By Mike Wise
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Unless a player is severely injured, there is no reason to feel abject pity at a pro football game. No one is going home hungry. Everyone who participates -- owners, general managers, players -- are over 18 years old. There are no victims, only volunteers.
And yet I couldn't help but feel sorry for the Washington Redskins on Monday night. I couldn't help but feel bad for Jason Campbell when an errant snap never even got to him on a fourth-and-goal play in the final minutes of another galling loss.
It was such an unsightly scene on national television, their dirty Ashburn laundry aired out in millions and millions of American living rooms.
It's one thing for the local franchise to get its comeuppance after living off of yellowed newspaper clippings for so long, to be chided for lousy management, to see some of their last-hope legions give away tickets.
It's quite another for the entire country to see this meltdown of monstrous proportion.
In the schadenfreude spirit of any good reality show, the main characters are so pitiful and pathetic that even the most depressed and downtrodden viewers begin to feel good about their own lives.
Jim Zorn, the powerless figurehead of a coach who was ordered to give back his whistle and playbook this week, runs his hand through that shock of brown hair like a man on very borrowed time.
Campbell, the run-for-cover quarterback sacked six times, treated by his employers as if he smelled bad in the offseason, benched by his coach a week ago, unable to find a rhythm or his confidence when he needed it most, in a game that was essentially the last hope to salvage much of anything -- his dream of being the Redskins' quarterback of the future is dying with each snap.
Sherman Lewis, the sage plucked from a senior-citizen Bingo parlor a few weeks ago -- the same Detroit parlor filmed and poked fun of on "Monday Night Football." It seemed funny when we made the jokes a week or so ago. Until he began calling plays instead of Bingo games at 67, until no one was going home happy or with a prize.
Now, with America laughing, it just feels like piling on. I'm so over constant excoriation, of figuring out different ways to bludgeon the front office or the owner or the players.
Look, it's hard to play watchdog when there is no one home. How does anyone torch a castle that isn't a castle but merely a structurally unsound, two-room tenement that went into foreclosure about a week ago?
I'm beyond pointing out DeSean Jackson, who danced in the Redskins' end zone twice, was drafted after Devin Thomas in the second round.
In a week in which Chris Samuels may very well have decided it to call it a career, on a night when Chris Cooley broke a bone in his right ankle, when Campbell just looked like poor Patrick Ramsey, circa 2003, when Antwaan Randle El fumbled a punt and not even Greg Blache's defense could keep it close, something else is starting to take shape.
Castigation is about to take a backseat to morale-building compassion.
The truth after what happened against the Eagles? I just want the Redskins' last days of 2009 to be good, healthy days, where everyone spends enough time with their loved ones before it's over.
I just want to send them all away to the Adirondacks for a week. Give them a warm bath, made up of herbal salts, preferably eucalyptus and lavender. Wrap them in flannel blankets on lawn chairs. Put a warm compress of lemon balm on their foreheads. Chamomile tea. Lots of chamomile tea with a bowl of farina.
Pine-scented candles. John Tesh CDs. Comfort food like mashed potatoes and tapioca, something easy on the stomach.
They deserve something soothing to ease the pain of the next nine games, to brace for the post-mortem of their season seven weeks into the season.
It's a bye week, all right.
Goodbye to the NFC East, goodbye to respectability, see ya in 2010.
In late October -- not the last week of December -- the Redskins' season disappeared from the landscape on Monday night. It went quickly, in the first quarter, in the time it took for Jackson to take a reverse handoff 67 yards, right past a deer-in-the-headlights Chris Horton, to the end zone for Philadelphia's first score.
This was Washington's bellwether moment, its night to prove the Redskins were better than a 2-4 nightmare out of the gate. When the Giants lost their second straight to Arizona, the NFC East was no longer a coronation.
With all their disarray and dysfunction, a suddenly beatable Eagles team could become their balm.
Within seconds, their last bastion of a self-respecting football unit, the defense, was fooled by a simple Andy Reid gadget play. Sixty-seven yards down the left side.
Just like the season.
Sometimes, as the quiet stadium empties and the masses shuffle out meekly, it feels like the fight song is all they have left.
"Hail to the Redskins" blares through FedEx Field's speakers as a nostalgic montage of black-and-white photos and faces appears on the video boards. The good and loyal fans, the people who now pay for memories more than a game, stand in unison. They sing and pump their fists to the heavens. For a few brief moments the last line of those lyrics -- "Fight for old D.C.!" -- almost transports them back to Pleasantville.
In the black-and-white celluloid of their mind, times are still good. They're at RFK. A vendor in the stands trades them his Carnation Malt for their $1; they don't have to fork over a $10 to Johnny Rockets and hope for $2 in return. Sonny is still the quarterback and Sam is the linebacker, instead of good-natured, "in-my-day" curmudgeons in the radio booth.
But the thimbles and the drums and horns inevitably stop playing, and what's left is the reality of 2-5, the reality that America had to sit and watch some of this.
This whole sad, sorry mess is not a local tale of a franchise gone rotten anymore; it's national news, almost as depressing as the real world.
Somebody turn out the lights. Clear the stands. There is nothing to see here, unless cruel humor counts. Unless the bizarre irony of U2's "Beautiful Day" playing through the speakers at the end oddly sums up this awful Monday night, this pitifully bad franchise.