John Roberts and the Lines of Fire

Money Players Line Up for Nats

It's the bottom of the ninth, the final at-bat for the eight groups vying to spend $450 million to buy the Washington Nationals. On the eve of the team's last three games this season, Manager Frank Robinson and the Nats gathered last night to launch the team's charitable foundation. We stopped by the $500,000 black-tie shindig at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to read the tea leaves. Most of the big bidders had sprung for $10,000 tables, surely proving that they care deeply about the community and wouldn't move the team.

Ladies and gents, a partial scorecard for the bidding game:

* The Washington Baseball Club, headed by Fred Malek and Jeff Zients, who are convinced that Major League Baseball would be crazy not to sell to local owners and that Commissioner Bud Selig is highly sensitive to the needs of D.C. fans. "Whoever it is will have my full, undivided support," Malek promised.

* Jonathan Ledecky, who teamed up with financier George Soros in a wildly optimistic move, given that Soros led a $25 million offensive to defeat President Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers. Not that politics matters in this town.

* The Lerner Family of Bethesda, whose members are so discreet and low-profile we can't even gossip about them."Forget you saw me," said Mark Lerner with a grin.

* Jeff Smulyan, the Indianapolis media mogul who has kissed up to everyone in Washington in the past two days, which means he's either frantically trying to save his bid or has the deal in his pocket. Oddly, he had "a prior commitment" last night and didn't attend the dinner.

* Developer Franklin Haney Sr., one of the quietest contenders for the team, announced he would match the evening's proceeds dollar for dollar, up to $600,000. Did he think that would improve his chances? "I would doubt it would make any difference whatsoever," he said with a laugh.

Sports pundits swear on their pouches of chewing tobacco that the decision is still up in the air. If there's no announcement in the next two weeks, we'll have to wait until November: Nothing comes between MLB and World Series ratings.

Foreign Affairs

Back in the day, no one got too bothered by supermodels doing coke. Why, it was almost a job requirement! So long as they could wake up looking dewy for a day in front of hot lights and a night as lead-guitarist arm candy, our beloved glamazons were under no compulsion to live by the same laws as us mortals.*

But the rules have changed, as Kate Moss learned last week. We weren't shocked when the U.K.'s Daily Mirror printed a photograph of the former icon of heroin chic (remember that scrawny, sallow look?) seeming to take a noseful. But the fashion execs? H&M, Burberry and Chanel dropped her like a hot pipe.

Moss apologized and yesterday British newspapers reported that she has embarked on the standard first step in our new era's Celebrity Redemption Cycle: Entering an Arizona rehab clinic. Cannot wait to see her cry on Oprah!

*Janice Dickinson, No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World's First Supermodel (New York: Regan Books, 2002), 1-320.

In the Movie Biz, Lawyers Trump Journalists

The conventional wisdom is that every journalist in Washington is secretly harboring a film project. Not true! It's the lawyers.

Coming Oct. 21: Charlize Theron and Sissy Spacek in "North Country," the saga of lady miners battling discrimination, based on 2003's "Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law" by Laura Leedy Gansler, an attorney with the National Association of Securities Dealers, and Clara Bingham, a former Washington writer.

Gansler, wife of Montgomery County State's Attorney Doug Gansler, consulted with the screenwriter and spent a day on the set but did not meet Theron. "That's what all the guys in my office want to know," she said with a sigh.

We'll have to wait another year or so for Harrison Ford's "Manhunt," based on the forthcoming book -- subtitle: "The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer" -- by Heritage Foundation constitutional scholar James Swanson. The topic was so hot that production company Walden Media, owned by Washington Examiner Publisher Phillip Anschutz, optioned the rights before Swanson finished writing.

"It's one of the great American thrilling stories," Swanson said. "The first assassination of a president, the assassin who escaped."

Ford will star as Col. Everton Conger, who led the hunt. Swanson says he "can't wait to see who Booth is going to be."

How to Win Fugitives and Influence People

Perhaps you, too, were just a teeny bit surprised to learn this week that Ashley Smith, the Atlanta hostage who persuaded fugitive Brian Nichols to surrender, did not win him over just by reading from "The Purpose-Driven Life" -- but also by graciously offering him crystal meth during the seven-hour ordeal. Gee, what other tomes might we find on her self-help bookshelf?

* "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Hostages"

* "Chicken Soup for the Fugitive's Soul"

* "What Color Is Your Paraphernalia?"

* "Who Moved My Stash?"