Does Redskins management at this point have any idea what it is doing? Because it does not seem that way at this point, what with the organization making two of the biggest blunders a company that sells something can possibly make:
Attacking their customers and picking fights with the media.
Dan Steinberg has basically suspended operations as the Washington Post sports generalist to pursue a full time role chronicling the Burgundy Revolution, seriously, check Sports Bog from about the last week in September, as Dan would probably say this story writes itself, all he does is check his email and transcribe interviews.
From the growing fan discontent to the sporting luminaries offering advice to and assessment of the Redskins, silence on the coach's status then a sudden endorsement more than a week after anonymous players had asked for it in the press, that selfsame endorsement coming right before another dreadful loss, this time to the Eagles.
Fan confusion and sadness turned predictably to anger and the paying customers at Redskins Stadium began showing it, in the stadium, in earnest, on Monday night.
And as an organization, the Redskins chose not to grin and bear it, rather they chose to fight back. Against their customers, the ones that even as this great and revered team is collapsing harder and faster than the Hindenburg, still chose to spend their Monday night and their money on the Redskins.
Overnight the stadum policy on fans displaying signs changed, from a decade old policy permitting non profane signs that do not obstruct stadium signage to a one hundred percent ban. Nothing. Not signs of encouragement, not the D plus fence, not signs poking fun at the owner and the team, not even signs wishing a husband stationed in Afghanistan and possibly watching the game across the world in Forward Operating Base Thisfuckingsucks hello and I love you and we miss you.
Inside the stadium signs were literally being torn from hands and stomped on, ripped up and tossed over the rail into the concourse tunnel. I was at the Monday night game and at the end, as nearly all Redskins fans had headed for the door a lone Eagles fan stood up near my section 125 with the classic Next On SportsCenter sign, the same kind you have seen at sporting events for 20 years, even at the very end of the game stadium security would not tolerate it.
To make matters worse, a lot worse, the team was policing clothing choices as well and messages not deemed positive enough were censored, there is more than one story circulating about fans being confronted and forced to remove shirts, turn them inside out or leave, with the threat of arrest and the suspension of season tickets in the balance.
Dan references one such story here, and check the second comment on this post, it is a story submitted as a comment by a reader. Later Dan used an announcement by the team that non profane shirts regardless of message are permitted at Redskins Stadium to highlight other stories of fans being hassled for their clothing choices. The team went on to blame overzealous stadium security for any transgressions, so sorry now chin up old chap. I think someone's nose is getting long.
Circling back to the signs issue and showing what a bunch of tone deaf dumbasses the guys that run the team are, the team actually said, actually tried to pass off a story about homemade signs poking fans in the head and that being a safety issue and that signs obstruct fan views. They actually said that!
If anyone can tell me of a time you saw a fellow game goer get hurt by the sharp corners of a homemade sign or of a time when a homemade sign was such a hassle when hoisted by someone in front of you that it ruined your gameday experience, please email me or drop a comment.
So not only was that explanation bullshit on its face, plain and simple, wise emailers alerted Steinberg that not only were retracting scroll GEICO Redskins signs present at the game, THEY WERE BEING GIVEN OUT BY THE TEAM! These are marketing toys with hard plastic pointy corners that scroll open. Like something you could poke someone with.
And the towels, the fucking Redskins towels, I grabbed two, one for each of my older kids and had to do it stealthily because they would not give one to my game partner who was in an Eagles jersey which is just asinine, he paid for his ticket too and should be entitled to schwag, I have been to every Redskins game in Philadelphia for a decade and when I roll in wearing my Santana Moss jersey they give me the towel or the gamecard the same as everyone else.
You want to know a hassle that made my game experience unpleasant? The first five times the lady in front of me whipped me in the face with her Redskins towel I ignored it, then for the rest of the game every time she was on her feet I had to put my hand up over her head so she would not whip me with it. There is a reason we do not have stupid traditions like waving towels.
Attacking the fans never works, there are many more of them than you and they will harangue you until you simply realize the only way to get through this time if you are inside the bunker is to shut the fuck up and let it pass, even if that takes a year.
At the same time the team as an organization opened a second front, this one against the media, in particular the Washington Post, the flagship chronicle of the Redskins now for seventy years. In a Monday front page piece on anecdotal evidence of declining Redskins fan loyalty in the region, Redskins general counsel and chief operating officer David Donovan was quoted thusly:
I think the relentless negative coverage in the Washington Post is a real difference from previous years. But in terms of the way our actual fans are behaving, we don't see any difference.
Laughable. But wait it gets better. In a radio interview last week with Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise, the same David Donovan, obviously sent out as an attack dog proxy for Dan Snyder, said the Washington Post is just out to sell newspapers which is why negative stories appear in the paper every day and that the paper treats sports like politics, whatever that means. He even channeled Don Rumsfeld when discussing the notion that there was one or two t-shirt incidents and that by the time they are repeated it has become hundreds of incidents.
You may remember as the Iraq National Museum was being sacked at the outset of the Iraq invasion Don opined that we were not in fact seeing looters openly come out of the museum again and again with new artifacts but rather that we were seeing video of a single vase being stolen again and again to the point where we came to believe there were hundreds of artifacts being looted. Which of course there were. It should be noted that Vinny Cerrato himself channeled Don Rumsfeld just two weeks ago.
So I have no doubt in my mind that team management thinks Dan Steinberg and all of his harsh coverage is the problem, not even thinking for a moment that poor performance on the field followed by poor management execution in a town full of smart football fans is what initiated the scrutiny of coverage in the first place. If harsh coverage were not permitted, would the Redskins ever have motivation to improve?
And to add injury to insult, the team has banned media interviews with fans on stadium property, specifically on camera interviews involving trucks of some sort because they tie up traffic, so in other news the team is now all concerned about traffic.
It is the most absurd notion that the Washington Post or any media outlet, including this one wants to see the Redskins go under or be bad. When the team is good the coverage is good. Anyone else remember the Bandwagon and the breathless coverage of this team in the really good Joe Gibbs years? When the team is medium, as it was for most of Norval Turner's tenure, the coverage is medium and when the team sucks the coverage is harsh, HEY YOU GUYS THE COVERAGE FOLLOWS THE PERFORMANCE AND THE FAN REACTION TO THAT PERFORMANCE! REDSKINS FANS HAVE VERY HIGH EXPECTATIONS AND ARE FED UP WITH POOR MANAGEMENT OF THE TEAM!
If you want a quick path to intense scrutiny of coverage, just keep sucking, keep abusing fans and the media and keep not being able to keep your stories straight on the rules and let's see what happens.
A friend pointed me to a New Yorker piece on the Redskins from Monday, written by a columnist there who grew up a Redskins fan but has given up his season tickets, he wins the prize for most far out there metaphor, I leave you with it and no further comment:
The [problem the fans have] is not the team’s performance on the field, dismal as that is. It is the culture created by the owner—one of greed, expediency, and mean-spiritedness. The general atmosphere around the team suggests Zimbabwe—a failed state, an intractable dictator, and an impotent and suffering populace.
Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato: AP photo from here.