1. Last week, I had the great pleasure of checking off a sports experience from the ol' bucket list: a Chicago Cubs day game (thanks again to Tina and Lisa for organizing this amazing day). As I rode the "L" through the city of Chicago at around 11:45 AM, something occurred to me--does any work get done in that city when the Cubs are at home during the week? It felt like a weekend day, with the streets around the stadium jam-packed with all the sights, sounds and smells of gameday. Wrigleyville is a must for all sports fans to visit if possible. Seeing sports bars (PLURAL) full to capacity before noon on a Wednesday is something that gets me a little bit...emotional. Damn it, I promised myself I wouldn't cry...again. I also had to really channel my inner "Judgement of Solomon" when it came to deciding between eating at a Chicago steakhouse or a Chicago pizzeria. Instead of splitting the baby, I split my pants at Lou Malnati's, ordering enough pizza to feed myself for days. (That reminds me...perhaps I need to call the hotel and make sure they find the leftover deep dish pie in the refrigerator that was clearly marked "Out of Order." Speaking of out of order, have you met my friend John N.? Wait...might be too much information. Let's go with J. Nowak. Don't go to Wrigley without this man.)
2. The Chicago experience really made me think about our own Redskins situation. While our franchise is steeped in history and tradition, our stadium is not. There is simply no romance in fighting beltway traffic to get to a huge concrete hulk of a stadium in the suburbs of P.G. County. Tailgating in the lots at FedEx is still the best, when done properly ("all day"), but for those who are old enough to remember the days when we called RFK home, there is really no comparison. Similar to the experience of Wrigley, RFK sat in the middle of an urban residential area. So what if it wasn't the prettiest part of town. That was where our team played and we loved that neighborhood for it. You got a similar feeling when you would travel to 33rd Street and catch an Orioles game at Memorial Stadium.
3. You don't typically see many football fans embarking on pilgrimages to see FedEx the way you see baseball fans flock to Wrigley. On one hand, you could argue that the lack of winning in our stadium is partially to blame. Yet, when was the last Cubs championship again? Baseball in Chicago and football in Washington, D.C. are both very, very integral to the residents of each city. Of course it is about winning, but it is also about what we fondly refer to as "ours." When the Redskins left the city for the 'burbs, it just never felt right. How can something belong to a city when it resides well outside the city lines? Sure, we've made the most of it, but part of the lack of character at FedEx is a direct result of its surroundings. Part of what makes Wrigley so great is the fact that it is tightly woven into the fabric of that city. If you put FedEx in the same spot as RFK today, you would immediately hear people speak about it in different terms. Don't get me wrong. FedEx--in its current form--still kind of exudes a charm similar to that of Sheldon Cooper: somewhat impersonal, glaringly apathetic to the urban roots of the team, and incapable of understanding or receiving the love that so many people would gladly give it if it just wasn't so freaking difficult sometimes. That much concrete makes for an inflexible lover.
4. Watching Robert Griffin III run around FedEx on Sundays is going to do wonders for the "FedEx Experience." Winning more games than we lose is going to do wonders for the perception of this team around the league, and that will rub off a bit on the venue as well. I still think there is something inescapable about a city vibe that emanates from the streets and makes it way to the stadium parking lots and inside the concourses. You can't manufacture that. People who spent decades in their assigned seats at RFK feel the absence of that energy today.
5. Lest someone confuse me with a person who thinks that Jerry Jones has done a good thing with his monstrosity of a stadium, please know that I think that is a backwards step, no matter where you put it. I know that owners are in this to make money and exercise their savvy marketing abilities, but when I reach my hand into my pocket, and Dan Snyder's hand has beaten me there...we have a problem. Sure, going to a live sporting event is going to be an expensive prospect from now until forever, but there is no need to beat us over the head with that reality.
6. I understand what happened when FedEx was built. Jack Kent Cooke gave the D.C. City Council the Heisman and built his own house. Hardly surprising. Even though I am a Maryland resident, in decent proximity to the stadium now, I believe that the Redskins need to be playing in the city. Until that happens, I am pretty sure you will never read a column similar to this about a fan from some other city talking about their other-worldly experience at our house. After my experience in Chicago...I want that for us.