May 29, 2015

District Sports Daily Feb. 4: Caps shut out Kings, Mystics re-sign two

CAPITALS: The Caps shut out defending Stanley Cup champ Los Angeles Kings, though the Kings looked a shell of their once-dominant selves. (DSP Gamer, 3 Stars)

Jay Beagle didn’t skate with the top line Tuesday night, but he has frequently this season. Good or bad (rhetorical question alert)? (DSP take)

MYSTICS: The Mystics make some offseason noise, exercising options on Tayler Hill and Emma Meeseman. (DSP)

NATIONALS: The Nats announced their Spring Training broadcast and radio schedule. Personally, I think the radio guys should work all spring long — sorry Dave & Charlie. (DSP)

WIZARDS: Bradley Beal echos what everyone else is saying about the Wizards right now: they’re soft on defense. (WaPo)

REDSKINS: Now that Super Bowl is past, key offseason dates for the Redskins and the rest of the league. (WaPo)

UNITED: DCU tied Swedish second division club Jonkopings 0-0 in Bradenton, Florida in a training camp match. (DCUnited.com)

District Sports Daily Feb. 3: Wiz dropped by Hornets; Akey in DC; Ovi 1st Star

WIZARDS: The Wizards are slumping hard, and Monday night they lost to a struggling and injured Charlotte Hornets team. All-Star break, hurry! (DSP Gamer)

CAPITALS: Alex Ovechkin was named First Star for the month of January by the league. He had 12 goals, tops in the league for the time period. (NHL.com)

NATIONALS: West Palm Beach okays concept for shared spring training stadium for Nats and Houston Astros. I’ll believe it when I see it. (PalmBeachPost)

REDSKINS: Rob Akey, former head coach at the University of Idaho, was hired as Defensive Line coach, the same position he filled for the Minnesota Vikings last season. (WaPo)

District Sports Daily, Feb. 2: Caps lose again, Nats Insider anniversary

CAPITALS: The Caps can’t win the second of back-to-back games, ever. Alex Ovechkin scores twice, Karl Alzner got one (and some stitches), but Justin Peters can’t bail ‘em out and the Caps lost to St. Louis Blues 4-3. (DSP Gamer, 3 Stars).

WIZARDS: The Wizards are only sending one player to the All-Star festivities, but that’s probably a good thing right now. (Bullets Forever)

NATIONALS: Nats Insider, Mark Zuckerman’s blog, turned five years old. If you remember the circumstances behind how that happened, or why it’s a big deal, or contributed money to the cause, then give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate five great years with the guy that’s been there since the beginning. (Nats Insider)

REDSKINS: From Friday, but still worth a click if you missed, the always entertaining John Riggins joined Chick Hernandez on CSNWashington’s Sports Talk Live on the 32nd anniversary of, as Chick said, “using Don McNeil as a hood ornament.” (CSNWashington)

District Sports Daily Feb. 1: Caps and Wiz both fall in OT, Giolito makes another list

CAPITALS: Braden Holtby was excellent again but the Caps ping iron three times in the second and lose to Montreal 1-0 in overtime. (DSP Gamer, 3 Stars, RMNB)

WIZARDS: Wiz force overtime with strong fourth quarter — and John Wall finished with 28 points, 12 assists and eight boards playing through migraines — but get dumped by Toronto in overtime. (DSP Gamer)

NATIONALS: More accolades for Lucas Giolito, as he’s named No. 6 overall minor league prospect by MLB.com. (Federal Baseball)

 

District Sports Daily Jan. 30: Werth gets jail, Redskins hire Grimm (not that one)

NATIONALS: Jayson Werth drops appeal of circuit court conviction for reckless driving, pleas out to five days in jail. (WaPo)

Nats have No. 9 system and six players land on ESPN.com’s Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospects, led by Lucas Giolito at No. 8 overall, and first pitcher on the list. (Federal Baseball)

CAPITALS: Caps have a lot of decisions coming about regarding free agents, both restricted and unrestricted. Who should stay and who should go? (DSP Take, RMNB)

REDSKINS: Redskins hire Russ Grimm’s son Chad as Defensive Quality Control coach. Yeah. (WaPo)

WIZARDS: Otto Porter had a nice night in the Wiz los to Phoenix Wednesday. Should he be getting more playing time? (Truth About It)

District Sports Daily: Caps blank Pens, Wiz lose in Phoenix

CAPITALS: Behind two goals from Alex Ovechkin and 27 saves from Braden Holtby, the Caps blanked the Penguins 4-0 at Verizon Center. (DSP Gamer, DSP Three Stars)

WIZARDS: Garrett Temple spurred fourth quarter comeback falls short as Wizards lose in Phoenix 106-98 as Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat scored 14 points apiece. (DSP Gamer)

NATIONALS: Nats sign veteran reliever Casey Janssen to help cover Tyler Clippard’s late-game innings. (DSP Take, Fangraphs)

Nats potential new spring training home faces hurdles about water pollution concerns. (WaPo)

REDSKINS: Redskins try a novel idea, hire Matt Cavanaugh as quarterback coach. Skins were just one of two NFL teams without one last year. (WaPo)

President Obama hosts WNBA Champs at White House

Ed. — Thursday, WNBA Champs Minnesota Lynx were honored at the White House. While the Lynx obviously do not play basketball in D.C. on a regular basis, we still thought it was a neat ceremony and had the opportunity to have “special correspondent” Chris Gordon cover the event for District Sports Page.
ObamaLynx (2 of 9)

by Chris Gordon, special to District Sports Page

President Obama honored the Minnesota Lynx at the White House on Thursday, hosting an event commemorating their championship in 2013. Since selecting superstar Maya Moore first overall in the spring of 2011, the Lynx have become the WNBA’s dominate franchise. They won the title in Moore’s first year, in which she was named Rookie of the Year, sweeping the Atlanta Dream in the Finals.

After a 10-0 start to the season, the Lynx made the Finals again the next year before falling to the Indiana Fever. In 2013, they became the fifth team in the history of American pro sports to sweep every postseason series, capturing their second championship. Moore was selected as Finals MVP. The team has an 8-1 record so far in 2014.

“You did not only go 26-8 in the regular season, but you also swept the playoffs — a perfect 7-0,” President Obama, speaking in the East Room, said of their championship year. “You won it with all-star talent, from Seimone to Rebekkah Brunson, hometown hero Lindsay Whalen. You did it with fellow all-star and Finals MVP Maya Moore, who has now been here so many times I’ve lost track. I mean, basically there’s like a Maya Moore wing in the White House and when she comes, we’ve got all her stuff here. She’s got a toothbrush.”

In a testament to Moore’s significance, head coach Cheryl Reeve deferred to her when it was time for the team to make remarks.

“I just can’t speak enough about this team behind me,” Moore said. “We care, and it shows when we’re on the court, when we’re together, when we’re in the community. I think that’s what our nation is about.”

Here are some photos of the event:

ObamaLynx (1 of 9)
ObamaLynx (4 of 9)
ObamaLynx (8 of 9)
ObamaLynx (9 of 9)

All photos (C) Chris Gordon and may not be used without permission.
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Chris Gordon is a writer and photographer for Russian Machine Never Breaks and specializes in hockey related content. He has an affinity for spicy chicken sandwiches.

OPINION: Terps should play in Cole Field House…now

The Maryland Terrapins men’s basketball team left Cole Field House following the end of the 2001-2002 basketball season. They headed across campus to the new, shiny Comcast Center. The Terps are moving Maryland Madness to Cole and now, Mark Turgeon says he’d like to get back to playing a regular season game at Cole every year. And there is no time like the present to make that move.

Why would the AD entertain an idea like moving back to Cole? Because the Terps continue to bleed attendance at the now decade-old Comcast Center. The Athletic Department needs to do anything it can to get more fans out to the games. Holding a game at Cole is a step in staunching the bleeding and Mark Turgeon realizes that.

Cole is too small

But, how would this work? Cole contains 3,300 fewer seats than Comcast. Who would get shut out? How would Maryland handle the fallout? Well, the attendance situation in College Park is more dire than you likely realize and it’s unlikely that anyone would get shut out.

First, let’s establish some numbers. Comcast’s current capacity is 17,950 and Cole’s capacity is 14,596.

Of the total capacity at Comcast (17,950), 4,000 student tickets are available. If student tickets are not claimed, they are offered for sale to Terrapin Club members first and then the general public. There are also some tickets held back for a variety of reasons (for administrative reasons/people, sponsors, etc.). I estimate those to be about 1,000 seats per game.

Comcast holds 17,950 and if we remove 5,000 for student and others tickets, that leaves us with 12,950 tickets for sale to season ticket holders. Prior to the start of the 2009 season, there were 1,681 unsold season tickets with one week left until the season started according to the Washington Times.

Then, let’s assume there are 2,000 unsold season tickets. This is an increase of about 19% in unsold season tickets from the 2009 season. I arrived at that estimate by taking a look at two items. Terrapin Club memberships have dropped by about 20% from 2008 to 2012 and we’ve seen overall attendance drop 26% since the 2009-2010 so let’s assume that the season ticket base eroded a little more slowly. (See chart at the end of the article for historical Maryland men’s basketball attendance.)

That leaves us with 12,950 minus 2000 which equals 10,950 season tickets bought by season ticket holders.

Now, hold the game over winter break and assume you get half of those 5,000 student/other to attend and you are at 10,950 plus 2,500 or 13,450. Cole’s capacity? 14,596.

Just using last year as an example, here are the reported attendance figures for games from December 21 2012 through January 22 2013:

Dec 21 – Stony Brook – 10,721
Dec 29 – Delaware State – 12,389
Jan 1 2013 – IUPUI – 8,971
Jan 5 – Virginia Tech – 17,950
Jan 9 – Florida State – 14,157
Jan 16 – North Carolina State – 17,950
Jan 22 – Boston College – 13,941

The athletic department has the actual attendance figures. Moreover, with the integration of StubHub and LetsMoveDown, the AD can now see what the value of the tickets are in the secondary market and easily determine if there is pent up demand. My guess? There isn’t a lot of pent up demand for late December or January games at Comcast.

Attendance is down – way down

Remember, we’ve seen ACC games available for sale to the general public in recent seasons. And last season, every single ACC game was available to all Terrapin Club members to buy additional seats (even the UNC and Duke games). The Maryland ticket office created ticket packages where you could get a UNC or Duke ticket as long as you bought a “lesser” ACC game and non-conference game as well.

There isn’t demand for the product. Playing a game at Cole could increase demand (even if for just one game).

For some history on attendance, see below and at the end of the column (all data from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Attendance site):

In the 2009-2010 season the Terps averaged 16,792 fans (down 256 per game from the prior season).

The 2010-2011 season (Gary Williams’ final season) the average dropped even further to 14,910 per game (just over the Cole Field House capacity of 14,596).

The 2011-2012 season saw another drop down to 13,182 per game.

And the 2012-2013 season was more of the same as the per game attendance dropped to 12,489 per game.

In the chart below, you can see the percentage capacity for all Maryland home games both at Cole and Comcast.

attendance_chart

Maryland basketball season tickets are not a hot commodity and haven’t been for five years. I’m a Maryland men’s basketball season ticket holder and I certainly don’t give as much as someone had to just a few years ago to maintain season tickets.

“In 2008, a season ticket holder had to have given roughly $10,000 since he or she joined the Terrapin Club to maintain his or her season ticket. In 2012, there was no minimum threshold to purchase or maintain a season ticket. Despite impassioned newsletters to get young alumni to join, there was never a noticeable uptick even before the economic recession. After approaching 10,000 members in 2008, the Terrapin Club is now hovering around 8,000.” – Nov 27 2012 from Sports Illustrated.

Students no longer camp out. They register online for tickets and if more registrations are recorded than tickets available, a weighted lottery is held based on loyalty points and tickets are awarded. The students don’t have to “work” nearly as hard for the tickets as past students did so they may not value those seats as much as others might have.

Attendance is down 26% over the last four seasons. They need to do something. This year could be a disaster as the home schedule lacks Duke and UNC.

You could do so many things with a game at Cole to ensure that people don’t get shut out. You could:

- Reward the most loyal students from the football season and give them priority in the lottery for the Cole game.

- Encourage folks on the lower end of the giving spectrum, to give more than they do now by guaranteeing a Cole ticket if they give X more dollars.

Throwback Game

Finally, how should the game work? Well, here is one humble suggestion from a two-time alumnus of College Park.

Make it the yearly Throwback Game – a celebration of Maryland and Cole Field House history.

First match up? Maryland takes on the University of Texas – El Paso (née Texas Western) in celebration of Texas Western’s groundbreaking 1966 title game victory at Cole. Each team plays in throw back uniforms from that season. Would you love to see these uniforms on the floor at Cole one more time?

Texas Western jersey - 1966

Future matchups could be Maryland versus Manhattan College with each team wearing throwback uniforms from DeMatha Catholic High and Power Memorial. I’m not sure who would play Lew Alcindor, but I bet Under Armour wouldn’t mind putting together a Power Memorial throwback.

Or maybe Maryland versus the Richmond Spiders to celebrate the first win by a number 15 seed over a two seed in NCAA tournament history? Maybe Curtis Blair would referee the game?

The possibilities are endless and this game would be a great way to energize the alumni, students, administration and corporate sponsors.

It would great if Maryland had the problem of the men’s team selling out games. It does not have that issue currently. And it will take more than one good season to climb back up the hill.


Maryland Men’s Basketball Attendance (1987 through 2013)

Year_by_Year_Attendance

Source: NCAA Men’s Basketball Attendance – http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/NCAA/Resources/Stats/M+Basketball/Attendance/

OPINION: Stats, taken in context, help us understand the game better

In my guest blogging gig for MASNSports.com today, I wrote about Bryce Harper’s eighth inning sacrifice, Win Probability Added, and human evolution. It was a bit of a rambler, but my biggest point was this:

 You don’t get to pick and choose which stats you think are the right ones. They all are.

It drives me absolutely crazy to hear fans, players, managers or executives dismiss certain statistical evaluators, like we’re fabricating these numbers or pulling them out of thin air. WAR, or WPA, or wOBA, or wRC+, or ISO, or FIP, or UZR… all of those numbers are in the game every bit as much as batting average or earned run average.

It’s just that those “in the game” have been using the traditional statistical evaluators for over a century and some others were “invented” by folks not actually “in the game” in the past two decades.

Just because a statistical evaluator was created by math whiz doesn’t mean it’s any more or less legitimate than those we’ve been using for 120 years.

Each, in their own way, tells part of the story about what’s going on out there. No single statistical evaluator can tell us exactly how efficient a particular player is in his chosen craft. Some of them give us a better idea than others. But each should be taken in the context it is presented.

The “new stats” weren’t created to make following the game more difficult. They were developed to help us more deeply understand the game. Or help us compare players on a more neutral field. Or help us compare current players against the past more accurately. They weren’t created to confuse, but enlighten.

Fangraphs.com has a glossary of many of the “new stats”. They don’t hide their formulas. There’s a lot to take in, but if you take a couple of minutes most of the “new stats” are pretty simple to understand. Sure, there are some concepts that might take a few moments to think about before they make total sense. But they are all as rooted in the game as ERA, which is not a particularly good or accurate method to evaluate a pitcher.

Here’s another chunk of my MASN column to think about:

Back in the old days, they invented batting average and earned run average as a method of evaluating players side-by-side since they weren’t able to watch every game in person.

Yes, there was an era before computers. Before television. Even before radio was popular. If you wanted to know what type of ball player a guy was, you has to see him in person. You had to travel for days and hope for no rain out. There was little scouting and even less statistical evaluation. That’s why they started to keep track of these things, in order to be able to evaluate players without actually seeing them in person.

Even though every single game is now on TV and we have video of each player going back to their middles school games, we’re still looking for more clear statistical evidence to measure a player’s effectiveness. PITCHF/x and batted ball data are taking us into the next phase of statistical evaluation, and it all helps us better understand the game.

Statheads and seamheads have been at odds for decades. They don’t have to be. Each individual statistical evaluator only tells part of the story. Taken in context, they are part of the big picture. If you love the game, it’s worth your while to become more familiar with these concepts. It’s just a little math, that’s all.

Congressional Hockey Challenge bridges the gap for a good cause

On April 27, while the rest of Verizon Center was preparing for Saturday evening’s Washington Capitals game, the hallway adjacent to the Capitals locker room was a frenzy of excitement. Intermittently, a figure, alternately in a red or white jersey,  lumbering on hockey skates, would make their way out to the hallway to get some air, or to speak to a reporter.

It was a bit unusual for 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, considering the main attraction wasn’t until 7:00 p.m. that night, when the Washington Capitals would play their final game of the regular season versus the Boston Bruins. The figures wearing red and white jerseys were not members of the Capitals or Bruins. They were there for something a little bit different – a hockey game for charity, the 5th Annual Congressional Hockey Challenge.

Founded in 2009, the Congressional Hockey Challenge raises funding for college scholarships and hockey programming, and has raised more than $400, 000 for its causes. This year’s event was held at Verizon Center for the second year in a row. Former Boston Bruin and hockey icon Willie O’Ree performed the ceremonial puck drop and also attended the Capitals game against the Bruins that evening.

The game stars a team of lawmakers (members of Congress, Senators and staff from legislative and executive branches) pitted against a team of lobbyists. It seems apropos to blend the rough-and-tumble sport of hockey with the rough-and-tumble sport of politics in the nation’s capital.

One might be surprised to note that all of the participants on both teams are lifelong hockey players. Congressman Pat Meehan (PA), was an NHL referee for two years before going into politics, and said the CHC helped him rediscover his passion for the sport. “I hadn’t skated for some time before I came back to this game. I grew up playing hockey, and I truly stayed with it,” he said. “Hockey was a big part of my life for a long period of time, but when I came here, I had given it up and I hadn’t skated in five years.”

“When they knew that I had a hockey background, they asked me to get involved with the game, so I came out and then made a fool of myself. But I’ve actually had an awful lot of fun, and it’s been a reason for me to get back into it,” said Meehan, who admitted his status assisted him in making the Lawmakers team. “It’s easier for me to get on the team because if you’re in Congress and can lace your skates up, I think you get on,” he chuckled.

Erik Paulsen, a congressman from Minnesota, had a recruiting experience similar to Meehan’s. ”I got recruited last year cause I’m from Minnesota, so they just figure everyone from Minnesota plays hockey. I grew up playing on the lake but never played organized hockey,” he said. “It’s for a good cause, and now I’m playing once a week out here.”

If you’re not a member of Congress, however, the competition to make the team is tougher. “It’s probably one of the only big hockey games outside of the Caps that happens, at least in our level of play these days, so everyone wants to play. In the small group that does play hockey, there is a waiting list,” said Michelle McGann, of the National Republican Congressional Committee, a member of the Lawmakers team.

McGann’s involvement with the team came almost by accident – she merely wanted to play hockey but ended up on the waiting list for the annual game.

“I moved to DC about two years ago and I’ve been playing hockey my entire life, so when I came down here, I tried to find a competitive league and similar to Melissa, I heard of this man named Nick Lewis that we were supposed to talk to about getting involved,” she said. “I spoke to him, and Tim Regan who works on the Hill, and started coming to these Monday night skates, and a lot of the players in this game are pulled from the Monday night skate. So I got on a waiting list and just crossed my fingers that I would finally make the cut.”

Every Monday night, a mixed group of lawmakers and lobbyists skates at Mount Vernon Ice Arena in Alexandria, VA. Many of the players in the annual Challenge game are pulled from these skates, according to McGann.

“It’s basically an exclusive pickup league,” said McGann. “There’s a group of maybe 40 or 50 people in the email chain, and we hope to have about 30 people come every night, and you just wear dark or white and you just play for an hour and a half.”

Melissa Lavinson, a member of the Lobbyists team, said attendance at the Monday night skates is unpredictable, but everyone is glad to for the opportunity to play hockey, even with a short bench.

“I’ve been to some of the night skates where there’s maybe about 12 people and you wind up playing 6-on-5-on-5, one sub for an hour,” she said. “It’s just fun.”

McGann agreed.  “Everyone understands that you’re just out there to get a good workout and to be on the ice, so it’s great for girls, we’re obviously smaller than a lot of men, so they’re respectful and you don’t have to be too concerned about getting injured.”

Even though the weekly skates are primarily casual and low-key, the competitive nature of each player emerges when it comes to competing in the actual Congressional Challenge game.

“Everyone who plays a sport always has a competitive edge, and you realize that it’s been dormant for so long until you get in a situation where score matters,” said McGann. “You kind of put aside your friendships in some way and you want to win.”

John Goodwin, who represented the Lobbyists this year, said the Congressional game is kind of a big deal for the players, even though many do not have the chance to play as much as they’d like.

“For a bunch of amateurs and older folks, its intense competition, everyone takes it seriously, and we’re playing real hockey,” he said. “Everybody looks forward to it.”

Washington Capitals alumnus and CSN Washington analyst Alan May took some time out of his busy game-day duties and volunteered to coach the Lawmakers team this year. His coaching philosophy was all about moral support, making sure the players knew when to change lines – and scoring goals, of course.

“They all know how to play hockey, they’re all lifelong lovers of the game, they all played youth hockey, so it’s just a matter of just being there to support these guys,” said May.

May predicted it would be an “ugly game,” and an ugly game it was – for the Lawmakers. May’s pupils were shelled for double-digit goals, and fell to the Lobbyists, 11-3 in front of a modest cluster of rowdy spectators.

There is a trophy that the winning team gets to keep for the year, which is more for bragging rights than anything. As it stands, the Lobbyists lead the Challenge series record 3-2.

Photos from the event, courtesy of C&I Studios, can be found here.

 Katie Brown is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page. She grew up in Virginia and Maryland, currently resides in Arlington, VA, and developed a love for the sport of hockey as a youngster while watching her brothers play. She combined her enthusiasm for the game with her love of writing after college. Katie has covered the Capitals as credentialed media for two seasons for several area blogs before joining the DSP staff. Katie works at a nonprofit organization by day but the rest of her time is devoted to watching, writing, and talking about hockey and perfecting her mean one-timer. You can follow Katie on Twitter@katie_brown47.

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