Thursday, December 24, 2009

DC Sports TV Legend George Michael Passes Away

Long time NBC4 Sportscaster George Michael passed away today at age 70 from cancer.

He was the "go to" guy for sports locally. I was a huge Glenn Brenner fan but I would also follow George when he arrived in 1980, often flipping the channel back and forth starting at around 11:18 PM to catch both sports reports.

The George Michael Sports Machine debuted over Labor Day weekend 1984 (I remember it was the same day the Dolphin's Dan Marino threw 4 TD's vs the Redskins at RFK). This show was THE sports highlights show and it grew into the first nationally syndicated sports highlights show, eventually airing in 194 markets across the United States and in 10 foreign countries.

ESPN was five years old then and wasn't in everyone's home like it is now. Some folks say ESPN modeled their SportsCenter show around George's Sports Machine. The Sports Machine was also the first to give regular national TV exposure to once obscure sports like NASCAR and professional rodeo.

He also produced The Redskins Report and Full Court Press. I loved watching him talk with John Riggins, Sonny Jurgensen, Michael Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser and David DuPree to name a few.

Everyone remembers 362-4444.

The George Michael Sports Line was another important source of information. Back in the '80's there was no internet, very little cable and we didn't have access to the Orioles, Caps and Bullets games on TV like we do now. If you wanted a score, you called the sports line. It was updated frequently and clutch when the local teams were playing out West, that's how you got the score the next day as the game ended too late for the Post to pick it up.

"For baseball scores, press 1. For football news and scores press 2. For basketball news and scores, press 3. For hockey news and scores, press 4. For all other scores press 5. For all other sports news press 6"

The Washington Post's Michael Wilbon reflects on George Michael.

The Post story.

Mike Wise: George Michael was more than a good guy to know; he was a good guy

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top Ten D.C. Area Sports Moments 2000-2009

10. Michael Jordan returns and plays for the Wizards.

Jordan generated a ton of interest and revenue for a struggling NBA franchise. Not much of a front office executive though.

9. Georgetown returns to the NCAA Final Four in 2007.

What's interesting about this story is the Hoyas were coached by John Thompson III, the son of the long time Hoya coach who went to three Final Four's and won the NCAA title in 1984.

8. Maryland Football wins the 2001 ACC Championship

Under new head coach Ralph Friedgen, the Terps came out of nowhere and surprised everyone by winning their first ACC title since 1985 and going to the Orange Bowl. Prior to the 2001 season, Maryland's last bowl game was the 1990 Independence Bowl.

7. Wizards beat the Bulls 4 games to 2 in the first round of the 2005 NBA playoffs.

Prior to this, the Wizards had made the playoffs once (1997) since 1988 and their last playoff series win was in 1982 when they beat New Jersey in the first round.

6. Joe Gibbs returns to coach the Redskins in 2004.

The results were mixed, two playoff appearances (2005, 2007) but the overall record was 31-36 including a 1-2 record in playoff games.

5. George Mason goes to the Final Four in 2006.

This team barely got in the NCAA tournament, then shocked former champs Michigan State, North Carolina and Connecticut on their way to an unlikely Final Four. They lost to eventual champion Florida. This run to the Final Four had a huge impact on the school today as enrollment is up and there are new buildings being constructed on campus.

4. Alex Ovechkin

Drafted by the Capitals in 2004, he's won two NHL Most Valuable Player awards and is easily the most exciting player in hockey today. Caps have gone from barely filling Verizon Center post NHL lockout, to selling out every game this season. The Caps are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender right now.

3. Baseball returns to Washington DC.

The Montreal Expos move here and play at RFK Stadium from 2005-2007 before moving to Nationals Park at the beginning of the 2008 season. We lost the Senators in 1971 and had nothing until the Expos came here (I became a Baltimore Orioles fan after that) There's a long way to go before this team is competitive but it's great to be able to go to the ball yard again.

2. Maryland Basketball: 2001 Final Four, 2002 National Championship

Terps finally get to the Final Four, then win it all the next year. I followed this team all my life and it was tough seeing them lose to Duke in 2001 but great to see them beat Indiana for the title the next season. Remember, Gary Williams brough this program came back from the dark days following the death of Len Bias and NCAA probation.

1. Redskins Darrell Green and Art Monk make the NFL Hall of Fame in 2008.

Monk and Green going into the Hall of Fame in 2008 is my #1 because those two had great careers here and I was able to see them in person a lot at RFK Stadium. Two class acts in what is easily the greatest era in Redskins history.

Art Monk finished his career with 940 receptions for 12,721 yards and 68 touchdowns in 224 career games. He was the first NFL player to catch more than 900 career passes and he retired as the game’s all-time leader in receptions. He was the first NFL player to record more than 100 receptions in a season. He also caught at least one pass in 183 consecutive games. Monk was clutch when the Redskins needed a catch to keep a drive alive.

Darrell Green played 20 seasons for the Redskins, recording 1,321 tackles, 59 interceptions, nine forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. He also scored 11 touchdowns (eight by interception return, two by fumble return and one on a punt return). Green earned seven trips to the Pro Bowl, was named NFL Man of the Year in 1996 for community service and won the NFL Humanitarian Award as well.

It was a thrill seeing both of them enter the Hall of Fame together.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Second Worst Play in Redskins History

The New York Giants just beat up on the hapless Redskins last night 45-12. The Redskins were never in this from the start and got crushed. This result was not as close as the final score indicates. There is already a new General Manager in place now and after upcoming defeats to Dallas and San Diego close out a 4-12 year, a new coach and staff will be in place. Another three or four year rebuilding period awaits.

I really don't know how much more patience I have with this team under current ownership. It's just sad what this franchise has become under one Daniel M. Snyder since he took over ownership in 1999. This franchise has given me and many Washingtonian's much happiness with three Super Bowl victories in five appearances. Now it's the laughing stock of football.

Ugh! The thing that made this play worse was that it did catch the Giants off guard and caused them to call a timeout. So after the timeout, with the element of surprise gone, the Redskins decided to run the play again. What did they think was going to happen when you run a play that relies completely on surprise once the surprise has been taken away?

For the record, the worst play in Redskins history is "Rocket Screen". This was called toward the end of the first half in Super Bowl XVIII vs the Los Angeles Raiders. The Redskins lost that one 38-9.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Benjamin's First Maryland Basketball Game

Got a pair of excellent tickets for the Maryland-Eastern Kentucky game so I took Benjamin to his first Terps experience. He slept on the drive to College Park but was wide awake when we got to Comcast Center.

He was a little intimidated by the number of people inside the building but he got used to the surroundings quick. We walked around and he thought both the Men's and Women's National Championship trophies from 2002 and 2006 respectively were cool.

We grabbed some food, ate and got to our seats to watch warm ups. Once the game started I tried taking pictures but Benjamin had a lot of questions about the game, players, rules, Testudo the mascot. So I put the camera away and he saw this as an invitation to sit on my lap during the game for the better view.

He got an understanding of basketball, loved watching three pointers and dunks and said he can't wait to play basement hoops when he got home.

We left in the second half, he was missing Mommy and wanted to see the Christmas tree that Weena decorated. We listened to the game on the ride home. For the record, the Terps won 83-72.

We got a couple souvenirs and Benjamin was very happy. He told everyone at the house all about the game and how much fun he had. Daddy had a great time too.

Rubbing the Terrapin for good luck outside Comcast Center

Checking out Terp hoop history

Grabbing a hot dog before the game.

Pregame stretch and warm ups

Scouting from Section 101, Row 4

Terps before the game

Game action

Greivis Vasquez

Adrian Bowie

Eric Hayes

Game Summary from The Washington Post

Friday, December 11, 2009

Benjamin's Winter Show

"When the overhead lights flipped on during the opening bars of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" a mass of parents, family and friends was suddenly thrown into sharp relief and the audience appeared as real and human as the band sweating it out on stage. The illusion didn't evaporate. It exploded into something profound."

Ok, I took that sentence from the Washington Post review of the 11/2 Springsteen concert and with a little editing you get the idea of Benjamin's Winter Show ;)

For the record, his group sang Deck the Halls and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. His group would practice daily with their music teacher and at night I would play the songs on my iPod while Benjamin sang. He liked Twisted Sister's version of Deck the Halls and the classic Bruce Springsteen version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

At the end of the show the entire four year old class (three groups) appeared on stage for the medley of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Itsy, Bitsy, Spider and the Chicken Dance.

Then they all shouted Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! to the audience and took their bows.