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Random Sniping

New sniper rifles can hit a tin can on a fencepost on a different continent: "Now, using .50-caliber weapons, snipers regularly hit beyond a mile, and there's a whole new lineup of weapons between .30 and .50 calibers -- the .338 Lapua, the .416 Barrett, the .408 CheyTac -- that commandeer the range between 1,000 and 2,000 yards. On top of that, laser range-finding and chip-driven portable software enable the shooter to solve heretofore impenetrable ballistic equations, and index their sights precisely for that one-shot kill way, way out there."

Jeepers, it's like gun porn.


I'm trying to think what I've ever done that was this cool: "I mean it was just too magical. Three hundred miles below me is the Earth. There I was a meter away from the Hubble Space Telescope. I couldn't resist. I had to take a finger and reach out and touch it." [Oh yeah, I did the same thing when I saw the Mona Lisa.]


Them lowly Nats: Tickets were still available for the first pitch on Opening Day. Hate to say it, but this is an unwatchable team with no true stars, no pitching, and really no hope. They're 0-7 but might as well be 0-162. Maybe next year? The sad fact is that Washington may not be a baseball town. Hard to know until the proposition is tested with a quality team.

From one of my old Rough Draft columns:

....sitting in front of me is a man reading the New Yorker. Forget whatever is happening on the diamond: Check out the droll, arched-eyebrow prose in Talk of the Town! I'm mildly outraged. Also, I wonder if he'll let me borrow it.

At least he showed up, which is more than can be said for the untold hundreds, possibly thousands, of people who had the tickets for the excellent seats that remain vacant on the lower deck. I obsess over those seats the entire game. They are bright orange. They scream No Show. They scream Too Important to Come. They scream Fair Weather Fan. They are advertisements for a city full of law firms and media big shots and lobbyists and various other forms of egomaniacs who think that having a ticket for a great seat is more important than actually sitting in it. They don't put their butt where their money is.

When baseball returned to Washington last year, 33 years after the previous team, the Senators, was carted off to Texas, we were all ecstatic, and went to games, and watched our Nationals camp out in first place in July and remain in contention until the beginning of September, at which point Atlanta won the division for the 1,745th consecutive year. (The last team to beat Atlanta in the National League East was the Visigoths.)

This year the novelty's gone, and it's hard to avoid noticing that we're a mediocre team playing in an old stadium with terrible food. Will Washington have the patience to support a losing team? This is a town obsessed with poll results and approval ratings, a town in which one of the highest compliments is "electability."

Thirty-three years without a team hollowed out the fan base. And Washington is full of transplants who have no memory of Frank Howard hitting homers for the Senators.

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 14, 2009; 10:45 AM ET
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Now, it is really fair to snipe at the Nats?

Posted by: Yoki | April 14, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 14, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Alors, mais non. En second lieu.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 14, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Alors, Monsieur Joel, le Nats soyez le residus d'lapin cette année.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 14, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Ooooh, on blogue en français aujourd'hui.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 14, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I've known guys who'd memorized all sorts of ballistics. Must have taken over the part of the brain normally devoted to baseball and football.

But that was before portable personal computing, not to mention all these large-caliber weapons. I've gotta go back into history to see what sorts of monster shotguns the market hunters used to massacre ducks before hunting was regulated. I suspect that there was quite a bit of involuntary disarmament.

These days, I think animals like elk have learned to hide behind trees during hunting season, though that might be giving them too much credit. A recent book "The Better to Eat You With" looks at the responses of prey animals to the reappearance of wolves after maybe a 50 to 80 year absence. They seem to remain clueless for quite a while.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 14, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Le lien du "sniper rifle" est brisé.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 14, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

It's the fordin' pitching. When you are so poor that you effectively spot the opposing team a half dozen runs each game, it is hard to end up victorious.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Good morning All

I am sorry to see the nats doing so poorly early.Although I doubt(at least for now) they will come close to the 0-21 start the Orioles had 20 years ago.I remember there was a dj from 98 rock that went atop the radio station rooftop and decided he wouldn't come down till the Orioles won a game.They were 0-7 at the time.3 weeks later they finally won their first game...

I am happy and very surprised this years Orioles squad is 5-2.We knew we had plenty of offense,pitching like always is the problem for those teams who can't afford the big free agent contracts.

But even when your team is bad,you can always follow the stats of any player and Heck it is still baseball,listening to a game on the radio,or going live is fun.That is why they call it "The Show"

Look whoever thought that Washington was a Hockey town.Now they have an exciting young team that is the #2 seed in the east.Good luck to the Capitals and the Nationals 0-21 is still a long ways off.I will check back in a week.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 14, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Complaining about the Nat - pulease - look up the record of the Toronto Maple Leafs since 1967 - you have had the Nats for 3 years? Futility thy name is the Leafs!

Posted by: dmd2 | April 14, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Good to hear from Stephen Hunter again. To early to speculate about his forthcoming "I, Sniper" becoming a movie.

(Is Joel's link still not linking?)

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 14, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Good to hear from Stephen Hunter again. Probably too early to speculate whether his next book "I, Sniper" will transmorgrify into a movie.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 14, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

But I'll bet you anything it is written so as to make it easy for an agent to flog to Hollywood. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I think Hunter is a terrific writer, even if his prose is a bit too testosterone-laden for my taste.

Posted by: Yoki | April 14, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Again with le residus d'lapin. Give the Nats a break, it is only the first week. They've got a long way to go - at least weeks - before you can justifiably compare them to bunny poo.

Besides, as greenwithenvy says, it is all baseball. Baseball is always good.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 14, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

But...but...but...I just like writing "le residus d'lapin."


A guy can't have any fun any more.

(Besides, I'm from Philly. I KNOW what baseball misery is. Last year being an outlier.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 14, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Being not at all a sports fan myself, I feel only tiny guilt over never attending a game. Isn't being a baseball town to be a town in which fans show up, regardless of whether their team is any good, or even barely adequate?

I was just thinking of "D@mn Yankees" and the song "You Gotta Have Heart" and it occurs to me: baseball (and softball too, I suppose) is almost uniquely a game in which "heart" is of little importance. A fielder needs to have the heart to force himself to run own a ball or position himself for a difficult catch, true. However, endurance, both spiritual and physical, plays far less part than in basketball, football, soccer, hockey -- even tennis. Please feel free to correct me and enter into a George Will-like exegesis on the supernal beauty of the green field on a warm summer afternoon, those noble men taking the field to contest superiority (accent on the "-test") in this most hallowed of American traditions, yada, yada, yada.

One thing, at least, has changed for the Nats -- the bad food now is served in a new stadium. Somehow, I think I'd rather have the food improve before the stadium. If I went to games. Which I don't.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 14, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Snipers are the ultimate smart bomb. Precise and focused. Yes, they are instruments of death, and as such are susceptible to all the ethical conundrums associated with deadly force, but at least only the people one intends to kill are usually actually killed. You seldom hear about snipers accidentally killing a wedding party.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

That link to Hunter's essay should work:

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 14, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Ballpark food? Bad? All you really need is a hot dog and a beer. And maybe a bag of roasted peanuts. And another beer. You can put mustard on the hot dog if you like; in a real class joint they'll have sauerkraut. Ah, a girl can dream.

We have a nice minor league park here. Some years the team is good, almost Show quality. Some years a good college team can beat them. Hey, it is still baseball, and thus inherently watchable.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 14, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

"Heart" isn't important? Oh, Tim, Tim, Tim, Tim.

You wound me deeply. You have never seen Steve Carleton pitch. Any catcher catch. Willie Mays playing center field. Pete Rose running.

Tug McGraw in the bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, in the World series.

Ted Williams' last at bat.

Lou Gerig.

And much as it pains me, Derek Jeeter.

Mickey Mantle, when his knees ached so much he could hardly walk.

Roger Maris, with his fair coming out in clumps, from the stress.

Bob Feller.

Harvey Haddix versus Lew Burdette on May 26, 1959 (despite the fact that the Braves were stealing Smokey Burgess's signals to Haddix).

Anybody who looked Roger Clemens in the eye.

The 1995 Southern Maryland 16-18-year-old girls softball team, who won the Little League World Series, with pitcher Lizzie Estevez in tears.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 14, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Another wonderful advertisement for tourists:

If this hadn't been videotaped, this case would be that much harder to prove.

A traffic stop gone bad is every deaf driver's nightmare.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 14, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

"New sniper rifles can hit a tin can" link broke.

I will do taxes soon. One year I decided to cart all my paperwork down to a pub I didn't normally frequent, and at least have some refreshment to counter the drudgery. I said hello to the waitress but had to ask for a beer. I set to work. After an hour, I was well along. She asked me if I would be "getting to work" soon. That didn't make any sense to me. I said I was almost done. That didn't make any sense to HER. Turns out the jukebox repairman was due and she had thought all along I was that guy.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 14, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Need to add Cal Ripken to the list of baseball players with heart.

Older daughter took up softball last year, this child is not a natural athlete - she is in fact somewhat coordinationally challenged, but she improved over the course of the summer from heart alone.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 14, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

And yes, Ivansmom is completely correct about ballpark food. "Quality" is not a consideration; a ballpark hot dog is what it is. It is already "perfect" in every appreciable regard, and to demand its improvement is to change it into something it should never become. It's like a s'more isn't the perfect campfire dessert, that there may be something better in the universe. That when you are sick, there is something better than chicken soup. That one can improve upon a bag of peanuts, that there is something "better" than a box of popcorn at the movies.

No, the ballpark hotdog cannot be "improved." Now, an $8 beer-- that is absurd, and highway robbery. But that isn't a quality issue, it's a price-gouging issue. Different animal entirely.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 14, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Cal Ripken. (Smacking forehead. Thanks, dmd.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 14, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

The poor food at ballparks is why some individuals I've heard tell of bring cookies.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

One aesthetic aspect of baseball and soccer that I like is the everyperson aspect:

these players, while highly skilled, represent middling body types.

Granted, soccer players are a bit like middle distance runners with sprint and endurance qualities but save for the occasional goalie, they are of average height and build.

Baseball players represent a broader range of height, but again, they are typical body types.

Football players and basketball players reflect selective pressures for a body type. The mix does not look like most of us.

Like clothing, the average Joe look carries an invitation and appeal: they look like us. We tends to likes thats.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 14, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Baseball is great(even with all this steroids stuff)From little leagues to the major leagues anyone anywhere can enjoy watching a baseball or softball game.

The NFL or football maybe king in this country,but baseball still is the great american past-time.

So when are we having our Nationals BPH?

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 14, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Best baseball player I've seen play is (was?) Ellis Valentine. He was a better hitter and fielder than Andre "The Hawk" Dawson and yet you don't know his name.
He had no heart (and was inordinately fond of the weed).

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 14, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

My take on the Nats--The pitching is still the big question mark. I thought during spring training that they had made some improvements, but now that the show is on, it looks a lot like last year. They have at least scored some runs, which was sorely lacking, so maybe they will come around. Hope to actually make it to a game this year. Last year sort of slipped away. We may try for a two-fer--Nats and the Pirates at both home fields. Have to look up their respective schedules and see if that will work.

Posted by: ebtnut | April 14, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Hi all,

1. Belated blushes from Friday.

2. Great photos yellojkt - especially the sunset. Stunning.

3. Sniper trivia: longest confirmed kill was made by Canadian in Afghanistan in 2002. 2430m (2,657 yd). A Newfoundlander, to be precise. Don’t let the goofy grins and folksy ways fool you - those guys are all business when they have to be.

Posted by: engelmann | April 14, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I other thing about heart in baseball is that, yes, it is often difficult to "see." But you can almost always see when it is absent. The Mets two years ago, for example.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 14, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

engleman, here are other components of sniper-tude:

20/10 vision
dreadnought focus
nerves of heartwood oak
steady hands
breath control like a yogi
a dose of the right stuff
confidence and humility (yes humility)
ability to shut out all.other.stuff

Practice. repeat.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 14, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Shriek, I remember watching Ellis Valentine, not sure why but I loved watching the Expos and Habs as a kid, most of the time had to watch on the french channel as there was not a lot of coverage and once the Jay came to Toronto very few games available to see.

French announcers are great to listen to for baseball, I understood little beside the basic calls that I learned over time - but they were always excited.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 14, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, SoC. Those sunset pictures were taken from the plaza in front of the Basilica of St. Clare which is a beautiful church in its own right. The great thing about digital photography is the ability to experiment a lot. I do have to confess to tweaking the saturation on this one:

But that is part of what the process is about.

'Shooter' starring Mark Wahlberg was a good movie that went into the psychology and tactics of a sniper. I can't vouch for the authenticity, but it impressed me.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Here is a blog called "Hunter Angler Gardener Cook" at
With this explanation: "I write. I fish. I dig earth, raise plants, live for food and kill wild animals. I drink bourbon, Barolo or Budweiser with equal relish and wish I owned a farm. But most of all I think daily about new ways to cook and eat anything that walks, flies, swims, crawls, skitters, jumps - or grows. I am the omnivore who has solved his dilemma. This is my story.
Honest food is what I’m seeking. Nothing packaged, nothing in a box, nothing wrapped in plastic. I eat meat, and I’m not keen on factory farms, so I either hunt it myself or buy it from real people who raise animals humanely. …(and more)"

Some of you cooks or hunters may be interested, and it has an interesting blogroll.

Posted by: nellie4 | April 14, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Not to sound too crass, but when do we start the pool on when the "made for TV" movie of the pirate episode will air? November sweeps?

Posted by: ebtnut | April 14, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I tend not to enjoy sports at which I am no good. I played Little League for two years and never hit the ball once. It hit me a few times, which I don't remember as "fun", but I never struck the ball with my bat. The year after that, I got glasses, the need for which probably accounts for my inability to connect with a fast-moving object that I could not see. But, my disdain for the sport had already taken root.

Ya gotta have heart, but it also helps to have eyes.

Posted by: Gomer144 | April 14, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

dmd, watching "le Grand Ellis" pitch a strike at the plate from deep in the right field was such a treat. He threw a superstar career away. He and his buddy Rodney Scott had their "launching pad" somewhere in the bowels of the big O. Even Bill "Spaceman" Lee was disgusted with them. He was a true professional and kept his smoking for after the game...

Jacque Doucet was the best announcer for the spo's but he was on the radio so we would shut off the TV sound and listen to his radio commentaries.
He's interviewed here.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 14, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

How bad would the Nationals have to be in order to name them after Reagan?

Posted by: JoeODonnell | April 14, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, all.

Finally able to take a few moments to Boodle, catching up on the previous and current Boodlosity:

yellojkt, I can't view those action pics of you and the gladiators at work, but from the NSFW sound of things it's probably for the best, though I suppose they were gladta see *you*.

Ah, the Poor Clares - such wonderful ladies (LiT, you made me smile and chuckle there). I should have had you bring some flowers over to the convent for me, yello.

I'm glad Assisi is in Italy and not the US. If it were here, I'm sure there'd be a St. Francis Wild Safari Adventureland and theme park.

Or at least a petting zoo.

And escalators.

Looking forward to seeing the rest of the pictures, sir. Looks like you had a wonderful time.

Onto another topic: I would say that with any sport or game - golf, soccer, baseball, football, auto racing, tennis, etc. physical gifts are helpful, but I believe that intelligence, experience and determination/heart are what separates the competent or good from the great. Determined players - players with internal drive (the "fire") will take the time to practice and drill and learn and prepare beyond what's required to just show up and participate. They'll learn about how to seek best advantage of opporunities, and to address their own strenghts and weaknesses as well as their competitors'. And they'll see clutch situations, situations where they may be on the verge of defeat, and to know that to be an opportunity to change emotional momentum and are prepared on every level to excel, sometimes even beyond what even they would have believed possible, because the situation demanded it. And the best do, time and again. They want it that way.

On any given day, luck can play a significant role, but over extended periods, ya gotta have heart.


Posted by: -bc- | April 14, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

ebtnut, I heard that a deal for a Navy Seal reality show was struck yesterday.

Not a TV movie, but you get the idea.


Posted by: -bc- | April 14, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Special Operation Forces are populated by naught but the finest individuals our nation has to offer. Brave, loyal, and true. I am honored and privileged to count many of them as my friends.

And my admiration has nothing, nothing I tell you, to do with the fact that these fellows could easily, and with complete stealth, kill me with a twisty straw.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Special Operation*s* Forces.

I left off the s.

This can't be good.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I was talking to a mathematician a few years back on the classifications of branches of math. All I had was the Dewey Decimal System which is imperfect but at least organized. Now the internet offers more complete information.

I am so off topic...

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 14, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

If someone wants to stealth-enter my house and finish doing my taxes, that's fine with me. There's lobster in the freezer for dinner.

Posted by: -dbG- | April 14, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I so love lobster that I would take you up on that dbG, except I haven't done taxes in years. My wife the mathematician does them. And she hates lobster. Besides, she isn't very stealthy when she does our taxes. Seriously, I didn't realize that women even knew some of those phrases.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Jumper - I find that list oddly compelling. Some of those topics remind me of old college courses and make me sad I am no longer in school.

Others, however, do just the opposite.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 14, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Women know all kinds of phrases, RD. :)

I've returned to working on them, and it's not like they're difficult, but I still wonder why I always turn down my friend (manager at the IRS) who offers every year.

Posted by: -dbG- | April 14, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

God bless you poor folks doing taxes today and tomorrow. I did it for years, considering that a person with a graduate degree SHOULD be able to do it. When I acquired an inheritance from my mother in taxable funds (NOT that it's a fortune, because it isn't), I gave up. It's worth every penny to let the professionals deal with the gains/losses, and capital gains stuff.

Mr. T gave me a digital photo frame for my birthday, and I'm just now getting around to open and play with it. This is kewl.

Posted by: slyness | April 14, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

The older I get the more I love baseball. Helps that Alohadaughter plays a great second base. I can spend hours watching 9 innings but can't do it for the 4 quarters of football.

How 'bout them Dodgers? Probably the best opening day at home for them ever. My most memorable Dodger game was (not the game itself) the night of the Rodney King riots. I was at Dodger Stadium with helicopters flying overhead thinking, "wow that's a lot of news coverage for a pretty boring game." Once the announcer got on the horn and said they'd shut down two major L.A. freeways, I realized those weren't news copters. Got to the parking lot and looked out over Chavez Ravine and saw the city on fire. It was the most incredible thing I'd seen. Of course trying to drive home to Redondo Beach was quite an adventure with the traffic and fear of being thrown off the freeway into the riots. Oh, baseball season...

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | April 14, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Me, too, RD. I was also just finishing up reading about Wang tiles. Also known as "yellojkt bait." Welcome back, btw, yello! It should be obvious I'm putting off the taxes. Sigh. That's it: here we go.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 14, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I just got my tickets in the mail for the Resurrection Tour at Wolf Trap featuring Wang Chung (everybody wang chung tonight!). I love talking about 80s music if that is what you mean by yellojkt bait.

I have no idea how happy those gladiators were to see me (those leather skirts are pretty voluminous) but they were mighty disappointed when we finished because I only tipped them 2 euros. I think they were expecting a lot more. I clearly don't know what the going rate for posing with street performers is.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Actually, at Camden Yards (a very nice ballpark), you can get crab cake sammiches, which I thought were very good. Alas, it's so hard for me to negotiate steps that I don't go anymore. But I do have fond remembrance of them crab cakes.

And, Mudge, please don't moan about your Phillies -- remember, I'm from Detroit. I rest my case.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 14, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I know we never studied any homological algebra when I was in school and particularly not any snake lemmas. our school district was very conservative. We weren't even allowed to wear shorts to class.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 14, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Well, you make a valid point, ftb. I think Phillies fans, Cubs fans, and Tigers fans all share a special bond of misery. For a long time, the Mets fans did too. And for a while, they were REALLY at the bottom of the heap, when they were a laughingstock. I suppose of the three, the Phillies had a few slightly better seasons that the Cubs or Tigers.

Sometimes I like to think it builds character...but then I think that's a bunch of crap. Winner builds character, too.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 14, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

The Tigers are only .5 game behind first place ftb. And they have already lost any hope of a "perfect" season, one just like the Lions just had.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 14, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Didn't the Tigers used to be reasonably good in the 1950s and 60s?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 14, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

new kit...

Posted by: -jack- | April 14, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

A moment of silence, please, for incomparable Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, who passed away yesterday after losing consciousness in the broadcast booth at Nationals Park prior to the game. A true class act, the likes of which we are not likely to see again. The end of an era.

Posted by: ncPA | April 14, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

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