- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2008

It’s a shame the Arena League is being forced to shut down for a year. I mean, the NFL was all set to demote the Lions.

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And it’s not like the CFL can take Detroit in. They’ve already got the British Columbia Lions.

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There’s no room at the zoo, in other words.

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From the “What’s he smoking?” department: In an interview with CNBC’s Darren Rovell, the COO of the proposed United Football League, Frank Vuono, said, “The truth is that the NFL could expand by eight or 10 teams, and we’re going to take advantage of the talent that is out there.”

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Now there’s a brilliant idea. Imagine if the NFL went to 42 teams next year. For starters, the Lions would only get the 11th pick in the draft.

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Four bits of minutiae about Slingin’ Sammy Baugh, who died last week at 94, you won’t find anywhere else:

1. He licked his fingers before every play.

2. A sculpture of his right hand sat on the desk of Redskins owner George Preston Marshall.

3. He had a great rivalry with Bears quarterback Sid Luckman. In 1943, for instance, he set a league record by throwing six touchdown passes against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Two weeks later, Luckman threw seven against the Giants.

4. He agreed to coach the New York Titans of the fledgling American Football League in 1960, but only after owner Harry Wismer paid him his $28,000 salary up front - in cash.

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Luckman once told me: “When Baugh retired, we had lunch together one day in Washington. And we made a pact - we shook hands on it - that whenever he made a speech, he’d say I was the greatest, and whenever I made a speech, I’d say he was the greatest. But it turned out to be a bad deal, because I’d be off making all these speeches to different charities and whatever, and he’d be back on his ranch making money. So I never heard anybody once say I was the greatest, because he never made a speech.”

Later, I mentioned the pact to Sammy, and he said, “Aw, Luckman’s full of [it]. We never had an agreement like that. He’s just telling a story.”

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Steve Owen, the Giants’ Hall of Fame coach, on Baugh: “[He] was the greatest passer we have ever seen because of his great arm, his remarkable accuracy and his uncanny faking. Baugh’s fakes could tie [defensive backs] into pretzels. He would cock the ball, bring it down to drift off as if about to run, cock again, make a mock throw to one side and shoot a touchdown to the other.

“The reaction of the [defensive back], even a good one, is to close in as soon as the passer takes down the ball. That’s all right with ordinary passers, but not with Baugh. He was never committed until he was flat on the ground and the ball with him. I have seen Sam make bulletlike throws with his tremendous wrist action as he was nailed by a hard tackle and falling.”

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Jason Taylor says he “may not be worth $8 million” anymore? Jason Taylor says it wouldn’t shock him if the Redskins didn’t bring him back next season?

Filter all that stuff out. The only thing Jason Taylor said on WJFK the other day that really matters is: “You put me in the right situation and the right position, and I’ll hunt all day.”

Sounds like the guy is dying for the Redskins to cut him - so he can sell his services to a Serious Contender who will play him exclusively at right end.

Patriots, anyone?

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Barely a year ago, the Capitals were 6-14-1 and living in a trailer on the outskirts of Nowheresville. Now they’re farming out an unbeaten, 20-year-old goaltender with a .953 save percentage and 1.50 goals-against average.

I’m trying to decide if that’s progress or overprotectiveness.

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Then again, maybe it’s just the first shot across Jose Theodore’s bow.

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Speaking of shots across bows, did you read about the pirates in the African seas who hijacked a munitions ship and are holding it for ransom? Intelligence agencies have yet to determine the identities of the assailants, but they did rule out one possibility when the ransom demand was lowered from $35 million to $20 million: None of the pirates is related to Scott Boras.

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Number of the Week: 18

That’s how many baseball franchises were bought by their current owners for less than $184 million, which is what Boras is reportedly seeking for Mark Teixeira.

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If Peter Angelos meets Teixeira’s price, he’ll be shelling out more for the switch-hitting first baseman than he did for the Orioles in 1993 ($173 million). And at the time, that was the most ever paid for a major league ballclub.

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A question that will remain unanswered: How many peanuts would you have to sell - individual peanuts, not bags - to cover the cost of Teixeira’s contract?

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Perhaps I should rephrase that. How many QUINTILLION peanuts would you have to sell?

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Let me give it one more try: How many elephants would you need to consume the peanuts you’d have to sell to cover the cost of Teixeira’s contract?

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And how much elephant dung would that create?

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I think you know where I stand on the subject of Mr. Teixeira’s contract demands.

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My favorite magazine of the year, Esquire’s annual Meaning of Life issue, arrived in the mailbox the other day. The sports-related highlights:

• Alice Cooper: “What most people don’t understand is that UFOs are on a cosmic tourist route. That’s why they’re always seen in Arizona, Scotland and New Mexico. Another thing to consider is that all three of those destinations are good places to play golf. So there’s possibly some connection between aliens and golf.

“I’m pretty sure Tiger Woods is an alien, so that clears that up.”

• Cooper claims to have run a 4:29 mile in high school.

• John Goodman on his turn as George Herman Ruth in “The Babe”: “[It’s] one of those things I wish I could go back and do over. It’s like being in that dream where you’re in the subway with no clothes on.”

• Here’s one for you Little Leaguers, courtesy of writer Chuck Klosterman: “The cutoff for chasing a hat blown away by the wind is an eighth of a mile. After that, buy a new hat.”

• Toby Keith says he wrote his hit song “Red, White and Blue” “in 20 minutes on the back of a fantasy-football computer printout.”

• Steve Zahn: “The sidekick makes the movie. It’s about being that great offensive lineman who opens holes for the running back to make touchdowns.”

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And finally …

News item: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem encourages players to enter more tournaments this year to help out sponsors in these troubled times.

Comment: A nice gesture, but I doubt the fields will fill out to the extent where people are calling the Mayakoba Golf Classic “the sixth major.”