A Burgundy and Gold Obsession
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A Burgundy and Gold Obsession

The Rest of the Way

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So where are you my burgundy and obsessed friends? What is the state of your skins-fan psyche? It's cold and lonely out here in the DC suburbs, be they your literal or merely spiritual home. It’s almost 70 degrees today, but none of us are fooled by it. There’s a frigid, lifeless breeze coming.

Brrrr.

Like the Autumn leaves spiraling downward here in Carolina, the promising colors and vibrancy of the early Fall have given way to browns, greys, and the cold harsh reality of impending Winter. So it is for Redskins land.

The rhythms and predictable cadence of the seasons coming and going are familiar. The inevitable transition from a gloriously hopeful Spring where anything is possible, to the harsh stark realities of Fall and Winter are a seasonal journey for Redskins fans. In fact, but for a lucky few, the march across the seasons and the gamut of emotions they entail is an annual one for NFL fans of all colors. It’s a part of fandom as inescapable as the passing of the seasons themselves.

When that critical moment of realization comes – you know the one – that your team is going nowhere this season, again, it’s met with resignation but also a tiny whisper of unspoken hope.

There’s always next year. Or so goes the refrain.

As Redskins fans everywhere come to terms with that dreaded moment’s sooner-than-expected arrival in 2009, this time it feels a little different. The die-hards still mouth the refrain, but no sound passes even their ever-hopeful lips. It’s a hopeless, hapless, and helpless time to be a Washington Redskins fan. As the old joke goes, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel we’re traversing. Unfortunately, it may be the lights of the train bearing ominously down upon us. Hope does not spring eternal – not these days.

So where does that leave the greatest fanbase in America? And have no doubt – fans of the Washington Redskins are as passionate, committed, and invested as any sports fans anywhere. The current state of fan turmoil is nearly unprecedented. Sure, Redskins fans have been lost in the desert before. The long-toothed among us traversed miles of mediocrity from the glory years of Sammy Baugh till the George Allen era when hope finally took root. Modern fans have survived a variety of insults to their fandom, beginning with the agonizing ‘almost’ years of ‘what we do works’ Norv Turner, the departure of a seemingly competent Marty Shottenheimer whose only real sin was wanting to run this football team, and the mad scientist’s experiment gone wrong that was the Steve Spurrier era. Redskins fans have been to the dentist before Jim Zorn arrived. But this time it feels different. This time, the pain is nearly excruciating. No mere root canal can cure our ills.

Why is that?

Redskins fans are hardly the most abused in the land. We’ve been to the promised land and more than once. Despite our current claim as one of the most pathetic franchises in the NFL, there are fans who’d kill to sniff the kind of success Redskins fans have experienced. So why does this particular downturn in our team’s fortunes feel so bad, seem so hopeless, and our future prospects so dark and gloomy?

Like the mother of the accused who suddenly wakes in the middle of the night with the horrible epiphany that maybe little Johnny really did commit all of those terrible acts, Redskins fans are waking up. Our owner may really be a meddlesome tyrant, the Redskins franchise may be more about maximizing their bottom line than about winning, this front office may have literally no clue about how to build a winning organization, and ‘lessons learned’ may well be a foreign concept at Ashburn, Virginia. And the worst realization of them all, we could be this bad for a long, long time.

So what are we to do with all that as fans of this team? Where do we go from here? Do we accept our fate, to wander in the NFL desert for the next twenty years? Do we hope and pray for the next great savior to arrive post-Gibbs? Even that possibility is fraught with fear. Given the state of apparent dysfunction in DC, could an NFL giant like Bill Cowher or Tony Dungy turn this stumbling, bumbling franchise around – and would men of that caliber even want to work with an owner who, fairly or not, is well on his way to being hated by his own fanbase with nearly the same level of passion with which they love the team itself. That is quite an accomplishment Mr. Snyder, and one that’s not likely to lead to the best of the best NFL coaches pining to join you.

If no savior is to come, then what?

If I’ve learned one thing about my beloved team, it’s never to make predictions. I have no idea what the future holds for this team – I only know it’s more uncertain and directionless than at any time in my memory. That’s not a good thing.

So what can I do, this Redskins fan of some 40 years? How do I bide the time, continue to make the ultimately dissatisfying trek from hope to despair, season after season? How do I stay a Redskins fan? If my fandom is a marriage, I’m holding onto it for dear life. We haven’t had sex in years, barely even speak to each other, and when we do, there’s now an edge to the conversation I never noticed before. But I want to save this thing, I’m not ready to say goodbye, even if it’s only in tribute to all the years we’ve spent together, and a hope that I can preserve something for my kids.

I think the best I can do is remember the good times. Remember why I got into this, the first time I saw her, and how those times made me feel. I can look for the best in these players, celebrate those increasingly rare successes, try not to worry about the futility of a great play in an awful season, and embrace what positives I can. Remember that this petty, arrogant owner is not my team. He’s merely a temporary steward of it. And try to keep that little tiny struggling flame of hope burning somewhere deep in the recesses of my discouraged and cynical little heart. I remember the refrain, the mantra of the forlorn hopeless, and I’ll strive to speak it one of these days soon.

There’s always next year.

Updated 11-08-09 at 02:13 PM by Boone

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