While Captain Hillcrest is off getting hitched, there will be a number of different voices on the blog in his stead. I started working with the Wizards in 1997, left after the 2001 season, and returned when OnGoal bought the team in 2006. I have worked over 280 Wizards games and many pre-season tours. l, like many people reading this, consider myself an ardent supporter. I love the Wizards team and organization and am passionate about soccer. I have seen a lot in my time and I wanted to share some of the highlights (lowlights?) with my fellow Wizards brethren. I will throw out various, random stories over the next couple of weeks and hope to interact with you on topics that will help with plans moving forward to our 15th season.
* Nick Garcia on his first trip with the Wizards was asked to roll down the window in the team bus by an 8-year old kid. He complied and was immediately hit in the face with a bag of urine. I will say that Nick is great for a locker room and not a long time goes by without someone telling a Nicky-G story.
* On our 1998 preseason trip to Ft. Lauderdale we had a collection of guys on the team who liked to partake in fun, nighttime activities. On what was supposed to be an off-day the next day, the entire team all went out together in the two team vans. On the drive home (very late or early depending on how you look at it), one van ran out of gas. The guys had to push the van over seven miles back to the hotel, but along the way passed the other van which blew out a tire. When the team (after all piling in one van) returned, there was a message on everyone's hotel phone saying that instead of a day off, they would do their timed beach run at 8am (or as they saw it, in less than two hours). I was at the end of the three-mile marker and was told to hit start on the stop watch when I got the call on my cell phone from the coach. The players all begged for me to start the clock a little late so the times weren't so awful. I got the call and waited for what I thought was around two minutes, but the team sludged to the finish line in an astounding 15-minutes and change. Ron Newman was tremendously pleased with the fitness level of the team. If any of you would like to send the great Coach Newman an email, and I promise he would love to hear from you, it is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* In a surprisingly hot afternoon game in April in Miami, the Wizards squared off against the Fusion. Interim Head Coach, and great story-teller, Ken Fogarty was at the helm and there were no other assistants for that game. He asked me to warm up the goalkeepers in preparation for the nationally televised match (he obviously did not care that I was wearing a suit). I did my best to warm Snitko up in my dress shoes and thought I was doing a decent job. That was until Chris always wanted to take crosses with a dummy runner to work on high balls. As ball after ball was whipped in from the corner, and I was getting sweatier and sweatier, a low cross was sent in. My job was to fake go up for a header while Chris caught the ball above me. I tried moving out of the way on the screamer, stopped, ducked, a bridged the starting goalkeeper who landed awkwardly on his shoulder. As he writhed in pain and screams, I leaned over and begged him to get up (to no avail). I quickly scampered to my PR duties, which included talking to the TV truck and talent. As Snitko laid there for a long while it occurred to me that we were about to go to kick-off. The talent was scrambling to find out what happened and my first response was "Jake Dancy." The game was delayed for five minutes and I still feel a little guilt for throwing Jake under the bus. We lost 1-0, which was our best result after six games to that point and Snitko had four or five saves.
* I got a new computer before a game in 1999 and the spell check button was automatically on. When I sent the game release story out to all the media, fans, etc. the computer changed all the names to what it thought was correct. Perky, Alexis Llama, Scott Million, Ouch Orator, Tony Meal, Chris Snatch, Jake Dancer, etc. evidentially played that night.
* David Winner locked his keys accidentally in his car, punched out the window to get them, needed stitches in his hand, then received a call saying he was starting the next game all within an hour.
* I played indoor soccer with my high school buddies and we were missing some players for a game. I recruited Chris Klein, Jake Dancy, Chris Brown, Brandon Prideaux, and Chris Henderson to play. We won handily.
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Quiz: The first person to get three correct answers will win a 2001 authentic Peter Byaruhanga jersey:
What player told Bob Gansler he could not make a road trip because his nephew was having his birthday party that weekend?
What defender was subbed out in a 0-0 game early in the first half and sat Indian Style on the opposite sideline in defiance refusing to come back to the bench?
What player was asked if he would rather be on the U.S. Team that won the World Cup or win the Bass Master's Championship chose incorrectly and did not play again?
What player refused to sign his autograph, but instead used a personalized stamp that took 60 times longer to plaster on than to just sign his name?
What player refused to be traded here before the 2000 season because we "were at least 20 years away from winning an MLS Cup."
Thanks for your time and I will check back in later.