You're Danny Snyder. You've been a fan your entire life, and now you're the new owner of the Washington Redskins. You're sitting in the owner's box surrounded by friends and family, watching your team demolish the hated Dallas Cowboys on Opening Day. By early in the fourth quarter the Redskins have scored 32 straight points -- and if not for a couple of fumbles inside the Dallas 5-yard line, it could have been a lot more! The score is 35-14. The Cowboys are road kill. You're Danny Snyder and you're having the time of your life. You're on your feet high-fiving everyone in sight.
You're Danny Snyder, and it's late in the fourth quarter. You're not high-fiving anyone anymore. Now it is Dallas scoring all the points. Your offense is like a chorus line; it goes one-two-three kick on three straight possessions. Your defense is gassing. As a fan you have seen this before. Boomer Esiason did it to the Redskins in 1996; he put up three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Now Troy Aikman is doing it. On the field, Brian Mitchell is watching and saying to himself, "It's like a nightmare. You see it dwindling away, and you don't know why."
You're Danny Snyder, and your heart is pounding. There's 3:01 left to go in the game, and Troy Aikman has to go 90 yards without any timeouts. The Redskins need to make a stand here, but the defense has wilted. Aikman is working the sideline passing routes like Johnny Unitas, moving steadily up the field while conserving precious time. You're Danny Snyder, and you see your defensive linemen jump offside four times in the drive. Mike Nolan's vaunted "attack" defense is attacking itself. Aikman finds Michael Irvin in the end zone, and the game is tied with 1:50 to go. On the field, Darryl Pounds is saying to himself, "They should have been put away long before this."
You're Danny Snyder, and you're preparing for overtime when Pounds delights you by picking off an Aikman pass. You get another gift when Kevin Mathis is flagged for interfering with Michael Westbrook on a pass Westbrook couldn't have reached with a ball-retriever. There are three seconds left in the game when the Redskins line up for the game-winning field goal from 41 yards out. Three teams -- New England, Tennessee, Arizona -- won games with field goals in the last eight seconds on Sunday. You're Danny Snyder, and you watch in horror as Matt Turk can't catch the snap and set it down. It's a calamity. The ball bounces around a while until kicker Brett Conway picks it up, and "Garos" it. Afterward, as Matt Turk and his older brother Dan, the long snapper, walk hurriedly out of the locker room, Matt says, "The snap was catchable. It hit me in the hands." Closely following his brother, Dan is shaking his head, trying to take the blame himself, saying, "The snap was high and outside." The Turks are dressed and on their way out of the stadium quicker than second-story men.
You're Danny Snyder, and you're watching overtime. You see the Cowboys with third and two on their 24. Since the Cowboys have Emmitt Smith, the greatest clutch running back of the 1990s, you probably figure -- like everyone -- Aikman is going to stick the ball in Emmitt's midsection. Which Aikman does. Only it's a fake. Aikman takes the ball back, and hits wide-open Rocket Ismail for the winning touchdown. You're Danny Snyder, and this is what you said you felt at that moment: "It tore my heart out."
You're Danny Snyder, and you see things that have to please you. Your quarterback remains upright and throws for 382 yards. Your running back goes over 100 yards. Your starting wide receivers each go over 135 yards. Your offensive line gets the job done. You see a team with spirit and talent. But you also see -- as you have seen for many seasons now -- a team unable to make the big play when it counts, unable to halt its opponent when it absolutely has to. You see your team collapse. You see the defensive line self-destruct with penalties. You see the kicking team apparently unprepared for an onside kick, even though the head coach and the special teams coach reportedly warned them, "This is a perfect opportunity for an onside kick." Did they have their helmets on another frequency?
You're Danny Snyder, and you can see the people walking slowly up the aisles, muttering to themselves: How could we blow this game? And to Dallas. Just shoot me!
You're Danny Snyder, and you hear Norv Turner say after the game, "I have no doubts that these players are going to respond to this, and this team is going to have a hell of a year." You may have also seen him shake his head and say, "We need to finish people off." You don't need to be told that he has said these things many times, and the unease is that he's saying them again. However, you might need to be told that in all the times I have seen Norv Turner after tough losses, this was the grimmest I ever saw him. Even grimmer than the Boomer game. Even grimmer than last year's opener against the Giants, which the Redskins were dominating until Gus Frerotte threw those two interceptions, and in the wink of a young girl's eye the Redskins were on their way to 0-7.
You're Danny Snyder, and you fire people. Who you gonna fire? Norv? Mike Nolan? LeCharls McDaniel, the special teams coach? Dan Turk? Are you at least going to order Matt Turk out of the holder slot?
You're Danny Snyder, and people expect you to roll heads if need be. (I noticed my picture was taken down from the press room wall, and Wilbon's remains up. Was it something I wrote?) But when you go to the locker room and speak to your team after this devastating loss, you tell them it isn't the end of the world. It's just one game -- there are 15 more. Later, you say this isn't the right time to get down on people, this isn't the right time to be a tough guy. You say you liked a lot of what you saw. An hour after the game you even laugh when one of your partners, Fred Drassner, jokes, "We've lowered our expectations. Instead of going 16-0, we'll go 15-1."
You're Danny Snyder, and this is how they welcome you to the NFL?