An Aug. 8 Sports column gave an incorrect date for the Baltimore Orioles' annual FanFest in Washington. It will be held Aug. 18 at Farragut Square, starting at 11 a.m. (Published 8/11/04)
Watching the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team celebrate its 80-77 victory Wednesday over Germany in Cologne on Allen Iverson's three-pointer at the buzzer, you'd have thought the gold medal had been won and everyone can come home now.
That's not the case. Iverson's shot from just over midcourt merely gave the United States a victory in what soccer buffs would call a "friendly," a pre-Olympic exhibition game. But it came a day after Coach Larry Brown's squad had been humiliated by Italy, 95-78, in what Iverson called a "wake-up call."
Friday, the team returned to the form many expected, beating Serbia and Montenegro, 78-60.
In the week since Brown assembled a team of NBA stars -- who, unlike many of their counterparts, at least agreed to play in the Olympics -- he's had to suspend three of his better players (Iverson, LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire for an exhibition game against Puerto Rico because they were late for a team meeting) and regroup after losing to Italy.
Over a steaming plate of chow mein (sans MSG) at his weekly China Doll gabfest, Hall of Fame coach Red Auerbach questioned the suspensions and wondered if the U.S. team could win the gold.
"When you suspend players, you hurt the whole team, not just the three who you singled out," Auerbach said. "I once took an all-star team to Europe. Bill Russell was late for a meeting. The next day, Oscar Robertson was late, because Russell was late the day before. So I called them together and told them, 'This better not happen again.' No suspensions, no fines. And it didn't happen again."
Of the U.S. showing?
"Some of the guys are not in shape. They were outplayed from start to finish. Our guys make millions, but that doesn't matter if the other team is better organized, shoots better and handles the ball better. Our players might not be as good as they think they are."
USA Basketball, which put the team together, needed to select a couple of pure shooters suited to international rules.
Men's basketball isn't the only U.S. team in trouble as the Aug. 13 Athens Games draw closer. The track and field team, beset by suspensions of some key members for drug use, won't do nearly as well as some publications predict. Still, both squads will do better than men's soccer and baseball, which didn't even qualify. How embarrassing for the United States that the baseball team did not make it into the tournament after winning in 2000.
Checking In With the Redskins
Midweek drive to Ashburn, past the site of the future home of Virginia Baseball, if Bud Selig so chooses, to Redskins Park where the parking is free and about 3,000 fans showed up to watch Joe Gibbs's Reunion Tour and get autographs from players after practice.
On a 90-degree day, practice is crisp with Joe Bugel's New Edition Hogs in full stride, LaVar and the defense showing resolve, even with nose tackle Brandon Noble out with a broken hand, and defensive chief Gregg Williams raving about new linebackers Marcus Washington and Mike Barrow.
Rookie safety Sean Taylor from Miami is drawing a lot of attention because his affection for agents appears somewhat fickle due to concerns about his first post-college paycheck that could add up to $40 million -- enough to at least get him out of his parents' house. He also set a Redskins record for shutting off the media: three days. Williams calls Taylor a "good man" and says he needs time to grow. LaVar, cooling off on a bench after practice, said Taylor has to differentiate between the business side and football side of the game. "The business side is ugly," said LaVar, who has a minor $6.5 million dispute pending with the Redskins' business side. "I don't want to baby-sit him, but I'd like to protect him."
The Redskins have played this smart: If Taylor plays well, let him have a new agent every week and never say a word to the media or appear with Channel 4's George Michael, if that's what he wants.
Still, most fans are riveted on the quarterback competition between Mark Brunell and Patrick Ramsey. The presence of Sonny Jurgensen working the camp for Channel 4 with Michael brought back memories of a similar competition between Sonny and Billy Kilmer 33 years ago. The fans preferred Sonny, and the coach, George Allen, liked Billy. Both played. ESPN's Joe Theismann, who succeeded Sonny and Billy at the position, also was at the park on Wednesday and said of the QB battle, "You split the reps and let them compete."
Theismann tried to explain Gibbs's offense to me, but I didn't understand a word he said, leaving me to drift and wonder if Brunell's passes showed some of Sonny's zip, whether his gab was anywhere near Joe-level and maybe he has a touch of Kilmer's moxie.
Terrapins Get Ready
Most major college football teams in the region are getting ready for their seasons. Maryland, operating out of College Park, has to compete for attention against the enormous shadow cast by the Redskins and AFC North-contending Ravens.
But it's a challenge Coach Ralph Friedgen relishes. Three straight seasons of at least 10 wins and consecutive postseason victories over Tennessee in the 2003 Peach Bowl and West Virginia in the 2004 Gator Bowl have created high expectations.
Coming up with a dependable quarterback and finding capable defensive backs are needs Friedgen must quickly satisfy. The addition of Virginia Tech (Nov. 18) and Miami to an ACC dominated by Florida State increases the difficulty.
"It's a great football conference; the fans should love it," Friedgen said. "Adding two national powers gives our league tremendous prestige. I want to be a perennial top 20 team, but we're young this year. We're also enthusiastic and talented. We'll have to be patient."
Friedgen patient? Right.
What's Peter Angelos talking about when he says on Baltimore's WBAL radio that there are no real baseball fans in D.C.? If he feels that way, why is he opposed to the move of the Montreal Expos here? If he feels that way, why is he having his manager, Lee Mazzilli, and star shortstop Miguel Tejada schlep to Washington's Farragut Square on Wednesday for the sixth annual D.C. Summer FanFest?
What other city in quest of a ballclub would be the site of a "FanFest" given by the team blocking this quest? Are we so civilized, or just saps?
Have a opinion or question, reach me at email@example.com. Heading for the beach, so no column next Sunday. If you need to vent, Bud Selig's address is 245 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10167. Be civilized.