- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 6, 2019

LANDOVER — The stands were packed Sunday when the Washington Redskins took on the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. But, as has become the norm at FedEx Field, many fans weren’t there to root for the home team.

With more than half the crowd decked out in Patriots blue and white, wearing Tom Brady and Julian Edelman jerseys and cheering every New England touchdown, Washington fans including Brian Costello, who became a season ticket-holder in 2015, found themselves visitors in their own stadium.

“It’s just kind of sad,” said Mr. Costello, a lifelong fan sporting a burgundy-and-gold “Fire Bruce Allen” shirt. “You just come here to tailgate, to hang out. You know, it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t matter.”

New England’s dominance on the field — the Patriots won 33-7 — and takeover in the stands on Sunday marked new low points in a season full of them for a franchise off to its worst start since 2001. With the Redskins among the league’s worst this season, the franchise finds itself, after years of disappointment and mediocrity, struggling to recapture the attention of Washington fans.

Overall attendance is up for Redskins home games. Entering Sunday, Washington ranked 11th in the NFL with 71,227 fans per home game — up 16.4% over 2018. Unfortunately for the storied franchise, the increase seems to be coming from the opposing teams’ fans flooding into FedEx.



Dallas Cowboys fans in Week 2 and Chicago Bears fans in Week 3 appeared to occupy at least half the seats. On Sunday, Patriots fans were clearly the majority.

When the Redskins‘ offense was backed up to its own 3-yard line, a loud “De-fense!” chant began. Hands shot up in celebration all around the lower bowl when Edelman scored a big catch-and-run, followed by a Sony Michel touchdown. Supportive chants of “Bra-dy” echoed throughout the fourth quarter.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was among those weighing in on the intensity of support for the visitors.

“Oh my God, it was amazing,” Belichick said. “Awesome,” New England receiver Josh Gordon said. “Ridiculous,” Brady said.

Tickets for the Patriots game were hotter than for either of the Redskins‘ first two home games. According to TickPick, a secondary ticket website, the average purchase price for the Patriots game was $259.34 as of Friday — more than the $255 for the Cowboys and $131 for the Bears.

There were thousands of Patriots fans, some who flew in from Massachusetts and others living around the area who jumped at the chance to see their favorite team. Jerry and Dylan Spence left their Newport News, Virginia, home at 6 a.m. and drove three hours to see the Patriots for the first time. The father-son duo spent approximately $900 to sit two rows behind New England’s bench.

Adam Law and his parents, Bill and Michelle Law, are New England fans who hail from Massachusetts but now live in Virginia. They said they drive to FedEx Field every eight years when the Patriots are scheduled to visit.

“Usually the home-field advantage is something special,” Adam Law said. “Home-field advantage usually makes a difference on defense. I think generally, what it really means is that nobody’s going to have the home-field advantage during this one, necessarily.”

The home-field advantage was certainly lacking. ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt, a Maryland native, took to Twitter to call the Redskins‘ game “another road game at home” after seeing pictures of the Patriots-heavy crowd.

“I can’t tell you how many people I know who feel the same way I do now. Absolutely indifferent,” Mr. Van Pelt tweeted. “That would have been impossible to believe not too long ago.”

Washington’s situation won’t improve anytime soon. With the Redskins‘ 0-5, it’s easy to imagine fans staying home for a losing team.

FedEx’s lease, meanwhile, doesn’t expire until 2027. Team President Bruce Allen said in a radio interview over the summer that the Redskins could announce plans for a new stadium “within a year.” Washington officials have had discussions with Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia for its new home, but D.C. appears to be the front-runner.

At a panel event at the University of the District of Columbia on Friday, Mayor Muriel Bowser said she would like to see a new stadium on the RFK site. The city has announced plans to tear down the former RFK stadium in 2021.

“We’re not going to chase them down, and we’d like them [to] be winners when they come,” Ms. Bowser said, according to the Washington Business Journal. “We don’t feel like we’re in the position to beg for this type of development. We have a great site, we think the best site in the region. And when the time is right, we’re going to make sure the site is activated.”

In the meantime, more and more fans are declaring their hopelessness. In December, Mr. Costello left a Redskins game at halftime for the first time ever as the team was down 34-0 in a blowout loss to the New York Giants. He found the customized shirt calling for Mr. Allen’s firing not long afterward.

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