DC Sports History Since 1992 – Rough Draft of 2005 Chapter

After releasing an Amazon e-book (NFL’s Most Valuable Quarterbacks, 1951-2016) in August 2017 (update & paperback coming March 2018!), I got to working on another project: expanding my post about DC sports since 1992 into a book-length project. I made some significant progress, getting to 2011 by going in chronological order. But my devotion soon faded, and it’s been in stasis for a while.

Part of the problem is I became unsure of my approach. So, I’ve decided to post a sample of what is still a rough draft. Most chapters will read similarly, so I would very much appreciate feedback on whether my approach here is functional.

One thing that won’t be clear from this sample is that the chapters get longer and more detailed the further we get towards the present. So 1995 is a shorter chapter and 2015 will be a longer chapter. I’d like to know what you think about this as well.

All that said, here is 2005 in Washington, DC sports (with a bit of 2006 for context):


 

2005

The Redskins don’t actually play their final game of the [2004] season on January 2, a 21-18 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

When the city last won a championship, Johnny Carson was still hosting The Tonight Show. On January 23, Carson passes away at the age of 79.

This time of year is less interesting than usual, since hockey is still not being played. And it won’t be, the entire 2004-05 season lost to the lockout.

The Wizards are making up for it, though. It’s their first year with Arenas, Jamison, and Larry Hughes together, making up perhaps their strongest core trio since the mid- to late-90’s. And it’s going well.

Arenas averages 25.5 points per game, Hughes 22.0, and Jamison 19.6 per game.

Unfortunately, Kwame Brown has regressed to 7.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

The success of the trio matters more at this point than a former first overall pick’s struggles. Arenas and Jamison will both make the All-Star Game, which gives the team its first season with multiple All-Stars since 1986-87, when Moses and Jeff Malone (no relation) both made it.

As a team, the Wizards raced out to a 12-6 start, but were only 15-13 when 2004 turned into 2005.

January began with a seven-game winning streak. February ended with the team dropping five of its last six. Still, the team maintained a 31-24 mark as March started.

Early that month, the Redskins traded Coles back to the Jets for WR Santana Moss in a challenge trade.

Inconsistency continued for the Wizards. Four straight wins from March 27 to April 1 got the team to 41-30, which was followed by five straight losses.

That, however, was followed by four straight wins. Despite dropping their final two games of the year, the Wizards end the season 45-37 on April 20. Somehow, it is their best record since 1979, when the Washington Bullets went 54-28.

The result is the team’s first playoff berth since 1996.

In the meantime, baseball’s return to Washington began in earnest. On April 4, the Nationals lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 8-4, in the first Major League Baseball game for the city since September 30, 1971. On April 6, the Nationals beat the Phillies, 7-3, for their first victory. And on April 14, the Nationals played their first home game. RFK Stadium is a bad fit for baseball, but it’s what’s available. The Nats defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-3.

Three days after the NBA season ends, it’s time for the NFL draft. QB Alex Smith goes first overall. QB Aaron Rodgers falls all the way to 24th. The 25th pick belongs to the Broncos, but the Redskins trade up for it, and take QB Jason Campbell of Auburn.

The playoffs begin for the Wizards the next day. They visit the Bulls to begin the series. The Bulls don’t have Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen anymore, of course, so the opposition isn’t quite as strong as last time. Nevertheless, Chicago wins the first two games by scores of 103-94 and 113-103.

The tide begins to turn in Game 3. Gilbert Arenas scores 32 points and the Wizards win, 117-99. It is the first time the Wizards have won a playoff game since they were the Bullets, all the way back in 1988.

The Wizards even the series at two games each with a 106-99 Game 4 victory, and the series goes back to Chicago.

The Wizards jump out to a 63-49 halftime lead, and are still ahead 86-73 to begin the fourth quarter. But the Bulls come back, and the Wizards take the ball in a 110-110 game for one final possession of regulation.

Arenas drives to the left and pulls up from 14 feet. His shot easily clears the outstretched arms of Kirk Hinrich and Tyson Chandler, and finds nothing but net as the buzzer sounds.

With the dramatic 112-110 victory, the Wizards are one win away from winning the series.

Game 6 is another close one. The game is tied at 91-91 with 34.9 seconds left with Chicago in possession. But Chris Duhon’s inbound pass hits Hinrich in the back. Wizards F Jared Jeffries grabs the ball and dunks it two-handed for the lead with 31.9 seconds remaining.

The Wizards hang on to win, 94-91. It is the first time they have won a full playoff series since 1982.

Up next for the Wizards, however, are the Miami Heat, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade. Washington loses Game 1, 105-86, setting the tone. A 99-95 Miami win in Game 4 completes a sweep.

The MLB Rule 4 draft for first-year players is in June. The Nationals have the fourth selection, and they take an infielder from the University of Virginia named Ryan Zimmerman.

The Nationals are having a surprising year on the field. On draft day, they win, 2-1, moving to 32-26. Their next five games are also all wins, making for a 10-game winning streak to move to 37-26.

Through the first half of the season, the Nats are 50-31 on the back of an amazing 26 wins in their last 32 games.

The success isn’t exactly sustainable. By the All-Star Break, they are 52-36. Starting pitcher Livan Hernandez and closer Chad Cordero are the club’s first two All-Stars in Washington.

Despite the Wizards’ successful season, Kwame Brown completely regressed. The Wizards give up on him on August 2, trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers. The deal brings Caron Butler to Washington. Larry Hughes has already moved on in free agency to Cleveland, making Arenas-Jamison-Butler the new core trio.

The day of the Brown trade, the Nationals’ record is down to 56-50.

By the time the NFL season starts, the Nationals are 73-71.

Patrick Ramsey is the starting quarterback for the Redskins for Week 1, but this state of affairs does not last. Mark Brunell replaces Ramsey in the game against the Bears, which is actually a 9-7 victory on the back of three John Hall field goals.

Week 2 is a Monday Night Football matchup against Dallas. The Cowboys are inducting Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin into their ring of fame.

The Redskins continue their ineptitude on offense. The Cowboys lead 3-0 at halftime for their induction ceremony. QB Drew Bledsoe throws a 70-yard touchdown to Terry Glenn in the third quarter for a 10-0 Dallas lead, which they extend to 13-0 with 5:58 left in the game.

After a first down to their own 38, the Redskins face a 3rd and 27 after Brunell loses 17 on a sack.

He recovers to scramble for 25 yards, setting up a 20-yard catch-and-run completion to James Thrash on fourth down.

A false start and three incomplete passes later, it is 4th and 15 from the Dallas 39.

Brunell goes back from the shotgun and launches a pass from midfield, going for Moss on a deep post in the end zone. Moss makes a sliding catch, and Al Michaels notes that the Redskins finally have a touchdown in 2005.

The Cowboys get a first down but only take a minute off the clock before punting the ball back. It’s a touchback, and Portis makes a 10-yard reception to start the drive.

On first down from his own 30, Brunell is in the shotgun again. He steps up and launches another deep one for Moss on the fly. Moss again beats double coverage for the 70-yard touchdown, and the extra point gives the Redskins a 14-13 lead with 2:35 to go.

Dallas begins its comeback effort and faces third and four with 1:57 to go.

Bledsoe finds WR Patrick Crayton, but Sean Taylor is there to blow the play up as the ball goes flying backwards, incomplete. On fourth and four, Dallas gains only three. The Redskins have to punt, leaving 36 seconds, but Dallas is unable to get past midfield and the Redskins are a surprising 2-0.

The bye week is already upon us.

On October 2, the Redskins move to 3-0 with a 20-17 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks, but the Nationals drop their final game, ending the year at just 81-81. The .500 record is nevertheless better than expected when the year began, if disappointing now after the blazing-hot first half.

On Sunday Night Football on November 6, the Redskins beat the Eagles, 17-10, to move to 5-3 on the year. A road game in Tampa Bay is next.

The Redskins take a 35-28 lead with 8:19 left on an 8-yard Clinton Portis run, but the Buccaneers score a touchdown with 58 seconds left to make it 35-34.

The Redskins block the extra point, but are ruled offsides. The Buccaneers decide to give the ball to Alstott, who pounds it in from a yard out for a 36-35 Washington defeat.

The Redskins also drop their next two games, 16-13 to Norv Turner’s Raiders and 23-17 to Marty Schottenheimer’s Chargers, falling to 5-6 on the season.

But wins of 24-9 over the Rams and 17-13 over the Cardinals bring the Redskins to 7-6, setting up a rematch against Dallas.

The home game vs. the Cowboys is almost as satisfying as the road game, albeit in completely different fashion: Mark Brunell throws four first-half TD passes for a 28-0 halftime lead, and the Redskins win, 35-7.

The Giants are next. In their first matchup, the Redskins were humiliated 36-0.

Three different players throw a TD pass for Washington in the second game. Brunell throws a 59-yard touchdown to Moss to make it 14-10 Redskins after the first quarter. Clinton Portis throws a 17-yard TD to TE Chris Cooley in the second quarter for a 21-10 lead. And after Brunell is knocked from the game, Patrick Ramsey finds Moss for a 72-yard touchdown. The Redskins go on to win, 35-20.

At 9-6, the Redskins would need a road win against the Eagles to guarantee their first playoff berth since 1999. The game is on January 2.

2006

Two Mike McMahon TD passes to Reggie Brown give the Eagles a 17-7 second quarter lead. The Redskins make it 17-10 at halftime, and still trail 20-17 as the fourth quarter begins.

LB Lemar Marshall intercepts McMahon with 12:37 to go. On just one play, the Redskins take the lead with Clinton Portis’ 22-yard touchdown run, making it 24-20.

It’s still 24-20 when a Washington punt gives Philadelphia the ball on their own 25 with 3:11 to go. Koy Detmer has replaced McMahon at quarterback.

On third-and-five, Detmer goes to pass and is sacked by DE Phillip Daniels. Sean Taylor recovers the fumble and returns it 39 yards for the clinching touchdown.

The 31-20 win sets up a rematch with the Buccaneers for the Wild Card game.

 

Advertisements

Robert Griffin vs. the Chargers, 11/3/2013

According to ESPN’s QBR, this game represents the most “clutch-weighted expected points added on plays with pass attempts” a quarterback has ever produced since 2006. It’s an unexpected quarterback in an unexpected season.

Griffin’s traditional stat line in the game wasn’t spectacular: 23-32, 291 yards, 0 TD and an interception. Certainly that pales to the #2 game on ESPN’s list, Ben Roethlisberger’s 40-49-522-6-0 against the Colts in 2014.

Now, ESPN’s QBR has been known to glitch occasionally. For a long time, the best game by raw QBR was an unimpressive-looking Charlie Batch game. That is no longer the case.

But, assuming that’s accurate, was Griffin’s game really that good? Probably not, but it was better than traditional stats, or at least his touchdown-to-interception ratio, suggest.

For starters, Griffin did not get sacked in the Chargers game. That was rare for him–in fact, he only avoided a sack one other time in 42 career starts, against the Giants in 2012.

The Redskins also converted 12 of their 17 third downs in this game, and Griffin’s passing played a large role in that. All of his third down pass plays from the game:

  • 8 yards on 3rd and 6
  • 14 yards on 3rd and 11
  • 7 yards on 3rd and 6
  • 4 yards on 3rd and 5
  • 38 yards on 3rd and 12
  • 11 yards on 3rd and 6 (after a delay of game)
  • 6 yards on 3rd and 8 (setting up a 47-yard field goal)
  • incomplete on 3rd and 3
  • 12 yards on 3rd and 8

That made Griffin 8-9 for 100 yards and 6 first downs on the game when passing on third down, with one of the non-first downs turning a 53-yard kick into a 47-yard one. That is certainly productive, and the 15-23-191 line it leaves on first and second down looks pretty solid, too.

It’s hard to find anything that would seriously turn this into one of the great passing games of the last twelve years, however. Griffin only had 33 passing DYAR for this game on Football Outsiders. His interception came at his own one-yard line and became a touchdown.

So chalk this up to more QBR weirdness, even if looking beneath the surface does show some positive aspects of this game.

Top 10 in Movies, TV, and Music

I’d actually be really interested in anyone else’s list(s), whoever you are, if you’re interested in sharing. A comment here is perfectly fine, or a response at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WJBSLM7 works too.

MOVIES

1. Airplane!
2. The Big Lebowski
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
4. UHF
5. Office Space
6. Idiocracy
7. Citizen Kane
8. This Is Spinal Tap
9. Memento
10. Chinatown

TV SHOWS

1. Jeopardy!
2. Archer
3. Blackadder
4. South Park
5. Futurama
6. The Simpsons
7. Whose Line Is It Anyway?
8. Star Trek: The Next Generation
9. Saturday Night Live
10. The Twilight Zone

MUSICAL ARTISTS

1. VNV Nation
2. Creedence Clearwater Revival
3. “Weird Al” Yankovic
4. The Beatles
5. The Who
6. Ronald Jenkees
7. Talking Heads
8. Mike Oldfield
9. Fleetwood Mac
10. Led Zeppelin

Baseball’s 5 Dumbest Unwritten Rules

I won’t be the first person to rail on baseball’s unwritten rules. I won’t even be the first person to present my railing as a top five list; Jason Foster of Sporting News did that in 2015.

That said, a couple weeks back, I was basically dared on Twitter to write about baseball’s unwritten rules, which I interpret to mean that I have to do it.

I’m going to use this 2012 Bleacher Report post from Dan Tylicki on 25 of baseball’s unwritten rules as my source. Many of the “rules” therein are pretty standard baseball strategies and tactics. But some of them are dumb strategies and tactics. So my list won’t necessarily consist only of the obvious, player-vs.-player unwritten rules that Foster talked about. (Although it will.)

Here are, in my opinion, the five worst of BR’s 25 unwritten rules of baseball.

5. Don’t Talk About a No-Hitter in Progress

This one is pretty innocuous, but it’s also pretty dumb. Only a few people have control over what happens in a baseball game on any given pitch or play: the pitcher and hitter every time, and the umpire, catcher, fielders, and Lady Luck much of the time as well. Fans, announcers, teammates in the dugout or bullpen can say or not say what they want and have no effect on the game.

All of baseball’s superstitions are silly, but this is the only one Tylicki included in his article, so it’s the one I’ll mention too. At any rate, it is also probably the most conspicuous of the game’s superstitions.

4. Follow the Umpire’s Code

Tylicki speaks of a general code, which might be harmless enough, but when I think of an umpire having a code, it’s not quite like that.

I would guess that only some umpires really have a “code”–and I’m probably pondering what you’re pondering, but isn’t Angel Hernandez too stereotypical to be his real name?

If an umpire has a code, this rule can just lead to ejections, #umpshow hashtags, and general dissatisfaction as soon as the umpire makes a bad call and takes it out on the disadvantaged team. The umpires should follow the “Players’ Code” and the “Fans’ Code” before enforcing their own, and leave the entertainment to the players.

I guess the stupid part of this rule isn’t as much that the players sometimes follow it, but that they sometimes have to.

3. Don’t Step on the Pitcher’s Mound/Don’t Step in Front of Umpire or Catcher on Way to Batter’s Box

I’ll put these two together. I’m not sure why it matters where you walk. I didn’t realize pitchers were this sensitive, although I suppose throughout the years there has been plenty of circumstantial evidence that should have tipped us off.

I know that these are pretty minor rules. You hear about them only rarely; Tylicki points out perhaps the most famous incident, involving A-Rod and Dallas Braden. I was with A-Rod on that one.

If this list were about a combination of the rules’ stupidity and their prevalence, this wouldn’t rate. But when discussing only the former as someone who always prefers the quickest way from Point A to Point B, I will put this rule here.

2. Unwritten Rules Themselves

Yes, this is somewhat of a cop-out. But is there any other sport where you could make an article about 25 unwritten rules? Imagine such a thing as tackling too hard in footb–okay, maybe that’s not the best example. But still.

All of these things are just more trouble than they’re worth. This sounds almost libertarian, but players should play the game the way they want to, as long as it doesn’t infringe on other players doing the same. And no, walking on the mound does not infringe on anyone’s ability to play the game; getting mad at someone for walking on the mound comes much closer to doing that.

Basically, I’m just saying anything that is, a) within the written rules and b) doesn’t threaten another player, is fine to do on a baseball field. Which reminds me…

1. If a Pitcher Hits a Teammate, Hit One of Theirs

Or, as Foster put it, “Retaliate! Retaliate! Retaliate!” I’m going to broaden this one to including hitting a player for any reason, not just as a hit-back.

Five years ago, I probably thought any kind of retaliation was part of the game. Actually, that’s probably not quite true, but if there was a turning point, it came in 2012 during the Hamels-Harper episode. (Although Hamels wasn’t even retaliating for anything–which makes it waaay dumber, but not technically a violation of the rule, I suppose.)

Now, I consider the bluntness and density of a baseball to preclude any other use for it besides the intended one. This year’s Strickland-Harper incident only confirmed to me the stupidity of retaliation. Although, as with Hamels, that was a particularly ridiculous situation. But maybe being a Nationals fan civilized me in this aspect.

It’s a little cliche to say that intentional beanings would be assault in any other context, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Teams should play baseball, not kill-the-other-guy-because-he-made-me-mad.

I suppose this rule perpetuates because too many teams are worried that they’ll be the only ones disengaged and thus sitting ducks.

But retaliation for getting beat is a different animal than hit-me-hit-you, eye-for-an-eye mentality. I understand the latter at a base level; the former is just stupid. And even the latter is dumb if the HBP you’re reacting to was accidental. And, of course, there’s often no way to know for sure.

Just, this idea of increasing the odds that you severely injure or kill someone–leave it alone.

A Couple Other Rules

You may be wondering what I think of the “rules” regarding home run admiration and bunting to break up a no-hitter. (You probably aren’t.) I agree that both are dumb, but both also have mitigating circumstances.

I hate when a player gets a single instead of a double because he thought he had a home run. That’s especially annoying when he ends up stranded on third at the end of the inning. So I’d want my players running out of the box as just a precaution. But after the ball is over the fence? Do what you want to celebrate; you just hit a home run in Major League Baseball, and you may never get the chance again.

As for bunting to break up a no-hitter, yeah, this is probably a dumb rule…but as a fan, I don’t want no-hitters being broken up by a bunt either. I got mad enough at Jose Tabata leaning into an HBP against Max Scherzer in 2015.

Anyway, there you have it: a thousand words on baseball’s unwritten rules.

Redskins; Twitter; Sporcle

Washington Redskins

There hasn’t been much noise about the Redskins’ nickname since the Washington Post took its survey on the name in 2016. However, the name has been an issue to some degree for at least forty years, so controversy will return at some point.

Alternatives have been proposed when the name controversy raged louder, but I’ve never found them to be satisfactory. Perhaps the two most circulated have been Warriors and Red Tails. Both seem forced.

I lot of my ideas were even worse: the Washington 33ers (after star QB Sammy Baugh), the Washington Joes (after Coach Gibbs), or the Washington Valley Forgers. That last one might actually be cool if Valley Forge hadn’t been an unmitigated disaster for George Washington’s army. The Washington Federals might work if the USFL team hadn’t been an unmitigated disaster.

I did finally come up with something that I like, and I tweeted it out the other day. Please check out the concept and see what you think. If there’s demand, I can elaborate on why I like this name in a future post, but for now, I leave it at that.

Twitter Handles

Here’s one where I’m interested in your experiences. If this subject turns out to be something you’ve thought about, I’d like to hear from you.

First off, as you might have guessed, “hscer” is not my real name.

My question is, do you use a pseudonym or your real name on Twitter? Did you originally have a pseudonym and then reveal or start going by your full name? If you did make a switch, what went into that decision–specifically, I guess, was it for professional reasons or different ones?

This last question might be the key because I see my account as a personal one where I tweet about personal interests. If I ever create a more professional account, that one would use my real name.

And then I would think I’d wanted to have kept my current account private, no?

A few of my followers do know me from real life, but it’s not nearly a majority. What might be a majority is my Facebook friends who know what I go by on Twitter and/or the blog here. I think there’s also evidence of at least my first name on this blog somewhere.

Anyway, my Twitter name/handle is something that’s been on my mind for a while and I’d greatly appreciate any feedback you might have to offer.

Sporcle

I really do want at least three sections in each of my posts, to maximize the chances that readers can find something they care about. I don’t think a third topic is always going to happen, but when none comes to me, I do have a plan for getting around it.

As the header implies, that’s Sporcle.

At the moment, I have over 700 quizzes (in all 15 categories Sporcle features), so when I don’t have enough ideas for a blog post, I’m just going to link to one or two of my quizzes. They are usually going to be ones that I like but that have fewer than 100 plays.

I also won’t post a quiz here that is in the same field as a prior section. In other words, using today for an example, I won’t post a quiz about the NFL or about Twitter right now. (I don’t actually have any quizzes about Twitter. It’s just an example!)

Today I’m going to go with a musical choice: Cities in Songs but not the Title. You get the song, artist, and a lyric containing the name of a city which is not in the title of the song. (So nothing like “New York, New York” or “Walking in Memphis.”) The goal is basically to fill in a blank with the name the city.

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading!

Blog Plan and Link Dump

TL;DR – Come to the blog every Monday and Friday for concise posts about multiple topics, at least one of which will hopefully interest you.

Like I said at an absurd hour on Monday morning, I am going to be posting to this blog biweekly now.

A couple days later, I even have a plan.

In the past, I’ve written about a broad, almost-random array of subjects, but only one at a time. In other words, I might talk about presidents one day and quarterbacks the next.

However, that becomes somewhat of a crapshoot for you, the reader. What if presidential history interests you, but sports bore you? Or you like football, but not basketball? It could take months before I write something you’d want to read.

My plan for the blog attempts to rectify that. I plan to make each entry to consist of 3-5 vignettes of no more than 250 words each. (They may be much shorter.) You can scour for the headlines and read the interesting parts.

The topic of each vignette will still vary, but chances are–I hope–that you will find one or two items that interest you.

This plan begins Monday. Well, actually Tuesday this coming week, seeing as it’s Memorial Day weekend. But most weeks the first post will come Monday.

What I’m doing instead today is linking to some of my older blog posts. They are longer than 250 words, but the idea is to give you a sense of what I’ve written about before. Some of you may already have a notion, but others may not. I may even have some new readers just for this post.

Again, these posts are longer than I am now planning for, but they will tell you the kinds of things I write about.

By no means am I going to limit the blog to these topics. Anything that strikes my fancy could become part of a post. I hope you come back.

Getting Back to Regularity

It is almost 2 AM eastern time. I meant to go to sleep hours ago. Weird things happen to me under these circumstances. Like short, lazily-written sentence fragments. And reading through seven years of old posts.

But maybe good things will happen too. I’ve decided I should update regularly. Daily is hard, but perhaps Mondays and Fridays to start. Like, something for the week and something for the weekend.

What will I write about? Pretty much anything. In the early going, whatever subject comes to mind may be all I can come up with in a week, forcing me to go with it. But sports, history, music, and television will be among the potential topics. Wait, that sounds familiar. *Looks up at blog header.*

Unfortunately, this post will have to suffice as the first product of my newfound motivation. But, as Washington Nationals television play-by-play announcer Bob Carpenter says on his home run call, “See. You. Later.”