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Any child of the 60’s or 70’s knows what I’m talking about. God help you if you skinned your knee, cut your finger, or suffered some other childhood trauma resulting in an open wound. Back then, a minor injury of that sort meant only one thing – Merthiolate. The bright orange hot poker-colored antiseptic liquid was the weapon of choice against infection. And it was a perfect symbol in that era of what we all were taught. If it hurts it must be good for you. Applied directly to a wound, Merthiolate stained your skin for days, and resulted in a burning flash of pain so intense, most Mom’s blew on the wound to try to provide some comfort. It was a strange ritual that almost every kid of that era experienced over and over again.

Kind of like being a Redskins fan.

And last night we got to experience Merthiolate all over again.

It’s very early on in a new era for our Washington Redskins. We’ve got a new coach, some new talent, and with those things comes an inevitable rush of possibility, renewed hope, and an urge to muster up that fragile thing we call 'belief’ again. Jay Gruden is our Head Coach and we’re damned glad to meet him. We’ve seen glimpses of promise, a dominating high octane offense, efficient and capable quarterbacking, an unstoppable running game, even what looked like at times to be a competent defense. And we have tried to convince ourselves that these things were the face of things to come.

And then there was last night.

Let’s be honest. There isn’t a Redskins fan in America who didn’t, at some level, envision last night’s possible result before the first snap even occurred. How many times have we seen the Giants, be the particular team a juggernaut or a disappointment, absolutely humiliate us? How many times have we suffered through watching our 'Not Ready for Primetime Players’ get obliterated in front of a national TV audience? And yet, we try to 'shush’ that little voice in our heads, the one that tells us nothing has changed, nothing will ever change, and that we’re suckers if we allow ourselves to believe this time Lucy won’t pull the ball out from under Charlie Brown yet again.

We want to believe. We have to believe. Because, really, what’s the point of even watching, of being a self-proclaimed die-hard fan of an NFL team, if you don’t believe they can and will win?

But believing hurts.

Believing is opening yourself up to possibility – and the possibilities include not just those dreams of success and glory, but utter, soul-crushing defeat, humiliation, and pain.


There are some things we need to remember. Although we’ve been fans forever, our new head coach just got here. We can recite every line, verse, and chapter of our team’s epic novel of failure. We know whose fault it all is, where things went wrong, and why our team is doomed. We’re angry and we need to blame someone, anyone, for our suffering. When we run out of reasons to blame Snyder, Redskins staff, NFL officials, Goodell, and the football Gods, we start blaming each other. It’s what long-suffering fans do.

But Gruden just got here. He’s a breath of fresh air for a stale, odorous organization. He’s a positive force for a team full of self-doubt, just rebounding from one of the most dysfunctional seasons in it’s history (and that’s saying something!). He’s straight talk and gut level honesty in a town that thrives on platitudes, finger-pointing, politics, and excuses.

Gruden has answers. But there are a lot of questions and it’s going to take time to answer all of them.

Last night – another dose of Merthiolate was applied. We aren’t good. We have roster holes that cannot be filled in the short term. This 'Washington Team’ is decidedly not ready for primetime. Not yet. And last night won’t be the last time we feel the burning agony and sting of those brutal truths.

Instead of shrinking from the pain, I choose to grit my teeth, stiffen my spine, and buck up. At some level, I’m glad we got humiliated by the lowly Giants. I’m glad the latest answer at QB threw 4 interceptions. I’m glad our defense looked like a Pop Warner squad. And I’m going to roll around in my misery like a dog on a dead possum. I’m glad because I want Jay Gruden to see it. I want him to take it all in. I accept that this is who we are right now, and I want Coach Gruden to know and embrace, without a shred of doubt in his mind, one unmistakable truth.



I believe Gruden learned some things last night. That it doesn’t matter who we have under center, if the entire offense is not talented and working in concert together, our QB will fail. That our secondary may include some promising youngsters, but is woefully unprepared to provide NFL quality coverage. That our defensive coordinator appears to be incapable of creating a game plan, despite having a wealth of pass rushing talent available, that produces pressure on the opposing quarterback. That our Special Teams coach cannot field a unit that can cover kick returns or effectively manage our own kick returns. I hope Coach Gruden felt the burn of that Merthiolate just as intensely and painfully as each of us did.

Because if it stings badly enough, it just might be good for us.

Last night hurt. It stung. It burned. It was pure agony. I just wish my Mom had been there to blow on it.
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