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100 Years of Suckitude

How many of you instantly recognized that this would be an item about Washington's sports teams?

So maybe it would be more apt in a discussion of the Chicago Cubs. In fact, Washington has a great sports history. But, for years now, our teams have been underachieving up a storm. The only ones that haven't underachieved are those that were hopeless to begin with.

This year, there was a great team to watch game in and game out. The Washington Capitals. But now even the Caps have run into trouble: They're on the verge of being blown out in the very first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Wizards have come off an unbelievably dismal season. The star player, Gilbert Arenas, was injured, and was more successful as a blogger than on the court. The games were unwatchable even for those of us who, late in the evening, have a high tolerance for a totally meaningless sports-watching experience. Many a time, drifting off to sleep while watching a taped Wizards game, I said to myself, "This is so shockingly dull it's keeping me awake."

The Nats? Well, "pathetic" is the first word that comes to mind. The Nats managed to drop pretty much out of contention -- and into "maybe next year" mode -- before playing their first home game. No 9th-inning lead is safe in the hands of the Nationals relievers. Farce has marked the team off the field as well. The general manager was sacked during spring training. The 16-year-old Dominican phenom the team signed turned out to be something like 35 years old -- should've been tipped off by the gray hair and beer gut. (In the locker room, he got mad if anyone sat in his favorite chair!)

The Redskins? Clowns. The owner is a shopaholic who wants to buy a championship team off the shelf. In past years he's laid out big money for expensive free agents who are past their sell-by date. Now he's giving up on the QB the team has been grooming for years and wants to take some untested hottiepants from Southern Cal in tomorrow's draft.

I guess there's always that soccer team, DC United. And the Maryland lacrosse squad. But seriously, at this rate I may have to give up on sports and try something entirely new, like reading books.

(Ah, but at least I got my Gators. -- Do you think Tebow mentioned to Obama that he didn't vote for him?)


Check out Howie on the Chris Buckley memoir.

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 24, 2009; 8:25 AM ET
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Joel, I am absolutely, positively with you on this. Even though I root for Detroit teams in the first instance, I remain certainly supportive of my second home town's teams (except when they're playing Detroit in any sport). Dan Snyder is the kind of kid in a toy store who wants to buy everything in the store, no matter what. The fact that he actually, and knowingly against the law, bulldozed trees in front of his estate so he could see the Potomac better shows what a bloody narcissist he is. He reminds me so much of Bush -- forever a "little boy" -- and he has ruined the Redskins. I'll bet the morale on that team is below sewer level.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 24, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

You know how some of you feel when the conversation turns to science and physics and pointy-head stuff? That's how I feel when it turns to sports. Unless it's bicycling, up with which I do not keep, but at least I can appreciate the mechanics and the physics and the physical demands of the activity.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 24, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Having given up on any kind of recreational delight in the Washington professional sports teams, I now view them solely as a form of personal therapy.

When I watch a closer for the Nationals blow yet another lead, or see the Redskins decide to stand-down the defense in the third quarter, or the Wizards snarl at each other instead of making baskets, I take solace.

For my life invariably looks real good in comparison.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 24, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Similar sentiments about the teams up here Joel, at least the Caps made the playoffs.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 24, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps we need to prepare the bunker?? Weingarten's update today:


Washington, D.C.: Gene:

Your emphatic rejection of the possibility that other intelligent life in the universe (a) exists and (b) has visited Earth is surprising for someone who espouses unsentimental rational thought over blind faith. Given the infinite number of planets and other bodies in the universe, and the fact that it now appears likely that life in some form exists (or existed) elsewhere within our own solar system (Mars), it would seem that the probability of there being other intelligent life in the universe exceeds the probability that Earth is the only place in the universe where it exists. And if there is intelligent life out there, why wouldn't some forms of that life have figured out a way to explore Earth?

(This is not to suggest that weird-looking creatures have flown in on UFOs. Any ET that "visited" Earth would probably be so much more sophisticated than us that we wouldn't be aware of it -- just as an ant cannot comprehend humans.)

Despite how this sounds, I'm not a nut about this topic. I've just always thought that those who reject the concept are thinking more emotionally than rationally. Care to comment?

Gene Weingarten: I am not suggesting there is no sentient life elsewhere. In fact, I am virtually certain there is.

But what Joel's book -- and the original Tropic magazine article that birthed it -- was about can probably be summarized this way:

You can't get there from here.

The distances are insuperable, and the limit of light speed is probably unbreachable. There's likely no such thing as warp speed. The immutable laws of physics suggest that we'll never see each other.

Please direct all your outraged sputtering to Joel. Thanks.

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 24, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

REPOST - since things unfolded as expected:

Yes, hugs for the uber-wealthy. Speaking of which, check out the 2nd segment of Bill Moyer's Journal with Simon of Wired. This was a thought provoking comment. AND, I know, everytime I mention this something happens. My comment on the topic also provokes new kits.

One must be in the offing.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 24, 2009 9:28 AM

Seriously, Joel never talks to me. I kinda think that it isn't me, but Bill Moyers. Maybe that's it. Or people who talk about Oligarchs.

Or inner-city drug problems.

David Simon's 2nd segment discussion of oligarchs is so russianthistle with talent and brains.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 24, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

And on-kit (for once), DC United has won lotsa MLS championships...


Oh well...

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 24, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

RD, I'm with you. Before I read the kit, I had a vain, fleeting hope that Joel was announcing that he had agreed to write my bio.

From the last boodle: Tim, give it to us, already. What are you building? And what is MD day, anyway?

Posted by: Don_from_I-270 | April 24, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, thanks for the info... I did a quick search on the topic and did find that the cause was a huge tectonic plate shift and the wave magnified, probably due to the coastline at the island. Possibly, this may have been due to the Hilo Harbor syndrome.

Usually, in those cases, the seas draw far away from the coast which causes people to rush to watch. This is followed by disaster.

In the tsunami that you mentioned, there were reports of a multi-hundred ton coral rock being deposited over a mile inland.

Run away!!!!

The onlookers problem reminds me of the story about the burning freighter in Texas.

Run Away!!!!

Posted by: russianthistle | April 24, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

SciTim, just feel free to go offkit. Maybe talk about the last Grand National Knitting Championships you've seen.

After all, a good number of us aren't sporty types either.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 24, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Or, just start up a serious pseudo-sports discussion on who would win in a light-saber duel, Ingio Montoya or Zorro.

That either of them would kick Luke's rear once shown how to turn the lights on, is of course a given.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 24, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Joel, are just repeating the Tony and Michael line on the Skins?

You had better watch out because any more foolish moves and you are going to move up to 3 on the Redskins' offensive guard depth chart.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 24, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

The Caps, unlike the Maple Leafs, are not hopeless. They can rebound next year or later. They need to clone themselves another Schultz (I love big defense guys, does it show?) and a goalie that doesn't run hot and cold like José. José's been like that all his career, it's not going to change.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 24, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Howdy again, sports fans. RD is right: sports team performance as schadenfreude is a time-honored method of fandom. Fan-dom? Just tell yourself, baseball is always good. Those other sports, perhaps not so much. I still like Weed's theory that the Nats are actually spies in the pay of some secret national agency. By contrast, it is comforting.

ScienceTim must go off-Kit at some point. He owes us an explanation of what he's building (mine ride for rodents?) and it is unlikely to involve sports. Although, apparently, the DC teams need all the help they can get; perhaps they've put out a call for inventions as a score assist.

Scottynuke, I feel sorry for the Weingarten alien responders. They're going to bust into the Boodle all full of righteous indignation about extraterrestrial visits, and find us talking about bad sports teams, tsunamis, food (we always get there eventually) and The Great ScienceTim Construction Mystery.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 24, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Inigo Montoya, without a doubt. Certainement. Zorro was motivated by personal grandeur, noblesse oblige, heroism etc. Inigo Montoya was motivated by family revenge and honor.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 24, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

To lump the Caps in with the other DC sports futilities isn't quite fair. They had a great regular season and didn't get swept in the playoffs. Many teams would be happy w/ that.

As for the redskins. I really don't think they're going to draft Sanchez. Anybody in their front office that's even glanced at the internet or a newspaper has seen the move being derided as foolish and amateurish.

Posted by: Booyah5000 | April 24, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Congrats on your daughter's achievement. It's hard to believe that my son has nearly completed his first year. He has exams next week and will be parked on the recliner for the summer by 6 pm May 4. The incredible shrinking college calendar.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 24, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I shan't reveal the nature of my construction project until I discover whether I will have had it finished (ah, tortuous syntax! How I love thee!). So keep guessing. Or just lose interest. But remember the parts about a lightbulb and a train, those are the most important components.

Inigo Montoya and Zorro must never face each other in a lightsaber duel -- Zorro is a tireless champion of justice with an unerring sense of fair play, fighting against the corruption of the authorities and a friend to rapscallions and rogues. Inigo Montoya has fashioned his skills for just one goal; any other act calls out much less than his best. As a pirate (his post-revenge career, you may recall), I feel certain that he avoided direct battle whenever possible.

The thing is, the Force provides the clumsy Jedi swordsman with an unbeatable ace in the hole. He doesn't need skill to know how to handle his weapon, he need only learn to follow his intuition to stick his sword in the right place at the right time and thereby counter the skilled swordsman's attack. He can avoid skilled attacks by tripping at the right time or making other seemingly clumsy but unerringly effective moves. To fight a Jedi would be like being the villain in a Jackie Chan movie -- or maybe a Charlie Chaplin movie.

Oh, dear. That was terribly geeky of me, wasn't it?

Time to go assemble my plywood and paint it black.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 24, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

I'm sorry, but someone had to say it.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 24, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Yes, but Booyah, I really don't think that Danny Snyder really cares about what others think. He'll do what he wants to do no matter what.

Off-kit, comment, tho. Just finished reading Howard Kurtz's review of Christopher Buckley's latest tome about his parents, called (in true Christopher style) "Losing Mum and Pup" -- the review makes me want to go out and get the book and read it cover to cover in one sitting. Really fascinating -- and that's just my reaction from the review.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 24, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

"Until I discover whether I will have had it finished." "A lightbulb and a train."

ScienceTim, I think you've ruined my brain for the rest of the day. Those two phrases are enough to keep it busy, circuling in an endless loop of fruitless speculation, until I flee for the Arts Festival after work.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 24, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

You forgot to say "Hallo," RD_P.

I got it! SciTim is creating an empirical test stand for the immortal thought experiment -- two trains are approaching each other on parallel tracks. One engineer shines a flashlight at the other train. How do the train's approach vectors alter the speed of the flashlight beam?


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 24, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Wow. That family biography by Christopher Buckley sounds full of revelations. Yet part of me wonders what good comes from such a book. I guess that any insights about such famous individuals could be viewed as of historical importance. But I do wonder where one draws the line.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 24, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Scottynuke you are quite right! And without that Hallo the iambic pentameter is destroyed.

I am scandalized.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 24, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I say it's a model of Saturn with train tracks as the rings. And a small model 4-4-0 constantly circling the planet.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 24, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

It could also be a scale model of the train tracks that run into Mianus, of course...

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 24, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

What if D'Artangan was involved and it became a three-cornered lightsaber kerfuffle?

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 24, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I think I know what Tim's building. It's some sort of demo on Doppler shift and the speed of light, which has to do with how astronomers know whether the universe is expanding, contracting, movement of galaxies, etc. The easiest (and classical) way to demonstrate Doppler to the layman is how a train whistle sounds (shifts) as it approaches and then moves away.

When you mount the light on the train, you have the difficult problem of trying to explain why the speed of the light remains constant, yet the light is moving toward you or away from you, Doppler shifting.

Of course, it might just be the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train, and you're about to get run over, I dunno which.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 24, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I'm guessing something about how light refracts as the source orbits, and how you can figure out the distance of the light source at various points by first determining the curvature of the orbit. Or something like that.

Either that, or he's making an Easy-Bake Oven. Cupcakes anyone?

Posted by: LostInThought | April 24, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, I thought the light at the end of the tunnel was a bear holding the flashlight he took off the last guy who tried to hike through his land.

Posted by: LostInThought | April 24, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Of course, one must remember that Washington Sports teams have had their moments of greatness. I have heard tell that them 'skins used to win quite a number of games.

And even the Wizards have had their moments of glory. Remember when the "Bullets" won the NBA championship against the Seattle Sonics in 1978? (I sure do. I cried bitter tears. Bitter bitter tears.)

But this was long ago. When the quarterback for the Seattle professional football squad was a young fellow named Jim Zorn. Who, I believe, make a sacred vow to one day wreak revenge upon Washington.

Or so it has been told.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 24, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

RD, the Seattle Sonics are no more. However, I'm told you can see a facsimile, or simulacrum, or completely different team some of which used to be in Seattle, if you visit Oklahoma City during basketball season. Which, apparently, has ended for them.

Professional basketball and a river: OKC BPH, coming to a Boodle near you. Some day. Perhaps.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 24, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

The Sonics have been sold? Man nobody tells me anything.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 24, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Gosh... don't forget the Natinals' uniform gaffe...

Congratulations WackyWeasel! I'm very close with a certain man who got his PhD from that very fine institution. I'm also very close in proximity to that institution (but not as close as RD).

Posted by: TBG- | April 24, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I'll take at shot at Science Tim's project - I think it's an alternative energy experiment. Magnetic induction from the train wheels rolling along the iron rails will be used to power the light bulb. If successful, the new boom in train construction will be the future source of electricity for the nation!

Posted by: Hopeful_Monster | April 24, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I am hereby proposing a New Years Eve 2009 BPH in Oklahoma City... we've got a river, basketball, the Flaming Lips and.... Ivansmom! All in one place!

Posted by: TBG- | April 24, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Can anybody 'e'splain to me, Lucy, why the WaPo front page has a headline that says "Taliban Begin Tense Exit," meaning they are leaving, while the sidebar story under it says "Taliban Advance in Pakistan Worries Obama Team"?

Are they coming or going? Which is it?

While I'm at it, can somebodyu explain to me the headline on the Krauthammer op-ed, "Obama's Secret Stragey," when the inside headline merely says "Obama's Grand Strategy," and there is Not. One. Single. Word. in the entire op-ed about anything being "secret"? At most, the Hammer suggests Obama hasn't spelled out his plan, but in no way does K suggest it's any kind of "secret." The only person who is injecting "secret" into the topic is the headline writer.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 24, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

That would be a secret headline strategy, obviously...

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 24, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I wish I coulld 'splain, Mudge, but I'm not down at the "clobb" today. It's my day off!

Posted by: TBG- | April 24, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

In the polo pony case, La Nación ( ) reports that, unofficially, the vitamin supplement was made with 10 times too much sodium selenite.

Selenium is a necessary trace mineral, but in quantity it's poison. The Big Horn Basin of northwest Wyoming and much of the surrounding region have lots of naturally-occuring selenium, and it's a threat to livestock.

Quite a few western native plants seem to require extra selenium, and accumulate it. Most have a very distinct, not-very-pleasant odor. Indian paint-brushes for example. And a common scaled-down Shasta daisy, Xylorhiza glabriuscula, which is considered a poisonous plant to livestock.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 24, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Morning All.....barely
To say the caps are getting blown away is somewhat a reach,they are losing,but each game seems closely contested.And perhaps they have found the goalie of the future.I sure hope they win tonight.The home town fans need something to cheer about.

The wizards,that is a tough one to explain,when Arenas plays they are as good as anyone.They have the pieces in place,I think they just need a big man and healthy players to compete.Perhaps they can win the one of the top 3 spots in the lottery and draft a big man(perhaps Thabeet) is the answer.

The Skins,well 2 years ago they were in the playoffs,last year 8-8,there is so much parity in the NFL,they could be back on top soon.Synder is a pain (and Yes, I am still pissed he had those trees cut down)But a move here or there and some LUCK here and there and they can come back.

As for the Nationals,they do sell beer and hotdogs at the stadium and you do get to see a professional baseball team(whoever they are playing) and catching a baseball game live is always fun.Maybe 10 years down the road,they might have a good team,but that is iffy.

Either way Joel, they are your home teams and sometimes it is just as much fun to yell at your teams as it is to cheer for them. Plus you do have your Gators (chomp chomp)

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 24, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse


The future OKC team did lose to the future Wizards team in 1978 but they got revenge the next year by winning four straight after losing the first game.

Posted by: -pj- | April 24, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Nice try on the fonts, Mudge. All the academic links I tried were broken. My research, limited to the first article I found I will grant, suggests serifs do indeed increase comprehension. My reasoning has to do with the primitive visual cortex and how frogs and cats see motion much better than form. The eyes of skilled readers rapidly traverse the page.

In re the highway signs article, I have questions about light-on-dark lettering, and I am full of doubts that those experts even know simple optics. Blue refracts in lenses (in the eyes) significantly differently from other colors and is the blurriest and least "restful" color to the eyes, although arty types and those bowing to anecdotal knowledge resist this. They will color-scheme their computers with lots of blue and never realize how they are fatiguing their own visual systems. Rant over.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 24, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Considering that Dick Francis did a novel "Banker" on selenium poisoning of mares (in non-lethal quantities) to destroy the value of a hot new stud, I'd be sure that the excess selenium in fact came direct from the factory.

Selenium is just something horsey people with a taste for thriller reading would easily be too aware of.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 24, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

As a fellow Gator (and an actual alum) I feel compelled to holler and make chomping motions with my arms. I'm told this is obnoxious, but I just don't see it.

As for the Skins, I will be irate if they draft Sanchez, but I will continue to be a fan, walking taller after a victory, and dying a little inside after a loss. Because in the end, I didn't sign up because I was a Dan Snyder fan. That does make it difficult to effect change, however.

Also, Tim, billiards is a sport apparently invented for the sole purpose of writing undergrad physics textbooks. Should be pretty easy to appreciate the mechanics and physics there. As for the physical demands of the activity, well, you're on your own there.

Posted by: tomsing | April 24, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Yellojkt -- it's an 0-6-0, if I correctly recall what the packaging said.

I wish it were the relativity two-trains gedanken-experiment! Unfortunately, there is another crowd that has relativity all locked up. And, despite the fact that this stupid whim has set me back about $180 (I did not prepare a budget beforehand...), I could afford only one locomotive. Perhaps I will modify it on another occasion.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 24, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh! Did anyone see "30 Rock" last night? Brian Williams accidentally receives a call from one of the women who are throwing themselves at Tracy Morgan's character (the cleverly named "Tracy Jordan"). He tells her that she has just suggested a very interesting activity, and does she know how to get to Connecticut?

Do you think it could possibly be a hidden reference to Mianus?

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 24, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I just was out cutting something for the table and i noticed some very tiny frogs all jumping around on the ground.I suspect they are tree frogs nearly or newly hatched and there were 1000's of them.I wonder how many of those will actually make it to be adult frogs? Pretty darn cool!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 24, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

And if any of the frogs will grow up to be man-frogs.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 24, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Hm-m-m-m. Maybe the loco design is important? 4-4-0 = passenger loco, which goes primarily in one direction (forward). 0-6-0 = switching engine, which goes both ways equally. Standing wave vs. sine wave experiment? AC vs. DC?

Posted by: ebtnut | April 24, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

gwe, that is cool!

My recent parsimony is starting to pay off, so to speak. Orthodontia paid off 6 months early, check. Car paid off 2.5 years early (just today), check. Now to put the extra $ to work on those pesky credit cards.

As we were concluding the payoff call, the car loan bank offered me a new credit card @ 0% for 6 months, then graduating to a variable rate. Wasn't that considerate of them? :-)

Posted by: -dbG- | April 24, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and my prediction re: The Caps - They win tonight, back home, but blow it in game 6. The Rangers seem to have the hot goalie this time around. And I hope Danny Boy read Wilbon today. The 'Skins have much bigger needs than another green QB. And BTW, don't we still have Colt Brennan?

Posted by: ebtnut | April 24, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Interesting reading; it blows a lot of my reading-in-motion theory right out of the water. I will repair to my lair and lick my wounds.

I will note both authors present their ideas using fonts with serifs.;)

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 24, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

It's not easy being green.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 24, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

New kit --

Posted by: nellie4 | April 24, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

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