1. Oh my...what to write about...I suppose we'll go with stream of consciousness today. Sorry in advance for any disjointedness. I am not sure if I have a main point other than underlining the obvious and seeing what everyone else feels.
2. As a D.C. sports fan, I am simply heartbroken. It's not just that the Washington Nationals are finished with their 2014 campaign. Sure, it hurt--a lot--but I love my team and I am truly excited about the years of entertainment and contention that this group is going to provide. My Orioles-loving brethren may remind me that this is the kind of thing losers say, but I can shrug off such nonsense. The fact of the matter is that the Washington Nationals have a young, solid roster. They came up short this year, and it sucks...and it hurts, but I love my team. Learning to love through the pain is something Washington fans are EXPERTS in and regardless of how long it takes to recover, Washington, D.C. will be ready to support its Nats in the spring.
3. As I said, it's not just about the Nats. Back-to-back Redskins losses on national television have felt like cannonball shots to the gut for this Redskins fan. Worse, they were both at home. It is the manner in which the experience of sitting in the stands at FedEx Field has come to be SYNONYMOUS WITH LOSING that sticks out in my mind today. I even did the unthinkable: I compiled some stats. (Apologies to James Dorsett and Bernhard Samuel for infringing on their "thing.") The numbers seem to match up with the feelings inside...the average day at FedEx Field involves a loss on the field. Don't take this post as me trying to bum you out. If you want to get bummed out, show up to the next nationally televised game at FedEx. There is always hope that things can change, but right now, the reality feels more real than ever. In case you are new to the scene, reality is not a Redskins fan's best friend.
4. As most of you know, I have attended just about every Redskins home game since shortly after FedEx Field opened. Of course, it wasn't called FedEx Field back then. It was Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, and we referred to it as "The Jack," despite Chris Berman also using that moniker. Someone please check my math, but I am pretty sure we had a winning record at The Jack. Unless I am mistaken, in the three years under that name, the Redskins were 15-8-1 (yep, I was at that awesome game where we tied the Giants and Gus Frerotte head-butted himself out of our future). If you count our playoff win against the Lions in 1999, it is one game better than that. Since then, under the FedEx Field name, we have gone 52-63 in the regular season...good for a solid 45% winning percentage! (There are some treasured memories stemming from that 45% slice, and we will get to those in another post, but at some point, 45% should begin to at least sound unacceptable.)
5. Before the team moved to Landover, or Raljon, or whatever anyone wants to call that godforsaken piece of land, the team played at RFK Stadium. My family did not have season tickets, but I was lucky enough to attend a game or two each season as a kid. In those days, the Redskins played in front of a rabid crowd, almost all of whom were sitting in seats that their families had held for years and years. Going to RFK meant going to be a part of something. There was a sense that the crowd had something to do with the outcome. It was home field advantage at its finest, and winning at its funnest. (That's right...funnest.) As soon as I was old enough, I got a job vending soft pretzels in the stands at RFK. As an energetic 15-, 16- and 17-year old kid, I worked the upper deck, the mezzanine and the lower bowl. Thanks to football being about 12 minutes of actual action, I saw just about every second of the games, and I also made some very good money (there were cash prizes for the three highest vendors in the stadium and I only finished out of the top three a handful of times). I felt very much connected to RFK.
6. At FedEx, I have sat just about everywhere there is to sit (except Dan's suite). I spent extended stays in the club level, upper bowl, and lower bowl. I have done the standing room only thing, and I have sat in skyboxes. If you tell me the section and row, I can see the view from that seat in my head. As it turns out, the view has been pretty much the same regardless of seat position.
7. I might not be the world's biggest expert on home crowds, but I am pretty damn close to one of the top experts on Redskins home crowds since the early 90's. I started out thinking I was going to prove how terrible we have been at home since we moved to FedEx. You don't need a Nobel Prize in proving things to realize VERY QUICKLY that the underlying problem is the Redskins have just been generally terrible, but there is still something to report on as it pertains to our home field. As it turns out, we have averaged just under one more win at home than on the road (0.8) since 1997 (regular season records). HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE!!!!!! WOO-HOO!!!!
8. We have been bad both at home and on the road since 1997, but that glosses over what is on my mind today, and that is this: sitting in the stands at FedEx has taken a toll on the faithful. Since 1997, we have averaged a losing record at home. Our Sunday experience at FedEx is rooted in ugly losses, bonehead mistakes and coaching gaffes. We failed to win more than three homes games during eight of the last seventeen seasons. In four other seasons, we scraped together breakeven records (4-4), but none of those teams qualified for the playoffs. That leaves five years where we had a winning record at home--one was the headbutt year. The other four led to playoff appearances, three of which ended against Seattle. (Maybe that is why I am thinking about this?) We've never won more than six games at home (once in 1999 and again in 2005), but 6-2 might as well be undefeated based on what we have witnessed over the years. I suppose the next step is to determine just how bad we do have it by comparing our record to the home records of other franchises. I did a cursory look around and was elated to be reminded how fortunate we all are not to have been born a Cleveland Browns fan. Aside from the fact we simply haven't been winning many games at all, the other alarming stat I saw was that the Redskins won more games on the road between 2010-2013 than they did at FedEx. I guess charity really does start at home.
9. Here's the thing: we aren't going to stop going to games, and no, that does not make us enablers. It might make us gluttons for punishment, but the team being terrible is not our fault, and is not a direct result of our support. I just think Dan Snyder should know that the Redskins fans shelling out money to attend games over the years have been treated to enough horror at his stadium to leave an Albert Haynesworth-sized skidmark on our collective souls. I have been trying to understand that feeling I get when it is time to tear down the tailgate and go inside for the game. Many of you know exactly what I am talking about. I wouldn't use the word "dread" because God help me, I always think we can win, but we have been conditioned to expect...certain things while at FedEx. If it wasn't for the amazing tailgating, most of us would have stopped going to games years ago. #F31!!
10. I am a guy that needs to be there. I am someone who feels connected to the live event (even if only to party in the lot and watch the game from the tailgate). I have always believed that home field advantage is real, even when the math has just not been there to support it. Still, I find myself at that point of a Redskins season where 17 years of history seems to be winning out over any kind of change going forward. FedEx Field doesn't need an architect or construction company to enhance the experience--it needs a priest. Ultimately, it is the team that needs fixing...I understand this, but as someone who lives for Sundays in the fall and winter, I sure could use some change. One win over Jacksonville is not going to do it. Notice I am not even blasting the team for its in-game practices--they have actually done a better job lately of not killing us with loud commercials. Is it time to re-Viva the Revolucion? I don't know what to do...something has got to give.