Ups and Downs in Redskins Fandom

I went to two Redskins games this season. On October 19, two of my closest friends met me at my house in DC about an hour before kickoff. We took an Uber to the stadium and had a blast as we watched the Redskins beat the Titans, 19-17. My RG3 jersey was somewhat irrelevant, since he wasn’t playing, but I didn’t mind so much. We took the Metro back to my place, getting home before five.

The other game I attended was against Tampa Bay on November 16. There were six of us, all familiar with our team’s yearly rite of disappointment. The season was virtually over. A win would be nice, but we weren’t going to be upset if we didn’t get it. Regardless of the outcome, we expected a reasonably pleasant experience. We did not expect to be stopped immediately when my girlfriend’s bag was too big to carry into the stadium, whereupon we were told we could leave it in the car that we didn’t bring. We did not expect to miss nearly an hour of the game standing in a security line, though we did take some small pleasure in sneaking the offending bag into the stadium. And we did not expect the team to perform so poorly that the stands had emptied out long before the game was over.

The tale of two teams isn’t new for the Redskins, and it’s nearly universal in American sports. Everyone has good days and bad days. The thing is, the bad days at Nats Park don’t include being stopped for having too large a bag. When you go see the Wizards, you don’t miss a third of the game waiting in a security line. And, importantly, Caps fans don’t have a voice in the back of their head telling them that simply supporting a team called the Washington “Capitals” is inherently offensive.

The Redskins organization has too many problems to count. On the day of the Titans game, as we approached FedEx Field, my friend asked me what I would do if I owned the Redskins. Without hesitating, I replied, “Change the name, change the colors, and move the team to DC.”

As to the first: The reasons are obvious and the change is inevitable.

As to the second: A rebranding to go with a name change would signal a fresh start for a team that has had a putrid reputation in recent years. It would sell merchandise, and I personally would like to see colors that align more closely with the Nats, Caps, and Wizards.

As to the third: Moving back to the city makes the team more accessible, for fans from the suburbs and the city. I’ve been to half a dozen Redskins games in my life, and I’ve come to expect a daylong affair. A city stadium would be more pleasant and convenient than FedEx, and would reconnect the team to local fans.

Of course, none of that addresses the woeful management of the team itself. I obviously don’t have any experience managing an NFL franchise, so I can’t say I’d do a better job in this arena. I do think, though, that I’ve seen enough football to recognize when it’s bad. And the Redskins are bad. The team makes short-sighted moves in the hopes of jump-starting a new era, without thinking about the next year or even the next game.

So yes, there are things I’d do different if I owned the team. But I don’t own the team. Dan Snyder does.

The team’s performance is shitty, the fan experience is shitty, and the organization has an ongoing PR nightmare, but none of that seems to matter to Snyder. Yes, I’m sure he’d rather have a winning team and a fun atmosphere at the games, but either he doesn’t care enough to actually let those things happen, or he’s completely incompetent. Either scenario should disqualify him from owning an NFL franchise, as should his tone-deaf response to the name controversy. Unfortunately, it won’t be easy to get rid of Snyder, and we can’t expect anything to change as long as he’s the owner.

So what can we do? Switch allegiances to another team? That’s a radical move. I don’t know how I could remain a fan of the Washington Nationals, the Washington Capitals, and the Washington Wizards, then every Sunday root for… the Baltimore Ravens? The Cleveland Browns? For me, there is no second team after the Redskins.

So I’m considering- just considering, at this point- simply putting my Redksins fandom on hiatus until it becomes a competent organization. No more going to games, no more buying shit, and no more thinking that next year is the year they turn it around.

As soon as I say that, the voice in my head pipes up: “How do you know they won’t turn it around next year?” True, there’s no way to know for sure. We could even have a winning season, a playoff season; 2012 wasn’t that long ago. But the Redskins’ problems are deeper than poor performance.

If you do decide that the Redskins aren’t worth it anymore, and you must follow another team, choose wisely. Obviously, I’m not advocating anything as crazy as rooting for the Cowboys. We shouldn’t free ourselves from Dan Snyder’s clutches only to join the cult of Jerry Jones. Ditto the Giants. I think once you go down that road, you’ll be hard-pressed to explain how you were simply a Redskins fan taking a break. So think carefully. When the current nightmare ownership has passed, we can once again hail to the Redskins, or whatever they’ll be known as.

Or we could just become baseball fans.

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