The Last Gasp
I find myself in a curious place. An unapologetically rabid Redskins fan since my childhood days, this offseason has seen a small, unfamiliar, almost alien sentiment creep into my middle-aged bones.
Thatís a scary word for a guy like me. As my wife has occasionally noted and chided me for Ė I do nothing Ďhalfwayí. Whatever the passing interests have been during my nearly 50 years, when Iím attracted to something, I dive in and commit to it with an intense fervor that some might describe as obsessive. Thatís just who I am.
The only aspect of my Redskins fandom that has ever differentiated it from other life obsessions is that it has never passed. The Washington Redskins have been a sustained obsession of mine from the first time I plopped down on a Sunday in front of a 20Ē black and white and watched that first game with my Dad. And ever since. Not even during the life-sucking, enthusiasm-draining wasteland of despair that represents the Daniel Snyder era has the commitment to my fandom wavered.
Yet something unsettling has steadily, inexorably woven its way into my mind over the last 6 months.
Call it a mid-life crisis, a re-examination of priorities. Hell, call it just being sick and tired of the yearly journey from homeristic hopefulness to ultimate reality check. Itís gotten old. Iíve seriously considered this offseason, for the first time in 49 years if maybe there arenít better ways to spend my precious life seconds? My kids are nearly grown, eldest daughter taking those first intrepid steps towards adulthood as she leaves us for college, son entering high school where Dad becomes the 4th or 5th option as to who he wants to hang out with. The minutes, hours, and seconds we have to spend with people we really love Ė they arenít unlimited. Hours weekly spent on a team lead by a dysfunctional owner, that canít win, and canít commit to a strategy or coaching staff long enough to figure out how to win - one has to eventually question the value of that investment.
And yet, Iím here. I cling to my fandom like photographs of old girlfriends tucked away in a box, faded, no longer relevant, incapable of returning my curious inexplicable affection.
I cling to my fandom for a lot of reasons. I may not know why I love this team so much, but Iím crystal clear on why I canít walk away from a fanís commitment to them. The Redskins are part of my personal history. Having spent significant time, up close and personal, with this team, I can tell you that they have either forgotten what fandom is really about, or theyíve never understood it to begin with. Fandom is about commitment, hope, and creating memories. For most Redskins fans, memories of this team, both joyous and triumphant in victory, and heart-breaking and wrenching in defeat, are milestones in their life. Walking away from a team youíve rooted for all your life Ė itís like turning your back on a bad-seed brother youíre having to bail out of jail, or pick up drunk in an alley on a weeknight. You know you should walk away, finally turn your back. But blood ties run deep.
Iím not sure why Iíve had this epiphany now, when the Redskins seem to have a head coach who Ďgets ití in place, where we may even have his eventual successor on board, when weíre experiencing a period of Ďrebirthí with our Redskins. Weíre doing many of the things fans have so long called for Ė setting aside fondness for older vets and moving them on to make room for talented youngsters. Weíre coming off a draft where the Redskins looked downright reasonable, as steady and un-Redskins-like as weíve ever seen them. And whether owner Daniel Snyder has truly learned to hire talented staff and get out of their way or not, he appears to be adopting that style. In short, thereís a lot to like happening in Ashburn, Virginia these days.
Despite signs of hope, Iíll confess, my fandom is on life support. Iím not ready to turn off the ventilator, the IV drips, or the heart monitor yet. Perhaps the six months of quietude and entropy of an NFL lockout has simply given me too much time to think. Perhaps I need some wild free agency spending, like a good dose of smelling salts, to perk me up, a Hall of Fame or pre-season game or two to get my blood stirring, or to see the Redskins rush from that giant helmet onto FedEx Field turf to feel that familiar surge of adrenaline again.
I hope these things come soon. In the cheesy vernacular of the bad horror movie, itís been quiet.
This obsessive personality needs something important to obsess about. And that can mean only one thing.
Itís time for some Redskins football.