Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Washington Redskins and The Rubble Of My Teenage Dreams

Happy childhood memories.
OK, so I'm guessing your first thought is: who is this dude writing about the Redskins who is not Raven Mack? Well, my name's Andrew, and although Raven and I have never actually met in person, I've been reading his work since issue #19 or so of The Confederate Mack, which came out in 1997 or something like that. Raven and I started interacting over the internet in the days of, so something like 10 years ago. I live in Richmond, where he used to live, and we have a bunch of mutual friends. And I've been reading this blog since back when Neil joined the group-blog role call just in time to faithfully document the vale of unending tears that was the 2008 Detroit Lions season. Once things really ramped up and there started to be a whole bunch of entertaining contributors writing about quite a few different teams, I started to get kind of envious. I wanted to join in the fun, but Raven was already writing about the Redskins and I knew he'd overshadow anything I contributed. So I spent the past several years reading along and throwing in some occasional banter in the comments section. However, with Raven deciding to bow out of covering the Redskins for the foreseeable future after the clusterfuck that was the Rams game, I saw my opportunity and sent him a message asking if I could take over for him on the Redskins beat. He sent me the login info and here I am--your new Washington Redskins reporter.

So let's talk about these fucking Redskins, shall we? Let's start with my bona fides: I'm 36 years old and have been a Redskins fan since I was 5. The first season I remember really well is the strike-shortened 1982 season in which we won the Super Bowl for the first time. I followed the Redskins through the next decade of triumph (Doug Williams in the 87 Super Bowl), heartbreak (Lyle Alzado in the 83 Super Bowl), and the occasional gut-wrenching horror (Lawrence Taylor's career-ending sack on Joe Theismann, which I did not see live because it was a night game and my 9 year old ass had been sent to bed. I've never gone back and watched the footage on youtube, either. Some things are just too painful to bear, even after 25 years). But the thing that I got used to during those halcyon days of my youth was that the Redskins were a perennial contender--if we didn't win the Super Bowl, we'd probably make it to the playoffs, and even in those rare years where we missed them, we'd still probably have a winning record. Joe Gibbs' departure from the team coincided with my heading off to college in 1993, and between two years of higher education and five years of post-college dropout immersion into the punk rock scene, I didn't follow the Redskins, or any football team, for most of the next decade. I missed the Norv Turner era almost entirely, but came back for the season in which Marty Schottenheimer posted an 8-8 record (not glorious, but not bad for a first year) and still got fired at season's end. Since then I've suffered through Steve Spurrier, Al Saunders, Jim Zorn, and the first few years of Shanahan with increasing disillusionment. This isn't the team that I left behind in the early 90s, and it hasn't been for a long time. Even when Joe Gibbs came back around and demonstrated that he could still polish a turd enough to back a banged-up crew of misfits into one or two rounds of playoff action before conking out completely, he dealt with merciless fuckery from the front office that completely derailed any positive momentum he'd been able to achieve. No wonder he fled back to the greener pastures of NASCAR a year before his contract was up.

It's true, I'm just like Raven in that I blame the steaming pile of shit that my beloved childhood team has mutated into on Daniel J. Snyder. I even missed his most blatant act of interference--the 2000 QB controversy in which Snyder forced out Brad Johnson in favor of prima donna superbust Jeff George. Brad Johnson went on to win the Super Bowl the next year as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, and George so thoroughly collapsed that he was pulled in favor of former Genesis keyboardist Tony Banks, who had an 8-6 record as a starter for the Skins but was still deported along with Schottenheimer at the end of the year. I missed most of that--I started watching the Skins again along about week 8 of that season, when I heard that the team was in the midst of a big turnaround after starting the season 0-5. The thrill of watching the tail end of that winning streak is one of only three good extended periods of being a Skins fan that I have experienced since returning to full time football fandom. The other two were the second season with Gibbs V 2.0 as coach--starting with the two Brunell-to-Moss TDs at the end of the Cowboys game in week 2 and ending in week 1 of the next year when I realized what a colossal clusterfuck incoming "co-head coach" (WTF is that, by the way?) Al Saunders had made of Gibbs's pretty good team--and the first half of the first Zorn season, when we accumulated a 6-2 record. That good feeling departed ignominiously, as I'm sure I don't need to remind any Redskins fans reading this, when a crowd of Terrible Towel-wielding insurgents stormed our stadium on Monday Night Football and Byron Leftwich, of all people, spent the second half of Monday Night Football absolutely destroying our defense, and basically the rest of our season. I didn't feel the pain too harshly at the time--remember, the very next night Obama won the presidential election. I don't know about y'all, but here in Richmond we danced in the streets. Hah, speaking of fandoms that left a sour taste in your mouth. Jesus.

Anyway, so those have been my moments of glory as an adult Redskins fan--Schottenheimer's 5 game winning streak, Joe Gibbs winning 10 games before we collapsed in the playoffs, and Jim Zorn pulling together half a season before getting brutally exposed. Not fucking much to write home about. At this point, I totally understand why Raven's grown so disgusted that he chose to hand me the Redskins coverage responsibility and start spending his Sunday afternoons with his family. And yet, I can't follow the trail he's blazed. For some reason, an evil spark of hope still burns within my heart. I say it's evil because it is a dark, harsh mistress that has led me to nothing but existential despair for the last decade of my life. And yet it keeps me coming back year after year, like a battered girlfriend at the end of an Afghan Whigs album. So here I am, watching Robert Griffin III (and Alfred Morris too) trying to use those little sparks of hope to light a fire under the 2012 Washington Redskins season. They're using wet newspapers and green twigs, but an occasional dim blue flame flickers and I still believe that the whole thing might catch--even though, best case scenario, it'll just emit an ugly smoky blast of air that'll make me cough and my eyes water. I've stretched this metaphor past the breaking point, but I have a feeling that at least some of you know what I'm talking about here. Right?

I have a whole lot more to say but I feel like I've written enough for an introductory entry. I hope to cover the season so far in one or more entries between now and Sunday, but we'll see what I can manage. However, I will be writing here at least once a week, trying to make sense of the team that's currently taking the field in burgundy and gold, who at least right now seem to be better than we feared but worse than we hoped. The question for 2012, at least in my mind, is: Same old Redskins? And if so, what still needs to change in order for the team I knew and loved as a kid to rise from the ashes?


Raven Mack said...

I watched most of the 4th quarter on Sunday and fully expected Cundiff to blow it like he normally would. RG3 is great though; it's a shame he's burdened by being a Redskin.
I am going to start downloading English Premier League games I think.

Neil said...


Anonymous said...

I'm going to follow Swiss midget albino wrestlers with herpes instead of the Lions or Skins

Raven Mack said...

same thing basically