- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2003

As usual, our mess of a football team is in the midst of another unhappy new year, seemingly lost forever in a fog of dysfunction.

The ex-coach has fled to Florida, the bungling owner is plotting anew, and a region that used to treat the Redskins with affection and reverence is amused and bemused by it all.

The Redskins are not what they used to be back in the not-so-long-ago days of the late Jack Kent Cooke. They still can light up a talk-show switchboard faster than any other sports-related topic in the area, but they no longer have the capacity to warm and lift the community.

Except for their history, the Redskins have become just another corporation with a logo, as cold and distant as the antiseptic bowl by the Beltway, perhaps the only mistake that cannot be blamed on the current ownership.

The bowl is not a home field in the sense of RFK Stadium. It is a faceless, lifeless slab waiting for the day a wrecking crew comes to put it out of its misery, not unlike the fate that befell the equally grim arena across the interstate.

Some athletic homes cannot be improved, as it was with the old playground on East Capitol Street. It was an intimate, dingy place that came alive on Sunday afternoons in the fall. Its bleachers swayed to the rhythm of the game, and its denizens reached various ear-splitting levels of noise as the minutes wound down on the scoreboard clock of another hard-fought exercise.

Those days, alas, grow more removed by the year, overtaken by an ownership that has neglected the role of youthful innocence in sports.

A sports franchise is a peculiar enterprise, both a business and a symbol.

A sports franchise is conferred the responsibility of representing a region but provides no useful service to the region other than entertainment. It exists on the whim of the populace, a fragile element.

The games always have been about money on some level. No one is in the business of football — or any other professional sport, for that matter — to lose money.

Mr. Cooke’s family made money, gobs of it, in fact. But the old curmudgeon also recognized the unique bond between a community and a sports team. His approach was not over the top, which was funny because he was over the top in so many other ways. He might call to scold in that regal way of his. Yet he understood the necessity of preserving the illusion.

Dan Snyder, who takes a public relations beating from coast to coast, has shown himself to be a savvy businessman. He has an almost-infinite capacity to generate revenue streams. This or that function is sponsored by this or that company, and there is an official Redskins this or an official Redskins that.

Somewhere in all the commercial overload is a game, the principal reason for the interest, in case you forget.

Mr. Snyder seems bent on testing the tipping point between the game and the business, and for some longtime supporters of the franchise, he already has passed it.

The Redskins no longer represent a mere game. They have been marketed to represent an experience, as if there is some everlasting truth in the experience of attending a game.

The Redskins have lost something because of it. They have come to be this monolithic thing, all dollars all the time, hardly huggable or dear, or even connected to the community about them.

Of course, given the turnover rate in the organization, it is hard for the fleeting faces to be connected to the community. Most come for the payoff, have a cup of coffee or two, and then move elsewhere.

Rare is the athlete who rises to the level of Darrell Green in any city.

Yet so many other ex-Redskins from the Joe Gibbs era developed a genuine kinship with the faithful in Washington, as continuity within a franchise can inspire, and found a home. A few, such as Doc Walker and Joe Jacoby, still talk about the good old days, back when the home in home team meant something.

That loss is worse than all the team’s losses on the football field.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide