Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Galactic Core

One of the coolest things I have seen in a long time

A photog at the 2009 Texas Star Party in Fort Davis Texas took the incredible sequence of images above, check the original video here and read through the comments to see how he did it, it has to do with disabling a stock lens filter for one that permits hydrogen alpha infrared, as the party nears dawn the Milky Way rises with the galactic center displayed prominently. If you have ever been out in true darkness and seen the galaxy and the satellites above then you will appreciate this, what you see in this video could not have been visible to the naked eye.

Enjoy your Saturday, I am currently unemployed and sequestered in a remote cabin in Cecil County Maryland with a stash of whiskey and surrounded by Eagles fans, feel free to drop a comment or send an email with one liners for the Philadelphia crowd.

Vimeo embed from here, Vimeo is the service I prefer over YouTube, to get a look at any of the 100+ videos I have posted on Vimeo, have a look here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thank You James Thrash

Real Redskin

Though Jon Jansen was technically the longest tenured Redskin at the time of his release in May having been with the team since 1999, James Thrash was the senior Redskin. Now James has been released, unable to pass a phyiscal and the team needs to move on. James had not participated in June OTAs with a bulging disc in his neck, foreshadowing the injury that would end his tenure with the team.

James was an undrafted free agent out of Missouri Southern University in 1997, the Philadelphia Eagles originally signed him in April of 1997, then released him in July just before training camp. Three days later James was signed by the Redskins.

James played his first four seasons for the Redskins, mainly as a reserve, his breakout year came in 2000 when he started nine games and caught 50 passes for 653 yards and two touchdowns, James was moved up in the depth chart when receiver Michael Westbrook tore knee ligaments in the game two against Detroit.

In the 2001 offseason James signed a five year deal with the Eagles as a free agent and returned to the team that cut him before rookie training camp and spent three seasons there, statistically his best years were in Philadelphia, James was part of three straight NFC Championship teams as an Eagle. When Philadelphia made their move in the 2004 offseason and signed receiver Terrell Owens, the team traded James back to the Redskins for a fifth round pick in the 2005 NFL draft, a pick the Eagles shrewdly used to select defensive end Trent Cole, a leading Eagle to this day.

I asked lifetime Eagles fan, season ticket holder and Curly R reader/lurker Wilbert Montgomery for his take on James' time in Philadelphia. Here is what he had to say:

I liked the guy... [James] worked hard in practice and in games and brought very little ego to the game. I wish there were more guys like him at the skill positions in the NFL.

Curly R aside: read into these Eagle fan comments what you will considering that James was directly replaced in 2004 by Terrell Owens, who seems to be the opposite of this description of James Thrash.

In Joe Gibbs' second go round with the team starting in 2004, James would join receivers Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner and would play a different role, one he would continue through last season: the gutty guy.

In the five seasons, 2004 through 2008, James played in his second stint with the Redskins, he never caught more than seventeen passes, and only caught nine each of his past two. His role evolved into so much more, and he became a glue for this team:

The big play. The Redskins have never been able to find a suitable complement to receiver Santana Moss. Antwaan Randle El became a role player and none of the legion of receivers tried out or signed by the Redskins the past five seasons was able to displace James as number three. If Santana or Antwaan got dinged and came out of the game, or if you ever found yourself yelling at the TV, we could really use a big play here, it was usually James Thrash that went downfield and out of character, gave up the body and made the play. Some examples:

2008 game eight at Lions: second quarter, Lions lead 10-3, Redskins ball at the Washington 17 with 36 seconds left in the half, on third and nineteen Jason Campbell goes deep to James for 29 yards, the Redskins are able to hang on and score a field goal as the half expires to cut the Lions lead to 10-6.

2007 game nine versus Eagles: in a barnburner at home James catches two second quarter 31 yard bombs from Jason Campbell before pulling in his second touchdown reception of the game to put the Redskins ahead 12-7.

2006 game eight versus Cowboys: with no timeouts and the game tied 19 all in the fourth quarter, two minutes left in the game and the Redskins at midfield, Mark Brunell finds James short over the middle on third and seven, James crosses and reaches for seventeen yards to keep the drive alive and set up a tying field goal try.

Blocking. It had almost become a caricature the past three seasons, when you saw James Thrash in the game, that usually meant run play. An outstanding blocker at the line and downfield, James helped spring his teammates and particularly Clinton Portis. Even when you knew James was in the game as a blocker he was still going to knock your ass down.

Special teams. Back with Rock Cartwright on nearly every kickoff and rushing downfield on kickoffs and punts, James knew the value of hustle. Even as he became less valuable to the team as a receiver he maintained a key role on a unit where youth dominates and future starters are stashed.

James finishes his playing career with the Redskins having played nine seasons, played in 118 games, starting 24 of them, caught 126 passes for 1620 yards and pulled in seven touchdowns, made countless blocks and had limitless hustle.

Good luck, we will miss you James, thank you for all you did for the Washington Redskins.

James Thrash celebrating a touchdown early last season in Dallas: AP photo from here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Anything for a Buck - Part Two

You have more, you want more

Now that the NFL is legally cleared to get in the lottery game, would the Redskins play it as an investment in the community, or as Dollar Days at the used car lot? Curly R's two part series on the lottery and the Redskins concludes.

Part One: The Lottery Is a Regressive Tax on the Poor
Part Two: "Redskins fans and lottery fans have an awful lot in common"


The Redskins were the second team to announce a partnership with a state lottery agency, behind the New England Patriots by a day which I am sure infuriated Dan Snyder, and in making the announcement the team played the event as it would an impact player signing or new coaching hire, with Super Bowl trophies and cheerleaders on display.

There were even Redskins players on hand, the two mentioned by the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg were tailback Clinton Portis and tight end Chris Cooley.

The lottery game itself, if you can call a scratch off card a game, is called Redskins Mania and it costs twenty dollars (op. cit.). The prizes range from twenty dollars to one million dollars, if you exclude zero dollars as a prize that is. According to the announcement on the team's website the odds of winning a million dollars are one in 1.3 million, with the overall odds of winning any cash prize one in 2.78. Second chance drawings, in other words drawings for those non winning tickets, include a bevy of prizes, from season tickets to a road trip with the team to Dallas to a luxury suite and more.

According to the Post, five percent, or one dollar, of the twenty dollar cost of the ticket is to pay for overhead (op. cit.). The NFL licensing cost was not called out in the break down, I would assume that cost is a part of overhead, so the team gets some part of a dollar with every ticket sold in Virginia.

And the funny thing is, as usual, the team and the league tried to play it straight and yielded no hint of irony in the coverage, no sense of awareness that any remaining shreds of morality on gambling issues had burned off and that all that remained was rank hypocrisy.

Wait, I take that back, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell telling a reporter that the league does not want to be all quote high and mighty unquote about gambling is a bit ironic, Roger and the league now want to parse words Bill Clinton style, the meaning of the word is is kind of stuff, see the league wants to discourage betting of the type the is dependent upon the outcome of a game and well, these scratchers are just games of chance with no connection to actual on the field action of the NFL.

Except for Nevada where you can sit all day in a sports book and bet on NFL games, straight up, against the spread, in a parlay, over/under, the list goes on. Shit if you are in a Nevada sports book on Super Bowl Sunday you can bet on who wins the coin toss and whether the first play from scrimmage is a run or a pass.

So what is good for Nevada is not good for the rest of the country. Why then do we not see or hear the league railing against the spread makers? Surely the league does not pretend that the ESPN and Yahoo pick 'em pools around the country are run for fun, do they?

Note to the NFL: you worry about your players and the quality of the product, I will worry about whether betting on a game is a good idea.

There were also some tasteless comments from the Redskins players in attendance, even if they were said in jest and the medium of the written word adjusted for Dan Steinberg's delivery does not convey this sense, these rich young men should know where to draw the line in comments.

When a question in the Redskins press conference asked about the absence of player likenesses on the ticket, both Clinton Portis and Chris Cooley lobbied for the endorsement and the money that would come with it. Clinton even went on to say he needed to scratch himself a winner so he can give it all up and move to some remote island and live in luxury.

In a time when national umployment is rounding ten percent these two guys, Clinton's 2009 salary number is over six million dollars, Chris's is over three million dollars, the median income in 2007, the last year nationwide numbers were available, was just over fifty thousand dollars, meaning Chris' salary number this year is 60 times what the average American makes and Clinton's is 120x, these guys are out there joking about using the NFL's partnership with a public entity to score some endorsement dollars and pretend at needing a lotto score to give it all up and lead the good life.

Dudes, you already won the lottery, you are star NFL players. There is a whole class of people in this country that play the lottery every day out of desperation and you are making fun of them.

Note to Redskins officials re: code of conduct for any and all events featuring players and or team officials where economic disparities between league entities and players and the fans that enjoy the sport or the target audience of the next shiny object with a licensed NFL logo on it may be highlighted: make them wear dark suits, stand silently for the event and if there is any opportunity for the representative to speak, words should be limited to benefits accrued to the community and public causes through the team's engagement. References to money, having lots and or needing more should be avoided.

Altered Virginia Lottery logo from here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rooney Rule Tokenism Heading in the Wrong Direction

Enough already

Last month at the NFL owner's meetings in California a topic came up: the Rooney Rule. For those that are not familiar with the rule, Curly R has weighed in with a definition and opinion on the efficacy of the rule, here is the summary:

Before the 2003 season the owners implemented a rule requiring all teams to interview one minority candidate whenever there was a head coaching vacancy, which meant basically any one of a bunch of black guys or Norm Chow. As the sport has continued to evolve and now black head coaches and black quarterbacks are not viewed as odd any longer, the rule has created a class of perpetual bridesmaids for interview fodder. Teams can still get the coach they have targeted simply by interviewing one of them. For more detail on the background and the real world problems with the rule, click back through the Curly R link above.

Now the league in its continuing attempt to look egalitarian while not really acting egalitarian is implementing the rule requiring minority candidate interviews for open general manager positions.

By my estimation the Rooney Rule has not been a success at the head coaching level and so what makes dear reader think it will be useful a step closer to ownership? Just more uncomfortable check the box interviews. Remember all those times in high school you thought your parents could not tell you had been out drinking and smoking? Well they totally could and in the same way a guy can tell in five seconds if he is a quota interview and it must be humiliating to know you are just sitting in the room because you are black and have no chance at the job to boot. Ask Denny Green about his interview with Jerral W. Jones for the Cowboys position in 2003.

The questions about this potential rule would be long and start with, how do you define that position? Would Vinny Cerrato qualify as the quote general manager unquote despite not having the title? We would be ok any way because Vinny is eye talyun (kidding!) How about Jerral W. Jones? He is the owner and general manager, what would he have to do? It seems to me that the definition of the general manager position is a lot less clear than the definition of the head coaching position. Some of these questions are addressed in the new rule, there will no doubt be others.

Let the teams have who they want, work to promote the best people, put in place development plans and do not get pissed when paranoid billionaires only hire the people they know.

End the rule.

Photo of Dan Rooney from here

Anything for a Buck - Part One

A lesson in economics at no additional charge

Last month NFL owners voted to permit NFL owners to create marketing partnerships with state lottery agencies, states may now make and sell scratch off tickets with NFL logos on them and the NFL teams may now pimp them out and collect a share of the sale. Today The Curly R begins a two part series exploring the role of the lottery in society and how completely oblivious the league, the Redskins and some well compensated Redskins players are to that role.

Part One: The Lottery Is a Regressive Tax on the Poor
Part Two: "Redskins fans and lottery fans have an awful lot in common"


Anyone that saw the movie Reality Bites will appreciate how hard it is to define irony, Wikipedia seems to be pretty close:

... all senses of irony revolve around the perceived notion of an incongruity between what is expressed and what is intended, or between an understanding or expectation of a reality and what actually happens, "when the literal truth is in direct discordance to the perceived truth."

I got a whiff of some pretty strong irony in coverage of the richest NFL franchise's new partnership with the Virginia Lottery.

Let us start at the top. Last month the Delaware state Supreme Court ruled that the state of Delaware could legalize and regulate betting via sports book, as is only the case now in Nevada. The NFL argued, hilariously, that more betting would not be good for sports in general and has threatened a lawsuit to prevent Delaware from instituting a form of gambling that would entitle the league to zero dollars.

And then rushed to embrace another form of gambling (op. cit.), one that the league could get a cut of: lottery tickets.

Let me be clear on one thing: the lottery is a regressive tax. Pure and simple, case closed. A quick primer on taxation:

A progressive tax costs you more the more income you take in. Think income tax. The more money you make the higher the percentage of your income is paid in taxes.

A regressive tax costs you more the less income you take in. Think motor vehicle registration fee. In Virginia registering a car is a flat $38.75. If you took home one thousand dollars in pay that week, equivalent to about an eighty thousand dollar a year job, it cost you 3.9 percent of your income that week to register your car. If on the other hand you took home two thousand dollars in pay that week, equivalent to about a 160 thousand dollar a year job, that same registration cost you 1.9 percent of your income that week.

Progressive taxes by definition take more from those that can most easily afford it. Regressive taxes tend to do the exact opposite, that is take from those that can least afford it. Fold in economic freedoms consistent with income levels and things like fast food, cigarettes and alcohol have regressive taxation components.

And so we come back to lotteries. A lottery is a form of taxation. From the Tax Foundation's excellent 2005 piece State-Run Lotteries as a Form of Taxation:

Lottery proponents argue that a tax is a mandatory or compulsory payment, and playing the lottery is voluntary, so lottery revenue cannot be a tax. But they're confusing the purchase of a product with the payment of the tax on the product. True, the purchase of a lottery ticket is voluntary, but the tax portion of the ticket price is not, just as a sales or excise tax is compulsory on a voluntary purchase of alcohol, clothing or books. The voluntary nature of the purchase does not make the tax any less of a tax. Using the lottery supporters’ rationale, we’d have to say that because the purchase of a book is voluntary, the sales tax on the book is not really a tax. Just try to buy a $20 book and hand the cashier a $20 bill, but refuse to pay the $1 sales tax and leave the store with book in hand. The only difference between the lottery tax and sales or excise taxes is that the lottery tax is built into the price of the ticket, rather than reported separately.

At the heart of the spurious if-it’s-voluntary-it-can’t-be-a-tax argument is the assumption that, since the lottery is a recreational activity rather than a necessity, only people who can afford it and enjoy it—those who are willing and able to pay —will participate. Presumably, government revenue that is contributed enthusiastically and voluntarily is preferable to revenue that is contributed under duress. This argument seems to suggest that the lottery is akin to a sort of user fee, or a charge paid to the government for a specific service, by the people who use that service.

The tax portion of the ticket the piece is referring to is the promised chunk of the ticket cost that is going to some pledged state cost center, in Virginia's case fifteen percent, to schools. Although state agencies, pro-lottery groups and flat tax proponents do not classify the funds as taxation, the US Census Bureau classifies the fees usable by states resulting from lottery sales in the same category as proceeds from the sale of US postage, tolls from bridges and roads, usage fees from public facilities such as parking, parks or campgrounds and tuition in excess of costs from public institutions of higher learning.

As any fair minded person will agree over the past ten years as quote taxes unquote have remained low and resulting structural budget gaps at all levels of government have developed, these user fees, including the aforementioned vehicle registration, fishing and hunting permits, business permits and others have moved to the forefront of local revenue generation and can no longer be considered as not taxes.

As a fixed fee device the lottery is a regressive tax. When a higher income person purchases a lottery ticket it is less money out of his pocket proportionately than that of a lower income person.

Now incorporate the notion that lotteries disproportionately serve the lower economic rungs with promises of quick income. Those with sufficient education generally understand, even if they choose to continue playing, the chances for a large score are stacked heavily against the player, and those with sufficient income are not as susceptible to the lure of something for nothing. Sure rich people buy lottery tickets too, the caricature of the working class stiff buying a lottery ticket to go with his headbanger of beer and pack of generic smokes is based in reality, go hang out at a Washington area 7-11 if you do not think so.

So add this all up senior project style and in the lottery you have a regressive tax whose burden is more pronounced the further you go down the economic ladder.

So now with the NFL authorizing team owners to negotiate with state lottery boards, arrangements that are expected to bring in more than a million dollars in additional revenue to the teams (op. cit.), to paraphrase a political cartoon of yore, now your regressive tax on the poor comes in Redskins and Ravens!

Anything for a Buck concludes tomorrow with Part Two, "Redskins fans and lottery fans have an awful lot in common."

Altered Virginia Lottery logo from here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Here's to Nancy Cooley

He may be our star tight end but he's still her baby

Last week the Washington Post ran an enterprise story on Nancy Cooley, mother of Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, and her battle with breast cancer. She is going public with it now, after a year long battle that has included chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and reconstructive breast surgery.

Yes Chris used his connections to ensure Nancy had the shortest path to treatment and despite my liberal desire to crow about the thousands of new breast cancer cases every year and where is their famous son, the simple fact of the matter is when it is your mom you will do anything to protect her. Good for Chris and Tanner to get her what she needed. You or I would do the same thing.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation exists to help bridge that gap with research grants and public awareness. The Komen Foundation is one of the highest profile and highest rated charities in the world and stories of hope like Nancy Cooley's help to elevate the profile of breast cancer in society and those efforts are bettered by Nancy's willingness to tell her story.

Get better Nancy.

Tanner, Nancy and Chris Cooley: Tracey A. Woodward / Washington Post photo from here.

Flat Busted

Th-th-that's all folks

Poke another hole in the emperor's cloak of Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Six Flags, the amusement park group chaired by Dan has finally declared bankruptcy. As of yesterday the company has declared assets worth an estimated 3 billion dollars but only has a market value of 26 million dollars.

So not only is the company not worth the land, buildings and equipment and business prospects that constitute the enterprise, it is worth less than nine one thousandths of one percent of all that. And that is mainly because the company is suffocating under the crushing burden of 2.4 billion dollars in debt.

And you thought your house was underwater.


Dan Snyder formed up Red Zone as his investment arm in 2004 to target media and entertainment properties, businesses that rely on consumers, despite Dan's expertise in business to business marketing. In August 2004 Red Zone acquired an 8.8 percent stake in Six Flags, the 8.15 million shares were bought by Red Zone for an estimated 34.5 million dollars, valuing the shares at roughly $4.23 per share, compare to the closing price on 30 August 2004.

By August of 2005 Red Zone had pumped its ownership stake in Six Flags to nearly 11 million shares, and while the share price had risen a dollar, Dan Snyder had spent the year complaining about Six Flags management and decided to launch a proxy battle for chairmanship of the company, through Red Zone Dan was offering $6.50 a share, a dollar higher than the previous day's close. He won, Dan was installed as chairman and former ESPN programming executive Mark Shapiro was installed as CEO.

Throughout the next year Dan Snyder and his team implemented their vision, and the company benefited, gaining millions in value even as Dan continued to stock the board of directors with allies. More than two billion in debt still hung over the company from previous management, alarming analysts. By April of 2006 Dan Snyder had convinced the new board of directors to reimburse him more than ten million dollars he spent during the proxy fight to take control. This number included the five million dollar signing bonus given to Mark Shapiro to leave ESPN, the same Mark Shapiro that in February of 2006 upon his first tour of Washington's Six Flags park in Largo Maryland had told a crowd of employees including maintenance workers that they could not expect raises because of the all that corporate debt. By June of 2006 as the season was heating up the company ran afoul of the ACLU with new restrictions on employee grooming, foreshadowing a hamhandedness in dealing with the predominantly black clientele and workforce in Prince George's County. By one year after the proxy battle began the stock had dropped fifty cents, and more than five dollars off the first of the year when Red Zone took charge.

In early 2007 Six Flags announced a new VIP access tier entitling participants to reserved parking, front of the line cuts on rides and private meetings with costumed characters. This policy is implemented with little sensitivity toward the demographic makeup of the county where the Washington area's park is located. In June a thirteen year old girl had her foot severed in the Kentucky Six Flags park. In December the Washington Post published a long report on the lack of federal oversight of amusement parks. Later that month the House of Representatives voted to kill a bill that would have placed amusement parks under the Consumer Products Safety Commission. The softening economy was beginning to take a toll on the business. By two years after the proxy battle began Six Flags stock price was down more than another half dollar to under four dollars per share.

The decline continued into 2008, even though attendance was on the way up so were operating deficits. Now the economic downturn was in full swing while gas prices for summer 2008 set records all over the country. Things were bad in the amusement park business and projected to get worse. That season the company put into place a new policy: no bags on rides, no matter how small. To facilitate this nominally safety oriented policy the parks put up temporary lockers at each ride, then touched up customers for one dollar a ride to stow their stuff. Short term lockers, if you leave your stuff there more than two hours the signs tell you plainly that your stuff will be thrown out. Little things like that piss off customers. To add insult to injury a fire broke out and severely damaged one of the attractions in the park in Largo Maryland in July. By three years after the proxy fight to install Dan Snyder as chairman had begun Six Flags share price had fallen more than 60 percent since the year before, down to $1.24 per share, more than five dollars less than Dan Snyder's offering price in the takeover.

Throughout 2009 the company had been trying to renegotiate with lenders, as the latest 175 million dollar interest payment loomed, a portion of the 2.4 billion dollars in debt mostly left over from the previous management, were scheduled to come due. The crashing economy made it impossible for the company to cannibalize itself further down the right size, there were no buyers for parks or unneeded real estate and no one to take an investment stake in the enterprise. In April of 2009 Six Flags was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. Now that the company is in bankruptcy it will be executing a prearranged plan to trim nearly two billion dollars in debt off its books and avoid nearly 300 million in preferred stock payments. A lot of investors are going to wake up tomorrow to see how hard they have been screwed. The stock closed Friday at 26 cents per share, Dan Snyder's shares are now worth just over six percent of what he paid for them in 2004.


Did Dan Snyder and Mark Shapiro drive the company into the ground with incompetence or hubris? Not really though they did not put themselves in the best position to succeed. What they did was make a bad investment, the company had too much debt and too many things would have had to break just right for the company to generate the kind of revenue needed to clear the debt load. From all indications this is a management team that was in over its head from the very beginning.

Six Flags logo with Bug Bunny attempting to escape from here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Stuff you can rent out and do with as you wish

As I was cleaning up some links from last month I came across an interesting tidbit, it would seem Major League Soccer's DC United is going to play a friendly with Real Madrid in August, and the game will not be at RFK Stadium, former home of the Redskins and current home to DC United. Rather, the game will be at FedEx Field, current home of the Redskins and sole property of Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

I thought that made sense, Real Madrid is hugely popular around the world, in a way that the Redskins and NFL teams are not and cannot be. RFK is old and with few amenities and seats nearly 50 thousand fewer fans than FedEx Field.

Then I caught this line in the Washington Post piece:

Other factors [in selecting FedEx Field over RFK] were FedEx's private boxes and amenities and the Washington Redskins' involvement, including access to the NFL team's season ticket list.

Did you read that Redskins season ticket holders? Dan Snyder pimped you out as a negotiable asset, Dan will be getting fees for hosting the game and United also likely threw in some scratch to be able to sell to the season ticket holders. For your position of privilege as a Redskins season ticket holder getting unsolicited offers you get a whole ten dollars off the full ticket price.

If I were the Redskins front office I would take care how I treat my season ticket holders and selling them out is not a way I would choose to do that. Redskins and NFL season ticket holders are already perennially pissed off over having to pay for meaningless preseason games as part of their package, you figure two tickets times two games times 75 dollars is 300 dollars off the top minimum on top of the eight regular season games. More seats, a third game, parking passes, more expensive seats and any of the other amenities you get to pay extra for just makes it worse.

And now they want to offer you a chance to pay another fifty bucks plus parking for a game right smack in the middle of that stretch of meaningless games you have to pay for anyway. Eureka.

My guess is that down in the fine print of the season ticket holder agreement you agreed to permit the team to share your contact information with marketing partners, and my guess is also that if this is the case most of you do not know about this.

Who else is Dan Snyder selling the Redskins season ticket list to? I guess Six Flags offers, Johnny Rockets coupons and ESPravada 980 special offers would be no brainers, Dan Snyder owns these enterprises. Anyone getting unexpected fundraising mailers from Republican candidates for office? Erectile dysfunction meds? Your local Chrysler dealer?

Another brilliant move Mr. Marketing Genius.

Chattel from here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Social Event Journal: Redskins Writers Night at the Ballpark, 6/10/2009

In the course of being and becoming The Curly R, I have had the excellent opportunity to meet many other Redskins fans and enthusiasts, a particular subset of which are the writers, bloggers and fan journalists who, like me have an emotional or economic interest in chronicling and analyzing everything Redskins, to an outsider it might appear that we harbor an unhealthy obsession, ascribing way too much significance to events that mean nothing in the grand scheme and lauding and criticizing people in the business of a game, people that for the most part make more money than most football fans will ever make, people that vary somewhere between indifference to the chatter and active antagonism toward the outside world.

Why exactly this is, why we care so much about a game that we have to tell you about it, that is another story. The upshot of this shared interest is that with the internet lowering the marginal cost of entry into the market for information, anyone with an opinion or story and access to a computer and the internet can publish it.

And so there is a community. As Curly R grew into something I decided to pursue past that first season in 2006, I began to make acquaintance with many of the other bloggers and a few of the beeg ah timers as well, Redskins blogfather Rich Tandler and I had bandied about for some time the notion of getting everyone together and so we finally set Saturday 10 June 2009 as the date, at Nationals Stadium, all the Redskins writers we could muster would get together at the ballpark and see the hometown Nationals take on the visiting Reds.

Ultimately we had seventeen RSVPs, representing fifteen outlets covering the Redskins, it took more than 150 emails to corral this bunch, and no small amount of browbeating to get some off their asses. Let me tell you what we did was well worth it and validated my belief that the Redskins writers are a pretty tight bunch...


The appointed day came, I bailed on work early and hit Metro out to the stadium.

The approach to Nationals Stadium from the Navy Yard Metro station.

It is a pretty hard up approach, bare pavement with scalpers, merch hawkers and smokers puffing up before going into the nonsmoking confines of the stadium. At some point when we get out of economic purgatory both sides of this approach will be sheathed in a comforting layer of upscale condos, retail and dining, think Rosa Mexicana, Coach and hairgelled douchebags rolling Beamers in and out of underground parking.

As you get closer to the stadium you begin to see that Washington baseball fans are a pretty homogeneous bunch. Also, this is the stadium main gate, the fact that it is a brand new state of the art venue is more or less hidden from views on approach. The round thing at top left is the roof of the Red Loft Bar, where we would spend the entire game.

From here the ticket holder enters into center field with diversions such as the PlayStation I can Jam Guitar Hero for Free All Night? Pavilion and the Build a Bear Ripoff Workshop on the left and private label concessions, including Red Hot and Blue Hold the Roaches Bar-B-Que and Hard Times Ah Fuck It Just Give Me the Oil and Meat Chili on the right. I headed straight to the bar.

Thomas Jefferson solemnly taking in pregame activities on the field.

Volunteers, prize winners, charity hawks and team employees dress up in giant headed costumes of Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, the four presidents on Mount Rushmore, and race from center field to first base every home game in the middle of the fourth inning.

Since this race began as an animated sequence on the retrofit big screens at RFK Stadium in 2005, it evolved into a live action event after the All-Star Break in 2006, Teddy Roosevelt has never won, the four year standings, according to Let Teddy Win are

Abraham Lincoln: 125 wins
George Washington: 80 wins
Thomas Jefferson: 76 wins
Teddy Roosevelt: zero wins

I have always believed Teddy never winning is a reflection of a generally held belief that he does not belong on Mount Rushmore.

The MASN team's pregame coverage. That is Thomas Jefferson in foreground, note George Washington and Abraham Lincoln at left beyond the booth and Teddy Roosevelt at right behind the pole.

Rich organized and we printed our own tickets and met up at the Red Loft Bar, the idea was meet up there, grab a drink and be social, then get a burger or a dog and get down to our right field seats, just below the Loft.

And so I headed upstairs for the bar where immediately I connected with our crew...

Michael Richman on left and David Elfin on right, Michael is author of The Redskins Encyclopedia and often seen or heard on local media and David is formerly of the Washington Times. Michael is dialed in to the Redskins experience, like the historian he is he was tempered in his comments about the 2008 team and 2009 prospects and David has been covering local sports so long talking to him can be awkward because he remembers everything you only read about.

Rich Tandler on the left and Mark Newgent on the right, Rich has been a Redskins season ticket holder since the 60s, runs Real Redskins, one of the oldest Redskins blogs on the internets and most recently, covers the Redskins for Comcast SportsNet. Mark runs the Redskins Examiner blog and like Rich has become a good friend through our mutual experiences covering the Redskins. Mark first reached out with extra tickets in the 2008 preseason and we have been fast friends since. Both of these guys know the Redskins inside out and I am proud to call them friends and blogbuds.

As the beers and whiskeys flowed the game may or may not have started behind us, more degenerate writers began to arrive...

Ken Meringolo at left, Michael Richman center and Kevin Ewoldt at right. Ken and Kevin are the second generation proprietors of Sports Blog Nation's Redskins entry, Hogs Haven and they are a frigging riot. They churn excellent content, get great interviews and exclusives and generally are awesome. I know a bunch of SBN bloggers and the company is lucky to have Ken and Kevin.

Mark and Tony Brown, who runs Hog Heaven, formerly an MVN blog, recently moved to the Bloguin network. Like Rich Tandler, Tony was an early supporter of Curly R and also like Rich has years more experience following the team than do I which makes them good sources for me and helps me keep things in perspective.

At this point we appeared to be reaching critical mass the real hanging out started...

Michael Richman's Redskins watch...

Tony Brown's Redskins belt, wish I had gotten a better photo...

Hogs Haven's Ken and Kevin, these guys were just getting started...

As we started getting into deeper conversation I thought it was time to break out the video camera...

video one top-----

video one bottom-----
Rich Tandler holds forth with me and Tony Brown over the potential for no salary cap and how the moving target of an uncapped year has benefited the Redskins. I ask a question about why, if the Redskins methods for snaking out of cap trouble year after year are so reliable, do other teams not pursue this strategy? Rich believes it is an access to cash situation and Tony thought it was evident that the Redskins were more willing to gamble on players. Whatever the actual reason the Redskins do it and most other teams do not, it would appear the team has a durable and repeatable model for kicking the salary can down the road in a manner that the bills never actually come due.

video two top-----

video two bottom-----
Ken and Kevin threw down for several rounds and we sort of looked around and realized it was the seventh inning and we had not even considered heading down to our seats.

video 3 top-----

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This video picks up with Rich telling the story of the 1979 Redskins season finale, a game played at Dallas, the winner of that game was division champ and in the playoffs, the loser would miss the playoffs. After taking an early lead the Redskins would ultimately lose the game to Roger Staubach and the Cowboys, yielding this iconic photograph of Joe Theismann leaving the field in dejection. That game is covered in the Washington Post's Redskins Book, as well as in Curly R's 2007 series on the Redskins coach at the time, Jack Pardee.

We also learn in this video that Tony Brown, living in Chicago at the time, had to drive an hour to a bar in Milwaukee to see that game, it being blocked by the Bears game that same day. And Mark Newgent betrays only a slight hint of bitterness as he describes Chicago as the city where all Big Ten grads go to get work, the city where dreams are swallowed whole.

Poop on this picture, if I had used flash this would be a better shot of Tony, Mark, Kevin, Ken and Rich. At this point the game going on behind us is in a rain delay and I am not sure we noticed.

Always the production nerd I could not resist getting a shot of the right field camera crew buttoned up for the rain. It was really starting to come down at this point.

We even had a late arrival, on the right that is Gary Fitzgerald, Redskins director of digital media and head writer at, Gary and I chatted for a good long while about what his job entails, some of the limiting realities and what it is like working on permanent staff as the public faces of the franchise change.

Proving how awesome he is, Ken Meringolo convinced these randoms to pose for a picture with him, I may have had something to do with that, the game behind us was halted but the booze was still flowing.

Ken and Gary Fitzgerald, at this point the rest of us have been pounding for almost four hours, I am sure Gary the late arriver was appalled by our state of sobriety.

Your author and Ken, at this point we were devolving into the youse guys are grate part of the night and Ken wanted to be sure I did not escape the camera.

The Nationals Stadium grounds crew tending to the tarp on the field, at this point the rain delay is nearing ninety minutes. The bar had stopped selling beer after the seventh inning as usual and no amount of sweet talking and pretty pleases would convince them to open it back up during the rain delay which in the grand scheme of things was probably a good thing.

Mark contemplating the continued rain delay and the long ride back to bumfuck Maryland still in front of him.

Finally at around a quarter to eleven pm with the game in rain delay for nearly two hours, Mark decides to bail, voluntarily dressing himself like a second grader at the bus stop.

The parting shot as I departed ten minutes after Mark, it was still raining and the game was still in delay, the stands were already empty when I left, the delay would last another fifty minutes until 11:40pm, the Nationals scored two runs in the resumed ninth inning before losing in the twelfth. Baseball owners will do anything to keep from giving away free baseball.

All in all this was an excellent adventure, I got to hang out with my blogbuds, I got to know some I only knew by name or by their work and made some new contacts in this business, a big thanks to everyone that came out, it was a lot of fun. We are already planning the 2010 Redskins Writers Night Out, date and location are still TBD, I will toss it up on the blog and maybe if you are there that night you can come over and we'll tip one back together.

Not pictured: Any of the other nine people that RSVP'd to the game, we never made it to our seats!

All pictures and video by me except for the one of Joe Theismann coming off the field, that one is from the Washington Post here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Confab 2Nite

Join us

Anyone going to the Washington Nationals versus Cincinnati Reds game tonight? The Redskins writers guild is convening the first annual Night Out at the Ballgame and we would love it if you came over and said hi. Our list so far:

Rich Tandler, Real Redskins
Rick Snider, Washington Examiner
Megan Snider, editor of Rich Tandler's book, The Redskins Chronicle
Mark Newgent, Redskins Examiner
Tony Brown, Hog Heaven
David Elfin, Washington Times
Ken Meringolo, Hogs Haven
Kevin Ewoldt, Hogs Haven
Mike Richman, The Redskins Encyclopedia
Lindsay King, All Hail Washington Redskins
Bryce Beckmann, All Hail Washington Redskins
Brian Murphy, Homer McFanboy
Gary Fitzgerald,
Tom Threlkeld, DC Pro Sports Report
Ben Folsom, Curly R

Maybe one or two others, you never know who you are going to run into with this bunch.

We are meeting up at the Red Loft bar inside the stadium before the game, come find us and let's talk Redskins offseason. Curly R will post a full report on tonight's event tomorrow, and I'll be packing a camera...

Nationals Stadium scoreboard from here.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Happy Birthday Santana Moss

Lights out

Please join me in wishing a hearty happy birthday to Redskins receiver Santana Moss, Santana turns 30 today, the big three oh.

Santana came from the New York Jets in a straight up trade for Laveranues Coles, himself acquired in 2003 from the Jets, Laveranues had battled through toe injuries his two years in Washington and wanted a big contract, Joe Gibbs and the Redskins were ready to move on and in March 2005 sent Laveranues back to New York in exchange for a four year receiver very much in the physical mold of Laveranues.

And Santana has been nothing like that other guy, quite the opposite, Santana has carved for himself a place in the pantheon of the greatest Redskins receivers. A threat any time he touches the ball and from anywhere on the field, in four seasons Santana Moss has electrified Redskins fans and confounded opponents.

He plays hurt, with no reliable foil at the other receiver spot he fights through double teams. He runs like a tailback in traffic and is not self conscious on the football field, as happy with a slant or receiver screen or end around as he is with the deep ball.

But it is the deep ball that is Santana's first love, he has given us some of the most thrilling moments as Redskins fans in recent years. The Monday night miracle in Dallas, game two of 2005, a game I am still ashamed to say I turned off before it was over (that was before DVR, luckily neighbor Bill recorded the fourth quarter before he turned in that night), a 39 yard catch and run and a 70 yard bomb from Mark Brunell, both in the fourth quarter to bring the Redskins back from 13-0 to win 14-13. Another one, 68 yards from Mark Brunell in overtime to beat the Jaguars in game four of the 2006 season. Send Santana deep and you have to account for him. Let us hope the Redskins can figure out how to use that to their advantage this year.

Santana Moss currently holds the Redskins single season receiving yards record with 1483 yards in 2005. It is his number I wear on gameday.

Happy birthday Santana!

Santana Moss scoring the winning touchdown in overtime against the Jaguars on 1 October 2006: Nick Waas / AP photo from here.

Monday, June 01, 2009

1000 Posts

Quadruple digits

The Curly R has passed another milestone, Saturday we published our one thousandth piece, thoughts on the nature of the Redskins team name in light of the recent court case. A year and a half ago we marked our 500th post and just over two and a half years ago we marked our first big milestone 100th piece with a diatribe that seems more pithy every time I read it.

To give our valued readers some perspective on the football content factory farm that is The Curly R, it took 97 days to get to 100 posts, 498 days to get to 500 posts and 1025 days to get to 1000 posts, we have been a one post per day outlet give or take three one hundredths of a post plus or minus for nearly three years. And it has been a pleasure every day to tell you about my favorite team.

The next publishing volume milestone we will mark will be 5000 posts, at the current annualized rate of posting that should occur on Friday 17 April 2020. Let us leave our time for a moment as we become futurists and ponder what will be the state of the world in eleven years.

My two seven year old first graders will have just turned eighteen and be getting ready to graduate from high school, assuming schools still exist after neural implants become mandatory in President Obama's third term. My nearly two year old will be nearly thirteen and preparing for hearings on his Supreme Court nomination.

I will be 50, Curly R will be in its fourteenth year. Wilbert Montgomery and I will have attended 41 of the previous 42 Redskins-Eagles games regardless of venue and 39 in a row for me, a streak going back at that point 21 years. Although hover flight vehicles will be popular by this point Philadelphia will be a no fly zone, having become essentially like Manhattan in Escape from New York.

Rich Tandler will still know more about the Redskins than I though it will have been years since anyone has seen him, leading to speculation that he finally managed to upload his mind directly into the internet.

Dan Snyder will still own the team but will be running it from a secret laboratory deep underground, and he will be quite mad from the years of trying to bioengineer the perfect Redskin player. The irony of future history will of course be that Dan perfected the process a decade earlier but because he lets them all go in free agency he has inadvertently stocked the entire league with genetic Alphas and the Redskins cannot maintain an advantage.

To cope with the shrinking season ticket waiting list and to avoid regional blackouts the Redskins in 2018 will offer fans a new tier of service: place a multi year deposit on seats now and at no extra charge the team will place you in cryogenic suspension until Washington opens a season 3-0. Tony Brown will mock the plan mercilessly until 2020 when he runs out of patience and opts for the freezer. Greg Trippiedi, frustrated at an inability to convey his depth of analysis by conventional means, will finally invent a new language consisting entirely of grunts, clicks and John Madden soundbites.

At a Popeye's in Baltimore Mark Newgent will bite into a biscuit, the buttery goodness of which will reach his soul and reduce him to tears, he will become a champion of socialism and redistributive economic policies and go on to become President Olbermann's Chief of Staff.

FedEx Field will be a blasted pile of rubble, picked over and inhabited by cannibal cults yet we will still sit in traffic to go there and pay twenty Euros for a gluten free chemically neutral fermented beverage to suck through our oral sphincters while those still with sight describe the moving tableau of the current Redskins coach being summarily executed after each loss before the next coach is selected at random from the crowd. This will still be preferable to traveling a mile underwater to see the Giants play.

The new new Cowboys stadium will be constructed entirely of scar tissue from Jerry Jones' plastic surgeries. Roger Goodell will have a player caned publicly for refusing to buy Girl Scout cookies. The Washington Post will not employ any Redskins beat writers, instead throwing up an open thread on the website every day with the headline, Today the Redskins --. Something something West Coast Offense. Something something Chuck and Duck.

And here is one to ponder: somewhere right now there is a fifth grader that will grow up to become the Redskins best rookie player of the 2020 season.

Thanks for reading.

1000 from here.