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Learning to Win

You know the feeling.

The game clock ticks inexorably and ominously towards some unforeseen finality. Minutes wane to excruciating seconds. The Redskins cling desperately to a thin lead, and opponent 'X’ is driving down the field towards glory, towards disaster. The vague sense of doom rising in your gut is all too familiar. This is how it happens. Nearly 4 quarters of hope, promise, and anticipation on the brink of heartbreak. This is what it is to be a Redskins fan.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

For a long time now, Redskins fans have lived on the razor’s edge. Neither awful nor dominant, Redskins teams of the past decade have tread the perilous, shadowy path somewhere between. And as everyone knows, walking down the middle of the road, you’re likely to occasionally get run over.

Don’t get me wrong. The Redskins are not the Lions, the Browns, or even the Raiders. They’ve been moderately successful, respectable, hell – even, at times, competitive. But they’ve also been scary. And we’re talking Brad Pitt opening a cardboard box which may or may not contain his young wife’s head scary.

The one consistency for followers of the burgundy and gold has been the Redskins penchant for cliff-hanging, edge of your seat, careening towards disaster game ending drama. The script is well-worn, the players know their parts well. Keep the game surprisingly close, no matter the skill of the opponent. Move the ball well, but make enough mistakes to forego easy points. A penalty to move just out of field goal range here, a holding call negating a late completion deep in the opponent’s territory there - anything to keep the other guys within striking distance. And of course, that defining moment after 3 conservative play calls, when we punt the ball away as the 2 minute mark arrives.

And like that recurring nightmare so frightening we wake in a sweaty panicked start, we watch it happen again. Previously inept, the opponent’s offense suddenly springs to life, driving down the field in 20 yard chunks. Our defense, having aggressively harassed the opponent all game long, now rushes 4, our defensive backs 20 yards off the receivers. As familiar as Riggo swatting away that last lone Dolphin enroute to Super Bowl infamy, we know this news reel like the back of our hand.

Our palms begin to sweat, our pulses quicken, racing at first then bounding in our temples like some madman at the door. Panic rises with the bile in the back of our throat. Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. Such has been the tumultuous 4th quarter life of the Redskins fan. But perhaps, in 2010, the tide is turning...

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