D.C. Sports Bogger
Tuesday, February 3, 2009 11:00 AM
Dan Steinberg was online Tuesday, Feb. 3 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss his latest posts from the D.C. Sports Bog, the complaints of Caps fans, the history of D.C. athletes and drugs and plenty more.
The transcript follows.
Dan Steinberg: It's another Tuesday morning at 11, which means I'm here to listen to your complaints about my hairstyle and the Washington Post's sports coverage.
Looking especially for Spring Training story and recreation ideas, Viera travel tips, complaints about Mike Wise and our Caps coverage, and a chance to offer a screed about the Michael Phelps story. Have at it.
Arcola, Va.: Have you attempted to interview Semin with Brash translating?
Dan Steinberg: The last time I was in the vicinity of a speaking Alexander Semin, Ted Leonsis happened to be standing next to us. Ted Leonsis is the man who signs Semin's checks. Semin was getting ready to speak to two Russian reporters, but Ted said, "first one question in English."
Stupidly, I figured when your boss tells you that, you comply. Semin said, in Russian, that he would not be answering one question in English.
So no, I basically have never had any sort of interaction with one of D.C.'s most skilled athletes. But I could use my three semesters of Russian to try to interview Brash in the mother tongue. That would be interesting.
Falls Church, Va.: Wizards fans are dying a slow death. The crowd at Verizon Center during Wizards games seems like they are at church service on Sunday mornings. On the other hand, VC seems like a totally different arena during Caps games. The only time I see Wiz fans showing any excitement at all is when they're handing out free burritos during time-outs. Man, I wish I had a burrito.
Dan Steinberg: Please state your rant in the form of a question.
The Wizards remain 2-0 this season in games attended by Dan Steinberg.
But you can't help but notice the thousands of folks dressed like purple seats during the TV broadcasts. I've said it before and I'll likely say it again: the upshot isn't that D.C. is turning into a HockeyTown; it's that D.C. is and forever will be WinnerTown. I mean, there are empty seats at the Comcast Center, six years after a national championship.
Washington, D.C.: Why are so many media elites getting their panties in a bunch over this? Half the country has smoked pot, including the past few presidents, and there's no real evidence that the public cares or minds that Phelps has too. I mean, what's the deal? Haven't any reporters smoked out?
Dan Steinberg: This was my cue for my screed, right?
Someone showed me the photo of Phelps right before Sunday's Caps game started. My reaction, "eh." This someone, Baltimore radio host Jerry Coleman, insisted it would be a massive national story by the end of the day. I went with "eh." He was right.
To my mind, there is massive public skepticism concerning Olympic athletes and performance enhancing drugs, in every single Olympic discipline with the possible exception of curling. We care about athletes because they compete, and the juice means the competition is flawed. That Michael Phelps lights up means nothing other than that he's a normal-ish (NORMLish?) American kid. For this to be a massively bigger media story than a typical positive 'roid test is just disgraceful, and ridiculous, and gut-churningly blood-boilingly stupid.
As for "real evidence that the public cares," our columns from John Feinstein and Sally Jenkins on this topic have done bonkers traffic this week. I guess I blew it by posting nothing, pun intended. So now I have my two-week intern searching the archives for great moments in Washington D.C. sporting marijuana use. Chris Webber, you're first up. What a world.
Washington, D.C.: Wait...Luci got hair extensions? I would hope there are multiple blog posts dedicated to this key turn of events coming soon.
Dan Steinberg: Well, just one blog post. Later today.
Luciano Emilio, D.C. United's star striker, indeed has showed up with hair extensions. It's real hair, he told us. Just not his. Yeah, there are photos.
And you don't know what depression is until you go home at night after a day of asking professional athletes about their hair for like the seven thousandth time.
South Riding, Va.: Is Leonsis your favorite owner?
Dan Steinberg: In the world? Or in D.C.?
He would win my "favorite owner in D.C." contest sort of by default, and largely because of massive generational gaps between me and the Wiz and Nats ownership. I had a pleasant conversation with Shelia Johnson once.
My only issue with Ted is that he enjoys frequently mentioning the impending demise of the newspaper industry. I guess it's fair enough, since we were all over his franchise during their down time, but I don't find looming unemployment particularly humorous.
But seriously, you can't argue with his fan interaction policy. It's pretty unique.
Fairfax, Va.: Remember when Gilbert Arenas was alive?
Dan Steinberg: Who's Gilbert Arenas?
Washington, D.C.: Dan, did you know that there's a hockey team in D.C.???
I think basing what you cover on survey's is misleading. People think Redskins because there's 37 pages of them every week. People think Wizards because Abe has brainwashed the media into thinking they're almost there (they're not). People think the Nats because there's actually two or more people who understand baseball.
What I don't like is that the Caps are selling out Verizon Center (not who is playing for the visiting team) with more of their fans than they ever have, and yet the Post still treats them like the red-headed step-child of DC. They ARE the real thing. The similarities between Snyder's mediocre team and Pollin's horrendous team are unreal. Both have high-priced over-the-hill talent with a secondary cast of rejects from other teams.
The Caps have a huge cast of stars and superstars with a whole other cast waiting in the wings. Let's have more Caps love. The more the Post covers the Caps, the more people want coverage of the Caps.
Dan Steinberg: Is this a serious question? Have you seen The Washington Post lately? Today the Caps were something like five columns on the front of the sports section (the day after an off day), while the Wiz were literally buried amid high school sports stories way inside the paper. It took us a few months, but the Post sports section is officially Caps-centric right now. Or am I missing something?
(And yes, that changes a bit when March Madness and the NFL draft approach, but there's no way we don't spill all sorts of ink on Red Rocking this spring. I'm already saving my travel budget for the playoffs. Please, let it not be Philadelphia.)
Actually, I've been trying to rank possible first-round playoff destinations, based on story lines, accessibility and quality of travel. I think Pittsburgh and Buffalo are one-two, with Montreal in third I guess.
Glover Park, D.C.: Hey Dan,
Do you ever listen to the BS Report on ESPN.com? I know it's not locally based and he takes digs at DC all the time, but it remains the best podcast (besides Talking Points) on the Internet.
washingtonpost.com: ESPN: The B.S. Report with Bill Simmons
Dan Steinberg: Can I give a shout-out to Dan Levy and his On the DL podcast, which is more sports media centric but also very very good?
I rarely listen to Bill, not because I don't like him, but because I don't have much of a commute and never really listen to podcasts. Are his shots at D.C. well-founded? I know at least one of his buddies lives here, and provides him with some material for his anti-D.C. screeds.
Leesburg, Va.: Have you kept in touch with the fun folks you met in Turin and Beijing? Any interesting follow-up stories?
Dan Steinberg: I still e-mail every now and again with Hans, the Canadian-born New Zealand-seasoned Kiwi Curler. I've gotten some e-mails from a few Italian kids I met who were big NBA fans. I've traded e-mails with a few Canadian and Kiwi media members from Turin.
China was a month-long hole in my life that I hope never to revisit, in any way. Though I think eventually I might try to get the star of the Icelandic handball team on the phone.
Rockville, Md.: Dan can you try to interview non Caps that don't speak english? For example, Jin Soo Kim? Maybe you could teach him some English and get him past his academic ineligibility...
Dan Steinberg: He's good now, right?
The language difficulties figure to rear their ugly heads again come baseball season, no?
I also had a mostly unproductive conversation with new United keeper Milos Kocic yesterday, but that was my fault. His English is fine. He did tell us that Serbs call pancakes "crepes." And something else, but the other word was a lot harder to remember than "crepe."
Fred and Emilio both have made significant efforts to learn English, which is great, because my Portuguese is totally remedial.
Aldie, Va.: So Dan, when in your opinion did the wheels start coming off the Wizards' bus?
Dan Steinberg: Spring of 2007? Never really been the same since Caron had that injury in Milwaukee.
I guess you trace the most recent collapse to Roger Mason's departure, which is a really bizarre thing to write. They were clearly already bad by the time they went to Europe, so the Blatche and Thomas and Stevenson injuries and the trades and all that were well past the time of derailment. Or De-wheelment, or whatever.
I'm easily swayed, and two wins would have me hunting for playoff odds, but I just have trouble seeing good times in the future, with or without Zero. Now, add a healthy Zero and a healthy Haywood and Blake Griffin and maybe we can talk.
Timonium, Md.: What if Michael Phelps had hired an illegal live-in maid and didn't pay unemployment taxes?
Just a thought.
Dan Steinberg: Or what if he had $100,000 in unreported income from having a car and driver?
Seriously, what are the great moments in D.C.'s sporting drug history? We're having some trouble coming up with many.
Reston, Va.: How is you going home to Buffalo an interesting first-round storyline for the Caps?
An interesting first-round matchup would be Florida, where you could interview every one of the dozen or so fans.
Dan Steinberg: Well, it was a very personal-based choice. I think Buffalo is a great town to go out in, and the Southwest flights are plentiful, and I'd get to see my family. Maybe not as valuable for the fans, though.
For pure storylines, I guess Pittsburgh and Philly are 1 and 1a, though I'd be extremely nervous about both were I a Caps fan.
I think Carolina is last on any list.
washingtonpost.com: On the DL with Dan Levy
Dan Steinberg: Here's the link to the Dan Levy podcast earlier plugged. Dan, I should note, is also a Washingtonpost.com contributor.
Arlington, Va.: I went uni in Melbourne (Florida Tech I guess they are calling it these days instead of F.I.T. in my day) and unless things have changed a whole lot since I was there last, I can say that there isn't really much to do in Viera. I suppose you could bop over the Melbourne Beach and hang out. The Melbourne Jai Alai fronton closed years ago. We used to go there once in a while to take a study break. Now it is all just one more overpaved part of Florida.
Dan Steinberg: Dang, I had already gotten my Jai Alai suit out of my closet.
Washingtonpost.com video guy Jon Forsythe has told me there's some sort of casino cruise. Josh Willingham and the boys will apparently have some fishing trips. I already asked the PR guy whether I lose clubhouse cred if I vomit in the boat.
Actually, the Caps are having their annual fathers' weekend right before I was going to arrive in Viera, so I'm still mildly considering the possibility of flying in earlier to try to meet up with the dads in Tampa. Not sure what brings greater traffic: D.C.'s pro baseball players, or the fathers of D.C.'s pro hockey players. I'll bet it's pretty close.
Bethesda, Md.: The Dodgers a rumored to have made Manny a one-year deal. Imagine what Manny could do over the course of just a year to revive D.C.'s dying franchise! The team might still lose more than its fair share of games, but the hoopla and publicity would put fans in the seats and do plenty to resuscitate the sick franchise.
On the other hand, if the Nats continue to stand pat, we can pretty much count the years left in the lease before yet another D.C. baseball team leaves for greener pastures.
Dan Steinberg: This is probably overly pessimistic. And I'd probably change "might still lose more than its fair share of games" to "will still stink worse than warm Stilton."
But I am one million percent with you, as Paula Abdul might say, and not just because I could write Manny every day of June, when nothing else is happening. I think for a non-competitive team, Manny sells just as many tickets as Tex, if not more. I wouldn't be above turning my team into a sideshow. Better than a no show.
Someone ask a question for my intern. His name is Redd.
Van Neezy, D.C.: Agent Steinz -- What are you excited about for the next month and a half or so (non-hockey) in local sports? I'm having a hard time staying interested with the sorry state of the Bullets and the fast-tanking local college hoops scene. What can I look forward to before DCU's season opens?
Dan Steinberg: I still love conference tournaments. The week or two before Selection Sunday is one of my favorite moments of the sports calendar, and I still love the ACC tournament, even if it doesn't mean anything close to what it used to in the days of one-bid BCS leagues.
The NFL draft should be amusing, for helicoptering purposes if nothing else. Plus Jim Zorn will be back in front of a mic, which never hurts.
Oh, and don't forget the Frozen Four. That's a legitimate event full of legitimately weird fans invading downtown. I know you said "non-hockey," but I'm interpreting that to mean "non-NHL."
Newark, Del.: Steinz,
Do you think, in honor of the Racing Presidents, the Caps should try something similar using former Politburo members or other characters from Russian/Soviet History?
Imagine an intermission skate off with Lenin, Trotsky, Rasputin and Stalin.
Dan Steinberg: Set to the tune of either Tchaikovsky or some modern Russian techno. Heck yeah, this is actually a great idea, though Caps fans seem less inclined to see their sports mixed with goofy in-game entertainment than some other fan bases.
Kind of crazy that four years in, Giant Racing Teddy is probably the third most popular member of the organization, behind Acta and Zim. I'd say it's a depressing sign, if Giant Racing Teddy didn't make me so darned happy every time.
Which reminds me: Feb. 15, Giant Racing Presidents tryouts. You have to be tallish, strongish, and weirdish. _______________________
Silver Spring, Md.: 2 things:
1. Buffalo would be a GREAT first-round Caps match-up because the Buffaslug fans always try to invade DC, and they REALLY hate Ovie.
2. Great Moments in DC Drug/Sport history. Lenny Bais. Okay, that didn't end so great. But my father was connected to the investigation surrounding his death, so I always found the whole thing strangely interesting.
Dan Steinberg: Yeah, in retrospect, maybe not the greatest idea. A lot of these seem to be way more tragic than amusing.
Though my intern just found this quote from Wes Unseld: he once said he watched plenty of players use pot and "act weird." More on that later.
Buffalo and Pittsburgh get (I believe) the top two TV ratings among U.S. hockey markets. I just think it's good for business whenever you can get tangled up with one of those fading rust belt towns. Weather aside, Florida and Carolina just don't strike me as compelling playoff destinations.
Atlanta: I had no idea the Frozen Four was in D.C. this year. Dan, this will be the best possible sports event for your bogging purposes. You will run out of space on your camera guaranteed.
Dan Steinberg: You see? Pep up, depressed D.C. sports fans.
How does one happen to be living in Atlanta, and interested enough in D.C. sports to be reading this chat, and familiar with the Frozen Four and its fans, but unaware that it was being held at the Verizon Center? Just curious.
Which team exactly should we be hoping gets a Frozen Four berth? Does any collegiate team have the acknowledged best fan base?
Washington, D.C.: Love these chats Dan, so thanks! Hope they become a regular Post feature. I also appreciate the effort in returning to covering the Wizards yesterday, though I can't help but feel your blog post was really just piling on poor Ed Tapscott. You and OJ Mayo...
washingtonpost.com: Morning Look: Hero Basketball on F Street
Dan Steinberg: I'm on a six-week run, at which point someone will either vote that they continue or vote that I spend Tuesday mornings asking local athletes about their hair.
If the Wizards were winning, Ed Tapscott would be a tremendous Bog resource. He loves the media, he understands the media, and he comes up with interesting turns of phrase. I really liked "Hero Basketball" from yesterday's post-game.
But I just can't see going out there and acting the goof this year. It's one thing if you're a middling franchise, but we're way past middling at this point. That's why I attended one and only one Washington Nationals game last year. Hoping things go in a different direction on Half Street this season.
Washington, D.C.: If you could pick another city to do a Sports Bog, where would it be? I presume you would pick a city that actually has winning teams. Don't get me wrong, it's great to see the Caps win games, but their popularity is only heightened due to the fact that the other major franchises here all stink.
Dan Steinberg: Absolutely true. For better or worse, Pittsburgh would be a decent city: Steelers are always good, Penguins will be interesting for a long while, Pitt basketball is a national championship contender, and life is so dreary that everyone self-medicates with sports, so traffic would be swell.
I actually proposed to my editor that I move to a city like Pittsburgh or Cincinnati and just write about their teams for a year. My cost of living would shrink, so my salary could be trimmed, and if I just advertised like crazy the URL of washingtonpost.com/cincysportsbog, I could probably get people in the habit of checking it out. Once your physical tie to the area becomes irrelevant (the print newspaper), you should just chase traffic and relevance, right? But my editor didn't see it that way.
For across-the-board success, Boston would have to be the pick.
Washington in the 35332: Do you see The Post putting any resources in covering any of the Minor League Football, DC Armor, UNGL team in Norfolk or any of the UFL?
Dan Steinberg: Alex? Is this you?
If we can't cover the locally based minor league affiliates of the locally based MLB teams, I have to imagine minor league football is way, way down the list. Now, if you renamed the Armor the D.C. Junior Skins, maybe we could talk.
Woodbridge, Va.: Did you get your wings from Sunday's Caps game yet?
Did you join in on the "It's all your fault" chant on Sunday? If so, Karl Alzner would be proud.
Dan Steinberg: I meant to call Glory Days. Did anyone get the wings? It said a dozen (?) free wings, due to the six goals, but it also said "with purchase." What did you have to purchase? 400 wings?
I'll have a video later today from sect. 107-108, home of the "It's All Your Fault" chant.
And anyhow, I'm a vegetarian. Still waiting for a local franchise to start some sort of tofu-based promotion.
By the way, anyone want to guess what Ben Olsen gets at Ben's Chili Bowl?
Falls Church, Va.: Last Friday, a night before the Wizards beat the Clippers, I saw Marcus Camby at a DC club. I tried to take a picture of him, but it was dark and the picture turned out blurry. In case you didn't know, Marcus Camby is tall.
Dan Steinberg: Usually, questions involve a question mark, so I'll treat this as a statement of fact. Or several facts, I suppose.
I wonder what you'd say if you saw Dmitri Young in a club. In case you didn't know, Dmitri Young is _____
Arlington, Va.: So whats up with the Caps fans inferiority complex? I support all the local teams and get a couple games for each franchise a year. This includes 3-5 Caps games a year following the strike, which I attended with about 5,000 other fans.
Now I feel like I get ridiculed by "real" Caps fans because I may not know all the hockey rules. It occurs to me that, if they were such great fans, where were they after the strike?
Does this Napoleon complex happen with other teams in other cities, or is this a unique situation? Also, do you have words for the "real" Caps fans who are annoyed with "bandwagoners"?
Dan Steinberg: Well, some of the non-beat-writer media members have also gotten slapped with the "bandwagon" tag, so I'm with you. It's a well-told tale......I saw someone compare it to loving an indie band that goes mainstream. I've felt those emotions, and you can't really talk someone out of it, because it's an emotional response. "I was here at the beginning and you weren't, so you just can't appreciate this the way I can."
On the other hand, you can't really complain about being ignored for years, and then try to chase off the ignorers once they stop ignoring. I think the vast majority of Caps fans realize deep down that any bandwagoneering is very, very good for their franchise in the long term.
I can't speak much for other cities, but I think the Redskins have beaten fans of every other D.C. team into a permanent defensive crouch.
Washington, D.C.: Almost every town is WinnerTown, genius. Ever go to a Pats game back when they were winning 1 game a year?
Dan Steinberg: Nope.
To some extent, I'll grant this point, but I don't think it's all to the same degree. The Pens have been stinky this season, and yet their TV ratings are astronomical. Look at all the local TV ratings; if winning were all that mattered, you could rank them by won-loss percentage, but it doesn't quite work out that way.
Washington, D.C.: Redd - why are you interning in a dying industry? Go to law school, or something.
Dan Steinberg: Redd declines to answer his questions. Don't make interns like they used to. But thanks for trying.
Baltimore: I have no quarrel with Michael Phelps' behavior. But I wish he would realize that we live in an age where everyone has a cell phone and every cell phone has a camera. Nothing is private any more unless you are home alone with the blinds drawn.
I have heard, however, one decent joke out of this. Last night, Conan O'Brien asked: "When are kids ever going to learn...don't share your pot with someone who has the lung capacity of a dolphin."
Dan Steinberg: There are all manner of great lung capacity jokes flying around.
And Gilbert Arenas might very well have been at home alone with the blinds drawn when my anonymous source was taking photos of his swimming pool. So even that's no sure thing.
But yeah, illegal behavior in the middle of a crowded frat party is a particularly bold type of decision. I mean, you'd be better off committing illegal behavior in the 400 level of the Verizon Center during a Wiz-Memphis game. No camera phones there.
Rockville, Md.: Who do you think will or could be the next area coach to be fired? Can't be Williams anymore can it?
Dan Steinberg: Did you see the look on his face during yesterday's press conference? I've seen newspaper publishers look happier during year-end finance meetings.
I can think of a few other local college hoops coaches who probably aren't buying multiple D.C. homes right now, but the surest bet is probably that the interim tag in front of Ed Tapscott's name never gets removed.
Brooklyn, N.Y.: Dan, what's with these 11 a.m. chats? Ovechkin's not even awake yet. No wonder you are struggling to bridge Cold War era gaps between the two of you.
Dan Steinberg: The Ovechkin sleep answer was that he goes to morning skate, then goes home and sleeps until 3:50, then gets back up on a typical game day.
So 11 a.m. might actually work with his schedule.
But I just do what I'm told.
Spring Training Eats: Here you go (tell them Svrluga sent you): Panera Bread, Town Center, Melbourne, Fla.
Dan Steinberg: Well yeah, that's a given, I guess. But thanks for reminding me.
Ok, off to try to come up with D.C. drug links. Cheery assignment. will be back here next week, thanks for all the questions.
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