- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

Local electronics retailers have more reason to cheer for the Washington Redskins than simply being fans of the burgundy and gold.

The team’s five-game winning streak — and first playoff berth since 2000 — is correlating with a noticeable increase in the purchase of high-definition televisions, retailers said.

“They stick out like sore thumbs. They come in with their Redskins sweaters on,” said Edwin Rodriguez, a Magnolia Home Theater salesman at the Best Buy store in Springfield. “We have definitely been feeling the effects [of the team’s success].”

The influx of gear-clad fans asking about big-screen TVs and HDTVs picked up after the team’s defeat of the New York Giants Dec. 24, Mr. Rodriguez said.

Other retailers saw the trend even earlier.

“We had a young fellow who came in [the morning of] the [Dallas] Cowboys game” on Dec. 18, said George Creighton, store manager at Circuit City in Rockville. “He was having a bunch of fellows over to watch the game, and that’s what pushed him over the edge.”

In most instances, fans may have been considering a TV upgrade for awhile, but Washington’s winning streak provided the added motivation, said George DeSesso, supervisor of Best Buy in Leesburg, Va.

“Everybody’s like, ‘OK, well we’re going to do it eventually. Now we’re going to watch the Super Bowl and all of a sudden, the Redskins are in the playoffs — why not just do it now?’ ” Mr. DeSesso said.

While none of the TV retailers keeps statistics on Redskins-influenced purchases, a good chunk of TVs bought in January are by football fans, they said.

“It’s no secret we see a dramatic lift during the bowl season,” Mr. Creighton said. “Sporting events, I would safely say, based on what I’ve seen, drive TV business at any particular time.”

Most fans are interested in one feature: high definition.

HDTV is digital television broadcast in high resolution combined with digital-surround sound.

Home theater systems with high definition can vary in price from $3,000 to as much as $50,000, but most people look to spend about $5,000, according to Mr. DeSesso.

At Best Buy’s Magnolia Home Theater center in Springfield Wednesday night, Redskins fans testified to the difference of HD.

“You can see blades of grass, you can pick up details on the face, you can hear the crowd cheering behind you,” said James Bennett, 47, of Springfield. “All of sports is better in HD.”

Sporting a leather Redskins jacket, John Norwood, 27, of Burke, said watching his team on HDTV at a friend’s house played a part in his decision last week to purchase a 60-inch TV with an LCD screen.

“I wanted to do it a year ago, but the price was too high,” said Mr. Norwood, whose TV won’t be delivered in time to view the team’s first playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend. “Hopefully they’ll win so I can see one game on this thing.”

As for tomorrow’s game, Mr. Norwood said he plans to buy a last-minute ticket and travel to Tampa.

Ed Thompson, 72, of Springfield, completed the purchase of a 56-inch HDTV set after a 20-year-old TV finally broke. He’s having the new TV delivered in time so he can have friends over and watch the Tampa game, he said.

Asked whether he is a Redskins fan, Mr. Thompson replied, “Are you kidding? I’ve lived here all my life.”

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