- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2001

And so the games are back, but where's the fun?

It has become increasingly tough to be a sports fan in the Washington-Baltimore area, where losses abound for too many teams. Now sports may be impossible to enjoy, except for the most devoted spectators.

First and foremost, of course, is the terrorism-induced cloud that hangs over America's head. Nothing is the same as it was, and that definitely includes attending sports events.

Coolers, backpacks, briefcases, perhaps even purses are taboo at most venues. Security officers are everywhere. No blimps hover overhead, not that they ever added much to the scene anyway.

On the positive side, we should be spared the blatherings of assorted jocks equating victories and championships with life and death. No sports combat is going to be "like a war out there," and soon we are likely to be reminded of it.

I like the comment by Baltimore Orioles pitcher Josh Towers. Asked to reevaluate the importance of his game, Towers told The Washington Post, "Baseball isn't meaningless. It's meaningless compared to what happened last Tuesday."

That would seem to say it all. Now the games will go on within what should always be their framework as a way to take our minds off things that really matter.

In that regard, it is entirely proper to consider some of the questions that were on our minds 12 days ago.

• Can the Orioles lose 100 games?

Sure, why not? Before last night's victory against the Yankees, of all people, they had lost 10 of 11 and 18 of 21, the sort of skid that would have made their 54-107 predecessors of 1988 blush. To reach 100 losses, they need to drop only 11 of their final 16, a no-brainer if I ever saw one.

Look at it this way: Cal Ripken isn't retiring, he's escaping.

Manager Mike Hargrove has done such an admirable job of keeping a stiff upper lip, you'd think he was a Brit. Or maybe he's just in a trance.

These are dark days and nights for the Orioles, whose attendance figures to plummet precipitously next season especially if the Montreal Expos or Minnesota Twins set up shop in the Washington area. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy than Peter Angelos.

• Can the Washington Redskins finish, say, 3-13 or 4-12?

It should be a piece of cake, to not quite coin a phrase. I mean, losing to the San Diego Chargers by 27 points? By the time Green Bay finishes with 'em Monday night, Packers fans might be hailing the second coming of Lombardi's Legions. We could be channel surfing by 10 p.m.

Why did Dan Snyder bother hiring Marty Schottenheimer, who already is in obvious denial? He could have kept Terry Robiskie a lot cheaper, and Terry would have kept moving his desk wherever Danny Boy wanted.

I know Schottenheimer signed a four-year contract, but I have a feeling he might be around a lot less than that. It's going to be a while before the Redskins rebuild, and he doesn't impress me as the kind who wants to endure many losing seasons. Just a hunch, you understand.

• Can Barry Bonds reach 70?

I hope not. Bonds has made a career of being surly and unapproachable, and the thought of him ascending Mount McGwire is decidedly unpleasant especially given how good Mac and Sammy Sosa made us feel during their pursuit of Roger Maris in 1998. Besides, I feel for McGwire because of the bum knee that has reduced him to part-time status since then and could end his career.

Look at it this way: Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs stood for 34 years, and Maris' mark of 61 for 37 summers. I'd like to see McGwire reign for more than three short seasons. So may your bat spring a lot of holes, Barry baby.

• Finally, what used to be the question.

All signs indicate that Michael Jordan will play for the Washington Wizards this season. He canceled a press conference because of the nation's greater concerns, and I doubt that he would have planned one to announce he wasn't coming back. A mere fax would have sufficed for that.

Still, I keep hoping MJ will stay retired, regardless of how much the basketball bug is itching. After all, everything else in the world seems to have changed, so it would be nice to remember His Airness the way he was, soaring.

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