Dan Steinberg, D.C. Sports Bog Live: Caps, Nats, D.C. United, Dog Herding and Burrito Guns

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Dan Steinberg
D.C. Sports Bogger
Tuesday, May 19, 2009; 11:00 AM

Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog was online Tuesday, May 19 to offer his wisdom and insight on the Caps, the Nationals' ticket sales struggles and what the Wizards should do in the NBA Draft.

A transcript follows.

Read Dan's daily smorgasborg of the bizarre side of D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.

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Dan Steinberg: Ack, sorry, was poring over Nats stats and lost track of the time.

Anyhow, here's the main issue: It's May 19. I have, say, two weeks or so of vacation time I need to burn between now and the start of Redskins training camp. That leaves something like eight or nine weeks of time in which I'm expected to produce readable content--or as readable content as I ever produce--about D.C. sports. What in the world am I supposed to do?

In the past, I've gotten suggestions about things like the Bayhawks and the Armor and the Maryland Maniacs, about minor-league baseball and the Washington Freedom and similar under-the-radar teams. The problem with all that is, readership numbers would suggest that no one really is demanding amusing tales of pro lacrosse. So if your answer is "find some way to write about the Redskins," you're probably correct.

Anyhow...

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Washington, D.C.: The "Natinals" fiasco feels like it could get even uglier from a PR standpoint. It's the visible metaphor for the team's performance; so why not make lemonade from this lemon? With the Spelling Bee coming to town, they have an opportunity to be funny and self-deprecating. Flaunt the imperfection or hope it goes away?

washingtonpost.com: D.C. Sports Bog - Nats Bats Also Feature Spelling Mistakes (Washington Post, May 18)

Dan Steinberg: Well, auctioning off the misspelled jerseys was funny and self-deprecating, I think. It's hard to be exceedingly funny and self-deprecating when things are so sorry. Not to be cruel, but I think you legitimately turn into the games now partly for the car-crash hopes of seeing exactly what will go wrong in the sixth inning this time, and how Rob Dibble will react. I just posted some of his better lines from last night, including his desire to disseminate the bullpen, which didn't make sense but sure captured the mood.

And the reason I was late, I was adding up runs-per-inning over this latest 4-9 skid, figuring the seventh and eighth would be particularly gnarly. Not really, though. 21 runs in the sixth inning over those 13 games, which is bad, but overall, the 7th-through-9th have been about the same as the 1st-through-3rd, if my math was right.

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Mount St. Joseph High School, Baltimore: Is Daniel Cabrera the worst batter in Major League Baseball? He has 25 at-bats and 23 strikeouts. Impressive.

Dan Steinberg: Which is why Chico Harlan labeled one of Cabrera's at-bats this year (where he walked, I believe) possibly the worst pitched at-bat in Major League history.

I'd still rather watch him hit than watch him pitch.

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Atlanta, Ga.: I know the guy who works as the Bayhawks mascot. Even he admits the only good thing about it is the $10 all you can drink specials.

Dan Steinberg: See, I didn't know anything about that. That's not good, that's great. But it still doesn't make for much of a blog entry.

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Fair Lakes, Va.: Dan,

Can someone please explain to the Lerners that attendance is down because no one wants to go to a ball game when they already know the outcome? Here's the scenario: Nats fall behind early, most likely due to inept fielding, Nats rally and take a decent lead. Nats bullpen nibbles and walks a few batters, then hits a few batters in frustration then gives up a couple of hits to lose the lead.

At home I can at least turn away and do something productive when the bullpen enters the game. At the ballpark, I would need to leave in the fifth or sixth inning, which is not really getting much value for my dollar. For me, that is why I refuse to pay to see the Nats this year. I'm sure that I'm not alone in this reasoning.

Dan Steinberg: Well look, for all the jokes that have been made and will continue to be made, it's not like they don't know this. Kasten has said, repeatedly, that they'll get the attendance they deserve, which is what's currently happening. They're actually a bit above what they deserve, since they're clearly the worst team in baseball right now but they don't have the worst attendance.

This Pirates thing, though, is tough to take. After what happened with the Steelers and the Caps, we really needed some local team to defend D.C.'s pride against Western Penn. D.C. United and the Wizards don't get that chance. Heck, GW lost to Duquesne, and Georgetown lost, at home, by 16, to Pitt. Face it, we're a wholly owned subsidiary of Pittsburgh at this point.

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Incredulous: Any chance the travel budget can put you in Russia to follow the offseasons of Semin, Varlamov and Ovie?

Dan Steinberg: Uh, no. The travel budget, such as it is, will not be paying to put me in Vancouver to follow the Olympic exploits of half the Caps, plus curling. I'm pretty sure the travel budget is now whatever Southwest coupons I find in my inbox, plus as many rides as I can hitch from Barry Svrluga's rental cars.

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Springfield, Va.: Does Manny Acta make it past the All-Star break as Nats' manager?

Dan Steinberg: Well, having all the knowledge of someone who sits at his computer cursing about having deleted a Rob Dibble transcript about wanting to use Slipknot as his wedding song, I'd say we're nearing the point of there not being a point. We're well into May, the winning percentage is below .300, the bullpen is getting ready to enter its third spin cycle, attendance is flat-lining ... if you haven't done it yet, what would make you do it in late June?

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Herndon, Va.: Dan -

More likely draft pick for the Wizards: Blake Griffin or my local 7-11 cashier? The over/under would be interesting.

Dan Steinberg: I don't think I understand the question. What would the over-under be? 14? Have I been staring at too many line scores?

Flip Saunders was certainly sobering this AM. When you say the Wiz have an 82 percent chance of not getting the top pick....I mean, that's a way, way greater chance than the Nats losing tonight, which really shows how unlikely Griffin is to come here.

Speaking of over-unders, I couldn't believe that Semin was listed with an over/under of 5.5 for points vs. the Pens. That seemed absurdly low. Even with him being hurt, hardly scoring and being generally ineffective, he still came in with six points. Oh, to live in Las Vegas.

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Washington, D.C.: Could we please show Mr. Dibble the door?

He says "we" more than my three-year-old playing "This Little Piggy." Sure, he adds some interesting analysis from time to time, but the endless subjective banter is getting out of control. I don't mind a little bit of rooting for the home team, but this guy is just out of control with his homerness. I though Sam and Sonny were homers, but Dibble is on a completely different level (100 levels above those guys in fact).

Dan Steinberg: Well, it's all we. Once you get used to that, and sort of know what to expect, I think it becomes less grating. You obviously don't agree. To me, one you've said we once, it's all the same. And he does get paid by the team, right?

It certainly doesn't make him any less frank. Although he did start talking about teams that were 15 games out and came back to win their divisions last night. That seems ... unlikely.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Dan--

As I recover from the Caps' elimination from the playoffs, I've unfortunately started to pay attention to baseball again. Is it possible that there are simply no good pitchers available anywhere that could work in the Nats' bullpen? Surely there must be some other Ron Villones out there looking for work ...

Dan Steinberg: "Surely there must be some other Ron Villones out there...."

Yup, that's where we're at. Our kingdom for a Ron Villone. Whoops, there I went and used the first-person plural. Your kingdom? Their kingdom? Seattle's Kingdome?

Anyhow, it's not about finding another Ron Villone, it's about holding some sort of cleansing ceremony out there and clearing out the bad spirits. I mean, none of these guys can possibly be that bad, and we've seen evidence in the past and in the minors and in other organizations that would seem to support that claim. I think a bonfire of half-smokes ought to do the trick.

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Ballston, Va.: How's about coming out to local herding trials Mr. Steinberg? Our dogs are in better shape than any athlete at the college or pro level in the area and the sheep are smarter than Manny Acta and his coaches.

There is one in Berryville, Va. this weekend. One of the top herding dog trainers in the country will be there competing with his dogs and he will be offering guidance to his students.

Beats blogging about Chris Cooley.

Dan Steinberg: I've asked to be fired many, many, many times. We need to cut costs, and where better to start than with a blog about facial hair. The request has been consistently declined, but I think if I tell the boss I'll be covering herding trials this weekend, maybe he'd finally relent.

Anyhow, how come you didn't namecheck the top herding dog trainer? If I'm gonna drive to Berryville for the interview, I might as well know the guy's name.

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Wizards Bench: Which possible rookie are you looking forward to covering for the blog?

Dan Steinberg: Blake Griffin = clicks from rabidly happy Wiz fans.

Ricky Rubio = clicks from committed Spanish national team fans.

Thabeet = crickets.

I don't really know the personalities of some of the rumored third fourth fifth guys well enough. And Thabeet actually seems engaging. As I've said before, what's most important is that the team is winning. Everything else will fall into place at that point.

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Washington, D.C.: Did you ever dig deep into the sausage gun at Nationals Park? Is this like the Burrito Toss at Caps games? Also, I've heard that's it's actually t-shirts inside the burrito foil ...

Dan Steinberg: Yeah, I'll have a post on this later. Screech fires the sausages off a Segway. I've been given to understand that there was a one-time malfunction, but that the problem has been dealt with.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Steinberg:

The way I see it, summer in D.C. for you is a choice between the Nats and United. Why not just give up the ghost and start hanging around RFK for a while? Any evidence I've ever heard from you or Goff seems to suggest that local soccer fans have much stronger internet loyalty than local baseball fans.

Plus, Emilio is still rocking that Beatles-esque haircut ...

Dan Steinberg: Yeah, at least from the blogs, our traffic on the Soccer Insider is consistently higher than our traffic on the Nationals Journal. But I'd say Goff pretty much has that market locked down, and some of my material comes from the media horde. When it's just me and Goff sitting in the rat infested media room, and Goff asks all the pertinent questions, that leaves me with two options: asking Emilio about his hair extension again, or packing up my bag and going home.

I will head out there next week. And I absolutely would have gone for that protest walk from Linkin Park to RFK with the Barra and the Eagles, had it not been scheduled directly against Game 5 of the Caps-Pens series.

There is a strong argument to be made for more bog coverage of United, but bear in mind that I will get virtually no national links for even the greatest MLS items, so it would demand that DCU fans agree to click on my blog, say, 13 times a day

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Vienna, Va.: I don't know why people seem so critical of Kasten, et. al. Based on my attendance at one game and watching three others this weekend, it appears they were quite successful at their mission to attract Phillies fans to buy tickets.

Dan Steinberg: Well sure, but that's shooting fish. The real test is how many Pirates fans they can draw this week. Then we'll be able to judge things more fairly.

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Hamilton, N.Y.: If the Natinals go under, shouldn't DC be forced to forfeit one of its other sports teams as a penalty, like the Wizards? (Perhaps that's not enough of a penalty.)

Dan Steinberg: No no, I'd say the reverse. Maybe if we (there's that we again) offer the world our Natinals, the world could trade us back Blake Griffin, a soccer stadium and future considerations.

No one's ever asked me exactly why I'm so much of a jerk about the Nats, especially vis a vis other local teams. I don't really know the answer, and I realize that you didn't ask, either. But I think it does have something to do with DCU in my mind. I was extremely excited when the Nats were awarded to DC; I followed all the news intently and, since I wasn't writing about pro sports at the time, I sort of told myself I'd be allowed to become a Nats fan. But that never happened, and then it became obvious that DCU was going to be condemned to remain in that mess of a stadium, and while that isn't exactly the fault of any of the people in that franchise, the issues got mixed up in my head.

D.C. United has a history in this town, and a record of success, and just a terrific fan base, and that a team without any of those things would be gifted a massively expensive stadium while the other guys get stuck in Hades has definitely colored everything I write about the Nats. That's what I'll say if anyone asks me why I'm such a jerk.

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Washington, D.C.: My suggestion: Chase down some Wizards players and see what they're up to. Those guys never let you down. Plus, you need to replace the retired Arenas summer blog entries describing impromptu paintball fights, cars being desecrated, and Andray Blatche's fat cousin.

Dan Steinberg: That's a fine idea.

I still never used all the quotes from Mike James about how he has the prettiest feet in the NBA. Those quotes are all on my old, deceased laptop. Golly it makes me mad when laptops just up and break like that, especially when I'm in Pittsburgh and am forced to spend, quite literally, more than $100 to use computers at two different Kinkos and one Renaissance hotel, which charged me 74 cents a minute for a connection slower than your grandma's dial-up.

Anyhow, that's a fine idea. It didn't work out so well last time (remember the parachutes?), but I want to request permission to watch a Gilbert summer work-out session.

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Fairfax, Va.: Even if the Wiz end up with the number two pick, wouldn't Ricky Rubio provide more interesting Bog material than Blake Griffin? Ricky is 17-year old basketball phenom with long hair. He's like a skinnier version of Zac Efron if Zac Efron was from Spain. He has the potential to be a Bog superstar.

Dan Steinberg: I'll take your word on it. Age can be a weakness as well as a strength, Fairfax. Sometimes superstardom requires the wisdom and wit that can be gained only through a few years of experience and world-weariness.

Plus, more guards = fewer minutes for DeShawn Stevenson.

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Washington, D.C.: A few Nats positives- (A) Hitting,

(B) Dibble- the fuse is lit, it's just a matter of when we get- boom! goes the dynamite, but a definite upgrade and

(C) Minimization of Clint's role at the stadium- sorry Clint, you are irritating....anything else?

washingtonpost.com: YouTube - Boom Goes the Dynamite

Dan Steinberg: D) Zimmerman is actually now the star that everyone said he was going to be.

E) Dunn is earning his money.

F) To launch and accidentally explode a sausage is better than never to have launched a sausage at all.

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Man Hat Tan: Q: What should you do for the next three months?

A: Write a book!

Q: About what?

A: I don't know but the title should be "O Lord it's a B(l)og's Life"

Dan Steinberg: You're now the second person to have suggested I write a book this week. Well, unless you're actually the same person as the first person, in which case you're the first person to have twice suggested I write a book this week.

Really, I don't have any desire to write a book. I don't read books any more. I don't read anything any more, besides Twitter feeds. Did everyone see that Seth Greenberg is now on Twitter? HeadHokie. Jeff Jones, Karl Hobbs, JTIII, anything?

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Capitol Hill: Why dont you check out roller derby at the DC Armory? Could be interesting at least once. They'd probably be willing to give you good material at least for some pub.

washingtonpost.com: D.C. Rollergirls

Dan Steinberg: Season's over. The DemonCats won. Or maybe they lost. Anyhow, the finale was maybe a week and a half ago, I believe.

Plus, they're already nearing overexposure. The words kind, not the clothing kind.

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Washington D.C.: Seems like the Caps as a franchise really turned it around after getting the number one draft pick and then going back to a red white and blue color scheme. Do you think the Wizards might consider doing the same thing? I know they retired those gold and black uniforms but I think it's time they retire those awful blue ones as well.

washingtonpost.com: D.C. Sports Bog - Wizards Coach Flip Saunders Has a Lucky Medallion (Washington Post, May 19)

Dan Steinberg: Plus the Nats have the number one draft pick, and they're red white and blue, and we all know how well that's working out! Hell, the Nats are close to locking up the no. 1 pick for 2010 as well. This could be the home of the No. 1 pick.

As to your actual question, it's just mandatory. The Wizards' colors came at the tail end of that abominable trend toward ugly neon-style coloring, and now we've all realized that was bad and wrong and classic hues are still best. I don't get as fired up about the bullets name as a lot of fans, but the colors should be fixed as soon as possible. If nothing else, you get to sell lots of merchandise.

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Re: Caps and Exploding Burritos: The reason the caps now use a T-shirt and a coupon is that during a student rush night last year a Buffalo Sabres fan went to grab a burrito and grabbed a little too hard. It exploded all over their face. I think this was either a Thursday or Friday night game.

Dan Steinberg: As with every story of exploding foodstuffs, I don't know whether this is true, but I so want it to be.

I will never cease to be amazed that, having paid $50 or $70 to sit in nice enough seats for Wizards games, fans absolutely lose their minds in an attempt to win a free, warmed-over, pawed-at-by-a-mascot burrito that they could buy for $7 next door. I mean, literally, most of the people going nuts could skip the game and buy 10 burritos, then go watch at home, and twice a quarter pretend that there was a burrito giveaway and that they just won. Imagine the bliss.

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Virginia Beach, Va.: I'm giving you a choice. You've been to every venue in the D.C. area. Between the Nats, Caps, Wiz, United and Redskins fans, who wins in a fight?

Dan Steinberg: Like, a 10-on-10 fight? Or the entire fanbase at once? If the latter, the Skins still win based on sheer size, while the Nats get a DNP-coach's decision. If the former, and you're randomly picking out 10 fans from each team, assuming enough Nats fans can be found....well, I'd still probably choose the Skins. Caps fans have a pretty large overlap, but I'd say percentage wise there are probably more people like me in a hockey crowd. Wizards games still get some people who just like to dress up nice. United fans would do well on the per-capita-tattoos thing, and they definitely have the biggest shoulder chips, but I'm not sure if there's enough hostility.

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Washington, D.C.: Which Nat goes to the All-Star game? Guzman, as the NL's leading hitter, or Zimmerman for the (new, on-base) streak?

Dan Steinberg: Wait, so have we given up on the Lastings Milledge campaign?

Hard to imagine Guzzie getting to go twice in two years while FoF is shut out.

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Baltimore, Md.: Not that I click on all your United stories 13 times a day (wink), but I've heard stories exist around the team that Goff can't necessarily cover.

Also, if we start to take a collection, can we pay your way to Vancouver?

Dan Steinberg: Did anyone ever follow that fun story where a bunch of Caps fans raised money for Tarik El-Bashir to buy a camera, and then he was told he couldn't accept it or something, so they gave the money to charity instead, and then The Post gave Tarik a camera, and then he never used it? That was awesome.

Anyhow, yes, there are stories around D.C. United that demand my attention. I've got one on tap, actually. Maybe tomorrow, or maybe next week. And in lieu of bus fare to Vancouver, you could just send me a couple more story ideas. Even if it was offered, I've sort of had enough of bailing on my wife and child for extended periods in favor of hanging out with random Swedes.

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washingtonpost.com: The Lastings Milledge All-Star Campaign - Baseball Insider (Washington Post, May 11)

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Fairfax, Va.: Which of these scenarios is most likely to happen?

a. Caps win the Cup within two years.

b. Redskins make the playoffs in 2009.

c. Wizards win a playoff series in 2009-10.

d. Natinals pitchers produce a shutout this season.

e. A Bog post about the Washington Kastles.

Dan Steinberg: I'll rank them in order.

E - John McEnroe is coming to town, right?

D - They still get a few more cracks at the Pirates.

B - The NFL is so random, and Zorn has at least established a base level of competence, and with 1/3 of NFL teams making the playoffs, I'll take my chances.

A - Maybe I'd feel better about this if you said "in Alex Ovechkin's career," but two years, really? Even if you put them annually in a group of about eight or 10 contenders, I'll still take the Redskins making the playoffs first.

C - This has happened once in 25 years, right?

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Boston: I am sure the Caps had their share of players playing hurt through the playoffs, and I know the Bruins and Celtics had a number of guys who played through injuries which will require surgery, some which may affect contract negotiations now that the season is over (David Kreji and Leon Powe).

Broad question: At what point does a player (especially a younger one who has not hit free agency) hurt their career and potential earnings by trying to "suck it up" and can you think of instances of guys shutting it down because of this risk?

Dan Steinberg: Well, the hour is late, so I'll answer a different question instead. No, actually, I'll ask a different question instead: Credit to the Caps for not using injuries as an excuse, although once you announce about 10 times that you're not using injuries as an excuse it starts to sound disturbingly like an excuse. But anyhow: the team did so well with the kids in the early winter, and the injured guys (or some of them) seemed so ineffective, and even if you won this Pittsburgh series they wouldn't have had any sort of chance to heal up, so why not just roll the dice with a call-up over an injured and ineffective superstar? At some point, doesn't that have to be a better option?

As Japers Rink asked, what percentage would Mike Green have to be for an injured Tyler Sloan to be a better option? Forty? Thirty? There's no chance he's not 30 percent as good an NHL player as Mike Green, right?

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Vienna, Va.: How does it work at a newspaper where one reporter wants to do a story on a topic a different reporter usually covers, like with you and D.C. United? Do you get permission from the other reporter? What's the protocol?

Dan Steinberg: Well, I wouldn't exactly say what I do are "stories," per se. But yeah, for D.C. United, I usually call Goff and warn him that I'll be coming over to step on his turf. With the Skins, there's just so much stuff out there, and so many media outlets on the team, that I just kind of show up. But wherever I am, I try to coordinate.

It got to be tough during the Caps playoff run, when we'd have six people out at one game, and sometimes only six or eight players would even talk to the media. At that point, I resorted to whining after the fact that other people were stealing my stuff.

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Arlington, Va.: Run some sort of tournament that involves everybody - maybe best story of the last year? No heavy lifting, lots of potential digressions. All would be good.

Dan Steinberg: That sounds like an idea for December.

Actually, this reminds me, it was around this time last year that I was trying to publish those media approval ranking things about D.C. print/web/tv/radio sports personalities. I guess I ran out of people.

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Bowie, Md.: Did you read the comments section for your "Fan Questions About Game 7" post last week? The guy filling out the Scoops jersey you made fun of slightly wrote a long response and basically schooled you all over the place. Thoughts? Any regrets on using a photo taken without the photee's permission and then using a couple of sentences of your blog to make fun of said photo? That comment looks like it hurt ...

washingtonpost.com: D.C. Sports Bog - Fan Questions About Game 7 (Washington Post, May 14)

Dan Steinberg: Scoops also e-mailed me the same thing he posted as a comment. Man, he's a wordy guy, no?

I don't know legal rules, but I'm pretty sure you don't have to ask someone's permission to post a photo of a jersey they're wearing in a public place. Or, if you do, I've violated that rule about 17 million times in the past three years. I mean, does every AP photographer get the permission of every fan in the inevitable fan photos after every game? I would guess not.

Also, his uniform reads 31 Scoops. I said I love it, but it is, at the same time, a bit nauseating, whatever his last name is. I'll stand my ground on this one.

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Anonymous: Is there still football at the Armory?

washingtonpost.com: D.C. Armor - Professional Indoor Football

Dan Steinberg: Yes. And at Showplace Arena. The Maryland Maniacs. Featuring at least a few guys I've heard of, like former Maryland safety Christian Varner.

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Annandale, Va.: Just got my tickets for "The Battle of the Beltways" this weekend. Well, at least Friday night's game.

Any chance you'll be there this weekend? The series sold out at Nationals Park last year.

Keep up the wonderful work Dan.

Dan Steinberg: Holy cow, someone said something nice.

I'm not sure. Memorial Day Weekend is probably not ideal for Web traffic. And I definitely owe my grandma a visit. On the other hand, I've long thought my daughter would really enjoy the playground at Nats Park. And I never really get to do as much with the concessions as I'd like. Maybe I'll go as a "fan."

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Section 430: Steinz,

Are Dameshek and Simmons off their rocker, or is D.C. blind in the matter about Ovie being the most hated superstar?

washingtonpost.com: D.C. Sports Bog - Simmons Podcast on Ovechkin's Villainy (Washington Post, May 18)

Dan Steinberg: Honestly, if it wasn't May 18, I wouldn't have written that. I like Bill, and he's been nice to me in our few interactions, and this was pretty tame, all in all. I just don't view Ovechkin as a villain. Nor do I view Crosby as a villain. I view Sean Avery as a villain. I can see Brashear as a villain. I'm not sure what in the world would be considered villainous about a guy celebrating his goals in a joyful manner.

But I do live here, and do interact mostly with Caps partisans, so I'll admit that I don't have a solid grasp on this. I also am completely incapable of judging that hit on Gonchar, and whether or not it was unseemly, not because I live in D.C. but because it was so close and so fast and I've never been on skates enough to know how the shoulder and knee work in concert.

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Fairfax, Va.: When you figure out what you're going to do all summer, you'll let us know, right? The Caps season ended less than a week ago, and I'm already suffering from withdrawal.

I assume if the Wizards win (the draft lottery) tonight, you've got a summer full of stuff to work with, but otherwise, how much can you do to sweeten the stink that is the Nats? United's pretty decent and I love soccer, but I know that's a hard sell.

Sort of serious question, though. What will it take to get any real interest in women's sports (Mystics, Freedom)? To me, it's a self-fulfilling remark to say no one cares. I'd like to think if it got any coverage, people would eventually care. Your thoughts?

Dan Steinberg: I think there are different levels of caring. There's the level of driving out to Boyds to watch a Freedom game, or taking the Metro to Verizon Center to watch a Mystics game. That's a pretty superficial level of caring, in some ways. To really really care, you'd act toward those teams the same way you act toward the Redskins and Caps and all the rest: scour the Internet for news, post raving anonymous comments, have trouble sleeping after losses, etc. It's in that sense that not as many people care.

I agree with you that coverage can absolutely drive interest, but interest also swarms what coverage there is. When Goff started blogging United, the fans immediately flocked. We had a Mystics blog going last summer, and that didn't happen. I wish it did, because some of those women are highly entertaining and could fill Bog inches, but....

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Bullpen Inferno: Manny has yet to try this one: Leave the starters in longer. Less bullpen could equal more wins. Right now, Acta may as well bring in gasoline and some kitchen matches instead of a reliever. There is not enough C-4 in this country to fix this mess. Who is standing up to be accountable? Don't tell me Bowden, he is laughing all the way to the bank.

Dan Steinberg: If he's trying to save the arms of his young pitchers, I'm all for lighting up the kerosene and watching the explosion. They're probably not going to contend for a World Series title this year.

But in a case like last night, I think I'd share the thoughts of many fans: no need to talk about the difference between pinch-hitting for Detwiler with no outs, one out or two outs. The key point is, it would be hard for him to do much worse with a bat than Cintron, and if your bullpen is going to flame out, you might as well push that inevitability back to the seventh or eighth if possible.

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Washington, D.C.: Who wins in a fight, Screech or G-wiz?

Dan Steinberg: I'm just posting this so that I can go ahead and post the next question, too.

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Norfolk, Va.: Which local area team mascot would you like to be for a game? And would you choose to be that mascot at the game where they invite all the mascots and start fights with them!?

Dan Steinberg: Seriously, what's with all the mascot questions? I'm a serious sports journalist. I demand serious questions, about, say, player nicknames.

I think G Wiz pounds Screech. Like, first-round TKO, with spectators looking away in horror. And I'd choose to be Testudo, because I'm sick of all those eagles.

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Vienna, VA: What to make of the Caps? Did they play to the level of their talent, and need a few pieces (a rugged defenseman, a forward or two that will force the crease), or did they wilt over pressure and lack the moxie or coaching to go deep into the playoffs? The hockey season was fun, but the playoffs were more exciting than they needed to be.

Dan Steinberg: I think I'd buy everything you say except the wilting under pressure part. No one cares about how needlessly exciting things were as long as you win, and the Caps were right in this series. They went 1-2 in overtime games, with both teams missing countless close chances that would have prevented/ended overtime. If they instead go 2-1 in those games (which I don't think is the same thing as saying "if the Nats had a good bullpen....) then we're still talking playoff hockey right now. For the vast majority of the season, the Caps were flitting between the second and third spot in the East, which suggests they were about the second or third best team, but that's not taking into account how good the Pens were after the coaching change. So if you label the Caps the third or fourth best team in the East, they did about what you'd have expected.

Next year is where it's really going to get interesting. Winning the division last year was an accomplishment, as was winning a series this year, but like Ted Leonsis keeps saying, that's not what people will expect next year. Any pressure-caused wilting would come into play next year, I think.

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Clinton, Md.: I got a free ticket to last night's Nats game and went with buddy who happens to be a police officer somewhat experienced in crowd estimates. His best estimate of the crowd was around eight thousand give or take a thousand or two. Yet the published attendance was around 14,000. Do they include season ticket holders who don't actually show up? Was my friend's estimate off? Where were those extra 5,000-6,000 fans?

Dan Steinberg: Yes, they include season ticket holders who don't show up. Dave Sheinin's attendance story suggested that there are something like 10-12k season ticket holders, based on the lowest announced total of the year, which was in the high 12s, if I remember correctly.

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Washington Post newsroom: Please talk about the Caps and make it interesting so I can put it on the Caps Insider. I'm struggling here.

Dan Steinberg: Get your own traffic. You guys have been crushing me for weeks.

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Alexandria, Va.: In addition to putting together the worst bullpen ever known, Jim Bowden came across as perhaps the biggest jerk in D.C. sports. Can you, in your professional opinion, contradict that statement?

Dan Steinberg: Well, tune in next week for more fun and games and more pleas from me for story/blog ideas!

(As for this question, I think I can think of bigger jerks, but I think I'll keep that opinion to myself.)

(As for the inferno pen, at this point, a decent number of the culprits arrived post-Bowden, believe it or not. I'm telling you, it's not the players, it's the pen itself. We need a cleansing. Er, they. You. Whatever besides we.)

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