Anyone who assumed D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams's $400 million-plus stadium proposal would sail smartly through our waters like an America's Cup yacht isn't familiar with D.C. politics.
D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp's bombshell Friday recommending the mayor's preferred stadium site be moved from the Anacostia waterfront in Southeast to land near RFK Stadium was met with a loud rejection by the mayor.
Cropp and some others would like to reduce the overall cost of the new stadium while retaining the concept of the Expos moving here, thereby ending the 33-year absence of Major League Baseball from Washington.
But the mayor, who believed he had the majority votes on the council needed for the plan's approval this month, knows full well the tenuous nature of this relocation plan.
"It sends a horrible message," the mayor said Friday in the most accurate comment of the day.
Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig approved the relocation of the Expos to Washington on Sept. 30 with a number of reservations, among them whether Williams could hold his pro-stadium coalition together to meet a timetable for the 2005 season that included a renovation of RFK Stadium as a temporary home for the team.
This week, baseball veteran Jim Bowden was named interim GM, under team president Tony Tavares, until the club is officially sold.
Coincidentally or not, Bowden said he will work out of the team's spring training headquarters in Viera, Fla., not RFK Stadium or another site in D.C. Hmmm. . . .
Other troubling aspects about the situation include Peter Angelos not yet signing any agreement with MLB to receive compensation for the team moving to D.C. Why worry about Angelos if D.C. doesn't hold up its end of the bargain, Selig probably reasons. We all know the team could easily stay in Montreal.
Some baseball proponents, including me, understand how difficult it has been for the mayor to pull this off. Friday's developments may have warmed the hearts of some, but none more than Angelos and others who believe this will never happen.
Till Injury Us Do Part . . .
The clamor from some unhappy, vocal fans and media for Coach Joe Gibbs to bench Mark Brunell and give Patrick Ramsey a chance to quarterback the Redskins (2-5) isn't going to move Gibbs one iota even though it appears Brunell may have lost his mobility.
"You have to fall completely on your face for him to bench his quarterback," said Doug Williams, who was a quarterback for the Redskins from 1986 to '89 and MVP of the Super Bowl in the 1988 romp over Denver. Williams backed up Jay Schroeder in 1986 but got a chance to play the next season when Schroeder was injured. In 1988, Williams had injury problems that provided Mark Rypien the opportunity to take over and hold the job for most of Gibbs's final five seasons here despite a promising backup, Stan Humphries, in the wings. Humphries later made his mark in San Diego.
Joe Theismann was the quarterback in Gibbs's first five years here, until Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants broke Theismann's leg midway through the 1985 season, giving Schroeder his chance.
"None of this fan reaction is new to Joe," said Williams, who now works in Tampa Bay's personnel department. "He'll ignore it. He picks one guy to lead the team and stays with him, as long as he's healthy. Especially when you're talking about a veteran like Brunell as opposed to a young guy [Ramsey] who hasn't had much success."
Williams recalled that during the last game of the 1987 season, he replaced Schroeder even after Schroeder had regained his health. Williams beat Minnesota and began a run through the playoffs and Super Bowl. "I asked Joe how come he put me back in and he told me it 'was a gut feeling' he had."
Brunell, said Gibbs, "wasn't the reason" the Redskins were losing although his passer rating (27th out of 30) is discouraging. Still, the position of "QB for life" doesn't exist.
Meantime, Gibbs's predecessor, Steve Spurrier, had no problem changing quarterbacks, even in mid-game, or mid-series, the way a baseball manager goes to the bullpen for a relief pitcher. I thought that was a good idea, but what do I know, other than that Spurrier should rethink his decision to pull out as a Florida coaching candidate and that the school president and AD should make him an offer now.
Unseld Gives Wizards the Thumbs Up
* Caught up this week with Wes Unseld, who in nearly 40 years of working for Abe Pollin's NBA team has been an all-star center, coach, team president, general manager and television commentator. In the past year, Unseld had surgical replacements on both knees as well as surgery on an ankle. But he said he's feeling good and soon will be watching the team at MCI Center.
"I'm very excited about the season," Unseld said. "We've got a team of good young players. I think they'll be okay."
Those young players, actually only eight of them, showed spunk beating Memphis in the opener Thursday.
"They showed lots of heart," added Pollin, who begins his 40th year of owning the team that adds up to watching them play about 1,700 times. Geeez.
* Must be a "Big Chill" thing in the air, or something generational, but like sports columnist Norman Chad's recent visit to a high school football game in Los Angeles in response to his seeing the movie "Friday Night Lights," I also dropped into my Arlington neighborhood high school, Washington-Lee, for a Friday night game against Jefferson.
Jefferson (7-1) easily beat the Generals (2-6), 35-0, before a decent crowd at a modest stadium in the shadows of high rise apartments and townhouses for empty-nesters and singles -- a far cry from the big crowds, passion and fanaticism that is Permian (Tex.) High School.
"We're trying to build this thing," said Coach R.J. Windows, new at W-L and without his best player, injured quarterback Dan Cavanaugh. "We're going to start an offseason weight program, try to get the kids interested, even though many of them have to get jobs after school."
Windows grew up in Ohio, worked at Wilde Lake in Columbia and knows the difficulty of coaching high school football in Ballston. He commutes daily from Richmond because head football coaching jobs in high school are hard to find. No movie in the works here, although the possibility of a Feinstein book always exists.
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