Sunday 22nd December 2013 will see the continuation of the traditional rivalry between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. The heated rivalry itself still endures but, due to the messy implosion of the Redskins this season and the ensuing fallout, with one team eliminated early from the play-off picture it's obvious that there will not be the same edge that there was in the equivalent, winner-takes-it all clash of the previous season. There will also, no doubt, be a huge degree of trepidation amongst Redskins fans ahead of the game against Dallas; a very real fear that a severely downtrodden Skins team is powerless to prevent the Cowboys their aim of a possible division title and subsequent play-off appearance. A depressing scenario for sure, all played out in our backyard but with the added bitter pill of thousands of cheering and insufferable Cowboys fans in attendance too. What could possibly be any worse? For this particular Redskins fan from across the Atlantic, however, Sunday 22nd December 2013 sees the realisation of a thirty year dream when I finally get to go to a Redskins game.
I can't deny that my enthusiasm at the culmination of a long journey has been checked somewhat by the car crash of the Redskins season - yet another in a tiresomely long list of abject failures. Although I wasn't quite as optimistic as some Redskins fans at the beginning of the season, I still had justifiable hope that the Skins would generally be competitive throughout the regular season and possibly beyond too. With that in mind, I bought my ticket early in the off-season, booked my flights and sat back and waited for RGIII to continue in a similar manner to his rookie season and lead the charge for the division title again. Now, of course, the Skins are a shocking 3-11, a struggling RGIII has been "shut down" for the remainder of the season and Mike Shanahan, someone who I'd previously had some regard for, resembles all the hallmarks of a scheming Machiavellian character. Furthermore, through sheer disillusionment no doubt, I've read some pleas for Redskins fans to boycott the game against Dallas and, to compound the general air of gloom, I've just read the high probability of symbolic rain clouds forming above FedExField on Sunday!
Although I dare not look at how cheap tickets are now compared to what I paid several months or so ago, I have absolutely no regrets about booking my impending visit to Washington. And why should I? It's been a dream of mine, as I've mentioned above, for thirty years to attend a Redskins game. Man and boy, through thick and thin. My support from afar began with occasional highlights of Redskins games on British TV and, in addition, straining to listen to barely audible live coverage on American Armed Forces Radio. In recent years it has extended to the internet age, of dodgy live streams and soaking up all of the great insight offered by sites such as Hogs Haven. Now, at long last, on Sunday 22nd December 2013, I'm coming "home."
I initially imagined that, when the time came, my longed-for pilgrimage would be to RFK Stadium. For me, that was where it all began; the beating heart of the Washington Redskins will always be on a muddy field at a raucous RFK in 1983, with Riggo pounding it repeatedly up the middle on a '50 Gut'. The Hogs at their domineering best. Almost immediately, the Washington Redskins had hooked me for life. I'll pay my due respects to the quirky ol' stadium at some point during my few days in DC.
Even with a visit to the much-maligned FedExField, and with Redskins fans desperately willing the season to end, I'll still be like an excited kid who finally got what he wished for at Christmas. Sure, like all Redskins fans I share the huge disappointment of another busted season. But, I suppose, it's somewhat apt that my first game comes at a time of struggle for the Skins; after all, adversity has largely been in the Redskins DNA for a couple of decades now. If nothing else, though, my attendance at FedEx on Sunday prevents the possibility of some skanky, inbred Cowboy fan from sitting their fat ass on one of our seats. Instead, as ever, I'll be wearing the Burgundy and Gold with immense pride, completing a journey that began a generation ago...