In 1969, Dave was a VISTA volunteer living in McKeesport, Pa. That year, he visited New York City for the first time. He stayed for a few weeks, touring the city and crashing with friends in Queens and Flatbush.
What difference could one misplaced Minnesotan make in a city of 8 million? Well, that fall, the Amazin’ Mets won the World Series. In January, the Jets had stunned everyone by winning the Super Bowl.
Could it be that, just as homeopaths believe an infinitesimal dose of a medicine diluted in water can create a miracle cure, a little bit of Dave goes a long way?
“Ten years later, in 1979, I moved back to Pittsburgh to go to grad school,” Dave said. “In January 1979, the Steelers beat the Cowboys in the Super Bowl.” That same year, the Pirates won the World Series.
Fast forward a decade. In 1989, Dave moved to Kalamazoo, Mich. That year, the Detroit Pistons won the NBA championship, and the Michigan Wolverines were NCAA national champs in basketball.
“I think it really struck me after being in Michigan and looking back over the years that ended in 9,” he said. He was a human rabbit’s foot.
Dave’s work then took him to Des Moines.
“There weren’t any major league teams in Iowa in 1999, but the Des Moines Dragons in the International Basketball League won the championship, and the Iowa Barnstormers were division champs in Arena Football,” he said. (Hardcore AFL fans will recall Iowa lost in the playoffs to eventual champs the Orlando Predators.)
Dave moved to the Washington area in 2001. (He lives in Silver Spring.) Now here we are in 2019, another year ending in 9. The Mystics just won the WNBA championship, and the Nationals are leading the Cardinals in the NLCS.
“You heard it here first: I predict the Nationals will win it all, and I have the record to prove it,” Dave said.
But, Dave, you were also living here in 2009, when the Nats went 59-103 and the Redskins went 4-12. What went wrong?
“I’ve been trying to figure that out,” he said. “I definitely missed that decade. I wasn’t much help.”
Perhaps that was the exception that proves the rule. In any event, Dave is pretty sure how things are going to turn out this year for the Nats.
“I’ve thought of franchising myself, selling myself to some city that needs some championships,” he said.
The ultimate sacrifice
What true fan of Washington football would not have been cheered by the banner towed behind an airplane above Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium during Sunday’s Skins-Dolphins game? It read: “Help Skins Fans Fire Bruce Allen!”
Of course, even if Allen, the team president, is fired, who’s going to fire owner Dan Snyder? The only hope I see for the hapless team is if Snyder fires himself. Could it happen?
When Snyder bought the team in 1999, newspaper profiles focused on how he’d grown up adoring the burgundy and gold, how he went to his first Skins game at age 7, how his mother would make “Redskins chili” to serve to Dan and his friends when they watched games on TV, how he proudly wore his Skins belt-buckle to school. He was, it seems, someone who loved the Redskins.
Alas, we sometimes hurt the people we love the most. We desire someone so much that our love becomes obsessive, destructive. We micromanage their lives. We get suspicious. We lash out. We sign Albert Haynesworth.
Even Snyder must realize there’s only one common denominator in the team’s abysmal performances since 1999: him. If Snyder really loved the team — loved the team rather than loved owning the team — he would sell it.
That’s what happened to another beloved (and occasionally maligned) Washington institution. The Meyer-Graham family had been connected to The Washington Post since 1933, when Eugene Meyer bought the paper at a bankruptcy sale. For decades, it was a journalistic and financial success. Then came the Internet. The newsroom was downsized. Bureaus were closed.
In 2013, Meyer’s grandson Don Graham and great-granddaughter Katharine Weymouth sold their beloved Post to billionaire Jeff Bezos. It was the only way for it to survive. To put it another way: For Don so loved The Post that he sold it, that whosoever readeth the paper should have everlasting news.
For Dan Snyder, the question boils down to: Would you rather own a losing team or root for a winning one?