Thursday, January 31, 2008

Alex Ovechkin

There is a occasional segment called "Man crush" on Steve Czaban's morning show on Fox Sports Radio. It's where callers call in and talk about which professional athlete they are crazy about.

With the possible exception of Tiger Woods and the fact I practically don't move when he is playing in a major tournament, I can't say I really had one. Until tonight while watching the Caps-Canadiens game. Alex Ovechkin is now my man crush. He scored four goals during the Caps 5-4 overtime win over Montreal tonight.

He's got 43 goals so far this season, tops in the NHL. He scored a pair of goals in this past Sunday's NHL All Star game.

Oh yeah, he negotiated an extension of his contract without an agent. Ready for this sports fans: 13 years, $124 million dollars.

Another cool fact and this comes quoted from the Washington Post: On 10/2/06 during the Caps annual charity golf tournament he had never played a round of golf in his life. So he didn't enter the tournament. He stood on the tee, greeting golfers, signing autographs and taking practice shots. On about his 100th shot, something happened that most golfers wait a lifetime to achieve: The ball soared 160 yards, bounced three times and dropped into the cup -- a hole-in-one. Gleeful, the young hockey star hooted, stomped, pumped his fists. He picked up his borrowed 4-iron sideways and strummed it as if it were a guitar.

I forgot to add that he assisted on the other goal the Caps scored tonight. For those keeping score that's 4 goals and an assist. Incredible!

In my Favorite Reads section I've added the blog of Caps Owner Ted Leonsis so you can keep track of Alex and the Caps.

I'll sign off with what's been simply called The Goal. Enjoy!


Update: Mike Wise from The Washington Post writes A Night To Remember and the game recap

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

2008 American Bald Eagle Coins

I think part of my pay check should go to the United States Mint as each year I find one or two coin sets that interest me (and hopefully Benjamin when he gets older) in addition to my regular orders. This year it is the American Bald Eagle coins (click picture for a larger view) and I received the set I ordered today. These are beautiful coins and are available this year only. I ordered the half dollar and dollar coins.

What I like is a portion from the sale of each coin will be used for a special American Eagle Fund endowment managed by a not-for-profit organization called The American Eagle Foundation (See link below). The coin program could generate over $10 million for the eagle protection cause.

The coins show both natural and historical Bald Eagle images and emblems. The half dollar interested me as the U.S. Mint is targeting this at young collectors. It features the profile of the Bald Eagle Challenger on one side and two baby eaglets in their nest on the opposite side. Challenger is a 19-year-old non-releasable bird cared for by the American Eagle Fund and is internationally known for his spectacular free-flight educational appearances at high-profile sporting events and ceremonies all over the US.

From the Mint's press release, the coins are meant to commemorate:
The recovery and restoration of the American Bald Eagle

The Bald Eagle’s importance as "the national symbol of the United States, to
America’s lands, waterways, and skies"

The 35th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act of 1973

A little history from the U.S. Mint's press release as follows:
The Bald Eagle, unique to North America, was designated America’s national emblem by the Founding Fathers on June 20, 1782, at the Second Continental Congress. Once threatened with possible extinction in the lower 48 states, the Bald Eagle was classified as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Because of the success of numerous concerted recovery efforts, the Bald Eagle was removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007.

The American Bald Eagle Recovery & National Emblem Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 4116) was signed into law by President George W. Bush in December 2004, to celebrate and further aid the recovery of the American Eagle.

If interested in ordering, please check out the U.S. Mint web site

The American Eagle Foundation web site.

I like ordering from the U.S. Mint web site as it is very efficient and I've never had a problem with an order. When you have a large family as we do, their coins make great gifts for young kids.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

#3 Duke 93, Maryland 84

I'll get into the game discussion in a moment but first some pics. I thought I had good karma going after getting the tickets last night in miracle fashion and pulling into the parking lot before game time to this tune.

Had to check out Testudo and rub his nose for good luck.

The view from the last row. The seats weren't bad at all. The place was LOUD!

Ok, the Terps went into the game knowing they could play with any team in the country after shocking the number one team in the nation last weekend. For the first twenty minutes, the Terps proved it as they took a 51-42 halftime lead.

However, you cannot turn the ball over 22 times to Duke's 10 and expect to beat those guys. Not against a well-oiled machine like Duke.

The Terps got a career night from center Bambale Osby, who had 20 points and 15 rebounds. Forward James Gist led the Terps with 26 points. It wasn't enough against Duke who outshot (53 percent), outrebounded (22-15) and outscored (51-33) the Terps in the second half.

Much as it pains me to write this, Duke's DeMarcus Nelson was incredible tonight, finishing with 27 points. Here he scores over Maryland's Landon Milbourne. Nelson had 19 of his 27 points in the second half.

This was one great atmosphere, it was loud and the students did not sit down the entire game. The place went nuts when Coach K got teed up. I really thought the Terps could pull off the upset but Duke is too tough. Hopefully the young Terps can learn from this and come out strong against Virginia on Wednesday.

Duke is 17-1 (5-0 in the ACC). Maryland is 12-8 (2-3 in the ACC)

Postgame quotes here

Saturday, January 26, 2008

So I'm Going To The Maryland-Duke Game After All

It was iffy at times today. Believe me when I say I came close to missing this game.

Here's the story. A pair of tickets and parking pass were sent from Florida via USPS Next Day mail Friday. They were to arrive at noon today. So I stayed at home all day anticipating delivery. Noon came and went, nothing. 3:00 PM came and went, nothing. At 5:00 I logged in to the USPS site. The site said there was a delivery attempt at 11:15 AM, which was #^&@*$#% because I was sitting in the living room with Benjamin and I would have heard the doorbell. Plus Weena and her Mom and Dad were in the kitchen preparing for lunch. In other words, I had Casa Benjamin fully staffed.

At 5:00 I called the 1-800-ASK-USPS line. They said that indeed there was an attempt to deliver and a notice was left. More #^&@*$#% as there was no notice and I must have opened the door dozens of times today looking outside. I would have seen a notice. The person on the line told me where the package was and said a second attempt will be made the next business day (Monday, lotsa good since tip off is Sunday evening at 6:30). Perhaps the driver went to the wrong house, I don't know. At that point I didn't have a lot going my way so I decided to chance it at 5:45 PM and see if anyone was still at the local Post Office where the package was sitting.

Cue the Speed Racer theme music and I roar down the street with a little hope. I get there finally and this is one of those places where you can drop off mail and buy stamps 24/7 so I'm able to get inside the building. Then I see the lobby wasn't completely shut down so I went to a door and pounded on it for five minutes. I could see light so I knew someone had to be there still.

While pounding on the door I hear someone yell "we're closed!" I yell back, "No, it's an emergency. I've got a Next Day package I need to get TODAY, PLEASE!"

So the attendant opens the door, asks for what I was looking for. I had printed out the delivery number and showed that to her with my driver's license and she said for me to give her a couple minutes.

Heart pounding, I almost danced when I see she had my package. I got her name and thanked her as I signed for it. She said if I showed up two minutes later, she was out the door gone until Monday. I plan to find out who her supervisor is and will drop a note of appreciation.

So the adventure ends with me in the nosebleeds at Comcast Center tomorrow. I'll have a full report after the game. Go Terps!

Post Preview here

The Redskins Coaching Search Continues

News out of Redskins Park today says that Gregg Williams took himself out of the running for the Redskins Head Coaching vacancy and was let go as Defensive Coordinator. I don't know what to believe anymore. I don't even know who is a candidate for the Head Coaching vacancy as owner Dan Snyder has done his best to foul this whole search process up. Now they probably won't be able to find anyone until after the Super Bowl.

I read and heard on sports radio that Executive Vice President Vinny Cerrato and Williams didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. Still, Cerrato isn't the General Manager. No one is and I think the two of them could have worked through things. But since Joe Gibbs resigned in early January, Snyder has reverted back to his old, meddlesome ways and it looks like this team is going to blow up again. They were so close under Gibbs. All Snyder had to do once Gibbs resigned was hire Williams, keep most of the staff who worked under Gibbs in place and they would have scrapped for a playoff spot again.

Snyder had kept quiet during Gibbs four years here. He let Gibbs build the team the way he wanted and the thinking was maybe Snyder has matured as an owner. Now since Gibbs left, to quote Bruce Springsteen, we're in for "the same old story, same old act. One step up and two steps back". In other words, the Redskins will probably just sign and overpay for more free agents who won’t care who the coach is just as long they’re getting paid.

Personally, I want former Redskin player and assistant coach Russ Grimm to get a chance to interview. A friend of mine said the old Redskins aren’t really welcome at Redskins Park these days and the only time Snyder pays tribute to the past is when he takes the three Super Bowl trophies out of the display case, polishes them up, and put the behind the podium for press conferences.

This is the team I have loved since I was a young boy. I hope Benjamin will root for them when he gets older and he understands how important this team is to this area. When they win, it's a great feeling of unity all over.

So I would like to tip my hat to Joe Gibbs again for his class and the four years we had under him during his second stint as Redskins Head Coach. The record wasn't spectacular but at the rate things are going, it looks like Redskin fans aren't going to see two playoff appearances in four years anytime soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

We Had A Visitor

It's been cold outside lately and you are alerted about the dangers of being outside or having a pet outside in this chilling weather. What you don't think about are the wild animals. When it is cold, they need a place to go to stay warm and it's an added bonus if there is a food source close by. So when my Mother in Law saw mouse droppings yesterday, after inspection I made the dreaded trip to a hardware store to get some traps.

While browsing I see they have these electronic traps, which according to the package quickly and safely eliminate mice from your home by delivering an electrical shock to kill mouse in seconds. The price of $20.00 delivered a shock to me and I decided to go with old reliable.

I set two out in the kitchen, smearing peanut butter on the latch. Sure enough when I woke up this morning I went downstairs found a small mouse the size of my thumb caught in the trap, dead.

I got some gloves, bagged it and dropped it in the trunk of my car Soprano's style and got rid of it later (sorry 7-11). Good news is there was only one. I will set a trap tonight and see if there are any more before pricing exterminators.

In the meantime, we have cleaned up the house and bought a rice storage unit. Here are some other tips to follow:

As I said earlier in the cold weather, mice look for food and shelter. If you cut off access to these it will help solve the problem.

1. Clean areas under stoves, refrigerators and dishwashers. Keep food preparation and serving surfaces clean.

2. Store dry food (rice, pasta and grains), dry pet food and birdseed in metal, glass or plastic containers.

3. Clean pet bowls at night. Place bird feeders with seed away from the house.

4. Store lumber, firewood and compost away from the house. Elevate lumber and firewood on pallets. Use thick plastic or metal trash cans with tightly fitting lids.

5. Rake, collect and remove fruit, nuts and other foods that have fallen out of plants or trees. Repair all small holes in foundation, walls, basements, etc. Use caulking, a concrete patch, course steel wool or copper mesh. You can also fasten a sheet metal plate or cement over masonry.

6. Properly dispose of garbage.

7. Make sure doors and windows have fine-mesh, well-maintained screens. Cover vents, ducts, holes around electrical conduits, floor drains and other openings with copper or aluminum screens, or with metal coverings.

Hopefully this is just a case of some mouse randomly passing through looking for a warm place and I won't have to consult an exterminator. This was definitely not one of my fun things to do as a homeowner.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Maryland 82, #1 North Carolina 80

Nearly a month ago on December 22, 2007 I went to Comcast Center and saw American University upset Maryland. American came into that game with nothing to lose while Maryland thought they could pretty much treat the game as a practice before the holiday break. Result: It was one of the ugliest Maryland basketball games I've ever seen as AU beat Maryland 67-59.

Yesterday the Terps traveled to Chapel Hill to take on the Tar Heels who were undefeated and were the number one team in the nation. The key word here is were. Yes, Maryland did learn something from that American University loss. They went into the "Dean Dome" with nothing to lose and stunned the Heels 82-80 in a thrilling game.

That was the seventh time in Gary Williams coaching career at Maryland that his team has knocked off the number one team in the nation and tenth time overall in Maryland's history, which is second to UCLA (13 times). Pretty cool stat.

Since that loss to American University, Maryland fans are seeing a nice on-court improvement of this team in recent weeks. Since that loss the Terps have hammered a Delaware team that is 5-0 in the very competitive Colonial League. They got another quality win at Charlotte, an Atlantic 10 team that has beaten Wake Forest, Davidson, Southern Illinois, Clemson, and Temple. They took care of business vs Holy Cross, a team capable of winning the Patriot League. The Terps also have a one point Atlantic Coast Conference loss on the road at Virginia Tech. That day they played without their starting Guard Eric Hayes. This week they added a solid ACC win at home vs Wake Forest.

What this team has shown us fans is that when they play well, they can rise up to beat the number one team on the road. When they play poorly they can lose to a Patriot League team at home (again, the American University loss).

This Maryland team (12-7, 2-2 in the ACC) is a talented and deep team, but is still very raw. There's still work to be done if they are to get a bid in the NCAA basketball tournament. Right now it is fun watching this team develop and progress. This win over North Carolina will be huge for the players confidence and should really help them know they can win close games down the stretch. The talent gap in college basketball is not what it once was. As I pointed out earlier, it is amazing that a team can lose at home to American and beat North Carolina on the road in less than a month.

All that said, here is one more photo I enjoyed seeing. This will go into my archives.

Read The Washington Post recap of the game here.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

My Favorite Sports Teams

A question came up this week about how you became a fan of your favorite team (or teams). Here was my answer:

The Washington Redskins: Our family would get together and watch every Sunday. We'd watch Sonny Jurgensen pass for a ton of yards and the 'Skins would lose 45-34. I had a great group of neighborhood friends and we would always toss the football around. The intensity picked up when George Allen and his "Over the Hill Gang" came to town and took them to Super Bowl VII during his second year in 1972. Then Joe Gibbs, version 1.0 came to coach the team in 1981 and the Redskins won three Super Bowls during his tenure. I was able to see a lot of games at RFK Stadium by either getting tickets from friends or working the ticket market outside the stadium. I saw a lot of games in person of what was easily the greatest era in Redskins history. I still miss the NFL atmosphere at RFK Stadium. I went to one game at Fed Ex Field almost ten years ago and wasn't impressed at all. Now I prefer to watch games in the comfort of my home.

The Baltimore Orioles: The expansion Washington Senators left town for Arlington Texas in 1971. It was the second Senators team to be moved in a dozen years (The original Senators moved to Minnesota in 1960) and in early 1972 my Dad met the Public Relations Director of the Orioles Bob Brown at some function. Dad told him I (ten year's old at the time) was sad the Senators had left. In the mail the next week was an Oriole t-shirt, a cap, a yearbook, a schedule and some player picture cards. I was hooked as an Oriole fan and have been ever since. Dad told me write to Mr. Brown thanking him and we corresponded for a couple years after that. While I'm thrilled Washington DC has the Nationals, I'm still loyal to the Orioles and will always be.

The Washington Capitals: Dad and some co-workers had season tickets from 1974-75 through 1979-80. In year one, we sat through what was the worst record ever in NHL history. 8 wins, 67 losses and 5 ties. That's 21 points. The expansion Caps won one game on the road that year. I loved going to the games those early years as the sport was new to me. Perhaps I felt sorry for those expansion Caps, I don't know. They got to the Stanley Cup Finals once and lost in four games to Detroit but I was able to catch the final game in Washington. It was neat seeing the Stanley Cup awarded on the Caps ice but unfortunately the Caps weren't the one receiving the Cup. I fell off the NHL fan wagon during the 2004-05 lockout but I get a pair of free tickets every year from friends and I go. I am slowly hopping back on the fan wagon again as I had a blast at the New Year's Day win over Ottawa and it was fun going to see the Caps practice the next day in Arlington VA. I like the new logo but will always be partial to this one though.

I used to play a lot of basketball in our neighborhood, driving Mr. & Mrs. Goodrich crazy when I would go up to their house and ask to shoot hoops in their back yard. I'd play a lot at Woodacres park as well. The Bullets went to the NBA Finals in 1974-75 and I was hooked. Big E, Wes, Bobby D and CJ would win the NBA title finally in 1978 and they made the Finals again in 1979. It's been a struggle for the franchise since the mid '80's and all of the '90's but they have made the playoffs the past three seasons and have a pretty decent squad this year. I still get to a game or so a year but I prefer to watch them on TV. I still love the old Bullets nickname and logo.

University of Maryland: In 1973 Dad, my Uncle Joe and I went to a game at Byrd Stadium against the University of Virginia and I was hooked. In school at Elon (NC), I would get to as many football games as possible. Saw the Terps play at UNC, at NC State, at Wake Forest and at Duke. I have had season tickets since the 2004 season and it's my main team I go see in person now.

I've loved Maryland Basketball since watching the 'ol Lefthander (Lefty Driesell) coach Tom McMillen, Len Elmore and John Lucas. I still think what may have been had Moses Malone played a couple seasons there at College Park...Again, I would see as many Terps basketball games as I could while in NC and no doubt Lenny Bias was the best player I ever saw and that includes Michael Jordan. My personal highlight was attending the 1984 ACC tournament in Greensboro, NC the only time Lefty won it. Gary Williams has resurrected the program following Len Bias' death, winning a National title in 2002 and ACC tournament title in 2004.

Real Madrid: I saw my first match in September 1990. Over the next ten years when I visited Madrid I went to Santiago Bernabeu stadium. I've seen ten matches there including the classic Real Madrid-Barcelona derby (1995, a 1-1 draw). My overall record is 7 wins, a loss and 2 draws. I have GOL TV here at Casa Benjamin and get to check out Real Madrid and the rest of La Liga on a regular basis.

D.C. United:
Mother's Day '96 was my first DCU match at RFK Stadium, the one where the MetroStars Tab Ramos got red carded and D.C. United lost in a shoot-out tiebreaker (Since abolished by MLS). The record fell to 2-6 at the time. I remember some fan smashing a beer bottle in the RFK parking lot and yelling "(expletive) losers!" The "(expletive) losers" have won four MLS Cups and have had the best regular season record four times so its worked out well for the Red and Black. Prior to D.C. United's arrival I used to go see the Washington Diplomats of the NASL play at RFK. The Dips as they were called, made the playoffs a few times but never won a title. I guess I got hooked on the sport by watching Soccer Made In Germany on PBS, then the great Pele joined NASL and the NY Cosmos, so I followed the Dips. Still love the logo.

I'm a Washington DC sports homer. I've seen many great games over the years. I hope to have many great memories with Benjamin as he gets older and I introduce him to these teams and history.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Day At The Park

Been awhile since we went to the park, so we took advantage of a decent Winter day and spent a couple hours outside. Benjamin always has fun here and he bums out when it is time to go home.

Here we are swinging.

Cruising around wondering where to go next.

A little soccer action.

Head first slide ala Pete Rose. Safe!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Thanks Coach Gibbs!

Joe Gibbs resigned as Head Coach of the Washington Redskins today. The Hall of Fame coach insisted that he needed to be closer to his family in North Carolina. On the news tonight he recalled seeing videos of his family and grand kids and he realized he wasn't in most of the videos so that's when it hit him he needed to be home more.

Gibbs said he plans to spend part of his time in the Washington DC area and would do anything he could to help add to the Redskins' three Super Bowl championships. But Gibbs said he would not have an official position with the team.

This season Gibbs has often spoken publicly of his desire to spend more time with family, particularly after a grandson was diagnosed a year ago with leukemia.

The murder of safety Sean Taylor took a further toll on Gibbs as well.

The Redskins are in decent shape and I think QB Jason Campbell is going to be a very interesting player next year. The right move would be for Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams to get a second shot as a Head Coach and see if they can't build on the foundations Gibbs has put in place.

I do think Gibbs erred in bringing in Al Saunders and trying to "spice up" the Redskins offense. They haven't really had a top-notch receiving corps since Gibbs came back, but they have had a fairly deep backfield. They have a decent defense but an offense that, for the most part, is without identity.

They're an 7-9 to 9-7 caliber football team. In today's NFL, that's not necessarily a bad thing to build from.

His record in his comeback was 31-36 but Gibbs restored order and respect to an organization that lacked it. He was a good coach and a better person. Now he can go be a Hall of Fame Grandpa!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Tough Loss Ends A Great Run

The Redskins lost to the Seattle Seahawks 35-14 in their first round playoff game. The fact that this team even made the playoffs after all that has happened this year was incredible. They lost to Buffalo the week that their best player Sean Taylor was shot and killed and their record stood at 5-7. However, they won their last four games to get to 9-7 and a Wild Card spot in the playoffs against the Seahawks.

They had a 14-13 lead headed into the 4th quarter but Seattle scored two touchdowns within a 28 second time span and that was it for the Redskins. Disappointing end to the season but Redskins fans should be proud of the effort today and the past month.

Looking ahead, there are a lot of question marks now that the season is over. Does Coach Joe Gibbs return for a fifth season in his second stint with the team? What will the team do to improve while juggling the salary cap numbers? Will free agents QB Todd Collins and RB Rock Cartwright be brought back? It's always an interesting off-season for the Redskins. Here's hoping Coach Gibbs comes back though. There was a rumor out that he was offered a two year extension that would take him through the 2010 season. I believe Gibbs will be 70 years old then. Personally, I hope he comes back. He did an amazing job this past month rallying the team and is a beloved figure in this town.

Post Articles Here:
Redskins' Run Is Finished in a Flash

Kick and Momentum Sent Sailing Away

A Missed Opportunity

Redskins' Blockers Unable to Hold the Line

This Time, a Game Was All They Lost

Momentum, Then The Game Shifted

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year's Caps Style

Yesterday I met up with some friends at The Phone Booth to see the Caps take on the Ottawa Senators. Despite giving up two goals in the opening three minutes, the Caps hammered Ottawa 6-3. For more on the game, click here.

Today after I dropped off Benjamin at day care, I headed over to the Caps practice facility at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, VA. This is a nice facility. It opened in 2006 and not only is it the practice facility for the Caps, but it's also where their administrative offices are located. It is also open to the public and after practice, I saw there was a good size group of people enjoying a general skate on another rink. The facility is on the eighth level of the parking garage attached to the Ballston Common Mall. Practices are free, but check on the Caps website (link provided below) for dates and times. Here is my little adventure for today.

Practice ran from 10:30 AM until 11:10 AM. It was short because they had the game yesterday and a flight to Boston to catch tonight as they play the Bruins tomorrow night.

Caps Head Coach Bruce Boudreau instructing the players before a drill.

Olie Kolzig, aka Olie the Goalie. With the win yesterday, Olie moved up to 25th place on the all time goaltenders victory list with 289. While he does not have the Stanley Cup rings that Martin Brodeur or Patrick Roy have, Olie's been with the Caps organization for almost twenty years. He's won some major goaltending awards and has been a class act both on and off the ice. In my opinion he belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame when his career ends.

Some more pictures from practice.

After practice, Coach Boudreau held his post practice interview. (Be sure to click the NHL Video link above the logo)

After practice I rode the elevator to the food court with Coach Boudreau and we chatted about the game yesterday and the practice facility and I wished him and the team well the rest of the year. Pretty fun way to spend a morning and when Benjamin gets a little older, will add this as a to do as the facility is very kid friendly.

For more about the Caps click here.