- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 7, 2009

The spotlight shone on Sugar Ray Leonard as he stood in the ring in the Hilton Washington ballroom Thursday night for the 20th edition of the Fight Night charity event.

With Michael Buffer doing the introduction, Leonard turned and waved to a crowd of rich and powerful men. Not wanting the moment to end, they stood and gave the local boxing icon a lengthy ovation.

It was 1987 again, and all was right with the world. Ray Leonard was beating Marvin Hagler in his storied comeback fight, and the Washington Redskins were on their way to another Super Bowl championship.

Leonard’s presence reminded everyone of how good it was to be a D.C. sports fan in those days.

As those fans at Fight Night woke up with hangovers Friday, they were reminded that things are not so good these days. Boxing is on the ropes, and every day brings a new hangover for Redskins fans who wish they could party like it was 1987 again.

Friday’s hangover came in the form of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. On Friday, reports surfaced about a Haynesworth appearance on satellite radio the previous night in which he talked about the frequent gab sessions he holds with Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

You can be sure that, in 1987, owner Jack Kent Cooke wasn’t carrying on lengthy football discussions with defensive tackle Dave Butz.

But that was then.

“I talk to him at least once a week, if not [more often],” Haynesworth said. “They’re usually 15-, 20-, even 30-minute conversations sometimes. Depends on what the day is looking like. You know, he’s just a big fan. He’s a guy who will do anything to get the right players and to win. That’s what he wants to do: He wants to win. …

“Most of all our conversations start out like, ‘How can we win? Can we win this week? What do you think?’ - and things like that. I see nothing wrong with that.”

Of course he doesn’t. That’s part of the problem.

Clinton Portis reportedly has the same kind of relationship with Snyder. The fact that neither player thinks it is wrong that he can chat up the owner on a regular basis speaks volumes about the dysfunction that has plagued this franchise under Snyder’s ownership.

Do you think Haynesworth talks to Snyder more than coach Jim Zorn does? Does every player get a chance to have an audience with the owner - or just the ones to whom he pays the most money?

Do any of the assistant coaches get weekly, lengthy talks with the owner? How about defensive line coach John Palermo, who supposedly has the authority to tell Haynesworth what to do? (Maybe defensive coordinator and Snyder defender Greg Blache does, but who knows?)

This practice - a select few players having the owner’s ear - is as destructive as it gets for a team trying to win.

It opens up all sorts of opportunity for distrust and dissension.

It undermines the authority of the coaching staff.

And it is further evidence of the deep and pervasive problems at Redskin Park - and of the need for a football authority figure who can establish a chain of command that breeds respect, not contempt.

As if more evidence of this were necessary.

At the private dinner before the Thursday night show, Leonard turned to me and asked, “What is going on with the Redskins? Did they really ban signs from the stadium? How bad is it?”

It wasn’t bad in the Hilton ballroom Thursday night.

The Redskinettes entered the ring and were not booed. Then again, they performed a dance routine you won’t see at FedEx Field.



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