Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Dreadful Redskins

And now for something completely different.

The biggest dispute in Washington, DC, is not about health care reform, but about football. The Washington Redskins play a unique roll in the nation's capital. They give the residents, who come from every state in the country, something apolitical to talk and argue about—filling a desperate need in this overpoliticized city. There's a palpable change in mood of the city on the day after a Redskin's win.

This year Washingtonians have abundant reasons to complain about the Redskins, who are now 2-5 after a lackluster showing on Monday Night Football. As for myself, I'm a fair-weather Redskins fan, so as a marginally interested bystander I'm feeling no pain, but I sympathize with many friends and acquaintances who are suffering, especially since there's no end in sight.

Three of the Redskins' losses came against previously winless teams. Pathetic only begins to describe their performance. The cast of scapegoats includes the usuals—the coach and the quarterback—but there seems to be a growing consensus that the problems are systemic and that Daniel Snyder (the owner) and Vinny Cerrato (vice president of football operations) are primarily responsible.

Snyder bought the team in 1999 by outbidding the son of Jack Kent Cook, the well-liked previous owner who build the current stadium entirely with private funding. Ten seasons, a 78-89 record, 6 head coaches, and 10 starting quarterbacks later the team seems to be on the verge of collapse, and many fans are now in open revolt. Each week seems to bring a new protest.

On Sunday, October 4, fans were encourage by local sports radio show to wear paper bags over their heads. Stadium security responded, presumably on orders from the owner, by confiscating the paper bags along with many signs, especially any critical of the owner—not exactly the brightest PR or the classiest move. The next Sunday brought an attempted stadium blackout, with calls for the disgusted fans to wear black to the game.

Leading up to last night's game, two well know community figures spoke out. First, John Cook, son of Jack Kent Cook, fired a broadside, charging that "Snyder destroyed the reputation of this franchise" and "gutted the organization." Then, John Riggins, former Redskins running back and Hall of Famer, called on fans to stay home from the game to send a message to the owner.

Anti-Snyder websites are proliferating, and one group is even collecting donations for an anti-Snyder ad campaign. This has the makings of a long, bitter dispute with many casualties and no winners, and last night's loss did not help.

It makes me glad that I'm a really more of a Denver Broncos fan.

"Snyder Steals Your Bags," NBC 4 (source of the picture above, copyright
"Burgundy & old pain," Washington Post 
"Riggins Tells Skins Fans to Stay Home," NBC 4

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