- - Thursday, September 12, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Two weeks ago, the Washington Redskins held annual their Welcome Home Luncheon. It was a tepid event, punctuated by the occasional polite golf clap.

Expect more excitement in the crowd at Sunday’s Redskins home opener. After all, the Dallas Cowboys are in town, and their noisy fans will likely swarm into Ghost Town Field — the stadium formerly known as FedEx Field — to take over some of the huge swaths of empty seats.

In its heyday, FedEx Field never provided much of a home-field advantage for the Redskins. But Ghost Town Field? Even worse. And Sunday could mark a new low.

A year ago, the Redskins were returning home after an impressive 24-6 road win over the Arizona Cardinals. Behind new quarterback Alex Smith and a rejuvenated Adrian Peterson, there was every reason for Washington fans to welcome their team home in style and numbers.

Remember, these were the Redskins of Brian Lafemina, the chief operating officer brought in from the NFL to breathe life into a dying brand. He recognized the landscape had changed in the NFL, and that in today’s spectator sports world, you have sell, sell and sell.



He was appearing on every sports talk radio show on the dial, telling everyone that plenty of seats were available — very un-Redskins like. He had already acknowledged the waiting list for season ticket holders was a myth.

There were former Redskins players around the area giving away tickets to strangers on the street, like they were giving out handbills in Times Square. Despite pulling out all the stops, Ghost Town Field was … well, a ghost town. An announced crowd of 57,013 showed up, most of them to welcome home their Redskins, but also a surprisingly visible and vocal group of supporters for the opposing team, the Indianapolis Colts.

It was by far the lowest attendance for a home opener in the stadium since it opened in 1997.

Sunday won’t likely be a repeat of last year’s home opener — but not for any reasons that would encourage Redskins officials. This time the opponent isn’t the Colts.

Look for a large and vocal crowd of Cowboys fans on Sunday. I guess we’ll find out which is worse — empty seats or a stadium full of people rooting for the Redskins‘ biggest rival.

Unlike last year, the Redskins this year return home off a demoralizing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Redskins fans no longer have any interest in fighting the good fight, which is ostensibly what Washington did against the Eagles – at least, for the first half, putting on an impressive offensive display led by new quarterback Case Keenum.

No, Redskins fans are already angry before even seeing their team take the home field. The debate this week on sports talk radio wasn’t getting fired up about Dallas week. It was about how coach Jay Gruden foolishly benched future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson for that game in Philadelphia.

The Cowboys, who have significantly better offensive skill position players than the Redskins, are coming off a 35-17 win over the New York Giants. The Cowboys will be coming to Ghost Town Field expecting to celebrate a victory.

That’s not a lock, though. The Redskins‘ defense handled Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott in their first meeting last year, as he managed just 33 yards on 18 carries in a 20-17 Washington win.

They had 66,301 there at Ghost Town Field that day — many of them Cowboys fans, with another 15,000 empty seats.

In fact, at one point last season when the Redskins returned home with a 5-2 record to face the Atlanta Falcons, they drew just 62,386, leaving 20,000 empty seats.

Those numbers came out during a fleeting moment during the brief age of transparency, when team president Bruce Allen, the Prince of Darkness, was a spectator.

He eventually sent Lafemina — and his age of transparency — packing.

At the Welcome Home Luncheon, Dan Snyder never spoke to the roomful of so-called boosters. Neither did the Prince of Darkness. But when their names were mentioned at the start of the program, without incident, there seemed a sense of relief in the room there wasn’t a round of boos.

As Ghost Town Field opens its 23rd season Sunday, the bar isn’t set much higher.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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