Writing can be difficult when you're all thumbs

February 22, 2004|by MARK KELLER

It's time for another installment of "Thumbs up, thumbs down," an occasional semi-regular feature in this space.

Let's get to it.

  • Thumbs DOWN to obnoxious Redskins fans. Yes, your team will be better with Joe Gibbs as the coach. Yes, you will have more to cheer about this season than you have in recent seasons. But don't send off for your Super Bowl tickets yet.

    Of all the problems the Redskins had last season, coaching probably ranked fifth. There's still plenty of work to be done before Washington unseats New England as world champions, as one D.C. radio station implied would happen this season in a commercial that aired last week.

    Celebrate the fact that one of the greatest coaches ever has returned to lead your team, but don't view that as a step into the express lane back to the top of the league. The Redskins have been mired in mediocrity too long for that.

  • Thumbs DOWN to coaches and players who use the ultimate cop-outs after sticking their foot halfway down their throat: "I was misquoted" and "That was taken out of context."

    The latest to pull ol' reliable out of the bag is Gary Barnett, the coach in the middle of the sex and rape scandals that surround the Colorado football team.

    After he was placed on administrative leave late Wednesday evening, Barnett apologized for his comments about Katie Hnida, a former kicker on the Colorado team - now at New Mexico - who says she was raped by a teammate in 2000.

    He also said his remarks about her abilities as a player had been taken out of context or misinterpreted.

    His remarks?

    "It was obvious Katie was not very good. She was awful. Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible. OK? There's no other way to say it."

    Ohhh, OK. Now that I see it in that ... nope, I still can't see how those words could be misinterpreted.

    Reporters take enough abuse without coaches who pass off the blame every time they speak before they think.

  • Thumbs UP to spring training. Baseball is just around the corner.

  • Thumbs DOWN to Major League Baseball. Though I still love and watch the game, things are out of hand when the left side of the Yankees infield makes more money in one season than some entire teams.

    I'm trying not to sound like Red Sox owner John Henry, but there must be a salary cap if baseball ever wants to get things back in line. There needed to be a salary cap 10 years ago when a strike cancelled the World Series and there needed to be a salary cap imposed in 2001 when the latest collective bargaining agreement was approved.

    The Yankees' trade for Alex Rodriguez is not the move that should trigger such talk. It's simply the latest "rich getting richer" sign that it should have been done a long time ago.

  • Thumbs UP to the MPSSAA for moving the state wrestling tournament to University of Maryand's Cole Field House. The change of venue from McDaniel College will alleviate a terrible parking situation and, well, there's just something special about competing for a state championship at the state university.

  • Thumbs DOWN to the Washington Capitals. Trading Jarmoir Jagr was one thing, but casting off Peter Bondra, the team's all-time leading scorer, is another.

    For years, Bondra was the one shining star for an offense that was mostly offensive. He was the only Capital who was a serious scoring threat when he had the puck in the offensive end.

    Bondra does have a shot at winning a Stanley Cup title in Ottawa, something he rarely had a realistic chance at doing in Washington. But at what price?

    Bondra didn't seem thrilled about leaving the Caps. Fans certainly aren't happy to see him go after he did so much for the team for 14 years.

    Why not move Robert Lang, one of the top scorers in the league this season, instead? His tenure with the Caps is much shorter than Bondra's and he's younger. Given the year Lang's having, he might even bring more in return.

    Lang might still be moved, as may Olie Kolzig - another fan favorite.

    I guess in the long run it might not even matter. If the NHL locks out players in September and the labor discord drags on for months, a team like the Capitals - which is losing money quickly - might not even exist.

    That would be a major thumb down.

  • Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail.His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at

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