clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The 5 O’Clock Club: boo

New, comments

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Green Bay Packers v Washington Redskins Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

After the Tampa Bay game, a reporter asked Josh Norman a question about why the Redskins seem to play better on the road than they do at home.

That started a bit of a shitstorm.

Josh Norman, perhaps tired and emotional after the ball game, cut loose.

“When we go into the home stands, it seems like an open bubble or something. Like the other team’s turf or something. You hear more of them than you do us. Then, if something bad happens, they sulk. They sit back in their seat and they boo. I don’t know.

“We come back to our home and it seems like guys don’t really care,” Norman said. “They just boo everything and aren’t really behind us. We don’t really feel that (support). And I’m tired of it, really. (Shoot), we can play all the games on the road if you ask me.

Tweets, news articles, talk radio, blogs... everyone wanted a piece of the Josh Norman quote.

D.J. Swearinger doubled-down during a radio interview with 106.7 The Fan.

“I would rather play on the road, too.”

”You would?” Paulsen asked.

”Most definitely,” Swearinger said.

Asked for his line of reasoning, Swearinger said, “Because you can hear on the road. You can hear communications. You don’t have to worry about fans booing you. You ain’t got to worry about seeing the other team’s jersey everywhere – you know it’s going to be the other team’s jerseys because you’re away. Home games, that’s some of the worst things I’ve seen. I’ve played on four different teams. Never seen it that bad, you know with other teams’ jerseys in the stands, with the boos, whatever it may be. I’ve never been a part of nothing like that.”

Asked if it affects him as a player, Swearinger said, “It affects you to the point to when you want to get the crowd involved. I recall when I was in AZ or in Houston, I would always wave my hands up just to get the crowd up. But, you know, if I do it here, it’s like a blah.”

”You’re just stretching your arms,” Rouhier quipped.

”I’m stretching my arms. Like, nobody don’t see us getting the crowd up,” Swearinger said. “But I guess that’ll take time because we haven’t won. But you can’t really say that, because I’ve been in Houston and AZ where they haven’t won, but those die-hard fans will go out win, lose or draw. So that’s no excuse of losing. Every NFL team loses. No NFL team wins the Super Bowl every year.”

I don’t know if we have that full support of loyalty to the fans. You know, we may have a lot of Redskins fans, but the loyalty, I don’t feel the loyalty.”

You’ve got to be loyal through the ups and downs, through the thick and thin, if you’re a true fan. That’s what you call a true fan. But if you’re a fan that just likes the colors, or like whatever you like, you may get discouraged. You know, 25 years is a long time, but like I said, if you’re a true fan, a true fan is going to be loyal to whatever you believe in.”

Boy.

Everyone had an opinion on this one. Players, journalists, blog readers, radio listeners, local media personalities, former players, national sportswriters all chimed in with a variety of opinions. Some blasted Redskins fans; some blasted Redskins players; most blasted Dan Snyder; much was made of the ‘game day experience’ at FedEx, with particular focus on the expense, the difficulty of traveling there and back, and the lack of surrounding facilities.

A few players tried to change the narrative from complaints about the fans to an appeal for greater home support.

Even Josh Norman, who started it all, tried to re-frame his remarks.

Rick Snider had a lot to say about the situation, with multiple tweets and more. But I thought he hit the nail on the head with one sentiment.

Nothing good comes from players complaining about fans.

I’m often shocked at the things players say.

I routinely read comments from players who complain that ‘fans don’t know how hard we work’. I have two thoughts, at least, about that. First of all, I think fans do have an idea how hard professional athletes work. I think we all admire their commitment and their achievements. My second thought is that I don’t think most fans want to have to hear about or acknowledge how hard players work. After all, most people I know work pretty damned hard, too, and most of them do it for a lot less reward than NFL players. Players should say they “feel blessed” and leave it at that. Players shouldn’t need the affirmation; the paychecks they get for playing football should be thanks enough.

I saw a tweet from Junior Galette this past off-season saying that he was ‘tired of proving himself’. I’m a pretty big Junior Galette fan, so I thought I could offer him some encouragement, and I tweeted a reply.

I guess Junior wasn’t pleased with the feedback, because his response was to block me on Twitter.

I don’t think a lot of players get it.

They think they’re paid the big bucks because they work hard, tune their bodies, hone their skills and become superior athletes. That’s not quite right. They do all that so that they can cash in, but no one pays them millions of dollars to work out and practice.

They get paid big money to be entertainers.

They get paid big money to perform on Sundays, and occasionally on Monday, Thursday or Saturday.

And there’s a tradeoff there. Celebrities who make big money because they’re celebrities have to put up with all kinds of compromises, from not being able to go shopping without people staring or asking for a picture, to being misunderstood, to being boo-ed when fans don’t like what they see.

Fans feel entitled because most of them work pretty doggone hard to secure a paycheck, and often worry about whether there’ll be enough to pay the rent or mortgage, put food on the table and pay for Junior’s schooling (and I don’t mean Junior Galette). They figure that those big paychecks that athletes get should come with some strings.

Pro football players are living the dream, and have more money than the typical fan can even dream about. Heck, Le’veon Bell just sat out a year and gave up over $14m in the process. Can pro football players really understand the situation that most fans are in?

Probably... yeah. A lot of football players grew up with very little; some with nothing at all.

But still, there’s a lot of antagonism created by the monopoly money contracts that players sign with NFL franchises that gives fans a certain sense of entitement when it comes to the players.

Although it takes an indirect route to get there, ultimately, fans pay the money that makes players into millionaires, and most fans feel that gives them certain rights — including the right to cheer for outstanding performance or boo the opposite.

It’s the players that owe the fans; not the fans that owe the players. That’s often the feeling.

Now, in reality, sports fans feel a kinship and connection to a team and its players. We mostly embrace them, support them, and cheer for their success. Fans outside of Philadelphia don’t want to boo their own team, or simply sit on their hands. But they need some motivation — they need something good to cheer for. The Redskins themselves have spent a lot of years teaching fans that being a Redskins fan is a life filled with disappointment, and that not much good comes from cheering for the home team. Fans want to embrace the team, but, like respect, being embraced by the crowd is something that is earned.

Maximus shouts the question and the challenge: “Are you not entertained?!”

If he was a player for the Redskins, too often the answer would be a resounding: “No!”

Josh Norman and DJ Swearinger, this week at least, didn’t seem to be understanding the experience of a fan who spent a week’s pay to take the family for a day out at FedEx to get gouged for parking, sit in a sub-par stadium, and more often than not, see the team play embarrassingly bad football.

Now, Josh & DJ are not to blame for that quarter of a century of disappointment, and they’ve both been doing what they can to change it, but — again — nothing good comes from players complaining about fans.

Or does it?

The players change the story

Eventually, a few players, this week, saw an opportunity to turn things around.

Since they were asking for fan support, and, I guess, hearing on talk radio and other sources some of the reasons why fans weren’t filling up FedEx every home game, some players decided to be proactive.

I don’t know about you, but I was impressed.

This is the kind of do-something-positive action that wrestles control of a negative narrative away and turns it into a new thing that’s positive. It helps to quiet the noise and focus people on a new direction.

I wonder if the Redskins organization can learn a lesson from their players?

Brian Lafemina is a name that we should all be getting to know if we don’t already.

Lafemina was hired at the end of May as the Redskins new President of Business Operations/Chief Operating Officer. His duties, though, are primarily aimed at fans, and the fan experience.

Lafemina spent eight years working at the NFL’s offices, developing a shared plan amongst league teams to help develop business operations. Under his stewardship, the NFL saw an increase in fan satisfaction on game day, with the Redskins hoping he can bring the same level of success to the team as they continue to negotiate the build of a new stadium. Lafemina also worked in areas regarding new stadium development, in addition to Super Bowl and Pro Bowl strategy.

I wonder if this latest public row, the loud response of fans and the positive action by the players might give Brian Lafemina a little more leverage with his boss Dan Snyder.

I wonder if the organization could start doing more than nibbling around the edges. Sure, there’ll be a new stadium after 2027, but there are a lot of things that Dan could sign off on right now, while he’s got a winning team, that could dramatically re-make the ugly relationship he’s got with fans after two decades of ownership.

To be honest, I live on the other side of the world, and I’ve never seen FedEx Field, much less ever been to a game there, but I can read, so I have some general understanding of what fans complain about.

If I owned a business that was in the situation the Redskins are in with their fans, I would sit down and brainstorm a whole bunch of ideas that would mark a complete departure from the past.

I mean, if I were the boss, I’d go into my meeting and tell everyone that there is nothing that is “off the table”. All suggestions are welcome. The more radical and creative, the better.

I’d toss out one or two of my own to prime the pump.

  • How about if we cut the price of tickets by 40% on the theory that (1) we’ll make most of the lost revenue back by selling more tickets, (2) we’ll energize our fan base, and put more burgundy & gold fannies in the seats, and (3) even if we loses some ticket sales, we make most of our money from TV revenue anyway?
  • I’d address the cost of parking, which seems to be a huge issue for fans. Slash it by half, maybe more.
  • Is it feasible to put in free shuttle buses to the train station or do other things to make travel cheaper and easier?
  • What actions can the organziation take that would be meaningful to fans and make an immediate difference?

I read a comment from Brian Lafemina in an article the other day, in which he said that it might take years to turn around the situation with fans.

I’m no marketing expert, but I was a successful businessman in my earlier career, and I know that it’s possible to turn a bad situation around quickly, but it takes dramatic action to do so.

Brian, if you or your assistant is reading the 5 O’Clock Club, let me say this to you: Don’t settle for a five-year plan!

Adversity brings opportunity. This week is a week where you have more opportunity, leverage and power than you are ever likely to have again.

Go to Dan Snyder. Remind him that, in the NFL, teams go from worst to first every year. This is his chance to do just that.

Tell him that Josh Norman and DJ Swearinger did Snyder a favor by giving people a chance to communicate loudly and in a way that Dan and the organization should be able to hear.

The Redskins franchise, its management and the owner should all be paying attention right now.

Strike while the iron is hot, as they say. This is the time for action, not inaction. This is the time for innovation, not a retreat into platitudes. This is a time for creative thinking, not the same old ideas that got us where we are now. This is a time to intercept the ball on the goal line, and run it out to the 32 yard line so you can go on offense and score.

Brian and Dan should get in a room with the 3 or 4 most creative thinkers they know, and fix this —- not over a matter of years, but a matter of days. Find a way to follow the lead set by the players — Norman, Swearinger, Peterson, Foster, Brown and others — to fill the stadium this Sunday with screaming, excited Redskins fans. And take enough substantive action that the Redskins’ home field stays that way forevermore.

Put the challenge back to the players. The fans have showed up, now give them something to cheer for.

There’s no time better than right now to fix what’s wrong.

Brian, Dan... do it before lunchtime. Implement the plan this afternoon. It’ll be the best decision you’ve made in years.

Poll

How do you feel about Josh Norman & DJ Swearinger speaking out about the hometown fans this week?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    They should be thanked for re-igniting a discussion that needs to take place; one that will put pressure on Dan Snyder to make positive changes.
    (147 votes)
  • 14%
    They’re right, so there’s no reason to complain.
    (48 votes)
  • 14%
    Nothing good comes from players complaining about fans.
    (48 votes)
  • 12%
    They have no right to complain about fans — we pay our money, and if we want to cheer we cheer; if we want to boo, we boo.
    (39 votes)
  • 12%
    Frankly, I don’t give a damn.
    (40 votes)
322 votes total Vote Now