A Christmas Post

“Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10-11

“Ho ho ho, Merry Fishmas” – Mr. Burns (“The Simpsons” Season 12)

It seems doubtful that the writer of that episode of The Simpsons (Rob LaZebnik, it turns out) was thinking much of symbolism when he concluded the episode with Mr. Burns as Santa Claus on a float throwing fish entrails on the crowd of a parade while shouting “Merry Fishmas.” Fish just happens to mostly rhyme with the first syllable in Christmas; Mr. Burns is evil; that was probably, and perhaps hopefully, the extent of the joke.
Yet let’s pretend it went beyond that. Most people are aware of the fish as a Christian symbol. Of course, in the episode they were gutted fish, being used in a parade by a bad rich man. The joke couldn’t possibly be a statement on how materialism has “gutted” Christmas of its meaning, could it?

No, I don’t think so either. Now, please disassociate Luke’s Gospel from The Simpsons as quickly as possible.

And Merry Christmas everyone.

The Cast of Airplane!

Before appearing in Airplane!, Peter Graves was best known as the star of Mission: Impossible from 1967 to 1973. (That would be the television show, not the movie series starring Tom Cruise and Special Effects.) In Airplane!, he played the captain of the flight. Barbara Billingsley, the Jive-speaking lady from the movie, was of course famous in the 1950s and early 60s as the mother on Leave It to Beaver. Meanwhile, Leslie Nielsen, the most famous of the three, was a major dramatic actor before Airplane!, but had his career transformed into almost exclusively comedic roles by the 1980 film.

All three of these actors passed away this year: Graves on March 14, Billingsley on October 16, and most recently Nielsen on November 28. They followed Stephen Stucker/Johnny (d. 1986), Lloyd Bridges (d. 1998), and Robert Stack (d. 2003). It would seem the only major cast members left from the first movie are Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (sorry, Lorna Patterson). Although you’re forgiven for not remembering them. Hagerty did appear in a couple very low profile films in 2009, while Hays’ most recent credit was the awful 2008 Superhero Movie (oddly enough, one Leslie Nielsen found himself stuck in as well).

Perhaps the news about Graves, Billingsley, and Nielsen was not overly surprising. It’s now been exactly 30 years since the movie came out, and a lot of the cast members were on the late side of 50 at the time of filming. In fact, much of the humor of the casting of Graves, Nielsen, Bridges, and Stack was the serious nature of their careers to that point. Nevertheless, 30 years is some time; the average age of the three who died this year was 86. So perhaps the stories were not really surprising when they arose, but 30 years is, in addition to a long time, a milestone, and the timing was certainly somewhat unfortunate.

My Only Redskins-Cowboys Update

It was so obvious.
Grossman currently 3 for 6 for 30 yards and an interception.
The Redskins new punter–remember, they cut the old one for his hang time, not his holding on kicks!–has a 40 yard gross and 15 yard net average.
The Redskins continue to be hilariously predictable, and I don’t plan on watching this game. (All the updates have been gleaned from NFL Gameday.)

Those Idiot Wizards Blew It Again

Even if you know nothing about sports, this blog the past few days is a good indication of the sorry state of Washington sports at least in football, and the dangerous future of baseball. The Wizards are in many ways just as hopeless as the Redskins. At least they’ve finally cut ties with Gilbert Arenas (traded to Orlando today).

Today they played the Heat, who admittedly do have 3 of the top 20 players in the league. Yet, Washington led the entire second half… until 7.9 seconds remaining, when Dwyane Wade made both free throws to give Miami a 95-94 lead, which held as the final score. This came after the Wizards missed 3 of their last 6 free throw attempts, Chris Bosh made his whopping third three-pointer of the season, and the Wizards turned the ball over with a 93-91 lead. And of course, throughout the second half of the fourth quarter a strong dose of “officiating assistance,” including a no-call on the last play of the game. In short, it was a typical Wizards game.

It hurts more because it occurred at home, the only place the Wizards can win. This is no exaggeration at this point in the season: Washington is a whopping 0-13 away from their home arena this year.

One additional thing irked me about this game, and it involved the coaching. The Wizards have two talented power forward/center-type players on the team, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee. But their talents lie in different areas: Blatche is very good offensively but a poor and often lazy defender, while McGee’s offensive game needs work but he can rebound, defend, and block like a madman. And yet, as the Wizards held a slim lead in the final minutes and seconds–when they needed to be stronger on defense–it was Blatche in the game, not McGee. Blatche did have 9 defensive rebounds and 4 steals, but McGee had 8 defensive rebounds and 4 blocks, plus it’s well known that he’s a better defender in general. It seemed very odd to have Blatche in when they needed defense.

Other than rookie John Wall and perhaps Blatche and McGee, there isn’t much to build on with this Wizards team. (Nick Young, a guard, may be okay too, and he did pour in 30 points on 13 of 23 shooting tonight.) Fortunately, they are in a league where one star is enough for success, and assuming Wall’s career isn’t derailed by knee injuries (he’s missed a lot of games this year with bruises and such, including tonight’s) perhaps he can consistently carry them to 40-45 win seasons, which make the bottom half of the playoffs most years in Washington’s conference. Which is where they were in the middle part of the decade, and isn’t much solace for a team that hasn’t won a championship in over 30 years.

But I actually think they’ve got a better future ahead of them than the Redskins do.

Well, They Did It

The Redskins benched Donovan McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman. While my initial reaction was disbelief, a few hours removed and it no longer really surprises me. The situation after the Detroit game made it clear Mike Shanahan does not trust McNabb. Why he believes Grossman is a better option though is beyond most observers. There is one possibility though: Shanahan’s son, Kyle, coached Grossman last year in Houston, and maybe he knows something we don’t. But there is nothing in Grossman’s repertoire that should indicate he’s a serviceable NFL quarterback.

The other thing that is 99% guaranteed at this point is that Donovan McNabb is not going to be with the Redskins next year. They can buy out his contract for $3.5 million. And since it is unlikely Grossman or John Beck will impress, there is something else that will come out of this. (But first off, it just came out that after the Dallas game, McNabb will be relegated to the emergency quarterback; just another reason to think he’s done in the District.)

The Redskins are drafting a quarterback. I only fear that they will pick a bust. One possibility is Washington QB Jake Locker. This would be bad. Locker as a senior completed 56.6% of his passes. Studies have shown that completion percentage (along with games started) is the top predictor for success in the NFL. Washington will have a top 10 pick, and Locker is a mid first rounder to most, but also the second best QB in the draft according to the scouts. It would nevertheless be a Redskins-type move to pick him.

One other thing: I did not like the McNabb trade when it happened. It was another “Redskins-type move.” That said, he’s the only real option the Redskins have at QB–if they want to win. But they may want to see what they have in Grossman and Beck. But why would you make this move before the Cowboys game, since that game is always a must-win, and McNabb gives you the best chance of winning? Well, it’s actually pretty obvious: they don’t think he gives them the best chance of winning. Which just tells me how shaky Shanahan’s decisions in his first year in D.C. have been.

If all this tells all you is that the Redskins are a mess, there’s a reason for that: they are.

A Couple Day-Old Thoughts

A couple thoughts on my mind as the Redskins cut Hunter Smith and the Nationals trade Josh Willingham.

First, the Redskins. Coach Mike Shanahan claims that the botched hold in the team’s 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay last Sunday was not the reason the Redskins cut holder/punter Hunter Smith. Shanahan claims Smith’s hang time has not been up to par. My reaction: riiiiiiiiiiight… the timing is just a funny coincidence. I call BS on this one. If he’s been bad all year, why would you wait 13 games and get knocked out of playoff contention before you cut him? This team is just a mess; has been for years, will be for years to come, and this move is pretty typical.

Now, the Nationals. OF Josh Willingham was traded for Corey Brown, a 25-year-old outfielder who has never made it past AAA and never played well higher than AA, and Henry Rodriguez, a 23-year-old relief pitcher who can throw fast. An uninspiring haul; maybe the reliever will work out (and he did throw 27 2/3 innings in the Major Leagues last year), but the team’s weakness is not the bullpen. Realistically, however, if they had to trade Willingham, they probably got the most they could. But consider, Willingham spent two years in DC, during which he reached base 38% of the time with 40 home runs – pretty good numbers. He is, of course, also 31 (32 by the beginning of next season) and injury-prone. This sounds far too much like someone to whom the Nationals just gave 126 million dollars, but in the case of Willingham it makes him expendable.

Regardless, the Nats’ moves have been justifiable if they continue to change the roster. They still desperately need a first baseman (they already had a pretty good one, but didn’t want to commit 3-4 more years to him). And the current lineup is pretty uninspiring after 3B Ryan Zimmerman and their $126-million-man. Plus, they could use some starting pitchers, although there aren’t any available that are much better than what they have, unless they want to trade away half their prospects.

In general, however, at least there’s a chance the moves the Nationals have made will all work out in the end. That’s far more than can be said for their NFL counterparts.

Welcome to Washington Sports-Op

Just my little blog whenever I want to vent about DC sports–and trust me, the way these teams are, it will be mostly venting.

I will soon be posting something I put up on my other blog the other day. By tomorrow I should have a post about the McNabb benching.