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I have been married for a long, long time. So long, in fact, that a friend once suggested I’d been married all my life because if you can’t remember what’s it like to be single, it might as well be all your life. And I can’t remember what it was like to be single.
Specifically, this is the 39th year my wife Deb and I have been married (anniversary No. 38 was in March) and there are a few things we’ve always done that minimizes the kind of friction that could threaten a long-term relationship. One of those is we don’t watch sports together.
Part of that is just the pure volume of sports I watch. When we were first married, I was a sportswriter for the Roanoke Times in the southwestern part of the state. ESPN had just been added to our cable system. Left to my own devices, I would (and did) watch sports all the time. It is my passion, my hobby, and I make no apologies for it. It brings me happiness.
My wife, conversely, can tolerate only a few sporting events. She likes to watch the Super Bowl. She loves to go to games with me, but moreso for all the food, beverage and other peripheral things associated with being at a game. On any given night, however, she far prefers to watch things like Hallmark Movies, HGTV, sensitive, feely shows like This Is Us (she once told me I should watch it because it would make me cry; I replied "why would I want to watch something that made me cry?") or DVRs of soap operas.
One month after we were married back in 1981, I noticed the source of many disagreements involved the main television in our den. Not money, politics, family or other issues. It was who was going to control the main TV for each night’s watching. I made an executive decision.
I drove to a nearby Woolco (that’s a name out of the past, isn’t it?) and found the exact same TV we had in the den. I purchased it, came home, and placed it in what was at the time our guest room (house only had two bedrooms, as we were just starting out). We had pooled our furnishings when we got married and had an old, beatup sofa in the basement. I crammed it into the tiny room, and now we had two places with the same viewing opportunities, only separate.
Each person could watch what they wanted, during timeouts and commercials one went to go see the other (the house was so small, we were only a few feet apart) and everyone was happy.
Hey, you do all sorts of things in the name of compromise to stay married all your life. This worked.
This doesn’t mean we never watch sports together. But my wife, while a lovely and sweet woman who is normally very quiet and unassuming around everyone else, can be quite opinionated around me. If a tight end doesn’t catch a ball going across the middle after being drilled in the ribs, she’s ready to cut him from the team. It doesn’t matter if I explain what happened or if she didn’t fully appreciate the nuances of the play having never put on a helmet. He disappointed her, so he has to go.
She has fired many a coach, placed half the league on waivers, and would quickly change the rules of most sports if ever allowed to be commissioner. Arguing with her on many of these things is futile, and after a while, you learn to go watch a game back in your area (for me, a 65-inch television in my office on the other side of the house) and continue the conversation via text.
She’s not been much of a baseball fan, but because the whole town has gone crazy with the Nationals, she’s watched a few of the playoff games, much like she did when the Caps won the Stanley Cup. Some of her questions are interesting. Like late in the game when she asked “should we be worried we haven’t scored since the first inning?” or when Patrick Corbin was really struggling, asking “why is the manager still leaving him in to pitch?” when the bases were loaded and nobody was out.
But her personnel moves as a budding general manager are the ones you have to be careful with. Daniel Hudson apparently did not get batters out in as timely a manner as she wanted, so after the game was over, she came back to my office and said “The Nationals need to get rid of that Hudson guy. We could have lost the game because of him.”
Since this was just moments after the Nats finally made the World Series, I calmly stated that I had watched every game the Nats had played either in person or via cable television since the team came to Washington in 2005, and all that mattered was that he did get the last three outs and the team was in the World Series for the first time ever.
“Well, I’ve only watched them play 3 games,” she said. “But that is enough for me to see that Hudson has to go.”
My wife is also very smart and frequently ponders situations, sometimes to a point approaching obsession. When she came home for lunch, for example, she had given the Nationals’ bullpen an ample amount of thought. She announced that in her view, the correct decision last night would have been to bring in Fernando Rodney.
Why would you think that, I asked. He’s 42 years old and he had just pitched the night before. That’s asking a lot for a guy that old, I explained.
Turns out she wanted him in there not because of Rodney’s fastball, curve or changeup. She liked when Rodney looked up at the sky and pretended to be shooting an arrow. She liked that and thought the Nats should have put him in so he could have the opportunity to do it again.
She then asked why Sean Doolittle got pulled. I answered he had thrown 21 pitches and that was about his limit to be effective. She replied that for the money they’re being paid, you’d think folks in the bullpen could pitch several innings every game.
Truth is, back in the day 40 years ago before specialization, she’s probably right.
She now has an entire week to ponder what else the Nats are doing wrong, analyze these weaknesses, and propose potential solutions. Some time next weekend, Deb and I will get to see a World Series game at Nats Park, so she can further her examination of the team in person from the stands.
It’s a perfect scenario for me. I will be attending a once in a lifetime event with the person I’ve spent my entire life with. Can’t think of anyone else I’d rather see the game with.
But Mike Rizzo needs to be careful. I’ll have a GM in waiting sitting with me.
So be watch out, Mike. She's quick to make changes. Just ask Daniel Hudson 😊