Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Dec 23, 2013

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about the Redskins, the Capitals, the Nationals, the rest of D.C. sports and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats

How much of Cousins' interception problems is down to a lack of timing? He keeps throwing behind open receivers but are they "bad" throws or throws where he simply doesn't know exactly where they'll be?

Cousins says the problem is timing and that with more reps and familiarity with receivers it should diminish. Said that the INT to Moss should have been a TD to Moss.

Hope that's so. But you have to go on current evidence. It's a pattern.

I just looked up all the NFL QB stats for everybody with 100 or more attempots this year. Really ugly in all areas but QB rating -- though an imperfect stat --  is telling because if you are AWFUL in that number you certainly are not good. Keep in mind that this has been as good a season to be as passer as any in history. Maybe the best.

Cousins is the fifth worst passer out of 42 on the list with a 70.7 QB rating. That's terrible. More INTs than TD's -- 4-5, only 58.5 percent complete.

Griffin is almost as bad: 28th of 42 at 82.2.

For reference, there are SEVEN QBs over 100, and 21 -- in a 32 team league -- over 86.0.

From the RGIII-Cousins draft class, here are some: Russell Wilson is 101.1, Kaepernick 88.8, Luck 86.0, Tannehill 84.6.

So far, and I watched the tape of the Dallas game again, Cousins looks like an decent "system quarterback" who can be a good back up or -- maybe, and I'm not even sure of this the way QBs are lighting up everybody -- a tail-end starter for somebody. Of course that can change. But the reason for starting him was, supposedly, to get a read on him.

Cousins has gotten to start against two terrible defenses. The Cowboys were 32nd and last in yards allowed. The Falcon game was inside in a Dome and yesterday was warm with a slight drizzle that didn't seem to bother Romo's throws. Cousins goes through reads and throws a lot of check downs. But I'll have to be honest, I don't see anything terribly special there yet. The Shanahans may like him because he's a "blank slate" on whom they can write what they want.

So far, the writing says 70.7 this year and a better QB rating of 80.3 for his career. Both years combined he's 61.7%, 7.5 yd/att, 95 for 154 and 8 TDs, 8 INTS and 3 fumbles.

IOW, Cousins is making a place for himself in the league. He can play some. But he is not a threat for a starting QB job based on his limited, but not tiny data sample. And I doubt he'd bring more than a seconds-round pick, if you're lucky, in trade. But he was a GOOD fourth-round pick. But you can see why he went No. 101 overall. That's 100 in front of him.

The question is the question you gave: How much does he improve? This is the end of his second year, not his rookie year. But he's only had three starts. Be interesting to see him against Awful Eli who's having a nightmare year and has an even lower QB rating than any Skin -- 69.8.  

I had the thought back in August, and may have said it here, that the 'Skins should start Cousins for the first month of the season. This was solely to ensure RG3's health and readiness. Had they gone that way do you think things would have been better for W-L and the relationships?

No. As poor as RGIII's season was, it was better than Cousins has been so far. Not by much, but a little. Griffin's best qualitities are that he hates turnovers and can scramble and create broken plays. He's better at both than Cousins has been.

Any chance he sticks around or even moves up to top football man?

He may stay in his current capacity. He's not a traditional player-picking GM. He's a cap guy and facilitator of others. He could probably blend into any structure. It's impossible (for me) to evaluate him now because all decisions are Shanahan's with Snyder signing off on things like running the risk of getting hammered for salary cap violations. Well, Bruce probably could have voted on that one. 

Tom. I read Katie's article this morning on former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and I still don't understand what happened. We had one of the brightest coaches in Bruce, one of the most potent offenses in the NHL and the best record in the conference. Bruce brought the team out of the ashes and made them winners. The Verizon Center was sold out every game. Then Alex pouts, Bruce is fired and the whole thing comes tumbling down. I think Adam Oates is taking us in the right direction, but I sure wish it was BB behind our bench tonight and not the visitors side. Hope the crowd gives him a stand O since we never got a chance to thank him for what he did for Hockey in DC.

A lot of good thoughts there. I feel very good for Bruce. He should certainly feel vindicated.

The Caps probably should have either fired him after his last spring playoff disaster with the Caps or stuck with him through all of the following season -- which would have been hard. But be decisive and go one way or the other. Easy to say now.

I think you're right that Oates is a good choice and has them going in the right direction. He's a very good talker, analyst of the game. But not as colorful as Bruce. Obviously, Oates has found the key to unlock Ovechkin again. That gives him a lasting bond with Ovi. Bruce didn't have that. So, for the Caps as currently constituted with Ovi at the heart of everything, Oates seems better suited.

But it's wonderful to see Bruce riding high. Great guy. (And -- for extra credit points -- a real good baseball fan, too.)

Tom, I've lived in this area since 1997. I don't like football, and I never really have, but I'm otherwise a huge sports fan. I'm asking you, as a student of sports history, what it would take for the Washington football team to just ... go away. I mean, people used to really care about horse racing and boxing. The culture just moved in another direction. What would it take for something similar to happen to the Washington football team? Please tell me there's hope that they -- their concussions, their offensive name, their idiot owner, all of it -- just vanish some day.

The NFL and the Skins are not going anywhere for a long time. (And they shouldn't, imo.)

Part of the power of soap opera as a marketing tool -- and it has been effective as far back as the late-'70's Bronx Zoo with the Yankees -- is that there is a HUGE media faction that needs to be fed 24/7 with the subjects for rants, violent opinions, look-at-me stories, radio segments, etc. Snyder has done a diabolically brilliant job of feeding that animal. BUT it was already in place when he arrived. That's part of what he bought for $800M -- the Skins as central DC topic of obsession/discussion.

WITH HINDSIGHT, just strictly in terms of football, this has been an extremely uninteresting team for a long time, except for the arrival of RGIII. But AT THE TIME, the arrival of name coaches, including huge attention-grabbing hires like Spurrier, Gibbs II and Shanny, as well as glamour off-season additions of washed up bums who took the Skins money, WAS genuine big news. Unfortunately, you can expect that to continue. It's part of Snyder's business DNA. He knows a lot about marketing, selling and branding. He knows nothing more than the rabid fan on the next bar stool next to you about football.

I do think, over the next five years, that you'll see some balancing in the attention that given to the Skins vs other local teams. BUT all the other teams, including the top college football and basketball programs, WANT to be classy. The Skins PREFER to be trashy. And they are a magnificently trashy organization, top to bottom, in the same sense that the Steinbrenner Yankees were great at aiming at the lowest common denominator in their fan base. That IS a (financially) successful way of trying 1) to win, if that's possible even though you're lousy at buiding an actual team but 2) make absolutely sure that you don't lose "the batter for the back page" of the NYC tabloids -- which has now become the lead story on ESPN ("Feud in DC!!"), or the above-the-fold story in the Post or the dominant subject on talk radio, etc.

Many in the media are tied, both by inclination and area of expertise, to focus first, second and third on the Skins. That's just a reality that's grown up from the '70's until the present. Nobody is 'wrong" or to blame. This is a market, if you're an NFL lover, that would attract you. 

But that's changing. The more success that the Caps, Nats, Wiz and others have, the more D.C. will become a more normal and saner sports market. But, imo, it will be a slow process. Because if the awful results of the Snyder era have only created the current lever of disgust, then what will it take. Remember: We are still talking about THIS TEAM. And that's part of the franchise's strategy. In its weird way, even the debate about the team nickname feeds the beast.

When silence starts to surround the Skins, then something will be changing. That is a LONG way away. And if they find a way to become a competitive team again -- well, look at last season! The town, any town, is always going to go nuts for an NFL winner. And, 365 days ago, I enjoyed it as much as almost anybody.   

So how long has it been since the Wizards were a better team than the Skins? 40 years? They clearly are now. And, exactly when do the Nat's pitchers and catchers report?

The Skins are clearly running a distant fourth in actually Quality of Pro Team in DC behind the Nats, Caps and now Wiz. The Skins are REALLY bad. Only one NFL team has less than their three wins. But there are also NO other teams at only "three wins." The other 30 teams are all AHEAD of the Skins in wins.

It's quite a feat.

I think pitchers and cathers report on Feb. 18th. Not that I would know.

It's much more fun for anyone who writes about sports to have different teams in every season that are worth discussing -- not just criticizing. You DON"T want to be looking ahead two months to another sport's TRAINING camp. That's why it's good that the Caps and Wiz are showing life.

And it's fascinating to wonder whether to judge the Caps by their standing in points or by their (far less impressive) record in game which do not end in a shootout. A bunch of shootout wins in regular season is a sign of good luck. And that sometimes runs out when the playoffs come. The two last-minute Ovechkin game-saving goals have been thrilling. Comebacks to win from three goals behind are the things that inspire a team in regular season. BUT that loss to New Jersey, 5-4 in OT after having a 4-2 lead with 11 minutes to go is also a measure of this team. For them in lose in less than a minute of OT just seemed like an outgrowth of blowing the lead. Like they were doomed to give it away. A brutal loss, especially with the Ducks coming to town. But focus, if you prefer, on "second in the Metropolitan Division" with 42 points behind Pens rather than "15th in PTS% (.583) in the whole NHL.

I know you said that yesterday's game puts an end to the QB controversy, but I am afraid it does just enough to stoke it. Cousins was good but not awesomely good. If he were awesomely good there'd be no controversy. I am not looking forward to eight months of arguing about this, when what the team needs is a defensive transplant and improved discipline on offense. Sigh. Six and a half weeks until pitchers and catchers...

It will be argued about. But it shouldn't be. Not off the evidence we have in front of us.

"Everything changes everything." If Cousins torches the Giants -- who are now 6-9 and don't want to lose 10 games -- then that's one point data point to include. But three starts and parts of other games is plenty for a FIRST impreression. Mine is "Good for Cousins. But there's no "controversy" and nothing remotely close to one." Though I bet the Shanahans would LOVE to leave a QB brawl behind them when they leave. There IS a sensible argument for starting Cousins the last three games. But that sound reasoning is not the primary reason that Shanahan did this, imo. There's just a basic  sourness in the Shanaclan-RGII-III relationship now that isn't going away, can't be ingored and has driven all the bad behavior of the last three weeks.

Washington hasn't seen many street-fighter coaches/managers in its history -- guys like Billy Martin who hold grudges and like to leave damage behind them to the people they've decided are "against me." I've covered so many winning teams, disintegrating teams and controversial teams, around the country over the last 35 years where there's a wider range of personality types and some REALLY bitter break ups. DC is having one now.  You have to make sure there's no broken glass on the locker room floor after the last guy from the old regime leaves.

Given Danny Espinosa's personality, do the Nats really think he'll be suited to being a bench player?

He better learn to live with it because that's where he is now and it's the proper performance-based decision. I assume that he will.

Still wonder if the Dodgers will end up with him as THEIR utility man. But the Nats really value him, and should, so they won't trade him lightly.

I looked at the top 10 career comparables for Lombo and Espinosa the other day and also Wilson Ramos. It underlines that neither Steve or Danny is likely to be a huge impact player in future -- though Steve might turn out as good as Steve Ontiveros who had several good years with the Cubs and was then a big star in Japan for six years, while Danny could still end up a fine career like Robby Thompson (33.7 career WAR!) or a useful one like Scott Spezio. But the way to bet is that their current career levels as hitters and fielders are where they will stay. And Espy has to get back to that .235-with-pop level.

It's Ramos that opens your eyes. ALL 10 of the players that he most resembles statistically on offense were catchers! IOW, he's a classic type. And it's a very classy, franchise lifting 10. Especially if you look at how many of them got every good at Ramos current age (26 next season). Miguel Montero, Ariz's All-Star who had 86 and 88 RBIU in '11 and '12. Sammy White  (old Boston catcher) had 75 RBI at 26 and a fine career. Sherm Lollar, Mike Lieberthal (Phils, had 31 homers at 27), Victor Martinez (.hit .305 and .316 at 26-27), Carlton Fisk (who didn''t stop getting hurt until he started refusing to block the plate when he was 28) and Ed Bailey.  Yes, I know only I remember, Bailey, Lollar and White. Nats fans should hope Ramos is that solid for that long. 

Also, almost all of those players were fine catchers for MANY years after age 25. Regardless of early injuries, in some cases. It would be unconventional but I'd think about -- this is blue sky, could be crazy -- offering Ramos a $35M/five-year contract right now. (Pick your own theoretical dollar size and number of years.) You lock him up through age 30, give yourself two extra years of team control; you give him security for life before he proves that he can stay injury free. And you may end up with a heckuva bargain over the whole five years. It's a risk -- for both sides. That's why it's a sane idea. (Maybe.)   

What an entertaining last two minutes of the Pats-Ravens, LOL

I thought I was hallucinating as I watched the score change. And how about those Eagles! Think the Pokes are in a heap of trouble next week in Dallas. Philly is coming together, Boys are falling apart and barely got out of DC on Suynday. They TRIED to lose that game. Like Garrett's idiotic sweep on third down from the 1-yd line, down by six. NO. You have TWO plays to gain one yard and take the lead. DO NOT run the one play -- a slow developing sweep -- that offers the defense the best chance for a negative yardage play. With TWO downs for ONE yard, call almost anything else in the play book.

And that sweep lost 11 -- ELEVEN -- yards! The refs spotted the ball incorrectly by TWO yards (at the 10, not the 12-yard line) -- or maybe wrong by five feet. Look at the tape. There's no question. Then Romo passes to Murray for the game-winning TD on fourth and 10 and he makes it by about four feet -- just about the length of the mistake -- in the Cowboys favor -- on the awful spot.

When it's a bad season, it's a really bad season.

Please tell me Shanahan can't come back.

He can't. He won't. Nothing is 100 percent, but this is almost as close as it gets. People just have to have something to talk about, fill air, hedge their bets if they are close to the team every day and have Shanahan Returns nightmares. 

Three weeks ago, sure, he could have come back. Now, both sides, or their surrogates have talked bad about Dan's franchise QB and Shanny's son. Among other leaked insults and denegrations. This is personal. The hostility points in every direction. And everybody believes their own side is in the right. And "personal" doesn't get fixed.

If I'm Shanahn, then I really dislike (oh, come on, why say "hate")  Snyder and think I have plenty of reason to feel that way. If I'm Snyder, I now really dislike  Shanahan now and think I have plenty of reason. Situations like that don't get fixed.

It would be like dredging up the pieces of the Titanic off the bottom of the Atlantic, putting the boat back together with scotch tape, then saying, "Hey, everybody, lets get back on board and try this whole cross-the-Atlantic thing all over again. It'll be fun this time!"

(That one was for Dan Steinberg's amusement. Hope he sees it.)

As another year closes, I have to ask. Who's gonna win a championship first, Nats, Caps, Wiz, Skins or DCU? Heck, let's throw in Terps basketball for good measure.

Nats have a chance right now -- but only if you recognize that at least six other teams have roughly as good a chance to say the same thing right now. And a few others are close.

The Caps are even a bit further away. But long playoff runs in the NHL are more common than longshots making it all the way to a World Series victory. Wiz, DCU, long way to go. Skins, not in the discussion now and probably not for a couple years or more -- at the least. New coach, new roster, new system maybe, no No. 1 pick, RGIII ultimate performance level a mystery -- is he an 82.0 or 92.0 or 102.0 QB? Just don't know.

Do you know how many times we've changed these "rankings" in the last few years! Caps were No. 1 alone -- the Window Is Open -- when Nats were still losing 100, etc.   

Would Dan really consider keeping Shanahan, and potentially wasting another year of his franchise QBs growth, to save a few million bucks? Seems nuts.

Yes, it'd be nuts.

You give up 1-1-1-2 for Griffin. He gets hurt -- in large part by a bad decision by THE COACH. Then there's every circumstantial evidence of bad feelings between anyone/everyone named Shanahan and everyone named Griffin (or Snyder). That's partly just human nature and negative fallout from The Injury. You have to remember that the knee injury is the snake in this garden. So, you bring back that coach who's built an historically bad defense, an even worse special teams disaster and say, "Oh, lets just try it again. No harm, no foul. It was all the salary-cap hit's fault."

On the Bizarre Meter, it would be worth it just to see it -- cover it. But I wouldn't wish that on any team anywhere, or on any people in sports.

A couple years ago, Ovechkin was "figured out." His numbers were so low. Sometimes he was too heavy and slow, other times too aggressive and injury-prone. What changed to make him so good again? Was it just switching positions? Working for Hunter or Oates? Also, do you think he can keep it up?

Yes, he can keep it up. Maybe not at this goal-scoring pace. But he's made the mid-career adjustment -- a huge one in conjunction with Oates.

Here's my column on how they did it, if you missed it:

I have to contend with something you wrote in your "Baseball Penants are won in the winter" column. I don't know a single Mets fan who is happy, or to be fair, the least bit optimistic about this season. It's hard to get excited about Curtis Granderson at 32 years old and signed for four years given that he is coming off an injury, at an age that is given to decline, and in his last full season had a 30 point decline in batting average and struck out almost 30 percent of the time. Nor are we excited for Bartolo Colon, who had a great season last year, but is now 40 years old and will have to bat, or Chris Young coming off a .200/280/.379 season. The fear amongst many is that while this is a huge outpouring of money (especially granderson) that may hang as an albatross around us. There are still large holes at first and short that require addressing. Of course the bigger issue is that the overall consensus amongst Mets fans is that ownership has little interest in winning at this point and quite possibly has bigger financial worries than they are admitting to. Like many Redskins fans, Mets fans probably will not feel happy until there is a ownership change in Queens.

All your points are well taken. I only intended to imply (he said, backpedaling quickly) that the Mets, short-term, might be "less bad."

Yes, these look like "throw money" and "appease fans" additions. But 32 is too early to give up on Granderson. Colon? Who knows how he does it at 40? (No laughter.) He throws almost nothing but well-spotted fastballs. But he's doing it. He's gone 28-15 the last two years w low ERA.

How good is he? My friend and I have been fighting about it. Is he "top tier"? Top 3, 5 or 10? Seems that with so few SS getting double digit SBs and 20+ HR and his errors going down, it's easy to overlook that he's still a bit of a defensive liability.

Desmond is very good -- 20 HR, 80 RBI, .280 and 20 errors good. He's not great -- as in HOF or All-Star year after year. He is also a first-rate team leader. He deserves an extension. A big fat one. But it's not an easy salary number to figure out. I'm trying to get my arms around what might be fair. Haven't done it yet.

BUT the Nats should understand that if you really like a core player -- and they should really like Desmond -- then you are MUCH better off biting the bullet and getting the long-term deal done earlier rather than later. The waiting game is a killer of relationships.    

Boz, In a perfect world I'd like the Nats to lock all four of them up to long-term extensions. Z'Mann and Desi are of more immediate concern, obviously, but Stras and Harp aren't too far behind. Can the Nats afford them all? Do they want to? How would you rank them in importance in case they can't/won/t pay for them all? Tell you what, though - this is a problem I'd never have thought we'd have back in the RFK days Nice problem to have!

Yes, nice problem. I'd be aggressive in trying to get both Z'mann and Desmond done even if, eventually, it endangers signing Strasburg or Harper. Why? Z'amnn and Desmond have earned it with performance, they are home-grown and a bird in the hand is worth...

Also, it's just a fact that Harper and Stras have Boras as an agent. When the player makes that choice the PLAYER is making a statement about how he sees his future contract negotiations. Boras is Boras. He's a non-factor. He wants top dollar. He's really smart. And he's FOR his client. The only "information" you are getting is that the player has PICKED Boras. And very few of his players have ever signed an extension before going free agent. And except for Greg Maddox (and maybe one or two others) once his players reach free agency, they leave.

My sense is that the Nats ownership thinks it is -- somewhat -- different. Or they think Strasburg and Harper are different. I'd love to see them all have long great careers in Washington. But, imo, it is a basic mistake to take even one cent off the table when dealing with extensions for Desmond or Z'mann because you are "saving" that dollar for any Boras client. (Besides, Harper can't be a free agent and play anywhere else until the 2019 season -- that is an eternity from now in baseball time.) It's just a fact of the industry. Hope the Nats grasp it. This is not a "right" or "wrong" issue. It's about understanding the landscape of your business.  

We were sitting around marveling at Tanaka's stats (99-35, 2.30 ERA career) and wonder what were the chances that he will become available this year. I assume that if he doesn't he will be available next year. That led to who could sign him. We think the Dodgers and Nats from the NL, and the Yankees (because they are always in the mix) Red Sox, and maybe the Angels from the AL. Do you have any thoughts about it?

I doubt the Nats are in it. It's said that the Golden Eagles will decide on Tanaka "by Wednesday." What, a Holiday present for the U.S. game? 

The rumors are that they'll keep him tied up. That's not how I read it. Fans in Japan enjoy seeing their stars become dominant, like Darvish. It's hard to keep a player who wants to be somewhere else. The Golden Eagles are just mad that everybody ganged up on them and cut their "vig" from ~$50M for Dice-K and Darvish to $20M for Tanaka. But what are they going to do? I think they'll come around, maybe get some concession from somebody somewhere to smooth their feathers, and let Tanaka go.

"Spite" isn't a good strategy when a 24-year old pitcher just went 24-0 for you, finally lost a game in Game 6 of your World Series then came back on ZERO days rest in Game 7 to finish the game and ice your city's first championship. "Free Tanaka" will probably carry the day. But that's a guess. I'm anxious to see how it works out.   

Bos, what makes a fan favorite? Why do so many people miss Michael Morse and want him back, but no one seemed to care that Adam Dunn left? Is Steve Lombardozzi a fan favorite because he's attractive, pleasant, a local, or both? We didn't care about losing Matt Capps, but I imagine the thought of losing Clippard would make people livid. Just what is it that defines fan favorite? Who are the ones we have now? Harper, both Zimms, etc. It wouldn't be right to ask who's not (although the initials R.S. come to mind. . .)

Now that is a question that deserves thought more than a quick answer. And maybe a column someday.

Running a team based too much on your "fan favorites" is a mistake. The Nats certainly haven't fallen into that because they made decisions in the caess of Morse and Lombardozzi that were built on their own evaluations -- which happened to agree with industry opinion -- not fan reaction. (And they don't listen to the media either! I was in favor of keeping Dunn -- over and over. He's continued to battle -- 41 homers, 96 RBI in '12 and 34-86 in '13 after an atrocious '11, but resigning him would have been a very bad call.) 

Listen...say what you want, but for the first time in a LONG time...Lez Boulez appear to have a big man that can run, shoot (sorta'), and rebound. PLEASE tell me we'll sign him to a long term deal????

It's fun to watch the veteran chemistry of Nene and Gortat, the shooting confidence of Ariza and Webster, to compliment the young guns. If they have really started to get over the Late Fourth Quarter Game-Blowin' Blues, they will be a lot of fun.

What are your thoughts on Mark Turgeon as a coach? The team looks awful...

I like him as a coach. The Terps are more inconsistent -- depending on their shooting, night to night -- than they are "awful." Give it time. But losing to BU in hoops has to hurt any Maryland fan.

You've been a basher. But you have to give him credit for bringing the Cowboys back yesterday. One terrible decision/throw (interception to D. Hall), one potential touchdown that he overthrew, but otherwise a really good performance, particularly in the fourth quarter when. What did you see on the tape?

Wonderful athlete with that extra sense of pressure in the pocket. He's clutch many times and can stand the gaffe. But he also has a crazy streak of bad decision making that's always been there. It's just part of him, part of the package. Why would it ever go away? The "gift pick" to Hall and the something-out-of-nothing to save the season are both Romo.

He can make you good enough to be part of the conversation, but, in the end, he leaves you in stunned silence. Even the fumbled PAT snap to kill a season is part of him. IOW, the PERFECT Cowboys QB -- if you hate the Cowboys.

But he had a nice day on Sunday. He'll get killed by the Eagles. (Yes, be sure to "call back" next Monday if I'm wrong.)

Were Shirley still here among us, and were he to write a story about this year in sports in DC, what do you think he would have to say, beyond the facts of what has occurred? Julian Tepper Albuquerque, NM

Before or after he finished banging his head against the nearest wall?

Large pre-holiday family gathering last evening an hour after the game. Three generations of fans ranging from their 70s to teens. Game was given the conversational version of a shoulder shrug. There's no way a one-point loss to Dallas on a last-minute touchdown shouldn't have been the overwhelming topic of chatter, but there we were. Indifference is the first step toward silence...


Mr. Boswell, were you even born the last time the Wiz won three straight road games? Just kidding of course! But it does seem like an eternity since this happened. Kudos for Ernie bringing in Gortat.

I've knocked Ernie. Congrats on Gortat.

Hope everyone had great holidays. I'll be back next Monday. Maybe take one or two more.

I also wanted to say, not just for today but all year, how much I appreciate all the great questions, observations and the effort that goes into the chatters part of this Monday meeting.  It really helps me to have a sense of what good knowledgable fans are thinking, feeling.

Tom - How has forums such as this and Twitter changed the way you write?  It seems that the skill of powerful column writing has diminished as I peruse newspapers online as there is more of a tendency to make a point or a headline without the thought and consideration that used to go into writing. You seem to be one of the few (not sucking up here..) who somehow manages to still write lengthy provacative columns and also be somewhat tech savvy. Not sure how much that will change when your new boss takes over.... Also, just curious because you are able to track everything, is there a push to write "positive" stories especially on-line because those tend to draw eyes and keep the advertisers happy?

Twitter is completely different and appeals to a different part of my personality. It's like the quipping you always hear in press boxes. So I enjoy it. Just like chats -- also a different forum that brings out different parts of what you have to say.

BUT, and it is a huge "but," columns really make you think and work. I always say to Wilbon that writing teaches you to think. In the absence of the critical thinking that writing enforces, your mind tends to get lazy. Columns, and any kind of longer disciplined writing is simply a higher form. It least when it's done well. (He said, off the cuff.)

Call me crazy, but to me RG3 has the potential to be a top level player that nobody on the Wizards can match, so I give the WAS football a higher potential than the Wizards.

Good point. Look what Cam Newton has done in Year 3 in Carolina.

Do you spend anytime watching the lower tier bowl games?

I'm going to become a Towson fan, at least in the first week in January, after their come-from-behind win on that all-red field in Washington state on Saturday.

Nice field you have there. It's a miracle there aren't three ACL tears a game. Seriously, can't the league step in and say there are minimal standards of a field of play?

It's a work of art, isn't it?

Priorities, priorities.

Where does Terrance West go in the draft? Because he WILL get drafted.

Go Tigers. I've only seen highlights of West. He looked good Saturday. 

Are you going to Nats Spring training? My wife and I are going for the very first time. What (besides the games) can we look forward to? What is one thing (baseball related) we absolutely shouldn't miss? What restaurants would you recommend? Hoping to see you there!

* Players will chat, give autographs.

*Get close behind pitchers (behind fence) to watch throw sessions from maybe 15-18 feet behind the mound. See what MLB "stuff" actually looks like in real life. This is easier before the games start.

*Bonefish Willy's (riverfront in Melbourne). At night, lights on water, relaxed, fish and beer, a little funky. Travis MaGee would like it.

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Thomas Boswell
A Washington Post columnist since 1984, Thomas Boswell is known for the many books he has written on baseball, including "How Life Imitates the World Series" and "Why Time Begins on Opening Day."
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