Back from the beach:
So much going on, where should we begin? We might as well start with a Saturday afternoon drive out East Capitol Street, braving overhyped local forecasts of rain and wind from Hurricane Charley. Yellow rain slicker, rain pants and golf hat remain in the back seat.
In the mist, I see the beloved RFK Stadium -- cars and several busloads of fans pulling into Lot 5 for an MLS game between D.C. United and the New England Revolution. Contrast the feel of the day with the excitement for Freddy Adu's debut in the spring.
Adu starts for United now, and while U.S. Coach Bruce Arena cautioned against pushing the 15-year-old Adu before his time, there's no doubt United missed an opportunity in how it used and marketed such an appealing talent so far this season. A 2-2 tie with the Revolution before 13,298 fans was unsatisfying to all, according to Post staffer Steven Goff's report.
We move on to Landover, about six miles down Central Avenue, where FedEx Field looms like a wet spaceship in the drizzle, steaks and ribs on the grills two hours before kickoff, beer caps flying off bottles while a CD player blares Bob Seger's "Hollywood Nights" in the darkness.
Joe Gibbs is back.
Several thousand fans are scattered throughout the stadium, which now holds nearly 92,000, when Gibbs and the Redskins make their first appearance for warmups to cheers. "It felt a little strange," Gibbs said of the team's new home. The old home at RFK, where Gibbs operated so successfully from 1981 to '92, was tough for visiting teams. That hasn't been the case at FedEx, where a good portion of the sellout crowds are often rooting for the Redskins' opponent.
"That has to change," Gibbs said recently.
On this night, before 58,876, the opponent was the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers, led by Stephen Davis. If you've forgotten, the Redskins chose not to re-sign Davis two years ago, but he seems a better fit for Gibbs's offense than Clinton Portis.
Scribbled notes from the game:
Panthers win, 23-20, on John Kasay's 52-yard field goal in overtime after he sent the game into OT with a late 37-yard field goal. Both kicks came after number three QB Tim Hasselbeck threw really bad interceptions. But Hasselbeck was no worse than Patrick Ramsey, who has been in a fog since Gibbs brought Mark Brunell from Jacksonville last February. And aside from lefty Brunell's 61-yard TD pass to Darnerien McCants in the third quarter, Brunell hasn't exactly reminded anyone of Ken Stabler. I know it's early, but so far no passing game or running game. Defense seems improved, with rookie safety Sean Taylor a potential monster, even if he keeps to himself. I'd like to hang out with Taylor and LaVar some night, if they ever wanted to break bread at Krupin's.
Gibbs looked pained afterward. "Concerned" and "disappointing" were the two words he used most in his postgame remarks. He also said, "We see some things we don't like." Two nights later, on Channel 4's George and Sonny show, Gibbs was more positive and upbeat about the team, although his regular weekly assessment of the previous day's NASCAR race is killing me. Sonny, please, make him stop.
We move on to William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center, which used be called the tennis courts at 16th and Kennedy streets NW, for the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, which used to be the Washington Star tennis tournament, among other designations in its 35-year history. The $500,000 tournament is now part of a six-week, 10-tournament U.S. Tennis Association summer series leading to the U.S. Open.
Andre Agassi, his career apparently revived at 34 after it appeared earlier in the season he couldn't beat Bill Cosby, and Lleyton Hewitt topped the 32-man draw (what happened to the 64-man draw?). Whenever I drive 16th Street to the tournament, I think of the late Arthur Ashe, who with Stan Smith and Donald Dell started the whole business here. Ashe never missed playing in the District because he believed his appearance might inspire other African Americans to take up the game.
Dell, who is still in charge of the event, is home recovering from a surgery in July for what he said was an "aorta dissection" for a pulmonary embolism suffered while attending the matches at Wimbledon. Dell, 66, founded the ProServ marketing and management company and is now senior vice president of SFX Sports Group. He spent 12 days in the hospital and another two weeks in London before returning home. "I feel much better and pretty lucky," Dell said of the ordeal.
I've always enjoyed the feel and atmosphere of the tournament, although like the local Booz Allen Classic, additional big-name players would help a lot.
Wednesday was hot and steamy, and while Deion's possible comeback with the Ravens was the big news in Baltimore, Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who this month told WBAL-1090 "there are no baseball fans in D.C.," nevertheless dispatched about 25 players and front-office personnel to Washington's Farragut Square for the team's annual "Summer FanFest."
As I wrote two weeks ago, what other city in quest of a team would host a "FanFest" for the team blocking the city's quest for that team? For years, I've listened to Chicago-born Michael Wilbon rant how the Washington sports community was comprised of fickle wimps. Thankfully, he's in Athens this week, or he'd spank the more than 3,000 or so fans waiting dutifully in line to get autographs from Raffy, Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez and other Baltimore players.
What a coincidence this all took place the day before an owners' meeting in Philadelphia. Do you think Angelos showed photos of this lovefest to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and the other foot-dragging owners? John Withspoon, 71, of Bethesda said he was there "because he's a baseball fan, not an O's fan." Added Dale Granata of Silver Spring: "If the Expos came here, I'd go to whichever team is better, the Orioles or Expos.''
"Do you think there's any Orioles' fans in Washington?" Executive VP Jim Beattie crowed, knowing this was a big win for Angelos.
How did this happen?
"We don't discriminate issuing park permits," said Tony Bullock, director of communications for the mayor. "This works in our favor. What it does is show Major League Baseball how much interest there is in the game, when that many people show up for an event given by a team that doesn't even play here."
Talk about high-road spin.
Have an opinion or question, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm fleeing "FanFest" for the races in Saratoga.