It used to be easy to excuse poor attendance at Redskins games. Bad seasons and a bad owner had decimated interest: Instead of a waiting list of 200,000 to buy season tickets, there were 30,000 fans in the stands, sometimes outnumbered by the visiting team’s supporters.
But the Redskins are 6-3 for the first time in 10 years. They’re not always pretty, but they have a pretty good chance to make the playoffs.
Yet cornerback Josh Norman said Sunday after a 16-3 victory in Tampa that he’d rather play on the road. He blamed “keyboard warriors” who too often jeer the team both online and from the stands.
Indeed, FedUp Field has become one lonely place.
With the Capitals hoisting a championship trophy in June and the Nationals luring 2.5 million fans each summer, the Redskins are no longer the hot ticket in town. They haven’t really been for several years. It just took that long for management to admit it.
But it’s time for fans who surrendered their longtime loyalty to return to FedEx Field. If not now — with the team two games ahead of Dallas and Philadelphia in the NFC East — then when?
Otherwise, this will no longer be a Redskins town. For nearly a half century, the football team was often the capital city’s only unifying force.
Norman is a relative newcomer to Washington with just 2½ seasons here. He doesn’t understand why loyalty is no longer blind, and he’s also immune to the team’s newfound marketing efforts.
Norman didn’t endure nearly two decades of awful teams and mismanagement that finally broke the fan base. He hasn’t endured an 87-85-1 record at the old Big Jack, where too many crowds never returned after halftime to see an ugly defeat concluded.
This breakup was long in coming, and reconciliation will be achieved only through winning. Maybe this isn’t the year that starts another Super Bowl streak, but at least it’s a football team nowadays instead of a way to sell jerseys and beer.
Whether Norman is happy to play at FedEx is irrelevant. He was a high-dollar free agent who came for the money.
What’s important is that the Redskins seize the chance to replace fans’ infatuation with fantasy teams, sports betting and luxury seats with the simple satisfaction of beating an opponent.
Maybe Washingtonians are willing to judge the Redskins once more Sunday — against the 6-3, AFC South-leading Houston Texans — by returning to FedEx. Perhaps players, 3-2 at home this season, will continue to provide a good reason to put up with the high prices and traffic.
Because if the strained relationship can’t be repaired through success on the field, it won’t ever be fixed.
Read more from Rick Snider: