- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 14, 2009

Who will be the voice of Washington Redskins tradition 20 years from now? What former Redskins great will be called on in 2029 to talk about the glory days?

Chris Cooley? What would he talk about - the glorious two-game playoff run of 2005 or the brief playoff appearance of 2007?

What will he say? That players don’t show private parts on their blogs like they used to?

Will any player who has been part of this franchise over the past five years still connect to the hearts and minds of Redskins fans like the players who are heard today?

Fans listen to Doc Walker, Joe Theismann, Brian Mitchell, John Riggins and their teammates because they delivered great times - four Super Bowl appearances and three championships - for Redskins fans.

Their words carry weight because they connected on the field through their performances and off the field after their playing days by remaining part of the community.

One generation of Redskins fans feels the loss of those good times and of the pride of rooting for one of the great NFL franchises - this organization once was the object of the jealousy of other fans, not ridicule.

But at least that generation had the good times.

What can a Redskins fan who came of age in this century hang onto in years to come? Clinton Portis and Coach Janky Spanky?

Riggins seems to be playing a combination of characters of his own in his YouTube and radio appearances these days. He’s part Howard Beale from “Network” and part Willie Stark, the populist cynical politician in Robert Penn Warren’s book “All the King’s Men.”

In his latest appearance on WTOP this week, Riggins responded to critics who came down on him for making personal attacks on Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.

“I see my role as merely a messenger, not a self-appointed face of the fans, just someone who is willing to speak truth to power,” Riggins said. “I have no fear of Mr. Snyder, and if I am exiled from this revered franchise, that is a sacrifice I am willing to make to remain true to myself.”

This self-appointed martyr also tried to tie his message to the plight of Native Americans.

“It’s ironic indeed that the name of this franchise, being what it is, is figuratively representative of the long suffering of a proud and noble people,” he said. “And it’s also ironic that the leader of this franchise, not unlike the U.S. government 150 or so years ago, is leading his people on a trail of tears.”

Beale put it best: “So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ ”

I don’t have a problem with Riggins speaking out. He is as iconic as anyone who ever wore the Redskins uniform. And there is no shortage of material for which to take the franchise to task.

But, please, stop the everyman hypocrisy. This is a guy who has charged hundreds of dollars for autographs from the fans for whom he now supposedly serves as a messenger.

If you’ve ever walked up to him and asked for an autograph, you know the message you’ve gotten. I’ve watched him at postgame radio shows at FedEx Field look right through fans who approached him.

That’s fine, too. But you can’t do both. Don’t accuse the owner of having “the heart of a narcissist, someone who thinks they’re better than others, someone who thinks the social contract does not apply to them,” then wave off fans as if they didn’t exist.

For a generation of fans who remember watching Riggins carry them through three of the greatest postseason games in Redskins history on the way to their first Super Bowl championship, he can do little wrong.

But what about the fans of today? Their memory will be of a guy sitting on a log on YouTube and spouting off.

And you know what? Even that is better than what the current crop of Redskins players is leaving their fans to remember.

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