Why I Became a Fan of the Washington Redskins and NFL
I am a true Washington Redskins Fan but I still have trouble hearing myself say it.
Football has never interested me. Even In high school, I had to pretend to be a fan of the game. How else would a teenager get to spend a Friday night with friends and without parents? We lived in the county and back then, it was safe for parents to drop the kids off alone at a game. For us country kids, it was a big deal. Forget team sports, this was social time. Those high school games were just opportunities to spend time with friends.
I loved those chilly Fall evenings, hanging around the bleachers or concession with my friends. Looking back, they are some of my favorite sensory memories. The sounds of cheers from the sidelines added excitement to the aroma of hot dogs and hot chocolate escaping from the concession. What girl didn't see a football game as an opportunity to flirt with or spy on that guy from Algebra class that had caught her eye? That, was the extent of my interest in football. I could never be mistaken for a fan of the game because I'm pretty sure I never really watched one. I was just too busy being a social butterfly to waste my time watching the game. Friday night football at the high school spelled "freedom" so I pretended to love football.
So What Changed?
Life is life. Things change. Some things change because we choose to change them. Other things change, just because they do. Sometime around 2005, I decided to change the way I felt about football. My motivation was my little brother who was a die-hard Washington Redskins fan and had been, for as long as I could remember.
My brother and I have the same moral compass and values but that's where the similarities end. We are basically - polar opposites. He is very disciplined and I'm more of a free spirit. My brother is more practical than me. He makes a plan and then executes it. I have a tendency to let life happen and then figure out how to handle it. Our differences have never caused us problems because we love each other but in the early 2000's, I decided we should share a common interest; something that we could share and enjoy together.
I know my brother pretty well so fooling myself into believing he would ever join my efforts to fight for social justice was never a consideration. There was no way he would ever join me in a public protest on racism and oppression for Indigenous People. Politics, well, that wasn't something we could share either. The only choice was football. I had to learn to love football; specifically the Washington Redskins. It was easier said than done.
I was automatically handicapped. My dislike for Indian names being used for team logos or mascots stood in the way. I can't condone a team calling itself "Redskins" when it isn't composed of Native Americans. It's a subject for another hub but if my brother and I were to share an interest, it had to be the Washington Redskins. I had to suck it up.
Redskins 101 For Beginners - Management
Declaring myself a fan without knowing something about the game would have been foolish. My little brother knows the game inside and out. He knows the history of the coaches, the player line up, the franchise history, and follows the rules of the NFL better than anyone I know. I couldn't even mention football until I had educated myself.
I joined the ranks of Washington Redskin fans during the second reign of Coach Joe Gibbs. My Internet research helped a lot as I learned that Joe Gibbs had coached the Redskins from 1981 to 1992 and was hired again in 2000. Gibbs was rehired to resurrect the team that wasn't performing well. I learned that Joe Gibbs was a man of faith and integrity. I couldn't find anyone who had anything bad to say about him. And, the team was starting to win games again under his watch. My research then turned to the owner, Daniel Snyder.
What kind of man was he, this man who could afford to pay $800 million for a football team? My Internet research revealed that just six months after buying the team, Dan Snyder sold the naming rights of the Jack Cooke Kent Stadium to Federal Express. The stadium would now be known as Fed Ex Field. Was it smart business or ego in action from a man who had more money than I could comprehend? I was already developing a bad attitude for Mr. Snyder for no other reason than his wealth. It's personal but I have always been a skeptic for people who have that much money. What could they possibly know about the rest of us that live on a budget? Can someone like that realize that without the fans who crimp and save for months in order to afford tickets to a game, there would be no team revenue?
Well, if I was going to talk football, I needed to learn more and that meant I had to move on to the team and game itself.
Redskins 101 - Team Favorites
It wasn't enough for me to just watch a few games. If I was going to share this interest with my little brother, I had to learn the lingo. Hearing others talk "game talk" after a game had always impressed me. It seemed, well, almost personal as they called the names or numbers of the guy who made a touchdown or kicked a field goal. I wanted that too. I wanted to impress my little brother with my knowledge of the players.
I found the web site for the Washington Redskins and located the team roster. I didn't memorize it but I let my heart guide me. If a name spoke to me, I studied the stats.
Now we're getting somewhere. He had a "cool" name and I had heard my brother speak of him. This was definitely a winner. What could I learn about Chris Cooley that would make me sound like a fan? During his first season (2004), he lead the team in touchdowns (six), had 37 receptions (whatever than meant) and had 23 first downs. He was the Redskins nominee for NFL's Man of the Year award for his charitable work of reading to children. That was pretty impressive to a newbie like me. Cooley was not only a good football player but a good person too I memorized his name and his stats.
Another familiar name from my brothers verbal repertoire. What could the Internet teach me about Clinton Portis? He was 31 years old when I started watching him play. A new trade from the Denver Broncos in 2004, his first season as a Redskin wasn't so pretty. From what I could read, Portis had potential but he had to make some adjustments. My soft spot for the underdog made me a follower of Clinton Portis. I wanted him to show the media what he was made of. I had become a fan and I had something to prove, to somebody. Portis was my underdog, the one I hoped would prove me to be a good judge of player potential. He didn't disappoint.
Early in the 2005 season, the name "Santana Moss" spoke to me. I had always loved Santana, the incredible musician from the 70's and I loved nature (moss) so Santana Moss was a natural pick to follow. After watching a few games, I liked that he ran like a lightening bolt, darting through the lines of the opponents like a greased pig. Moss was sharp and in the second game of 2005 caught two touchdown passes from Mark Brunnel. Wow! He finished the season with 84 receptions, (1,483 yards) which was the (second highest in the NFL for 2005. He became my favorite, the player I could talk to my brother about.
Players Come And Go But Family Sticks Together
Since 2004, I've watched every game. I'm almost beginning to understand it. Almost! It is clear I have become a true fan of the game and, the Washington Redskins. I had a lot to learn and still do but that's okay. Football is a complex game and the NFL seems to change the rules quite whimsically. I will always have more to learn.
The Redskins continue to struggle. Change seems to be their only constant. My friends sometimes laugh at me for being a fan of what was they call a losing team. I remind them of my brother's motto. He says - "If you're a true fan, you're a fan during the bad times too." On that, we agree.
2012 was a good season for the Washington Redskins. With a new Quarterback (Robert Griffin III) and a new commitment to the concept of "team", the Reskins almost made it as division champions. Maybe next year. There was hope for 2013. But as history often repeats itself, the team failed to repeat the success of the prior season. There was plenty of finger-pointing and rumors raging and yes, even another major turnover in staff. Some of my favorite players will retire while others will be traded. It is NFL football after all.
Learning to enjoy the game and, talk the game, has brought my brother and I closer together. We enjoy sharing our elation over a play or even our frustration over what we think is a bad call from the officials. Our relationship has become richer for having a shared interest. We don't always pick the same player as a favorite and we don't always agree with a play but we both love the game and the team. We've seen players come and go but we are family and now, we share a passion for something. NFL football gave new depth to our relationship and even now I am amazed at the benefit. I often wonder how our world might change if more of us made an attempt to share another's interest. If only it were that simple!
© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.