(this is Joe Lavender, who successfully sued the NFL for neurological damage from playing football back in the '80s - interesting precedent considering today's concussion culture; he has nothing to do with what I write below, but was one of my first favorite players as a Redskins fan, and pretty much the main reason I can't spell "lavender" correctly to this day" even though I guess he spells it correctly so maybe I'm just stupid)
Sigh… I don’t care. Monday night’s game was this year’s yearly watermark of when my balloon was busted. The Offseason Champs have yet again been regular season epicfails. And yet, I started that stupid positive/negative metasciences scale that really should see its way through the entire season, so I guess I won’t pull a Haynesworth and lay down while the rest of the season unfolds.
But what the fuck do I write about now? I consider myself a die-hard Redskins fan, but it feels like I’m literally dying hard. It is so hard to care about this team, with this ownership and this constant parade of self-important football divas who think they are entitled to my respect simply because they play professional football. There were some mumblings in the world of twitter amongst Skins players about how true fans stick with the team after games like last Monday, most notably Phillip Daniels was speaking this line of thought. And I got love for Daniels, because he has never been one of those football primadonas on this team. He goes after it, even now when dude is pushing well past normal fighting football age. But shit man, I’ve been a fan of this team since the late ‘70s, as far back as I can remember. This is not some last-five-years thing for me. No player on this team has been there as long as I have been, and many were not even born when I cheered for my first Redskins TD. I don’t feel like anybody owes me anything, because goddamn, we have no control over the games whatsoever. (Which brings to mind the very real point of why would we torment ourselves as fans so emotionally over something of which we have no control?) But I feel some psychic ownership, a bond to this team that has outlasted most any other brand allegiance in my life, sports-related or otherwise.
The thing is, football has changed. Players come and go. There is no more of drafting a player and watching his entire career, or knowing that when you buy a jersey for a superstar he will always be part of your team. It’s a business, and the bottom line makes everybody and everything expendable, including my opinions as a fan. Hell, especially my opinions as a fan.
And yet, some things have not changed. You still have to build success. It comes from the top down, or the inside out would probably be more appropriate. You have to have a solid foundation in place before any coaching staff or GM dude is hired. Those guys – the genius coaches and personnel wizards – are the drywall/paint/trim you put over the foundation and framework. Then you use that and start to furnish the place with the players that will look good and be ultimately functional as fuck, so that you can kick ass upon turf. The Redskins do not seem too structurally sound, so you could hire SNL skit Mike Ditka to coach and Vince Lombardi through a computer Ouija board to GM, and shit would still be fucked, and lucky to get a wild card.
(Side note: this brings to mind the whole McNabb/Vick comparisons that have been bouncing around this week. There was a clamor for the Redskins to sign Vick when he was being reinstated, but it didn’t happen. Good for Vick. If you think for one split second that his return to NFL glory would’ve unfolded in the same manner if he had been signed to the Redskins, you would be crazy. Vick is successful because of everything around him as much as himself, which is not to take away from what he’s done. And McNabb is a failure because of what’s around him, although he’s certainly not done much to help himself.)
What I’m getting at – and this is hard to admit – is, I am contemplating a break. I have never respected dudes who do that, who are fairweather fans or claim to be down with whatever is the flavor of the decade, but I think it might be coming to something closer to that for me than sticking with this Dan Snyder team. But I don’t want to be that type of guy at all. If I make a break, I want it to be a one-time thing.
What I am saying is this, if two criteria are met, there will be drastic consequences on my part.
CRITERIA #1: worse than 6-10 record. Before the year started, I pegged them realistically as a 6-10 team. And that’s being far more realistic than your average Redskin fan. If they fall below that, meaning they win less than 2 games for the remainder of the year, then I would consider that this football team’s ownership showing me they are not committed to actually winning, regardless of the money they throw around.
CRITERIA #2: no football next year. The pundits keep saying, “They’ll work out a deal,” and they probably should. But how many times have major professional sports leagues probably should have not had a work stoppage and still had a work stoppage. I would put the percentage at around 90% when it gets this far along. And people still keep coming back, because we are fans. What the fuck else are we going to do?
CONSEQUENCES: If these two pieces of very likely futurisms take place, then I am going to declare myself a free agent fan of the NFL, and I will be entertaining offers from every team in the league at that point. If this season starts getting uglier for the Skins, I’ll dig through the house, look through the bank statements, and try to figure up a yearly average for how much money I waste on my favorite team. And I’ll pick out some of the Armchair Linebacker highlights to pass along as examples of how hard I go for a team. But I just can’t see continuing to waste my emotions somewhere that isn’t going to give me anything in return. I just can’t.
There is a feeling of chumpiness to this, like I’m a punk who switches teams. I am sure the first guy who tried to force free agency on the NFL was made to feel that way in his team’s locker room. “Why would you betray us? You’re not a real member of this team, are you?” But damn man, I’ve got to look out for myself. These yearly offseason championships followed up by more and more creative ways to fuck things up, it’s really hurting me. I mean honestly, I could probably have myself evaluated medically – physically and psychologically – and I think in our overly litigious culture, there’d be grounds for a class action lawsuit against Dan Snyder by Redskins fans. But I’m not that type of person. I am willing to take responsibilities for my own actions. I do not feel entitled to anything except a chance to enjoy myself. (I guess accountability plus lack of sense of entitlement would not make me an ideal candidate for a Dan Snyder free agent contract, would it?)
I am sad it has come to this, but I just wanted to make my long-term intentions clear now, so it did not seem like some bullshit knee-jerk reaction. I would like to keep my talents in the extended D.C. area (really extended – into Southside Virginia, which doesn’t even have an AM station carrying the games anymore – again, I blame Dan Snyder’s greed for this), and I would like to end my career as an NFL fan right where it started, sporting and supporting the burgundy and gold. But I have to look out for my own emotional well-being, as well as the happiness of my family. My children do not like to be around me during football season. My wife hates the Redskins, not because she likes another team or thinks football is stupid or anything, but because of their ill effects they have on our shared lives. I showed her the gif of Albert Haynesworth laying on the ground, and her response was, “So that’s basically the Redskins in a nutshell right there.” And I really couldn’t argue with her.
Before any sad sack loser whose team has been even worse than the Redskins comes and shoots me down with their judgmental condemnations, understand I am not proud of this potential decision. And I understand your complaints. Most of my life, I would’ve said the exact same thing. But in this emotional clusterfucked mess of being an NFL fan of the most extreme prejudice, there comes a time where we must stand up for ourselves. We have to stop taking this shit at some point, don’t we? Whenver someone is like, “Let’s boycott the team until he sells it to someone else,” other fans are like, “LOLOLOLOL, u retarded!” So why not shop our allegiance and loyalties to the rest of the league, and try to find somewhere that won’t make us want to kick our dogs in the ribs and smash countertops and stomp around in a general funk every autumnal Monday (or Tuesday) for the rest of our goddamned lives? What the fuck do we, as fans, deserve for our fandom? Certainly feels like I should have a shot at something more than simply misery and cynicism.