- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nice of the NHL to squeeze Alex Ovechkin, the best player in hockey, into the All-Star Game. Guess the league thinks the Capitals’ 64-29-10 record since November 2007 is some kind of typographical error.


The starting lineups break down like this: four Canadiens, two Penguins, three Blackhawks and three Ducks.

The fans haven’t just spoken, they’ve quacked.


Their goal next year, I hear, is to elect a couple of Cleveland Barons and at least one California Golden Seal.


It’s pretty clear now why the Caps didn’t match Chicago’s offer to Cristobal Huet. The guy can’t play outdoors.


Can you believe John Smoltz is leaving the Braves after 21 seasons to play for the Red Sox?

It’s as if, years ago, Hume Cronyn decided to dump Jessica Tandy.

(All those decades together - and suddenly there are irreconcilable differences?)


Just wondering: Has anybody ever spent that long with a team and then left voluntarily as a free agent?

Some quick research shows Hank Aaron left the Braves after 21 seasons, but he was traded to the Brewers so he could finish his career whence it began, in Milwaukee.

Then there’s Phil Niekro, but he was released by the Braves after 20 seasons and subsequently signed with the Yankees.

Another example: Willie Mays was dealt to the Mets in his 22nd season with the Giants - but again, that was a trade.

Maybe Smoltz has broken new ground here.


Speaking of the Sox, if minor league prospect Daniel Bard is scheduled to pitch to Josh Bard at any point this season, they should move the game to Avon, Conn.


The Browns have fired one former Bill Belichick assistant, Romeo Crennel, and replaced him with another, Eric Mangini. And if Mangini doesn’t work out, well, maybe Charlie Weis will be available by then.


Bill Romanowski, meanwhile, has reportedly expressed interest in the Broncos’ coaching job - further proof that steroids cause brain damage.


Who do you suppose Romo would bring in as defensive coordinator, his anger management counselor?


Can’t make up my mind which was more futile - the Cowboys, trailing 44-3 in the fourth quarter, kicking a field goal against the Eagles in the regular-season finale, or South Carolina, trailing 31-7 in the fourth quarter, booting a field goal against Iowa in the Outback Bowl.

It’s a tough call, you have to admit. The particulars:

— The Cowboys faced a fourth-and-15 at the Philadelphia 24 with 7:49 left. But get this: After Nick Folk booted a 42-yarder, they didn’t even bother to onside kick!

— The Gamecocks - coached by a fellow named Spurrier - had a fourth-and-10 at the Iowa 31 with 2:02 left. After Ryan Succup was good from 48 yards, they DID attempt an onside kick - and recovered it.

Sorry, but I’d have to say Dallas registers higher on the Futility Meter. South Carolina, after all, was just playing in a dead-end bowl game. The Cowboys were shooting for the NFC’s final playoff berth.


Random thoughts about the BCS national title game:

— Was anyone else annoyed by Oklahoma’s offensive routine - line up quickly, then pause and look to the sideline for the play? It was like watching Sergio Garcia stand over a golf ball a few years back - constantly regripping his club, unable (or unwilling) to start his swing.

— Florida’s Percy Harvin is a lot like Reggie Bush - except he doesn’t need a compass to figure out which direction is north.

— Some athletes are simply born at the wrong time. If Tim Tebow had come along in the 1920s, when the single wing was in fashion and players went both ways, he’d probably be considered the greatest football player ever - college or pro.

— There have been whispers Urban Meyer might wind up at Notre Dame (eventually), but I’d rather see Jerry Jones hire him in Dallas. Then we could nickname him Urban Cowboy.


Just for laughs, somebody in Salt Lake City should start selling those gigantic foam fingers the fans love to wave - except with TWO digits raised instead of one. In the last dozen years, the Utah Utes have finished second in both the football polls and the NCAA basketball tournament - and also produced the second pick in the NBA Draft (Keith Van Horn, 1997).


Of course, the school also turned out the first pick in the NFL draft (Alex Smith, 2005), but who’s counting?


ACC commissioner John Swofford, one of the BCS honchos, on complaints about Utah’s exclusion from the championship game: “We’re not out there trying to test the antitrust laws of the United States of America.”

To which I reply: That’s because you’re too busy testing our labor laws by exploiting athletes who have no collective voice in how they’re treated.


After Boston College fired Jeff Jagodzinski for interviewing with the Jets, Mark Blaudschun of the Boston Globe wrote: “Initially, [BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo] felt like Michael Corleone in ‘The Godfather’ when he learned his brother Fredo had betrayed him… Remember that scene when Michael told Fredo: ‘You’re nothing to me now … not a brother, not a friend.’”

Let’s hope DeFilippo didn’t kiss Jagodzinski on the lips - the way Michael did to Fredo - when he found out about his coach’s deception.


Turning to hoops, Dikembe Mutombo has come out of retirement at the age of 42 and rejoined the Rockets. I’m beginning to think Dikembe wants to be the first NBA player to play in three millennia.


And finally …

The 2009 PGA Tour got under way in Hawaii this week with the Mercedes-Benz Championship - or as I like to call it, the Global Warming Invitational.

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