Friday, December 29, 2023

Washington's Redemption

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

His escape had been years in the making, accelerating when hope of a retrial was dashed with the execution of a fellow inmate who could have vouched for his innocence.  He used a simple rock hammer to painstakingly tunnel through a concrete wall softened by age and moisture.  The main weapon of this grand grasp at freedom and revenge was his tenacious, bold, clever and steadfast mind.

Eventually the pivotal night arrived.  The details – including a financial trap for the warden and his corrupt operation - were set.  From his cell, he climbed into the tunnel hidden behind a poster and shimmied through the wall and into an opening above a sewage pipe.  With a storm raging, he waited for the crack of thunder, nature’s diversion, before striking the pipe with a rock.  He violently hammered the pipe until it exploded with a blast of human waste, climbed in and crawled hundreds of yards underground – beyond the prison walls and under its exterior fence – until the pipe dumped him into the river.  He rose, the river and rain washing him clean, physically and spiritually.  His face projected pure salvation. 

That was how Andy Dufresne escaped Shawshank Prison, regained his freedom and skipped off to a Mexican beach to live out his days.  He was an innocent victim: wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and her lover.  This being a movie, “The Shawshank Redemption” told Dufresne’s story and wrapped his happy ending in a bow. 

Dan Snyder’s ownership of the Washington football team promised no such redemption for its players, coaches and fans.  There was no obvious rock hammer, no great mind to hatch an exit strategy, no weakened infrastructure to exploit and no sewer pipe to crawl through (had there been, supporters of the Burgundy and Gold would have gladly done so).  No, Snyder appeared to be the hope-sapping, dream killing burden to bear until his personal expiration date.

Ah, but his absolute depravity intervened.  Snyder’s best contribution to our beloved franchise was being so awful, so vindictive, so incompetent and ultimately so dangerous to the fabric of the NFL, that he compelled the league and its band of 31 other owners – a tight fraternity wired for shameless self-protection – to break ranks and nudge him out the door. 

Unlike “The Shawshank Redemption” where the warden met a disturbing end, Snyder exits with $6B for the franchise he worked to destroy for 25 years with on-field incompetence and off-field disgrace.  Hard to say if that matters.  Snyder’s price for a clear conscience might be $6B, but I hope not. 

Enough about “him”.  Josh Harris and a new ownership team is in place.  Whatever this regime ultimately achieves, right now it, simply by not being “him”, has granted franchise loyalists redemption.  The alumni who built the legacy of this once proud franchise – guys like Art Monk, John Riggins, Darrell Green and Sonny Jurgensen – deserve it.  Current players who have had to perform in Snyder’s darkness deserve it.  Media who have covered a soap opera more than a football team deserve it.  And the fans, whose great memories of this team and of Sundays with friends and family…deserve it perhaps most of all.

There are two more applicable references from “The Shawshank Redemption.”  Dufresne had a passion for geology and the fascinating things “pressure and time” have created on our planet.  In the end, it was pressure – from sponsors, the media, minority partners, the NFL, fans willing to turn away from what they once loved and the brave women who exposed the moral rot of Snyder’s regime – and time…patience from all the above…that led Snyder to conclude that taking $6M and disappearing was his best option.

Lastly, Dufresne was a hopeful soul.  When speaking of it while incarcerated, “Red”, Dufresne’s best friend in Shawshank Prison, cautioned, “Hope is a dangerous thing.  Hope can drive a man insane.  It’s got no use on the inside.  You better get used to that idea.” Faithful supporters of Washington football, those whose hearts were trapped inside Snyder’s walls, had gotten used to that idea.  But we’re on the outside now and it’s okay to hope again. 

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