“U.S. bound. Dubai-Atlanta, 15 hour flight. 3 weeks of friends, family and @Redskins Training Camp!!!” Mike Justice posted on Twitter a few days ago, while at the airport in Dubai.
The Redskins soon wrote back, which eventually led to a private conversation. Justice told the team’s social media handler that he would be in Richmond for the first two days of training camp; he was told in return to stop at the photo locker tent when he arrived at the team facility.
Then Justice and his brother were given VIP passes and ushered to an unoccupied tent between the media tents for ESPN 980 and Fox 5. “Their” tent is just a few feet from one of the team’s practice fields, and from the walkway players use to get from the facility to the fields and back. If you’re going to plan your trip from Dubai around the Redskins’s training camp schedule, you might as well get a decent view.
Oh, plus free drinks — staffers soon wheeled a giant cooler and a box of snacks into Justice’s tent, which he’s sharing with his younger brother Tony.
“I mean, millions of fans, 300,000 followers on Twitter, and they picked me out and really gave me the hook-up for a couple days,” Justice told me between practice sessions. “Very cool. I was coming to camp anyway; I expected to be out there [with the masses], and I was okay with that. For them to do this, it’s very fan-friendly and interactive, that’s for sure.”
Next you’re probably wondering why Justice flew from Dubai to the United States for Redskins training camp. Fair question. The 40-year-old Virginia Beach native works for a German telecommunications company; he actually made it back to the States for last September’s opener against the Eagles. (Before that, it had been nearly four years between visits.) He wanted to arrange another Redskins-related trip this season, but his work schedule wouldn’t cooperate.
So he was coming to America to see family and friends over the summer, and he realized that by focusing on the end of July, he could satisfy his football urges.
“If I’m passing through, I want there to be something for me to do team-wise: A game, a preseason game, training camp,” he said. “I always want some connection once a year when I come.”
But why? Same thing you hear from so many others: It came from his dad, from family events that revolved around the football team, from moving to Louisiana for a few years as a kid but still not caring about the Saints, from years of waking up in the middle of the night to watch games overseas — ” at whatever dark:30 in the morning,” he said. Both brothers recalled with a laugh how angry — or “passionate,” maybe — their father would get during Redskins games when they were kids.
“We just got that fire, that burgundy and gold blood in us,” Mike Justice said.
“Since we can remember, that’s all it is to us,” Tony Justice, 33, agreed. “That’s our team. We’ll never change, never jump on a bandwagon. And I don’t want to see the name changed. A losing season? Just to see this uniform run out onto the field, it doesn’t matter if it’s a losing season. Of course I get upset about it, but that’s how much the team means to me, just seeing them out there playing.”
So Mike Justice came to Redskins camp and did multiple media interviews. The brothers are staying in the team hotel; they’ve exchanged greetings with Jay Gruden, watched the players departing for work. He took a photo of LaVar Arrington’s reserved parking spot at Arby’s, Griffined inside the facility, bought a football for autographs, and reaffirmed that he won’t stop rooting for this team, even while living half a world away.
“Oh no, never. Never never never. Never give it up,” he said. “I mean, this is your job. You see these guys interact all the time, you’re close to them. I watch them from eight time zones away. And then to be a stone’s throw when they’re walking out?…Just to be in that zone, that atmosphere, it’s cool. If I can do something like this once a year, I’m happy.”
— Mike Justice™ (@MikeJustice74) July 24, 2014