- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2000

That tingling you feel in the upper thigh area, Redskins fans, is Dan Snyder's hand in your pocket. Get used to it. It isn't going to go away any time soon.

Dan the Man revealed his latest moneymaking scheme Tuesday, and it's a doozy. He's going to hold training camp at Redskin Park this summer we all knew that and charge people to park ($10) and watch ($10 for those 13 and over). Just think: 20 bucks to see Darrell Green stretch out his hamstrings and that just gets you in the door. Lord knows what refreshments, souvenirs and the like will cost at Danny World. A word to the wise: Leave your mutual funds at home, lest you be tempted to swap them for a Brad Johnson autographed jersey.

What's truly comical is how Redskins president Steve Baldacci has tried to spin this. A lot of other teams do it, he said, and "we're probably one of the less expensive." In fact, no other NFL teams do it, as near as The Washington Times can determine. Some teams charge for parking and for scrimmages against other clubs (the Redskins being one), but the Snydermen are the first to actually charge for watching practice. What a distinction.

Snyder, of course, is attempting to pass himself as a Man of the People with this move. So many fans never get to see the team close up, he reasons, what with season tickets being almost impossible to come by and camp being held for years in Carlisle, Pa., and Frostburg, Md. By training near Washington, he says, the Redskins will become more accessible.

And so, incidentally, will their fans' wallets.

If one more person tries to compare Snyder to "a young Jack Kent Cooke," I'm going to barf. The ownership style of the Cookes especially on this issue was so radically different from Snyder's. Jack Kent Cooke, I hasten to remind you, was the last NFL owner to tack preseason games onto the season ticket package. If a season ticket-holder didn't want to pay for "practice" games, he figured, well, that would just give another fan a chance to see the club in action.

If Snyder really wanted to be a Man of the People, he would start setting aside season tickets that aren't renewed and break them up into half-season plans or quarter-season plans or maybe even sell them on a per-game basis. Now that would be doing something for the fan in the street. Sure, there would be more paperwork involved, but think of the good will it would create.

But Dan the Man isn't nearly as interested in good will as he is in revenue streams. And this is another "stream" even if it does seem to have emanated from a sewage treatment plant.

The poor suckers who fork over their $20 will soon discover that training camp practices aren't all that compelling unless their idea of fun is watching Bruce Smith bump into a blocking dummy. "Gladiator" it ain't, folks. Also, almost half the players in camp don't make the team, so the caliber of play has as much in common with NFL Europe football as the real kind. The thrill will wear off for most fans, I suspect, about the same time LaVar Arrington rounds the corner, the quarterback in his sites, and hears an assistant coach shout, "Don't hit him. Don't hit him." Take it from one who knows: If you've seen one training camp workout, you've seen 'em all.

A much bigger question is: Why are the Redskins training here in the first place? Being new to football and having surrounded himself with sycophants Snyder probably isn't aware that there are reasons, time-honored ones, why clubs go away in the summer. It isn't to escape their fan base; it's to be by themselves, to do some bonding. There isn't nearly as much opportunity for that once the season begins and players start heading in 53 different directions.

Then, too, it's a lot harder to find trouble in Frostburg than it is in Washington. (You practically need night-vision glasses to locate it in the mountains of Western Maryland.) You would think an owner, in this age of Ray Lewis, would be sensitive to that, but Snyder apparently isn't.

Finally in case you hadn't noticed, Dan it's ungodly hot here in August. You could fry an egg on Tre Johnson's forehead. The Redskins run the risk of wearing themselves out on and off the field this summer. I hope Bubba Tyer has the IVs all set up.

Postscript: When The Washington Times' Jody Foldesy found out that Baldacci had, uh, misstated himself about other teams charging fans to watch training camp, he tried to give him a chance to clarify his comments, as any fair reporter would. Baldacci refused to make himself available, however. So Foldesy approached him in the parking lot as the Redskins president was leaving work, and popped the question.

Instead of an answer, Foldesy got a lecture. The gist of it was: How dare you, peon that you are, come up to me and ask a question. "You should have gone through proper channels," he told Our Guy who, of course, had gone through proper channels, to no avail. "We are the Washington Redskins. We have ways of doing things."

Yeah, like making fans cough up $20 to watch a training camp practice. And here's a scary thought, Redskins rooters: They're just getting started.

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