Nationals

Beilein's Wolverines looking as good as advertised

Beilein's Wolverines looking as good as advertised

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Tim Hardaway Jr. opened the scoring with a smooth 3-pointer from the right corner, then Trey Burke added another, dribbling behind a screen for an open shot near the top of the key.

Moments later, Hardaway came breezing across midcourt and snapped a quick pass to freshman Nik Stauskas on the left wing. Another 3-pointer gave Michigan an 11-2 lead.

This is exactly what the Wolverines were hoping for when John Beilein was hired as coach in 2007.

Over the last six seasons, Michigan has built a program that can again challenge for a national championship, and that early flurry against West Virginia on Saturday has become the norm lately. After an 81-66 victory over the Mountaineers, the Wolverines are 11-0 and sitting at No. 2 in the latest AP poll - their highest spot since the Fab Five era.

``We feel if we play our best basketball, we can compete with anybody,'' forward Jordan Morgan said. ``We can't guarantee a win, but we're going to play hard every game.''

Beilein arrived before the 2007-08 season with a distinguished resume that included NCAA tournament appearances at Canisius, Richmond and West Virginia. He came within a game of the Final Four with the Mountaineers in 2005, but the jury was still out on whether he could help Michigan become one of college basketball's elite programs again.

For the last three years, the Wolverines have been trending sharply upward. They tied for the Big Ten title last season, and now they have achieved their highest national ranking since the 1992-93 season, when Chris Webber led Michigan to its second straight appearance in the NCAA title game.

Expectations began to soar when Burke decided to stay at Michigan following a terrific freshman campaign in 2011-12. He's now perhaps the nation's best point guard.

``The better the challenge, the more he responds individually,'' Beilein said. ``He plays beyond his fatigue level, beyond his years.''

Burke is the leader of an offense that is precise, efficient and extremely difficult to defend right now. Beilein's teams have always done a good job spreading the floor, and there's not a lot of wasted movement. Players like Burke, Hardaway and freshman Glenn Robinson III have the ability to drive to the basket and finish if there's no help defensively.

Add in a crafty big man in Morgan and a 3-point threat in Stauskas, and the Wolverines seem to have everything they need for a deep NCAA tournament run. They could use a little more depth, and their defense may be somewhat ordinary by Big Ten standards, but there's still plenty of time to improve.

Under Beilein, Michigan has never been a team that rushes on offense, but the Wolverines are capable of running, with a more athletic rotation than in seasons past.

``There were times when Jordan Morgan, early in his career, would rebound, but we still struggled with the outlet,'' Beilein said. ``Now, the outlet's much better, and Trey Burke getting the ball up the floor.''

Saturday's game might have been Burke's finest as a Wolverine: 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting, eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and no turnovers. And not once did he seem to be forcing the issue or taking unnecessary risks.

A few days later, when Burke showed up for a midweek news conference, the competitive point guard was preparing to go back to the court after losing a game of 1-on-1 to freshman Caris LeVert.

``I'm trying to get back out there to play him right now,'' Burke said. ``I'm mad about that.''

Burke and the Wolverines haven't had to deal with much losing lately. If they can beat Eastern Michigan on Thursday night, they will be 12-0. Only one Michigan team has reached that mark - the 1985-86 group that started 16-0 and went on to win the Big Ten.

For the current Wolverines, each victory seems to raise hopes and expectations even higher - with the most important games still to come.

``We want to be playing our best basketball and win as many games as we can in the Big Ten,'' Morgan said. ``And be playing as good as we can toward the end of the year.''

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Nationals cancel 2021 Winterfest due to COVID-19

Nationals cancel 2021 Winterfest due to COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic will prevent fans from attending Nationals games during the 2020 season and it appears will also cost them an annual offseason tradition.

The Nationals announced Wednesday their plans to cancel Winterfest 2021. The convention was originally scheduled for January 2021.

"Due to the continued uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel Winterfest 2021, which was scheduled to be held in January," the team said in a statement. "We know how important this event is to our fans. That said, we look forward to offering a variety of alternative opportunities for our community to come together to celebrate our team."

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Details regarding the alternative opportunities are unknown as of this writing. 

In the meantime, Washington will continue to play its 2020 season without fans. They are 4-5 entering a series with the Orioles Friday and had to take four days off after the Marlins experienced a COVID-19 outbreak within their clubhouse and the Nats' series with Miami was postponed. 

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Making a case for Warriors as Washington Football Team's new name

Making a case for Warriors as Washington Football Team's new name

It's been several weeks since the Washington Football Team announced it was retiring its former name and logo after more than 80 years. Ever since FedEx became the first known sponsor to formally ask Washington to change its name, fans have taken to social media to voice some of their favorites among potential replacements. I spoke with several marketing experts about a few of the fan-generated names, and will use their responses to make a case for some of the most popular suggestions. This is the case for Warriors.

Case for: Washington Warriors

When it comes to the Washington Football Team, developing a new brand has as much to do with separating itself from the previous identity as it does creating a new one.

While the team’s previous moniker provided a sense of pride and joy to some people, it was considered derogatory by others. Those offended by the name had expressed resentment for decades before the team finally decided to take action this summer. But the team only did so after its bottomline was at risk of taking a hit by corporate sponsors threatening to end their relationships with the team.

If Washington wants people to take its rebrand seriously and view it as more than a money-saving play, the team will need to completely distance itself from Native American imagery. That being considered, is Warriors a good choice as the replacement name? It depends, says Tim Derdenger, associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business.

“It depends on which direction you go with it,” Derdenger said. “I’ve read things that they want to keep the feather and go in that direction as opposed to a military warrior, more of the Indian warrior. And if they do it the latter, they’re completely missing the mark on why they’re changing their name.”

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This conundrum highlights the different things that have to be considered when undergoing a name change. It isn’t just the name; it’s also the logo, the branding on team gear and uniforms, the stadium atmosphere, the fan experience, and so much more. If the team was able to rebrand itself as the Warriors without singling out a specific race or group of people, the name could work. The Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association have a great brand and don’t use human imagery at all, going with the Bay Bridge as their primary logo.

Matt White, president of WHITE64, pointed to Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder's background in advertising and branding as a reason he thinks the team could pull it off.

“I think what you have to do is, do it in a thoughtful, logical manner, where you’re hiring a firm, which he has relationships with that can really do a great job,” White said.

The option for thoughtful branding exists in a way for "Warriors" that it doesn’t for a name like "Braves." Some fans had tossed around the latter as an option because of its history as the Washington franchise’s original name for one season in 1932, when the team was still located in Boston. But that’s a piece of history most fans likely forgot, if they ever knew it. And a Brave, by definition, is specifically a Native American warrior. The name doesn’t allow for a change in branding the same way Warriors does.

“The Cleveland Indians are already being asked to change their name. The Atlanta Braves apparently are even being looked at with that,” White said. “And again, there’s gotta be a solution that doesn’t offend somebody but that can still capture the spirit.”

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That's where Warriors could be used, like Braves, to appease the base of fans who never wanted to part with the old moniker. However, Brad Nierenberg, the CEO of RedPeg Marketing, thinks choosing that name is also a choice to please those particular fans over the people who want to see a clean break. 

“If you’re gonna stay close with the Redskins, I think you’re gonna be staying with a fan base that ... you’re gonna placate the challenge to changing the name, then the Warriors and Braves are gonna be that next step,” Nierenberg said.

“I think there’s gonna be people saying they didn’t go far enough. That’s my gut.”

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This is where everything else that accompanies the name change becomes so vital. Because while it’s likely true everyone won’t be happy with Warriors, it’s possible to win over a few more people with the proper branding and imagery.

"The logo is then going to be the key part,” Derdenger said. “And what that logo will look like and how it connects back to the military warrior.

“I can’t right now see in my head what a Warriors logo looks like. ... But they have to go away from the connection to the Native Americans.”

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