Our first question today comes from J. Carville, who writes, "What is the deal with the Redskins hiring all these consultants and not hiring me? What am I, crawfish gumbo?"

The Redskins are in a consultant frenzy. First, they boot Charley Casserly to consultant. Now they've brought in Touchdown Charlie Brown, a member of the Fun Bunch who caught some big bombs from 1982 through 1984, to consult during training camp. Maybe Charlie can consult with Michael Westbrook on how best to celebrate if Westbrook ever gets in the end zone. Next, they plan to hire former all-pro defensive end Jim Marshall as a consultant during the preseason, and have him assist on defense. (Marshall will be the third defensive line coach. This way no matter which meal Dana Stubblefield is eating, a coach can always be with him.)

Marshall has made a career for himself as a motivational speaker. But is Marshall the sort of motivational speaker the Redskins need? Marshall is most notorious for scoring a touchdown for the other team by running the wrong way! The last few years the Redskins' offense has had so much trouble scoring a touchdown for their own team, why risk getting into bad habits?

You can tell Danny Snyder has a corporate background, because sports teams don't normally hire consultants. They have all the consultants they want on a regular basis--they're called sportswriters.

Our next question comes from B. Ripken, who writes, "Aren't you one of the guys who said Cal Ripken Jr. was through when he hurt his back, and he was hanging on needlessly, and he should have retired the same week Elway and Gretzky did, and he was overrated, and that if it wasn't for the consecutive games streak he'd have been benched years ago and he'd probably be an auto mechanic by now? So what I want to know is: Whaddya have to say for yourself now?"

Hummina-hummina-hummina.

Thankfully, in recent years I haven't been one of the Cal bashers. I saw the light in 1994 when I realized how awesome his accomplishments were. As a convert, I became zealous on Cal's behalf, and felt that if there was anything Cal had earned over the years, it was the chance to see if he could come back from an injury whenever he got one. Which Cal finally did at 38.

Not only did he come back strong--Cal is batting .328, which is 52 points above his career average--but he has come back strong twice this season. Last week he missed five games with a wrist injury, and over the weekend he had six hits in two games, including three dingers. On Sunday, he got drilled in the head, and came back in his next at-bat to single in the winning run. Cal is on 399 homers now, and he needs just 40 hits to arrive at 3,000 this season, which seemed as out of reach as Jupiter when this season began so dismally, and Cal appeared decrepit.

Given Ripken's mythic proportion as a baseball player, and the full-throated cries from so many for him to step down, what Cal has done this season is remarkable and inspirational.

Speaking of remarkable and inspirational, our next question is about Lance Armstrong, and comes from G. LeMond, who writes, "Can you please tell me more about the U.S. Postal Service sponsoring that cycling team in the Tour de France?"

The U.S. Postal Service, in an attempt to keep overseas mail prices down, has given up its gas-guzzling trucks (European gas prices are typically $3 a gallon), and is now delivering mail by bicycle. The Postal Service cyclists who helped protect and propel Lance Armstrong to victory in the Tour de France actually stopped at mailboxes along the way to pick up and deliver letters; you may have noticed their bikes were specially equipped with small leather pouches. U.S. taxpayer money is saved, since riders in the Tour de France are regularly given free meals and water by hosts on the route.

Much was made of the way the postal service riders hovered around Armstrong, shielding him from harm. Ask yourself this: Who wants to fool around with disgruntled postal workers?

My only disappointment of the Tour de France was when Armstrong mounted the victory podium he didn't rip off that yellow jersey to reveal a sports bra!

Our next question comes from J. Van De Velde, who asks, "Is it safe yet?"

No.

And here's a fax we received from S. Carlton, A. Monk and M. Marceau: "Albert Belle made a big mistake talking to the media. Now those leeches will expect Albert to talk every time he hits three homers in one game. His life will be a living hell."

Our last question comes from J. Brovelli, who writes, "For years I had heard of the 'Curse of Les Boulez,' but I never believed in it. How could there possibly be a curse on everybody who plays basketball in Washington? What proof is there? I mean, besides John Williams, Mark Price, Gheorghe Muresan, Pervis Ellison, Chris Webber and too many others to mention. But now I fear the curse has fallen on me. Is there anybody I can call to lift this curse?"

I don't know, but if you find somebody, pass the number along to Mitch Richmond.

The Curse of Les Boulez hit again recently when Richard Hamilton, Washington's No. 1 draft pick, injured his ankle and didn't play at all in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico. Hamilton is listed as day-to-day, so it will undoubtedly come as a shock to him when he feels some pain in training camp and finds out his ankle injury is really a compound fracture of every bone in his foot. The over-under on how many games Hamilton plays this season is four.

Hamilton need only look for inspiration to Lorenzo Williams, who, remarkably, is still on the Wizards even though he hasn't actually played basketball since the Reagan administration. Three years ago Wes Unseld had the foresight to sign Williams to a seven-year contract. Thus far Williams has played a total of 375 minutes for Washington. If Williams were an inanimate object (whaddya mean if?), he would be a tube of Ben-Gay. Now, Williams is hurt again. It is his knee this time. He is day-to-day. So are we all.

The Curse of Les Boulez carries over to the WNBA team as well. They draft Chamique Holdsclaw, the hands-down best prospect to come into the league out of college, and she goes to the All-Star Game and breaks a finger. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Mystics stink. They are in disarray. They have two starters in the All-Star Game, yet they are 6-14, and recently got drilled at home in three straight games. They stunk last year, too, and fired two coaches. If this doesn't get any better, they may have to think about making that three.