January 4, 2010 [LINK / comment]

Hellish year for D.C. sports

The year two thousand nine had to be one of the worst seasons for Washington-area sports fans in many years, as the Nationals (59-103), Redskins (4-16), and Wizards (19-63) all ended up with win-loss records below .400. Given that many if not most of the nation's ills stem from bad decisions made by government leaders in Washington, perhaps this is just poetic justice. If, as many believe, the country as a whole is "going to hell in a handbasket," then the Nation's Capital is leading the way, sports-wise! Among the four major sports, only the NHL Capitals have had a positive win-loss balance, but if you include Major League Soccer, then D.C. United would qualify as well, with a 9-8-13 record. Women's basketball? The WNBA Washington Mystics had a .471 record last year -- and yet still made it to the playoffs!

When the Washington Nationals were going down the toilet early last summer, the team's owners knew that drastic action was needed, so in July they replaced Manny Acta as manager with Jim Riggleman. Starting over with a clean slate! By October, it was clear that the Washington Redskins were approaching an equally bleak state of affairs, so what did owner Dan Snyder do? He didn't want to fire head coach Jim Zorn, because he would still have to pay the full contractual salary, so he kept Zorn as the titular boss while putting another guy in charge of calling plays from the sidelines. It was a stupid decision, exacerbating the tension and confusion among team members who weren't really sure who was calling the shots. The short-sighted, meddlesome Snyder is almost as bad a team owner as Peter Angelos of the Baltimore Orioles. But whoever deserves most of the blame, the end result is a loss of fan support. Perhaps declining interest in the Redskins will create an opportunity for the Nationals to add to their fan base.

As everyone expected, Jim Zorn was fired at the crack of dawn this morning, and his apparent replacement, Mike Shanahan (former coach of the Denver Broncos), had already arrived at Dulles Airport near Washington while Zorn was still cleaning out his desk. "Don't let the door hit you on the way out!" As WUSA-TV9's Bret Haber said this evening, Zorn is a decent guy and deserved better treatment than that.

In the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post, Michael Richman reviews the history of the Washington Redskins, reminding us that for much of the 1950s and 1960s, they were mediocre at best. Somehow, that doesn't make me feel much better. Anyway, his article included a nice graph showing the Redskins' annual win-loss records way back when, and that prompted me to make the comparison between the baseball, football, basketball, and hockey team win-loss records since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005. I had forgotten that the Nats actually did better than the Redskins in 2006. See below:

Winning percentages in Washington

Year Nationals
2005 .500 .611 .512 .406
2006 .438 .313 .500 .412
2007 .451 .529 .524 .581
2008 .366 .500 .232 .676
2009 .364 .250 * .323 * * .686 *

* Season still underway. Years shown above refer to the beginning of the season.
SOURCES: Washington Post, nhl.com, nbauniverse.com

Adios, Giants Stadium

Last night the New York Jets played the last football game ever in Giants Stadium, at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Its replacement next door -- the "stadium to be named later" -- will have 82,500 seats, not much more than Giants Stadium, but it will cost $1.6 billion -- that's about 20 times as much as Giants Stadium cost to build, or about six times as much after you factor in inflation. There will be three main decks, like in Giants Stadium, but with five (5) luxury box levels. It's almost as extravagant as brand-new, quadruple-decked Cowboy Stadium in suburban Arlington, Texas -- down the street from Rangers Ballpark. One notable difference is that the overall structure will have four distinct corners, as opposed to the more rounded shape of the Giants' and Jets' current home. See nyg2010.com.

Prompted by all the recent football developments, I have updated and corrected the Football use page, which now shows where NFL teams moved to after they left stadiums which they had shared with MLB teams.