This is how it was described in the 1961 Redskins Press Guide:

 

It is America’s newest stadium – and the world’s best!

This great new 50,000-seat D.C. Stadium has been built for comfort and convenience.

There are no bleacher, backless seats – every seat in the stadium is a comfortable chair with a restful back and arm rests.

There are 26 spacious concessions stands and 45 rest rooms – the most such facilities any stadium can boast.

There is a giant electric scoreboard (240 feet wide, 40 feet high) which flashes messages to the crowd.

 

The stadium was built at a cost of $100,000 – less than what a condo sells for around here.  They did eventually bump the seating up to 55,000, thanks to temporary seats that were installed when the baseball season turned over to football season.  They stopped having to bother taking them in and out after the Senators left town for Texas following the 1971 season.  The Redskins wound up staying 36 years.

 

For the 1997 season, they moved into Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.  The Redskins Press Guide that year noted that it was built in roughly half the time it normally takes to build a stadium, 17 ½ months.  And they added this nugget:

“Jack Kent Cooke Stadium (it was named FedEx Field shortly after Snyder bought the team in 1999) is easily accessible for fans in the Washington Beltway at Raljon, Md.  (Raljon was just something Cooke made up to honor his sons, Ralph and John.  In perhaps the best line Tony Kornheiser ever wrote in the Washington Post, he said it was a good thing his sons weren’t named Pete and Enis) A new beltway interchange has been constructed to ease the flow of traffic at the stadium and 23,000 parking spaces surround the stadium.  Shuttle buses will also be provided to and from the Metro.”

 

Well, after 17 seasons, I think we can agree FedEx is not as “easily accessible” as the Redskins told us it was.  And it’s a large part of why many tolerate FedEx, rather than embrace it.  Whenever the Redskins leave, there probably won’t be much in the way of nostalgia about coming and going from the stadium.  Cost of building FedEx, by they way - $250 million.  A replacement could cost 10 times that.

 

Who pays that?  It’s a good question.  D.C. Councilman Jack Evans was on ESPN 980 and said the city will pick up the cost of clearing the RFK site and would expect the Redskins and the NFL to pick up the cost of construction.  Maryland and Virginia have both made it known they’d like to have the stadium built in their states.  But both likely don’t have the finances to pay for the whole thing. 

 

Much has to be sorted out, and as Snyder told Comcast, these things take time.  But as one who started going to games at D.C. Stadium when it was just a few years old, it seems like we’re talking about replacing a stadium that was just built yesterday.

 

 

 


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It's Time to Believe
by Andy Pollin
Aug 22, 2014 -- 3:28pm
ESPN 980

 

These are high times for the Washington Nationals.  They have a sizeable lead in the National League East.  They are 20 games over .500, have won five of their last six games in walk-offs and have rung up 10 straight wins.  As I type this, the Nats are getting ready to attempt breaking the longest winning streak in franchise history, going back to their roots as the expansion Montreal Expos in 1969.  That was the last year as an adolescent that baseball really mattered to me.  It was the one year that the expansion Senators (1961-1971) finished over .500. 

 

What a season.  The All Star Game was here for the last time.  Ted Williams was in his first year as a manager.  Frank Howard hit 48 home runs.  Dick Bosman won 14 games.  Slick-fielding shortstop Ed Brinkman, who’d hit .188 and .187 the previous two seasons, hit .266.  They finished with a record of 86-76, well behind the first place Orioles, but there was great hope for the future.  That hope soon died when they lost 92 games the following season, which was followed by one of the worst trades in history.  Owner Bob Short dealt, Brinkman, promising third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez, and pitchers Joe Coleman and Jim Hannan to Detroit for a washed up Denny McLain.  They stunk again in ’71, McLain lost 22 games and Short moved the team to Texas.

 

End of my baseball youth.

 

Without a baseball team over the next 34 years, I never got to experience the joys of following the ups and downs of a season.  And being a second generation Washington baseball fan, I never grew up with the optimism that comes with the game.  There’s always a game tomorrow and always a season next year.  I had neither.  My father, who turns 86 this year and started rooting for the Senators in the late 1930’s always had seasons growing up, but had little hope.  His Senators were almost always bad.  The last pennant winning team was 1933 – he was four.

 

There’s probably a part of every Washington baseball fan that is skeptical of the current success.  The Nats did have the best record in baseball in 2012 and didn’t make it out of the Divisional round of the playoffs.  And this current 10-game win streak was matched by the 2005 Nats, who reached 10-straight wins on June 12th with a 3-2 win over Seattle.  Here was the lineup that day.  Not exactly murderer’s row:

 

1. Brad Wilkerson, CF

2. Ryan Church, LF

3. Jose Guillen, RF

4. Nick Johnson, 1B

5. Vinny Castilla, 3B

6. Junior Spivey, 2B

7. Brian Schneider, C

8. Jamey Carroll, SS

9. Tony Armas, SP

 

However, baseball in town for the first time since 1971 was so new and fresh, I wanted to allow myself to believe.  I remember having a conversation with Mark Tuoey, who was one of the driving forces in bringing baseball to town, about postseason arrangements in creaky old RFK Stadium.  He told me, “I think we can handle playoffs.  World Series might be an issue.”

 

The Nats finished .500.  Oh well.

 

Nine years later it may be time to believe – as hard as that may be to believe.  Too many incredible things are happening.  Ten straight wins, five of them walk-off in the last six games.  There’s something going on.  The season I’ve waited for all my life may finally be here.

 

 

 


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Forbath Might Need Some Moseley Advice
by Andy Pollin
Aug 08, 2014 -- 2:46pm
ESPN 980 - Your Home for the Washington Redskins

 

Redskins kicker Kai Forbath is not off to the best start in his attempt to hold off seventh-round pick Zach Hocker and hang on to his job.  In Thursday night’s preseason opening win over New England, Forbath missed a 46-yarder and shanked a kickoff attempt out of bounds.  Hocker made a 39-yarder and an open field tackle on kickoff coverage.  Three preseason games remain, but right now it looks like advantage Hocker.

 

It might be wise for Forbath to contact Redskins legend Mark Moseley for some veteran advice on kicking survival.  Thirty-two summers ago, Moseley survived and advanced in one of the all time kicker stories.

 

In 1982, Moseley was starting his ninth season in Washington.  How he even got to D.C. is a survival story in itself.  In the opening game of the 1972 season, kicking for the Houston Oilers, Moseley missed a kick, but it didn’t cost the Oilers the game.  Yet when he encountered coach Bill Peterson in the parking lot the next day, the coach told him he’d had a dream.  That dream was that he’d waived Moseley.  So this “Bozo” Peterson (in various polls, he’s been ranked one of the worst coaches in NFL history) made his dream a reality. 

 

Moseley was out of work the rest of ’72 and all of 1973.  But in ’74, the NFL Players Association staged a strike and Redskins coach George Allen needed a kicker.  Because Moseley was not a part of the NFLPA at the time, it wasn’t like he was a scab.  So he signed, stayed on, even after the veterans dropped their strike, and lasted through the rest of Allen’s run, all of Jack Pardee’s run and through the first year of Joe Gibbs. 

 

Nearing his mid-thirties by ’82, Moseley was starting to concern the coaches because his kickoffs were a bit short.  So, they drafted Dan Miller out of Miami in the 11th round.  By the end of training camp, the job was Miller’s to lose.  He did all the kicking in the final exhibition game against Cincinnati.  But he missed two field goals, which opened the door to keep Moseley on the roster for the opener at Philadelphia.

 

At the last minute, a decision was made to make Miller inactive and start Moseley against the Eagles.  It may have been the most important decision made all year.  Moseley kicked a 48-yarder to send the game into overtime and kicked a 26-yarder for the game winner.  Miller was cut.

 

If the story ended there, it would be good, but it gets better.  After going two for two in that game, he went three for three the following week in a win at Tampa Bay.  And then the players went on strike for two months.

 

When the season resumed, nobody paid much attention to the fact that Moseley was five for five on field goals.  And he kept right on going.  At 5-1, the Redskins were playing the Giants at RFK with a chance to clinch a playoff spot with the strike-revised format in place.  Moseley was 18 for 18 going into the game. 

It came down to the final seconds with mid-December snow falling and the ball on the 32-yard line of the Giants with everything on the line – the game, the playoffs and Garo Yepremian’s record of 20 straight field goals.  The kick was good, and so was the muddy hug with holder Joe Theismann.  With the 15-14 victory, Redskins were in the playoffs.  They would of course go on to win the Super Bowl and Moseley, who would miss only one field goal attempt all season, would become the first - and still the only - kicker to be named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. 

 

Moseley would go on to play four more years in the NFL, retiring after the 1986 season.  Quite a run, for man who had almost lost his job four years earlier.  Forbath is only a three-year veteran.  Perhaps this history lesson might be worth his time to learn.

 

 


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The Legend of Babe Laufenberg
by Andy Pollin
Aug 01, 2014 -- 12:52pm

ESPN 980

There is nothing in sports as meaningless as exhibition football games.  The results don’t count, most of the players who perform in the fourth quarter are cut, and the games are quickly forgotten as teams begin focusing on the regular season.  Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said publicly that he’d like to see the number of preseason games cut down.  Yet in Washington, the name Babe Laufenberg still brings a smile more than 30 years after he became a surprise summertime sensation, playing only exhibition games.  He is without question, the most popular player in Redskins history, never to have taken a regular season snap.

 

Branden Hugh “Babe” Laufenberg was already something of a never-say-die legend when he arrived in the Nation’s Capital as the defending Super Bowl champion’s sixth-round draft pick out of Indiana in 1983.  When he graduated from a Los Angeles area high school in 1977, Bill Walsh landed Laufenberg at Stanford, telling him he was the best high school quarterback in the state of California.  But after a redshirt year, Laufenberg fell behind a true freshman on the depth chart.  As he told Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News, Laufenberg said to Walsh, “I thought you told me I was the best high school quarterback in California when you recruited me.”Walsh said, “I did.  But this kid is the best high school quarterback I have ever seen.”  His name was John Elway.

 

Laufenberg left, making a brief stop at Missouri, before landing at Pierce Junior College in LA.  The odds said that’s where Laufenberg would likely take his place in a long line of high school hotshots who couldn’t cut it at the next level.  That’s not what happened.  He played well enough to draw the attention of coach who’s now known for the line, “Not so fast my friend.”  Lee Corso, who now makes his living putting on the mascot heads of the teams he picks to win the game of the day on ESPN’s very popular “College Football Gameday Show”, signed Laufenberg to play at Indiana.  And he played well enough to wind up in Washington, where they weren’t exactly hurting at quarterback.  Joe Theismann had just led the Redskins to their first Super Bowl championship and would be named NFC offensive player of the year the following season.  But Theismann had reached his mid-30′s by then and the idea of trying to develop a young quarterback behind him with similar moxie seemed like a good idea.

 

Making the team, though, was no sure thing.  Behind Theismann, the Redskins had Bob Holly, who’d been drafted the year before.  Coach Joe Gibbs usually didn’t keep three quarterbacks.  But in the third preseason game, a Super Bowl rematch against Miami, Laufenberg got some second-half playing time and delivered.  He was 9 of 17 for 86 yards and the Redskins to their only score in a 38-7 loss.  That cemented his spot on the team, though he never saw the field in the regular season or playoffs with Theismann taking almost every snap.

 

A year later, the Redskins drafted another quarterback, Jay Schroeder from UCLA, and again it looked like Laufenberg might be the odd man out.  But once again in the third exhibition game, he got his time to shine once again, and delivered.  Down two scores when he came in against New England in the 4th quarter, Laufenberg went 10 of 17 for 184 yards, leading the Skins to a thrilling 31-27 victory.  Said Gibbs after the game, “I thought Babe really competed at the end and showed he’s a fighter.”  Once again, Laufenberg survived the final cuts, but once again didn’t take a single regular season snap.

 

One year later, 1985, Laufenberg again needed a spectacular performance to stick.  And again in the third preseason game, again against New England at home, he delivered.  Down 13 points in the 4th quarter, Laufenberg went 12 of 21 for 200 yards, including two touchdown passes – one for 75 yards to Gary Clark and the 25 yard game-winner to Clint Didier with four seconds left for a 37-36 win.  Said the Babe after the game, “I certainly think I helped my cause.”  Said Gibbs, “It may have made the decision difficult.”

 

Difficult though the decision may have been, alas Laufenberg was cut.  His Redskin story may have ended there, but in reality it was just starting to get good.  After failing to catch on with another team, he planned a mid-November vacation to Cabo San Lucas and happened to be there when the Redskins played a Monday night game against the New York Giants.  Wanting to watch his old team play and not having a television in his hotel room, he headed to the only bar in town that had one – The Giggling Marlin.Known for their upside down tequila shots, Laufenberg was enjoying one, when he glanced up at the TV (upside down of course) and saw that Theismann had gone down with a broken leg.  He thought to himself, “Gee I wonder if the Redskins might want to get a hold of me.”

 

Never mind it was the pre-cellphone era, there was only one telephone in Cabo at the time and it sat in the Post Office.  That’s where he headed the next morning and was told by Redskins General Manager Bobby Beathard on the phone, “Yes.  Get here as quickly as you can.”

 

Laufenberg finished out the year watching Schroeder take every snap.  Theismann’s career was ended by the injury and with the USFL folding, Doug Williams arrived in 1986 to be Schroeder’s backup.  Still there would be time for one more magical August night for the Babe.  Getting action this time in the second preseason game, the Redskins trailed Pittsburgh 24-10 when Laufenberg stepped into the huddle in the 4th quarter.  And just like the last three Augusts, fireworks followed.  Laufenberg threw for 182 yards to send the game into overtime and led drive that set up Mark Moseley’s 51-yard game winning field goal.

 

Though it was now four-straight years of heroics, most knew his release was inevitable.  A local television station launched a “Save the Babe” campaign, but it was all for naught.  Babe Laufenberg was cut by the Redskins for the final time.  Over?  Who said anything about over?

 

Before the 1986 season ended, Laufenberg landed in New Orleans and four seasons after his NFL journey began, he took his first regular snaps for the Saints.  But 1987 again found the Babe on the unemployment line.  When the strike occurred, the Redskins called and asked him to play with their replacement players.  He wanted no part of that and wound up without a team for the entire season.  Over?  Who said anything about over?

 

Incredibly in 1988, Laufenberg not only made the Chargers final roster, he opened the season as their starting quarterback!  He wound up starting six games before once again landing on the bench.  In 1999 Jimmy Johnson brought him to Dallas to help mentor rookies Troy Aikman and Steve Walsh.  After taking their lumps at 1-15 in ’89, Johnson had enough confidence in Laufenberg as a backup in 1990 to deal Walsh early in the season to New Orleans.

 

It turned out to be a mistake.  Aikman hurt his shoulder, leaving Laufenberg to start the last game of the year against a 4-11 Falcons team in Atlanta.  A win would put the Cowboys in the playoffs.  It wasn’t close.  Atlanta won 26-7 and Laufenberg never took another snap in the NFL.

 

Sometimes stories like this make for a good “Where are they now?” feature, but in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, nobody has to ask.  In a town that produced legendary names like Don Meredith, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, Babe Laufenberg has one of the highest profiles around.  He does color commentary on the Cowboys radio broadcasts with Brad Sham and is the Sports Director of the local CBS TV affiliate.  Everybody else in the sports department backs HIM up.

 

That must be nice for a change.


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Does the Hall of Fame Have Team Quotas?
by Andy Pollin
Jul 25, 2014 -- 1:57pm
Tony Dungy

(AP Photo/David Duprey)

 

     Gary Shelton is one of the best sports columnists in the country.  He writes for the Tampa Bay Times, who’s readers have interest in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with former Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks going in next week.  Brooks will be the second player from the Bucs 2002 Super Bowl championship team to be inducted in Canton.  Warren Sapp went in last year. 

     Shelton suggests there are three more from that team who could get Hall of Fame consideration – John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Tony Dungy.  But he writes:

 

“Some will tell you that is already too many players for a team that one won one championship.”

 

     Hall of Fame selectors will tell you number of players per team is not a consideration, that players are selected on their individual merit.  And Shelton points to the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the Minnesota Vikings to win Super Bowl IV.  They have nine in Canton:

 

Bobby Bell

Buck Buchanan

Curley Culp

Len Dawson

Willie Lanier

Jan Stenerud

Emitt Thomas

Hank Stram (coach)

Lamar Hunt (owner)

 

     It’s hard to make a case against any of the nine, even Stenerud, who is the only player who was exclusively a placekicker in the Hall of Fame.  Yet that group won only one Super Bowl.  But Shelton writes:

 

“The 49ers, who won five Super Bowls in the ‘80’s and 90’s, have seven players in the Hall of Fame from those decades.  The Cowboys, who won three Super Bowls in four years in the 90’s, have five players off that era in the Hall.  The Dolphins, who went to three straight Super Bowls and won two (including an undefeated season), have seven from that era.”

 

     Shelton doesn’t write it, but I would add the Redskins between 1982 and 1992, who went to four Super Bowls and won three, as a team that may be shortchanged on inductees.  Like the Cowboys, those Redskins have five in Canton:

 

John Riggins (1992)

Joe Gibbs (1996)

Darrell Green (2008)

Art Monk (2008)

Russ Grimm (2010)

 

     If the theory of one team having a limit on inductees is to be believed, that may be it for those Redskins.  That would be a shame.  There is one more - possibly two more - that deserve consideration for induction.  Monk was on the team for all four Super Bowl appearances.  Green played on three of those teams.  And they were great players, but the heart and soul of all four teams was the offensive line.

     When Grimm was inducted in ’08, the vibe I got when Doc Walker and I did live coverage of the event, was that Grimm finally getting in addressed the entire offensive line.  Not for me.

     You can’t talk about Grimm without Joe Jacoby.  They were not only the best of friends, but one of the best blocking tandems in the history of the NFL.  Riggins used to talk about running down highway 66 and 68 (their jersey numbers).  Gibbs has said Jacoby was one of the best drive blockers in the history of the game. 

     Gary Clark didn’t play long enough to get close to Monk’s catch numbers, but I would add his name as a Hall of Fame omission.  He was fearless, running routes across the middle, taking the big hit.  And for touchdowns, nobody caught more important ones that Clark.  The problem is wide receiver numbers have exploded.  Clark just doesn’t have enough career catches.  However, for many years Sports Illustrated’s Peter King said his justification for not voting Monk into the Hall of Fame was what he’d heard from New York Giant coaches when both Clark and Monk were playing.  He said they feared Clark much more than Monk.  Well if that worked against Monk, now that he’s in, shouldn’t that help Clark?

     The greatest era in Redskins history has produced five Hall of Famers.  You’d think there would be room for a couple more.

 

“I Love Robert Griffin III.  I Don’t Like RGII”

 

     When I saw that comment from former Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot on Comcast SportsNet, I was reminded of a conversation I had with former Giants linebacker Harry Carson when Lawrence Taylor was selected for the Hall of Fame.  Carson said, “Lawrence Taylor was great.  I just wish he didn’t spend so much time trying to be LT.”

     Carson went on to explain that his former teammate was actually a good person, as well as being a great football player, but seemed to have this need to play a character to get attention.  And that character caused many of his problems.

     Now in terms of how they run their lives off the field, Griffin and Taylor are polar opposites.  Taylor was known for staying up all night to party.  He had admitted problems with drugs and alcohol.  Griffin is a homebody, who’s married and seems to run his life in an exemplary way.

     However, what I see in LT and RGIII is a constant need for attention.  It’s not a big deal, but Griffin showed up for the first day of training camp wearing one white show and one black shoe.  He explained it by saying, “You know, that’s something I’ve done since college.  It’s called the yin and the yang.  White and black working together.  We’re all brothers.  We’re doing it together.”  Oh please.

     He’s participating in a practice, not a clown show.  The players are given practice gear to look like a team.  The quarterback is the leader.  Shouldn’t he set an example instead of this goofy ebony and ivory statement?  It may have drawn a few laughs in college.  This is the NFL. 

     These small things add up.  A quarterback coming off a 3-13 season, needs to put the focus on the team, not RGII.

    

    


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He Just Doesn't Get It
by Andy Pollin
Jul 18, 2014 -- 2:41pm
Randy Edsall

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

     I want to like Maryland football coach Randy Edsall.  I really do.  Yet every time I’m ready to clean the slate and give him another chance, he says something that makes me shake my head. 

     After inheriting the 9-4 team left behind by Ralph Friedgen in 2011, Edsall proceeded to go 2-10 in his first year.  That was bad enough, but he seemed to take every opportunity he could to throw Friedgen under the bus for what he perceived to be an undisciplined bunch that he (Edsall) was left to deal with.  That was reeeally classy.

     Edsall’s second year, 2012, pretty much has to be thrown out.  Maryland suffered unbelievable bad luck, losing four quarterbacks to leg injuries.  They wound up playing their last three games with a backup linebacker playing quarterback.  The 4-8 record was about as good as could be expected under the circumstances.

     Last season included more bad luck with injuries, but there were at least enough quarterbacks to make it through the season.  With wins in two of their last three regular season games, Maryland made it to a bowl game – the Military Bowl, where they lost to Marshall 31-20 for a 7-6 final record.  After two terrible years, at least Edsall was able to bring the program back to respectability.  I was okay with that, until…Edsall made a statement at an event in Baltimore about Maryland’s move to the Big 10 next season. 

     As reported in the D.C. Sports Bog in the Washington Post, Edsall said, “As a football coach, I feel better because I’m going to a football conference.  I’m not in a basketball conference anymore.”

     Huh?  Does Edsall think he’s living back in 1975?  Did he not take notice of the school from the “basketball conference”, the ACC, that went 14-0 and won the national championship?  Surely he must have noticed when that basketball conference school, Florida State, beat his team 63-0 last fall.  He also may have forgotten that another school from that “basketball conference”, Clemson, beat his team at Byrd Stadium 40-27. 

     He may also not have noticed that with Florida State finishing number one in the country and Clemson winding up number eight, that the ACC had more teams in the top 10 in the final Associated Press Poll than his new “football conference”.  The only Big 10 team in the top 10 was Michigan State at number three.  And in the entire top 25, the Big 10 had only one more team than the ACC, with Ohio State ranked 12th and Wisconsin 22nd

     Enjoy your new home Randy.  I guess you think your 13-24 record at Maryland in that silly old basketball conference makes you good and ready to take on football teams from a real conference.  Lots of luck.

 

Teddy Don’t Use That Number

 

     A number of years ago, while talking to then solely Caps owner Ted Leonsis on the Sports Reporters, Steve Czaban said he would like to see Mike Gartner’s number 11 retired.  Czabe said Gartner was his favorite player growing up.  Ted said he’d throw the idea out on his blog and see what the response was.

     The next time he appeared, Ted said there didn’t seem to be much interest in that idea.  A few years later however, Gartner’s number was rightfully retired.

     Well, now that Ted owns the Wizards, as well as the Caps, I’d like to see him retire Phil Chenier’s number 45.  I’ve talked about it on the air and written about it in this space, but haven’t heard anything about a possible retirement of the number of one of the great players in franchise history.

     So far, the organization has retired only four numbers – all for players who wore Bullets uniforms, not Wizards.  They are Wes Unseld (41), Elvin Hayes (11), Gus Johnson (25) and Earl Monroe (10).  Unseld and Hayes played both in Baltimore and Washington, Johnson and Monroe played solely in Baltimore.

     Chenier not only belongs in that group, but was as important as Unseld and Hayes in transitioning the team from Baltimore to D.C.  They were the three big stars on a team that was in the NBA finals only three years after moving to town.

     Now we have a real test case for number 45.  The Wizards have just traded for DeJuan Blair.  He wore 45 at Pitt, at San Antonio, and last year at Dallas.  He even has 45 tattooed on his left bicep.  That doesn’t come off, but the number on his jersey should.

     If anybody has a sense of history in the Wizards organization, Blair should be asked to select another number.  And on top of that, with Chenier now completing 30 years as one of the team’s television announcers, it’s time he gets the recognition he deserves by hoisting 45 to the Verizon Center rafters.

     The Redskins have officially retired only one number, Sammy Baugh’s 33.   However, they’ve had a policy not to issue numbers worn by former greats such as Sonny Jurgensen (9), John Riggins (44), Charley Taylor (42) and even Joe Theismann (7), who won’t be in the Hall of Fame. 

     It wasn’t a problem until Steve Spurrier arrived as head coach in 2002.  He was all set to let Shane Matthews wear number 9 and Danny Wuerffel wear number 7, until enough of a fuss was kicked up by the fan base to have Matthews switch to 6 and Wuerffel to 17. 

     That seemed to solve the problem for most people, except for a few like me that noticed backup tight end Leonard Stephens was issued number 49.  That was the number worn by Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell.  He not only was a great player, he was the first African American player in franchise history in 1962.  I let the Redskins know about the mistake, but they decided not to do anything about it.

     Mitchell retired at the end of that season, bitter about the treatment he’d received in his 40 years with the organization.  He said the final straw was seeing his number given out.  It was sad to see a great man like that go out in that manner.

      A player’s number matters to the player and to the fans who saw him play.  And don’t think it’s a small thing.  Here’s hoping that when the 2014-15 NBA season rolls around, we’ll see number 45 in the Verizon Center rafters, not on DeJuan Blair’s back.

 

 

 


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