D.C. Sports, the Best of 2008

Dan Steinberg
D.C. Sports Bog
Monday, January 5, 2009 11:00 AM

From Soulja Boy at the Verizon Center, Caps fans rocking mohawks, Clinton Portis sounding off on the radio, Gilbert Arenas's swimming pool and Chris Cooley's private parts, 2008 offered local sports fans plenty to talk about. Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog was online Monday, Jan. 5 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the top D.C.-area sports stories of the year.

The transcript follows.


Dan Steinberg: Hey people, the goal here was sort of to discuss my year-end list of the top 11 d.c. sports moments of 2008, but feel free to ask me 73 questions about LeBron James and the crab dribble, or The Post's Redskins obsession, or my daughter's cold, or anything else.


Less On The Redskins, More On Other Sports, PLEASE: One of the biggest issues (for me) about DC sports is The Post's overcoverage of the Redskins at the expense of everything else. Why are there multiple reporters on that beat in the offseason while The Post sends interns to cover major league baseball, soccer and hockey games because the single reporter assigned to each team needs a day off? Aren't there any general assignment reporters on the Sports desk? Doesn't Post management have a sense of perspective to realize that Washington sports is more than football?

Dan Steinberg: We hear this comment all the time, from fans of every team besides the Redskins, and even, sometimes, from Redskins fans. But when you look at the only objective data on reader interest we have (readership surveys and Web traffic), the Skins just demolish everything else. Even as their season went down the toilet and the Caps caught fire, Skins Web traffic was just about untouchable.

So while I sympathize with the sentiment, and see other towns where coverage is much more balanced, if you were running a fruit store in an age when fruit stores everywhere were under siege, and your customers said above all else they liked your apples, would you really try to shove more kiwis down their throats?

And I think the age of general assignment sports reporters has pretty much passed us by, sadly.


Arlington, Va.: Thanks for writing about the crab dribble.

Ever heard the term before?

LeBron said the ball was "still live" when he's taken a step after the ball has been dribbled and returned to his hand. Doesn't make any sense to me. Seems like 4 steps and a travel, right?

washingtonpost.com: LeBron, DeShawn and the Travel

Dan Steinberg: Well, I counted three steps. But either way.

I had never heard the phrase "crab dribble," but Antawn Jamison was familiar with it. Actually, if you google it, the first result (as of last night) was some kind of coaching explanation of the crab dribble. It was lengthy, too.

What will be interesting to see: now that LeBron has gone on record explaining the legality of the crab dribble, will other officials be on the lookout for it? Will they feel emboldened to whistle him for traveling on his "trademark" move?


Larusso, Va.: 2008 brought lots of "prospects" and "potential" to the DC area. From Horton/Thomas/Kelly (Skins), to Varlamov (Caps) to Young/McGee (Wiz) to Detwiller/Balester (Nats) there are plenty of up and comers. How about at The Washington Post? Any writers or bloggers we should look out for in the near future?

Dan Steinberg: Ha, I thought you were going to ask me to compare JaVale to Devin Thomas to Varlamov. And I would have been able to make a joke about footballs and Devin Thomas and the five hole, possibly.

At the risk of leaving anyone out, Katie Carrera has done a great job helping out on the Capitals Insider, and will be doing more Caps stories for the paper. Paul Tenorio usually does high school stuff, but has ably assisted on the Redskins, and also knows exactly what makes a great sports bog post. Steve Yanda is in charge over at the Terps Insider. And expect great things from official D.C. Sports Bog correspondent Lindsay Appleblog in 2009.

Also, I believe newspapers aren't going to be allowed to hire anyone after 2009, so don't expect any more up and comers after this crop.


Arlington, Va.: So would the refs have called MJ in his heyday for traveling if he did the same move as LeBron?

Anyone check the betting action on this game?

Dan Steinberg: Personally, Jordan's move always looked more sellable to me. Like at least there was a wink in the direction of trying to make it look like two steps. Whereas LeBron just sort of picks up the ball and starts running around.

And, for the inevitable betting questions, the line was Cavs by 9, so it's hard to come up with an appropriate conspiracy theory in any direction. I guess if people were betting the money line, assuming that exists for NBA games. But at that point, you might as well assume people were betting the over-under on travels against LeBron this season.


Washington, D.C.: Did you hear that Agent Zero has started playing 2-on-2 games? I understand that he won, but does anybody know if he has recovered any burst?

Dan Steinberg: Well, I was there in the locker room yesterday when he was telling Comcast SportsNet's Chris Miller about his recent 2 on 2 games. He said the usual--he's feeling good, his team won, etc etc. I think we've all heard way too many "things are looking up" bites from Gilbert over the last 20 months to put any sort of faith in his reports.

Since he so often ends up playing these kind of games with Nick Young and Dominic McGuire, I guess it'd be good to ask their scouting report on Gil, but I don't think any of this matters until we see what he can do in a real game. In October, 2009, I'm guessing.


McLean, Va.: Shouldn't the mandatory rookie meetings of the professional sports leagues include a history of the various "what-were-they-thinking" actions by previous members? What was your favorite in 2008?

Dan Steinberg: Wait, does this mean rookies only? Gotta be the Kansas guys getting tossed from the rookie summit, right?

If all ages are eligible, I still like A-Rod's marital drama and tabloid friend, though my fellow panelists on Washington Post Live last week chose Plaxico and his firearm. Which to me was more sad than "what were they thinking."


Stone Ridge, Va.: Who'd win in a fight between your wife and Semin? Between your daughter and Semin?

Dan Steinberg: Semin's fight on Saturday night was glorious. By the way, did anyone decide who won or lost that fight? I mean, technically, it'd be hard to say Semin didn't "win," even if it was an unconventional and possibly humiliating victory for him. Great time for his "I don't speak English" defense to bail him out.


Radford, Va.: When will Jon Forsythe get his own spin-off blog? His editing of Jason Reid's blunders was amazing and his interview of the Nationals Elijah Dukes at a golf range in the middle of the night was hilarious. I'd be interested in seeing what other material he can come up with.

Dan Steinberg: I'll roll with this question, even though it was clearly written by either Jon Forsythe's parents, best friends or by Jon Forsythe.

Anyhow, Jon does indeed do a tremendous job editing blog-worthy videos, but I think he's in a higher pay grade than most bloggers, so he should probably just keep doing what he's doing. Maybe I can convince the powers that be to send us both to Hawaii for some Chris Cooley, Clinton Portis and Mike Sellers Pro Bowl hilarity. Or to Montreal for the same deal with Ovechkin, Boudreau and Backstrom.


Washington, D.C.: There's a bowling alley in the White House and the new prez, who rang up a 37, is going to need some lessons. Who among the local sports community would you recommend to provide some tutoring? Haywood? Zorn? Smoot?

Dan Steinberg: Great question. Gilbert Arenas is the only local athlete I know of who's been featured in a PBA press release, so he'd be near the top of the list. Plus, he could show the new prez his Obama tattoo. Jason Campbell also frequently bowls, and has gone with random neighborhood children, if I'm remembering correctly. Jim Zorn may be tainted by his previous White House recreational activities. Smoot definitely bowls.

More importantly, for the first time last night, someone mentioned to me the inevitability of Obama going to the Verizon Center for a Wiz-Bulls game. Huge basketball fan, living something like 12 blocks from the arena....that HAS to happen, right? Here's hoping he stops by the Greene Turtle to get a pre-game shot of Tuff Juice. (more on that later)


Arlington, Va.: The best of 2008? Well, opening night at Nationals Park was truly great! Especially with Ryan Zimmerman's game-winning walkoff! Can't say the same about the rest of the season, but it really WAS a great beginning.

Dan Steinberg: I watched that on TV, and I think some of the greatness was lost. The opening homestand ended that night, and the team's playoff run ended something like three nights later, so I think it was easy to overlook. I had it at honorable mention, which was probably too low if you count in the long-term memory aspect, but it was just hard to think of a positive Nats story as deserving to be on a 2008 list.

Would the Nats Park opening have made your list absent the walk-off? I'm still shocked how little "let's go to the new park!" buzz there was last year. Despite the veggie dogs, too.


Aldie, Va.: Steinz! Sorry to hear about Ida's cold (fun when they sneeze on you - you'd think it's boogers, but it's not...)

Anyhoo, how's about bringing back Robin Ficker to sit behind the Cav's bench the next time they're in town? At least track him down and get his thoughts/advice...

Dan Steinberg: Advice would be welcome from D.C.'s most legendary heckler. Though an email buddy of mine actually tried to get Ficker to come out to the Wiz-Cavs series last spring, and thought it was gonna happen, before things fell through. As I recall, Ficker has never been to the Verizon Center, and claims he will never go.

LeBron did briefly get into it with some Wiz fans who were sitting right behind the Cavs bench last night. (Wearing Ravens purple, regrettably.) The Wiz fans claimed LeBron used lots of naughty words. A Cavs fan sitting with them claimed they were making that part up. I'm pretty sure none of it rose to Ficker levels, but my favorite Wiz heckler Nate did yell "YOU ARE THE DEVIL!" when LeBron was introduced pre-game.


Washington, D.C.: Do you think you can convince your editor to let you cover the first stop on the Nats Caravan later this month in Martinsburg, W.V.? I have a feeling it would make for an entertaining story, as I doubt the Nats have many fans from the hollows in West Virginia.

Dan Steinberg: Well, part of me thinks this would be entertaining, indeed.

The other part of me thinks that if our Web stories about the actual Washington Nationals, while playing in Washington, attract flies, then driving to West Virginia to write about the Washington Nationals hanging out in the exurbs might not be the greatest possible use of time. Now, if the Giant Racing Presidents come to the supermarket in my neighborhood, I am totally there.



Dan Steinberg: And here is that video mentioned below, of the Jon Forsythe-edited Jason Reid outtakes. I literally cried somewhere around the two minute mark.


Oakton, Va.: Dan, Abe Pollin has gotten alot of criticism for being cheap, which I think we would all agree that he is.

But as far as acquiring players, is it fair to say that the return on investment for the Wizards to get a superstar player would be considerable less that a larger market team?

For example, if Chicago or LA or New York got LeBron, that owner would not only increase the quality of his team, but he would be able to make a lot of money. If the Wizards got LeBron, the financial windfall wouldn't be a great or maximal given the fact that this is a smaller market, the Redskins dominate this area, etc.

So does that mean we will never get a Kobe, LeBron, Garnett type player, regardless of who the owner is? Unless we luck into one like the Caps did with Ovechkin?

Dan Steinberg: Not sure I buy this. For one thing, I seem to recall a dude named Michael Jordan playing here a little ways back. Obviously there were some strange circumstances with that one, but still, it happened. And the whole "unless we luck into one" could also apply to LeBron in Cleveland, or Chris Paul in New Orleans, or any other number of NBA stars.

Sure, massive free agents in baseball and basketball tend to gravitate toward the big cities on the coasts, but Gilbert did seem on his way toward being a mega star in 2007, before he got hurt. Sure, D.C.'s probably starting at a disadvantage, but I just don't think it's impossible.


Manassas, Va.: For the Nats, what about the macabre story about ferrying drunken fans on 12 foot open-air double-decker buses under 15 foot overpasses? Arguably no pain was felt...

Dan Steinberg: Well, this might have been a tasteless way to phrase it, but yeah, that was a memorable story, in a bad way. I try to avoid tragedy, when possible, in my lists of great moments, though I did include some of the Sean Taylor stuff a year ago.


Fairfax, Va.: It's only January 5th, but what's your top 3 list for 2009 look like so far? Is yesterday's "Crab Dribble Game" #1?

Dan Steinberg: It's actually been a pretty good few days, right? The Crab Dribble game and the Semin fight will both be hard to forget, as will the Caps setting the mark for best start in franchise history.

Georgetown-Pittsburgh? Not hard to forget. GW-Longwood? Not hard to forget.

Here's an early prediction: some major calamity or Daniel Snyder eruption would have to occur to prevent the Caps from being No. 1 on my year-end list next December.


South Riding, Va.: How often do you or your reporting brethren ask the random Cleveland player/coach/press/fan/bum about life after LeBron when he inevitably skips town for the Knicks?

Dan Steinberg: That seems cruel, no? Here's a quote from Brendan Haywood yesterday:

"It's all about injuries. You take away LeBron and Ilgauskas and I guarantee [the Cavs] would have like seven, eight wins right now. Hell, give them Ilgauskas and take away LeBron and they'd still have like seven, eight wins. Look for a season like this from Cleveland in 2010."



Burke, Va.: As a certified Skins-hater, there's NO doubt that this market wants more Skins news, more often, Skins 24/7, Skins nights, Skins weekends. I realize that chokes the puckheads and Barra Brava, but that's life in D.C. Sportsyak 980 (on the DSTTRN (the "Danny Snyder Teeny Tiny Radio Network") gets the same complaints. People want their Skins. Les Boulez are a distant second; the Nats a more distant third, the Caps have 12,500 fans, and they're at every game. Don't ask me about soccer.

Dan Steinberg: Well, this might be going too far. And, as of this writing, there's no way the Bullets and Nats are ahead of the Caps. I mean, unless those 12,500 are bringing clones to games, and hitting refresh on the same Caps stories on our web site over and over and over again just to skew the numbers. My current fan-interest ratings:

1. Redskins

2. Capitals

3. [No interest detected]


Crab dribble: Here's my translation of LeBron's story:

"It wasn't a travel, it was a carry. And since the carry is even less of a violation than the travel in the NBA, they shouldn't have called it."

Is that accurate?

Dan Steinberg: I think "crab dribble" is an awesome phrase, regardless of its merits. LeBron used it at least three times in about six minutes of discussion last night.

You might be right. The Cavs beat guy, Brian Windhorst, thinks the "crab" part of the "crab dribble" refers to the hands more than the feet. But the problem is LeBron may have been discussing the beginning of his move, and where the steps began, while the call seemed to be about the end of the move, sort of regardless of how he got into it. To me, LeBron is arguing that he didn't take FOUR steps, and only three.


"some major calamity or Daniel Snyder eruption would have to occur to prevent the Caps from being No. 1 on my year-end list next December.": You mean the Nats' World Series victory will only be No. 2?

Dan Steinberg: Fine, the Nats drawing TV viewership of 14,000 for their World Series victory would probably qualify.


Alexandria, Va.: I didn't come here today to comment on the Post's coverage of the Skins vs. the rest of the field. But since you're first post addressed it, I want to chime in.

Isn't The Post's coverage of the Skins a "self-fulfilling-prophecy?" That is, it attracts the die hard Skins fan who cannot get enough while driving away the fans of the Caps/Nats/Wiz/United/etc. So, your web traffic will obviously reflect that.

As a Nats fan, what has there been for me to click on lately? A weekly update on Nats Journal?

Dan Steinberg: Well, to some extent, it's possible. But virtually ever Skins story in a typical November or December week will get more traffic than virtually every Caps story. There just aren't THAT many alternate sources of daily Caps news to allow thousands of die hard Caps fans, disgusted by our coverage decision, to tune us out completely. I think part of the issue is that the Redskins' reach extends a lot further geographically, so people from Virginia Beach and North and South Carolina will come to us for Skins news, adding to the size of that Web audience.

And things like television ratings would also suggest that our Web traffic isn't horribly out of line with the amount of interest. Right now, the clear order of TV ratings is Redskins, Capitals, Bullets, Nationals.


Alexandria, Va.: Has your daughter's cold given her the crab dribble? Wait, what?

Dan Steinberg: See, it's just a great phrase.


Somewhere in DC: What's up with GW basketball? The were great a few years ago...and now not only are they terrible, the schedule is weak, and there are no great players on the horizon. Is it time for a new coach?

Dan Steinberg: Pops Mensah-Bonsu was at the Wizards game yesterday. Just FYI. He's rehabbing his shoulder (? I think) injury and hopes to be back in the D League very soon.

I think most fans of GW basketball would admit that they got a bit lucky with that famous recruiting class that led to the 27-win team. Pops, Mike Hall and Omar Williams all fell a bit under the recruiting radar, for various reasons, and to have all three as experienced seniors at the same time led to some special moments.

I don't follow them nearly as closely as I used to, but I will say this: their schedule is not completely controlled by the coach. That seems to be an organizational approach. Even when the team was great, the schedule was so-so.


Dan Steinberg: Ok, I guess I'll go back to writing about shots called Tuff Juice and urinal art inside the Verizon Center. Thanks for all the questions about my year-end best moments list. Oh, that's right, there were none. Well, thanks for all the crab dribble mentions, anyhow.


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