“We care,” Jay Gruden said when Larry Michael recently asked Washington’s coach if he pays attention to what happened during the 2013 disaster. “There’s a lot of pride in Redskins Nation. In the locker room there’s a lot of pride, and nobody wants to go through that again. So we do have to look at what happened last year and make sure we do everything we can so we don’t have to relive that ever again.”
Mostly boilerplate stuff. But I was struck by his use of the phrase “Redskins Nation,” which has become increasingly common in recent years, both in team communications and in media dispatches. GM Bruce Allen uses it. So does Daniel Snyder. Jim Zorn used it, although Mike Shanahan and Joe Gibbs didn’t. Barry Cofield and Clinton Portis have used it.
“To Everyone in our Washington Redskins Nation,” Snyder began his letter to fans last fall, and the team has stuck with that phrase when defending the team’s name.
“It is essential for Redskins Nation to know what the majority of Native Americans really think – in their own words,” the team wrote in a press release last month. “We want Redskins Nation and the sports world to know what many Native Americans really think and why our name is their source of pride.”
“This has always been Redskins Nation, and Redskins Nation really runs on through the Carolinas, going back to when the Redskins were really the only Southern team,” Allen said during training camp in August.
“Redskins Nation, we dominated the Hall of Fame,” the owner said after the Monk/Green Hall of Fame inductions in 2008, according to USA Today.
“We’re just thrilled with [Griffin] as a person, what he stands for, as a Redskin, and it’s exciting for all of Redskins Nation,” Snyder said before RGIII’s first season.
Heck, the franchise’s daily program on Comcast SportsNet is called “Redskins Nation,” and has been for years. Perhaps it’s too late to go back.
My Brief Point
So this is it, then? The team, its fan base and its leaders have decided that “Redskins Nation” is officially a thing? And everyone likes it? And it isn’t going away? Because it still sounds tinny to me.
Now, obviously I’m not really a part of Redskins Nation, so it’s not up to me to decide. But the phrase feels so glaringly derivative of that “Red Sox Nation” stuff — a label many sports fans outside of New England seem to loathe. Washington could aspire to something grander. Something that doesn’t make you think, “Oh yeah, this is just like that other thing.” Something that doesn’t sound like a Stephen Colbert joke.
For example, “HTTR,” the now-universal code that fans use in conversation, on shirts and and posters on social media sites? Whatever you think of it, it’s entirely Washington’s. It refers to the fight song, it conjures up thoughts of the team’s distinctive marching band, it’s not always known to outsiders, but it’s embraced by fans and players alike. Even Natitude, for all its faults, is something that’s genuinely ours, something beloved by a huge number of fans, something that can work both for the ironic set and those with purer hearts.
A Brief History
“Redskins Nation,” on the other hand, does not come from here. The phrase doesn’t even appear in Lexis-Nexis until 2000, when it was used by a writer from Denver, who was criticizing Daniel Snyder’s new policy of charging admission to training camp. This was already five years after Dan Shaughnessy’s “At Fenway: Dispatches From Red Sox Nation” was released, more than a decade after Shaughnessy had embraced the “Red Sox Nation” bit in his Boston Globe columns, and nearly 15 years after the Boston Globe’s Nathan Cobb had first used it in print.
In the mid-2000s, though, the local media started running with Redskins Nation.
“One thing we learned from this week’s poll: It’s an angry Redskins Nation,” The Post wrote in 2003, when discussing Steve Spurrier’s tenure.
“The dispute lingers, leaving Redskins nation to debate the repercussions,” Jason La Canfora wrote in The Post in 2004, during a controversy over LaVar Arrington’s contract.
“Any loyal, dues-paying member of Redskins Nation is entitled to some couch time at this point in the season,” Dave Fairbank of the Daily Press wrote that same year.
“Redskins Nation is clearly running out of patience with Brunell,” the Washington Times’s Dan Daly wrote, also in 2004.
“As soon as the spots began airing on local channels this summer, they became the talk of Redskins Nation,” Dave McKenna wrote in a 2005 City Paper piece about Eastern Motors.
“A division title [is] at their fingertips Saturday in Landover against Redskin Nation,” the New York Post’s Steve Serby wrote later in 2005.
“Tuesday was a joyous day for the denizens of Redskins Nation,” the New York Times proclaimed in 2006, when Gregg Williams signed his extension.
“Washington is a basketball town, as well as Redskin Nation, and too many people in the District don’t care about baseball,” George Solomon noted in 2006.
I’m sure I’ve used it. I’m sure I’ve used it often. But I’m going to try to stop. Because it just isn’t very good. We can do better.
Anyhow, that’s my opinion. But I honestly want to know what you think about Redskins Nation.