The Felix and Oscar of DC sports

The NHL’s trade deadline passed yesterday, and the Washington Capitals acquired four new players to add depth to a team that already has the best record in hockey.  A few weeks back, the NBA trade deadline saw the Caps’ roommates, the Washington Wizards, dumping their best players, waving the white flag in an effort to get better next season.

If you would have asked a Washington sports fan to imagine that scenario just a few years ago, they might have required heavy hallucinogenic help.  The Wizards were a playoff-caliber team, though never a serious championship contender; the Capitals had a half-full arena, the fans were lackadaisical, and the only place to see playoff hockey inside the beltway was on a TV screen.

In the background of these two teams going in different directions, Caps owner Ted Leonsis is trying to buy out the Pollin family for control of the Wizards.  Though the deal has hit stumbling blocks over how each side values the team, sports fans in Your Nation’s Capital should be eager for it to go through.

Having been a Yankee fan for 31 years and nine months tomorrow, I’ve been spoiled in many ways by George Steinbrenner.  The once-mercurial owner has taken on a gradually lessened role in the pure baseball decisions and has relinquished much of the control of the team to his sons, but has never wavered in the Yankees’ larger organizational goal of winning championships.  That means that at baseball’s trade deadline, if the Yankees need a player, they’re going to be buyers and not sellers.

Caps fans are getting a taste of that this year.  How many owners, sitting on the NHL’s best record, would sit on their hands and count their money from ticket sales?  Leonsis has told the DC hockey faithful loud and clear that he’s going for a championship.  It’s the right way to run a sports team.  And, as the richest team in baseball can attest, excellence is good for business.

Wizards find one less excuse for losing

The Washington Wizards are streamlining their 250-page playbook – and adding more information at the same time.

At the start of training camp this week, each player received an iPod with a pre-loaded playbook.  In addition to standard diagrams of each play, the iPods were loaded with videos – to demonstrate the plays – and schedule information.  As the season moves along, coaches will use the iPods to distribute scouting reports and other updates.

This use of technology made me think about the applications to political efforts – and reminded me a little bit of the portable DVD players used by Rep.Patrick McHenry when he ran for Congress in 2004. Way back then, door-to-door volunteers delivered video messages from McHenry to voters.  In 2010, those volunteers might be armed with a personal video message, voter history, precinct walking sheets, polling locations,and megabytes of other information which is constantly being updated – literally in the palms of their hands.

Just as all the technology in the world won’t win a campaign without a good message, the Wizards can’t rely on gadgets to crack the 20-win barrier.  But given last year’s results, it can’t hurt.