Picking Up the Pieces

After alot of soul searching I feel I can finally write about last weekend.  I have to back it up a little bit first so bear with me.  I've been doing alot of thinking about how the Redskins performance affects me in my daily life and what kindof Skins fan I want to be. I've also been thinking about how I approach the rest of the year and what life will be like in a world where the Lions handily beat the Skins.  Take the jump for my thoughts. 

I have to start at the beginning.  My earliest Skins memory was our last Super Bowl Year.  I was in Second Grade.  At such a young age I couldn't really grasp how engaging(and plain fucking awesome) it was to have your NFL team dominating the league.  Even though I couldn't really appreciate it I still remember how excited the whole town and my family was.  I remember the week before the Super Bowl my Elementary School went Redskins crazy.  We were making Redskins stuff for arts and crafts and learning Hail to the Redskins in Music Class.  The best was we had a Redskins Pep Rally for the entire school in the Gym.  We were all led in a rousing rendition of HTTR.  I lovingly remember one of those weird kids that everyone has in their Elementary School class wouldn't sing HTTR.  After mocking and Indian Burning the heck out of this kid the teacher sent him to the Principals Office. HA!! Showed that kid!  I still think back on that poor kid and laugh every time I hear HTTR. 

When the Super Bowl came around I remember going to my aunt and uncles house with all of my large extended family(3rd Generation Washingtonian on both sides of my family).  We clobbered them and I remember sitting on the floor and the house erupting.  A truly precious family moment, I will treasure forever, brought to me by my future love, The Washington Redskins.

Through my teen years I can't say I was a very dedicated fan of any sports team.  I played a bunch of sports(B-Ball and Lacrosse year round) and had trouble being engaged by any televised sporting event.  I could never finish watching a basketball game because I would get so antsy and excited I would be outside shooting by myself by the start of the second quarter.  Playing sports was so much more fun that watching them that it was tough for me to elicit any passion for watching the games.  I would watch on Sunday's with my Pops and attend the occasional games but my real conversion to diehard Skins fan wasn't till College.

In the Fall of 2000 I headed off to the University of Delaware.  Some people are surprised to hear that UD is in Eagles territory.  It is.  It's 45 minutes from Philly and most of Northern Delaware is diehard Eagles territory.  Also it draws mostly from DE, PA and dreaded New Jersey.  While I still played intramurals I wasn't actually playing sports as much and always had fellow sports fans around to watch sports.  I started getting more and more into following the Skins.  2000-2004  was a tough time to be a Skins fans in Eagles territory.  For some reason choking in the NFC championship game every year left the Eagles Fans thinking they were football gods.  Plus the Redskins were just abysmall.  I took so much abuse from everyone for being a Skins fan that it hardened my love for the Skins and hatred of the Eagles.  Seriously they are the worst people in the world.  Seeing how Philly operates as a Sports Town and the way they were always ready to turn on their own team at any moment also helped to shape what I wanted to be as a Skins fan(mainly not like an Eagles fan).  When I turned 21 I could finally go to the bars and watch the games every Sunday.  Man were the skins awful.  I used to show up and watch them get killed every week as the sole Redskins fan in a bar of mostly Eagles fans.  It took alot out of me to wear my Skins jersey's during that period but I still did it every week and came back to DC after graduation with a fierce battle tested love of the Skins.

So when I came back to DC and football season started I was elated.  I could wear my Skins gear with pride and felt a sports camaraderie with the people around me I could never feel in Philly territory.  It was great.  Most of my high school friends couldn't understand my hatred for the Eagles or how jacked up I got for Redskins football.  I'd like to think some of my fire rubbed off on them but I think the Skins rising from the ashes had more to do with it.  Soon me and 3 of my friends were watching pretty much every game together.  I was living in Falls Church at the time and every Away game would have people over to the house.  It felt good to go through the ups and downs with the same people who were feeling the same way.  My favorite redskins moment happened during that 2005 season.  Me and my three compadres were drunk and depressed watching that Cowboys Monday night game.  My pussy roomates at the time had given up and gone to bed leaving only the real fans.  Then all of the sudden, Boom!!! Brunell bombs it to Moss.  We jumped up and down and pumped some fists not daring to believe we could really come back and steal the game.  Then, Boom!! Another bomb to Moss.  We went apeshit!!  We screamed and spilled beers everywhere.  I fell over the back of the couch and we were hugging and pounding each other on the back not even caring that we were waking up all my roomates.  Magical Moment!!! So you know what we did next?  Wound the DVR back to a couple plays before the first Brunell-Moss Bomb and re-enacted it.  We each were complaining about the Redskins just like we were earlier and then we went crazy when we won just like the first time it happened.  We repeated that several more times much to the chagrin of my roomates.

That season also provided another memorable Redskins moment.  One of the three friends I mentioned earlier that were diehard Skins fans suffered a horrible tragedy.  His younger brother passed away on Christmas Day.  It was horrible.  We all wanted to help in any way we could but no one ever knows what to do or say in those situations.  What do you say to one of your best friends after they just lost their teenage brother on Christmas? Shit, to me at that time a tragic loss was having Jansen break an ankle in the freakin Hall of Fame game.  Anyways we all left our condolences and messages saying let us know if you need anything.  A couple days later my buddy Bo calls saying he talked to our other friend.  Our buddy said what he wanted/needed most was to go see the Skins game in Philly the next day.  It was the final game of the season and the Skins had to beat a depleted Eagles team to get into the playoffs.  Obviously we were gonna go with him but me and Bo were nervous.  Bo was afraid the Skins would lose and was worried about it bumming our friend out even more.  I was the only one who had gone to college outside of DC and knew how horrible the Eagles fans can be in Philly and didn't want him subjected to that much abuse.  We were going though and the next day the four of us met up and apprehensively emabarked on a trip to remember.

We made good time up to Philly and stopped in Philly to meet up with a scalper to get our tix.  My friends got out of the car and got some tix really cheap.  We were unsure of the quickest way to get to the Linc from where we were so my friends asked the scalper what the quickest way was.  The guy was only too happy to help us.  Unfortunately my friends were wearing all their skins gear so the guy gave us directions that would take us to the boonies of PA.  I knew enough about Philly to know the directions were bunk and we luckily only went a couple miles out of our way.  We made it into the parking lot with time to spare and shared some brews with other Skins fans who made the trip.  If I had been in charge of buying the tix I would have known enough to buy slightly better seats so we weren't stuck with the drunken asses in the cheap seats.  But I wasn't, so we walked up to literally the top of the whole stadium through some seriously sauced crowds.  I had been altering my Laverneus Coles jersey every week to cover up his name and had changed the back to say "F@#$ the Cowboys" the week before.  I left it figuring it would help deflect all the abuse we were about to endure.  It helped, I only had one beer thrown at me on the walk up.  We got to our seats and within 5 minutes all my friends had turned to me and said "You were right about the Eagles fans, now I understand".  The Eagles were having a bad season so most people came to the games to mess with people like us.  One guy turned his back to the game and screamed at us from 4 feet away for the entire game, stopping only to chug beer or cram an italian sausage down his throat.  The game was ugly but it was sealed with a couple minutes left when Sean Taylor recovered a fumble.  After being silent all game we jumped up and celebrated.  When we were pelted with trash and insults I lost it.  I singled out the asshole who had been yelling at us and started screaming at him telling him to suck it and that he was a fat sausage eater.  He completely lost in when I told him to go back to Jersey and he should hope he doesn't have to make any lefthand turns.  "I'm not from Jersey" he snarled while his face turned a fitting shade of burgundy.  Two guys tried to rush us and security held them back while another security member asked me to stop because he was unsure if he could protect us.  I decided to break out my famous parody of the Eagles fight song "Cry Eagles/Cry/On the way back to Jersey".  All those years of resentment from College came pouring out and it was good.  Really Good!

The following week I had a huge party for the playoff game.  When we squashed the Bucs I broke out 6 bottles of cheap champagne and we sprayed ourselves with it.  Great Great feeling after a really trying year.  Even though we lost  the next playoff game I felt great to be a Skins fan.

I eventually moved out to San Francisco 3 years ago.  It was tough to leave Skins country but I love it out here.  The absence made me even more Skins crazy.  I started to notice however that I was just getting too wrapped up in the Skins.  If the Skins lost I would probably call in sick the next day cuz I just couldn't get out of bed.  I would get overwhelmingly nervous before big games.  If we won I was riding on a cloud all week.  If we lost I wouldn't talk to anyone for days and couldn't bring myself to go on ESPN or WaPo online.  I couldn't get any enjoyment out of football unless the Skins won that week.  It was becoming alarming to me how much it affects me.  Since my fantasy teams always end up stacked with Skins players that made it even worse.  When Sean Taylor died I couldn't watch for 2 weeks.  I just couldn't.  I felt dead inside.  When we were embarassed by the Steelers last year it was the end of the world.  Those last 8 games ravaged me.  When football season ends I get depressed for like a month.  Hunter S. Thompson was known for going into month long funks after the end of every season and I could understand why.  I began to question myself this summer.  Whats wrong with me that I care THIS much?  This can't be healthy.  How can I stop the skins from ruining my mind and spirit every time they lost.  Should I care less?

So I decided not to do Fantasy this year to try and lessen the impact and resolved to bring a little more balance.  Next thing I know I've taken another step in Fandom and am actually commenting at Hogs Haven.  The Skins just suck me deeper in.  I can't avoid it.  So I was legitimately worried before the Lions game.  I had seen both of their games and knew they played alot harder than we did and it was very likely they would beat us.  I was afraid of what would happen to me.  I am almost out of sick days so I couldn't call in sick.  Would I end up not going to work and getting fired?  Would I show up and be so angry I flipped out on someone.  Would I go on a 4 day bender?  Would I have to go all week without talking to anyone or surfing the internet?  So I went to my usual bar with my usual Redskins fan and we even invited our friend who is a Lions fan.  When he won he stood up incredulous and said over and over again "We won!! I can't believe we won!".  The whole bar stood up and gave him an honest to god slow clap until the whole place was cheering and clapping and ordering the guy shots. 

You'd think having to witness that would drive me deeper into a pit of despair.  Maybe it did, and I ended up coming out the other side into the sun, but I was genuinely happy for him and kindof touched for a moment.  This guy had supported the Lions faithfully for years without a win and then he got it.  And every die hard fan from every team at the bar recognized the moment and joined in.  Now I wish I didn't have to watch the Skins get molly-wopped by the Lions to realize it but I remembered the true Fan moments and why we watch and care SO much. 

So when I managed to glance at HH and WaPo this week and saw all these people talking about putting bags over their heads or boycotting the skins it was really disappointing.  I often worry if I will ever see another Super Bowl team again under Snyders watch but I'm not gonna bail on the Skins.  Seinfeld was right, We root for the laundry boys!!! F Snyder!! If you wanna mess with Snyder boycott all his other business ventures.  I would advocate boycotting Six Flags but that seems to already be happening.  If you hate Snyder as much as I do feel free to not buy Beers or whatever inside but still go to the games and root for the Skins.  Don't stop going to the games because Snyder will sell the tix anyways it will just be to businesses who will show up and talk through the games.  Hate the (little)Man not our team!!  If you wanna keep on throwing Orakpo under the bus every week - You know who you are - it won't magically have made the team start drafting for O-line 3 years ago it just makes you an ignorant hater and not much of a fan.  You wanna boycott the games? Go ahead sell your tix to a real fan since your clearly more suited to be an Eagles Fan.  You wanna reflexively scream "O-line" anytime the team does anything to improve another part of the team without caring whether it might be a good move? Then go back to Jersey!!!!  You wanna wear a paper bag over your head?  Please remember to not cut any ventilation holes into it.

No I am not saying anyone is wrong to hate Snyderatto or worry that they will never succeed.  I feel the same way. There is a difference between being mad/frustrated/hurt and being someone who thives on hate and having stuff go wrong.  You don't have to be a clueless optimist just a FAN.  I'm as mad as you are.  I'm just saying remember why it is you loved the Skins and embrace it.  Our love for the Skins is seperate from the little shit that owns the team.  I'm can't wait for Sunday.  You know why? Cuz the Skins are playing and they could even win.  Cuz I love Cooley.  Cuz I wan't to see Fletcher shut down the other teams short passing game.  Cuz Haynesworth just might crush somebody and Orakpo might pick up his second sack.  Cuz Kelly might have a big game.  Cuz I'll be at my usual bar with my usual people in one of my usual jerseys.  I love the Redskins!!!

When I started writing this I was just gonna write a little something on staying positive and not boycotting and all that nonsense.  I had no idea it would be this long or personal.  I apologize to anyone who thinks this is too maudlin, sentimental or not the right space for this.  I just started to write why we should stick with our Skins and this all poured out.  I gotta say I feel great now.  This might be the first game in awhile I'm going into with hope and joy instead of nervousness and dread.  I hope this makes you guys remember why you started to love this team cuz being a Fan is about more than that teams performance.  It's about the fan moments and the shared passion.  My best friend out here I randomly met watching the Skins game at the Bar and that wouldn't have happened without being a Fan.  Hope this didn't bore or piss off too many people.  Have fun on Sunday!!! HTTR

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