King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Now Washingtonians know the name of the baseball team that will be taking their money. Plus: "Monday Night Football" misses a chance for some real fun.

By Salon Staff
Published November 24, 2004 1:00AM (UTC)
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The/les/los Montreal/San Juan/Where Nextpos officially have a new name, though they don't officially have a new home yet. Baseball and city officials held a news conference Monday in Washington to announce the club will be called the Washington Nationals.

Alas, my brilliant suggestions -- Washington Filibusters, Ricos and Big Trains -- went ignored.


Also ignored was the name Washington Grays, much talked about when the move to Washington was announced in September. Mayor Anthony Williams had favored that name, a tribute to the Homestead Grays, the Negro League team that called Washington home in the 1940s.

Williams, in the process of trying to tap his constituents to the tune of $600 million -- he pronounces it "$440 million" -- for a new stadium that will enrich the as-yet-unknown owners of the team, ought to have some pull with baseball. But evidently the idea of marketing so directly to Washington's large black population was just that, a nice idea. Williams did get his wish that the team not be named the Senators, a moniker he found distasteful because the District of Columbia doesn't have any senators -- except for the 100 of them who represent other places, of course.

Williams has never complained about the Washington Wizards basketball team, which I guess explains why you can get eye of newt in some of the district's more out-of-the-way eateries.


The Nationals are owned by the other 29 teams, the result of a highly fishy deal that essentially paid Jeffrey Loria, who had run the Expos into the ground, to take over the Florida Marlins, which let Marlins owner -- and friend of commissioner Bud Selig -- John Henry buy the Boston Red Sox. Selig has made it clear that the Where Nextpos would be moved only to a city that built it a taxpayer-financed ballpark, and Williams stepped up on Washington's behalf.

The proposed ballpark deal has been delayed in the D.C. Council but is expected to pass. It's going to be an incredibly sweet deal for the new owners, who will be able to take most of the profits out of the new park while paying $3.5 million a year in rent, after having paid nothing for the construction. They'll also share in the profits from a new regional sports network formed with the Baltimore Orioles, who are being paid off to keep quiet about the Nationals encroaching on their territory, even though Washington isn't their territory.

Williams and his supporters say none of this will be paid for at the expense of city services, and the District Council is even throwing a few computers at schools as if to say, "See?" Williams says the new money will come from taxes on ticket sales, plus a tax on the city's largest businesses. And of course those businesses won't try to duck those taxes, pass them on to consumers or, failing either of those, simply leave town.


Also, the new Southeast ballpark will be an engine for economic growth, Williams says, and he requests that you please ignore the fact that ballparks are not proven, or even likely, engines for economic growth.

The team will be put up for bid as soon as the stadium financing is in place and the other owners approve the move, a vote that's been delayed but is a formality. But a name and colors had to be chosen so the 2005 season could be marketed. The new owners will have the option of changing the name upon moving into their new ballpark. In the meantime the Nationals, wearing red, white and blue, will play in a patched-up RFK Stadium -- assuming the whole deal doesn't fall apart.


Selig wanted the team to be called the Senators. Washington had an American League franchise from 1901 to 1960, and it was alternately called the Nationals and Senators throughout its history. This was the team that inspired the saying "First in war, first in peace and last in the American League."

That team became the Minnesota Twins in 1961, when Washington got a new A.L. franchise, called the Senators, which moved to Texas and became the Rangers in 1972. In 71 seasons, the Senators/Nationals won three pennants, the last in 1933, and one World Series, in 1924.

Nationals appears to be a compromise between the names favored by Selig and Williams, and team president Tony Taveras said as much Monday, though he quickly added, "I think it's a great name." You can count on it being routinely shortened to Nats.


The name is a way to pay tribute to Washington's baseball past -- well, except for the Negro League part of it -- without repeating it. To give you an idea how much baseball wants to get away from the dismal history of 20th century Washington teams, compare the new Nationals cap to the late-'60s Senators cap.

As you can see, the new cap is red with a white, pretzel-like W, while the old one was red with a pretzel-like white W. But wait! The upper right arm of the W is rounded on the new cap. It was squared off on the old Senators cap. Or vice versa. I get confused. Also, the new W appears to be a bit taller, more vertical, than the old one. O, Brave New World!

The good news is that the colors appear to be flag red and blue, as opposed to the dulled-down, dark colors that are in vogue in the sports uniform world. The New England Patriots and Washington Capitals, for example, two teams that ought to, and used to, wear flag colors, have dulled down to navy, deep red, copper and silver in the last few years.


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"Monday Night Football" plays it straight [PERMALINK]

ABC really could have had some fun with the Terrell Owens-Nicollette Sheridan towel controversy. The opening of Monday's Patriots-Chiefs broadcast could have poked fun at the brouhaha over the racy skit that opened last week's show in any number of ways, but the network, chastened, played it straight.


The show opened with a close-up of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looking serious in front of his locker, saying, "It's 9 p.m. Eastern time on a Monday night, and you know what that means." The traditional "MNF" music kicked in and Al Michaels said, over game footage, "It means it's time for ABC's 'Monday Night Football.'"

And so on in that vein for a few seconds before a segue to the Hank Williams Jr. theme song. Gosh, it actually looked like the opening to a football game. Weird.

In this column's Table Talk discussion, poster "Volfan in FL" had hoped for something a little funnier. Recalling a famous line uttered by Cleavon Little in "Blazing Saddles," Volfan wrote last week, "If one of the producers had a really sick sense of humor, they would show this skit for Monday's game:

"Priest Holmes walks into an empty Chiefs locker room. He starts looking around the lockers. Looks in the trainer's room. Looks in the showers. Looks in the room with the metal tubs. Walks back into the locker room and looks at the camera and says, 'Hey, where the white women at?'"


It might have been even funnier if the player were Trent Green.

My own idea was to have a Chiefs player -- any player -- alone at his locker, as Owens was, when he's approached by a figure in a burqa. The player tries to talk to the figure, asking what she wants, what she's doing there. No answer. Finally, he pulls the burqa off to reveal the figure to be ... John Madden!

"Hey!" a smiling Madden says. "What about my needs?"

Previous column: Brawl in Detroit


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