D.C. Sports Bog Live: Nats, Caps Nationals Fail, Redskins and More
Tuesday, June 9, 2009; 11:00 AM
Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog was online Tuesday, June 9 to offer his wisdom and insight on the Nationals, his Nationals Fail campaign, Redskins, international soccer and bizarre media traffic figures.
A transcript follows.
Read Dan's daily smorgasborg of the bizarre side of D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
Dan Steinberg: Hey, sorry for the late start, trying to get my gear set up for an exciting day at Nats Park.
Two pieces of exciting news: the clock currently reads 6:36. And I've discovered this street where I consistently park, for free, for hours at a time, without getting any tickets. I mean, I'm 3 for 3 over the past week. Free parking. I love this team.
I'm actually starting to get mad at the critics of Nats Park. Say what you will about the team, but I sorta like the whole park thing. Ok, questions.
E2, London, UK: The Washington Post sports section covers VT athletics ... why won't they write about the London tube strike?
Dan Steinberg: I guess we'll never ever convince the critics that this is a good idea, but it's about our readers, not about geographic proximity. We cover the NBA finals, not because D.C. is close to L.A., but because our readers care about the NBA finals. Our readers also care about Virginia Tech athletics.
Critics always say, well, Penn State is closer than Blacksburg. Maybe so, and if we get thousands of readers who clamor for Penn State coverage, maybe we'd oblige. We have readers who like to read about Virginia Tech athletics. Sorry.
(We also do have a London correspondent.)
LPGA: I'm thinking of going to Bulle Rock on Thursday. Have you been? Any advice?
Dan Steinberg: Never been. In fact, I've never been to a women's golf event. I just emailed Svrluga, who's covering the event for The Post. I'll let you know if he has advice. Anyone else out there been?
Section 117: What's the over/under on future Natinal Fails?
Dan Steinberg: Actually, while I was driving down here this morning/afternoon/evening, I came up with an idea: For an entire week, do nothing but write about the Nats, and write nothing but positive items. I think I could do it. My traffic would die, but I could do it.
Would need a week when the team was at home and nothing much else was going on around town. If I got every diehard Nats fan to click 10 times a day, I could log at least 10k hits.
(Getting it all out of my system now.)
I will acknowledge that much of what I and others are writing are pure piling on and cheap shots, like Stan Kasten said, things you wouldn't bother noting if you hadn't already noted everything else. It's like the NHL during the lockout days; once something is established as an acceptable topic for humor, the jokes keep coming. Like I wrote yesterday, I feel like it's ok for us locals, but I kind of get peeved with the national media makes fun, especially of the Park. What makes it so dreadful?
Arlington, Va.: I think you just jinxed yourself on the parking for free. I also had a sweet spot where I parked for free near Nats Park and was ticket-free til last week.
Dan Steinberg: Well, that's a bad omen.
There are no parking signs at all on this block. It's like manna, dropped into southwest D.C. I want to kiss that block.
Washington, D.C.: I just read where the Nationals had to cancel fireworks because hot debris was falling on the fire chief as he was trying to watch the game.
Building the parking lot to block the view of the Capital, and mispelling the name on the jerseys, those were for real. But they're just making this one up, right?
Dan Steinberg: The issue has been resolved. I was actually amazed how big a story that became, with real news stories from the AP and the WaPo, among others. Credit to my friend Jason Cherkis at Washington City Paper for breaking this one, and right quick.
I think the "hot debris" is inaccurate; the fire department spokesman said it was just basically paper that fell on the chief, that it was certainly not on fire or anything like that. I think this story might be read as a FAIL by someone other than the Nats, if you read between the lines.
Kasten and Boras: This can't end well vis-a-vis signing Strasburg now can it? I mean we are talking about the Nats here. Any predictions for how this epic fail will play out?
Dan Steinberg: Sheinin had a great story on the whole issue this morning. I love those "necessary evil" quotes from Kasten about Boras back 'in '07 (along the lines of, I used to think Boras was a necessary evil, but now I'm not so sure he's necessary). For whatever you want to say about Stan Kasten, he's a zillion times more clever than I am with his zingers. If he were doing a snarky blog about the Nats, it would slay.
Anyhow, I think things will work out, and the Nats will pay mega-bucks to Strasburg, who will one day be a part of a Nats team that plays .500-ish ball into September and sort of contends for a wild card berth.
re LPGA and Bulle Rock: Think WNBA, only not in a convenient, climate controlled downtown location...
Dan Steinberg: Speaking of WNBA, how about the Mystics trotting out three Duke stars and two famous Terps, right here in downtown D.C. You might get more fan interest by staging intrasquad scrimmages.
Mystics 2-0, by the way. Get on the bandwagon now.
Arlington, Va.: Any chance the Post might partially finance a Bog trip to Omaha? I'm not a U-Va. grad or fan, but it seems like there are a few interesting stories there every year.
Dan Steinberg: No chance, but I believe Zach Berman is covering it for The Post. Or possibly Zack Berman. The former, I think.
I saw the Web traffic numbers for our Virginia super regional stories. Increased dramatically as the series went on, but I think I'm still better off staying here and reporting on the Nats doomsday clock.
Charlottesville, Va.: Re: VT.
It makes sense to cover Va. Tech because so many kids from the area go there for college. But why oh why does Tech get so much more attention than my alma matter U-Va.? We're a lot closer and there are plenty of alum in the area.
Sure Tech has a big time football program, but that wasn't always the case. I remember when they were a joke and when Tech was one of the few teams U-Va. could beat ...
Dan Steinberg: I'm not sure that VT gets more coverage than U-Va. Have you actually done a study? I'd say they're slotted pretty identically, in terms of coverage, with each team's space rising and falling based on wins (because, like every team in every market in the country, people care more about winning teams).
One thing that we don't base coverage decisions on is the W-L records from 20 years ago, or whenever.
Mt. Pleasant, Washington, D.C.: As a Dodger fan living around here, I'm finding the "Nats fail" meme endlessly amusing. But it's become such a cliche already. It barely qualifies as news at this point. Maybe you should start posting "Nats non-fails" instead?
Dan Steinberg: See above. I want to do a full week of positive, happy, smiley Nats news. It can be like a game for all of us: what were the eight most awesomest things about today's Nats game? Maybe then they'll go on a winning tear, and local morning news shows will ask me to be a guest. And I can be like that long-ago Baltimore DJ and promise not to stop blogging until the team loses a game, and hold 24-hour blogathons devoted to the great merits of Willie Harris.
Section 430: Which D.C. athlete, coach, front office, sports columnist, hot dog vendor is feeling the most pressure right now?
Dan Steinberg: Athlete: Jason Campbell
Coach: Manny Acta
Front Office: Ernie Grunfeld
Columnist: Mike Wise
Hot Dog Vendor: N/A
"There are no parking signs at all on this block.": Good thing nobody in the DC government has any initiative ... it would be pretty easy to check all the surrounding streets -- if they cared.
Dan Steinberg: Yeah, I don't want to give too many details, because I'm not trying to give it away, although it's probably already too late. But there's a business on the block that seems to make it a peculiar place.
Mystics: The WNBA: Expect the season to start without you knowing it.
Dan Steinberg: Yes, the season started. And it's a short season. So not only has it started, but the WNBA standings page already has "if the season ended now" seedings listed. The Mystics would be the top seed in the East if the season ended now. Can someone make that happen?
The Nationals Enquirer, Washington, D.C.: I've had this recurring nighmare over the last few nights that the Nationals will lose their minds for a few minutes tonight around 6 p.m. and pull off Nationals Draft Fail: They'll pass on Strasburg at No. 1. If it happens, where would you rank Nationals Draft Fail rank among the other well documented Nationals Fails of 2009?
Dan Steinberg: I'd say "that would be the last straw for many nationals fans," except I really don't think such a thing exists. The Nats aren't winning now, and they won't really contend for a few more years. So if five years from now they actually do start contending, is anyone really gonna insist on not watching because of uniform snafus five years in the past?
But this would be a far bigger FAIL than any of the others, which don't really matter and just pass the time for bored office workers. The Aaron Crow thing never became a super duper PR disaster, because Crow's team had the well-oiled PR sense of your typical sub-prime lender. The Nats pretty much skated on that. If today leads not to Strasburg, people will be plenty mad. I'd expect at least one campaign involving t-shirts and/or placards.
Chevy Chase, Md.: Can I get my money back if the Nats give up five runs before I can get a beer? I enjoyed the weather and a Ben's Chili Bowl, half of a half smoked of which ended up on my shirt. Sunday's game was truly ugly. Wild pitches, hit into double plays, it was like watching a JV high school team play the Mets.
However, I justified my $36 dollar ticket and two $7.50 beers with the "Kiss Cam." At mid-inning, the in-stadium cameras focused on couples, who would then kiss for the camera. After about six such encounters, some steamy, the camera focused on a couple just in front of me. But the young lady, seeing her image on the big screen, shook her head and said no kiss. Outrage in the stadium. Boos cascaded from every part of Nationals Park. Peanuts and other food items were thrown at her. Her male companion finally could not take it any more. He stood up and shouted, "She's my fXXXing sister!" The hail of peanuts halted, but the boos continued.
Dan Steinberg: Oh, for video of this. Thanks for sharing.
I was at the Randy Johnson game last week, during which time I remarked to Chico Harlan that there's simply no better stunt in sports than the Kiss Cam. It's impossible not to be amused at least once every KC. Players seem to love it, too. I'm not saying you could make it work for 162 nights, but I'd pay $36 to go into a packed stadium and do nothing but watch three hours of people kissing on the big screen. You know there'd be more scoring than usual
Washington, D.C.: "One thing that we don't base coverage decisions on is the W-L records from 20 years ago, or whenever."
The Redskins disagree.
Dan Steinberg: That's well-played, but trust me, fans still care, even if they only care because of W-L records from 20 years ago.
How about the news that the Redskins canceled OTA's today in favor of a bowling trip! That means I"m gonna have to reorganize my day to post my item about Fred Smoot wanting to become a pro bowler.
Philadelphia: You guys can have this years Winter Classic in Fenway, just tell the league we want Flyers-Pens in 2011 at Penn State. Come on, even to a D.C. guy the thought of 100,000 split down the middle to watch a hockey game is pretty cool, right?
Dan Steinberg: Yes.
But Ovechkin in Fenway would also qualify as pretty cool
The District: What should Ernie do with the No. 5 pick? It seems the value for that spot might be lower this year than ever before.
Dan Steinberg: Hey, I'm all on board for trading that puppy and 17 expiring contracts to bring in three veteran all-star big men.
Or trading the pick and fewer expiring contracts for fewer veteran all-stars.
It definitely feels like Dominic McGuire, Nick Young, Pech, Javale and Blatche provide sufficient youth. And the idea is make one last stab at winning with Gil/Caron/Antawn. So the pick is kind of extraneous to that effort.
(Courtney Lee notwithstanding)
Fairfax, Va.: I went to a Natinals game last month in which the game was delayed and eventually cancelled due to rain. During the 2 1/2 hours of waiting for the game to start, I walked around, consumed many beers, ate Ben's Chili Bowl with Boardwalk fries, played PlayStation video games, and took pictures with Teddy Roosevelt. I would've never had this much fun if I had to watch an actual baseball game. Is it possible to get rid of the team and just turn the stadium into an amusement park?
Dan Steinberg: Plus, unlike at some amusement parks, I'm guessing neither you nor any of your loved ones faced near decapitation in any of the rides, right? And it's easily metro accessible. Great idea.
Although I think you meant to write "Teddy Rossevelt."
Don't forget the large playground, for our younger friends.
This is a serious point, though. People get outraged about the lack of fundamentals, which I understand. But if you know for 100 percent certain that your team isn't going to contend, and you're not a lunatic fan of the home team (and with all due respect, how many lunatic Nats fans are there?), does it really make that big a difference if they win or lose random games this year? It's the experience more than the result, I'd think. Plus if they're going to be bad, they might as well be awful and get another No. 1 pick? No?
Reston, Va.: Dan,
Any predictions for the next Nationals' Fail?
Any thought about re-purposing the Bog to Nationals' Fail?
Dan Steinberg: I think I got more traffic off the Fireworks Fail than any Fail since the Uniform Fail, which surprised me.
Assuming the Strasburg thing goes off fine, I think we're in line for another concessions fail of some kind.
You know, I keep forgetting about Sausage Fail. That might have been the most fun of the season.
Racing Presidents Idea: Dan,
I've always wondered how heavy the 'heads' of the racing presidents are. Do you know? I know that the center of gravity for the persons donning those things is very high and it doesn't take much to have them fall over. Why don't you see if the Nats will let you race in one of the prez costumes one night. You could be Teddy. He never wins anyway. And then write about your experience. Whadaya think?
Dan Steinberg: I've been inside the costume during the auditions in, I want to say, March of 2007? It was just after my daughter was born and I was sleep-deprived and out of sorts. There's some video out there. It was lots of fun.
Yeah, the center of gravity is way higher than you expect, and the head itself is massively heavier than you expect. It's very disorienting. I chose to act like a goof the whole time and not really try to prevent utter shame, but a real spring would have taken some practice, for sure.
Also, I think all the media folks went through the fun of "this is what it's like to be a president" stories in 06 and 07. We need a new gimmick. I'd like to take a spell firing off the sausage gun, if possible.
Near Nationals Park: The scoreboard clock was wrong a bunch of times last season too, but apparently it didn't get noticed as much. But it seems like the clock hands (shaped like baseball bats) should light up. Or maybe they don't want to do that because then people will notice that the clock is wrong?
Dan Steinberg: Yeah, a reporter told me yesterday that the clock was consistently wrong all of last year. I was shocked. How did this not become a running joke? It's great. I only started hearing about this within the last two or three weeks, and it really crescendoed last week. So strange.
It's almost 7 o'clock, by the way.
Maybe they could just get the bat hands to send out sparklers after home runs or something? And to shatter when a batter breaks a bat?
"She's my fXXXing sister!": Hey, at this point the Natinals would be happy with a tie ...
Dan Steinberg: Baseball Reference, or one of those sites, lists the Nats' official record as including a tie right now, because of that one rain delayed game.
But great line
Arlington, Va: Dan,
I am a D.C. sports fan, and when I come to read your D.C. Sports Bog, I do not want the local blog writer to bash any D.C. sports teams. I am not a huge Nationals fan, but your "Nationals Fail" campaign has been awful. The team is never going to gain any momentum with fans if the local paper is constantly throwing them under the bus.
Out of the four major D.C. sports teams, are the Nationals your least favorite?
washingtonpost.com: D.C. Sports Bog: Nats Kosher Fail (Washington Post, June 5)
D.C. Sports Bog: Nationals Fireworks Fail (Washington Post, June 7)
D.C. Sports Bog: Nationals Timekeeping Fail (Washington Post, June 8)
Dan Steinberg: Yeah, it actually doesn't make me feel good about myself, either. I get all excited every time someone sends me a new FAIL entry, and I have fun right up until I press "Publish," and then I always feel a little sick to my stomach afterward. It's the same thing that happens, incidentally, when I eat a double order of Ben's Chili Cheese Fries.
I hate to turn these chats into a weekly examination of the deep-seated internal roots behind my relationship with the Nats. There are a few factors that led me down this road, and now I'm just having trouble climbing out of it. I'm telling you, the great "Write Only Good Things About the Nats Week" campaign will be a big help for all of us to move beyond this constant negativity.
But c'mon, the Nationals franchise isn't really going to rise or fall based on the D.C. Sports Bog, is it? Because if it is, the situation is more dire than any of us imagined.
(Also, practically, one of the reasons I write less amusing fun stupid positive stories about Nats players than those of any other team is because of the schedule. The Redskins, Caps and Wizards all have mid-week afternoon practices with lots of media availability. No sport has more availability than baseball, but it's in the late afternoon/early evening, when our Web traffic is already dying down and when I have to start my daily sprint home to pick up my daughter. That has made me more of a faceless Internet snark-machine instead of a goofy pseudo-reporter, like I"ve been with other teams.)
Anonymous: "Have you actually done a study?"
Yes, I have. Tech has significantly more inches devoted to it in the Post for sports than U-Va.
Dan Steinberg: Well, let's see the numbers.
Washington, D.C.: Quasi-serious-journalismish question:
How much money do I have to pay to get you to stop mentioning traffic numbers? It's not like circulation where people are actually paying money to read these stories, so who cares what gets the most clicks? So you can sell an online ad for 75 cents instead of 50?
Why not just run polls and let readers decide and fire all the editors since they're now useless apparently.
Dan Steinberg: The question part of this question seems to be how much money you'd need to pay me. I'd say $100 a week would do it.
Look, journalistically, seeing traffic numbers is terrifying. And many, many people here will hold the line that we don't base our coverage decisions entirely on reader interest, much less the mystifying and bizarre world of reader-interest-as-measured-in-Web-clicks.
I'm not the ombudsman, but I'll offer my opinion.
* We're a business. Until we stop being a business, we'd be worthy of going out of business if we ignored measurements of what our customers want. "Yeah yeah yeah but that means you'll post nothing but naked lady pictures," you'll argue. Sure, our standards would probably decline some, but people aren't coming to us for naked lady pictures. They're coming for amazing stories, like the Pulitzer Prize winners on Joshua Bell at the Metro station and the secret CIA prisons. Stuff like that kills it online. On the margins, using reader interest to cover a team people really really really want to read about (the Redskins) significantly more than a team that generates apathy (the Nationals) makes sense.
* But what if you apply the same logic to neighborhoods. What if you discover that people want to read a lot more about crime, real estate and daily life in Glover Park than in Benning Terrace? Well, we can't really rely on what our customers want in that instance, because then we wouldn't sleep at night.
So you have to find a way to balance all these things, and to judge in which cases you're possibly harming the republic. I think using traffic to decide which college basketball teams to cover the most is very logical.
But if you start sending me $100 checks, I'll stop.
Nats Park Quibbles: 1. There's no view of the Capitol unless you're in the tippy-top of the 400 level.
2. Ticket prices are much higher than RFK for what has been a very similar ballpark experience.
3. Food vendors consistently have long lines, and move glacially.
D.C. residents, and, by extension, people who work and play in the District paid a premium for a stadium that is mediocre at best and whose on-field product is awful.
Dan Steinberg: 1. But you can walk around the Stadium and see the Dome from various spots, and it's not like you want to sit in one place and stare at it for three hours. It's a part of the game experience. There's nothing comparable in, say Kansas City.
2. In my limited experience as a fan with tickets, Nats Park is more comfortable, more pleasant to look at, significantly less smelly/dirty, and scoreboardirific. I'll pay more for that, on the rare occasions that I decide to pay for a sports ticket.
3. This is absolutely true, and is annoying as heck. I don't see that as a strike against the Park itself, though. It seems like it should be a very fixable issue.
And no one's arguing that the on-field product is awful. That, to me, doesn't justify nailing the stadium.
The way the stadium built is also a totally different issue, and I don't think I'd disagree with you on that. But we can't really erase what happened.
Fairfax, Va.: I can tell from the photos you took with Mike Williams that you have a body of a world-class athlete. Can you please post a video of yourself attempting to jump on the back of a pickup truck? Who knows? Maybe you'll get a call from Vinny to participate in this week's OTA's.
washingtonpost.com: Mike Williams Is Large: The Photo Evidence (Washington Post, June 3)
Dan Steinberg: Keith Eloi said he was worried that he might bust up his face if he failed on his pickup truck jump. I believe I would bust up the entire infrastructure of my body.
I do run a mile in about the same time as Jason Bergmann, though, for what that's worth. Chico Harlan beats us both.
Gilbert's Corner, Va.: Scratchers, huh? Baseball cards not your thing growing up? Actually, collecting scratchers sounds pretty cool - but kinda pricey over time, no? Although I guess you could drop some serious coin on packs of baseball cards without ever knowing for sure what you're going to get...
At some point I'm guessing there'll be a cable station dedicated to obscure hobbies/collections (or just ESPN 8 - The Ocho) and they'll go all Cash In The Attic on you ...
washingtonpost.com: YouTube: Lance Armstrong can't get enough of "The Ocho."
Dan Steinberg: I used to collect baseball cards, for sure. I started the lottery tickets in college, and dispatched my friends and relatives--traveling the world and the country--to help me. Very quickly, I had something like 10 countries and maybe 25 or 30 states, but then I graduated, became a working drone, and lost the urge. I might revive the effort one day.
Minneapolis: I actually like that you're willing to talk about traffic numbers. Your threads about Nats coverage last season (which now seems ridiculous in hindsight) were refreshingly candid.
Dan Steinberg: John in mpls, I presume? Thanks man.
I've also written a fair bit about TV ratings, which I find fascinating. One Washington Post sports blog all-star commenter (Barno1) wrote that no fans actually care about TV ratings, and that only media people obsess over such things. But I'm always getting questions from fans about TV ratings. So I think it boils down to this: some people care, and some people don't. For whatever reason, I care.
I-270, Exit 1: It's time that US sports fans took back our National Anthem. We have two problems here: (1) we Americans grudgingly stand, but don't sing, and (2) the pretentious "artists" who artistically draw out and artfully over-enunciate the Star Spangled Banner so that the few singing fans fans cannot keep time.
If you've been to an international soccer match, you've heard the home fans singing proudly. And if you've been to a World Cup qualifier in the U.S., you've heard the visiting fans singing proudly. What's wrong with us that we've delegated our National Anthem to a recording or a self-aggrandizing singer? How do we get a movement going to take back the Star Spangled Banner?
Dan Steinberg: It's just not a great melody for singing. And there's something cool about the whole Jazz/gospel/soul/country renditions of the tune, to me. It's not a sing-along, but it's got some other stuff going for it.
I thought this was going to lead to a question about the "O" phenomenon, which I've written about but which I get asked to write about again at least once a month. I don't know what to say about that. I like it at Orioles games, and grew up shouting it during my once a year visit to Memorial Stadium. I feel funny, and borderline sick about it at Caps games, but if those fans are from Baltiomre (and many of them are), what can you really say? I find it ridiculous and detestable at Nats games, because of all that's gone on between the two franchises.
Washington, D.C.: Last friday was sitting in the $10 outfield seats, in row P, and noticed there is no row O? Do the Natinals have something against the O's?
Dan Steinberg: Wow, is this for real? I've never heard of this one.
Roanoke, Va.: How about those Hershey Bears!?
Dan Steinberg: Glad Tarik went. But a little disappointed that Bruce Boudreau chose Hershey over tonight's Nats game. I thought him throwing out a first pitch on the night the Nats drafted a potential Ovechkin like figure would have been pretty good for an evening blog storyline. Oh well, can't begrudge him his AHL fix.
I'm supposed to see Boudreau later this week, I believe. Stay tuned. Could be a good one.
Dan Steinberg: Man, I don't know what you people do for a living, but there were dozens more I couldn't get to here. Sorry. I really have to write up this Fred Smoot Pro Bowling thing, because it's a guaranteed lock that every media person will be asking the Skins bowling questions tomorrow, and I want to get ahead of the curve.
Enjoy the countdown to this draft. I didn't get a lot (any) feedback about my Write Only Good Things About the Nats Week idea, but I'm going to do it anyhow. Stay tuned.
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