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An Offseason Show Worth Watching

By George Solomon
Sunday, May 1, 2005

No need -- in the vernacular of ABC's "Wide World of Sports" -- to span the globe looking for sports this past week. Just stay here, sit back and enjoy:

The Redskins spent the week trying to justify their two-day draft performance that saw them take Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers in the first round (the ninth overall pick) and then, at a cost of three high draft choices, Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell later in the first round (the 25th selection).

Team president and coach Joe Gibbs said the selection of Campbell was the "best value" for the team -- his words sounding more like the president of Bob Peck Chevrolet or Jim Coleman Toyota. He then had praise for the other picks: fullback Manuel White of UCLA in the fourth round, linebacker Robert McCune of Louisville in the fifth round, linebacker Jared Newberry of Stanford in the sixth and fullback Nehemiah Broughton of The Citadel in the seventh.

That said, assessing the draft is impossible until the final roster is set in September and the team begins playing for real. Obviously, the people most responsible for making these choices -- Gibbs, owner Dan Snyder and personnel chief Vinny Cerrato -- have a lot at stake, including the direction of the Snyder-owned franchise that colleague Sally Jenkins writes is stuck in a "systemic rot." Systemic rot? Wow, I thought that referred to my front lawn -- not the local NFL team.

A competing team executive who knows Gibbs well said the drafting of the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Campbell was not a surprise, considering the importance Gibbs places on quarterbacks. The executive told me Gibbs believes the most important player on the team is the starting quarterback and the second most important player is the No. 2 quarterback.

If that's accurate, Gibbs moves into mini-campland a happy guy, regardless of whether prima donna safety Sean Taylor chooses ever to answer Gibbs's calls, or wide receiver Santana Moss ever accepts his first-class plane ticket from Miami to Dulles. Gibbs said Ramsey remains his starter going into camp, with insiders believing Campbell is a year or two away from being ready, Mark Brunell a candidate for a buyout (I know about such matters) to become a Sunday columnist on the team's Web site, with Tim Hasselbeck hitting the job-search key on his computer.

Wizardry in Doubt

The Wizards' two-game performance in Chicago took some luster from the team's first home playoff game since 1997 and first playoff contest ever at MCI Center. During the week, some alarmists were concerned scads of empty seats would greet the team as it seeked to erase a 2-0 deficit to the Bulls.

The Wizards sold out yesterday's game against the Bulls, except for a few scattered single tickets, by Friday, according to Matt Williams, vice president for Washington Sports and Entertainment. "The last few thousand tickets always move late," Williams said yesterday.

Nevertheless, selling out a playoff game here should not be so tough, except for the fact the team hasn't had much experience selling playoff tickets of late. Also, the tickets are expensive, rain was forecast (oh, the game is inside), Feinstein is doing a reading of his latest book at a nearby Borders, the Nats are home against the Mets at 7, D.C. United in on TV at Kansas City at 4, there's a Redskins' rookie minicamp going on and Gilbert Arenas is running out of jerseys.

The Wizards had a great regular season, but their defense was among the worst in the NBA. Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Larry Hughes were not able in the two games in Chicago to compensate for the team's defense, allowing the likes of Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni and Ben Gordon to look like a combination of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Still, "Remember the Red Sox."

Peter's World

The mind-boggling situation involving the televising of the Nationals improved Friday with the announcement that Peter Angelos's Mid-Atlantic Sports Network and DirecTV cut a deal that puts an additional 68 games on Channel 626, to go with the 67 games on WDCA-20, with more games to be shown next year, as well. If you don't have access to DirecTV, or your cable provider isn't delivering the goods, well, what can I say other than the Nats' radio team is good and tickets are available.

Meanwhile, My Man Angelos got an additional mega-million-dollar windfall from MLB for the Nats' stake in his network to cover the $20 million dollar rights fees he pays the Nats to televise their games, according to Friday's Washington Times. This is some deal for Angelos, who has a 90-10 advantage over the Nats in the TV cut. I don't know how this MASN-Comcast SportsNet litigation will turn out, except to suggest that the dueling parties should consider the fans more than they have.

"The more TV dates for us, the better," said Nats prez Tony Tavares, who needs to get his MLB boss, Bud Selig, more involved in these negotiations.

I loved the 4:35 start at RFK Wednesday for the game against the Phillies that drew 27,483 for the 3-0 Philadelphia win.

Tavares also liked the starting time, but not the hitters who said the late afternoon sun made it difficult to see. "Ah, excuses," said Tavares.

The first two games of the series with Philadelphia drew 24,956 and 23,332 -- not bad considering, as Tavares said, "it's going to be that way until school is out. We're 10,000 fans over where we thought we'd be." Still, the Nationals and MLB need to step up the marketing of the team -- including players appearing on TV, radio and in newspapers -- get more giveaways going and hang some banners around town.

Almost Corner Kicks

· D.C. United has shown class in working with the Nationals and the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission in converting the field from baseball to soccer. But last week came a complaint from MLS officials, reported by The Post's Steve Goff, that the end lines weren't straight. United has expressed unhappiness over the situation. Please, guys, maybe get some coaches from one of 6,000 kids leagues in town to make sure the field lines up straight. Not so hard to do, by the way.

· Getting my tuxedo fitted for the scheduled June 11 heavyweight fight between Mike Tyson and Kevin McBride at MCI Center. I used to be a big Tyson fan, until he began acting somewhat strangely before, during and after some matches. Perhaps fighting here will get his career back on track.

· Maryland's Ralph Friedgen needs to settle on a starting quarterback.

· Did the NFL have a hearing on steroids on Capitol Hill on Wednesday?

· The NCAA Board of Directors approving a 12th regular season game for Division 1A football teams in 2006 and ignoring calls for a legitimate playoff is a travesty.

· Are they running the Kentucky Derby next Saturday?

Have a question or comment, reach me at Talkback@washpost.com.

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