- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2011

Yes, The Washington Times sports pages are back - and so am I. It might surprise you to learn that when we published our “Farewell” edition on New Year’s Day 2010, the section wasn’t really buried. No, it was cryogenically frozen, wheeled off to Ted Williams Land - which is good news, come to think of it, for fans of the Splendid Splinter. After all, if we’ve been defrosted, maybe someday he will, too.

By the way, I just did the math. The sports section has been gone for 444 days - exactly how long the 52 Americans were held hostage in Iran. When I look back on this time, I keep coming to the same conclusion: Boy, they were a great 444 days to miss. I’m not sure, in fact, that there have been a better 444 days to miss since this newspaper was born.

Not to reopen old wounds, but much horror has been visited on Washington, sportswise, in the 15 months since these pages were put on ice. Allow me to conduct a brief - and by no means all-inclusive - review:

• Gilbert Arenas, the face of the Wizards, was suspended for 50 games for channeling Wild Bill Hickok.

• Albert Haynesworth, the highest paid defensive player in NFL history, wheezed his way through a conditioning test and balked at playing nose tackle.

• Nine seconds into the second quarter, the scoreboard at FedEx Field read: Eagles 35, Redskins 0.

• Tiger Woods, host of the local PGA Tour event - and a golfer of some repute - hit what might be described as a rough patch.

• D.C. United couldn’t score a goal in 17 of their 30 games (calling into serious question the notion that even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then).

How bad were the past 444 days? So bad that even good things were followed, all too quickly, by bad things.

• Dan Snyder hired back-to-back Super Bowl winner Mike Shanahan to rescue the Redskins, but the team still wound up in last place in the NFC East.

• The Capitals finished with the best record in the NHL, only to get knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.

• Stephen Strasburg made an electric debut with the Nats, striking out 14 Pirates, but needed Tommy John surgery 61 innings later.

• The Wizards lucked into the first pick in the draft, took point guard deluxe John Wall and proceeded to lose their first 25 road games, four shy of the NBA record.

• Maryland’s basketball team, despite sharing the 2010 regular-season ACC title with Duke, couldn’t get past the second round of the NCAA tournament.

• The Terps football team had a bounce-back 9-4 season behind freshman quarterback Danny O’Brien, the conference Rookie of the Year, but coach Ralph Friedgen was fired, anyway.

There isn’t enough space in this column to catalogue all the catastrophes of the last 444 days. (You’ll note, for example, that I haven’t even touched on Nats center fielder Nyjer Morgan’s temporary insanity last season). Fortunately, there are signs the worm is turning. George Mason’s hoops team recently put together a 16-game winning streak to set a school mark. The Caps, meanwhile, just strung together nine victories to grab the division lead.

And now The Washington Times has restored its sports section. Sports editor Mike Harris and his deputy, Marc Lancaster, have assembled a staff of full-timers and correspondents with a nice mix of youth, experience and expertise. Some of the names you’ll recognize: Patrick Stevens (Terps); Steve Whyno (Caps), Gene Mueller (Lord of the Outdoors), Dick Heller (The Way It Was), Patrick Hruby (features). It’s great to have them back.

Others - Carla Peay (Wizards), Amanda Comak (Nats), Nathan Fenno (Georgetown/enterprise) and Deron Snyder (columns) - you’ll be getting to know in the months and years ahead. Rest assured our mission is the same as it’s always been: to inform, to entertain, to rattle cages and, as much as anything, to find the fun in these sports we all love. It’s the only way to build a readership: two eyeballs at a time.

Let’s get to it, shall we?



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