D.C. Sports Bog Live: NCAA Finals, Nats Opening Day, More

Dan Steinberg
D.C. Sports Bogger
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 11:00 AM

D.C. Sports Bogger Dan Steinberg was online Tuesday, April 7, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss Monday night's NCAA championship game between Michigan State and North Carolina, opening days for the Nats and Orioles and your questions about his latest bog posts. bog posts.


Dan Steinberg: Hey all. You interrupted me from watching Minnesota news broadcasts about Bemidji State, but whatever, I'll get to that later.

There's not much else in town this week aside from that Frozen Four, so I expect a high-level of expert Frozen Four chatter and advice in this space. I already got invited to a BU happy hour thing, but that's like being invited to hang out with Red Sox fans during a LCS against the Rays. We're in this for Bemidji, right?

Anyhow, if you have questions, I'll answer them.


Atlanta, Ga.: When do you make your debut of bad predictions on the junkies?

Dan Steinberg: You mean when will I go on the Junkies and make bad predictions, a la Rob Dibble saying the Nats have 95-win potential? Heck, I'll do that whenever they ask me to, but my specialty is bad NCAA tourney predictions, so it might take 49 weeks or so.

I still take some pride in having UNC and Michigan State in my Final Four. I take little pride in my predicted Pitt-Memphis finale.

I am trying to get the Junkies to give ME some predictions on what that Cakes fellow will look like with his Caps playoff beard.


D.C.: What's a "bog post"?

Dan Steinberg: Trust me, I ask myself that same question every night while I'm falling asleep.


Bethesda, Md.: With approximately 20 percent of the stadium seats unsold during Opening Day with the President of the United States throwing out the first ball, how do you think that bodes for the rest of the Nationals' season? What would possess the Lerners to believe that anyone would pay over $300 to watch the Nationals?

Dan Steinberg: Um, poorly.

Look, I've said this before and I'll say it until I'm walking out of the Post offices for the last time with nothing but my headless Bruce Boudreau bobblehead: people will flock to Nats Park once the team starts winning. All those predictions of parking and traffic nightmares will finally come true. You'll have to wait in line for a hot dog, and not only because there's only one surly man behind the counter. Oh yes, people will come, Bethesda.

It's just not when the team has a young staff that will be brutalized on occasion and a 70-75-win product. So yeah, there will again be empties this year.

As for the top price point, or whatever the $300 represents, I don't understand it any better at FedEx or Verizon or any arena. I don't have that kind of money, but some people do it, and some of them like sitting in great seats.


Washington, D.C.: so how does the 2010 season look for the Nats?

Dan Steinberg: I think a fair hope, for the media and the fans, is that the Nats can not derail in the first few months. No one, in the bleachers or in the press box or in the owner's suite, thinks this is a playoff team, which is fine, but you really don't want to give up on things before May starts. Especially when you need to write eight items a day and your NBA team isn't in the playoffs.

But I seem to recall a certain local baseball team that got off to a smoking first week a year ago, and that didn't necessarily connote great things, so one marginally unsightly loss shouldn't be cause for depression just yet. If they pull a Wizards and start 1-10, though.....


Mt. Pleasant, Washington, D.C.: What are your expectations for the racing presidents this season? Will this finally be the year that Teddy wins?

Dan Steinberg: No.

But, as Stan Kasten has now joked 7,429 times, "he has to win sometime, and the only way you can make sure you see it is if you buy a ticket."

Was there really a president's race in Miami yesterday that I somehow didn't see?


Burke, Va.: Rob Dibble predicted 95 wins for the Nats? Must have been an incentive clause in his contract to induce such a comment. There was a reason Don Sutton didn't come back this year. His unwillingness to make up positive comments on the air about a bad team!

Dan Steinberg: He did not predict, per se. He said that "I think the Nationals have a lot of what it takes to win 95 games, they just don't know it yet. They have to believe it."

So having a lot of what it takes, I guess, doesn't mean having all of what it takes.

He has gone out of his way a few times to praise the Lerner family, which is probably a smart career move. By the way, have I ever mentioned how much I respect and admire Don Graham? A true visionary in the field.


Bethesda, Md.: Adam Dunn is on pace for 648 RBI this season. Are we witnessing the greatest performance in the history of baseball?

Dan Steinberg: Nope. That would be Emilio Bonifacio, who is on pace for 648 hits, 486 stolen bases and 162 inside-the-park home runs, not allowing for the occasional off day.

Dunn's at-bats figure to be some of the most exciting moments at the new park. Batting practice and otherwise. I'd rate that just above the Racing Presidents, and just below the first time I get one of those newfangled hummus wraps.


Atlanta, Ga.: How boring have D.C. sports gotten? Nats looking at another epic losing season, Wizards almost done and out of playoffs, even THE United stink. What can a fan look forward to during the summer months?

Dan Steinberg: Wait, the longtime "The" antagonist of D.C. United fans is actually from Atlanta? Shocking development.

The Wiz are never going to be playing into the summer, and the Caps could go further than the Wiz have in years and years, so I wouldn't bring them into this. And why do you think DCU stinks? In an oft-made (ok, never-made comparison), DCU was kind of like the Wiz last year, felled by a never-ending string of injuries to role players and stars alike. And six years ago, there was no baseball team to be bored by.

We've had tremendously awful D.C. sports years over the past decade or so, but any time one of your clubs is fighting for the second seed in the playoffs with its star in the MVP discussion for a second straight year, "boring" would strike me as the wrong word.


Incredulous in Washington, D.C.: Look into your crystal ball, Dan, and tell me what you think will be the most fun thing to cover about the Nats in August (when they're 18 games out).

Also, once the Caps' season is over, there's always the Washington/Baltimore/Annapolis Bayhawks. MLL Fever: Catch It!

Dan Steinberg: Amazingly, minor-league sports haven't proven to be big Web traffic generators for the D.C. Sports Bog.

With an admittedly small sample size of, let me see, maybe four conversations, I think Adam Dunn will be entertaining on and off the field, even if they're 20 games under .500 in August.

I also don't have a niche with the Nats, which kept me away just about all of last year. Plus Nats fans largely hate me. Plus Tom Boswell is now blogging like 15 times an hour, so it's hard to keep up. Once he starts Tweeting, I'm toast.


Boring: Was that the most boring NCAA final or what? I turned it off during the first half. Yes the Tarheels were great but seriously that was not entertaining.

Dan Steinberg: I lasted for about half of the second half. Without getting into specifics, I claimed second-place in a Sweet 16-and-on pool that will cover up roughly one-third of my various other strictly recreational entrance fees. I fully embrace the theory that if you enter enough strictly recreational pools, and pick enough conflicting results, you can at least guarantee yourself a reason to watch just about every game in the final. The best moment was when I was betting a friend $1 on made-missed free throws during the regional semis.

And as others have noted, this should certainly be one of the first responses the next time someone pulls out the old "I love college basketball because it's so exciting, but I just can't get into that boring NBA" line.


Nats Opener: I was hoping Boswell would be on again today so he could continue to talk about Lannen and all his quality plus starts.

Dan Steinberg: I have a stat I refer to as "Quality plus-plus-minus-plus-squared-times-three" starts. Collin Balester is second only to Sandy Koufax over the past 64 years if you look at weekday starts in the last week of August.

But look, Boz's column was fair enough. He said things could unravel. He just was trying to spread some opening day joy.


washingtonpost.com: A Veteran Voice Emerges (Post, April 7)


D.C.: Didn't Wilbon proclaim that the NCAA final was going to be a great game and would probably go into overtime? What's he going to be loud and wrong about next?

Dan Steinberg: He was dead-on with one of his college football predictions. Though I can't remember which one anymore. Blogging has ruined my brain.

But anyone who ever writes about sports will look dumb about every other day, unless you take my approach to never say anything interesting. Here was Feinstein writing in the special section a few weeks ago: "The bottom half of this [Midwest] draw is wide open because no one is terribly good. Michigan State got a No. 2 seed by default, and wouldn't be a bad pick to lose to Robert Morris except that Tom Izzo is a great tournament coach. His presence alone should get the Spartans to the round of 16, although Boston College would be a difficult second-round game."

Then he said Kansas would make the regional final.

Hell, in the same section I said VCU would beat UCLA.

But I'm with you that it was boring.


Annapolis, Md.: Nats fans hate you? Hmmmm....wonder why. (that's sarcastic -- I know why...but do you?)

Dan Steinberg: Yes.

Look, they're the easiest target in town right now. When they're good, I will lap up every single "Paint NatsTown Red" storyline there is.


Fairfax, Va.: So how does your NCAA women's bracket look? I mean, you did fill one out, right?

Dan Steinberg: I regret to announce that I filled out neither a women's bracket nor an NIT bracket. Nor a CBI or CIT bracket. I don't do them for fun, I do them for strictly recreational wagers, and no one offered me entrance into a women's pool. I would have accepted immediately.

The real tragedy, though, is that the Final is going up against American Idol. I wouldn't have watched MSU-UNC against Idol, and I won't be watching UConn-Louisville. Though I would love to see what Angel M. has to say if the Cards spring the upset.....Obama should get ready.


Newark, Del.: No trip home for you during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Steinz.

Pitt, Montreal, NYC, Florida.

What's your preference and prediction?

Dan Steinberg: I'm surprised you didn't ask me about WrestleMania. Does everyone know which D.C. sports personality (reportedly) hurried home from the Verizon Center on Sunday evening to watch the wrasslin?

Anyhow, it would appear that we're setting modest travel goals, with our industry going under and all. So Montreal I wouldn't go at all. Florida neither. New York is best, because I could take the train up and post playoff beard reflections while traveling. But for traffic, interest, and maximum angry emails, Pittsburgh's the clear number one.


Easy Targets?: Nationals fans are "the easiest target in town right now." Really? Easier than the Wizards? or minor league arena football's D.C. Armor?

Dan Steinberg: No no, not the fans, I meant the team.

And yeah, I'd say more than the Wizards, who still have four straight playoff berths on their resume, at least until this season officially ends. Plus three legit (former) all stars.

Things like the Armor, sure, you could mock, but the Nats are a more worthy target, theoretically. But remember, I emptied some of my limited travel budget for Spring Training, because I want to deflect some of the "you're a dirty ruthless no-morals bandwagoner" criticism once they get good. I will be there a lot this year, I imagine. Especially if the hummus is nice and garlicky.


Arlington, Va.: How ridiculous was the notion by media types like Wilbon and others that the pro-MSU crowd at Ford Field last night would make a difference in the championship game? I thought Bobby Knight summed it up best after the game by saying "I've never heard of a fan scoring one point against a visiting team." Great teams can win anywhere.

Dan Steinberg: Well, home teams in college basketball win a massive percentage of games. Just massive. But I think that's not necessarily because of the fans; it's because of comfort, and lack of travel, and routine, and all those obvious reasons. And GOOD teams win on the road; UNC lost, what, two road games all year? Jim Calhoun nearly gagged when the CBS reporter asked him how influential the crowd was after the semifinal; he said it played absolutely no role.


Go Bemidji State!: My husband (a fellow Buffalonian and hockey fanatic) and I are headed to the Frozen Four on Thursday and will be pulling for Bemidji State, mainly because we have no vested interest in the other teams and presumably BS will be underrepresented. No question, just wanted to insert some Frozen Four talk in here (instead of boring Nats talk)...

Dan Steinberg: The AD told me they easily went through their 600-ticket allotment, and that there will be more alumni trying to find tickets this week. But you have to figure a huge share of the impartial fans this week will line up behind Team Beaver. I talked to a few Caps fans on Sunday who said the same thing. (They're going to the games, and plan to cheer for Bemidji.)


Storrs, Fla.: Yeah, well those missed free throws cost me a lot Saturday.

On the other hand, I don't have to buy another "Huskies Total Domination Men's and Women's Champions" t-shirt...guess the '04 version will have to do for another year.

Dan Steinberg: Please state your answer in the form of a question.


Patrick Stine: Alex Ovechkin vs. Chuck Norris. Who wins?

Dan Steinberg: Funny that you say that. I was asking some of the Comcast SportsyNet beard-growing personalities for their best beard picks, meaning among their colleagues, but one said Ovie and another said Chuck Norris, unless I dreamed the entire episode.

I watched Alex spend a long time at practice before all-star game trying to perfect his bounce the puck on the stick and then spin 360 and pick it out of mid-air and slam it into the net trick. He came tantalizingly close. But it never really happened. So, Chuck Norris.


Downtown: Did you see the crowds at the CBI and CIT games? They were louder (and likely larger) than probably 80 percent of the NCAA tournament games.

Dan Steinberg: Well, they weren't larger. Come on. Wyoming drew like 2,300, right? I have no doubt that they could have been louder. Aside from massive looming upsets (Mason over U-Conn, Belmont over Duke), NCAA tournament games I've attended are often noted for their crowd lameness. No costumes, that's for sure.


S. Rockville, Md.: This is your invite to the UVM pep rally and pregame party on Thursday. The state that brought you Ben and Jerry's and all kinds of fabulous cheeses deserves respect! Go Catamounts!

Dan Steinberg: Well, ok, but where is it?

And why does your message not mention Magic Hat? Or Mike Lonergan?

Seems to me Vermont might be the forgotten member of this foursome, even though Burlington would easily win the "which home city would you most like to live in out of the Frozen Four" game. In the men's basketball Final Four, needless to say, the answer would have been "I'm just fine right here, thanks."


Rockville, Md.: Worst uniform in D.C.? My money is on Nat's away: Nats Uniform

Dan Steinberg: I'll go ahead and disagree. At least the color scheme is solid. I still can't get behind the Wizards colors. Red white and blue are still waiting for that phone to ring.

By the way, Nats are getting the red out, Caps are rocking the red, D.C. United is the red and black, Redskins have red in their name.....do the Wiz really want to be on their red-less island?


Arlington, Va.: Just out of pure curiosity and to keep you fresh on your Frozen Four trivia -- Where is Miami University (Ohio) located?

Also, I remember hearing it referred to as "J Crew U" growing up -- I lived about 30 minutes away. Now that I'm older that just doesn't seem to fit for a university located in SW Ohio.

Dan Steinberg: Ohio. I win!

Athens, duh. J Crew U is a new one to me. In fact, anything about Miami not involving Wally's World or the fact that they used to be called Redskins or the honors program that my dad always used to talk about would be a new one to me.

(The Athens thing was a joke, by the way.)


We Hope The Bemidji Pioneer Pays Well: Have you noticed that nearly every Sports Bog post about the Frozen Four is available on the Web site of the newspaper The Bemidji Pioneer?

Dan Steinberg: I have. that's ok, I'm about to link back to some of their amazing coverage. Did you see the Beavers were chased off their home ice by the 32nd Annual Bemidji Jaycees Home, Sport & Travel Show?


Anonymous: "any time one of your clubs is fighting for the second seed in the playoffs with its star in the MVP discussion for a second straight year, "boring" would strike me as the wrong word."

Unless we're talking about hockey. Are we talking about hockey? Yes. So that is boring.

Dan Steinberg: Caps haters, still? Wow. Dying breed.


Fairfax, Va.: How come you didn't cover the showing of the XXX movie at UofM last night? I see it drew a bigger crowd than a Gary Williams men's team.

Dan Steinberg: Wait, so did they actually show the porn parts or not? I couldn't tell from our story, which I skimmed on the way in. IT said they just showed 30 minutes, though, and quoted a kid asking for more skin. I mean, you're not really going to show a XXX movie without the XXX, right?

As for that whole controversy....man, politicians find interesting issues to care about.


Nats fan mood indicator: No hate here. Some annoyance on occasion. Loved the ST blogging, BTW.

Dan Steinberg: Thank you.

It occurs to me that another massive reason I don't cover them the way I cover other teams is they don't hold practices. That's where I get most of my stuff on the Redskins, Wizards, Caps and United. It also is at a more blog-friendly time than a 7 pm game.


Fort Belvoir, Va.: Will you enter the Caps beardathon for the playoffs? I'll sponsor you.

Dan Steinberg: Nah, this one could take too long. The itching honestly makes me hate life. Plus the whole official beard web site thing is putting playoff beards in danger of being overexposed. And an overexposed beard can wither and die.


Rashad from D.C.: Who is your "dream" interview in this area or otherwise?

Dan Steinberg: Daniel Snyder, obviously.

Consider this an interview request, Redskins Park people.


Richmond, Va.: Bill Simmons said on his podcast about a week ago that he thinks of Tony Kornheiser as his illegitimate father (on the grounds that they both like to poke the bear, I think).

Dan Levy, of On the DL with Dan Levy Podcast fame, thinks of Mr. Tony as his "uncle" and didn't see how Simmons is like Tony.

So, who wins this contest of media giants for the rightful claim to be related to TK?

Dan Steinberg: I'll agree with Dan that I don't see the Simmons-TK link too much. And the way Dan talks to him sort of feels like a nephew-uncle thing, I suppose. I do think a lot of bloggers and online sports writer people have some of Tony's sensibilities of never touching Xs and Os, using huge bucketfuls of pop culture references, being obsessively self-referential, etc.

Anyhow, can I claim dibs on being Tony's paper boy or something? The kind who never, ever gets any tips?


Worst Nats uni?: uh, that would be the alternative blue jersey with the red-white-and-blue logo:

New Nationals Uniform

Dan Steinberg: Oh yeah. That's a real stinker, for sure. The hat, too.


Fairfax, Va.: I thought it was a bit strange to see Mike James in that dancing video. He clearly didn't belong. Isn't he a lot older than Nick, Andray and Javale? Or does he have the same disease as Benjamin Button?

Dan Steinberg: He is. But I thought it worked, sort of legitimized the operation, and I loved the clothing contrast.

Michael Lee's crack reporting yesterday indicated that more teammates were supposed to participate and bailed, so maybe James was caught out of place but then couldn't gracefully retreat.


Better Choice: GB for BSU: Why go to a BU happy hour when, as you've already told us, the Bemidji State folks are meeting at 2:00 p.m. Thursday at the Gordon Biersch brew pub near VC. Good beer and garlic fries make my inner Homer Simpson go "...mmmmmmm..."

Dan Steinberg: Still waiting for where the Miami and Burlington people are setting up shop.

Though I'm pretty sure good beer and garlic fries aren't approved Passover dining.


Arlington, Va.: Dan, you are right about the Nats and attendance. If they win, they (ticket buyers) will come. That simple. Not sure the mall building Lerners understand that yet and are willing to 'buy' a few players to get that going. And you know what, the Nats just have to be a bit over .500 for the fans to show up. Look back at the Nats run in the first couple years where they were in the hunt for a while. Gotta spend some money to make it. When do billionaires forget that fact?

Dan Steinberg: When I answer 25 questions from "Arlington," are they all from the same person? I always wonder that.

The theory, I guess, is that you grow with the young pitchers you have, and try to keep fans interested with a couple of promising bats, and in 2011 or 2012 or whatever the whole thing goes crazy, just in time for the Washington Post to close its sports section.

New park or no new park, there's no question that more of my non-sports fan friends talked Nats that first year than they do now. Way, way, way, way more. My sports fan friends, too, for that matter. They could be playing on the front lawn of the White House, and it wouldn't matter unless they were winning.


Silver Spring, Md.: Atlanta's over dislike of professional soccer aside, I don't think you can fairly say that DCU "stinks" this year. They're 1-0-2 to start the season. More importantly, they're getting quality production from a pair of rookies in Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace.

Plus: Ben Olsen is back! And his side career as a television commercial star continues unabated.

Dan Steinberg: A pair of roommate rookies in Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace. Plus, unlike yesteryear's rookies who lived in P.G., these kids are living in Adams Morgan. You can take the D.C. out of D.C. United (and sounds like everyone is trying very hard to do just that), but you can't take....wait, a second, that doesn't work. Well, anyhow, D.C. United players love DC.


Raleigh, N.C.: Where do you rate this UNC team? They won the national championship without anyone really challenging them in the tournament. They lost only 4 games, which is pretty typical for #1 seeds who win the tournament nowadays. More impressively, to me, they won 30 games by 8 or more points this year. And whether it was within a single game or over a season, they showed the ability to play better when they needed to. Early on they established much of their resume, lost their first two conference games, and after that were almost unstoppable when Lawson was healthy.

Dan Steinberg: I agree.

Overall, I'd rank them about tied (in regulation, in College Park) with the Terps.

But no, you're right. A local sports official asked me for a national champion the week before Selection Sunday, and I said it was hard to imagine anyone but UNC. Then I filled out three brackets, and didn't pick UNC once. If they played the whole thing again, you can imagine tons of games going differently....I'd still probably put Louisville and Pitt in the Final Four, for example. But you'd still pick UNC to win the whole thing, after what we just saw. You meaning me.


Dan Steinberg: Ok, I have to go. I should have mentioned, my productivity on the Bog has plummeted due to a broken laptop. One of the worst days of a sports blogger's professional life. So you'll probably see me wandering through downtown today tweeting on my blackberry or something.

Idol prediction: tonight is finally the night for Anoop Dawg.

Ok, til next week, keep that Beaver pride alive....


More on the tournament:

Kornheiser's Picks.

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Database.

Full coverage -- NCAA Tournament: 2009.


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