First Things First -- Tracee Hamilton on the latest sports news

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Tracee Hamilton,Sally Jenkins
Friday, January 28, 2011; 9:30 AM

Every morning, Post columnist Tracee Hamilton discusses the most amazing and outrageous news from the world of sports.

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Sally Jenkins: Good morning all. I'm not Tracee. Got a dog, not a cat. I don't drink Guiness either, I'm a chardonnay sipper, that or very cold gin if it's been a tough day. I don't have a recliner, I do my best work from a sectional sofa. I type faster than Tracee, but I think slower. So take it easy on me. Okay? Everybody got that?

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Didn't waffle: The comment about waffles a few days ago reminded me of a visit to my mother, just a coupleof years or so before she died. I told her I remembered her making waffles for the family on Sunday mornings. She said she had not done this, and didn't even have a waffle iron. I looked in the kitchen cabinets, and found one. As soon as I showed it to her, she offered to give me money to buy frozen waffles at a supermarket up the street. She felt that, at her age, "been there, done that."

Sally Jenkins: Which is why I chose this as our morning eye-opener.

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good for you: Good morning. Kudos for correcting the NHL All-Star game article. I know WPS is a pretty small-time operation but they did get a little buzz (in soccer circles anyway) when they rolled out the captains pick idea. Of course theirs was not televised. I'm sure the media will be all over the "last picked" guys to find out if that ever happened to them before and how they feel about it.It is interesting about the Sedins. Do you think they would completely fall apart if they weren't on the same team (not so much the all-star game, but in league play)?

Sally Jenkins: better!" And yes, let's give a salute the women's soccer league for some ingenuity and saleswomanship, and fun.

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Kindly confirm or dispell these urban legends about Tracee: Hi Sally, and thanks for filling in for this chat! It's widely believed, in many circles, that Tracee has done the following:1) Scratched the eyes out of a hyena to protect one of her writers (I think it was Svrulga)2) Barked orders at people with unlit cigar dangling from her mouth, donning a baseball cap, whilst furiously pecking away at a typewriter (even though computers were available)3) Has been known to eviscerate people who REALLY had it coming to them4) Once "went all country" in a lady's powder room at a Nebraska football game5) Chided Dan Steinberg because he once failed to complete a Bog due to a grade 2 spain of his MCL, requiring a 2nd, and later a 3rd string columnist to mop up for him.6) Got into a fistfight with LeBron James. Any truth to any of these well-known anecdotes?

Sally Jenkins: She is a living legend, and this space misses her this morning, and in her place is a thin veneer of competence. It's also true that as Olympic editor in Beijing she faced down Chinese governmental officials, and in Athens, she showed the composure of a marble statue, despite the heat. You want to help Tracee? Stay out of her way.

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Sleepless in Mount Vernon: Top of the mornin', TraceeSince our woeful basketball team insists on playing bona fide NBA teams I guess we're going to have to endure another disasterous road trip. At least they've added a back up point guard (how cheap is Ernie to be carrying only 2?). And he has a cool name too. Maybe they could acquire some more d-leaguers with cool names. Then Dave Johnson could say stuff like: Shakur passes to Akon who swings the ball to Bono. Bono penetrates and finds MC Ice-T on the wing. Lordy, it's going to be a long season.

Sally Jenkins: Okay? Now that's straight, I'm all for the Wizards cool-names strategy. It's bound to work better than what they're doing. Ernie, please get on this.

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The inevitable movie about WAPO sports section writers: Hi Ms. Jenkins! In the inevitable movie about you guys, it was established repeatedly that Janine Garafalo would play Tracee, Jason Alexander would play Cheese Boy, Henry Winkler would play Bos, Michelle Pfeiffer would play Liz Clarke, Treat Williams would play B-Svluga, who the hell knows who would play Wise, The Fresh Prince's uncle would play J-Reid, and Fred Savage would play Yanda. Who would play YOU? My vote? Sally Field-- a Sally Field with an edge, but a heart of gold!

Sally Jenkins: No. Sigorney Weaver, please. In her prime. Aliens. Popping her delts, and packing MAJOR flame throwing heat. Slaying everything in sight. Yet sensitive too. And always right.

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Kornheiser's soft orange center: Good morning, Sally. The other day, Tracee commented that, though Kornheiser indeed hates many many people; through it all, he has a soft, orange center that passes for a heart of gold. Do you agree?

Sally Jenkins: I would characterize it as that Starbucks lemon pound cake. It's soft and sweet at heart -- yet with a definite sour kick. That's our Mister Tony.

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I had a dream the other night that you absolutely eviscerated me in a column: And in this column, you very accurately displayed all my faults and shortcomings as a person for the world to see. It was sobering. You wouldn't REALLY do this, would you?

Sally Jenkins: I would do this to you if you worked for the NCAA. Or if you did something really stupid, like brrought four guns into a locker room. Or stayed in a hot tub too long and then complain to your NFL coach that you felt a little spit-uppy.

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Lance Armstrong: Hi Sally -- Very nice to see you here. Unless I've missed it, I haven't heard you address the recent attacks on Lance Armstrong's credibility.Do you see him getting through the USADA probe okay? And have you ever doubted that he's clean?

Sally Jenkins: It's hard not to feel some qualms, with everything being published lately. But so far I haven't seen or read anything that convinces me. Floyd Lancis's accusations simply don't persuade me; there's too much in his detail that doesn't ring true. If you've ever been to the Tour, for instance, it's virtually impossible to believe a team bus could just get lost and pull off to the side of the road so everyone aboad could transfuse. Those buses are followed by huge caravans, there are police everywhere, the roads are choked, etc. Also, Lance was almost never ON the bus. He usually rode in a separate car because of press, doping controls, and sponsor obligations. Stuff like that makes me doubt Floyd's account. But again, you have to take my opinion for what it is, the opinion of a wishful friend. Finally, I'll say this: I believe Lance is a good person, no matter what, and I have serious qualsm about the methods of the investigators, and always have. long before they started investigating Lance. I don't like the policies of the World AntiDoping Agency, I think the code is all wrong and not philosophically clear. But that's a separate subject.

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John Wall/Wizards: I guess I am still having trouble getting over the fact that the Wizards spent the number one overall pick on a basketball player that cannot shoot a basketball. I guess there were not a lot of other options in the draft that year, but it is disturbing nonetheless. He also seems to have bad kness. Maybe he will turn into a Jason Kid type of player, but I think any optimism of him leading this team to contention some year is no longer warranted. Save some periodic great scoring from Nick Young, this Wizards team is very, very far away from anything about which to be excited. Thoughts?

Sally Jenkins: Wow. The guy is averaging what, 15 points, and nine assists, or something? He's had how many double doubles? He may have a 3-13 night, but he still can throw in 11, 12, 13 assists, and four steals, right? Do you know how hard it is to find a real, true, point guard? A guy who genuinely LIKES to pass around the sugar?

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Challenger: Not to sober up your Friday too much, but a moment of pause for the Challenger victims. That day was my generation's Kennedy assassination and the details will never be forgotten. I'll also forever be proud to have gone to S. Christa McAuliffe elementary in Germantown. That was such a great tribute at the time and the school's dedication is one of my fondest childhood memories.

Sally Jenkins: Absolutely. I won't forget it either. I was covering Maryland basketball back then, and there was a game that night, and it should have been cancelled. Nobody had the heart for a game that night.

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Contador: Do you think the one-year suspension was intended as a compromise face-saving verdict - finding Contador guilty of a technical violation but not an intentional one, and showing the Spanish anti-doping agencies are doing something. If any case, not sure if it will work.

Sally Jenkins: I do think it was a bad compromise. If he didn't ingest the clenbuterol intentionally, if the evidence shows that it was from bad meat -- and the tiny amount in his blood would seem to suggest so -- then you have to let him off. If you think he's guilty, and can prove that he eitherr took it, or that he transfused his own tainted blood, then you have to give him a two year suspension. This is the sort of thing that makes me feel the whole anti-doping fight is impossibly muddled in both method and philosophy. They need to knock down the system and start over. And they should begin by asking themselves a tough question: what is the difference between doping and therapy. When should athletes be allowed to medicate, or even build muscle to protect against injury, when should they be allowed to use someething to recover from grueling and essentially unhealthy sports?

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Lance Armstrong: Doesn't the testicular cancer sort of give it away? It's like Jason Giambi's pituitary tumor; the chances of these are greatly magnified by steroids. Here's another question: Since it seems like EVERYBODY in cycling does it, does juicing diminish their accomplishments, or should we assume they would have won anyway. A third question is, why do we care? Maybe if they had no-holds-barred, anything goes, Ben Hur-style racing it would be more fun to watch.

Sally Jenkins: Testicular cancer is THE most common form of cancer in men between the ages of 18 and 35. You have about a 1 in 300 chance of getting it. There are about 800,000 American men out there with it right now, through absolutely no fault of their own. Cancer is a roulette wheel. There's nothing fair about it. You don't earn it or give it yourself. It's just a random bastard disease.

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The Real All Americans: I looked for a way to e-mail you this before, but couldn't find a link. I just wanted to say that last year I picked up your book from the library, and both as a history and a sports story it was captivating and thought provoking. I also learned so much about Jim Thorpe and how amazing an athlete he was. Native American history is a topic I've always been interested in, but this was a totally new branch of it for me. I couldn't put it down and I consider among both the best history books and best sports books I've ever read, whichever genre you choose to put it in. Thank you for writing it. One question: I struggle so much with whether to admire Captain Pratt for his honorable intentions and his compassion or whether to revile him for the way he robbed those students of their culture. His is a very interesting story of contrast. How do you believe history views him and his efforts?

Sally Jenkins: Ooooo! Ooooo!! A book reader! Thanks so much. The Real All Americans was a labor of love on a hopelessly obscure subject, so it's nice to know it got around. Jim Thorpe was indeed the greatest athlete ever -- picture a guy like Deion Sanders, only better, and more multi-sport. Thorpe was not only a three-sport pro and Olympian, he won ballroom dancing contests and could whip anybody at billiards, tennis, and golf...As for Captain Pratt, the headmaster of the Carlisle Indian School where Thorpe played collegiate ball, he is a difficult man. I like to say he was his country. With all of its flaws. He was a gallant Civil War soldier and courageous abolitionist -- and also hardheaded, domineering, destructive, stubborn, and self righteous, and couldn't stand to be told he was wrong. Pratt was America.

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What's the deal with the Redskins' karma?: It's almost uncanny: smart people become kind of dumb. Very good players become average or old overnight. Good players leave, and become really good elsewhere. Drama follows them like a lovable golden retriever. It's almost spooky. Is this the result of over a decade of a culture of boobery, or just bum luck?

Sally Jenkins: That's a great question. Look at the New York Jets under Rex Ryan. They had 11 free agents this year. One of them was Jason Taylor. Yet Ryan fused them into a really good team -- not a Super Bowl team, but pretty close to great. Why? What's the difference? I think part of the answer lies in the pay scale. The Redskins have overpaid terribly, and it's corrosive both to the individual player, and inside the locker room. I'm not sure the Jets overpaid. The guys they picked up NEEDED a second chance. Santonio Holmes wass traded for a fifth round pick and had a lot to prove. So I think you can build through free agency, but only if you do it smartly and control your payroll structure and integrity, and if the coach is the ultimate authority. The Jets had great chemistry. The Redskins free agent efforts have tended to RUIN chemistry.

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Countador: How dirty is professional cycling now? I am not sure what is more damning in my mind. The fact that Alberto's excuss of tained meat seems to be reducing his suspension for a year, or that Andy Schleck doesn't seem to think a doping violation is that big of a deal.With the beef excuse, I still haven't heard home much beef he would have had to eat to elevate the levels of steriods in his blood. I work in bio-tech so I understand things like absorbstion rates/bio-evalability etc. It just doesn't seem plausible that eating a steak can raise your levels that much. Plus they found traces of plastics in his blood, (Usually signs of IV use.) Are we expected to believe he also ate the wrapper the meat came in?I go back and forth in my mind about cycling must be getting better about PEDs because they are actually catching people (vs. the NFL where PED body sprays are actually endorsed by coaches ...) and if people knew they were going to get caught, they would stop.Your thoughts please ...Let's Go Royals

Sally Jenkins: just suspended for testing positive for DHEA? He got a ten game suspension. Now, in the WADA world he would lose two years of his career...In the NFL, if a guy takes a IV drip at halftime for being tired and dehydrated and then returns to the field, we commend him for courage. In cycling, we call him a doper and give him a tw0 year ban. It doesn't make sense to me.

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Welcome, Sally!: And please please please contnue with your efforts to shame/knock some sense into the greedy so and so's who are running the NCAA. I realize your odds of success are about the same as my waking up thin tomorrow -- zero -- but keep up the good work.

Sally Jenkins: Auburn. That's all I have to say. I will be interested to see if the NCAA actually has an investigative arm, or if most of their money goes to lobbying.

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Thomas Robinson: NCAA is acting honorably and compassionately in letting U Kansas pay for his mom's funeral expenses and flying the team to DC for the funeral. Why can't they do that in other situations?

Sally Jenkins: Great point. I was really glad to read that.

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Interesting that you mention Maryland basketball...: Next year we'll be remembering where we were when we heard that Len Bias had died. For me it was the same office in Boston where I heard about the Challenger.

Sally Jenkins: For me it was sitting upright in bed after I got the phone call from an editor. I had just been with Bias at the NBA draft the day before. Heartsickest feeling ever.

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Sally Field?: No! She cries too much. And her bones are brittle.

Sally Jenkins: Exactly. Signorney. Since Michelle is already taken, and Natalie Portman is too frail and bloodless, and Sandra Bullock is too perky.

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Cancer: (Not a comment related to Lance Armstrong, as there is no link between testicular cancer and PED use)The latest research suggest that Cancer is caused by genetic predisposition and also by enviromential triggers. Case in point, if you smoke you are much more likely to get lung cancer, if you eat lots of fiber you are less likely to get colorectal cancer. It is a roulate wheel, but you do control if you add extra balls before the wheel is spun.Let's Go Royals

Sally Jenkins: Thank you! I'll be eating my bran now.

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re: the Redskins' karma: There's no law of nature or man that says the Redskins have to be good. The Cubs won a World Series once, and the Lions won an NFL title once or twice. No reason that a poorly run organization should be expected to have good results.

Sally Jenkins: Exactly.

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Terps: Terps looked good last night (was there along with John Grisham :) ). Appears Virginia's game plan was soley to fall back to control Williams (which they did) but VA did not count on the Terps shooting so well from the outside.Go Terps

Sally Jenkins: I have to say, I love watching a Gary Williams game plan. Even when the Terps aren't great, he coaches pretty basketball.

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Why does it matter (a serious question)?: If all of the doping rules were suspended--so that everyone had a chance to use "anything"--wouldn't the drugs more or less even the playing field so that physical performance would still rule the day?

Sally Jenkins: This is an interesting question that almost no one in doping wants to address. First of all, it's not entirely clear to me that a lot of these substances really ARE performance enhancing. The list changes frequently. And some might be genuinely medicinal -- they all started as medicines, after all. The good anti-doping people I've asked about this say the danger of removing all controls is that you'd end up with a doping arms race and the trophies would be won by people with the most money and access to the best science. Which is something to think about. I know most athletes -- Lance included -- are very much in favor of controls.

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JENKINS AND SHRAKE: I've been meaning to ask you this for a while. What do you and your dad think about him and his buddy Shrake being used as characters in John Sandford's books?

Sally Jenkins: My father would also like to appear in a Daniel Silva, and a Lee Child. So would I.

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Living Strong: I liked Armstrong as a cyclist, although I don't follow the sport 11 out of 12 months. But I came to admire him when I read "It's not about the bike" during my cancer treatment. I wear the wristband every day. I believe him when he says that he didn't take PEDs, but if it's proved that he did, it would be devastating for all the cancer patients who have found inspiration in him. And to that previous poster, I didn't take steroids.

Sally Jenkins: Thanks for the comment. But I have to say, no matter what, Lance beat cancer fair and square. I'm pretty confident that inspiration will hold up.

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Jets vs. Redskins: Jets filled in free agent talent/players through trade around their base of players mostly drafted by the team..kind of like the Capitals. Redskins seek to build team through free agency with fill ins from the draft, and get the proper results from the poor plan.

Sally Jenkins: Good description.

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Hilarious, or the first signs of Armageddon?: Sally, this was asked of Tracee, but I'd love your take: if you walked into the hallowed halls of the WAPO sports wing, only to see Boswell, Wise, J-Reid, Yanda, B-Svrl, and Maese dancing furiously to, say, "I Will Survive", would you think to yourself, "That's hilarious!", would you mutter, "Yep, Armageddon's just about upon us"?

Sally Jenkins: See, that would never happen. It would only happen if it was a Bob Seeger song. Which falls under the category of what the discerning critic Liz Clarke calls "'Stupid Guy Athems."

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Pittsburgh Wife: Tracee. dear, are you snowed in? I'm not at work today because our building had a power failure yesterday (when we were supposed to get new carpet, so I was off). I am enjoying my leisure and having a Nigella-thon with all the episodes I TiVoed but haven't watched yet. Yesterday I watched an OLD Twilight Zone--To Serve Man. It has one of the best ending lines ever (and Lloyd Bochner was a good looking dude!).

Sally Jenkins: Pittsburgh wife!! Pittsburgh wife!! I was hoping you would show up! THANK YOU FOR COMING and I'm sorry Tracee is not here for TV banter. I'm only good at TV banter if it was on the history channel.

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Lance: I have no idea whether he's clean or not.... I haven't bothered to care. But I'm amazed that somebody would propose that testicular cancer is evidence that he did. I'll have to let all my friends who have had this disease know what it says about them. That's just offensive to cancer survivors. Maybe the logic might be sound if it was a somewhat rare disease, but it's really not.... just rarely talked about.

Sally Jenkins: Same here.

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Handle Pending: Sally, thank you so much for continuing to POUND the NCAA and the BCS cartel. What a sham. Do you sense any movement toward fixing the system or are bowl presidents and fat cat boosters (ugh) still the ones who matter most?

Sally Jenkins: No movement. Quite the opposite -- backlash. The BCS conference commissioners are saying things like, "If the small schools keep pushing this, we'll give them even less." Which really sounded great in a year when TCU won the Rose Bowl and deserved half the national title.

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Wise getting all weepy over Ralph Friedgen: I like Wise, even though it's unclear who'd play him in the inevitable movie (a bald Val Kilmer, maybe?), but what was his deal there for a week when seemingly every column was a weepy missive about Ralph Friedgen?

Sally Jenkins: Vince Vaughn?

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Thought about Lance: This is the first time I have heard someone close to Lance say he worked in the gray area. I never doubted he did, and may have missed it before. Why doesn't he just come out and say, I did this, and this, and this ... all not technically breaking the rules at the time.It may be a PR diaster I don't know, but it would shine a light into a dark area of sports. I equate it to Lance denying he never took EPO. He did while he was on chemo. Everyone does. It's not PEDs at that point, its keeping him alive. I know he never took EPO after the came up with the test for it, simply because the tests can't afford to be caught doctoring anyone's test results. What happen before is belief. I am like you I believe he was clean and lived in the gray area. (BTW, Its Not About the Bike is a Great Book. I just gave it to a relative who was diagnosied with breast cancer and she loved it. She is not a sports fan, she new the name Armstrong, but didn't know why he was famous.)Let's Go Royals

Sally Jenkins: For instance, he slept in altitude tents, which help boost your red blood cell count, and which WADA has thought about banning. That sort of thing.

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JENKINS AND SHRAKE FOLLOWUP: Thanks, good to know. You mentionned Lee Child- I urge anyone who's into action/thriller novels to get hold of any or all of his books. And in return for a charitable donation, you can become a character in one of them, too.

Sally Jenkins: Jack Reacher is what Tracee is really like once you get to know her.

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Speaking of Doping: Do you believe Diana Taurasi? Florida Husky

Sally Jenkins: Great question. I'll say what her coach Geno Auriemma said so well, and which I say about Lance. I choose to believe her, until I'm absolutely forced not to. She's a great, great player, and a hell of a funny kid, and I hope there's some lousy lab foul up behind this. The Olympic team needs her. And by the way, even if somehow it got in her body, surely it's a total misdemeanor. This is the kind of thing that makes me totally recoil from the anti-doping system. How far down the list of Great American Villains do you have to go before you arrive at the name Diana Taurasi?...Okay folks, I've got to run now. Happy Friday.


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