Monday, September 25, 2006

Weekend In Review

Well after a fun and sports-filled weekend it's back to the real world where the closest I get to a two-minute drill is when my boss calls to say she'll be in shortly and I haven't got any work to show her. Zing!

So as I was sitting at Camden Yards in my new Nick Markakis jersey (which received compliments from the O's faithful, by the way) on Friday watching the Orioles beat the Twins, something occurred to me while thinking about the transformation my jersey made from crappy replica Sosa jersey to authentic-looking Markakis awesomeness:

Sammy Sosa on the Orioles was like Johnny Unitas on the Chargers -- if Unitas was a cheater who spoke broken English.

After dropping the last two games of the series with the Twinkies, the O's are now 1/2 game behind the Nationals in the battle of "which area team is less bad." The Nats may even it up again when they play the Mets tonight. The O's have the night off.

Saturday I went to my first Maryland football game since graduating, and boy do they stink. The tailgating was fun and it was nice to be back at Byrd Stadium (even though now it was to look at Chevy Chase Bank Field), but Florida International University almost spoiled the fun, actually having a chance to win the game with a play from the 9-yard line with one second left, but Maryland picked off the pass to seal what may end up being their last victory of the 2006 season.

The remaining schedule will prove tough for a team that barely beat the FIU Golden Panthers. After a week off they go on the road to face No. 24 Georgia Tech and Virginia, then it's N.C. State and No. 19 Florida State at Byrd, at No. 18 Clemson, home against Miami, at Boston College, then home against Wake Forest.

Circle that Wake Forest game on your calendars. That could be the Terps' best chance for another win.

Sunday I played a charity pick-up hockey game that pitted Capitals fans from Maryland against Capitals fans from Virginia.

I faced what one teammate slightly overestimated was 70 shots and Virginia's fans won 5-2, not that anyone cares, and despite being informally chosen as "Team Maryland MVP" by some guy in the locker room and pleading for a 15-year extension, it seems I've been replaced and will now be playing forward in next month's game.

This really is a merciless sports town.

While that epic rivalry was being decided, some football team that a few people in Washington like finally got in the win column by beating the hapless Houston Texans, 31-15. If they had lost I think we would have woken up this morning to proclamations that the apocalypse was upon us because the Redskins would then only be "a conservative 75/25 favorite to win the Super Bowl" according to Washington fans.

The Ravens had an amazing come-from-behind win over the Browns to get to 3-0 for the first time in team history, but now the schedule starts getting tough. The next three weeks are San Diego at home, at Denver, then back to Baltimore to face Carolina before the bye week.

So what's on tap for tonight? Instead of Nats vs. Mets on MASN, I think it's going to be non-local sports time (so not me, I know) with Monday Night Football. Michael Vick's on national TV and that's always exciting.

Here's what to watch for tonight, though: I guarantee that at least one time in the pre-game show, one time during the game and one time after the game, some announcer on the broadcast will say, "This is such an important game, not just for the Saints, but for the morale of the entire city of New Orleans."

That may not be a direct quote but it'll be damn close, because sports writers and announcers are about as original as ... using similes to make a point.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ten Random Midweek Thoughts

1. With 11 games left in each team's season, the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles have identical records (66-85). That means to avoid a 90-loss season, they will need to go 7-4 to finish out the year. Don't hold your breath. Also, isn't it sad that I'm offering the avoidance of a 90-loss season as some barometer of success? Ouch.

2. The Capitals start up their preseason tonight, which means about as much as the NFL preseason but probably with less injuries, more fighting (as young tough guys try to make an impression) and more Alexander Ovechkin.

3. We Are Scientists is a good band. Kind of like The Killers meet Franz Ferdinand.

4. D.C. United seems to be mailing it in with the MLS East practically decided. Since tying Real Madrid in a friendly match on August 9, D.C. has won 2, tied 5 and lost 3. That's not terrible, but it's not what you want to see heading down the stretch from the team that is supposed to be the most dominant in the league.

5. It's kind of funny watching the O's on MLB Gameday and seeing Hayden Penn's ERA drop by almost a full run for every out he records. Although it's kind of depressing that a guy who was so highly-touted and did so well in the minors was averaging an earned run for every out he recorded through his first three starts this season.

6. EA Sports' NHL 07 for XBox 360 is amazing. Sure, the graphics are amazing, but the real innovative part of the game is the controls that allow you to make your player do exactly what you want him to do. The left analog stick controls your skating and the right analog stick controls your puckhandling and shooting. If you have 360 (or a brother who has one that you can freeload off of), the game is a must-have.

7. I think the fact that I'm not a Redskins fan actually makes me more optimistic after their 0-2 start than 90 percent of actual Redskins fans. If they lose to Houston on Sunday, then we'll talk.

8. On the flip side, I'm less optimistic about the Ravens' 2-0 start than seemingly just about everyone. Steve McNair looked awful against the Raiders and the defense did all the work (same as it ever was). It doesn't help that the rest of the schedule looks extremely difficult, with the out-of-division games against San Diego, Denver, Carolina, New Orleans, Tennessee (OK that one shouldn't be too bad), Kansas City and Buffalo. Then of course there's the two games each against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. If the Ravens make the playoffs they'll have earned it.

9. Here's an interesting interview with Orioles owner Peter Angelos from PressBox, a free weekly paper dedicated to Baltimore sports. The reporter doesn't let Angelos get by with cookie cutter answers, which is nice. It's strange because after reading the article I almost got the feeling that Angelos knows what needs to be done to make the team better, despite the fact that so much of the media and fanbase paints him as this senile old fart who doesn't know which way is up half the time. It's a good read.

10. It's never too early to get your holiday shopping done.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm CafePressed About My New Shop

That's right, kids! Beltway Sports Beat now has a CafePress Shop!!!!!!!!11one

Now you can get that Fantasy Football pegasus image on a T-shirt -- new and improved without the peg leg. (Arrrrrrrgh!)

You can also get the hat trick hat referred to in this post back before I sold out and went mainstream. I've even gotten rid of all that copyright infringing goodness from this image. (A.O.? That could be referring to annnybody... The old image is completely unrelated. Just ignore that.)

I'll update the shop as inspiration strikes and as I make more funny crap for the blog, but you don't have to worry about missing any new products because you can be sure every time I add something I'm going to pimp it all over this place.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ravens and Redskins 2006 Preview

It's time. Meaningful professional football is now just a day away, so I'll stop skirting the issue.

There's a lot of optimism in the air about the 2006 NFL season. Ravens and Redskins fans both think their teams can make a serious run at a championship, and the media seems to agree to some extent.'s Jason Whitlock picked the teams to face each other in the Super Bowl, with the Ravens as eventual champions.

I'm not really that optimistic, to be honest. Both teams play difficult schedules as a result of their stacked divisions, and I would even go as far as to say it's more likely that one of the two teams will miss the playoffs than it is that one of them will make it to the Super Bowl, let alone both.

Both teams do have their strengths and deficiencies, and both teams' fans can expect some trying times this season. So here's my not-so-expert analysis, and I've included some links to get you as up-to-date as possible before this weekend's games:

2005 Record: 6-10, 3rd in AFC North

2006 Ravens Toolkit


Depth Chart

Team Stats: 2006 preseason | 2005

Baltimore Sun Ravens Section

Media Previews:
ESPN: 2006 Ravens Preview
CBS Sportsline: Ravens – Five Things To Know
AP: McNair provides Ravens with optioins and hope
SportingNews: Ravens Team Report
The Big Question

The Ravens seem to have filled their biggest need by ending the Kyle Boller experiment and going out and getting a legit starting QB in Steve McNair, but that's not to say there aren't still question marks. Looking ahead to the 2006 Ravens feels strangely similar to how I felt in March looking ahead to the 2006 Orioles season. Too many "need-to-happens."

For the O's it was all about young pitching emerging and a couple of new hitters either breaking out or reverting to form. Few of the things that needed to happen did happen, and the O's have stunk up the joint.

The Ravens "need-to-happens" are big also.

Steve McNair and Todd Heap need to stay healthy. Jamal Lewis needs to return to form. The offensive line needs to step it up.

The defense is going to be good, there's no question about that, but adding McNair doesn't answer all the questions on offense. If we've learned anything from the Orioles, it's that hoping players "return to form" is a setup for disappointment.

But Jamal Lewis was hurt last year, he's only 27, and McNair should be good enough that he can punish teams for teeing up on Jamal all game.

But the problem, in my mind, is that the other "ifs" all depend on the offensive line. If the O-line gets pushed around, McNair's not going to stay healthy and Jamal Lewis is not going to return to form. It's as simple as that. And there doesn't seem to be any indication that the right side of the line with Tony Pashos and Keydrick Vincent won't get pushed around.

The left side is strong with longtime Ravens Jonathan Ogden and Edwin Mulitalo, but can the veterans stand the test of having plays run to that side all day? If the answer is yes, the other questions may just be answered.

I'm excited for this Ravens season but I think there will be some ups and downs. Most of all I'm really looking forward to an offense not run by Kyle Boller or Anthony Wright.

2005 Record: 10-6, 2nd in NFC East
Defeated Tampa Bay in Wild Card round, lost to Seattle in Divisional playoffs.

2006 Redskins Toolkit


Depth Chart

Team Stats: 2006 preseason | 2005

The Washington Post Redskins Section

The Washington Times Redskins360 Blog

Media Previews:
ESPN: 2006 Redskins Preview
CBS Sportsline: Redskins – Five Things To Know
AP: Redskins' grand thoughts get tempered
AP: Approaching 36, 'In-house' Brunell holds reins once again
SportingNews: Redskins Team Report
Familiar Situation

It seems like every offseason the Redskins find what they think will be that one piece that completes their offensive puzzle and makes the team a Super Bowl contender.

Two years ago it was Clinton Portis and Mark Brunell. Last year it was Santana Moss. This year it's Antwaan Randle El.

Yet after a dismal 0-4 preseason during which the offense was useless and Clinton Portis injured himself tackling a player who had just made an interception, is this year really any different?

The Redskins were 10-6 last year on solid defense and flashes of a great offense, the most memorable being a pair of late, long strikes from Brunell to Moss that reversed a 13-0 defecit with less than four minutes remaining in Dallas in week two last year.

The 'Skins went on an absolute tear to end the regular season, winning out after starting the season 5-6. During the five game win streak they averaged over 28 points a game.

But the offense spun its wheels in the playoffs, gaining only 120 yards in a first round playoff win over Tampa Bay, then only 140 in the first three quarters against eventual NFC Super Bowl representative Seattle.

The concern wasn't that great, but then the preseason started. Portis partially dislocated his shoulder early in the first game and the Redskins offense looked terrible. They only managed to accumulate 27 points over the four preseason games, none of them from the starting offense.

Offensive Coordinator Al Saunders says the preseason offense wasn't indicative of what we'll see come Monday night, but if there's any kind of learning curve to Saunders' offense that was so successful for the Chiefs prior to this season, the team better get on it quickly. The Giants still look strong after winning the division in 2005, the Cowboys have looked good with Drew Bledsoe, Terry Glenn and Julius Jones and will only get more dangerous if Terrell Owens gets over himself and into the lineup, and the Eagles are poised for a comeback after a down year marred by the T.O. saga.

If the 'Skins spend any time stuck in the starting gate, they're going to have a difficult time playing catch-up.