- - Monday, December 27, 2021

Early in the first quarter of the Dallas Cowboys’ 56-14 beat down of the Washington Football Team, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” analyst Cris Collinsworth thought he would get spiritual. He must have sensed it was going to be a long night.

When Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke tossed a long pass that was intercepted by Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, Collinsworth said that Diggs “stared back into Heinicke’s soul.”

I don’t think so. It’s common knowledge that when you walk into the Washington Football Team building, you leave your soul behind.

The aura of self-destruction was on full display Sunday night at AT&T Stadium — on the field, on the sidelines and in the postgame interviews.

You might have been able to stir up some sympathy for the difficult times that this Washington has been going through of late, an organization under COVID-19 siege. They went into the game against the powerful Dallas offense without one single starting linebacker. They were outmatched before the kickoff.

You might have been able to stir up some sympathy if they were a sympathetic lot. But this franchise is a magnet for scorn and ridicule, from the half-empty seats in Landover to the “we-bought-custom-benches-too” sidelines in Dallas to the squalid corridors of the headquarters in Ashburn. All of it earned.

It was 21-0 by the end of the first quarter, which was embarrassing enough. Then, shortly after the Cowboys took a 28-0 lead, Washington showed its first signs of competition when defensive tackle and team captain Jonathan Allen and his former Alabama teammate, Daron Payne, began arguing. Payne poked Allen in the head and Allen swung back. Teammates and defensive line coach Sam Mills stepped in to break it up.

America sat in their homes, watching and laughing.

Washington coach Ron Rivera said he didn’t see it. “I was told about it later after it happened,” he told reporters after the game. “I talked to both of them.” Rivera said that conversation will remain confidential.

When Payne was asked about it during the postgame press conference, he responded, “You got brothers? Y’all fight, don’t you? S—- happens. … It’s all good.”

Allen spoke from the same script. “When things are going bad like they are, things get heated,” he said. “S—- happens. Brothers fight.”

Any of this sound familiar?

In 2015, when Nationals reliever Jonathan Papelbon went after Bryce Harper in the dugout, manager Matt Williams didn’t see it either.

Harper’s response? “It’s like brothers fighting.”

At least Williams was angry about it. “I’m livid about it,” he told reporters.

Rivera sought sympathy.

When asked why he thought the team didn’t “handle it well,” he shot back, “Why do I think we didn’t handle it well? You see the score?”

Then he sought to humanize the meltdown. “You have to deal with those things, and it’s tough,” Rivera said. “It’s not easy to try to separate and compartmentalize situations like that. It spills over. It gets to people. It’s human nature. These guys are more than just robots. These guys have feelings. These are players; these are people. They got a teammate going through something right now. It’s tough. You have an opportunity, and you don’t have everybody playing. That’s hard on them. That’s not normal s—-. That’s real-life s—-, and that’s what they’re dealing with. These are young men, and we’re just trying to help them along the way.”

The teammate he referred to is Deshazor Everett, the Washington safety who was seriously injured in a car accident Thursday night that killed his passenger, 29-year-old Olivia Peters.

It is a terrible tragedy. My sympathies are with everyone involved, particularly the family members the young woman left behind.

But nowhere does it belong in an explanation of why this football team lost this game like this or a rationalization of the embarrassing sideline behavior everyone witnessed.

Everyone’s sympathies involving the Washington Football Team would be better placed for the victims who have charged that Rivera’s boss, owner Dan Snyder, presided over an organization rife with sexual harassment and offensive behavior, and want their voices heard. That’s hard on them. That’s not normal s—-.

Rivera should open up every press conference with a statement of sympathies for those victims who his boss has tried to silence.

But if you’re looking for soul-searching, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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