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D.C. Sports Bog Live: Mascot Wars, Scared of Screech and More

Dan Steinberg
D.C. Sports Bogger
Tuesday, March 3, 2009 11:00 AM

Dan Steinberg was online Tuesday, March 3 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the Atlantic 11, the dawn of a new Screech, what constitutes showboating and his latest posts from the D.C. Sports Bog.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

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Dan Steinberg: Hey people, another weekly dose of Tuesday morning depression. Though, to be honest, I don't feel horribly down right now. Believe it or not, Screech coverage generates a lot more clicks than Spring Training coverage. More mascot news please!!!!

I did get one e-mail asking how it is that The Post no longer has the resources to cover the Orioles, but it can devote plenty of space to mascots. A good question. One for wiser heads than mine.

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Rockville, Md.: Dan,

Is it just me, or does the "new Screech" have the same look on his face as if he was just about to get sucked into the engine of a 737 piloted by Sully? Seriously... if we can fire Bowden, we can certainly fire "new Screech." What an abomination.

Dan Steinberg: From my e-mails and comments, the new Screech wasn't exactly lovingly received into NatsTown. To be honest, I think I was too stunned to react when he came out dancing yesterday. Plus I was busy trying to blog it instantaneously; blogging sometimes requires an immediate cessation of critical thought. So to me, he was just a skinner, rumpless Eagle/Chicken.

Not trying to cover for my friends on Half Street, but I think maybe he looks worse on a computer screen than he does in person. Anyhow, we all know the true mascot of that team is a President. Either that, or a Segway.

How about when the Player to be Named told Svrluga that he was apologizing to "The President." I thought he meant Teddy at first.

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Washington, DC: Do you think that the real reason Jason Taylor was cut by the Redskins was the offical reason given by the team -- that he was unwilling to accept an extra 1/2 million to attend 75% of the team's off-season workouts this summer?

washingtonpost.com: Jason Taylor Played One Year

Dan Steinberg: I don't doubt that was the late-game sticking point, but I think it's fair to wonder whether both sides weren't relieved to find a late-game sticking point.

Many defenders of the regime have said "Look, everyone thought this was a good idea at the time, even JLC." Fine. Luckily, it's not the job of fans and media members to actually decide which coaches to hire, which players to draft or which trades to make. There are people who get paid a lot of money to make those calls, and sometimes they will be popular decisions, sometimes not. In this case, it was popular, but the results were disastrous. Two draft picks for 1.75 sacks each, and now, poof, it's all gone.

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Alexandria, Va.: When are you coming down to Blacksburg?

Dan Steinberg: I've only been there twice in my life: once for a Hokies basketball game, and once for a high school spring sports jamboree. You mean for the UNC game? The thing I've learned is that, absent a campaign to print thousands of floating heads of a star player and hoist them in the stands, you can often get as much bloggable material from watching on TV, with a camera at the ready.

Of course, I did hear a rumor that Maryland students would print thousands of floating Eric Prisbell heads for tonight's game, to protest (what's seen as) the Post's current Gary Williams obsession. I don't think there are enough different photos of Prisbell out there to make it work, but it would be awesome anyhow. Maybe they could just do the entire Post newsroom.

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Alexandria, Va.: Will The Post have the resources to cover D.C. United when it moves to Maryland?

Dan Steinberg: Zing!

I've heard from exactly two Orioles fans who were upset with our decision. Now, granted, there's no reason for them to contact me in particular, but I typically hear from a decent number of people who want to complain about coverage choices.

Maybe it's because I'm not from here and have only lived here during the Angelos Era, but if we have to cut something the Orioles seem like a no-brainer to me. I've long argued that the Orioles weren't an appropriate topic for the "D.C." Sports Bog. The Ravens, neither. And yet I count Virginia and Virginia Tech. I guess that doesn't make any sense.

But yeah, DCU stays.

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NoLo, DC: You spent much of last week's chat complaining about how your page views decline when you cover baseball. How much does this influence what you cover? At the Olympics, you proved gifted at uncovering amusing and revealing angles about obscure sports and personalities. Yet much of your work in DC has been on subjects such as mascots and athletes' hairstyles -- exploring the overhyped and overpaid, but with respect to "popular" teams that would presumably generate more page views.

Dan Steinberg: Is it really called NoLo? What is that, North of Logan? Why isn't that U Street?

Anyhow, this is a hot topic inside The Post. I was at two meetings last week that involved a bunch of random people thrown together to discuss The Future, and at both, the subject of chasing page views came up. In the first, it was brought up as a good thing, and so I was all, "but what about our editorial principles!!!??!?!?" At the second, it was brought up as a bad thing, and so I was all, "but how can a business ignore its customers!!!?!?!!??!"

So I clearly don't know what the right answer is. For me, I assume I've been given a blog to generate traffic, so it influences me an awful lot. At the Olympics, I was trying to not duplicate the great coverage my colleagues were providing of all the "popular" sports, so I felt more freedom to go obscure. But on a day to day blogging basis, I'm pretty sure obscurity doesn't sell.

As I've said before, I don't think chasing clicks matters much in sports. I worry more about what that would mean for the paper's national and metro coverage--if more people want to read about Georgetown news than Anacostia news, should more resources be devoted toward the former? Luckily, nothing serious will happen if I decide to write more about pucks than balls.

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College Park, Md.: It sure has been a long time since you've given us a craft beer and cheese pairing. What gives?

Dan Steinberg: Another thing people don't go to D.C. sports blogs for: craft beer and cheese pairings.

Had any good craft beers lately? I had a few pints of the Bell's Kalamazoo Stout over the weekend, but that's not particularly rare. I'm supposed to buy a friend an assortment of Rogue products over a failed Super Bowl bet, but I haven't had any luck finding his requests.

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Washington, D.C.: So no Cleveland for you this spring. How does Buffalo sound? Pittsburgh? Philadelphia?

Dan Steinberg: My Caps' first-round opponent rankings, based equal parts on fan interest/traffic potential, ease of travel, and intangibles (restaurants and the presence of my family members). So two-thirds of these rankings are just about making my life easier.

1. Buffalo

2. Pittsburgh

3. N.Y. Rangers

4. Montreal

5. Carolina

6. Florida

I gave Florida the minimum point totals in all three categories. That surely means we're destined for Suntan, or Sunshine, or Sunrise, or wherever they play.

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Darnestown, Md.: I watched Maryland beat North Carolina State on Sunday evening on HDTV. HDTV is not kind to the Terps' complexion. Can't Gary spring for a team dermatologist?

Dan Steinberg: Teenagers, I've heard, sometimes have skin issues. Maybe that's part of your complaint.

But enough about you, let's make this about me.

This is one of the tritest of things for 30-something sports writers to say, but I'll say it anyhow: MAN, some college kids look young nowadays. Interviewing Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler the other day, I was suddenly like, "gee willickers, how old am I? Why am I asking these kids about the prank calls they've received."

Actually, I was at that game with my editor, and he sort of recognized the way it can feel increasingly debasing to chase after kids a decade younger than you and try to make them tell you something interesting. That's why 32 year old sportswriters should go into the specialty food industry with great haste. I hear this is a great time to look for jobs.

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Fairfax, Va.: Discuss: Were the school located a bit closer to the District, JMU's Duke Dog would be the paws-down winner in any mascot debate. Though now that I mention it, James Madison is closer than Hokie Bird's school ...

Dan Steinberg: I think we were supposed to run some sort of local college mascot competition on Press Break this fall. Did it ever happen?

I automatically downgrade the human entrants, such as the new Mason thing, the GW dude, the Cavalier. I'm partial to fur. Duke Dog is pretty tough to beat, but Testudo also has his charms. In general, I think the more unusual a mascot is, the better. You don't see many stuffed turtles running around. A dog is a dog, right? The Hokie also gets points under this theory. As does the VMI Kangaroo.

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Alexandria, Va.: Do you have any thoughts on the new ombudsman?

washingtonpost.com: Ombudsman Andy Alexander

Dan Steinberg: Haven't met him.

I will say I think there shouldn't be a rule that ombudspersons require 30 years experience in the journalism biz. I think there are compelling reasons for hiring ombudspersons of a younger persuasion.

In fact, I was ombudsing the latest Terps recruiting story with its editor via e-mail last night. Any thoughts on the Lance Stephenson-Under Armour tale?

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San Francisco: I've voted, I've commented, I've tweeted and now I'm asking a question: what in the name of Jeff Jones is American doing at No. 3? Will you release the breakdown of their votes (i.e. how many 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th place votes they received?)?

Or will I have to start leaving American off of my ballot entirely in an attempt to offset other voters?

Dan Steinberg: This week there were 61 voters in the Atlantic 11, which is pretty typical. American got 8 first place votes, 9 second place votes, 7 third place votes, 8 fourth place votes, 7 fifth place votes, 14 sixth place votes, 4 seventh place votes, 1 eight place vote and 1 tenth place vote. Two voters apparently left them off entirely, which is bizarre.

So sixth was the most popular placement, but there was massive disagreement.

I don't have an issue. American split with Maryland the last two years, both games in CP. They will never, ever get to play an ACC or Big East school at Bender. I think AU _could_ beat Rutgers at home, and possibly South Florida on the road, which means the Eagles could do everything Gtown's done this year with the exception of a win at 'Nova. As I've said before, if ACC and Big East schools all get ranked ahead of the little guys no matter what, there's really no point in doing this poll.

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Gilbert's Corner, Va.: So Bowden goes away and Screech immediately appears? Coincidence? I think not - mebbe you can have your eager beaver intern read the fine print in his contract and report back?

Dan Steinberg: No more intern. Working on that.

There were about 10 legitimate Bowden-related jokes that could have been made after the Screech thing. I know it would have been in awful taste, but had Nats PR sent Screech out on a Segway yesterday, it would have likely been the highlight of my journalistic career. I don't think he would fit into leatherpants, but otherwise I'd suggest that too.

There was one point where some young men asked Screech what was underneath his jersey. He flipped it up, which was disturbing. There was brown fur underneath.

Clarksburg: What's with all the negative coverage of Maryland hoops lately? The article re: Under Armour and Lance Stephenson was the biggest fishing expedition I've ever read. If you are going to imply impropriety you better bring something stronger then getting a tour of the facilities. Is this the (New York) Post we're reading these days? The Washington Fish Wrap?

washingtonpost.com: Shoe Company's Ties With Maryland, Link to Top Recruit Raise Questions

Dan Steinberg: As mentioned below, I had an e-mail conversation about that story with the college sports editor last night. His argument--which I'd be better served letting him make--was that the recruiting trends and rapid drop-off of Maryland basketball were major topics of conversation in this town, and merited a lengthy look, which the three part series provided. The series also went to great length to talk about how by-the-book Gary Williams has been in his recruiting tactics. And now, a few weeks later, there's been chatter about the Lance-AU thing among readers, industry observers, coaches, etc., and The Post's readers wouldn't be best served if we ignored the issue so soon after writing so much about Gary and his recruiting.

I guess the issue for many readers is whether "Ties....Raise Questions" is strong enough justification for publishing a story. The many editors involved in the process over here thought that it was. What's interesting to me is if you look at how OTHER people framed The Post's story (bloggers, for example), I think they read more of an implication of impropriety than our story ever stated.

But jeez, it's a lot more interesting to think about Wake Forest, right? I say Maryland wins.

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VT Mascot: You can't honestly have your top rated mascot be a emasculated turkey. That's just embarrassing.

Main Entry: hokie

Part of Speech: n

Definition: an emasculated turkey

Dan Steinberg: Would you prefer a masculated turkey? Seems to me that might have the potential for more embarrassment.

I'm just saying, you're in a room filled with 2,000 mascots. You can only pose for a photo with one of them. Are you going to choose a dog, or are you going to choose a turkey?

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Washington, D.C.: I had a thought on the Stevenson issue. More of a fantasy, actually (really, really not going to happen). But - wouldn't it be great if after all this controversy with Gary's failure to recruit, and the three part Post feature, and how he doesn't get his hands dirty in AAU and all that stuff - he got fired after being exposed in a recruiting scandal just as the team was turning around?

Dan Steinberg: I struggle to see how that would great. Ironic, perhaps, though with all the give and take about what and what isn't irony, I'm perpetually scared to suggest something is ironic for fear of being told it's not.

The one thing everyone in the world seems to agree about on this topic: Gary Williams can coach the stuffing out of the players he's presented with. Do you what Terps fans were saying in October? There were predictions of disaster. Hasn't been much of that, besides Duke and Morgan State.

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Dan Steinberg: Have you ever been doing a live chat and then lost wireless access for 15 minutes and had your desktop freeze? It's awesome. You say all sorts of colorful things that would make for great YouTube clips 24 years from now.

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Reston, VA: Any page A1 stories this week?

Dan Steinberg: I try not to write for the newspaper unless absolutely necessary. I don't like being edited.

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My wife went to JMU: It's not just a dog, it is a dog in a totally awesome hat!

Dan Steinberg: Well, that's true. Look, as dog mascots go, Duke Dog has to be near the top, if for no other reason than his penchant for sideline brawling.

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NYC: I recently discovered that my favorite Rogue beverage, Honey Cream Ale, isn't being brewed anymore. I'm hoping that this is a temporary blip, to be corrected soon. Go for the Dead Guy Ale. There must be a Jim Bowden joke in there somewhere.

Dan Steinberg: He specifically requested several lesser known Rogue products. Dead Guy just won't cut it.

Have you ever had the Hazelnut? Weird, right?

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Pikesville, Md.: Craft beers: similar to Bells, have you tried any Great Lakes Brewing Co. beers? Their Edmund Fitzgerald Porter is awesome.

washingtonpost.com: Mmm...Christmas Ale....

Dan Steinberg: I don't believe I have. "Washingtonpost.com," on the other hand, seems to be into it.

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College Park, Md.: Franklin's brewpub in Hyattsville has a great selection of Rogue products (and some pretty good in house brew) you may want to make a field trip.

It also has a colorful toy section shaped like a hardware store. Good for distracting children while you self-medicate... or so I've heard.

Dan Steinberg: A question from "College Park" about not Lance Stephenson nor Under Armour, but about beer. Clearly I'm working for the wrong section of this newspaper.

Ok, put Kevin Plank, the NCAA, Eric Prisbell, Greivis Vasquez, Steve Yanda, Gary Williams and Kathy Worthington in a room. There are six bottles of Dead Guy Ale and no bottle openers. What happens?

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Houston, Texas: um, the GW dude, is George Washington - hatchet and all.

I agree with you with the "human" mascots - have you ever seen the NE Patriots guy? He's very disturbing.

Dan Steinberg: Yeah, what, George Washington wasn't a dude?

I wonder how much the Giant Racing Presidents cost? I can't figure out why they wouldn't just spring for the entire 43-man collection? I mean, it's just 39 more, and it would immediately make Nats games untouchable from a mascot contest angle. They could play 11 on 11 tackle football between innings. Barry Obama trying to shut down Grover Cleveland on a crossing route? I mean, they could just disband the Nats entirely and I'd still buy season tickets.

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Downtown: Frankly, Maryland's fans should be mad at their own administration for being completely ignorant of NCAA rules. How do you let one of your biggest boosters squire around a top recruit? It's almost like "Blue Chips" come to life.

Dan Steinberg: I think there is more to this story and I think you'll be reading more about it in our own paper, but I think it's fair to say that Maryland's administration is not "completely ignorant of NCAA rules." The question, I think, is whether the right people were talking to the folks who know the rules.

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washingtonpost.com: Mascot for a DayMy adventure as a 10-foot-tall, inflatable George Washington. (Slate.com)

Dan Steinberg: Remember this? Back when people used to write nice things about George Washington's basketball program.

Colonials still squarely on the bubble for a bid to the Atlantic 10 tournament. I think they should have an NIT-like event for the two A10 teams that don't make it to Atlantic City. Maybe a best-of-five series.

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Alexandria, VA: Hoki is actually a made up word for a school chant. The "e" was added later. There are some like myself who believe it goes back farther though. There are signs that it was used as a greeting amongst many of the Germans in southwestern Virginia before the Civil War and that may have been the actual origin. The teams were known as the Fighting Gobblers for how much they ate and also because of young boy, Floyd Meade(a black who actually lived with the cadets in the barracks) in the early 1900s. He trained a turkey to gobble after scores and would sometimes ride in a cart behind a turkey. Other mascots can't touch that kind of history.

Dan Steinberg: Is this a put-on?

Exactly how many of the Germans were there in southwestern Virginia before the Civil War? And what do you reckon those Germans would make of our current discussion about emasculation, 10-foot tall George Washington costumes and dogs with crowns? I'm guessing they'd want to down a few Dead Guy Ales before proceeding.

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Washington, D.C.: Hypothetically, would you be interested in moving over to the editing/managing side of the Washington Post or another (relatively) stable paper? You seem to think about newspaper issues a lot and seem to have a reasonable understanding of both sides of most problems. Would you enjoy that type of work or would the writer in you object?

Dan Steinberg: Why, are you hiring?

I don't think I'd be a good manager, since you have to have a certain level of optimism to be in those roles, I think. You can't go into it thinking every single story will be an incomplete and poorly written disaster, because then you'd just shut down the paper and read the comments section at Yahoo sports all day.

I think I'd be a heckuva copy editor, in all seriousness, and I'd miss writing about as much as the Redskins will miss Jason Taylor. But no one here will let me try.

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20001: Dan - so do you think the new Screech is that bad (as the Interweb Nats chatter would lead one to believe)? Or do you think that the club is so snake bitten by the poor decisions of the past that people around here see nothing but failure coming from South Capitol Street?

Dan Steinberg: Yes, the latter. I think people are conditioned to assume badness, and so badness they see. The first Screech was also unpopular when first released, right? And now people are asking for his return? I also think with things like giant furry animal costumes, it's probably easier to say "wow, that sux" than to say, "huh, not bad."

But parts of the costume do look insubstantial. Especially the extremely human leg/buttocks area. As Jim Bowden might say, "We pray for his buttocks and his family."

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Section 416 aka the Alps: I'm a season ticket holder. Why didn't I get a notice that there was a new mascot "unveiling" yesterday? Or did they not want fans to be there and possibly ask questions? Snow or no snow, the Nats outreach braintrust just doesn't know how to to build and maintain relationships with the fans.

Dan Steinberg: I don't know. The media received a heads-up last week. The Presidents were out on the streets yesterday trying to greet passersby. But no one passed.

I'm not sure to whom you would have addressed your questions, either. Screech just kind of whistles. The whole thing was over really quickly, too quickly for me even to decide if it was worth it to order the three-cheese quesadillas.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: sickening stench of stagnant failure or not, the first time this team is in a pennant race in August, D.C. will go Nats crazy.

What's with "the Alps?"

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Alexandria, Va.: Big South Tournament starts tonight. Who you got winning it all and advancing to the big dance? VMI? Liberty? Radford? Or some wild card like UNCA?

Dan Steinberg: Liberty. Book it.

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Presidential Mascot Football: Throw in 2 Grover Clevelands -- one for each non-consecutive term -- and you've got 2 teams with a full offense AND defense.

Dan Steinberg: Such a no-brainer. I can't believe I missed mascot hockey at the Verizon Center, by the way. Several nice writeups in the Capsosphere.

Anyhow, I have to go. I heard a hot rumor that more Kindergarten Ninja clips have just surfaced.

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