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Blognostications

2014 - Week 17 Redskins v Cowboys

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Blognosticator - GhostofWoodson

Week 17 – Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins

GhostofWoodson

Memory…is the most secure storehouse of blessings for a man. Unmindful and thoughtless persons, on the contrary, let all that happens to them slip away as time goes on; therefore, since they do not hold or keep anything, they are always empty of blessings, but full of hopes, and are looking away to the future while they neglect the present… therefore they cannot satisfy the insatiable appetite of their soul.

Plutarch in the Life of Marius

It is the final week of the season for us few, us morose and unfortunate few Redskins fans. Depending on the gloominess of one’s perspective, we are either carted in tumbrils to the perennial guillotine of disappointment at another year without a postseason, or we march to the quay to say our farewells to another season of football drear. Throughout the course of this season, I have entertained hope (there can be no true despair without hope, right?), and even apathy at the prospect of watching the team. Much of that flagging desire can be laid at the feet of a busy term for me, filled with projects, a long back injury and several troublesome illnesses. What I had always been able to grasp onto before, was a rekindled hope upon looking towards the future, or even the next season. Some years I knew there was little to no chance of a championship but I expected to see progress, or victories enough to sate the soul of a competitive spectating spirit. It’s been quite a sight to see so many threads and posts recently, in which my brothers-in-fandom speak of the torment of following this team, of not wanting to put their own children through the failures of our unhappy Sunday assignations. Something, some deep rot, even more than 2009, has seemed to reach its tendrils of hopelessness into this season and this fanbase and the bright respite of 2012 seems more distant than the Gibbs era playoff runs.

Though I have been through my own bout of despair this season, I realized the futility of these thoughts. This is not to render illegitimate the observations on front office structure, coaching or on-field play, and over time, the accumulation of such complaints can make for real-world results. Nor is it meant to dismiss the need to vent about or cheer on the team, it is part of what makes us sports fans and a part of our ritual and communion with the game. And as Mark Twain once pointed out, “Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child's loss of a doll and a king's loss of a crown are events of the same size.” I have no doubt however, that ol’ Sam Clemens would warn us off the idea of trying to speak to people who are going through the same thing as the child or the king.

Here I speak to the kings, those of us who saw this team through its decade-long run of glory under Joe Gibbs and Jack Kent Cooke. Since that time in the sun, the franchise entered a tenebrous era, punctuated by only a few bright moments, oddly almost entirely abbreviated by the health of the quarterback (Brad Johnson’s dead arm in 99, Brunell’s knee in late 2005, RG3’s knee in late 2012.) Some have seemingly abandoned any hope of us finding our way again, but what was is that? The Niners were similarly blessed, and while they have had more recent success, is it promised? What of the Lions? Recently, a line from Khubilai Khan in Marco Polo reminded me of what our retreat to past glories must sound like to our divisional rivals: “There are twenty cities which bear his (Alexander the Great’s) name. I possess them all.” You cannot reign forever, that time must come to an end. There is not one franchise which can make the claim that it has. Instead, remember the blessings of “benevolent Fortune” in gratitude, remember those Super Bowls, cherish your experience of them. For those of who were lucky enough to embrace the team as it began its climb to the top of the league, be grateful that you entered your football fandom and chose this team at that time. Do not let the present be the enemy of that gratitude. The way to happiness, to victory, to the blessings which we (should) secure in the storehouse of our memory is filled with defeat, disappointment. Like life, we savor the good moments because not every moment is joyous nor every attempt successful. There’s a reason the well-heeled scions of wealth often descend into debauchery and dissolution, it is because they have no met no test, and their failures either hidden from view or slowly becoming the source of resentment against their own security and certainty of comfort.

For the youngsters, I’d say:
It’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.

The sad paradox of sports is that we enjoy it as an experience of the present but lose perspective because of the anticipation of a result, of victory, and even when it comes we must, resolutely as the schedule demands, move forward, with more expectation, more anticipation, and maybe less enjoyment and appreciation for what is before us. True, the team this year has been bad, perhaps worse than last year in some respects. But this will pass. I’ve thought about the last 35 years in football and I cannot imagine that the Redskins, even with Daniel Snyder, even without a “true GM”¸ will not eventually return, if but for one evanescent triumph, to the glow of the championship game (win or lose.) The Cardinals made it to a Super Bowl and (like the Skins in recent years) maybe the only reason they aren’t headed to another one is the health of their quarterbacks.

This is all a fairly lengthy way of saying the obvious: we will come and go in our interest, even during good times, if the rest of life becomes intrusive enough. What I, and those of us who stand by the team will always have, is a sense of ourselves, one of the few social institutions which truly gives us roots, something to stand in opposition to atomization, those memories which forge bonds of fraternity and community, instead of mere similarity in patterns of consumption. It reminds me of why I invested in the online Redskins fan community in the first place. At first, to hear information and discussion I had not heard for years, with people who actually cared about my particular team.

I do not know if the Redskins will win this particular contest in the once-bitter rivalry that once defined the NFL, but what I do know is that the endless carping, the vows to cease believing and the defection of fans to other interests show not only what losing can do but an improper perspective on what sport is about. It is not only about winning. The struggle is the glory.

The Skins had a nice showing against a division rival last week and I do not expect them to show up with anything less than a courageous effort. I may be one of the few, but though I thought it was appropriate Robert Griffin was benched (he seemed to be spiraling out of control on the field), I still believe in his ability and have faith he will turn it around and we will see an even happier moment than 2012 in the future. My main concern going into this game is who is left to play? If the Skins could win last week, if the Cowboys could carry on defensively after losing key players and starting never-heard-ofs for much of the year along the front seven, then the Skins can put together a winning effort one more time.

So, the story is DeMarco Murray’s hand is broken but he will still play. The Cowboys have won the division and are in the playoffs by virtue of their NFC East crown, one we took from them by force in 2012. The roles are not even reversed this time, they are a team with a shot at doing something, just as the Redskins were two years ago. I have heard the Cowboys won’t play their starters the entire game, they simply have too much to lose. Games like that are unpredictable, the teams still have a healthy dislike for each other, and that, just as it did last week, can make for surprising results by the sound of the final gun. The Skins, through injury and controversy, have made a game of it the last couple of weeks and they can win this game at home. Will they? I cannot pretend to know. But I believe the team will have a good feeling entering into the offseason, whatever may come then and register a performance worthy of the rivalry. That rivalry, diminished as it is, is one of the reasons I love the sport. It is fitting that after this season, we close out against the Cowboys, for it is both a reminder of what we have lost and of what we should seek to preserve about our love of the game and this team.

Redskins 24, Cowboys 21

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Have a Happy New Year!
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