“I’ve been a Redskins fan my entire life,” Steve Taylor said into his phone Sunday evening. “My dad played in the Redskins band. I’m genetically predisposed to like the Redskins. I am [bleeping] done. I’m done. I’m done. I’m walking to my closet. I’m going to burn [stuff]. That’s how done I am.”
This wasn’t an idle threat. Taylor began throwing Redskins stuff into a bag: a Jason Campbell jersey, four or five Redskins baseball hats, another jester-style hat, a pair of custom Redskins Nikes, five Redskins t-shirts, three Redskins koozies. Then he went out to his cast-iron firepit, coated the bag in WD-40, and lit a good percentage of his Redskins possessions on fire.
“This is my bag of Redskins stuff going up in flames,” Taylor said, in a second video, seen above. “I am gonna go play golf, I’m gonna hang out, [play] with my dog, I’m gonna get in shape. I don’t know. But anything else besides watch the Redskins. I am done.”
These are the sort of threats we hear a lot during failed Redskins seasons. Taylor, though, actually followed through with real live flames. So I figured I should get some more information on what’s going on here.
“I don’t see this as an annulment,” he told me Monday afternoon. “I see this as a trial separation. I’m all for them if things turn around. I don’t see them turning around this season. Maybe we just need a little bit of a break. … I’ve put thousands of my dollars into the Redskins, money I could have spent elsewhere. They’ve taken enough. I’ve given my emotion. I’ve given everything. I really do’t have anything to show for it, except some ashes in a firepit.”
In truth, the 45-year old from Silver Spring didn’t burn everything. He saved an RGIII jersey, because it was a gift, and an Art Monk jersey, because it was precious. He also saved a Monk autograph, for the same reason.
And Taylor’s fandom, indeed, covers his entire life. His father played clarinet in the band in 1964, Sonny Jurgensen’s rookie season. He had a Jurgensen jersey as a baby, played “pin the football on Billy Kilmer” at birthday parties, wore Redskins varsity jackets throughout grade school.
He had season tickets for a time, was in Dallas the day LaVar Arrington ended Troy Aikman’s career, went to Canton to see Monk and Darrell Green inducted into the Hall of Fame. He bought burgundy cars, got Redskins vanity plates. He couldn’t play fantasy football because he always drafted too many Redskins. His family members knew never to call him during Redskins games, and to give him a cooling off period after losses.
“My formative years, when you’re becoming a sports fan — all we were was good,” he said. “So I’m tainted. I can’t not like the freaking Redskins.”
There have probably been worse moments than a random November loss to Tampa Bay over the years, and Taylor isn’t sure why this particular one set him off. But it did.
“It’s not just one thing; it’s been building up over a decade,” he said. “Yesterday, the way it unfolded for me, I just lost it. I just couldn’t deal with it. I’ve got too many other hobbies. It ruins my Sundays for me, and I just lost it for about 90 minutes there.”
So he set the fire Sunday evening. When it was over, he drank a Gatorade, played with his dog, and started feeling a bit better. By Monday, when we chatted, he sounded perfectly normal. Just a rabid sports fan who had seen too much.
“It was just almost symbolic of the frustration,” he said. “Ryan Clark’s mad at the media, he’s mad at everyone — there’s a million people out there that live and die [with the team], and we’ve been here longer than you. I’ve been a Redskins fan longer than you’ve been living. So I care. … And I just kind of had it.”
Of course Taylor still gets happy when the team succeeds — he described his almost euphoric celebration upon beating the Cowboys earlier this year. It just wasn’t happening frequently enough. So he said next Sunday he might go for a hike with his dog. Maybe he’ll catch up on laundry. And maybe, eventually, he’ll be back. Although those burned t-shirts probably won’t be.
“Oddly, I was sad,” he said, when I asked what it was like to watch his stuff burn. “I was like, ‘they’ve driven me away.’ I’m just sad and disappointed….[But] I had to do something. It was either that or go through a fifth of Jack Daniels, and that was more work than my body needs to go through.”
— Maurisa Potts (@MTPotts) November 17, 2014
@dcsportsbog I didn't burn my Redskins gear, but I did donate all of it to Goodwill last week.
— David (@arbordraft154) November 17, 2014
— David Lord (@DLord1984) November 17, 2014
— Michael Zodda (@IceColdZodda) November 17, 2014
@lizclarketweet I think it has happened. Been season tix holder since 2004, record is 69-101. Cannot support any longer.
— David Heyman (@dcborn61) November 17, 2014