Wednesday, January 11, 2023

For Sale

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Sports fans, the real junkies, chronicle major events like the general population documents lived history; the details - where we were, who we were with, the time of day – are stored in our brains and protected with a level of personal encryption that codes them as “Nat King Cole memories” (i.e. “Unforgettable”). 

Here’s one of mine.

Twenty-eight years ago, I traveled down a two-lane highway lined with white sands and palm trees and surrounded by sparkling blue water in all directions.  The radio played contemporary alternative rock and my hangover faded with each aggressively struck guitar chord. 

Breaking sports news interrupted the tunes; Jimmy Johnson, fresh off consecutive Super Bowl titles, was resigning as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.  As a then passionate fan of Washington’s football team, and sworn Dallas hater, I was smitten; Johnson’s departure would likely trigger the breakdown of a Dallas dynasty that appeared poised to become the NFL’s greatest.  That the reason was self-inflicted – Texas wasn’t big enough for owner Jerry Jones’s and Johnson’s egos to coexist – only increased my pleasure. 

Hangover?  What hangover?  I was cured – The Dallas Miracle! - and looking forward to a celebratory beer…or six.

While Dallas would win one additional Super Bowl with Barry Switzer as head coach, the Cowboys were never the same after Johnson’s exit.  The Jones-Johnson divorce, to this day, is one of the NFL’s great “what ifs” – and thankfully so.    

Now it gets weird.  Nearly thirty years later, I’m back in that same place – white sands, palm trees, little latitudes.  A smartphone replaced the radio with more planet-shifting sports news.

My buddy’s text: “Snyder is selling the team!”

Me: “Stop.  Are you serious?”

His reply: “It’s legit. I wouldn’t set you up like that.”

No, he wouldn’t.  Not as a fellow long-suffering Washington Commanders fan.  If any Commanders fan stumbled on a genie in a bottle offering three football wishes, only one would be needed: a new owner.  The end of Dan Snyder’s ownership would be nothing short of football salvation…and salvation just might be in the offing.

Details soon followed our text exchange: Snyder, entangled in multiple lawsuits, congressional investigations, boycotted by Taylor Swift and universally hated by his team’s fan base, had hired Bank of America to explore selling the team.  The process will be lengthy, and a new owner is not guaranteed, but this marked Snyder’s first indication of a willingness to sell. 

Hope replaces hopelessness. 

Whatever the end, books will be written about Snyder’s regime.  An ESPN 30 for 30 is inevitable.  Business schools will study it as a great cautionary tale.  So, my words here can’t do the horror of Snyder’s ownership justice.  Suffice to say, he has ruined one of the great brands in sports.  He oversaw a predatory work environment.  He has disenchanted sponsors and alienated former players.  Three governments – Maryland, Virginia and D.C. – have little interest in his want for a new stadium.  His minority owners have fled.  Congress has taken him to task.  Even his fellow NFL owners – many of them bandits themselves - have been shamed into speaking out against him.  Snyder is increasingly isolated and, if appearances are any judge, miserable – frankly, I hope he is. 

What would new ownership mean?  Could the Commanders again be a source of civic pride, an entity capable of beautifully uniting the great demographic diversity that exists across the DMV region?  That seems a premature, nostalgic dream.  For now, Snyder’s predicament and potential downfall is the story.  He represents the consequence of hubris, of entitlement, of an insular world of skewed truth, of self-proclaimed martyrdom and failure to take responsibility, of ethical corruption and of, ultimately, the failure to treat people with decency and respect. 

As with Johnson’s departure from the Cowboys three decades ago, time will tell what Snyder’s potential divestment of the Commanders means.  I can only hope it has as much positive impact on D.C. football as Johnson’s departure detracted from the Cowboys.  Like many Commanders fans, I cling to a simple dream.  I just want my team back.  The one I loved, win or lose.  The one that existed before Dan Snyder. 

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