- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 2, 2006

If you paid hard-earned money to watch the Washington Redskins play two preseason games at FedEx Field — and let’s not forget the $25 parking fee for the free scrimmage — you might want to know that your money is not being wasted.

Sure, the Redskins lost those two home games, completing a memorably awful preseason in which they were outscored 104-27 and finished 0-4. Sure, you didn’t see a passing game or a running game, a pass defense or a run defense, or even a kicking game.

But that’s OK. Everything points toward the regular-season opener against the Vikings.

“Certainly, it’s not the way we wanted to play and not the way we wanted to finish up,” coach Joe Gibbs told reporters after Thursday night’s loss to the Ravens. “But we know everything points toward [the Vikings], and now we have to find a way to play well. We haven’t done that yet, and that’s obviously a concern for all of us.”

All of us? Does that include Redskins fans, as well? It should, since they are the ones shelling out the big bucks to Dan Snyder and his franchise that now is worth $1.4 billion.

Redskins fans have more reason for concern than Gibbs. Unlike Gibbs, fans have little to go on other than what they have seen in preseason. And if what they have seen means nothing, then fans have nothing to go on other than blind faith in Gibbs and his all-star coaching staff.

But where is the faith in the fans on the part of Gibbs, who always talks about how important fans are to the success of the team?

Times have changed.

This isn’t 1992 at RFK, and the old paranoid, closed-shop way in which the franchise operates is an insult to the fan who pays thousands of dollars every year for tickets, merchandise and everything Redskins.

There is too much money involved to continue to keep fans in the dark. They deserve more information than talk about “tough times.”

Gibbs isn’t the only one guilty of this. The NFL moves closer to information shutdown with each passing season when they should be going in the opposite direction. The league talks about a partnership between owners and players. When do the fans — the people who create the pot the owners and players share — get to be partners as well?

Don’t fans deserve more of an explanation for the decisions that went into the Redskins’ kicking game and left it in such a dire state? Don’t fans deserve more than 2 percent? Do these coaches think so much of themselves and their genius that they believe they are hiding that other 98 percent of Al Saunders’ now-legendary 700-page playbook from the rest of the league? (I’ll bet there are a lot of pictures in that playbook).

And I am not talking just about the franchise’s dealings with reporters. It’s clear that Snyder, via his Internet operations and radio network, wants to get his message directly to his customers. Fine. Just don’t insult the customers. Let that message include real information. Show a little faith.

The Redskins aren’t the only ones guilty of this.

On the other side of town, the Washington Nationals are charging major league prices and expecting fans to pay up based on faith, and nothing more, that the club knows what it is doing in its rebuilding efforts.

The Nats just shipped out two more major league players, Daryle Ward and Marlon Anderson, for a couple of minor league pitching prospects, one of whom is coming off Tommy John surgery and may not pitch until late next season.

The club’s plan is based on player development, and it probably is a smart plan put together by smart people. But team president Stan Kasten takes great glee in revealing as little meaningful information as possible, such as specifics about talks to keep Alfonso Soriano here.

But this is not 1994 and the fans are not the players union. And this is not a law firm. There is a public trust involved with a baseball team — specifically, with this one, a $611 million public trust in the form of a ballpark — and that trust needs to come back to the fans.

Sports franchises ask trust of their fans as they take their money. As they take more and more of that money, the time has come to make it a two-way street.

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