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fail to the redskins
how an owner can ruin a game day experience
by joe rodano

Michelle Von Euw really wanted to write a column, but she was just way too busy catching up with Top Chef, Mad Men and Project Runway and I could not pry her away from the TiVo or those wacky Fug Girls. So I'm stepping in to take her place this month.

I live in one of the greatest sports areas in the country in the Washington, DC area. Here we have teams representing the NFC and AFC, American and National League, NBA, NHL, MLS and for college, two of the best in the ACC and the Big East. All these teams are within a 30 minute drive of each other. But this season, it has been anything but a stellar time to be a sports fan in this area.

The Washington Nationals had the worst record in baseball for the second year in a row, and the Baltimore Orioles were a mere two spots behind. The Washington Wizards last season had the third worst record in the NBA. Maryland and Georgetown basketball ended last season in the middle of the pack. DC United was mediocre at best, and Maryland football is 2-6 as I write this. Thank God for the Washington Capitals, or our win-loss record would be completely futile.

So what is the problem? Colleges can have down years; it's our professional teams ownership I'm worried about. The DC/Baltimore area has some of the thriftiest and worst owners in all of sports. But the main culprit is the Washington Redskins esteemed owner Daniel Snyder (Mr. Snyder if you ever meet him), who has been in the national news quite a bit as of late for his meddling in on-field affairs. As a passionate Redskins fan, I have experienced highs and lows over the years, but this season has been a particularly huge letdown. Furthermore, as a Redskins season ticket holder, I can tell you that the game day experience is becoming painful: Snyder has really gone overboard this season, as if he is trying to make it as unpleasant for the fans as possible.

There are many stories over the years about $nyder and his desire to make a dollar out of fifteen cents, from charging fans both for admittance and parking at training camp, typically a free event across the NFL, to his game-day machinations at FedEx Field, which include making ticket holders pay for shuttle buses from the Metro and blocking off pedestrian access to fans who park outside the stadium. He has even sued club seat ticket holders, and sold seats directly to ticket agencies, even though the team has a large season ticket waiting list. But this season, Snyder has taken it to another extreme to try to ruin the game day experience. It started slowly, but now has begun to snowball. It seemed to start during the October 4th game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which came on the heels of a loss to the lowly Detroit Lions (0-19 before meeting the 'Skins).

On October 4, the Redskins decided that fans could no longer bring any signs into the stadium, positive, negative or indifferent. None of those D and Fence signs, no "Hi mom, dad, etc.," no "Welcome Monday Night Football," nada, nothing, zippo! It doesn't matter how big or small the sign. The Redskins website made no changes to the policies and procedures about this; fans didn't know the new policy existed until they showed up for the game -- with their signs.

While the team claims the new policy is for safety reasons, we know better. This was all so Dan Snyder could keep out the anti-ownership signs. And it didn't stop there. The following home game, on October 18, no paper bags were allowed in the stadium for those fans who wanted to wear them on their heads for the matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. (The Chiefs also happened to be the sixth straight win-less opponent the Redskins had played and the Skins gave there fourth win-less opponent a win in Washington, DC to drop to 2-4.)

A team that some people had winning the division, making the playoffs, and with a (dare I say it?) shot at the Superbowl, was now becoming the talk of the NFL for an entirely different reason.

To stop the losing slide, Snyder brought in a bingo caller who was out of football for four seasons to be "an extra set of eyes for the offense" -- a man who was then promoted to play caller after a whopping two weeks. The head coach was ostracized, and the national media began speculating how quickly Jim Zorn would be fired, and who the next coach would be.

Wait a few days and your name could be mentioned as a candidate if you have ever touched a football in your life.

Monday night, October 26th, might be a day that will never be forgotten in the DC area. One of the dreaded division rivals came to town, and with the nation watching the weekly spectacle that is known as Monday Night Football, the fans had finally had enough.

At the stadium gates, team sponsor Geico flaunted the supposedly official rule while passing out Redskins logoed-signs and rally towels. Am I missing something here people? Meanwhile, fans wearing anti-Dan Snyder tee-shirts (examples are here), were told they had to turn them inside out -- otherwise, they would have to leave the stadium.

Now, I have heard of this happening with clothes shouting profanity, which makes sense, but not one of these shirts was like that. These so-called offensive tee-shirts were merely shots at the owner, general manager and the organization. But I guess at FedEx field there is no First Amendment protection. People also were not allowed the right of free speech when they were chanting under the Monday Night Football booth "We Want Gruden" (one of the 1,000 names to be rumored as the next head coach), and "Danny Sucks." These fans were told by security that they were disturbing the broadcast and asked to leave the stadium.

These acts contributed to an extremely negative game-day experience for me and other fans who faithfully attend Redskins home games. It was so bad that I did something I have never done: I left the game at the end of the third quarter.

Between the Gestapo mentality of the stadium security and the obnoxiousness of the visiting Philly fans, not to mention the on-field debacle, I had enough of Monday Night Football. It's one thing when your team isn't very good. It's another thing when your ownership actively works against the fans to make the experience of going to a game beyond negative. This is something I hoped to someday enjoy with kids, but not if the Redskins continue to take the fun away. Things needs to change; otherwise, the Redskins NFL just stands for No Fun is Legal.


more about joe rodano


dirk cotton
11.11.09 @ 11:36a

I was a Redskins fan when Riggo was unstoppable and the Hogs could open a hole up the middle of a concrete block wall. I was in a basketball league with Art Monk, Terry Metcalfe and, on occasion, Joe Theismann. Then Joe Gibbs left and the wheels fell off. Free agency changed and we couldn't get the players, anymore.

The Skins started to suck while they were still owned by Jack Kent Cooke, a man perhaps best described as, if I can borrow from Randy Newman, "what a slimy, old bastard he was". Then Snyder bought them and, if he can't be blamed for their downfall, he certainly has done nothing to restore their glory. After all these years, is there really any chance that he can?

I lived the Redskins for a decade. There was no bigger fan. Sadly, after another decade of endless, utter disappointment, I solved my "Redskins Problem" by deciding not to care anymore. Equally sadly, I must report that it works.

Nice column . . .

joe rodano
11.11.09 @ 12:49p

Yes sadly the Dan has now done his best to ruin the product on and off the field. It is really disturbing and the sad thing is that I am to big a sports fan to ever remove myself from this heartless bastards (lol). I feel like they abuse me on a weekly basis and I say thank you and come back for more.

sandra thompson
11.18.09 @ 9:35a

I hate football (except for Friday Night Lights and the Florida Gators), but being a loyal Mets fan lo! these many years, I understand sadness and betrayal completely. Most of us never learn.

dan gonzalez
11.18.09 @ 11:26p

Several observations here:

First: Good Show. It's about time you balled up and posted something. I can't be the only beer-soaked, gundy-gutted, wing-eating straight guy that occasionally gets something posted around here.

Second: Don't let it go to your head, we would always rather hear from Foxy Soxy (my pet name for that lump in the covers you ignore every night when you're watching sports center, otherwise known as your 'wife') than you. You are a sorry-ass, Rock-Band playing, capital-area sports fan, and everyone hates the capital area, the federal gov', all the people you most likely voted for, and all of the teams you root for.

Third: As far as the official American Order of Narcissistic Douchebags is concerned, Dan Snyder is incredibly high on the list. I currently rank him third, under Barack Obama and whichever Steinbrenner is currently running the Yankees. That is not good company, my friend, that is not good company at all.

Fourth: As a Cleveland fan, I have nothing left that hasn't already been forcibly raped from my soul itself. However, I will put a case of beer, your choice, on the Cowboys this weekend. If there is any way, under heaven and above hell, that the Deadskins win this weekend, I will buy you a case of choice and make dutr it gets to that amoral circus you call the DC area.

dan gonzalez
11.18.09 @ 11:31p

And by 'dutr', I actually meant 'sure'.

I was typing one-handed while eating a jalapeno popper at the same time, if you must know...

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