- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2009

Congratulations to the Wizards’ Gilbert Arenas (635,540) and Brendan Haywood (291,490). In the recently completed NBA All-Star balloting, they were the top two vote-getters among players who haven’t stepped on the court yet this season.

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You’ve gotta love All-Star voting. Arenas actually outpolled Hawks star Joe Johnson (420,210) - even though he’s scored the exact same number of points as Dolph Schayes (0), who’s closing in on his 81st birthday.

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As for Haywood, he was listed on more ballots this year than he was last (less than 100,000), and last year he posted career highs in just about every statistical category.

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Then there’s Allen Iverson, whose Pistons - a 59-win club last season - are 20-18 since he joined them in early November. I’m trying to decide which is worse, AI starting in the NBA All-Star Game or Alex Ovechkin not starting in the NHL All-Star Game.

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Speaking of these All-Star extravaganzas, if the NFL had the same rule the NHL did - one that results in a suspension for any player who backs out of the game without a note from his doctor - the Pro Bowl might almost be watchable.

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Did you see Rocco Baldelli, who just signed as a free agent with the Red Sox, took out a half-page ad in the St. Petersburg Times to thank Tampa Bay Rays fans for their support during his five years with the team?

“Over the past two years,” the ad said, “I have made many mistakes that have affected my family, my team and most importantly our fans. … I recognize that I have lost the right to ask for your patience and understanding; however, I will do everything in my power to regain your trust and respect.”

Whoops, my bad. That’s an excerpt from the newspaper ad Pacman Jones took out when the NFL suspended him for a season in ‘07. It’s hard to keep these newspaper ads straight sometimes.

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It’s been another rough month for Mark McGwire. Baseball Hall of Fame voters shunned him again, and now his bodybuilder brother Jay is writing a tell-all book detailing Mark’s use of performance enhancing drugs, according to the Web site Deadspin.com.

The working title is “The McGwire Family Secret: The Truth About Steroids, a Slugger and Ultimate Redemption.” You’ll find it in bookstores right next to “How Serena Foot-Faulted Her Way To Nine Slams,” by Venus Williams.

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Hope Greg Maddux sent a Christmas card to his brother Mike. I mean, Greg only had, what, 316 more wins? Can’t imagine there being any jealousy in that family.

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The NFL Players Association is reportedly down to five candidates for its vacant executive director’s job. Three finalists will be selected at the union’s annual meeting in March, and then Bryant Gumbel will decide which seems least likely to be the commissioner’s “personal pet.”

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Worth checking out: a Web site steeped in Capitals nostalgia - www.caps-growing-up.blogspot.com.

My friend Robert, the Virginia Tech diehard, tipped me off to it. “I feel like I just hit the jackpot,” he e-mailed. “This site even has excerpts from the radio broadcast of the Caps’ first-ever shutout against the Kansas City Scouts [in 1975]!”

It also has a classic picture of Roy Rogers, complete with cowboy hat, holding up a Caps jersey with star center Guy Charron. (Roy’s hamburger chain was one of the club’s major advertisers in the early years.)

“My father and I attended our first hockey game in February 1975,” the Web site’s creator says. “… During warmups, an errant slapshot found the forehead of a woman sitting five seats down the row from us, knocking her unconscious. Perhaps I should have taken that as a sign and avoided a lot of future heartbreak.”

Do yourself a favor, if you haven’t already, and pay the site a visit - if only to listen to some vintage Ron Weber play-by-play.

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If Mike Shanahan ends up as the next coach of the Chiefs - on Friday he was said to be negotiating with them, on Saturday “sources” were denying that was the case - it would be practically unprecedented. What would be practically unprecedented, you ask? Answer: a famous coach leaving one team and immediately taking over another in the same division. It hasn’t happened, according to my research, since 1970, when Don Shula went from the Baltimore Colts to the Miami Dolphins (a hire, let’s not forget, that cost the ‘Fins a first-round draft pick in compensation).

Coaches traditionally prefer to put some distance between their old employer and their new one. When Bill Parcells left the Giants in the early ‘90s, for instance, he went to the Patriots, who are in the other conference. When Mike Holmgren left the Packers later in the ‘90s, he went to the Seahawks, who were also in the AFC back then.

This is fairly standard practice. Yes, George Seifert moved to Carolina after winning two Super Bowls with the 49ers, and Tom Flores relocated to Seattle (again, an AFC West club at the time) after winning two titles with the Raiders, but not right away. Both took a sabbatical of several years between jobs. Shanahan, on the other hand, would be jumping right back in with one of the Broncos’ archenemies. Now that would be fun.

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Pet peeve: Despite what you may have heard after the Cardinals lost a 24-6 lead to the Eagles last Sunday, 18 points ISN’T the largest blown lead in an NFL conference championship game. Everybody is forgetting about the Lions-49ers playoff for the Western Conference title in 1957. The Niners were up 20 points, 27-7, early in the second half and wound up losing 31-27.

(Hey, a conference championship game is a conference championship game, whether it’s the AFC, NFC or, before the 1970 merger, the Eastern or Western Conference.)

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And finally …

An amateur soccer club in London, Bishop Auckland FC, had a moment of silence before a match recently for one of its most illustrious players, Tommy Farrer. Afterward, an official called Farrer’s wife “to offer condolences,” the Associated Press reported.

“A surprised Gladys Farrer said her husband had indeed departed - but only for a few minutes to buy a newspaper and would be back soon if the official wanted to talk to him.”

Yes, Tommy Farrer, 86 years young, is still alive and kicking.

Well, he’s alive, anyway. I’m not sure I’d want him taking any penalty shots for me.