- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2006

I wish to proclaim this — admittedly, with a healthy dose of effrontery — as the latest winter of our discontent.

Each January after the Redskins pack away their pads, we find ourselves staring at a bleak and chilly sporting landscape. And this month seems especially grim because Joe Gibbs and his gang staged such an exciting and unexpected late-season show.

Actually, we should be anticipating a sunny second spring with our very own baseball team to hug to our collective breast. Yet Major League Baseball and the D.C. Council seem determined to steal every possible bit of our joy.

Never mind the annual hot-stove subjects of how to bolster a pitching staff or add more punch to the batting order. Instead we are left to wonder when the Nationals will be sold, who the new owner(s) will be and whether the silly hassle over terms of a stadium lease will ever be resolved.

After all, it has been nearly 16 months since MLB announced that, in effect, the Montreal Expos would be coming to town because there was no other place for them to go. Never mind three-hour games — this political scrap is the equivalent of a four-hour drag featuring 35 walks, 12 pitching changes and maybe a rain delay or two.

Which of the following names are you sick of hearing, at least in a baseball context: Anthony Williams, Linda Cropp, Jack Evans, Natwar Gandhi, Bud Selig, Bob DuPuy, Jeff Smulyan, Fred Malek, the Lerners, et al?

Did somebody say all of the above?

Wouldn’t it be more fun to consider the intriguing possibilities of Ryan Zimmerman hitting 25 home runs and batting .320 as the Nats’ rookie third baseman, John Patterson winning 20 games with his awesome assortment of stuff and Nick Johnson staying healthy for an entire season?

Of course it would — that’s what baseball fans should be doing in January and February. In our case, though, we must read and hear daily dribblings on stadium “negotiations” and the possibility of arbitration. What fun!

So we turn our attention to other aspects of jockdom — and weep.

This was supposed to be a breakout season for the Wizards, who instead find themselves staring upward at the .500 mark despite their recent four-game winning streak and wondering why Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison can’t do it all.

Do they really miss Larry Hughes all that much? Will Eddie soon become the second Jordan in recent years to incur Abe Pollin’s wrath? I hope not, but consider this: He has gotten a vote of confidence from president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld, usually a sure sign of imminent unemployment.

And how about them Capitals? This is a particularly difficult year in which to care about hockey if you’re not to the manner born. For many, there remains a so-what residue from last season’s lockout, and the Caps haven’t helped with their stinky record.

Even Alex Ovechkin, the phenom who can score goals while falling down, must be wistfully recalling his career with Moscow Dynamo these days.

Nor have college hoopsters provided us much relief. Four seasons removed from its national championship, Maryland appears to be fielding one of Gary Williams’ lesser outfits in the wake of routs by Miami and Duke. Obviously, the Terrapins miss John Gilchrist, if not his attitude (with a capital “A”). And senior Travis Garrison didn’t help by getting into a hassle with the law rather than with opponents over rebounds.

Then there’s Georgetown. The Hoyas’ play of late soon might have coach John Thompson III feeling as old as his illustrious daddy, the talk-show host. That 11-4 record looks a bit suspicious after losses to West Virginia and Connecticut and a three-point squeaker over South Florida. South Florida?

We should know more after today, probably not to our liking, when the Hoyas confront top-ranked Duke at MCI Center.

Meanwhile, George Washington has rolled to a 13-1 record by dint of dispatching such pattycake opponents as Maryland-Eastern Shore by 26 points, Morgan State by 27 and Stony Brook by 28. Unfortunately in terms of earning respect, Karl Hobbs’ troops found themselves 21 points in arrears when they ventured against an ACC foe (N.C. State), leaving their overall strength somewhat in doubt. We’ll see.

For the moment then, there isn’t much to sing and dance about on the local sports scene — except maybe the prospect of the Nats beginning the season at home April 3 against the Mets in Washington’s traditional presidential opener.

Oh wait, that game is at Shea Stadium. Darn, nothing seems to be going right these days.

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