Most of you know me by now. I live on both ends of the dial--the blindly and unapologetically optimistic side as well as a slightly more realistic worldview side. It won't take you long to figure out which side this post comes from, but keep in mind, I fully believe I am representing the views and thoughts of many Redskins fans, just as I am when I suggest that 10-6 is a great prediction every August. I am pretty sure this is part one of multiple pieces in this vein, so be warned! At least it isn't a name-change article Bill!
Washington sports fans, like fans in cities all over the world, have a rich history of investing emotion into their favorite sports organizations. Whether it be the Redskins, Wizards, Capitals, Nationals--or Orioles--fans hailing from the DMV are no strangers to the ups and downs that are inherent in being a passionate sports fan. (Let's not leave out DC United!)
As businesses, sports franchises depend on this emotional investment, as it often precedes financial investment. The incredible health of the four major professional sports leagues (you can't convince me otherwise) suggests that fans are generally invested both emotionally and financially across the board. The terrible reality for many fans is that winning does not have to be a franchise's top priority in order for it to be profitable. Business can be just as good when a team's fanbase is irate over a situation as it is when they are joyfully engaged in postseason mode. It is the absolute value of the emotion--equally as important on either side of the spectrum--that moves the needle. (In Washington, the absolute value of the emotion stemming from the Redskins fanbase has been very high.)
This fact has prompted some sports franchises in some pro leagues to do the bare minimum in terms of being competitive. From revenue sharing, to luxury tax disbursements, to hard caps and soft floors (and vice versa), etc.--there are almost always ways for an owner of a sports franchise to achieve profitability, though often at the expense of fielding a team capable of winning on a regular basis. This article is not about exposing all the owners we would find guilty of such practices, although it wouldn't be overly difficult to compile a list of sports owners whose bottom lines are dollar signs as opposed to win-loss records. This is just about pointing out the obvious: some professional sports teams measure success on the field, some measure it at the bank. This is not an opinion--it is a fact.
Thinking back on the last two decades of Redskins football, I would say that most of us have been rather emotionally invested. I would say that this has led to us buying jerseys, supporting the team at FedEx, listening to and watching the organization's various broadcasts--in other words, "buying in." We have literally bought in. It's what we do. I have a Robert Griffin III jersey. I have a Champ Bailey jersey. I have a Darrell Green jersey. At one time, I owned season tickets. Our emotional investment has led directly to our financial investment. Over that time period, the emotion has been generally sour. Outside of three late-season runs in 2005, 2007 and 2012, the Washington Redskins have mostly given us all reason to be upset, angry and disappointed. We have owned these emotions. These emotions have owned us. Through it all, each of us may have been at different stages emotionally, but we have all been invested. We have all been engaged. Today, something different is happening, and it should scare the shit out of Dan Snyder, but I am not sure it does.
I think we could all argue our own opinion of how Dan Snyder measures success. We have all had this conversation at some point in the parking lot at FedEx, or at the water cooler at work, or at the bar. He owns the stadium, and rakes in money in one of the largest media markets in the country. We would be foolish though to overlook the fact that Dan has spent money. (He would be foolish to think he hasn't spent that money foolishly.) We can't argue that Dan has sat back and collected money from the league while doing little to nothing to try and put a competitive product on the field. Instead, we are left to bemoan that which he has done...because it has done so little to put a competitive product on the field. All this said, this article isn't even about calling out Dan Snyder for his moves as owner. Instead...
Indifference seems to be setting in, and this is perhaps the biggest and most shocking development I have seen in the Dan Snyder era. At least in the early Snyder years, we were mobilized and unified by anger (in the later Snyder years as well). We paid attention to the circus and screamed at the top of our lungs about the ways in which our favorite team was being managed. There is still no shortage of people around here who will argue to the death over just about anything Redskins-related, but lately I have seen the general emotional level over this team flatten out significantly. People are still flummoxed by the manner in which the Redskins organization has tripped over itself time and time again, but the mass vitriol is not the same. Haven't you come across fans who have thrown their hands in the air and gotten past getting worked up about this team? Wouldn't it be fair to suggest that all of us knows someone (or is someone) that has taken a step BACK from this team on an emotional level? I blame this phenomenon--at least in part--for losing Kevin here on Hogs Haven. And don't even think about blaming or harassing these fans for doing this. Every person has his or her limit to how much they can take before logic DICTATES that a change be made. Dan Snyder needs to understand and own this. He needs to care about this. The thing is...the NFL SHOULD CARE ABOUT THIS. These people aren't jumping ship and becoming Ravens fans. They aren't picking any other team to root for--they aren't rooting for anyone anymore. THEY DON'T CARE ANYMORE. Dan Snyder isn't just costing himself customers--he is costing the NFL customers. I don't expect Roger Goodell to swoop in with a solution anytime soon, but the next time you want to know how other owners feel about Dan Snyder costing them business, may I direct you to the salary cap fine that we got slapped with a couple years ago? Sure, we all rallied around the "Screw John Mara" battle cry, but looking back, isn't it possible that more owners than just him RELISHED the chance to stick it to an owner who was turning people off of football?
If the Redskins were a dude, all of its former girlfriends would be lesbians. (Maybe I should have led with that.)
The problem is, Dan Snyder does not need the Redskins to win in order for him to make money. In fact, I am not sure that he would feel a big pinch in his wallet if we all stayed home and stopped watching, due to the manner in which the NFL literally prints money. The TV contracts are worth so much dough alone, they could play the games in people's backyards and still make money hand over fist. Consequently, tickets to watch games in somebody's backyard might be worth the $5 that tickets are going for this week for the Rams game. Can you believe that?!?!?!?! Somebody paid around $100 for that ticket you can now buy for $5--AND STILL NOBODY IS BUYING IT FOR $5. Hahahaha...it really is enough to cause insanity.
I know what the team would say...and even what I would say I guess if I am being honest: "if this team starts winning, all of this will change."
Here's the problem with that kind of logic, Ken: It implies that winning is a goal of this franchise. It implies that winning is a priority for this franchise. It implies that winning is the objective. What exactly has Dan Snyder done since he arrived here to prove that he is measuring success based on wins/winning? Overpaying for free agents and drafting uber-marketable athletes doesn't prove that. In fact, it actually works the other way. It actually speaks more about a business that puts shiny toys in front of the masses in the hopes that it will distract from the reality of the situation.
Indifference towards the Redskins is shocking for me to see in the DC area. It is not at pandemic levels just quite yet, but that is the trajectory we are on, and the problem needs to be met with something other than...well...indifference.