- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2006

Next week, in the newspaper and on the blog, I’ll wrap up the Redskins season, which ends Saturday night against the New York Giants.

But stealing an idea from the Chicago Tribune, here is my personal 2006 review.

Favorite games (non Redskins)

1. Washington-Connecticut men’s basketball: This great game is forgotten because of the Connecticut-George Mason game two days later. Connecticut won this game 98-92 in overtime. The game ended at 12:57 a.m. UW’s Brandon Roy and Connecticut’s Rudy Gay, Hilton Armstrong, Marcus Williams and Josh Boone would all be drafted in the first round.

2. Maryland-Duke women’s basketball: The Terps won the national title with a 78-75 overtime win in Boston. Maryland trailed by 13 in the second half but tied the game on Kristi Toliver’s 3-pointer and then controlled overtime. Years from now, it could be remembered as the start of a dynasty.

3. Connecticut-George Mason men’s basketball: Mason wins 86-84 in overtime. The CAA team reaches the Final Four. Enough said.

Favorite press conference

The Rolling Stones held court at the Super Bowl in Detroit. It was my first Super Bowl and my head was spinning most of the week from the sheer magnitude of the event. But the Stones - whom I saw in concert in 1994 at the Minneapolis Metrodome (“Voodoo Lounge” tour for you diehards) - were one of the week’s highlights. They were certainly better than the game.

When told that it was going to be only him and the cockroaches at the end of time and how would he survive, Keith Richards replied: “I’m going to eat the cockroaches.”

Favorite stories

(in no particular order)

Sweetnorthernsaint: The 3-year-old colt took trainer Mike Trombetta on a wild ride, from the claiming ranks to the Kentucky Derby favorite and the Preakness. Here’s hoping for a healthy 4-year old campaign for the Laurel-based horse.

NHL refs: For a March game between Pittsburgh and the Capitals, I spent the game behind the scenes with the four-man officiating crew. For a big hockey follower, it provided me with great insight on how they do their jobs.

Vernon Davis: I was in New York City for the NFL Draft when San Francisco made Davis, the D.C. native and Maryland star, the highest drafted tight end ever (fifth overall). Talking with Davis’ grandmother after he was selected and seeing the joy on her face was pretty cool.

Maryland women’s hoops: Covering the NFL can jade any reporter because, frankly, they don’t want you around. Sports like women’s basketball are the opposite. The day before the title game, Brenda Frese opened practice to reporters, which is supposedly unheard of. And the players were more than willing to give an outsider (me) insight.

Most hectic days

1. NCAA basketball at Verizon Center: After the Connecticut-Washington game, I got home around 2:30 a.m. I was back at the arena eight hours later for press conferences. I think I wrote three stories, but not totally sure.

2. Maryland-Duke women’s game: I was responsible for two stories - one for A1 of the paper and the game story for the sports section. When the Terps fell behind by 13 points, both stories were pretty much done. And then the comeback. The next day, upon landing at Dulles, I bought a paper and had absolutely no recollection of what I wrote only 10 hours before, mostly because of Maryland’s comeback.

3. Barbaro breaks down: It’s a part of covering horse racing. But it’s different when it comes on a Friday afternoon at Saratoga than when it happens in the Preakness. Barbaro sustained a career-ending and life-threatening injury moments into the race. It forced me to write a story on Barbaro that had me trying to make sense of the injury (and forced a call to my harness training friend in New York for an explanation) plus the race winner (Bernardini) and a story on the hometown favorite (Sweetnorthernsaint) finishing second. All before 10 p.m.

Best interviews

Trombetta and fellow thoroughbred trainers Wayne Lukas and Danny Peitz, Maryland basketball player Marissa Coleman and coach Frese, several members of the Connecticut men’s team (including Jim Calhoun), Washington’s Brandon Roy, jockey Alex Solis, Sweetnorthernsaint owner Ted Theos, Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges (for a Jason Campbell story).

Road trips I won’t forget

1. Detroit: First Super Bowl.

2. Louisville: Fourth Kentucky Derby.

3. Boston: Women’s Final Four. First trip to Beantown. Pretty cool city.

4. Saratoga Springs, N.Y.. For my story on slot machines in horse racing. I worked in nearby Glens Falls for two-plus years (2000-02) and this was my first trip back. Great area of the country to visit.

Wish I could have covered

The fourth round of the U.S. Open golf tournament, the USC-Texas Rose Bowl and the Masters. Maybe I should switch beats with Barker Davis.

Non-Redskins story lines for 2007 (for things I covered in 2006)

Will there be a Triple Crown contender?

Will slot machines make progress at Maryland race tracks?

Can Maryland make it back to back in women’s hoops?

Will a mid major from, say, the Missouri Valley Conference, make a run similar to George Mason?

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