(NOT Ashburn, Va., July 30) — How do you like my dateline? Time was, the arrival of Redskins’ training camp, which starts today, was a dress-like-Johnny-Cash-in-black occasion for team OFB. It meant the
continuation start of the season of grave media imbalance, which is to say, D1- D8 all things Skins, ‘Caps beat ‘Canes for fifth straight win’ in the lower left corner of D9.
But this July there’s a profoundly different feeling in this space for the Skins. Specifically, this feeling: pity. More specifically, particular pity for the team’s fanbase.
Some 10 days ago it dawned on me that with this particular middle summer HockeyWashington had arrived at a rarefied and unprecedented realm: our team as the buzz team in town, durably. This is not to say that our guys are the most popular, that advertisers in these recessionary times are tripping over one another to clog Caps’ television broadcasts. But to state the obvious: we’re the only winning game in town — and by a wide margin, too.
The Zen of the Well Built and Managed Ballclub has delivered us to a heretofore unknown place of peace late this July: we rest in tranquility and comfort away from the rink, wholly free of the angst and anxiety of previous summers when ‘up-and-comer’ was our team’s status. The Caps’ mid-summer roster, while imperfect, is robust and replete with elite talent; bolstered by blue-chip talent on the farm; and seasoning rather nicely as management and supporters would hope. They will win a lot again next season, and the season after that. Who among the other teams in town can make such a claim?
We puckheads will recharge our puck batteries on beaches and pool lounges and golf courses and re-engage our game in six weeks’ time knowing that the entire hockey world will regard our guys as prohibitive favorites for a third consecutive Southeast division title and, more importantly, as Cup contenders.
Few beyond the year-long puck-addicted are talking hockey here at the moment, but no matter. We’ve a maniacally enthusiastic home rink environment and it is entirely appropriate to quell our passion whilst our heroes at home mend and strengthen. But it is good to remember: Our building is beyond filled — it boasts a waiting list now numbering in the thousands — and it happens to be anchored in a thriving section of the city; indeed, that building, and not any football one, is the lynchpin for that city section’s renaissance.
Which brings me back to the burgundy and very dull gold. Every bit as much as the federal government the Redskins are a big brand in town. And like the Fed, they are a particularly bad brand. Maybe they win six games this season, maybe they win eight. Maybe they even win 10. No matter. That’s the basic schematics of fortune for a franchise with an owner as thoroughly unqualified GM. What they can never do under the leadership they have is become great.
The Redskins’ MO under the Danny is thus: don’t draft particularly well, overspend lavishly in free agency — most particularly on over-the-hillers — search in vain for a quality coach (including going Jurassic Park on one in retirement), and compete on the field accordingly.
Really, at about the moment Joe Gibbs exited Ashburn for the final time, didn’t you have to reflect, ‘Everything Snyder touches turns to ashes‘?
The part-time newshound in me feels compelled to report to you the two biggest storylines of the offseason for the team:
- No less than Sports Illustrated ID’d the Danny as one of the worst owners in his sport. Not quite a stop-the-presses bit of a ‘Who’d a thunk it?’, but as sports media creds go, SI’s way up there, and it fairly certified the sentiment long held in this region.
- The organization’s offseason treatment of its most important player, starting QB Jason Campbell.
My employer possesses four season tickets to the Skins. Back in the day, we used them for lobbying purposes; now we just “award” them internally to staff with otherwise underwhelming weekend plans. Earlier this summer I saw the invoice for those tickets. They’re not club seats or anything really fancy, but they’re really good seats in the lower bowl. Twenty eight thousand dollars, and change. Twenty eight grand. For eight home games. Plus the home exhibition slate, of course. And of course parking’s included. Really there’s no other way to describe what’s taking place autumn Sundays in Raljon except Theater of the Absurd.
The biggest indictment of Snyder’s Skins today comes I think not so much from the price of admission to FedEx Field but rather the composition of it. Capitals’ fans and their basketball counterparts remember well the Pollin-O’Malley marketed environments at home of the 1980s and ’90s, at Capital Center and the then MCI Center. O’Malley in particular executed with savage cunning the marketing of stars of visiting teams, successfully enough that the region’s transplanted, adhering to old allegiances, stuffed the buildings to the roof, bringing boisterous invective for the home teams.
Today pay close attention to the colors and cheers at FedEx when the Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, and Steelers pay visits. Such an environment was unimaginable under old man Cooke in his great old barn of yesteryear.
So many waited in line so many years to secure Redskins’ tickets, but today dealt drek each autumn by the two-headed monster of incompetence in Snyder and Cerrato, many cough up the big dough in summer and re-sell to out-of-town one-timers rather than witness the wreck themselves.
There can be no greater indictment.
I submit that it isn’t a good thing for Washington’s sports fans to have but a lone winning franchise to support. But so long as Daniel Snyder runs football here there will be no durable winning on Sundays — the fish rots from the head, of course.
There are scores of committed and impassioned men and women supporting the Washington Redskins in our region. Today should be a great day for them, and yet I have pity for them all.