In a town known for partisan bickering and political infighting, the Washington Redskins long have been one of the few things that could unify forces as powerfully opposed as Republicans and Democrats.
But a two-decade spell of mediocrity tested even the most fiercely loyal fans, who said Sunday that the team’s midseason resurgence this year is a welcome return to the days when Washington was known for something other than dysfunction.
Though the wild-card round game ended with a disappointing 24-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Washington football fans were excited and elated that the team had given them a season to celebrate and a playoff game to anticipate.
Before the game,the parking lot at FedEx Field was a teeming sea of burgundy and gold, as Redskins fans poured in to get an early start on the game against the Seahawks, the first home playoff game in 13 years.
Among them was Vicki Miller, 61, a Richmond resident whose family has had season tickets for 75 years.
“My aunts and uncles bought three tickets when they moved here from Iowa,” Ms. Miller said, her white-blonde hair and movie-star sunglasses offsetting her burgundy jersey. “It was the first thing they did. I feel very blessed to get to inherit them.”
Now the owner of five coveted seats, Ms. Miller said that, despite uneven performances on the field from year to year, her faith and dedication to the Redskins haven’t wavered in the 35 years she has been coming regularly to games and that she never would part with her tickets — even if it at times it was tempting.
“My uncle wanted to do that, when it was like a 0-9 season, then they won the 10th game,” Ms. Miller said. “He said, ‘OK, we’ll keep them for next year.’”
The Redskins, who won three Super Bowls in a 10-year span, have given fans little to cheer about in recent seasons, with a carousel of coaches and quarterbacks. Since its last Super Bowl victory in 1992, the team had 11 losing seasons and three playoff appearances until this year.
Cheryl Hickox, 48, of Annapolis, said she acquired two season tickets in 1997 and that she hasn’t given a thought to giving up her seats.
“The past three years have been so upsetting, but you do not give those tickets up,” she said, referring to three consecutive years in which the team finished last in the NFC East.
The Redskins boast a streak of consecutive sellouts that dates back to 1968, but getting tickets in recent years has been relatively easy. Actual attendance has flagged and season-ticket holders have made their seats available to buyers and brokers so that division rivals and visiting teams with large national followings have been well-represented at Redskins home games.
Despite the excitement around the acquisition of Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback who had an impressive rookie year and emerged as a team leader and local celebrity, a sluggish 3-6 start this year suggested another forgettable season. But the team’s seven-game winning streak to close the regular season and a playoff berth restored the faith of many long-suffering fans and instilled hope for the future.
The excitement was evident both inside and outside the stadium in Landover on Sunday.
Standing amid the many tailgaters’ folding tables weighted down with burgers, hot dogs, chili and chips, Cecil Starkey, 64, said he waited nearly 30 years to get season tickets. In a moment of candor, he confessed that after the past few seasons, he was ready to give up his two seats.