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O' Fanbase, Where Art Thou?

A couple of Sunday’s ago, I drove my 13 year old son north to D.C. for our annual Redskins game pilgrimage. It’s always been the same essential fan experience. Regardless of opponent, playoff hopes alive, fantasized, or dead, wind, rain, sleet, or snow, we inevitably entered a packed stadium with a fervent, raucous crowd in attendance.

This year’s experience was starkly, decidedly, unmistakably different.

Invoking all of the wisdom garnered in 48 years of life, I applied every shred of my football fan intellect in carefully selecting the perfect Redskins game to attend in 2010. I meticulously reviewed my selection criteria. Redskins all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention? Check. Chances for miserable weather maximized? Check. Eminently beatable opponent? Check. And ticket prices at bargain basement rates? Check. Redskins vs. Tampa Bay in December was the perfect game!

I’ve been to a lot of Redskins games over the years. And the one constant no matter how beleaguered, bedeviled, or besmirched that year’s team, was the loyal and passionate fan base that showed up, sometimes almost illogically, to cheer them on. As I sat in the cold, wet, miserable dreariness of Fed Ex Field watching the Redskins give another win away to Tampa Bay, I had to wonder if Redskins fans weren’t finally 'smartening up’?

Sure, the weather was awful. A cold constant drizzle and temps in the upper 30’s drove fans to creative game-day gear. While wine-and-cheesers wore the obligatory official raingear of the Washington Redskins, most fans opted for less pretentious options: ponchos or jury-rigged garbage bags. I even spotted an urban sombrero or two. No matter what you were wearing, you were going to be miserable, and there was no getting around it. If the script for Redskins vs. Tampa Bay were written by Joel and Ethan Coen, we were the Soggy Bottom Boys singing 'Man of Constant Sorrow’.

I’ve never known a little bad weather, be it blazing heat or frigid cold, to deter Washington Redskins fans. Until now that is. Of course, this development – a half empty stadium during a regular season Redskins game – appears to have been lost on the apparently delusional (and perhaps medicated) stadium announcers. As always, they loudly and jubilantly proclaimed yet another mythic 'sellout’ Fed Ex Field crowd, despite the obvious fact that as many formerly die-hard fans had elected to stay home as chose to show up that Sunday. The official figures claimed some 66,000 fans attended the game, but even those numbers appeared inflated to an objective observer. Redskins fans, formerly oblivious to a little weather-induced personal hardship, had R-U-N-N-O-F-T...

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