D.C. Sports Bog Live: Nats, Caps, Dog Herding and More

The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg interviews ESPN's Erin Andrews about the "sport" of spelling and then solicits "Dancing With the Stars" Host Tom Bergeron to put Erin on his show. Video by Anna Uhls/The Washington Post
Dan Steinberg
D.C. Sports Bogger
Tuesday, June 2, 2009; 11:00 AM

Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog was online Tuesday, June 2 to offer his wisdom and insight on the Nationals, Capitals, D.C. United, the National Spelling Bee and, yes, more dog herding questions.

A transcript follows.

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


Dan Steinberg: Well, every week I think the next week can't possibly have less stuff to write about, but then life surprises me again. In happier news, if you've been wondering about my for-sale house, we seem to have two offers.

Also, I've been playing this game....assume there is a cosmic, perfectly accurate list measuring the power and influence of every person who lives in the D.C. metro area, how many Washington Post sports section staffers would make the top ten percent, and in what order would they be ranked? Wilbon's a one-percenter, I'd think. My goal is to enter the top 40 percent before I die.

Anyhow, Nats TV ratings, Redskins OTAs, Spelling Bee, Mike Williams's weight, awkward interviews with Erin Andrews, whatever. Have at it.


Section 138: Why does it say you will be online to "discuss the Nats ..." Shouldn't it read "dismiss the Nats" since that's your M.O.?

Dan Steinberg: I'm sad that it's come to this again. I thought my trip to Viera might have been a turning-the-corner moment, but then I slipped right back into my bad habits. Apologies.

I do think the TV product is more compelling this year, and I said so yesterday. I think Rob Dibble is great, and I think the team is exponentially more interesting and, frankly, more talented than last year's. But you can't think it's a good thing that the average household audience in this market is 12,000, or that the Orioles get more D.C.-viewers than the Nats. The "MASN HATES US" argument only goes so far.

Whatever, I'm still not concerned long-term. The team will win, and fans will come back. I don't even buy the "you're doing long-term damage to the market" argument. The Caps were woeful for several years, and how much long-term damage did that do? Not very much. People will emerge from under RFK piles of dirt to cheer on a winner. In the meantime, I just think they offer some good laugh line opportunities.


Arlington, Va.: I am bummed that D.C. United's ratings are so pathetic. Is that on-par with last year?

I guess the Nationals had nowhere to go but up.

Dan Steinberg: No, the United rankings I saw through four regular season games on CSN (a 0.1, for about 2,500 households) are significantly lower than the ones I saw last year (0.5, or 11,500 households). I'm not sure why that would be, but I'd want to examine the four dates from this season to see what else they ran up against (Caps second-round playoff games, for example). Based on extremely unscientific things like our Web and blog traffic, I'm pretty sure that D.C. United interest also waxes and wanes based on on-field success, which makes sense. But the string of ties might not do much to fire up a fan base.


Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.: Reasons for higher TV ratings:

1) Adam Dunn

2) Car crash television

3) Hot dog guns

What's the order?

Dan Steinberg: Do they show the hot dog guns on TV? As much as I've been watching this year, I haven't seen that.

Incidentally, has anyone seen any fans disciplined at Nats Park for using foul language? I'm possibly hearing about an interesting case of this.

My reasons go like this, in order:

1) Fewer people at stadium = more people at home

2) Zim hit streak + Adam Dunn

3) Pitching of the future to examine

4) Rob Dibble

5) Car crash

Since the 50 percent increase means about 4,000 more households, each of these reasons only needs to contribute about 800 households.


Washington, D.C.: So are you looking forward to Eddie Jordan's return? Do you think it will be blog worthy material?

Dan Steinberg: Eddie's a great guy with a terrific sense of humor, but he's not a blogging goldmine like, say, Jim Zorn. I had to spend most of yesterday's media availability session at Redskins Park talking to Chase Daniel and Colt Brennan, so I missed out on the Zorn session, but I'm looking forward to finding out that he's taken up Swedish calligraphy in the offseason.

This whole coaching carousel worked out about as good for him as possible, huh? Stays on the East Coast, gets a talented roster, and I believe he still owns a house in New Jersey.


RFK, Washington, D.C.: Explain: How is it that Goff gets to cover the U.S. national team in Costa Rica but they won't send you to cover herding dogs? What gives?

washingtonpost.com: USA at Saprissa (Washington Post, June 2)

Dan Steinberg: I can go wherever I want, provided I drive there and am not too picky about asking for mileage. So if I could have found a long-distance ferry, or possibly a tug-boat, I could be with Goffer in Costa Rica. And skipping the herding dogs was my call.

Though speaking of great events, supposedly T.O., Caron Butler, Albert Haynesworth, Nelly and a host of other mega stars will be in town this weekend for the Big Tigger charity celebrity basketball and party extravaganza to raise money for HIV/AIDS causes. Now that trumps both herding dogs AND Costa Rica.


Washington, D.C.: Dan,

So if your editors take you up on your request and do fire you, what would you do next? Go back to selling cheese? Join the ComcastSports TV gravy train? Be a stay at home dad?

Dan Steinberg: Probably be a relatively poor blog freelancer scrapping my way to a meager existence.

I'm glad CSN showed that you can go from scribbling to yammering, since that's what every scribbler aspires to, but I don't necessarily share Ivan Carter's looks.


Annandale, Va.: Why not add a new category to standings to see how the Nats are doing vs. the 1962 Mets?

Having a rooting interest in beating the Mets could help with fan interest (and blog traffic).

If the Nats can't beat the 2009 Mets perhaps they can beat the 62 edition?

Dan Steinberg: Why oh why are the Cleveland Spiders always slighted in these discussions?

There is a 0 percent chance that the Nats seriously threaten the Mets' record. I firmly believe that.

As for your rooting interest question, would the fans be interested in rooting for or against hitting 120 losses? I can't see the point in hoping for a 118-loss season.


Silver Spring, Md.: I get that people are a tad bent out of shape about LeBron not shaking hands.

But I never see baseball players shaking hands, except with their own teammates. The other team files silently into the dugout. No one gives them any crap.

The cameras only hang around after final playoffs in football, and you see some hand shaking going on, but by no means everyone and I've never been in person to verify.

Hockey? Did Crosby and Ovechkin shake hands?

Why is this guy getting flack when the cordial post-game behavior we learned as kids doesn't even seem to show up in other sports? What am I missing?

Dan Steinberg: Well, yeah, the end-of-series hockey handshake line is fairly sacred, and Crosby and Ovechkin not only shook hands, they chatted for quite a bit. I'm pretty sure the Pens and Caps had 100 percent handshake attendance.

Football players at least have to make an effort to find each other, which is an easier excuse for not doing so. In basketball, you almost have to go out of your way not to shake hands.

Not sure what the deal with baseball is, but you sort of judge guys based on their adherence to the customs in their own sport, not in other sports. Rugby custom would dictate that Dwight Howard buy LeBron beers, but no one's gonna get on him for not doing so, because he doesn't play rugby. It just seemed petty and silly and self-centered and self-pitying, which are all things that some have claimed to see in LeBron for years.

Also, his explanation that he loves winning is understandable, but it implies that somehow anyone who is composed enough to shake a few hands somehow doesn't love winning. We all know LeBron's a great competitor; he doesn't need to prove it to us by sulking.


Mt. Pleasant, Washington, D.C.: Down in Costa Rica for the next U.S. World Cup qualifier, Goff blogs that "VIPs in attendance will include Costa Rica President Oscar Arias, Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and USA Ambassador to CR Peter Cianchette."

When Costa Rica visits RFK for a qualifier on October 15, what kind of VIPs do you think we could drum up? Obama? Fenty (if the DC United fans there can stand it)? Gilbert Arenas? Manny Acta (if he still has a job)?

Dan Steinberg: Could probably get Jason Campbell. He'll go to anything.

Is the Prez a footie kind of guy? I didn't know about that.

Maybe they could have a sack race with the D.C. City Council, with the winners granted tickets and the losers forced to wage a months-long media campaign about the unjustness of it all.


Western Alexandria, Va.: A theory on Nats TV ratings -- maybe, just maybe, the fact that they were not available to D.C. television viewers for almost two full seasons might be part of the problem. Could it be that giving the Nats' TV rights to a regional rival may not have been a decision that was made entirely in good faith?

Dan Steinberg: Obviously you're right about the good faithness, but I tend to discount all the ridiculous back story in explaining these ratings. I guess it wouldn't help, but the fact is, the games ARE on TV now, and everyone who cares sort of knows that. I mean, I can't imagine there are tens of thousands of households who have an interest in watching this sub-.300 team but aren't doing so because they couldn't watch three years ago when the team was closer to .450.

I'm not trying to be flip; I know some people think this is a legitimate reason, just as some people still think MASN overtly favors the Orioles in marketing and promotions. Just seems to me that fans who actually want to watch Nats games, by this point, should know where and when to find them. And again, we have other measures (STH, attendance, Web traffic) that are at least somewhat in line with these small TV numbers.


Caps Fan: Ovechkin and Crosby did shake hands.

Dan Steinberg: Yeah, that's what I meant to say. For a long time.


Boston: I am glad the whole steroids in the NHL issue is confined to the Washington Capitals and no one on the Bruins ever took them ...

Dan Steinberg: Ha

This story is strange, huh? Of all the teams to mention, two franchises hundreds of miles from Florida that have never, so far as we know, been major hubs of PEDs.

There's definitely a school of thought that 95 percent of pro athletes in every sport has at least danced down this aisle of the grocery store. Because I'm a gullible simpleton, I've always resisted such cynicism. I would say, though, that if one NHL team is heavily using, then probably more than one is.


Alexandria, Va.: The Rams are up for sale. In my fantasy world, they move to RFK and offer the Redskins some competition for my sports dollar. What would the team be called?

Dan Steinberg: IN all the pseudo discussions of what to call the Redskins if the trademark issue ever gets decided against them, I've never heard anything better than the Hogs. Esp if you're playing at RFK.

Of all the fantasies to have, though, the Rams playing at RFK? Why not just go ahead and fantasize that Snyder sells the Redskins, some new owner pays out of pocket to build a new joint in the city, with all seats offered half-price to true fans, and with no drunken louts permitted. Oh, and that the team hosts a playoff game, if you're really willing to dream crazy dreams.


New York, N.Y.: Dan,

At the end of the Caps-Pens series some media types (this isn't directed at you) said that since the Pens beat the Caps that showed that Crosby was better than Ovechkin. Does that mean I can argue that Dwight Howard is better than Lebron James?

Dan Steinberg: Well, he's certainly more likable.

However you come down on Crosby-Ovie, their duel struck me as pretty close to a draw. But if one team has one top-five player in the world, and the other team has two, and all of them show up at least reasonably well, you'd certainly expect the team with two all-world players to win. Like, if you're asking me to choose who's better between Semin and Malkin, I'll go ahead and take Malkin.

As for your question, I went back and found a program last night for this prep hoops tourney I attended in Feb, 2004. LeBron had played in the event the year before, and Howard was the headliner this time around. Much of the promotional material was "So you're looking for the next LeBron James?" Weird to look back on that. I wrote a story about Howard that winter, and I didn't think he was going to be an NBA star.


Upperville, Va.: Schedule of herding trials between now and the end of September

June 27 and 28 Gladys, Va. USBCHA

July 3,4 and 5 Berryville, Va. AHBA

29 and 30 Aug Lexington, Va. USBCHA

12 and 13 Sept Williamsville, Va. USBCHA

12 and 13 Sept Berryville, Va. AKC

You should attend one USBCHA, one AHBA and AKC trial for a column. Come on, its not like the Redskins will win a preseason game, and they won't fire Zorn until the first week in Oct. Your editor will love it and the cheap expense reports. Besides, the kids need a puppy.

Dan Steinberg: I swear, I'll give 50 cents to the person who can prove

1) That these herding questions aren't all submitted by the same person

2) That these herding questions are from someone who actually cares about herding.

Can't you get Style to write about it? I hear J Freedom Peace and Harmony duLac has been clamoring for a herding assignment.


Washington, D.C.: Favorite moment from last week's National Spelling Bee? And no, Erin Andrews interaction doesn't count.

washingtonpost.com: Kavya Shivashankar Wins, D.C. Waits (Washington Post, May 28)

Dan Steinberg: I thought Kennyi pulling out his glasses was pretty slick. Though whatever staged gimmick he did later in the night, during the ABC broadcast, was totally lost on me. They botched that one. The glasses thing seemed real genuine.

Oh, and the post-Bee rave was incredible, but I promised not to write about it.


Ashburn, Va.: Is Mike Williams the strangest person you've ever taken dietary advice from? Has to be up there, right?

washingtonpost.com: Mike Williams: Bison Yes, Steak No (Washington Post, June 1)

Dan Steinberg: He wasn't so much advising me as just kind of talking about some principles of nutrition.

I have no idea what kind of football shape he's in now or will be in by late July. Strikes me he's still sort of a longshot, with his head coach openly wondering how long he can go full-speed. But he was nice, funny, smart, approachable, self-aware, etc. I'd love for him to find a spot here.


S. Rockville, Md.: Is Yanda getting death threats from the U-Md. faithful over his latest Lance Stephenson article?

It can't bode well for the Nats that U-Va. roughed up their putative savior in the NCAA Region of Death. Now onto the John Grisham invitational against Ole Miss!

washingtonpost.com: Proving His Worth (Washington Post, June 1)

Dan Steinberg: I think "roughed up" is a little strong. He hung in there pretty ok against the ACC champs on a night where he may not have had his best stuff, and he still gave his team a pretty good shot to win.

Haven't heard of any death threats re yanda, but it struck me as a pretty straightforward story. I still think Lance is gonna help some team win a bunch of games next year. Whether you think those wins are worth a one-year guy with the "baggage" (real or media-created) he comes along with, that's not my call.

Virginia sure got jobbed in the seeding, though, huh?


Section 138: I'm glad to hear you're not in the "done for good" crowd, and thanks for the answer, Dan. Swing on by for a Yuengling or two at the next Nats game you attend.

Dan Steinberg: I've never ever thought the current troubles were somehow implying long-term doom for the Nats. But the current troubles are hysterically repetitive.

It's also the Wiz in '05 argument. They were awful, awful, awful forever. They get Gilbert, get into the playoffs, and the arena was bonkers against the Bulls. People will come, Section 138. If you win.


Arlington, Va.: Dan, why does the Post contain no coverage at all of the Softball College World Series? Florida's comeback victory over Alabama was as thrilling as it gets, yet not even a mention in the paper.

Dan Steinberg: Well, that's not a question for me to answer, but if there were coverage in these six-page sections we're working with lately, it wouldn't be much. There's really not a lot to work with in six pages. Would two paragraphs really have made a difference?

I think people who are interested in postseason softball news are probably already going elsewhere. That, at least, is the bet we're making with so many of these national stories that we're scaling back from.


Spidertown, Cleveland: Hey! What do you mean slighted? We signed a young Cy Young?

washingtonpost.com: Wikipedia: Cleveland Spiders

Dan Steinberg: I mean, when people talk about the all-time worst MLB teams, they still tend to talk about the '62 Mets first and last.

As someone whose Cleveland complex is arguably bigger than his Pittsburgh complex, I just want to make sure they get full credit for being awful.


Chinatown/Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.: So steriods have been linked to the Caps and the Nats. ... When do we finally hear about steroids being linked to sports writers/bloggers?

Dan Steinberg: As the Junkies so often say, there were rumors about all their football-playing buddies in high school using the juice. I wouldn't say that was the case at my school, but there were defintely a few kids we wondered about. And if that's the case at a small, fairly non-competitive rural high school in Western New York, you would have to be a particularly obtuse optimist to believe that people with gazillions of dollars on the line would never experiment.

Oh wait, that's not what you asked. You asked about me, essentially. Well, I run 3.75 miles on the treadmill in 30 minutes, do a few bench presses once every never, and have the upper body of Elmo. Also, I've never once, not once, failed a drug test. (Pointing finger)


Rockwell, Md.: Dan, how many DC United players could be put into the Nats lineup by Manny Acta before results got appreciably worse? I'd say as long as you kept Zimmerman, Dunn, and a pitcher, you could probably sneak in three before anyone noticed.

Dan Steinberg: Rockwell, you're just being silly.

Here's a more serious question. If you took the best AAA team, Norfolk (34-16) or Scranton (32-19) or Colorado Springs (31-19) and ran them out for 49 MLB games, what would their record be? Not, "Haha, I'll bet they'd do as well as the Nats," but seriously, what would their record be? They have talent at that level, though there's no chance those teams are as good as the Nats. It's hard to imagine them winning fewer than seven or eight games, right?


Silver Spring, Md.: Any truth to the rumors about the Wizards and Mystics possibly going to Red, White and Blue uniforms in the next couple years? Do you see this happening anytime soon?

Dan Steinberg: I haven't heard anything new about this in ages. ... have you? As I've said before, I think it improves the merchandise immediately, leads to lots of money into lots of coffers, and purges the era of bad colors from D.C., forever. It's too logical not to happen, but again, I haven't heard anything.


Washington, D.C.: So if you're selling your house, where are you going to move to? Surely you're not leaving us, Dan?!

Dan Steinberg: The goal is to become suburbanites. But don't worry, I'll get the D.C. flag tattooed on my chest before we leave.

I hear Silver Spring is lovely this time of year.


Washington, D.C., 20001: "Incidentally, has anyone seen any fans disciplined at Nats Park for using foul language? I'm possibly hearing about an interesting case of this."

I haven't seen this in person, but it wouldn't surprise me. Is this in reference to the fact that you can often clearly hear any screaming moron on TV (since the place is normally empty)? I remember Joel Hanrahan mentioning how noticeable and odd that is.

Dan Steinberg: No, it's a reference to a fan supposedly (allegedly, according to one e-mail, without any verification) being booted and banned for telling opponents they suck. I have no idea if it's true, and I haven't heard any other reports of this.


Alexandria, Va.: As a DC United fan I was a little surprised by the ratings, but nearly as surprised to hear Comcast Sports Net shows DC United matches.

Dan Steinberg: Comcastsportsnet.tv. Live it.


Gilbert's Corner, Va.: Long time fan here - love your writing style! Ever thought about penning a feature story (not necessarily about sports) for the Sunday mag? And if I've missed such an effort, please provide a link.

Dan Steinberg: I never have. I did used to write long (like, Looooooong) feature stories for the sports section, back when I was a struggling part-timer in 2003-2005 or so.

Oh, and to the Redskins Insider commenter (Talent_Evaluator) forever going on about how everyone hates me, look! Someone likes me! Unless this is my dad/wife/editor/myself.

Anyhow, I always say I'd like to do more feature-stuff with actual bylines, but then I wind up getting heartburn if I'm missing potential blog stuff. That's why I struggle to take vacation days. I think a good solution is to give me blog interns or a co-blogger so that I could more easily bail on the day to day stuff.

Anyhow, thanks


Frustrated Sox Fan in D.C.: Dan,What's your take on the Nationals still refusing to sell single game tickets for the Red Sox series at the end of the month. They first tried a lottery and 20-game packs and when that didn't work, now have 5-6 game packs. I understand this is a chance to sell tickets, but the Lerners have to know that if they keep this up they will end up selling less. Nationals park could be full on three weekdays in June, a welcome change from the sparsely populated norm. But I can't buy tickets, and I am not alone. Thanks for letting me vent and keep up the good work.

P.S. For what it's worth, I frequently go to Nats games and cheer for the team, although I have yet to be present for a single win yet. Maybe tonight ...

Dan Steinberg: Actually, I haven't followed this. What's the rationale? Regardless, I think Nationals Park will be filled for those gamee.


Washington D.C. in the 35332: Can I say I think you would be a great choice to take over Redskins Insider - and all Washington Sports Media in the world. Not that Reid or the others in the pool can't do the job but you possess the banter talent that helped Jason La Ca make Redskins Insider great.

washingtonpost.com: Redskins Insider: A Heartfelt Good-bye (Washington Post, June 1)

Dan Steinberg: Wait, I saw you publicly casting doubts about me for RI in the comments section! Don't think we don't read that stuff.

I have no inside dope on that job, but I can tell you for 100 percent sure it won't be me, that I have no interest and the editors have no interest in me doing that. I'm sort of trying to do a different deal. If I wanted to go back into beat writing (or beat blogging, or beat boxing), I think I'd go back more toward the back of the line, instead of being gifted a job writing about the Skins.

RI certainly started with lots of JLC banter and goofy asides, but we all realized that it could be kind of a premiere Skins destination with tons of copy and tons of writers and tons of news. I'd recommend that approach not be abandoned, no matter whose giant photo is up top.

And again, congrats to Jason


L-E-E-S-B-U-R-G, V-I-R-G-I-N-I-A: Steinz,

Loved the Spelling Bee last week. Seriously, I was riveted by the whole thing. I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed at the end when the Indian girl who everyone thought was going to win beat out the creepy homeschool kid from Centreville and the other Indian girl who no one knew anything about. I likened it to if the team in the black uniforms would have won at the end of "The Mighty Ducks."

What say you?

Dan Steinberg: Never saw Mighty Ducks. I don't watch movies.

I think some folks were very gratified to see the hard-working, persistent, always-a-bridesmaid Kavya Shivanshankar come out on top. I'd like to see someone win it on the 25th word in more dramatic fashion after repeated all-make or all-miss finals rounds, but there was some drama there.


Nats Park, Washington, D.C.: Do you plan on coming by tomorrow for Randy Johnson's bid at Win No. 300?

Dan Steinberg: Perhaps. I also really want to have a chat with Rob Dibble about why he says WE. I've been meaning to do that with weeks, and if I wait a few more days, someone else is definitely gonna do it.


Alexandria, Va.: What do you have to say about being racist and xenophobic in your spelling bee coverage?

Dan Steinberg: Well, that's a friendly question.

I would like to think that any racisim or xenophobism was misinterpreted. I mean, writing a silly tongue-in-cheek thing about how the D.C. kid (Tim Ruiter) lost in downtown D.C. to the out-of-town favorite (Kansas's Kavya) and how that resembled Crosby and LeBron....maybe that was a stupid thing to write, but I don't see the racism there.

ANd saying how the event is diverse, with contestants black and white....I should have said "and Indian and Chinese and everything else," but I think that was just from typing fast at 11 p.m, not out of racism.

But if you thought I was a racist xenophobe, I don't think I could likely convince you otherwise in three minutes of an online chat.


re AAA: They'd be more fundamentally sound in the field, perhaps, but their pitching would be pounded (or else they'd be in the show already) and their hitters would be totally baffled by Major League curveballs and change-ups.

Dan Steinberg: So, how many wins? You're not gonna argue zero, are you?


Dan Steinberg: Ok, I'm out at RFK and new DCU owner Will Chang just walked in. I guess I should run now. There will be a decent amount of United content the rest of this day, and then I'm back off to the Redskins tomorrow I think. Anyone with tips for the slow summer months, steinbergd@washpost.com . Thanks


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