Looks Like Someone Has a Sixpack of the Mondays

Doug Pensinger

Are there analogies to be made between the Washington Redskins salary cap debacle and the plight of the central characters on "The Walking Dead" series?

1. I have spent the last three weeks or so cracking out on the first three seasons of "The Walking Dead." Like the disease that takes center stage in the show, this story has infected me, shaping and influencing the way I see, dream about and compute things. Kevin had a similar experience when he watched the entire "Full House" box set in one weekend (it was a dark time for a lot of people). More than just a zombie show, "The Walking Dead" is a post-apocalyptic tale of survival. Watching that weary band scratch and claw their way through each day, with limited supplies and what seems like unlimited adversity makes me think of another group. This other group is also dealing with rapidly dwindling resources and it is also suffering losses to main characters on a somewhat regular basis. Much like the central cast of characters on "The Walking Dead," this other group finds itself competing for opportunities to survive in its world against a host of rival outfits. Sans the brain-bashing and reanimation of the dead, the Redskins are very much analogous to the hit show and its plot.

2. When a hit show axes one of its main characters, it comes as a shock to the viewer. Fans get to know a guy, his tendencies and the strengths that his comrades-in-arms come to depend on in tight situations. Backstories move to the forefront. Two-dimensional characters morph into three-dimensional people, complete with families, feelings and opinions. The career of a player that sticks around a team longer than his rookie contract runs can look just like this. Lorenzo Alexander didn't suffer any grisly fate, but the Washington fanbase felt the pain when one its favorite players departed town to continue his career in Arizona.

3. Another hallmark of a great thriller--movie or television--is the elimination of a high-profile, well-known character that was likely one of the main draws in the first place. DeAngelo Hall was high-profile, highly paid and well-known. Setting aside any personal opinions of the player you may or may not have developed over the last few years, D Hall was talented. Even though his departure did not pack the same kind of surprise one might experience watching a big name get killed off in the first minutes of a movie, losing Hall was absolutely a bit of a shock to the system. You need corners to compete in this league and Hall's release leaves us frighteningly short on talent and bodies.

4. As stories like these unfold, you are constantly presented with a variety of "angles" and perspectives. Everything is happening TO people, as a result of other folks' actions. Leaders of opposing factions view their situation through the prism of...well, their own unique situation. On one hand, it is not as much a race away from accountability as it is a desperate attempt to explain how something so unbelievably bad could have ever happened in the first place. That said, wading through the spin requires not only patience but a willingness to accept that blame potentially rests a lot closer to home than you ever wanted to believe. This occurs to me as I listen to both Bruce Allen and Roger Goodell advocate their positions in the salary cap penalty debacle.

5. It is clear that actions were taken ahead of the uncapped year by Washington that very nearly succeeded in giving the Redskins an advantageous perch ahead of free agency last March. We know that no league rules were broken in the course of executing these actions. Dan Snyder, Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan would have us believe that the salary cap penalties are the result of an agenda held by a rival owner in our own division, and not based on anything that resembles what a rational individual would label "fair." The league would have us believe that Snyder's actions were perpetrated to give the Redskins an advantage that not every other team in the league was capable of achieving. Cramming tens of millions of dollars of bad deals (Haynesworth's deal and Hall's deal specifically) into the uncapped year would have succeeded in freeing the team from going through the agony of living with those deals when the salary-capped world returned after the lockout. It seems clear to me that Snyder--who has likely not earned high marks for playing well with others during his tenure as owner--pissed off some people who were in a position to levy this penalty. Due to the lack of transparency on the matter from the league office--they have not felt compelled at all to answer to anyone on this--the arm-waving and hand-wringing in D.C. has attracted the sympathies of many. After all is said and done though, the Redskins' position is bolstered in the eyes of many by the very real carnage that has transpired in the wake of the penalty. Imagine that--sympathy for one that legions have previously labeled as the devil.

6. It would be insane to suggest that the Redskins salary cap debacle is exactly as bad as the plight of Rick and his team of survivors in the world taken over by zombies on "The Walking Dead." There is still a framework to move forward under. There is still a world where structure and rules guide the players involved (supposedly). Make no mistake, though--the second installment of this penalty is going to severely hurt our franchise for a very long time. The lost opportunity to surround some of the young pieces we have in the fold right now can never be replaced. Not being able to strengthen the offensive line a talented veteran or two in an effort to keep our franchise quarterback healthy could have ramifications that reverberate for a decade or longer. We have been prevented from being able to keep some of our own players and we have been stymied in our efforts to procure talent from outside the building. We are completely reliant on the draft (in the biggest, most ironic shocker of all) to the point where one bad selection could be the difference in either building on last year's success or stumbling back down to the basement of the league. No, the world isn't ending...but that doesn't change this feeling that we have been left to fend for ourselves in the rather cruel and unforgiving landscape of the NFL, where the lines between right and wrong have already become so muddied.

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