June 24, 2010

Redskins Awakening the Echoes

Once in a while, Life offers a confluence of circumstances that we slowly become aware of, just at the periphery of thought, but never crystallize into words.

On rare occasions, though, it will go farther that, tapping us gently on the shoulder, as if to say, "Pardon me, I believe this is what you are looking for."

I admit to such a Redskins-related moment today.

For the past few days I had been thinking in vague, general terms about the confluence of events that have happened to, in and around my favorite sports franchise since Head Coach Jim Zorn left the building in January. In no certain order of importance and by no means exclusively ...

Enter GM Bruce Allen, Son of George.

Enter Mike Shanahan, Coach of Reknown, riding in to Much Fanfare.

Enter The Over the Hill Gang, 2.0, an increasingly evident assemblage of veteran players from elsewhere, brought in to man key positions, and the Future is Now expectations such an approach inescapably brings.

Consider a Washington Redskins franchise, not far removed from another brief flirtation with return to glory, swinging for the fences again before all momentum is lost:

• Prior to Hall of Fame Head Coach George Allen's arrival in 1971 the Redskins enjoyed a very brief renaissance under legendary Hall of Fame Head Coach Vince Lombardi, who died tragically after just one season at the helm of the burgundy and gold. Before Lombardi, suffice it to say that the Redskins had not tasted glory for a very long time.

• Two years prior to future Hall of Fame Head Coach Mike Shanahan's arrival in 2010, the Redskins enjoyed a brief renaissance under returning legend and Hall of Fame Head Coach Joe Jackson Gibbs, who suddenly and prematurely resigned due to personal reasons. Before Gibbs II, suffice it to say the Redskins had not tasted glory for a very long time.

And then, just last week, Son of George threw open the doors of Redskins Park to its Players Past, an event rendered significant only by the fact that for the past decade, said alumni had been proactively, tragi-comically held at arms distance by their alma mater former team.

I think you get the drift ...

June 23, 2010

World Cup 2010: Moving On Up

USA 1 - Algeria 0

For those of you lucky enough to watch the entire game ... and/or those who have followed the arc of US soccer for lo these many years ... today your passion and patience were rewarded.

You can breathe again after 91 minutes of chewing your lower lip, trying to sit still, hoping for the best but fearing the worst. And you can trumpet to all who will listen that the United States just won a World Cup Group for the first time in 80 years.

For those of you who do not follow soccer football at all, my honest question would be ... does this not touch you even a little?

Moments like these are why we watch sports.

(Dont' miss the radio call by legendary announcer Andres Cantor)

Hold your head high, USA fans. As a football nation we aren't quite "there" yet. We get little respect in our own country, and are still looking well up the mountain at the likes of Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy.

But we can see there from here.

Onward and upward.

June 17, 2010

Allen vs Cerrato - A Starke Contrast

If you haven’t already, make sure you check out Dan Steinberg’s latest Sports Bog entry.

Why? Because what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is as clear a single piece of evidence as we have had all off season that there is in fact a new day in Washington Redskins football.

Among the many things that have driven me to distraction about the Snyder/Cerrato Redskins over the past few years has been their almost bizarre, counter-intuitive effort to break from the organization's past.

For years they have seemed to go out of their way to not celebrate the Glory Years ... to not have former players around, to not tap into the deep rich history of the franchise. Instead, they seemed to have wanted to scrub the record clean and pretend Redskins history started again sometime around, oh, 1999.

That, it would seem, has changed.

But don’t take my word...

Haynesworth: An Ill Wind Blows Away

So I guess I have to write about Albert Haynesworth.


I am not going to regale you with the history or the facts, you can get those a million different places today. If you want a quick, concise overview though, here is the best single piece I have seen yet. It has all the salient news and most of the salient quotes. Be sure to watch the video as well, there are some player quotes in there that haven’t gotten much play in print that you’ll want to see.

What I would like to say, as much for my own sake as anything, is this:

As a fan of the Washington Redskins, Albert Haynesworth's decision to play The Spoiled Brat role to a degree rarely seen in professional sport was actually a welcome surprise.

Sure, like many, I had an initial angry reaction, but it was more outrage at the simple gall of the man than it was related to the best interests of the Washington Redskins. The anger was quickly replaced, however, by a clear sense of ... relief.

See I had been reconciling myself all spring to the idea of having to root for this guy again on Sundays this fall. And I wasn't happy about it.

You know the inner dialogue:"hey he's a great player when he wants to be; maybe he'll be in shape and play like he actually meant what he said about wanting to be remembered as the best ever."

Yeah I know. Tastes like something stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

Well, I was resigned to having to chew on that again. To feeling like I did last year trying my damndest to cheer when the man made a good play, then mentally look the other way as he lay exhausted on the field after making it. Pretending, all the while, that I didn't notice the bile churning at the back of my throat.

I didn’t like him. I didn’t want the overgrown spoiled manchild on "my" team. But dammit, he was on my team, and on Sundays when the game was on and the fur was flying and the blood was boiling, he was wearing burgundy and gold ... and so I pretty much wanted him to kick some serious opponent ass.

I was never really proud of that semi-voluntary paradox. I wasn't back when it was Deion Sanders or Bruce Smith sporting the Redskins colors, either, although in their cases they were generally considered decent teammates, and not even in the same league as Albert Haynesworth on the Just a Plain Bad Guy Scale.

Well, yesterday Mr. Albert relieved me of that unsavory prospect for 2010, and this morning all I feel for that is a certain relieved gratitude.

June 11, 2010

World Cup 2010

An so it begins.

I haven't been this amped for a World Cup in a long time. Probably not since I was able to truly experience it for the first time while living in Chile when they qualified for West Germany 1974, and I watched an entire nation come to a halt each time they took the field half a world away.

Part of my excitement for S.A. 2010 is the anticipation (a more than a little nationalistic pride) of following a USA team that has at long last established itself as a legitimate player on the world stage. Not a title contender—that is almost certainly at least another decade away—but as a side with reasonable expectation of advancing out of group play and perhaps beyond.

But there's so much more:

The venue, South Africa, and all that signifies.

The coverage, bigger, better and by orders of magnitude more in-depth than ever, allowing me to follow all the teams, and all the stories, as never before.

The passion of the world for this event, just starting to seep into the consciousness of a US popular culture that for so long has at best ignored, and at worst chosen to demean it, simply because—well, I don't really know the reason.

But that doesn't matter now ... World Cup 2010 is upon us.

Bring. It. On.

The magic of the Opening Match

The curtain-raiser to a FIFA World Cup™ is always an extra-special occasion. And after four long years of waiting, the football family will be glued to the action this afternoon as South Africa take on Mexico in the Opening Match.

'The whole world is watching'

When the referee blows his whistle to usher in the tournament, all the accumulated tension will simply drain away, not just amid the 22 players on the pitch, but also among fans across the globe, who have had to go four long years without experiencing the magic of the FIFA World Cup. "It's fantastic because the whole world will be watching," Mexico's Carlos Vela told FIFA.com.

Quite apart from marking the beginning of a month of fun, excitement and superb football, the Opening Match has produced a number of shock results down the years ...

CLICK to read more

June 8, 2010

What if the Offensive Line Doesn't Suck?

Now don’t get all crazy on me, but what if the 2010 Redskins offensive line this season turns out to be, you know ... good?

Most Redskins observers—bloggers, media, Clavins at the bar—have preached for what seems a very a long time that the offensive line has been and remains a glaring team weakness. And given how ugly it has gotten on the field at times, there is still plenty of echoing evidence to support the notion.

The new regime at Redskins Park this offseason certainly seemed to "get it," saying early on that the lines were going to be a priority. It seemed logical enough to conclude that they would hit the ground running in free agency and the draft to restock the offensive line.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to their first training camp. They really didn’t ...

Yes, they did start the free agency period by bringing in two relatively obscure offensive linemen, veteran journeyman Artis Hicks and third-year man Kory Lichtensteiger.

And they did later spend the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft to take their highest-rated left tackle on the board, LT Trent Williams, and I don’t undersell that move—it could pay dividends for years.

But that has pretty much been it.

They may still pick up another body or two in late free agency or from training camp cut-downs later this summer, but with each passing day the likelihood of finding a plug-and-play starter via that route gets slimmer.

All of which makes reading reports like this one on the current state/attitude of the five gentlemen currently projected to start the season against Dallas on September 12 that much more ... relevant.

Seriously, if you had predicted back in March that come June they would be projecting a starting lineup of a rookie left tackle, Derrick Dockery, Casey Rabach, Big Mike Williams and Artis Hicks, I’d have told you you were nuts ...