I saw on TV where Washington Redskins General Manager Charley Casserly said he was mightily impressed that Daniel M. -- the "M" stands for Money -- Snyder put in a new practice field practically overnight. Apparently, what happened was somebody approached Snyder and suggested that a new field was needed. And Snyder said, "Do it," and it was done. Casserly admired Snyder's decisiveness. (Of course, Casserly might not admire it quite as much if somebody approached Snyder to suggest that a new general manager was needed, and Snyder said, "Do it," and Casserly was vapor.)
Snyder was equally resolute where Redskin Park was concerned. He decided to repaint the team's headquarters with "bright, vibrant colors that stimulate energy." Bold, fiery yellows and reds are the choice of Snyder's handpicked architect, Guy Martin, who said he wants the players to "feel like they're walking over red-hot coals." (Which will undoubtedly cause Brad Johnson, their $15.5 million walking splint at quarterback, to injure himself and be lost for the year.)
I think it's great Snyder is replacing the field and repainting the park.
When he's done out there, he can repaint my house, and mow my lawn, too.
I don't know how Snyder will do with the football stuff, but as a handyman he's aces. He's Tim The Tool Man!
It's a brand new world for the Redskins with this 34-year-old owner and his "my way or the highway" reputation. It's a brand new world for the Washington Capitals also, with their own new, young owners, Ted Leonsis, 42, and Jonathan Ledecky, 41. (You had to love what Leonsis said when he was asked why he bought the Capitals: "Because I can.") In due time Leonsis and Ledecky will own the Washington Wizards as well -- and, I hope, embrace history by renaming them the Bullets.
It's an exciting, volcanic time in Washington pro sports, with so much new blood coursing through the city's veins. It could be that we are about to get a baseball team. A group of heavy hitters are trying to bring baseball inside the Beltway, where it belongs -- not Northern Virginia. Among others, the group includes James Kimsey, co-founder of America Online (where Leonsis made so much money); Franklin Raines, CEO of Fannie Mae; and Fred Malek, a longtime Republican rainmaker who was once a hatchet man for Richard Nixon, but seems to have rehabilitated his image. Their backgrounds circumscribe the Holy Trinity of Official Washington: politics, law and information. Besides being highly financed, the group is multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, although there's still an opening for an Eskimo soccer mom. Billy "Carphone" Collins III remains in the hunt to bring baseball to the area, but all of a sudden his momentum seems gone. His stock is down literally -- from $27 a share to $3 -- and figuratively.
(Let me interrupt myself briefly to cast a journalist's typically jaded glance at Steffi Graf's impending retirement. After winning the French Open, Graf said in passing that she wouldn't be back playing in Paris, and now, after reaching the final in Wimbledon, Graf said she wouldn't be playing there again either. Most people are expecting Graf to make a similar declaration about the U.S. Open. So, at 30, she seems to be done. But I have two words for her: Boris Becker. This guy has called it quits almost as much as Sugar Ray Leonard, and he keeps turning up at tournaments like a firehouse dalmatian. Last week Becker said this was "definitely" his last turn at Wimbledon. I think it's the fourth time he's said that. Becker spends more time in London than the Duchess of Kent. Someone needs to tell me why Graf wants to quit when she's still one of the best female tennis players in the world. What, are there plans to sculpt an athletic Mount Rushmore with Jordan, Elway and Gretzky, and she wants to be the fourth head?)
As I was saying, new owners are changing the game in town. When Abe Pollin and David Poile ran the Capitals, even when they spent a lot of money on players they left the impression they did so reluctantly. Leonsis has tons of money to spend. And he has a sense of humor. A few weeks ago his daughter said she wanted to change the name of the team -- so here's what we would hear during pregame introductions: "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, here come your DANISH FIGHTING CHICKEN DOGS!" (I promised Leonsis I'd write columns supporting this. I envision a logo of a half chicken, half dog striking an angry pose, and threatening opponents with pastry.) Leonsis is thinking about holding a "Freeze Your Keister" promotion, in which fans strip down to their shorts and sit on the ice until they turn blue. Naturally, I support this, too.
But before we see what Leonsis will do, we'll see Snyder. From what we've seen already, he doesn't mind making a splash. Snyder pulled the rug out from under Channel 7 on the exhibition games, jumping to Channel 4, where he can get Sonny Jurgensen on TV. Sonny is so valuable doing the games, he'll probably end up being simulcast on TV and radio. Considering Snyder is a lifelong Redskins fan, he probably wants Sonny at quarterback, too. Snyder has also made it clear he's available for a TV show of his own. For his co-host, let me be the first to nominate Wendy Rieger in a cocktail dress. (Ledecky told me he'd be available for a radio show; you know, like "Ask The Owner." What's with these guys? Did I miss the meeting where it was agreed that owning a team automatically gets you into the media? Danny, Jonny, lookit, do I come to you and say I'd be available to run your company? Get the heck off my side of the street.)
The real question for Snyder, though, isn't what he'll do with the Redskins off the field, but what will he do with them on the field? Snyder made a pile of money as a very young man. He's rarely known failure in business, and he certainly won't want it here on such a public stage. Snyder expects to quickly make a difference with this team -- and I expect he would be jolted if he doesn't.
Snyder gave a fire-and-brimstone introductory speech to the players when he took over the team, and he's been outspoken about his intention to get rid of players who he doesn't think are in shape or are in tune with the overall program. But would he? If my dear friend Michael Westbrook has another stunning gaffe, would Snyder give him the gate? If Dana Stubblefield's '99 season is like his '98 season, would Snyder cut bait?
Snyder's Achilles' heel may be that he's such a devoted Redskins fan. (I wouldn't be surprised if he wore a Hog snout into the owner's box.) When Snyder actually stands face to face with the players, will he be able to pull the trigger? Or will the memories of papering his walls as a kid with pictures of Redskins players come flooding back and soften his resolve? When Snyder walks through the locker room, will he demand the players' excellence, or will he want their autographs? Make no mistake, Danny Snyder is the Redskins' key acquisition this season. Everybody's waiting to see what he does.