Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals played chicken, like those hot rodders in “Rebel Without a Cause.”

That made for an amazing night to not watch sports, and just refresh this and that web page every few minutes hoping for some Breaking News. Would Strasburg be without a contract? Would the Lerners be without another top draft pick AND a fan base?

My mom’s favorite writer, Chico Harlan, was like a political speechwriter on a close election night who has to write both a victory and concession speech, knowing that half his work will be wasted.

In a post made less than an hour before zero hour, Harlan admitted on his Nationals Journal blog that because his own deadlines were approaching he’d had to write two stories, one for the Lerners caving, one for the pitcher caving, before knowing what happened. (Everybody was filing news-free reports ’round midnite. The Associated Press write-up was headlined “Strasburg, other 1st-round picks go to deadline.”)

At 12:18 a.m., Chico filed the bulletin report that Strasburg was signed, and attributed the news to Baseball America. Two minutes later, Chico filed one of his fab pre-fab pieces — headlined “It’s Done: Strasburg Signs” — with the amount of the contract, $15.7 million guaranteed, filled in. The only clue that this was a dummy piece: Chico’s story didn’t attribute the information to anyone or anything.

Then, within minutes of the climactic posting, Chico changed the headline to “It’s Done: Strasburg Agrees.

Which, you know, coulda been the headline for the unused post, too. (Not to go all CSI on Chico, but the link to the updated post, even with the new, CYA headline, still ends with “its_done_strasburg_signs.html”)

(AFTER THE JUMP: The fat lady’s going to sing at Nats Park? Clemens makes a comeback? Eastern High football makes a comeback? Just like Dick Cheney, Darth Vader’s going to throw out a first pitch?)

But…”signs,” “agrees,” who cares? That opera simulcast at Nationals Park can’t possibly provide more melodrama than Strasburg Signing Night!


I went to’s Major League Baseball page a couple minutes before midnight scanning every nook for Strasburg updates. There wasn’t a word about the Nats draft pick. But among the lead stories there was one headlined “Retro-Rocket Fired Up,” with the lede: “Roger Clemens will pitch the first game of his 22nd season, and perhaps his last, in the major leagues on Friday for the Astros.” And the main photo had Gary Sheffield in a Yankees uniform brawling with Red Sox fans.

Clemens is coming back to Houston? Sheffield’s back in pinstripes? How out of touch am I?

Well, not as out of touch as the page, it turns out. A note on far right column says, “Announcement: This page will not be updated.” This stuff’s from all the way back in 2005.

Mr. Gorbachev: Tear down that page!


I’m a cheapskate, but I was all for the DC government shelling however many millions it cost to give new football fields to DCIAA High schools over the last few years.

About every time I’ve gone inside a city school for a story over the years, I’ve seen holes in the ceiling and warped floors and rusty lockers and the sort of plight I used to think only existed in schools in the third world or Camden, NJ.

With the new turf fields, the kids here were finally going to get something that was at least as good as what their counterparts in the suburbs always got but took for granted.

Well, proof that it was indeed money well spent: Eastern Senior High’s going to have a football team this year. Forty-four kids came out for the first day of football practice at Eastern last weekend, and the coaching staff tells me the school’s new football field brought a lot of them out.

Last year, Eastern never got the mandatory minimum roster size of 18 eligible players, and after forfeiting its first few games the administration pulled the plug on the entire season.

The cancellation of a football season caused a lot of collateral damage: no marching band performances, no cheerleading squads or dance teams, no alumni gatherings, no Friday night lights.

But, all that’s back.

“I can’t say we’re going to have all 42 guys sticking around until the season starts, and I won’t say the talent level is anything special,” an Eastern assistant coach told me. “But we’ve got 42 for now, and the new field brought a lot of them out. To host the Turkey Bowl at the school, and not even have a team of their own was embarrassing to the kids, and the school, so that got kids motivated. No matter what, it’s better to have a team than no team.”

More on the impact of the fields on football turnout in the Titanic platform (or maybe not!) of this week’s City Paper.


The Bowie Baysox, who have more promotional gimmicks than even Chris Cooley, have announced that Darth Vader will throw out the first pitch at Prince George’s Stadium this Saturday night, as Altoona visits. “Star Wars” fan clubs are scheduled to show up in costume.

All things considered, I’d rather spend the evening in Altoona.