Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nats, baseball hot stove, Caps and more

Thomas Boswell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 3, 2009; 11:00 AM

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell was online Thursday, Dec. 3 to take your questions about Tiger Woods' alleged infidelity, Alex Ovechkin's injury, the Redskins, the Nats, the NFL and the latest sports news and his recent columns.

The transcript follows.

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Tom Boswell: So, not too much to talk about since nine days ago. Tiger, Abe, Ovechkin, Redskins and more. Let me start with a couple of thoughts that will part of my column on Tiger tomorrow.

We all spend our lives drawing and re-drawing the portraits of everybody we know -- our family, friends, co-workers and, of course, those public figures that interest us most. And we even redraw our own self-portraits.

That's what's happening with millions of people now and Tiger Woods. Jesper Parnevik focused this idea for me when he said that he felt like he owed Elin (nee Nordegren) an apology because she once worked for the his family and Parnevik and his wife introduced her to Woods. "We probably thought he was a better guy than he is," Parnevik told The Golf Channel.

Parnevik is particularly angry and caustic, with reason, because of his family connection to Elin. "I would probably need to apologize to her and hope she uses a driver next time instead of a 3-iron," Parnevik said. "It's a private thing, of course, but when you are the guy he is - the world's best athlete - you should think more before you do stuff ... and maybe not 'Just do it,' like Nike says."

Except for the crack about the 3-iron, I'd pretty much agree with Jesper. Tiger isn't as good a guy as I thought he was. So, I'll have to incorporate that into my "redrawing" of his portrait -- in my own mind and in my column.

But this happens constantly, all the time. I can't think of a decade in my life when I didn't become aware of a flaw in myself to which I'd previously been oblivious; or else the things that happened in my life hadn't brought out the quality that I didn't like in myself once I saw it.

Think of the last 15 years of Abe Pollin's life. If he had dfied at age 70, he'd never have built the Verizon Center. We'd never have seen his vision for downtown D.C. We wouldn't have appreciated the good side of his stubborness in finishing the project when it all fell back on him. An d he wouldn't have had 15 more years to do his philanthropic work. So, we "redrew" the Pollin portrait -- much to his benefit -- over the last 15 years.

People can change their own portrait, of course. And, for better or worse, Tiger will redraw his -- probably several times -- over the rest of his life. We all do. I wish him luck with it. But, like millions, I'm also disappointed in him, even though it's not my "business" to be disappointed in his private life.


Washington, DC: Tabloid scrutiny didn't do this to him, TMZ didn't do this to him. His own behavior did this to him. Blaming anybody else for the way things have happened, for everything that's come out already and will continue to come out, is like Tiger Woods blaming his caddie when he hits one into the woods.

Tom Boswell: The world didn't need TMZ or the National Enquirer to have scandals. We've been managing it very nicely for thousands of years. Think of the Monroe-DiMaggio marriage. "Close scrutiny," rumors and "tabloid headlines" -- some right, plenty wrong -- didn't start recently.

We transmit information differently. But the substance of the information hasn't changed an iota.


Silver Spring, Md.: On the one hand, Tiger's transgressions are his own business. On the other hand, the bigger question is why men get married if they can't remain loyal and why they risk putting their spouses and children through this humiliation. If you aren't into monogamy, don't get married ie Derek Jeter. This sends a message to all the kids who follow him that he's above basic morals and ethics and it's okay to cheat.

Tom Boswell: My wife and I have been talking about the Tiger Scandal, of course, and we have few if any answers. Infidelity is ageless. Yet it's also not very interesting because it's pretty close to the ultimate dog-bites-man story.

If you look up any of the great themes of art and literature in Bartlett's Quotations -- "love" or "patriotism" or "sex" or even a color like "red" -- and you will find dozens of famous and often insightful quotes by great writers and thinkers.

Under Bartlett's under "infidelity" there is only ONE quote. And it was so boring that after I looked it up, I immediately forgot it.


Fairfax, Va.: Great article on Jason Campbell. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only Redskins fan who actually likes him, although I'll admit my feelings are colored by the fact that Joe Gibbs picked him.

Do you think another team with an offensive scheme more appropriate to his skill set will pick him up when the Redskins inevitably boot him at the end of the season? I'd love nothing more than to see him do well.


Tom Boswell: I enjoyed seeing that John Riggins changed his mind and now agrees about Campbell. His video is very good this week.

I reviewed the Skins tape again and, if anything, I feel more strongly that Campbell played very well against the Eagles. It's a good thing I didn't get to do it before I wrote the column or I might have gone overboard.

I posted a couple of "comments" of my own in the comments debate on my column. Doubt many of you saw them out of 300+ comments. What a zoo those free-for-alls are. But fun.

So, I'll repost them here.


I thought you folks might enjoy a few points I could add, but for which there wasn't enough room in my column. QB is probably the hardest position in the major sports to evaluate. And Campbell, because he has clear strengths and obvious weaknesses, is one of the most fascinating to study.

*Only four starting QBs in the NFL this year have gained more yards rushing in their career than they have lost on sacks: Donovan McNabb, Campbell, David Gerrard and Jay Cutler. Most star QBs (Favre, Brees, Brady, Manning, Rogers, Brady) have a similar ratio of sacks-to-runs as Campbell's 96 sacks/140 runs for net +97 yards. The difference is that most others have big-to-huge negative net yardage on all the plays on which they are tackled (sack+runs). Many are -700 yards, some more than -1,000 over a long career. How big a plus is this? Yet another debate point. JC is no McNabb who is/>+1,000 yards net, combining sacks and scrambles.

*Even after yesterday, Campbell is tied for the 5th-best intercetion percentage in NFL history (with Brady).The leaders are al known for their mobility/scrambing -- Rogers (1.9%), Garrard (2.0), McNabb (2.1).

*The Flacco-Campbell comparison is an eye-opener to me. In the last two years, Flacco has a net of 5506 yards on the 930 plays on which he has either thrown a pass, been sacks or run the ball -- an average of 5.92 yards. The Ravens have gone 17-10 and everybody loves him (as they should, imo). In those two years, all Campbell's plays -- passes, sacks and runs -- have netted 5,572 yards (more than Flacco) on 982 total plays for an average of 5.67 yards. This year, Campbell's average is actually better -- 5.97 yards -- despite playing with a JV offense around him.

*Campbell i still improving. His QB ratings in four years as a starter: 76.5, 77.6, 84.3 and 84.6 this year. QB ratings drive everybody crazy. But look at them over long periods of time and the cream rises. Campbell's mediocre. But it's not easy to be mediocre at the toughest position perhaps in all of sports. No, he has shown almost no abilty at all to pull out games in the 4Q, which is essential. Well, if he could do that, we wouldn't be debating him, would we! But will he someday, for somebody?

Finally, who are the best of the NON-restriucted free agents that the Skins could sign. Probably Batch, Boler, D Carr, Pennington. Slim pickings.


*Most superior QBs have very quick success -- they are winners right away. So Campbell's 19-28 W-L record as a starter is not only fair game, it's solid evidence. always, there are big "buts."

Kilmer came to D.C. with an 11-29 career record, then went 50-23-1 with the much better Allen Redskins. Sonny Jurgensen was 17-22 in Philly -- a "loser" so they traded him for Norm Snead. After Vince Lombardi came, Sonny was 24-15-2 the rest of his career. Winner or loser?

Some others: Trent Green, at age 31, was 14-21. Then went 13-3 in KC and was a semi-star for years. Dan Fouts was 12-30-1 at age 27 (JC's age). Warren Moon was 12-33 at 31. Phil Simms was 14-20 at 30. Bart Starr was 11-20 at 27! Steve Young was 15-24 at 31. Fran Tarkenton started 8-27-2 (and 67-89 at 330. Didn't keep him out of all those Super Bowls. Bob Griese started 10-20-2. But that's almost the whole list -- at least of instant-recognition names.

People say, "Why so much interest in an 'average' QB?' Well, that kind of discussion has extra resonance in DC. The Gibbs 1.0 teams, as we've all pointed out for 2-3 years, won with QB's like Rypien, Williams and Schroeder who were much like Campbell (but without his running ability.) Also, the Synder Redskins gave up on Brad Johnson because he wasn't good enough for them -- combined QB rating his two yrs in D.C. of 82.9, similar to Campbell the last two years -- but then Johnson won a Super Bowl two years later with the Bucs. Ironically, his Super Bowl stats were typical Brad J --18-34 for 215 yards, 2 TD, 1 Int. Nothing special. His career QB rating 82.5.

It goes without saying that if there was an obvious way to "do better" than Campbell, then you'd do it. But since there isn't, imo, then you need to get your mind around how you're going to handle the next couple of years. It even impacts who you go after as coach since the Redskins hardly have a player on their whole roster who is a "West Coast offense" prototype. Who brought much of the current roster here? Or kept them here. Gibbs. Mr. Smashmouth/Vertical-pass.


Herndon, Va.: Boz,

Why did the Nats not offer arbitration to Livan Hernandez? Also, have you heard which pitchers they're likely to target?

On a positive note, pitchers and catchers report in 76 days!

Tom Boswell: The Nats would probably sign Livan for $1M, but if they have to go to $3-4M, they'd rather get somebody else. So they don't want to be locked into him by offering him arbitration.

If Livan wants to stay in DC, he'll probably have to recognize that he's not in the driver's seat on this one. I hope he comes back. The Nats probably think they can get two starters better than Livan and would only take a chance on him with a 5.30 ERA for a low price.


Washington, DC: The "3-iron" statement is the one I've seen that seeks to justify violence as a response to infidelity. One thing I don't understand is why the police closed their investigation before determining whether Tiger's injuries were caused in the accident or before the accident. It's clear that Mrs. Woods had a motive to act violently, although, again, infidelity is no justification for violence. This entire question could have been answered through Tiger's emergency room records but the police would not pursue it. Why did the police choose to look the other way simply because the potential domestic violence victim was male?

Tom Boswell: "Slate" has a good column on this afew days ago.

After reading that piece, I think it's fairly clear now that the reason the Woods family wouldn't talk to the police -- at all -- is out of concern that there might be legal problems for Mrs. Woods under Florida law.

Even if a person is entirely innocent of domestic violence, do you want to make the "bet" that the justice system -- which isn't 100% perfect -- will get it right in the case of your family?

When there's smashed glass, blood, a world-wide tabloid scandal story and one of the questions from the police may be, "Have you and your wife had an argument -- any kind of argument, about anything, in the last couple of days -- do you want to say, "Yes," and open that door or say, "No," and open THAT door?

Before 2:25 a.m. that night, it looks like Tiger did a lot of things wrong. After 2:25 a.m., I'd say he -- or his legion of advisors -- have done things right, including not talking to the police and issuing a very strong apology that for all practical purposes is a confession. he doesn't need to do any more.

I think I've gone through all the stages of grief on this one -- because I hate to see people mess up their lives and families and I like Tiger. Just gut level. Some people don't like him. I do. Still do. Less. But I don't think there is one person in my whole life that I've known whom I judged primarily on their sexual history, mistakes, whatever. It's one part of a person.

When I first saw that "seriously injured" I realized how much I do like him because I said, "Oh, no," out loud. I don't do that much.

I was surprised it took people so long to "flip the genders" in this case and see how much of a problem the wife could have. If it had been a female movie star in the midst of tabloid scandal who was in the street bleeding and the husband in the other role, it would have taken one second to connect the dots -- right or wrong.


Atlanta: The thing about Tiger for me is that I am not only a fan of his golf, but of him in general. It's hard to figure the right words here, but he's not like other athletes Wilbon talks about, or DiMaggio, although I never knew DiMaggio. He's the guy who we see close-up for four hours on Sunday.

He did the impossible, and in so doing, we learned about his father and their tight bond. We can recognize his mother, and we are amazed at his wife's beauty. Golfers, more than other athletes, have their families out in the open (I can recognize Amy Mickelson, and remember Zach Johnson kissing his new daughter after his Master's win).

That's the difference for me - that I felt like I knew his family a little, and they made it a point to publicly emphasize that familial bond ... and to now see that Tiger's got several ladies on the side while his wife is raising their two children ... it seems like a personal insult - the whole thing's a charade.

Can you see the massive crowds following him at August next year, and cheering as wildly when he drains a put? I can't see myself doing it anymore ... I guess I'm just no longer in awe of Tiger ... which saddens me a bit.

Tom Boswell: I don't do "disillusioned." Sorry. Because I was never "illusioned." My parents named me after "Doubting Thomas" in the Bible, the disciple who wouldn't take the Resurrection on faith but wanted evidence.

However, I do "disappointed." And I'm disappointed in Tiger.

But I've spent my whole life dealing with these athletes AS PEOPLE. That's all they are. They are just like us. Not better, not worse, not even different. Maybe that's why I generally get along with them well, though I never become friends. That's not my job. I have several billion other people to pick my friends from and I don't have to write about them. I think you treat your friends one way -- like friends -- and the people you write about for a living in another way __as fairly as you can. And sometimes "fair" is pretty harsh. I'd never do that to a friend in print. But the history of journalism is full of people who did remarkably fine work and could manage it. I can't. I went to dinner with a high school coach once -- A.B. Williamson who later coached Howard -- that I really liked. And after one social evening together, I knew I could never write about him "my way" again. So, that was the end of that.

Back to your question. I think you will, like everybody, "redraw" your portait of Tiger and include this episode. However, I have heard some very loud cheers at Augusta for some men who had infidelity-documented divorces on their resume. In time, everything Tiger does from now on with be reflected off what we just learned that he did. However, there's a difference between "I slipped once" and the level of abject apology he's offered. He seems to be acknowledging a pattern of behavior. Like everybody else, I listen to that 32-second tape and feel sad. Then I lsten to it -- how can you escape it -- and shake my head. Then I listen to it and go watch Wanda Sykes comedy routine on Tiger -- which is wonderfully vicious -- and laugh. This one gives you all the emotions.

But I come back to thinking how much pain there must be -- underneath all the wealth/fame -- at the Woods house. How ashamed he must feel, either for what he did or, at the least, for the damage he's now caused by getting caught or probably both. As I said, they are just like everybody else. Except they know the whole world, not just their neighborhood, is talking about them now.


Washington, D.C.: The Redskins line troubles made me wonder whether it is harder to predict pro success among linemen. Then, in watching Sunday night football, they introduce the offensive linemen and it seems like a lot of pro lineman went to no-name schools. More so than other positions.

So, if the top colleges can't accurately screen future pro's, maybe that explains why the pro teams have a hard time selecting successful pro lineman.

Whaddya think?

Tom Boswell: The world is full of 310-pound run blockers. It's not full of guys who can pass block, pick up blitzs, read-and-react. The Redskins found five decent run blockers -- not hard -- after everybody got hurt. Campbell does the rest. He got hit in the mouth time after time after time in a blink after he let the ball go on Sunday.

Since the KC game, the Redskins have gained 1,635 yards in five games, an average of 327 and a low of 303. They have allowed 1,559 yards in those games. Anybody who thinks the Redskins are a 3-8 team right now is crazy. They are more like a 5-6 team that can beat Denver at home and play Dallas and Philly close on the road (but lose, because that's part of who they are right now).

The Saints win their average game by 17 points. The Skins lose their average game by 3 points. Home field = 3 points. So New Orleans should be a 17-point favorite. So, it "ought to be" 31-13 or some such. But if the Saint are asleep and the Skins have a +2 on turnovers, it could be an exciting fourth quarter. That is not the probability, of course, it is just a possibility.


Tiger Woods Foundation: What is he going to tell the kids he reaches out to via his foundation. He talks to them about family values, integrity and honesty. Will he have to stop doing that?

What I really don't understand is why people this famous do this. Don't they realize there are people out there waiting, hoping, searching to find some dirt on them?

Tom Boswell: The standard answer is that they do it because they think they can (and get away with it) and because their temptations are the same as anybody else.

But, no, I don't get it.


Quotations: Maybe there aren't any great quotes about infidelity because of the one obvious quote that most people already know: "thou shalt not commit adultery."

Tom Boswell: Nice.

I watched a cornball John Wayne movie ("The Commancheros") a couple of days before the Tiger story hit. The Duke is taking a prisoner back to be hanged -- but the guy, though a scoudrel, has a lot on his side and saved Wayne's life.

Wayne charater says, "I say to myself, Let him make a run for it.' And then I say back to myself, 'You can't let him run. You swore an oath when they put that (Texas ranger) badge on you."

Prisoner: "And that's important to you?"

Wayne: "I said I swore an oath."

Prisoner: "Words."

Wayne: "Words are what men live by. Words they say and mean. You msta had a real careless upbringing."

(But, in the end, the Duke lets the guy and his girlfriend, who's the daughter of a mass murderer, make a run for Mexico, which they presumably reach with applause from the audience. As Holden Caulfield said, "The movies'll ruin you.")


Washington, D.C.: The Caps have led in everyone of their 28 games so far this season. That's about a third of their season. Can you imagine if a baseball team led everyone of their first 55 games? I think this is an under the radar streak that may be some sort of record for a major sports team.

Tom Boswell: That is remarkable.

Assuming you've got the stat right, does anybody out there have a sense of how unique that may be and whether it means the Caps are closer than we may think to being really, really good. Or is there another hockey interpretation.

By the way, I think the Ovechkin suspension will give him time to think a little and may allow him to calm down just a hair. He'll never admit it. But after you get suspended once, you're on the radar for more. So it gives him an excuse/reason to stop taking these 3-4-5-stride runs at people and having knee-to-knee hits. We'll see. We all want him to have a long career. Howe survived and hit everything in sight.


Washington DC: I believe that there is a certain segment of society who for some strange reason, relishes in the public humiliation of a famous individual who they believe looks down on "regular" folks like them. In spite of the many charitable contributions and off the course goodwill that Tiger Woods has done and will do in the future, they will never allow him get past this and move on.


Tom Boswell: Maybe "some people." But not most people. It'll pass. It won't be forgotten. But it will, eventually, just be background noise.

Now, if any great player ever cheated AT GOLF, rather than cheating on their wife, that would be different. They would never recover from it. Move your ball an inch in the rough: Eternal damnation.



Herndon, Va.: Mr. B: to quote your colleague M. Wilbon, quoting Chris Rock - "Men are as faithful as their options." Sadly, pretty true. I haven't indulged outside of marriage, but if women were literally throwing themselves at me (I'm sure you've seen this, being around many sports figures), it would be a lot harder.

Tom Boswell: The next time Chris Rock makes me laugh, it will be the first time. And I've watched his routines. To the degree that he's any part of the spirit-of-the-age then it's a mean, bitter beyond-cynical age.

Everybody's got different weaknesses, different holes in their game. For some it's sex. But they don't make perfect, or even semi-perfect people. But that doesn't mean the world is without character or that virtue doesn't exist. It just means that nobody has the whole package and we all have to watch out. Oky, I can't top that for a cliche. No more Tiger.


Fairfax, Va.: Quick question about Ovechkin. It seems to me that NHL history has been full of players that have played "dirty" and have been celebrated for it from Gordie Howe to Bobby Clarke to Mark Messier to Chris Pronger.

Is this current backlash against Ovechkin nothing more than the fact that he is a Russian player and most popular player in the sport. The xenophobia of the Canadian media when it comes to hockey is well documented (Don Cherry among others). Is this just a ramping up of that because of the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver?

Tom Boswell: There's plenty of envy of Ovechkin and of the Caps for having him.

I want to see the very greatest players have the longst and best career possible. I talked to Ken griffey, Jr., many years ago __I'd known his father__ and tried to make the case that he should stop running into walls, playing the game 100% every play.

He told me that after his first year in the minors, he tried to commit suicide. (I wrote about it in "Playboy" in the '90's.) To simplify: The pressure of expectations, since a very young age, got to him. One of the ways he got himself straightened out was to vow that he would always play the game for the joy of it, the self-expression of it, and not to set records. He was going to be an art-for-art-sake ballplayer, I guess. And, as a symbol of it, he decided to wear his hat backwards most of the time. That was 20+ years ago. A symbol of baseball as go-for-it joy-thrill, including the danger part.

So, he's 40 and has hit 630 homers and seems to be at the very end of the road. If he'd played it safe, he might have played until 42-43, missed 500 less games and be the man with 756 home runs.

Some of these choices run very deep into the core of personality. I hope Ovie can change -- a little. But if he can't, that doesn't mean he's just being stubborn. Ultimately, it's his business.

See you next week.


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