- The Washington Times - Friday, January 25, 2002

Has it occurred to you that with Steve Spurrier’s arrival, Washington has become an unexpected mecca for stars of the sporting genre? If Ed Sullivan were still around, he’d be fully justified in calling it “a really big shew.”

We’re not exactly Titletown, USA come to think of it, neither is Green Bay anymore but the championships can come later. And while we’re waiting, let’s put on some shades to counteract the glow from our individual shining stars.



•Michael Jordan.

•Jaromir Jagr.

When have three such high-profile people in different sports cavorted in these parts? It has been a while, if ever.

And just think: A year ago, three of our biggest names were Marty Schottenheimer, Rod Strickland and Olie Kolzig. I don’t mean to slight Kolzig, who stops pucks about as well as anyone around, but after all Olie’s a goalie. And unless you’re Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling, playing great defense usually doesn’t get the paying customers in as much of an uproar.

Spurrier easily is the most exciting coach/manager to show up here since 1969, when Vince Lombardi, Ted Williams and the indefatigable Charles Grice Driesell fell into our laps. Despite Schottenheimer’s credentials, it was pretty hard to get worked up when Marty was hired a year ago as Dan Snyder’s lifetime coach of the moment. And before that, Norv Turner? Who in the name of John “Billick” Whelchel was (is?) Norv Turner?

(In case Whelchel’s name doesn’t ring chimes in your cerebrum, he was a former Navy admiral who coached the Redskins for seven games in 1949 before owner George Preston Marshall made him eligible for a return to the bounding main.)

But back to Steve Superior. If he finds a quarterback who can throw a football better than Tony Banks and that shouldn’t be too hard the Redskins are gonna be more exciting on offense than at any time since Joey T., Riggo and the Hogs were snorting all over RFK. They won’t be the Rams just yet, but give Spurrier some time.

And because the Redskins’ defense is solid, we might not have to sit around during next year’s playoffs watching teams about which we don’t give a rodent’s rump.

But that’s next season, and there are joys to be had now. Even on amateur team fronts, there is reason to celebrate the presence of Maryland’s nationally ranked football and basketball teams and Catholic University’s defending champs in Division III hoops.

Although you can get used to anything in time, Jordan’s presence in our midst continues to be a minor miracle. I know he’s not the man he was five or 10 years ago, but you and I aren’t either. No longer does he levitate forever, his drives to the basket are fewer and he has to pace himself on defense. So what? At an age when most of us have trouble rising from the couch, he remains among the NBA’s leading scorers and its biggest icon.

Who cares if he scored only 16 points and had nine turnovers in his return to Chicago or went 1-for-11 in the fourth quarter against the Timberwolves? At last we’ve learned that he’s mortal, if not ordinary.

Besides, isn’t basketball a team game? With Jordan in uniform, the Wizards equaled last season’s tiny victory haul with 45 games to go and stand a decent chance of making the playoffs. If that’s not a miracle, what is?

On the hockey side of things, neither Jagr nor the Caps have enjoyed the kind of season Ted Leonsis envisioned, but that’s understandable considering that they’ve had more injuries than about five other NHL teams combined. Traditionally, Ron Wilson’s teams play better in February and March, so let’s look for a return to the kind of hockey Jagr and his new teammates are capable of.

Funny thing about superstars, whether they’re on the sideline or the field of battle: Such guys can lift a team, but usually they can’t do it by themselves. It’s fine to be “the man,” but you aren’t going to go very far unless the guys in the trenches do their part. Nonetheless, having someone to whom everybody looks up can speed the effort along.

Never in its sporting history has Washington rallied around more than one super team at a time. When the Senators were winning pennants in 1924, ‘25 and ‘33, they were the only game in town. When Sammy Baugh’s Redskins were tearing up the NFL in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s, the Nats were lousy. When Red Auerbach’s basketball Caps were fighting for NBA titles in the late ‘40s, our baseball and football teams stunk. And when the Redskins of George Allen and Joe Gibbs were going to Super Bowls, there was no baseball closer than Baltimore.

So we’re way overdue to turn up some superstar teams, as well as the superstar guys. It might get a little easier starting in 2003, when baseball stands a good chance of returning to our fair city. I wouldn’t mind adding Vladimir Guererro to the local mix, would you?

In the meantime, let’s enjoy watching Jordan shoot, Jagr skate and Spurrier fling his visor to the ground. (I expect he does it in the offseason, too.) Superstars get that way because they win, and we certainly could use a dose of that.

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