Top 10 D.C. sports busts of the decade
After nearly three weeks of your voting on the local athlete of the decade, here's my list. And yeah, I'm closing with busts, because in some sense this decade of D.C. sports was defined by the bust, which affected every major team. Indeed, the decade could be largely described as one large, grotesque, bulbous, bust.
Some people have suggested that Dan Snyder and/or Vinny Cerrato should have made this list, but that misses the point of the bust. The bust is hope unrealized, promise unfulfilled, expectations unmet, dreams crushed, optimism vanquished, purity defiled. If you harbored hope, promise, expectations, dreams, optimism and purity concerning Vinny Cerrato, I can't be of help to you. On the rest of these, though, I understand.
10. The 2009 Washington Wizards (Reader rank: 11*): And really, they should probably be higher. For three years, we've heard about how they were first in the East when everyone was healthy. For three years, we've heard about how the Big Three just wants to make one championship run. This year's team, with Flip Saunders and new complimentary pieces and a healthy Gilbert Arenas, was widely picked as the East's fourth-best team. Instead, there's been infighting, bad defense, close losses, and a 10-20 record. That's worse than the Nats' winning percentage.
9. D.C. United stadium talk (10): There have been so many promises made and not fulfilled that it's hard to single out just one. Actually, no, it's not.
"It is great to see over 20,000 fans here at RFK supporting D.C. United," candidate Adrian Fenty said in October of 2006. "It is my hope that your fans will soon be coming to your brand new soccer stadium at Poplar Point in Anacostia. World class fans, and a world class team like D.C. United, deserve a world class stadium. And I am going to make it a priority to help you build that stadium."
D.C. United are still vagabonds in a dump of a stadium, and the lack of a proper facility has held back the team's growth and could still lead to the departure of the one D.C. team with "D.C." in its name and the city in its blood.
8. Maryland's 2002 recruiting class (20): If the Terps' national title was one of the top moments of the decade, their fall was equally notable. Nik Caner-Medley, John Gilchrist Chris McCray and Travis Garrison were supposed to keep the program at an elite level; Garrison was an all-American, McCray was an All-Met. Instead, that quartet went to the Sweet 16 as freshmen, the NCAA second round as sophomores and the NIT as juniors.
7. Austin Kearns (18): Nice guy. Really, really nice guy. Still, when he signed a three-year contract for a guaranteed $17.5 million, the expectation wasn't that his batting average would go from .266 to .217 to .195, or that his OPS would go from .765 to .627 to .641., or that his HR total would go from 16 to 7 to 3.
"We expect this to be built for long-term success, and that's going to require investment in long-term building blocks, which we are eager to do," Stan Kasten said at the time of Kearns's contract.
6. Adam Archuleta and Brandon Lloyd (6/7): Not nearly as famous as other Skins' acquisitions, but boy, did they stink here. Archuleta was made the highest-paid safety in league history, then didn't play and was ignored by his coaches.
"It's humiliating," Archuleta said. "I feel humiliated. I feel like I've had my reputation dragged through the mud, with no explanation why."
Lloyd--who was introduced at Redskins Park on the same day as Archuleta and Antwaan Randle El--ended his Skins tenure with 25 catches in 23 games. He cost third- and fourth-round draft picks, but missed meetings, clashed with coaches, was suspended for throwing his helmet, and was generally a disaster.
5. Michael Jordan the executive (4): He joined the franchise nearly a decade ago, in the midst of a 29-win season. Here's The Post's staff editorial when he came to D.C.
What is expected of Mr. Jordan is beyond the capabilities of all three branches of government: to revivify a listless basketball team, speed the city's downtown renaissance and help bring people together throughout the region, while also serving as Greater Washington's role model and social star. Whether all this can be accomplished by someone who's commuting between Washington and Chicago is questionable, but for now this city--which has an unquenchable thirst for celebrity of the kind that isn't achieved by prating from behind a podium for the C-SPAN cameras--can enjoy pondering the possibilities.
In his tenure, the team hired Leonard Hamilton and Doug Collins, drafted Kwame Brown and Jared Jeffries, traded for Christian Laettner and Courtney Alexander, and won 19 games, 37 games, and 37 games. Two years after Jordan's ouster, the Ernie Grunfeld-led Wiz were in the second round of the playoffs.
4. Steve Spurrier (2): As Brian Murphy recently noted, Jim Zorn and Steve Spurrier will likely end their tenures with identical 12-20 marks, but Zorn was hired as an afterthought while Spurrier made a major splash.
"He is the head coach of the Redskins for five years, at a minimum," Daniel Snyder said after hiring the ball coach. "I've staked my credibility -- along with his -- together. I hope we have a successful season. I think and pray that we will. But if we don't, I will stand by Coach Spurrier for however long it takes because he will get it right. He's a winner."
Yeah, well. Canceled practices, funny faces, embarrassing blowouts, losing seasons, trips to the golf course, and then it all ended in shame. Yucky.
(I'll be honest, I thought it might work. I'll never forget Post assistant editor Gene Wang ridiculing me for that belief the night Spurrier was hired, and assuring me it would be a farce.)
3. Redskins 2000 free-agent class (5): From The Post: "Former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders's decision to sign with the Washington Redskins this week--barring a last-minute hitch--is the final piece to a puzzle the Redskins' ownership team agrees will get them to the Super Bowl." Sanders, Bruce Smith, Mark Carrier and Jeff George got signing bonuses of $17.25 million, and the $100 million payroll was the highest in NFL history.
"This team's goal is to win a championship," George said during training camp. "That's why we're here. It's realistic with the people we have on this team. Anything less would be a disappointment."
That team went 8-8 and got Norv Turner fired; none of the free agents ever saw a winning season in D.C.
2. Jaromir Jagr (3): He had won four straight scoring titles before the Caps acquired him and had been first- or second-team all-NHL for seven straight seasons. He had also averaged more than 1.3 points per game in his career to that point.
"We just needed that little extra. That's why we couldn't get by Pittsburgh [in the first round] this year -- we didn't have that extra bit of talent to break through in certain key games," Olie Kolzig said at the time. "This is the guy to do it."
Jagr--who got a $77 million extension in D.C.--averaged 1.1 points per game with the Caps, but was traded after two-and-a-half seasons. He led the Caps to one playoff appearance, a first-round knockout. "It didn't work the way everybody expected it was going to work," Jagr told Jason La Canfora on his way out. Plus, countless fans were stuck with his ugly jersey, which you really can't wear in public.
1. Kwame Brown (1): Before Kwame, the Wizards had never drafted higher than fourth since the inception of the lottery. He was the first high schooler taken No. 1, and the first high schooler to play for the Wizards. "We don't know what this kid is capable of doing, that's the beauty of why we drafted him," Michael Jordan said, in one of the all-time best quotes. "We don't know. In a couple of years he may be a star."
In four seasons with the Wiz, Brown averaged 7.7 points and 5.5 rebounds over 22.7 minutes a game. "Someone has a full career ahead of them and you're already calling him a bust?" Brown told Michael Lee on his way out of town. "Most of the people who write that never picked up a basketball in their life. I still have a full career ahead of me."
(The top picks from the drafts before and after this one, by the way, were Kenyon Martin and Yao Ming.)
(Photos by Ross D. Franklin - AP, Preston Keres, Rich Lipski, Jonathan Newton and Joel Richardson - TWP)
December 30, 2009; 1:47 PM ET
Categories: Caps , D.C. United , Decade's Best , Redskins , Terps , Wizards
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