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D.C. Sports Bog Live: NCAA Tournament, Caps, Nats, More

Dan Steinberg
D.C. Sports Bogger;
Tuesday, March 24, 2009 12:00 PM

Dan Steinberg: Hey everyone. Thanks for joining us. Meaning me. This was supposed to be about the NCAA tournament, which I'm happy to talk about, since I spent 4x3x2.5 hours watching men's college basketball last week. (Question: why four sessions on Thursday-Friday-Saturday, but only three on Sunday?)

My own Final Four is holding up just fine, but so is everyone else in the world's, besides the four idiots who picked Wake to make a run. (And on one of my brackets, I was that idiot.) My original picks were Michigan State, Memphis, Pitt and UNC. For my second-chance pool, I'd probably lean Kansas, Memphis, 'Nova, UNC, but it's always a mistake to predict future performance based on the first two rounds. Your updated Final Four picks?

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Washington, D.C.: What's a bigger flaming bag of poo: The GW Men, The UMD flameout against Memphis, or the one left on your doorstep?

Dan Steinberg: And I'm also willing to discuss flaming bags of poo, an apparently famous practical joke that my wife and I were unfamiliar with.

So it's Saturday night at 10:30. Texas is in its death throes against Duke. A win there, and I was looking mighty fine. I'm getting out the red pen, literally, when there's a loud knock on the door. Don't open it, look through the window," advises my wife. I look, and see nothing. I open the mail slot, and see a large black garbage bag on fire. Perhaps because I was so mad at Texas's inability to rebound a missed free throw, I assumed this was a bomb. So we called 911 and took our sleeping child outside and watched approximately eight fire engines show up and all the neighbors come out and stare at us. The fire investigator called out an arson-sniffing dog, too. The whole deal.

Later I looked inside the large bag. It appeared to be dirt and mud and leaves and possibly poo. Weird.

So then I'm at the Maryland women's game the next day, and Camille Powell tells me she thinks this is a famous practical joke. All the grizzled reporters confirm. One even said he and his buddies used to perform the stunt, but it's supposed to be done with a small brown paper bag, not a huge black garbage bag. Regardless, they all laughed at me. Repeatedly.

So, to answer your question, probably the GW men.

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Arlington, Va.: Thoughts on the Bucks' Charlie Villanueva twittering during halftime of a game last week? What player would you most like to read twitters (tweets?) from during games?

Dan Steinberg: I love Twitter. I LOVE it. I'm not sure why I had doubts. It's amazing. It's changed my life.

As for Villanueva (and Shaq) (and G Wiz) and their accounts, meh. No feelings. It takes all of 25 seconds to type a message. I think many NBA players have 25 seconds to spare during halftime. If Gilbert can play online poker....

And the answer to your latter question should be obvious, based on the above.

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Fairfax, Va.: Is it true that Kristi Toliver said that if the Utah women's team played in the ACC, they would have a losing record? I believe she said that after she heard one of the Utah players calling her Kristi Sanchez.

Dan Steinberg: Great question. Though you sort of lose the racial overtones with the Toliver/Sanchez thing. Work on that and get back to me in 30 minutes.

I mean, we love us our Greivis in this town, but I didn't realize he was a national icon. Long muckraking story in Yahoo! sports (complete with his blast at Eric Prisbell), long segment on Rome Is Burning yesterday, lots of "Look at these quotes!" from ESPN and CBS. I mean, what he said wasn't THAT inflammatory. This is what we get when no real Cinderellas advance in the first week: Greivis has to help shoulder the national media's duties.

And for the record, yeah, I'd say the fat Memphis guy's comments were a lot ruder than Greivis's.

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Red Oak, Iowa: Has any conference ever lost four games in the tournament to double-digit seeds? Although I feel that the tournament rarely say much about the quality of a conference, it is appropriate that ACC fans who bad mouth other conferences all the time that they eat some crow?

Dan Steinberg: I think it is an entirely appropriate time for some crow-eating. Of course, you can't lose to lower seeds without earning higher seeds, so in that sense it's no shame, but Wake is the ultimate shame. They got flattened, with three projected first-rounders on their roster. And the much ballyhooed Big 10-ACC Challenge success is considerably dimmed: 6-5 in the regular season, 0-2 in the tournament = 6-7 overall. Not sure if I'm missing any NIT head to head results here.

Also eating crow: me, for suggesting maybe the Big East wasn't all that. You have to assume that with a healthy Dominic James, Marquette has an excellent chance of getting one or two more baskets and winning that second-round game, giving the BE six teams in the Sweet 16. My bet with Prisbell (I give him Louisville, Pitt and UConn and I get the other 62 teams) is looking a lot less brilliant.

Plus don't forget Notre Dame in the NIT quarters.

Also, Mountain West = loser.

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Fairfax, Va.: There's a new show on MTV called "Bully Beat Down" and the next new episode on Sunday night might be of interest to you and all Redskins fans. In the show, a real-life bully has to fight a professional MMA fighter chosen by the show's host. In the next episode, the bully must fight none other than former Redskins "great" Michael Westbrook. Do you think Stephen Davis will be watching?

Dan Steinberg: Is this a put-on? Give me a few minutes to run home and set my TiVo.

Wow. That's amazing.

The Skins have had so many guys through the years that would have been just goldmines for the Internet. I still say it's a shame Dexter Manley wasn't playing in the blogging era. But imagine how things would have lit up when Down Goes Davis.

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washingtonpost.com: Maryland's Vasquez has mouth that roars (Yahoo!Sports)

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Newark, Del.: Since these questions seem to be all the rage lately:

1. Do you love sports?

2. Are you embarrassed to be covering them?

Dan Steinberg: Is it too soon to joke about this? No?

1. Ok, yes, I love sports, but in a love-hate sort of way. At least 14,873 times, I've given speeches about how I don't want to cover sports for the rest of my life. But I'm also constitutionally incapable of walking past a television set showing sports and not stopping to check the score and add a bit of wisdom, even if it's a televised exhibition polo match between the Washington Freedom and the D.C. Armor. (Armor -4.5, btw.) Also, if I had to choose one book to bring with me to a desert island, it would likely be The Official 2009 NCAA Men's Final Four Records Book. Complete with this nugget: P.J. Carlesimo is the only bearded coach in Final Four history.

2. I'm embarrassed that I cover sports by asking athletes about their tattoos, haircuts, mustaches and celebrations. I'm not necessarily embarrassed to be covering sports.

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Herndon, Va.: Where does the term "chalk" come from in relation to the NCAA tourney? Thanks.

Dan Steinberg: "The history of chalk dates back to the old days of horse-racing, when bookmakers (or "bookies") would set the odds for each horse by writing them on a chalkboard at on-track gambling stations. The odds would change during the pre-race betting period depending on the amount wagered on each horse, so the bookmakers would often need to erase the posted odds and "chalk up" new ones before the beginning of the race."

That's from Visual Thesaurus. I have no idea how accurate it is, but the story is that eventually "chalk" became used to describe the oddsmakers themselves, and "chalk picks" to describe the favorites. It's as good a story as any I was going to make up.

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It's amazing. It's changed my life. : It changed your LIFE?

Did it really CHANGE your life or did you not have much of a life beforehand?

If the later, please get me a life, too.

And.. will it help Louisville beat UCONN in the semis in Detroit?

After all, who wants to see Pitt beat UCONN in the title game...for the 3rd time this season?

TWEEEEEET.

Thanks much.

Dan Steinberg: Well, it's changed the way I waste time between coming up with new blog items. I was kind of exaggerating, I suppose. Oh, and it's also made me read WAY more Washington Times stories, because their Tweeting is very efficient and they do a great job of making stories seem more interesting than they actually are via Twitter.

U-Conn in the semis? Didn't you get the message about Memphis? Everyone loves Memphis. DeAngelo Hall. Fred Smoot. Me. Not Caron Butler; he takes U-Conn.

There would be a certain fascination with an all-Big East Final Four, and those earlier games weren't bad, so I wouldn't complain too much, except about the $1 I'd lose.

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Let's Discuss the IMPORTANT Bracket: Have you filled out your Frozen Four bracket yet? Give us your picks! And will you be covering the craziness that is college hockey fans invading DC?

Dan Steinberg: I will be covering that circus. (Speaking of which, there's a rumor that Gilbert was at the real circus over the weekend. Any confirmation?)

But I know nothing about college hockey. Nothing. I don't know how many teams made the tournament. (Opens the door for Harry Jaffe-like inquisition and forced D.C. Sports Bog apology.) All I know is that one person after another has told me that I will love the fans at this event, and I will have way more than enough material, and also that there's some sort of happy hour planned on that Friday that will involve lots of drinking.

Your picks?

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Washington, D.C.: You've really never seen "Billy Madison"?

Dan Steinberg: I've really never seen "Billy Madison."

You think that's bad? I've seen zero movies since my daughter was born more than two years ago. Zero. Zero on TV, Zero on DVD, zero on VHS, zero on betamax, and zero at the movie theater. Add all those up, and you get zero. I can't swear, but I'd guess I've seen fewer than a dozen movies in this century.

This actually goes back to my love of sports. 82 times out of 82, if my choice is between watching "Billy Madison" or a CollegeInsider.com tournament game between Liberty and James Madison, I'd choose the latter. This makes me woefully culturally illiterate, but it likely protects me from the wrath of Jaffe.

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Bowie, Md.: What do you think is the most ridiculous (good or bad) picture you have posted on the bog?

Dan Steinberg: Wow. I'm not sure, why? Do you have any candidates? I guess off the top of my head it'd have to be something from DeShawn Stevenson's '80s-themed birthday party.

Which was, by the way, the date of Gilbert's last comeback. Heartbreaking loss on last-second shot, then amazing 80s-themed party. Just another day in the life.

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Washington, D.C.: Cooley has a Twitter account, but rarely uses it. As far as I know, Gilbert does not have a Twitter account. Any idea why D.C.'s two most prolific athlete bloggers aren't putting Shaq to shame?

washingtonpost.com: thecooleyzone

Dan Steinberg: I just asked Tanner Cooley, Chris's brother. We'll see.

As for Gilbert, as much of an Internet hound as he is, that NBA.com blog was all handled by a man behind a curtain. Maybe Gilbert doesn't like typing. Though I did see him wanting to respond to some folks on a video game message board once.

I plan on staking out Gilbert at Wiz practice in a few minutes. I should probably leave now and continue this in a cab, actually. I'll try to ask him, but that's behind "were you at the circus" in the queue.

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washingtonpost.com:

DeShawn's Birthday Party: The Photos

washingtonpost.com:

Dan Steinberg: See, like this? Fairly ridiculous. You'll note that the Wizards cheerleaders are here wearing custom-made t-shirts featuring the images of Papa Smurf and DeShawn Stevenson. Not pictured: DeShawn's boombox.

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Gilbert is Back!: Isn't Gilbert's pending comeback the most awesome thing ever? The fact that he specifically targets Cleveland as one of his road games cements him as number one in my heart. My question is: will the Wizards be too good with him in the lineup?

Dan Steinberg: Too good to tank? I don't think you have to worry about that.

I also think he might be rusty, not just on the court but with his media magic. Will he still be the Gilbert we once loved and abused for Web traffic? Will his two years as a recluse continue? Has he forgotten how to make us laugh?

I do think it's utterly amazing how much he's dominated the conversation without giving a single normal interview, basically since he re-signed. I guess he had one more formal press gathering this year, when his wax statute was unveiled. Naturally.

But it got me to one Wiz game, one Wiz shootaround and (soon) one Wiz practice, so I can't talk.

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Silver Spring, MD: True or False: Maryland got into the tournament because they play in a conference that while it only has basically two good and consistent teams, it has a rich history that buys others in the conference deference with the selection committee. If I were a couple of those mid-majors (think SDSU), I would be furious.

Dan Steinberg: Well, Maryland beat Michigan State and Michigan in the non conference. There were injury issues with MSU, but still. SDSU's best non-conference regular season win was what, Hampton? Fresno? I don't think it's that outlandish. So I'll say false.

Anyhow, shouldn't you be more bitter that Cal got in than Maryland? Terps seemed clearly better than Bears.

The issue to me is the schools that can afford to buy home games versus the schools that can't, and that's not an ACC issue at all.

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Washington, D.C.: Going to the first D.C Armor home game on April 6th? Chuck Brown is performing at half time.........

Dan Steinberg: No he's not. Is he really? I hadn't planned on going, but if that's the case. Whom do they play? Reading or something, right? The Reading Rainbow, is that what they're called?

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Dan Steinberg: Text answer from Tanner Cooley on his brother's spotty Twitter use:

"No real reason. With Facebook, blog, Twitter, Fanmail, etc it's hard to keep up on everything."

I think he made it under the 140 character max.

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Washington, D.C.: So Washington Post reporters can participate in NCAA pools? Wasn't there some big brouhaha a few years ago involving Boswell, a pool, and a disapproving Post ombusdman?

washingtonpost.com: Did a Betting Pool Cross the Line? (Post, April 15, 2007)

Dan Steinberg: Ok, I'll thrown down that gauntlet. You want to fire me for entering an NCAA bracket? Fire my ... This is part of my lifeblood. It completes me. I have a thick folder with every bracket I've filled out for about a decade in my basement, and every March it comes out and joins my person for three weeks. It's in my car right now. There are half-filled brackets, celebrity brackets, scribbled numerical analyses, color-coded charts. It's more important to me than my job.

Also, former Post editor Len Downie is great at picking brackets. Just saying.

I thought that column by our (since-departed) ombudsman was one of the most ridiculous things I've read in my life. I would never bet an amount of money that mattered to me on an event that I was covering, but for something like one-seventh of the cost of the weekly parking tickets I accumulate, I think I'm ok. If that's not the case, it's been nice chatting with you, and I'll see you next week from WashingtonTimes.com.

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Arlington, Va.: If any player in the NCAA is getting a bad rap, its Devendorf. I seriously question whether he would receive 1/4 the flack he gets from the media if he wasn't white. Pat Forde and Wilbon and others have noted that white players do appear to be hated more. Whats up with this. He is passionate, but there are a ton of other passionate players who don't receive the same level of scrutiny.

Dan Steinberg: Not exactly an answer, but I asked Joakim Noah last night whether he pulls for the villains in the tourney, since he sort of became one.

"No. I usually don't like 'em," he said. "I remember playing guys like Devendorf, all the guys that are hated on right now. I mean, unless they're your school, you don't particularly like 'em either. I'm sure people felt the same way about me. But no, I don't particularly root for the bad guys."

From Hansborough to Redick to Scheyer to Devendorf, there are a lot of hated white players. Is it their whiteness? Or their [adjective-redactedness]? I'm not sure. Raftery was riding Devendorf pretty hard during the Big East tourney for his jawing and celebrating, and as someone who's defender such antics before, I probably should have protested against Raftery, but I didn't. So I really don't know.

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Arlington, VA: Wow, Gary really came down on you Post reporters with both feet, didn't he? You guys won't say peep about Egregious Vasquez, except for the producer who dropped in the Yahoo link. Reporting at its best.....

washingtonpost.com: Really?

Terrapins Insider: Postseason Evaluations: Greivis Vasquez

Poll: Vasquez, Memphis Players and Trash Talk

Dan Steinberg: I'll let you two guys have at it on this one.

More importantly, what record WOULD Memphis have in the ACC? I'd guess they'd have been 12-4 or so.

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Speaking of Cooley: His, uh, private self-portrait doesn't get a ridiculous pic nod?

Dan Steinberg: I didn't post that photo. Certain lines shall not be crossed.

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Washington, D.C.: Who's got the bigger feud with Prisbell: You or Grievis? I expect a Yahoo! Sports muckracking story on this next week...

Dan Steinberg: I love Prisbell. But I do regularly scream "Don't look at me!" to him, just the same.

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PB: In a chat that just ended, Stan Kasten revealed a sum total of zero interesting items of new information, is there anyone else you cover who can talk as much as Stan K. without providing a single morsel of substance?

Dan Steinberg: I haven't had a chance to read it yet. But if that's the case, I'm disappointed. I had high hopes. He seems to be getting duller as the years go on.

But to answer your question, his level of public dullness is not even in the same universe as Ernie Grunfeld's. Not the same galaxy, assuming a galaxy is bigger than a universe. Or whatever's bigger than a universe. Stan at least has the benefit of an amusing speaking voice and frequent groan-worthy puns. Ernie--who I like very much--could easily put you to sleep in a Web chat.

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Washington, DC: I'm a bit out of the loop, so I'll bite... who was the fat Memphis guy, and what did he say that was more inflammatory than Greivis?

washingtonpost.com: Terps Aim for Name Recognition

Dan Steinberg: Pierre Henderson-Niles. He basically pled ignorance to the entire Maryland roster with the exception of Vasquez, except he called him "Sanchez," though some outlets reported a slightly different mangling of "Vasquez." Maybe "more inflammatory" isn't the correct term; "ruder," perhaps.

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Why only three on Sunday: 'Cuz CBS still makes money on Sunday nights...at least they're trying, based on the relentless Obama-"60 Minutes" promos.

Dan Steinberg: Fine, start the early games at 10 a.m. I'd watch.

I guess I could have figured this out if I'd thought a little bit more. It still feels like a let-down after the previous three days.

For my money, by the way, this coming Thursday and Friday might be the best days of the tourney. The games are often tremendously mind-blowingly awesome, there's still the possibility of the quick jump back and forth, blowouts are rare, and it's still a morsel of weekday joy.

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Bowie, Md.: As a Maryland fan who wants a sensible alternative to Vazquez almost as much as he wants a sensible alternative to fossil fuels, does Alexander the Great have any eligibility left? As far as I know the man can do anything. Just ask opposing goalies.

Dan Steinberg: Ok, who would get along better: Gary and Ovie, Gary and Gilbert or Gary and Cooley? Probably the former. I love all these stories of Greivis sitting in Gary's office for hours, just talking. Wonder what they talk about? The Hills?

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Washington D.C: D.C. Armor is playing the Fayetteville Guard and actually lost there first game to the Reading Rainbows (Express) last week. And Chuck Brown is definitely performing at half.

Dan Steinberg: Either you work for the team, or you just really really love the AIFIFAL.

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Alexandria, Va.: Bigger flaming bag of poo A. on your doorstep B. Greivis Vasquez

Dan Steinberg: Correct answer: DeShawn Stevenson. He's so hot, you can't feel his face. Or something like that.

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Washington, D.C.: Javaris Crittenton - is he a funny guy? Is he not as goofy as Arenas, Stevenson, Young, or Blatche? Is he serious all the time? Dude never smiles on the court.

Dan Steinberg: He has a shy behind-the-scenes smile, but he's definitely not as goofy as Arenas, Stevenson, Young. At least publicly.

Of course, I've been to a grand total of four Wizards games this year, so what do I know? They were 3-0 at Steinberg games before I showed up last night. Now it's 3-1.

The whole goofy thing just doesn't resonate for me anymore. That's why I'm going back today, to try to listen to Brendan Haywood. He still has that clever goof thing locked down. Mike James and Juan Dixon and Javaris, though...not the same as it used to be.

(16-56 has something to do with this.)

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Columbia, Md.: Though I don't completely agree with Mick Kern's grizzled opinion on Tom Boswell's column about Alex Ovechkin's 50th goal celebration, it did make me wonder why Jason LaCanfora hasn't been asked to come back and start writing on the team every now and then. Many Washington Post readers have a close bond to LaCanfora due to his coverage of the team a few years ago and I loved his writing during the playoffs last year. It added SO much to the coverage. Will that happen again in the Playoffs? Can we hear his opinion after Ovechkin does something crazy?

I mean, tell me if I'm wrong, but I think having a hockey-educated writer do columns and opinion pieces would be beneficial for the Post. Boswell is one of the best in the business clearly (see: Armed, but Dangerous), but Jason has been there and understands the culture of the game completely. Can we get more of him?

Dan Steinberg: Consider the message passed along.

I know Jason wants to do more hockey writing, possibly before the playoffs or possibly during the playoffs. I also know he's on a ridiculously demanding beat that has gotten even more so in the blog age.

And I agree with you that Jason's "On Hockey" columns last Spring immensely added to our coverage. There's only so many blog items you want to read about Philly fans, and Jason can break hockey things down in a way not many of us on staff could ever do. I think the demand for Xs and Ox talk might not be there in October, but it definitely is in April. So I'm with you, and I feel confident we'll see him back soon.

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Washington, D.C.: What was with all the empty seats at the first and second round tournament games? Did the NCAA dramatically overestimate demand when setting ticket prices? Did the tickets doled out to corporate sponsors go unused? Do Dayton, Kansas City, etc. just not care about basketball?

Dan Steinberg: I don't know the answer to this, but did you see that the Maryland women's first two games on Sunday apparently outdrew one of the men's sessions in Miami? That's remarkable. You have to figure all of this fits into the larger economic picture, because we've read stories like this about one sporting event after another. See Liz Clarke's recent front-page NASCAR story.

The Hershey Bears, of course, don't count.

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Fairfax, Va.: That was more information than I have ever wanted to know about Joakim Noah. Your 30,000 word Q&A with Joakim Noah (JOAKIM NOAH?!) only tells us how awfully unbloggable the Wiz are right now. I'd rather read more about Nats spring training than have you do another Q&A with a boring, unfunny player from the other team. God help us all. Oh, and since this wasn't a question...umm, how are you?

washingtonpost.com: Joakim Noah on Boys, Boredom and Griminess

Dan Steinberg: Thanks for the support.

Look, what would you have done? Asked the Wizards what it felt like to lose a close game?

Joakim was pretty friendly. The questions may have been poor, but I'll take the hit on that one.

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Maryland: Steinberg, do you believe Gilbert this time or are we going to to be talking surgery No. 4 in June? I'm leaning towards the latter. I won't be burned again.

Dan Steinberg: More burning.

I believe that Gilbert Arenas will attempt to play before the end of this season. I believe he'll be on the court for opening day next fall. Whether he's the old Gilbert? I have no opinion. Just no way to tell.

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Washington D.C: How do you feel about the final Atlantic 11 rankings? Would you personally make any changes to the final poll?

washingtonpost.com: Local Poll Ends: It's VCU!

Dan Steinberg: Well, I guess you could argue Maryland should be first, with their win over Cal. Maybe put Old Dominion up a few spots. Georgetown and Virginia Tech and Mason all seem about right. I think it was a solid job.

VCU-Maryland on a neutral court would be a pretty even game, I'd think.

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Chest Rockwell, Md.: Since you brought up flaming bags of poo, I've got to ask: Did you comically begin stomping it out as a reflexive way of finishing the prank as intended?

I mean, when you think about it, the only reason the center of your porch will have flames on it (while nothing else is burning) is going to be flaming poo 99% of the time. And yet, every work of fiction that has included this act also includes the victim stomping it out. Usually, the victim seems more upset at having been tricked into stepping into poo than at the fact that the pranksters could well have burnt the victim's home down.

Oh, and a sports question: I have 12 of the Sweet 16 teams and all of my Elite 8, yet Yahoo says I'm no better than the 51st percentile. Last year, with similar numbers (and a similarly "boring"/money-winning bracket), I recall being in a much higher percentile. What gives? When will my wheat be separated from the world's chaff?

Dan Steinberg: Ok I've got to run, I'm going to be late for this practice as it is. But no, like I said, it was me saying "maybe it's a bomb" and then my wife calling 911 as we ran out the back door. Not one of my finer moments, perhaps. I smelled the bag later (seriously) and it didn't smell like poo at all. I'm still confused. Would my shoes even have smelled if I had stepped in non-smelly poo? Was it even poo at all? Fake poo?

As for your sports question, this was a flaming chalk year. You'd have gotten 14 out of 16 with chalk, right? If you have worse than that, you can't complain with your results. I mean, NONE of the praised six seeds came through. Everyone took at least one six seed this year, right?

The point is, you were stupid, and the selection committee was smart, and all those dudes are easily winning their pools right now.

Ok, I'm running to the Verizon Center. Be well. Let's do this again next week .

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