Here with a guest post for nailing his Redskins-Eagles prediction is Mr. Irrelevant reader Kevin Stroop.
One of my first, if not the first, conscious decisions I made was to become a fan of the Washington Redskins.
When I was 4 I realized I lived in a house divided. My mom and her side of the family rooted for the Baltimore Colts, a team that once existed. My dad rooted for the Skins.
Every time my family got together, I noticed my dad was on an island –- constant ribbing, including my older brother. I decided I will support my old man. I, too, will root for the Redskins.
I remember telling him this with great pride that I had made this life choice, although I’m sure at the time he figured my devotion to his football team was as fleeting as whatever T-shirt my mom put on me.
Being a fan of the Skins in the ’80s was not difficult. They won the Super Bowl the first year I rooted for them; I was a good luck charm. The next year they were back, but we all know what happened there. By then the die was cast.
My first-grade teacher (also a Skins fan) and I had a shrine to the team in the back of the classroom. Thirty years later I still have those football cards with thumbtack holes in them. For Christmas, I’d get Redskins gear –- shirts, helmets, pennants, mascot toys. You name it, I was getting it. The team kept winning too.
Year after year, 10, 11, 12 wins. I remember losing to the Bears after a 12-win season. I remember losing three times to the Giants in 1986 (and only two other times all year). Most of all, though, I remember Darrell Green’s punt return vs. Chicago in 1987.
I remember my dad saying after that game, if the Vikings can beat the 49ers the Skins get the home game. Crazy, I thought. How could that happen? Of course, it did, and I was tasked the important job of taping the NFC Championship for my dad, because he wouldn’t be able to watch it. He also told me to tape over it if they lost. They didn’t.
Years later I had the opportunity to meet Doug Williams. I was too embarrassed to tell him I still slept in a faded Super Bowl XXII T-shirt with his face on it.
But the fondest memory of all has to be the entire 1991 season. It was the perfect storm. I was 13 and the team was dominant. In hindsight I never realized how lucky I was.
Since that season, I’ve endured heartbreak and, worst of all, irrelevance. After college I moved to San Diego. I still followed the Skins and enjoyed going back to the bars on Sunday morning to pick up the credit card I left the night before, only to open it back up to watch the early games kick off at 10 a.m.
In week 2 of the 2004 season, after the Skins lost to the Giants, I sat in the bar staring at the screen and had a very existential moment. Why? Why put yourself through this? What is the point? You are invested in something that doesn’t exist. Like Jerry Seinfeld said, you’re rooting for laundry.
My future wife was sitting next to me, and, not being the football fan I was, didn’t quite understand the moment. To her, it was laundry. To me, it was my childhood, or something else, I suppose. It mattered to me.
After a glorious day of Sunday drinking while considering this I realized rooting for the team was part of who I was, and I am invested. I decided to embrace it. I happened to move back to the D.C. area three months later, where I’ve been ever since.
In 2005, I purchased season tickets. This was a big deal. Growing up, the prospect of going to a Redskins home game was about as likely as going to Mars. But now I was a season-ticket holder. (This was before the curtain was pulled back on the so-called waiting list, so it felt special. To be honest, it still does.)
I’ve been to almost all of the home games since then. I’ve also grown up, gotten married, had kids, bought a house. But I still find a way eight Sundays a year to trek out to FedEx Field to see my team.
However, make no mistake, I recognize that FedEx is an inconvenient dump. The parking lots have all the charm of a third-world flea market only with the added benefit of drunk drivers and senseless fighting. But it’s my dump.
I get a charge while walking up to the gate, handing them my ticket and sitting in my seats. Yes, the experience at home is superior in many, many ways. But being in the stadium is unique. I could watch the Skins when I was in Guam, just like I could watch them on my couch in Maryland. But I couldn’t see the team in person in Guam.
Being at the game requires extra attention. You don’t have someone to explain to you what just happened, you need to know how to see it. You need to recognize when Santana Moss is fielding punts or when Ryan Kerrigan isn’t on the field. Being at FedEx on a warm October afternoon is my idea of perfection, flaws and all.
My kids are not growing up in a house divided. My wife has grasped on to the Skins and wears her No. 89 jersey to the games, including this past Monday’s. I have three boys, ages 6, 4 and 2. They all wear Redskins gear. They recognize RGIII. I’ve brought the older ones to a game; they bore witness to the 76-yard clinching run last year vs. Minnesota, whether they knew it or not.
I hope they have the same experience growing up rooting for their team that I had. I hope the promise of RGIII is fulfilled and my kids get to see their favorite team playing on Sundays in January, just like I did. If they find that football isn’t that interesting to them, though, I hope they find a passion and learn from the ups and downs and all that comes with it.
But if not the Skins, that passion better be for the Orioles or Caps.