- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Boos can have a junk-mail quality about them. Take the boos directed at the Redskins during and after their 9-7 victory Sunday over the bottom-scraping Rams. They rang in every player’s ears, even though not every player was deserving of such censure. It was like the boos were addressed to: Occupant, Redskin Park, Ashburn VA 20147.

The Washington defense, after all, didn’t have much to apologize for. It held a team with a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback to just seven points and had only a few regrettable glitches (e.g. Steven Jackson’s 58-yard run in the second quarter). The kicking game, in the persons of Shaun Suisham (three field goals for all nine of the Redskins’ points) and Hunter Smith (a not-to-be-overlooked 52-yard punt from the back of his own end zone with the game still in doubt), also was pretty much blameless.

But again, that’s the thing about boos. A lot of the time, they’re more Blanket Condemnation than Surgical Strike. And that was certainly the case with Sunday’s grumbling at the Mailbox.

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“It’s not the first time I’ve heard it,” Casey Rabach said. “It is what it is - fans showing their disapproval.”

Actually, I think it’s more than that. It’s more than fans being dissatisfied with a fair catch or a field goal or a third-down call. As much as anything now, it’s 17 years of pent-up frustration, almost two decades of sub-.500 football - at some of the highest prices in the NFL. That’s what the Redskins were tapping into when they danced with defeat against St. Louis.

Granted, they committed their share of blunders in the game, but the early part of the season can be like that. No, the booing was more of the here-we-go-again variety - if not the Howard Beale variety. The Redskins, for all their extravagance and expectations, were having trouble beating one of the worst clubs in the league.

On their own field.

For the second straight year.

Has Redskins Nation finally run out of patience? Well, let me just say that when I got out of my car Sunday after arriving at FedEx Field, the first words I heard were a profane condemnation of Dan Snyder’s latest parking policy - the one that involves an army of attendants waving flags and directing you to a space in Waldorf.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he and similar-minded fans carried their grievances into the stadium (assuming, that is, they could slip them by Security). And the first time the home team messed up… out their anger spilled.

At other times in the game, the crowd seemed strangely disconnected. Maybe it was just anesthetized by the lack of scoring - or maybe, as I’m suggesting, there’s a larger problem at work here: The fans, many of them, just can’t make The Leap any more, just can’t convince themselves the Redskins are contenders for anything except the Best Attendance Trophy.

Whenever Jason Campbell and Co. crossed the opposition’s 20-yard line, which was often, the scoreboard would flash, “Quiet! Offense at Work.” But there wasn’t any need, really, to call for calm. Once the pattern had been established - Redskins drive the length of the field, Redskins bog down in the Red Zone, Redskins settle for a field goal - much of the buzz went out of the place.

The fans weren’t even all that delirious when the defense recovered a Rams fumble at the Washington 7 in the fourth quarter, saving the day. The reaction was more “It’s about time” than “I’m going to name my baby after Chris Horton.”

You look at the club section of FedEx, and you see plenty of empty seats. You look in the upper deck, and you also see empty seats. You take this all in, and you wonder whether it’s just the economy - or whether, in Year 11 of the Snyder Era, the Golden Goose is slowly being choked to death.

I put the question to London Fletcher, a player whose performance is never much of an issue. “Do you get the feeling,” I asked, “that the boos you’re hearing are more like acid reflux - that the fans just can’t stomach any longer what they’ve been watching since 1993?”

He nodded and replied: “I think it’s an accumulation of frustration over how we’ve performed [over a long period of time], not just [Sunday’s] game.”

The follow-up question, of course, hangs heavily in the air for every Redskins follower:

When, if ever, will the nightmare end?

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