1. As much as I felt like the Orioles should not have signed Jeff Conine, should not have offered Jeff Conine a contract that vested with plate appearances, and should not have played Jeff Conine as often as they did, I was still sad when they traded him to the Phillies Sunday afternoon. Maybe I just can't see past his late clutch hits in the weekend sweep over the Devil Rays, but I think mostly it's hard to dislike Conine. As much as I wanted him gone for logical reasons at the trade deadline, I wanted him to stay because, despite his two stints with the Marlins and two stints with the Royals, I still think of him as an Oriole. That may seem especially strange because he was never a part of a winning Orioles club, but he was Mr. Reliable for the Birds from 1999 to 2003, when he was traded to Florida to win a World Series.
2. D.C. United got absolutely WAXED at home by the L.A. Galaxy on Saturday. As The Post points out, the Galaxy is in last place in the West and averages less than a goal a game, yet they managed five against United. Coach Peter Nowak said he was "glad" it happened and that it was "a good cold shower" for the team. Yeah that's all well and good when you're leading your division by 16 points, but at some point the games are going to count again. United's next game is Monday, Sept. 3, against Chivas USA.
3. MLS should eliminate the playoffs and go to a points-only format like the English Premier League and most other European soccer leagues. Sure it means you can clinch a championship with two weeks left in the season, but to me that's one of the great things about European soccer. You can't just cruise into the playoffs and turn it on for the playoff run like you can in hockey or basketball. The "regular season" is the entire season. But I'm sure the MLS just thinks, "No, American fans can't handle a sport that isn't decided by playoffs." Give us some credit! Besides, it's not like the MLS is doing so great as it is.
4. Continuing on the English Premier League/European soccer theme, all sports should have promotion and relegation. Especially hockey. After this season, they should release all AHL "affiliates" from their parent clubs, tell every team that they can only protect 20 guys, then hold a re-draft where all the unprotected players can be taken by any of the 57 teams making up the NHL and AHL, plus three teams from the ECHL (hockey's 'AA'). The NHL would have the top 25 teams from this season's NHL, the AHL would have 26-30 from the NHL, all the current AHL teams, and the three "promotions" from the ECHL for a total of 35 teams, and the ECHL would have the 22 remaining teams in their league (they can add three if they want; who cares at that point?). Then every year, the bottom four in the NHL get relegated to the AHL and replaced by the top four from the AHL, and the bottom four from the AHL would get relegated and replaced by the top four in the ECHL. The result would be no more meaningless games! If you're not fighting to make the playoffs, you're fighting to avoid relegation! It would be awesome. Could you imagine the Hershey Bears in the NHL? Or better yet, the Caps demoted all the way down to the ECHL where they would face such powerhouses as the Augusta Lynx and the Reading Royals? Awesome.
5. More with the "Soccer-style changes to American sports": In soccer, some rival fans get together and create a "Cup" between two teams. The MLS has three such cups: The Rocky Mountain Cup goes to whomever gets more points in the standings from the meetings between Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids, the Brimstone Cup is between Chicago and Dallas (named from when they were the Fire and the Burn, now Dallas is just FC Dallas), and the Atlantic Cup is between D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls (although no one cares about this because it was actually created by the teams' front offices and not the fans, which makes it less awesome). Area baseball fans need to do this for the Nationals and Orioles. Fans of both teams could get together and buy a sweet trophy and present it to the winning team at the culmination of the season series between the O's and Nats. We could call it the Beltway Cup, and it would be grand. As they do in soccer, a split would mean the cup stays with the team that won it the previous year. This year, the Cup would go to neither team because the teams didn't play each other last year and this year was a split. Let it be known that I am the first advocate of this "Beltway Cup."
6. If you can't tell, I've been watching a lot of Premier League soccer. If you bash soccer and call it boring, I say you have no idea what you're talking about. It really is "The Beautiful Game." Plus I really like to watch games where the announcers have accents and use Brit slang like, "utter pants" and "bollocks!" So here's a primer: A player who wants to leave his team because of a contract dispute is "a greedy git." A manager or player who is worthless is "utter pants." Your friends who cheer for Chelsea and Manchester United are "bloody wankers," although it doesn't sound right if you pronounce the 'r'. The "c-word," which has become worse than the "f-word" in the U.S., is apparently proper for use in all occasions across the pond. I don't recommend trying this one at home.
7. No matter how much you prepare for your fantasy football draft (and I'm talking American football now), and no matter how much you think you're "going off the board" with a moderately high pick, someone will take your "diamond in the rough" two picks before you get him. Reality check: If you think taking Jamal Lewis in the fourth round is "going off the board," because he's ranked low after an off year due to injury, everyone else is thinking the exact same thing. You're not as smart as you think you are.
8. Despite #7, football season still hasn't started yet.
9. I completed my conversion of a replica Sammy Sosa Orioles jersey to an authentic-looking Nick Markakis jersey this weekend. Total cost to me: $66. Awesomeness factor: Off the charts. I found the Sosa jersey at Dick's for $4.98, half off the lowest marked price of $9.97. I bought a seam ripper for $2.50. I spent more hours than I want to admit taking SOSA and 21 off the back of the jersey (I had to remove the 21 because the replica numbers are one-color and that's not nearly as awesome as two-color numbers). I took the jersey to Pro-Am Sportswear in Lutherville, and for $58 they did two-color name and numbers (including the number on the front) and added Elrod Hendricks' number 44 to the sleeve. It looks great. It's not quite as sweet as the guy I saw a couple months ago who got a Sosa jersey and duct taped over the name and wrote "Markakis" (lowercase included) with Sharpie, but not everyone can be that hardcore.
10. You all weren't funny enough the last two weeks to warrant Blog Quotes of the Week. Seriously. I wasn't being lazy or anything. You just suck. To avoid a repeat of those debacles, send me an e-mail with funny blog and message board posts at firstname.lastname@example.org.