- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 5, 2006

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is up for two Academy Awards tonight as a producer — for “Good Night, and Good Luck” (best picture) and for “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” (documentary feature). And I’m tellin’ ya, if he keeps giving the refs such a hard time during games, he’ll probably be nominated for another Oscar … for technical achievement.

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How funny would it have been if Danny Almonte had made the Dominican Republic team playing in the World Baseball Classic — 4 years after he sneaked into the Little League World Series?

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Hey, it just dawned on me: Maybe that’s why the Dominicans are so up for this event. They think WBC stands for Without Birth Certificates.

• • •

News item: MCI Center changes its name to Verizon Center.

Comment: That’s almost as exciting as US Air Arena changing its name to US Airways Arena.

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Or Dan Snyder announcing that Redskin Park would henceforth be called Redskins Park.

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Speaking of name changes, will Rod Smart, recently cut by the Panthers, want to be known now as He Hate the Salary Cap?

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And still more on name changes:

The Washington Nationals aren’t the first sports team to run into problems over the rights to their name. Little-known fact: In 1946, when Paul Brown was launching a pro football franchise in Cleveland, the club held a contest to come up with a name. The winning entry was “Panthers.”

It was then that George Jones, owner of a semipro team in the 1920s called the Cleveland Panthers, entered the picture, demanding compensation. Mickey McBride, owner of the new Panthers, “could easily have handled the problem of the prior claim,” Bill Levy wrote in “Return to Glory: The Story of the Cleveland Browns,” but Paul Brown vetoed the name ‘Panthers.’

“‘I won’t start out with anything associated with our franchise that smacks of failure,’ Brown told McBride. ‘That old Panther team failed. I want no part of that name.’”

So the club switched to “Browns” — in homage to their coach — and the rest, as they say, is history.

• • •

So I’m reading about Maryland tight end Vernon Davis wowing ‘em at the NFL scouting combine, clocking a 4.38 in the 40 and vertically jumping 42 inches, and I’m thinking: Now why was it, exactly, that Ralph Friedgen only got him the ball 51 times last year?

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And then I’m reading about Washington State hoops coach Dick Bennett retiring at the end of the season and handing his job over his son Tony, and I’m thinking: Dick doesn’t look nearly old enough to be Tony Bennett’s father.

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Trivia Question: Karl Hobbs’ GW Colonials have a chance, if they can make it through the Atlantic 10 tournament unscathed, to become the fourth A-10 team to advance to the NCAAs with only one loss. Who were the first three — and how far did they go in the NCAAs? (Answer below.)

• • •

My friend Robert, the Virginia Tech zealot, e-mailed me the box score of Thursday night’s Indiana State-Drake game with the comment: “Did Larry Bird play in the second half?”

The Sycamores, held to 10 points in the first 20 minutes, scored 62 after the intermission to beat the Bulldogs, 72-63. It isn’t often a team sextuples its output from one half to the next.

“It is without a doubt the strangest game I’ve ever been involved in,” Indiana State coach Royce Waltman told the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. “In the history of basketball, I wonder if that’s ever been done in one game.”

• • •

There was no particular point to that last item. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use the word “sextuples.”

• • •

Public service announcement: CCM, the hockey gear company, is holding an Alex Ovechkin Nickname Contest. Fans of the Caps’ sensational rookie can submit their entries online at ccmsports.com; after the March 12 cutoff date, Ovechkin will pick his five favorites, and then fans can vote at the same Web site for their preferred nickname. The winner will receive hockey equipment and get to meet Alex.

• • •

A nickname for Alex Ovechkin … hmmm, let’s see:

1. The Gr-Eight One.

2. Instant O.

3. The Russian Revelation. (Russian Revolution — get it?)

4. The Czar.

5. Alexander Goalzhenitsyn.

• • •

Speaking of Ovechkin, I keep waiting for somebody in his cheering section to hold up a sign that says:

“Pittsburgh’s Got Crosby, But We’ve Got Hope.”

• • •

The Sunday Column bids a fond farewell to Dennis Weaver — not just because he was a likeable actor (“Gunsmoke,” “McCloud”), but because the claims in his obituary about his athletic exploits turn out to be true, believe it or not.

Weaver, a University of Oklahoma track man, did indeed finish sixth in the decathlon at the 1948 U.S. Olympic trials. His 6,566 points left him 658 behind winner Bob Mathias, who went on to capture the gold medal. And get this: William Weaver, as he was known back then (Dennis was his middle name), beat Mathias in two events and tied him in two others. The specifics:

• Long jump — Weaver 221/4, Mathias 21-65/8.

• High jump — Weaver 6 feet, Mathias 6 feet.

• Pole vault — Weaver 11-6, Mathias 11-6.

• 1,500 meters — Weaver 4:34.8, Mathias 4:55.7.

Weaver won the 1,500-meter race and shared first in the pole vault. And he might have scored better, but “a severe thunderstorm made a swamp of the midfield where the field events were held,” the New York Times reported, “and the pole vault … runway was thick mud. … For more than an hour the meet was delayed.”

It was Weaver’s performance in the shot put, discus and javelin that kept him from going to London later that summer. But he seems to have recovered nicely — if his three Emmy nominations (and one award) are any indication.

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Too bad Dennis was too old for “Battle of the Network Stars,” that celebrity track meet staged by ABC in 1976 (by which time he was 52). I would have loved to see him blow away Telly Savalas in the 100 meters.

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Answer to trivia question: The three A-10 teams to advance to the NCAA tournament with only one loss were Temple, 1988 (29-1 record; lost to Duke, 63-53 in East Regional final); Massachusetts, 1996 (31-1; lost to Kentucky, 81-74, in Final Four); and St. Joseph’s, 2004 (27-1; lost to Oklahoma State, 64-62, in East Regional final).

• • •

And finally …

A study by a New York research firm finds that interruptions eat up a quarter of the workday.

A quarter of the workday? That’s the most ridiculous thing I ever … Hang on a second, ESPN just flashed a “Priority Score Alert.”

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