The Inevitable Annual Demise of a Franchise
It's only been about 15 minutes since the game ended, and I want to compose this while the feeling is fresh in my mind alongside the image of Tomlinson bursting through the Redskins depleted and defenseless defensive line.
Every season, the team finds a new way to break your heart. You have to really experience an August in Washington D.C. when the news officially stops, as everyone important goes on vacation, and the hype begins. Before every season, Skins fans are known to overhype, overpromote, and to overpromise on their team's abilities and talent. The expectations get raised as the season starts, and the team begins its classic climb toward mediocrity.
Ordinarily, it sets in from the onset, or close to it. But this year, this year was different. Three wins under their belt against worthy foes--Chicago, Dallas, and Seattle--and suddenly there appeared to be a team that matched the preseason promoting. even the skeptics among us somehow bought into the notion that over time the Redskins had turned things around and, flash, this may the season that they finally return to the playoffs.
But now they stand at 5-6, the season deflated like a giant M & M float colliding with a lamp post. I can't adequately describe the feeling of this city right now, having to endure three months like the Redskins just fed us. The team plays just well enough in the first three quarters of the game to take a lead, and just poorly enough to give it all away in one fell swoop.
Of course, you must credit the opposition for continually ripping apart the Redskins defense at its seams when the game is on the line. Opposing fans warrant the celebration that goes along with your team successfully executing a 4th quarter comeback, or daring to go for two against all odds, or punching through a hole for a touchdown run that attacks the jugular.
And, sure, every team has these memories, both good and bad. You win some, you lose some. But nothing quite like this. The constant switch of emotions that goes along with being a Redskins fan is unparalleled by any other franchise. All you have to do is look at the game today against San Diego.
A 17-7 late game lead. A 17-10 lead with 8.5 to go holding onto the ball. With 3.5 to go starting a drive that could break a 17-17 tie. Intercepting the ball at the Chargers' 30 with 2 minutes remaining, setting up what should be a Redskins victory. The announcers, at that point, even acknowledged that the Chargers were letting up in the secondary, essentially daring Washington to go for the score and leave enough time on the clock for their own offense to tie the game. The Skins were poised, in control, and had the Chargers up against a wall. A missed field goal later, we head to overtime.
It's the type of scenario that you always see the other team with, but rarely your own. Take the Seattle game when the Redskins tried to give away the game, eventually winning thanks to overtime and a late 4th quarter field goal miss. At the 30 you have to think the Redskins have this game locked up, merely worrying about subplots like clock management, eyeing the prize and a 6-5 record that would keep them in the playoff hunt.
It all fell apart somehow. It's what you come to expect. Roster and management changes don;t affect the bad karma that plagues this team year in and out. Only this year, the team fooled with your emotions more than usual. The NFL season mattered all the way until the 12th week of the season, when it suddenly all was rendered meaningless. All you can do right now is try to shake it off and move on with your life, reminding yourself it's just a game and you've lost nothing tangible, just the emotional attachment you have with your favorite football franchise.
When your team stalls on you, you have to respond by hoping that the entire league folds. It simply does not matter anymore. No more Sundays in front of the television. It's the time of the year when I have a lot of questions, repeatedly reminding myself that I know better than emotionally committing myself to this team, or this league. But when your team is 3-0 and winning, or 5-5 and playing a game with playoff implications, every game around the league matters. When you don't fulfill your end of the bargain though, and you drop to 5-6, who cares what the Viking, or the Giants, or the Panthers do, because your team, quite frankly, has fallen off the map.
So here I am, removed from the shackles that constrained me the past three months, with vivid memories of blowing three consecutive 4th quarter leads. I will haphazardly follow the NFL from here on out, paying attention only enough that won't result in me wondering what would have been had the team executed that one 3rd down conversion at Tampa or made its field goal attempt with 40 seconds left vs. San Diego.