What a crazy couple of weeks in Washington.  A perennial doormat punches its playoff ticket…while a perennial contender plays its way towards extra golf.  A baseball sweep reminds us that the first week is meaningless-except when it is– and a football signing reminds us that while a certain football team tries to move beyond the big offseason splash, they’re only a few days away from shouting “CANNONBALL!”.  Brackets are burned before a local team blazes its way to the Final Four.  And in the middle of it all, the Mother we’ve been waiting to meet meets her maker.  Where to begin?

 

When I left you last, I was focusing on my “Bold, Fold, and Gold” (patent pending) picks.  Bold Picks Providence, NC State, Nebraska and Ohio State failed to get to the weekend.  Fold Picks VCU, Oklahoma and Villanova underperformed their seed while Michigan lost in the regional finals.  And Gold Selections Kansas & Duke didn’t survive the first weekend…while Michigan State came up short and Wisconsin advanced.  Alma Mater Update– I was bummed to see Syracuse come up short in the round of 32…but after seeing them play the way they had since early February I wasn’t surprised in the least.  So now we have the pre-tournament favorite (Florida), a team that finally got its act together after underachieving for far too long (Kentucky), and two hardscrabble teams that flew in under the radar (Wisconsin by the vanilla-ness of their image as a buzz-cut wearing boring bunch and UConn by scraping together three consecutive upsets).  My fear is Kentucky wins and the press goes back to kissing the feet of John Calipari…because talent trumps all the frills and winners write history.  I’m hoping for Florida-Wisconsin…and the usual “spontaneous cliched final call”.

Speaking of Final Fours…how did this Maryland team get there?  Wasn’t this the bunch that struggled with just one alpha dog in Alyssa Thomas carrying too much of the burden?  Wasn’t this the team that lost their ACC Quarterfinal game and came undone on the road repeatedly?  Wasn’t this a team directed by a freshman point guard that would most assuredly be hitting the wall given the minutes she’s had to play this winter?  Au contraire– do not underestimate coach Brenda Frese when she has two weeks to get her team back in gear after a rough couple of months.  Don’t underestimate the power of Alyssa Thomas–a swiss army-knife of a player that allows her team to go big and small often on the same possession.  And don’t think that just like Kentucky can jell down the stretch after five months playing together, the freshman three-pack of Lexie Brown, Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough won’t start playing like upperclassmen.  The win over top seed Tennessee was impressive, but beating Louisville on their home court was absolutely huge.  THAT JUST DOES NOT HAPPEN.  Credit quick starts in both games…and with unbeaten Notre Dame on the horizon the Terps know that a slow start against the Fighting Irish in the regular season cost them in the long run that night.

The Maryland women are in the Final Four for the first time since 2006… while the Washington Wizards are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.  Break out the banners!  This for a franchise that hadn’t even been over .500 after November since…well, quite some time.  Coach Randy Wittman’s meshed together a hungry group that at its best does the little things–and with the necessary intensity.  And they’re doing this with minimal contributions from their first round pick from last June–although once Otto Porter gets healthy, he should be a factor in the future.  Two moves that made the season–sending Emeka Okafor to Phoenix for Marcin Gortat (who would have thought his game and beard would have held up in DC?);  and signing Drew Gooden off the scrap heap (providing quality minutes once Nene got hurt).  Can they dream of a #6 seed and a first round upset?

While the Wizards are on the upswing, the Capitals are collapsing.  Four straight losses aren’t helping…and Alex Ovechkin going point-less in even-strength situations during the month of March was deadly.  Years of getting fat late in the season against Southleast Division competition may be coming back to haunt the team this April.  For years I’ve compared the Caps to the Cherry Blossoms– they spring to life in late March and early April before becoming an afterthought in May.  Evidently the winter weather in DC took a different tone on the ice.

Deja Vu may be in play for the Nationals:  the team swept its opening series with the New York Mets– just like last year when they broomed Miami.  Unfortunately 2013 season did not adopt the “most impressive first series gets a bye into October” rule…and a rude awakening was just around the corner:  beginning with a rough weekend in Cincinnati and a home sweep by Atlanta.  The first-place Nats play the Braves a little earlier this year– as in the home opener.  Will new manager Matt Williams make the right lineup and relief decisions?  Tanner Roark was the right move in a spot-start today…but it’s a long season.  159 more…

Redskinsanity– Desean Jackson is a Redskin.  The team adds another major weapon for coach Jay Gruden–and in theory this is not a bad move.  It’s only a three year deal.  Jackson’s 27…and has more than a few productive years left.  Gruden and RGIII will find ways to get him the ball in the right spot…and if he isn’t racking up big catches it’s because he’s drawing extra coverage that’s not on Pierre Garcon.  This will be the move that puts a team just one year removed from the playoffs back into the postseason.  The defense and special teams will need all the bailing out this fall-and this lightning rod is exactly what you need.  But they’ve taken Eagle castoffs before…and Jeremiah Trotter and Donovan McNabb weren’t difference-makers here.  There’s the gang thing.  And the uneasiness that now accompanies every free agent move made by the Redskins.  Call it Albert Haynesworth’s shadow…

How I Met Your Mother wrapped up a nine-year run on CBS with a divisive series finale that had many long-time viewers up in arms.  In reality, it was a show that had probably been on the air two or three years too long…and I’m glad to have closure.  Did we need to spend an entire season on one wedding weekend when the marriage would come undone 15 minutes into the season finale?  Did we need to send a character on a roadtrip that went nowhere quickly because the actor playing him was busy shooting a movie?  Did we need to kill off the very mother we were searching for the entire time?  Did viewers need to edit together a “new ending” that wrapped up on the train platform or start an online petition?  It’s tough to stick a landing in a series finale.  M*A*S*H broke the mold in the manner that there was finality…but not every show is about a war (or conflict…or even a police action).  I thought the last season was a little bit uneven from multiple Billy Zabka sightings to further Fonzification of Barney (I won’t even mention how they turned him back into the heel he once was only to redeem him with a daughter all in ten minutes of screen time).  I heard they had to trim the final episode by 18 minutes…I’m sure the jumpiness of the timeline was made worse because of that.  It’s too bad they couldn’t have fleshed out the whole story…because for whatever strengths and weaknesses HIMYM had, it was about storytelling.  And the ending felt rushed.  But it was a fun place to visit on Mondays…and a decent group of characters to enjoy watching from the next booth at MacClaren’s.

 

 

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