Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A Letter to Younger Fans

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

If you were born after 1983 and before around 2000, and are an ardent supporter of Washington D.C.’s football team, you have my condolences.  You grew up hearing of Super Bowl championships and sustained excellence, but, sadly, you have no conscious memory of it.  You also were born into a fervent football atmosphere – a still passionate, win-drunk fan base in the afterglow of a glorious decade and confident that the next great era would arrive soon.  That is the two-fold curse of your date of birth.  I’m sorry.  You were done wrong.  But then again, what was the alternative? 

It’s not your fault.  Anyone would have been sucked in by the still-shiny Lombardi trophies and tractor beam of euphoria.  When you were growing up, it was still cool to root for the ‘Skins, wear the gear and attend games.  You just happened to come of age in a bear market; the bull, the raging bull, would soon return.

But it hasn’t and, the harsh reality is, it never will. 

After a 0-5 start, head coach Jay Gruden was fired last week.  This would normally mark a franchise reflection point, a chance to chart a new course and build a brighter future.  For Washington, it doesn’t matter – not in the least.  Gruden is just the latest name added to the Norv Turner, Terry Robiske, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn and Mike Shanahan scroll of 1999-present unsuccessful Washington head coaches.

Say “1999” and I immediately think of Prince’s classic song.  I know, I’m showing my age, but check out this opening verse:

“I was dreaming when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray; But when I woke up this morning, could’ve sworn it was judgement day; The sky was all purple, there were people running everywhere; Trying to run from the destruction, you know I didn’t even care.”

Change “purple” to “burgundy” and Prince could have easily been issuing a warning to Washington football fans of dark times at the millennium’s close.  And as you know, 1999 was the year Dan Snyder became majority owner.  Coincidence?  Maybe…but consider this: Prince released “1999” in 1982, the year of the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory.  Creepy, eh?

Dan Snyder.  He had me fooled.  You?  I was happy when he acquired the team.  After years of ownership uncertainty, including the failed Howard Milstein bid, the team ended up in the hands of a young, aggressive, long-time fan of the team.  What could be better?

Literally anything.

I’ll spare you the painful details of Snyder’s 20-year reign of terror.  You lived it too.  It’s the macro-level concern that matters now.  This team, the one you came to love based on its reputation and the promise of future Super Bowls to call your own, is fatally flawed.  Snyder will never field a consistent winner.  Never.  Executives, coaches and players have changed.  He is the constant.  He is the culprit.  And he, as the 54-year-old owner, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Snyder’s profound incompetence has transcended sports; the ‘Skins have become a case study in organizational rot – the one-time hottest ticket in town is now peddled on-line to opposing teams’ fans.  The primary causal factor of Snyder’s failure is his astounding lack of self-awareness.  He neither knows what it takes to win in the NFL nor does he recognize his franchise’s fundamental flaws.  His utter delusion is a cautionary tale on the misleading power of arrogance and an insular world where “yes-men” are promoted and dissenters are dismissed.  Hmmm…that sounds familiar.

Wilhelm Stekel and Elie Wiesel identified the opposite of love, not as hate, but as indifference.  Love and hate are emotional responses; indifference is a numbed apathy.  I now watch what I once loved with indifference.  Part of me is ashamed to admit that; another part of me is happy to have transcended Snyder’s carnival.  But I wonder about you.  I have gotten to this point despite having lived the good old days - experiences you don’t have.  So do you still love them?  Do you still care?  If so, you have both my respect and deepest sympathies.

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