The State of Sports in D.C.

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Every year, our nation's leader gives the State of the Union address, outlining the successes and failures of our country. I'm no president, and I won't talk about a country, but here is the State of the D.C. Sports address.

Welcome, fellow Washingtonians. I have personally enjoyed the past star-studded year in D.C. sports, which began with high hopes for all three local teams, the NBA's Wizards, the NHL's Capitals and Dan Snyder's revamped Washington Redskins of the NFL. However, all the preseason promise translated into a disappointing first-round playoff exit for the Caps and the other two teams watching the playoffs on TV.

First, let's start with baseball. For those of you who are hoping the Expos will soon be playing in the D.C. area, four words: Don't count on it. With the success in Puerto Rico and a slightly increased fan base in Montreal, the MLB is actually considering having its road warriors play without a true home for another year.

Our most successful team this year was the Capitals. Rookie coach Bruce Cassidy led a talented squad into the playoffs where they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Who? Some advice for Caps boss Ted Leonsis. Get rid of $12 million-a-year man Jaromir Jagr and go young. In the weaker Southeast Division, the Caps can rebuild.

The Capitals' MCI Center co-tenants, the Washington Wizards, had a disappointing regular season, which was followed by an ugly off-season. After owner Abe Pollin fired Michael Jordan (I never thought I'd write those words), he is left an unproven coach in Eddie Jordan. But have no fear: he still has all those overpaid babies he likes to call players.

The Wizards needed to hire a GM who knows what he's doing, and in came former Milwaukee Bucks GM Ernie Grunfeld. Many hope the new Jordan in town can stabilize the franchise the way the other Jordan could not. Team leader Jerry Stackhouse will return, and with any luck, we will see a Kwame Brown-free team.

As bad as it is for the Wiz, this could look good with the acquisition of a veteran big man (Michael Olowokandi) or the stability of a guy like Scottie Pippen. Larry Hughes needs to return to the bench and Juan Dixon should start at the point. Get rid of Kwame Brown, Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas. Here's one fan who isn't holding his breath.

Baseball, hockey and basketball are all nice, but D.C. is a football town. Everyone who remembers the glory days of Joe Gibbs' Hogs knows. However, we've gone from hogs to frogs, as Steve Spurrier tried to bring his high-powered speed from the college ranks. Year one was a failure.

But this off-season, Snyder raided the Jets, signing four of their free agents. His important acquisitions include running back Trung Canidate, kicker John Hall, wide receiver Lavernaeus Coles and, gasp, quarterback Rob Johnson.

Spurrier's gang needs to play better on the defensive side of the ball because it's not going to be pretty with second-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey taking the snaps. Expect to see Johnson on the field by Week Four. Canidate will try to replace 1,000-yard rusher Stephen Davis, which is no small feat.

Coles will stretch the field and with Rod Gardner and rookie Taylor Jacobs, the Skins sport one of the league's fastest receiving corps. However, Spurrier doesn't have anyone who can get them the ball on a consistent basis. This team is on the fast track to another 8-8 season, if they're lucky.

In the stacked NFC East, with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, both perennial playoff teams, and the improving Dallas Cowboys led by Bill Parcells, the Skins should be happy to finish any better than last in the division.

While the four main sports in D.C. look pretty bleak, there is hope from some lesser sports. The WNBA's Mystics are headed for the playoffs again, and the United are playing decent soccer. But the most exciting thing D.C. fans have to look forward to is the Women's World Cup. The worldwide spectacular will begin at RFK Stadium in late August as the American ladies begin defending their World Championship.

While it may seem as if women's soccer is the only thing us Washingtonians have to look forward to, I may be missing something. I'm sure if you asked President Bush what he thought of the country a year ago, he wouldn't have scripted it quite like this. See you next year.

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