White House vs. Fox News is so last month. The final health care throw-down in the Senate hasn't quite arrived. But not since the Bob McDonnell-Creigh Deeds beatdown last month have we had a fresh, juicy political feud for the average Metro rider to talk about and take sides. Fortunately, the D.C. sports scene has been abnormally feisty this week, ripe with guy-code breakers, wars waged on the airwaves (and transcribed into the blogosphere--thanks, Dan!), and blood-drawing fisticuffs. Here's the lowdown on what went down in the District this week, as folks inside the beltway continued to prove you don't necessarily have to have winning sports teams to have interesting sports teams.
Capitals' Matt Bradley vs. Rangers' Aaron Voros
Sure, it's not Pelosi-Cheney on the name recognition scale, but what it lacks in hype it more than makes up for in delivery, as Bradley finished just behind Miguel Cotto in the "person whose face I'd want to feel like the least" challenge this week. These guys have mixed it up a time or two before, so it's no surprise that they dropped the gloves when Voros and the Rangers visited Obamaville on Tuesday.
Though Bradley does get a great punch in early (and a tip of the hat to the announcer who transitions seamlessly from calling a hockey game to calling a fight, as it should be), you've got to pass the belt to Voros after what he did to Bradley's mug. Bradley and the Capitals got the win, though, and Washington got her favorite sports son, Ovi, back on the ice the same night, so it wasn't a total wash for the home team.
ESPN 980's Tony Kornheiser vs. 106.7 The Fan's Mike Wise
Ok, so he may be better known as Pardon The Interruption's Tony Kornheiser, or, depending on who you're reading/listening to The King of the Multi-Platform or "a bad guy with a dark heart" , but since the most recent flare-up in this rivalry took place on the dial, we're calling it a radio war, replete with the classic "callers calling in sports radio to talk about the sports radio spat" phenomenon (again, who needs good teams?!). DC Sports Bog best brings you up to speed here and here , but basically this round started on Monday with Kornheiser taking a run on his radio show at Wise for a column he had written about the Redskins. Wise countered with a calm, but measured reply, and Kornheiser basically defused the tension (for now) by teasing a comeback, but ultimately moving on. As for my take, I am completely biased in that every time I watch Pardon The Interruption (daily), I switch from thinking Kornheiser is the best talking head in sports and Wilbon is number two, to putting Wilbon one and Kornheiser two, and back and forth. I have almost no opinion of Mike Wise other than that I would guess if they replaced Kornheiser with him on PTI, I'd be furious. That being said, while he may still dominate the national sports scene, it seems like Kornheiser may have lost a little ground on his home turf. He works for the station owned by The Man (Redskins owner Dan Snyder), and even if that doesn't influence a word that comes out of his mouth it affects how he's viewed here, and for a guy who likes to give local shout-outs on PTI, that's got to wound him a little. (side note: we can't all afford to eat at 1789, Tony--maybe give some love to Ben's Chili Bowl). Reading some of this stuff unfold really does start to make Kornheiser look like a guy who holds grudges (sometimes self-fabricated ones). I've often heard him say he doesn't read any of the stuff written about him. This is probably a win-win for everyone, except maybe sports talk radio listeners.
Shaq vs. Gilbert Arenas
This one takes a little reading between the lines, as Shaq was never actually in Washington this week. But his team was--and that's where things start to get interesting. Last week, HuffPo Sports (in addition to NBC and other outlets) blogged about rumors that the reason Shaq's wife Shaunie O'Neal recently filed for seperation is that Shaq has been sleeping with Gilbert Arenas' fiancée Laura Govan (really want to TMZ it up? Govan is pregnant. Can you imagine the daytime television ratings that would be shattered if Shaq, Arenas, Shaunie O'Neal, and Laura Govan all went on the next "paternity test" episode of Maury Povich?). I imagine many people's response to this story is similar to that of my buddy McInnis who said, "Yeah, but don't you think stuff like this goes on all the time in pro sports?" Good point. But when you're talking about two potential All-Stars (jokes about Arenas' start to the season aside, pre-knee injury he was arguably a top 10 NBA player), one of them is Shaq, so I say this qualifies as a potentially serious beef.
So what happens to Shaq a few days before his Cavaliers' only road game in D.C.? O'Neal winds up on the injury report with a strained shoulder--mutliple stories refer to it as a "mysterious shoulder injury"--and takes a few games off. Cleveland coach Mike Brown all but admits that Shaq isn't technically injured, and the "we're resting him because it's early in the season" company line plays on the surface because Shaq's old. (Look at him, he's old....you can't take his house...he's too old...). But as I mentioned, Shaq no-showed in D.C. on Wednesday. I know this town likes dress stains for verification, but for me hacked emails plus mysterious injuries is enough to draw some decent conclusions. David Stern should figure out how to make sure these teams meet in the playoffs (Cavs as the 2-seed, Wiz in the 7-spot? I'm just saying). And give Maury Povich a whistle.
The Fan vs. The Man
Chalk one up for the good guys. Redskins fans had gotten used to sound and fury offseasons that typically signified nothing once the regular season began. Head-scratching coaching decision and inconsistent quarterback play have become as regular as the leaves changing color each fall. But Redskins' owner Dan Snyder twisted the knife this season--seemingly in a move to prevent fans from complaining about the team, its ownership, coaches being pulled out of retirment homes (literally!)--by banning signs from being displayed in the stadium. Even signs intended to, say, honor the memory of late Redskins safety Sean Taylor fell under the ban.
Well, in a moment of inspired lucidity, Skins management did an about face and last Sunday announced allowed signs (one that were in "good taste" of course) and banners into the stadium. So inspired, the Redskins went out and beat a division leader for their third win of the season! Now if we could only make getting to the stadium less of a nightmare. Maybe someone can sneak something in as part of the health care bill?