Look at the hate we're breeding
Look at the fear we're feeding
Look at the lives we're leading
The way we've always done before.
--Axl Rose (Slash and Duff McKagan are credited in some places as well)
I tend to digest the world around me in bits and bytes of songs, movies, television clips and even the occasional novel (it's a big, bound stack of papers with words printed on both sides of every page). As I pondered the latest episode of the worst reality show in the history of television--the ongoing saga of the Washington Redskins--this Guns N' Roses song ("Civil War") popped into my brain. To be fair, the song deals with far more serious matters of human importance, but for me, it kind of sums up what I might say to the Redskins franchise--I don't need (or want) your civil wars.
The thing that bothers me the most about the dysfunction that has reigned supreme inside Redskins Park over the years is the way it has infiltrated wide swaths of territory outside Redskins Park. The infighting, backstabbing and general awfulness that has defined the culture under Dan Snyder has had a terrible side effect: the fanbase, which stretches out around the globe, has also been sucked into the nonsense. You hear it on sports radio talk shows. You read it...well, at places like Hogs Haven and other outlets. How many times has a debate deteriorated into a shouting match over something as silly as whether or not Reed Doughty is to blame for our secondary's woes? How many times have our ranks been divided about the turnover at the coaching position, or in the front office, or at quarterback? Hell, we have fought about who should be our third string guard. These are worthy debates inside any fanbase, but for us, they seem to have become excuses to fight amongst each other.
It reminds me of the disastrously negative effect of the presence of the ring in The Lord of the Rings. Wherever it was, it would bring out the worst in people. That is what the Redskins organization has seemingly morphed into under the stewardship of Dan Snyder. Even when it would appear that a new page had been turned, it was only a matter of time before the dark clouds would move back over this team.
It is difficult to label our wounds as anything other than self-inflicted. If you look around the league, it is hard to find an example of a team that has handled adversity with more immaturity, instability, frailty and foolishness. Our scorched earth policy has generally been applied to our own area of earth. Don't get me wrong, there is no professional sports team and fanbase immune to the bitching and moaning that goes with down years and sustained losing, but I feel pretty safe in suggesting we have rewritten the handbook on it.
It's easy to say that better days are ahead, but that may only be because we find it hard to believe things can get much worse. (This has really turned into a uplifting column...but I am getting there!)
Supporting this team over the years has been hard--not because of the losing on the field, but because of the notion that our support of the team during this period of chaos is somehow partly responsible for the perpetuation of the chaos. Buying tickets, parking passes, concessions and merchandise are all seen by some as proxy votes of confidence in what Dan Snyder has been doing. I don't necessarily agree with that.
I love the Washington Redskins. The time and resources I have allocated to my passion over the years has always been more about me than them. I love being a fan of my hometown teams. I love exercising that passion on game days. I have tried to resist the efforts of some to organize boycotts of games. I don't boo my teams. To me, these things negatively impact home-field advantage, and I have always tried my hardest to contribute positively to home-field advantage. (Attending the Kansas City game and staying into the 4th quarter is about as much of a testament to this belief as anything.) To be fair, I have altered my strategy somewhat in recent seasons. I did not renew my season tickets about five years ago, choosing instead to procure my seats from fellow Redskins fans who were selling in the parking lot or in front of the gates. I buy my parking passes from a gentleman who won 20 years of tickets and parking passes in a raffle, but lives too far away to use them. I have not purchased a single beer inside the stadium this season, nor have I allowed anyone to buy one for me. Small gestures to be sure, but the fact that someone like me is making them says a lot. Maybe the answer isn't us ignoring the team financially. I have always doubted the effectiveness of that strategy. After all, Jacksonville still has a team.
There was a time when I would have spent my last dollar on tickets to a Redskins game. There was a time when halftime inside the stadium meant running up a crazy bar tab at one of the end zone bars or on the club level. If someone like me has changed their behavior so drastically based at least partly on the actions of the organization, something has to be very wrong.
Dan Snyder will work through this latest civil war, mostly because he has no choice. We'll come out on the other side with a fresh set of faces, circumstances and hopes. In the past, this has also come with a temporary reprieve from the sniping that goes on in our fanbase on message boards, in comments sections and on sports talk radio. I worry that there will be no reprieve this time, as the latest civil war is so shocking and unexpected that cynicism and pessimism have been emboldened. Jebediah Springfield himself could not have embiggened these feelings more.
As the beginning of the song states, courtesy of Cool Hand Luke (great movie if you have not seen it):
"What we've got here is a failure to communicate.
Some men you just can't reach...
So, you get what we had here last week,
which is the way he wants it!
Well, he gets it!
N' I don't like it any more than you men."
Dan Snyder needs to continue to find better ways to communicate to us, the fans (hint: not through commercials blared on the big screen). Getting out of this Haynesworth-sized hole we're in will require some real karmic activity. None of us may be able to play right tackle, but at some point, Snyder needs to lean on us for more than just money. It's going to take the spiritual energy of the entire region to right this ship. That is not going to happen given the current state of this fanbase. For better or worse, whether right or wrong, Snyder is going to have to work to figure out how to get us all back in the car with him. Neither him nor anyone on his staff can ask, "What more can we do for these people?" They just need to understand they have not yet done enough. Reversing the curse is only made harder by alienating the very people who have dedicated so much of their energy to supporting the team. Whether we stop filling his coffers with our money or not, Snyder has collected enough from us since his purchase of the team to owe us this much.
In the meantime, can we all try our hardest not to be dragged into the douchebaggery that is inherent in all of the civil wars that have plagued the Redskins? It is possible to extract some joy from watching the burgundy and gold on Sunday without bearing the weight that should be squarely and solely on Dan Snyder's shoulders. Difficult, but possible. (Maybe Cleveland wrote a book?)
Otherwise, we just continue to breed the hate, feed the fear and lead the same lives (as fans) as we have before.