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Hail Hail

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

redskins_Wk3_500x375a

There are few things more American than the live NFL experience.  In fact, I’m pretty sure any non-American would either vomit or spontaneously combust when brought into this volatile mix of bravado and excess.  Well, actually, let’s take a step back.

In truth, live football games are not REALLY the American experience.  They are indicative of a certain, albeit large, portion of the American people, and it just so happens to be that this portion is what we’re known for all over the world.  Obnoxiousness? Check.  Portliness? Check. Let’s cut to the chase: excess of all kinds? Check!  If your average Frenchman makes 10 casual assumptions about Americans, and has never been here, I would be willing to bet that dropping him in the middle of an NFL tailgate would confirm at least 6 of those.

But that’s why we love it, right?  Football brings us together in our shared sense of American-ness.  Most of us, from our perch on the living room couch, can tune in on Sunday and feel as if we’re participating in some grand tradition.

Last Monday I had my first NFL tailgating experience.  I was in it, on the front lines, so to speak.  And if the NFL is analogous to war, and the game is the battle, then the tailgate must be some sort of bizarre, liquored, march – replete with meat and pent up aggression.

Actually, what struck me most about the tailgate, was how it so totally completed football’s gladiator mystique.  When in a tailgate, you are amongst this feverish horde – a veritable sea of humanity.  In this horde are people from all walks of life, but all focused on one thing.  Some are betting, some are drunk, some are eyeing the guy in the eagles jersey who just put his beer on the hood of their car – whatever their stance, they are in this horde, and they are gathered in the shadow of the coliseum.  When you’re in this shadow, you’re not in real life.  Kickoff looms, and the revelry dies down as it approaches.  The horde swells towards the stadium, and everyone is still the same person they were upon arrival, only they have escaped, and will continue to do so at the expense of someone else’s bloodshed.

I’ve never been to a gladiator match, but I have to imagine the scene played somewhat like this.  I can’t really be sure of how the actual events played out, or whether they did so in congruence with the NFL experience.  But I am sure of one thing that is true of both spectacles.  When the match ends, the people of the horde, that had been so blissfully lost in the carnage, will wake up.  They will realize that they are no longer allowed in the shadow of the coliseum, as it is not a place where one exists in the hours when things must get done.  So they will return to their shops, though still thinking about the next match, and dreaming of being in the shadow once more.

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The Sad Truth of the Washington Redskins

October 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Redskins

Few aspects of DC life incite as much emotional fervor as the Washington Redskins.  To say that ‘skins fandom is like religion is a tragic understatement.  Skins fans will do anything for this team.  While I know that the same could probably be said for fans of just about any team, it’s always more intense when the people in question are those closest to you.  The beginning of every season sees my friends and family radiating with excitement and optimism, and then, without fail, that glow is quickly reduced to a few sputtering blips.  I’m always astonished at this process – one that I often see unsuccessful sports teams drag their base through.  But I guess that’s the very nature of being such a fan.  Right?  You stick with your boys until they, one day, find a winning combination.  Thus, you are finally victorious, and all your hardships no longer seem in vein.

My issue with the Washington Redskins (besides the antiquated racism that’s implicit in their name) is that they have, for years, had everything any team would need to succeed.  Firstly, the money is most definitely there.  Year after year, the ‘skins bring in heaps of money, and are currently the 2nd highest grossing NFL team.  So you would think that such a sturdy financial base must earn them significant capital in terms of skill… right?  Well, in reality they are an enormously talented team – they are every year.  In fact, most squads would kill for at least a few of the names we’ve had on our roster over the last decade.  But therein lies the real mystery of this beleaguered team.

With so much money and so much skill, how is it that Redskins are still the laughing stock of the NFC east?  Perhaps you do what most people do: blame the owner, Dan Snyder.  He writes the checks, he makes the hires, and so all this misery must lay on his be-suited lap.  But maybe he’s just a peripheral figure, so the coaches are to blame.  They have control of all this outrageous talent, and even still, they remain unsuccessful in steering us to a win (and yes, I am aware that I have begun using possessives).  Wait, maybe the coaches are doing all they can, and the players’ new found egsorbitent wealth has made them indifferent to the score at the end of the 4th quarter.  Could it be… dare I say… yes, it’s a combination of all these things.  But, in truth, I believe that, while these factors are significant, they do not hint at the inherent truth of the Washington Redskins.

This is a doomed team.  In contrast, the Boston Redsox WERE another team that made a habit of failing its fans, but they had history on their side.  It didn’t matter if you were a Sox fan or not, you couldn’t deny the weight of their first World Series in a generation.  People simply felt excited to watch history.  On the other hand, you have the Detroit Lions – a team whose inability to win is almost looked upon lovingly by fans across the country.  To most, it’s impossible to dislike the Lions, because that would be like kicking a man while he’s down.  The Redskins have neither history or national sympathy on their side.  They’re just a sub par team that can’t seem to jerk itself from a stupor.  They, we, whatever… are just a shitty team, not a terrible one [read: Detroit Lions], just a shitty one.  My family and I know this because we’ve always managed to keep our emotions tucked away from the boys in crimson and yellow.  However, my friends – who long ago pledged their hearts and souls – simply cannot admit this inherent truth about their team.

So there I am yesterday afternoon, the ‘skins are almost done with their Sunday game, the score was 17-2 in their favor at the half.  My friends are elated.  They have reached the point at which they remember what a solid Sunday performance feels like.  They are proud of their boys… and then the 2nd half starts.  I was not shocked when the Redskins completely lost the game in the 4th quarter.  To me that seemed routine.  Unfortunately, it also seemed all too routine that I watched my friends lose all that hope and ebullience that I found so attractive not 45 minutes before.  It kills me to watch them go through this.  Season after season, I must watch the Washington Redskins injure so many people who I care deeply about.  For that, I may never forgive them.

Categories: Sports Tags: ,