- - Monday, November 12, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Dear Josh Norman:

I understand your frustration regarding fan support when Washington hosts other NFL teams, when portions of FedEx Field are filled with the visitors’ devotees rooting against you and your teammates.

That must be terribly annoying. However — through little fault of your own — you have a warped idea of what it means to be “a fan.”

The media is partly responsible for that, considering how we glorify and romanticize genuine sports fanatics. The rest of the blame goes to those ardent enthusiasts who prop up themselves — with media backing — as examples of true fandom.

As if there aren’t levels of support, or everything below the gold standard is worthy of derision.

I suppose every team has a segment of hard-core followers, those who are unswervingly committed and exhibit uncompromised dedication, even in the face of year after year after year of losing seasons. Prime examples wear dog masks in Cleveland and zombie outfits in Oakland, showing up faithfully to root for NFL teams that haven’t scored championships since 1964 and 1984, respectively.

A more accurate term for such diehards is die-nots. They exist in Washington, too, though not enough to your liking during home games.

“It just seems like the true fans, they really be with us on the road,” you said in a 90-second critique after Sunday’s victory at Tampa Bay. “We feed off of that. [But] we go into the homestands, it just seems like an open bubble. Like the other team’s turf or something. You hear more of them than you do us.”

That’s certainly embarrassing. But put yourself in the residents’ situation for a second.

Unlike you, they’re not paid millions of dollars and they’re not compensated for being at FedEx Field. In fact, showing up can consume a considerable chunk of whatever disposable income exists. And you might be unaware, but it’s not the NFL’s greatest experience or venue.

Between the prices and the parking and the egress, a couch looks better and better.

Then, consider the on-field product, which has ranged from awful to average over the past two decades. Fans with unconditional love still remain, but they’re tired of putting their money where their heart is.

When they choose to do so, they’re not shy about expressing dissatisfaction. That’s not unique to DC no matter how it appears from the sideline.

“You go around to the NFC East — you see Philly, the Giants and even Dallas — they’re sold out,” you said. “People in the seats are cheering for their team regardless of good or bad or indifferent. They’re still showing up each and every week and going hard.

“If something bad happens, [our fans] sulk. They sit back in their seat and they boo. It seems like they don’t really care. They just boo everything and aren’t really behind us. We don’t really feel that [support].”

Maybe you missed it, Josh, but Eagles fans booed the defending NFL champs Sunday night as the team departed for halftime. Boos (and empty seats) also are common in New York, where two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning has become a whipping boy.

You concluded by reiterating your frustration, saying, “we can play all our games on the road if you ask me.” But I know you don’t mean that, just like you know the home record has nothing to do with overall attendance and what percentage of the crowd roots for the visitors.

You’re also well aware of the best way to increase the former and reduce (or at least silence) the latter.

I imagine other players might be irritated and disturbed, too. I get it. All of you are forgiven for the misunderstanding, for thinking folks are obligated to show blind allegiance and unwavering loyalty while voting with their wallets. It likely has been the case for most of your lives — from peewees to prep to college — and you still enjoy aspects of such idolatry in the pros.

But given time to reflect on your remarks, you should realize you were wrong.

Fandom isn’t based on attending games. However, when a loud segment of the crowd is cheering for the other guys, the majority of fans at FedEx Field still are rooting for your team.

Fandom isn’t based on boos, either. You’re booed because people care and they want you to do better, especially considering their investment in time, hassle and ticket prices.

Don’t take it personally if other observers rip you for your comments. The view you expressed isn’t totally your fault. We all played a role in its development. Based on the way society lauds athletes, it’s a wonder that all of you aren’t spoiled.

Here’s hoping you see more clearly now.

Glad to help.

Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.


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