I am biased and don't mind admitting it. I say that if you don't have biases, then you either lack resolution or moral values, or you don't get around enough.
Here are some of the things I'm biased about: the New York Yankees, Dick Cheney, Dick Cheney's skanky-ho mama, the doctrine of papal infallibility, beer joints with concrete floors, Britney Spears, petite brunettes, yappy dogs, purebred cats, women's basketball, Paul Mazursky films and molé sauce.
I won't tell you which way I lean on these subjects, just that the bias is there. (I'd be proud to discuss any of them with you at the Scene Sports Desk at McCabe's Pub, as long as you're buying.)
I mention these carefully considered, experience-based opinions only so that people won't get the wrong idea when I say that Washington, D.C., is a godforsaken nuthouse that decent folk should avoid. If you have to go, stick to the Mall, the monuments and the Smithsonian. Spend too long in D.C. and you will be driven to screaming by the people who either work for or are bribing the government.
I can understand why George W. Bush prefers to spend time in Crawford, Texas. This is saying something, because the last time I was in Crawford, there were steaming cow pies on the high school football field, which occasionally doubles as a pasture, and the football field is one of Crawford's major objects of civic pride.
It's not just that you pass block after block of monoliths housing faceless government bureaucracies in Washington; it's the bureaucrats. They haven't a clue what's up with us peasants beyond the Beltway, but many of them can reliably tell you what (if not whom) Donald Rumsfeld had for breakfast. It's like spending all your time with the characters of The West Wing, except they don't deliver clever lines and are even more insufferably self-absorbed.
They are also i-n-e-s-c-a-p-a-b-l-e. They seem to follow you around, with stories you can't help but overhear about some mundane facet of bureaucratic life.
Once, on a business trip to Washington, I resolved to find some unobtrusive dining spot where I could enjoy a peaceful hour without hearing any bureaucrat chitchat. I chose a small, inexpensive Ethiopian restaurant in a semi-iffy neighborhood where I was sure the bureaucrats wouldn't follow. The place, of course, was packed with them.
I wound up next to one pencil-neck who loudly regaled his date about his successful confrontation with power that day. Where I came from, confrontation stories generally end, at the very least, with the promise of several newly ripped orifices. The bureaucrat's confrontation story ended with a blow-by-blow of how his smart answer silenced a hectoring congressman during a committee hearing about proposed new regulations for rubber galoshes. I have not eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant since, which I attribute entirely to some form of post-traumatic stress.
Anyhow, my experiences with Washington bureaucrats' obsession with Washington bureaucracy helped convince me that Washington, D.C., should never again have a major-league baseball team. The Capital Geniuses, using ominous warnings of an end to baseball's antitrust exemption as leverage, want the soon-to-be-relocated Montreal Expos to come to downtown D.C. For the good of baseball, they should fail.
If you really want to give the stepchild Expos a good home, send them to Monterrey, Mexico.
I know that it is un-American to suggest such a thing. But if baseball is truly the American national pastime, then you could also argue plausibly that Washington is an un-American city. Maybe that wasn't true back in the halcyon days of Walter Johnson and the Senators and a government so small that Calvin Coolidge could sleep 12 hours every day without missing anything important. But Washington today has about as much to do with baseball, apple pie and American values as quantum physics has to do with toe fungus.
My own bias aside, there's a big problem with sticking baseball in Washington. Baltimore, where the politico types currently travel for their baseball entertainment, doesn't want a new team in the neighborhood to siphon away its fansjust like, if you owned a Subway franchise, you'd be slightly miffed to find that the company had stuck another store four blocks from yours.
Besides, Washington has had a turn with baseballtwiceand failed. The first incarnation of the Senators left for Minnesota. The miserable reincarnation of the Senators, resurrected by U.S. Senators, finally gave up the ghost and moved to Texas (where, in keeping with their Washington heritage, they have managed to avoid playing in a World Series for 33 years).
In consideration of Orioles owner Peter Angelos, the "compromise" site for the relocated Expos is northern Virginia, which is where about half of the people who work in D.C. live anyway. But why should we believe that baseball would do any better there than in downtown Washington, if Commissioner Bud Selig opts to appease Baltimore while caving to the Capital Gang?
I'm not against Washingtonians having the NFL as entertainment. The violence of pro football is a helpful, vicarious outlet for them.
Baseball, by contrast, is both leisurely and cerebral. That makes it a very bad fit for all the Type A folks in Washington. Except for George Will, they don't really want baseball for baseball's sake. They just want another venue for hobnobbing, deal-brokering and jibber-jabbering. George can venture to Camden Yards or watch all the baseball he wants via satellite dish.
But Monterrey, a dark-horse possibility, would be a visionary choice (and not only because the city's name means the same thing as Montreal). Baseball is beloved in Mexico. Exhibition games there have drawn huge support in recent years. Why not award a team to a town that would treasure baseball for what it is, instead of measuring the franchise's impact in terms of tourist dollars or stadium revenues?
The move would even have geopolitical benefits, symbolizing, in a way that NAFTA never could, that Mexico is now accepted onto the same playing field as the U.S. and Canada. George Bush and Vicente Fox would be hard-pressed to dream up many better ways to strengthen relations between the two countries.
Of course, there's one huge obstacle: The only way Selig would send the Expos to Monterrey would be if the move made no sense at all.
Message to Paul: give it up
One of the most remarkable stories of the Olympic Games in Athens was the dramatic comeback of U.S. gymnast Paul Hamm. After falling into the judges' laps in a monumental flop, he rallied with a nearly flawless routine to capture the All-Around gold medal by the closest of margins in history.
There'd be only one way to make the story even better: for Hamm to give his medal back.
Turns out that Hamm only won because three judges made egregious calculation errors that robbed a Korean gymnast of his rightfully earned gold. The Olympic Committee could have rectified the problem by awarding a second gold medal, as it did to the shafted Canadian skaters in Salt Lake. But word came Monday that no such remedy would be forthcoming. On Monday night, when Hamm rose to compete in an individual event, the Athens crowd booed for 10 minutes.
None of this is Hamm's fault. He worked hard. He competed like a champion. The $25,000 the U.S. Olympic Committee awards our gold-medal winners is only token compensation for the time and effort athletes like Hamm devote to their quest.
You can understand why no one would want simply to give that away. But if he did, Americans would remember Paul Hamm as a hero long after we forget what he did on a high bar.