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Robert Griffin possibility revives Redskins fan base

Blockbuster trade boosts ticket sales

Aneesh Mehta had a weird feeling Friday. With his beloved Washington Redskins pursuing a franchise quarterback just days before the start of NFL free agency, he sensed something big was about to happen. That was why he continually refreshed the Twitter feed on his phone while at a birthday party Friday night.

About 10:30 p.m., he learned that the Redskins had executed a blockbuster trade to position themselves to draft one of two highly touted quarterback prospects: Stanford's Andrew Luck or, more likely, Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III out of Baylor.

"I screamed it at the dinner table, 'We got RG3!'" Mr. Mehta recalled with a laugh. "Then [my best friend] and I just went straight to the bar and started taking shots."

Mr. Mehta's joy took him a step further Saturday. He wrote the Redskins a check for $2,580 to renew his two season tickets, something he previously told a team sales representative that he would not do unless the Redskins traded up in the draft to acquire a quarterback.

A sampling of fans shared similar stories, exemplifying how immediately Washington's bold trade energized at least part of a season-ticket base tired of paying to watch a team that has finished last in its division for four straight seasons.

The Redskins, who removed approximately 10,000 seats from FedEx Field before last season, figure to benefit from overwhelmingly positive fan reaction to the move, especially because it occurred before the team's April 1 deadline to renew season tickets.

"I went to bed, I woke up and I renewed my tickets," said Al Mahoney, 35, of Silver Spring. "It was a no-brainer for me."

The Redskins expect Griffin or Luck to solve their long-standing quarterback problems and serve as the centerpiece of their ongoing effort to return to league prominence. The carryover to the business side is apparent, at least anecdotally.

Mr. Mahoney emailed the Redskins this winter informing them that his decision to renew his season tickets was based on how they addressed the quarterback position. After learning of the trade via Twitter on his way to bed Friday, he stayed up listening to sports radio until 1 a.m.

"That was what I had hoped for and it was exactly what I got," he said. "I couldn't be happier."

Local sports radio measured the public's initial response. Grant Paulsen, the Redskins beat reporter for 106.7 The Fan, raced to the station's studio in Lanham after news of the trade broke. He and co-host Pete Medhurst went on the air shortly after 11 p.m., expecting to host for about 90 minutes. They instead hosted commercial-free programming until 5 a.m., phones jammed the whole time.

"People got this news and they were so elated, it was this sense almost of euphoria," said Mr. Paulsen, who received calls from California, Las Vegas, Vermont and Michigan. "They were just gushing. They didn't want to go to sleep. We just decided to pull the plug at that point so that we could go home and go to sleep."

ESPN 980's Al Galdi overhauled the format of his Saturday morning sports show to focus exclusively on the Redskins.

"The phone lines, the second I gave out the number, they lit up," Mr. Galdi said.

Some fans have followed that initial rush with their money.

John Overington, 26, of Southwest is between jobs, so he was a bit disappointed when the team recently offered him the chance to buy tickets after he spent five years on the waiting list. It wasn't a luxury he could afford at approximately $1,800 for two tickets and parking.

But after Friday's trade?

"Now, I think I have no choice," Mr. Overington said. "It's the first time to be excited in 20 years. It's something I want to be a part of more than before."

Jason Ross, 33, and his father, Benjamin, were unsure whether they would renew their two club seats and two lower-level seats. They made up their minds, though, when they learned of the trade as they were leaving a Miami restaurant Friday.

"I just couldn't see going out there for that same offensive performance, not week in and week out," said Mr. Ross, a Northwest resident. "It gives you some hope for the future."

Mr. Mehta, 30, of Reston, still is rejoicing. Now he wonders how the Redskins will build around the new quarterback, beginning with the opening of free agency Tuesday.

Suddenly, there's much for him to anticipate.

"I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the night," Mr. Mehta said. "I was up until 4 a.m. on Twitter reading stuff, listening to stuff. That was the moment I was waiting for."

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