About 18 years later, Alexis Ohanian sold the website he co-founded — a little site named Reddit — to Conde Nast (the 2006 sale price was never disclosed but in 2014, Reddit was valued at $500 million). The first thing Ohanian did after the sale was upgrade his father’s season tickets at FedEx Field. Chris Ohanian said he got a call from the ticket office, saying, “your son has upgraded your seats” from section 437 to the club level.
He met with a sales rep during halftime of a Cowboys game later that month. During the meeting, Chris Ohanian noticed that several of the “Dream Seats” — the rows directly behind the field — were available. Since then, there have been four Dream Seats behind the visiting team side at every home game in Alexis Ohanian’s name.
“He loves the visitors’ side,” Chris Ohanian said, “because he can tell his ‘commentary’ to the visiting team.”
Before Sunday’s playoff game against the Packers, Alexis Ohanian hosted a tailgate in FedEx Field’s Orange lot, which he publicized on Reddit during Fred Smoot’s AMA session.
“I love you all,” the 32-year old Ohanian wrote on Reddit shortly before the game. “Get hyped. Bring the noise. My dad just dabbed for the first time, which I can only interpret as a great omen.”
The tailgate was set around the trunk of Ohanian’s 1999 Taurus, which has been re-painted as a “Skins-mobile” — burgundy body, white and gold letters engraved on the side, “Sean 21 Taylor” on the front. Ohanian wore an Alfred Morris jersey (“Is he going to stay? I don’t know!” he said. “Alfred strikes me as a kind of guy that you just want to find a place to put him in your team. I just want to see more of those home-run swings”) and he was accompanied by family members and childhood friends.
Ohanian, a Howard County native who now lives in San Francisco, frequently flies to Washington on fall weekends to catch Redskins home games.
“I come home and spend time with my dad [and] best friends from home since kindergarten, because it’s a chance to reset and get back to my roots,” he said.
He was 9 when the Redskins last won the Super Bowl, following the 1991 season. His early days as a fan included “some amazing years,” but he said “probably the most formative moment” of his fandom came in 2005, the year Reddit was founded. He said he was in Boston, four months into the Reddit experiment, when he got a phone call that his mother had terminal brain cancer. The next morning, he would fly back to Maryland. But that night, he and Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman, another diehard Skins fan, went to a bar to watch the Redskins play the Cowboys on “Monday Night Football.” He can still recite many of the details.
“Mark [Brunell] comes out and on a [fourth and 15], throws a touchdown to Santana Moss,” he said. “Dallas [punts] and they do it again. First and 10, Moss ran pretty much the same route and then we are up 14-13. It’s kind of mind-blowing. What people forget, though, is when Dallas got the ball back, [Drew] Bledsoe threw a pass to [then-Cowboys receiver Patrick Crayton]. He actually caught the ball and Sean [Taylor] hits him hard — and that ball goes flying out.”
Helped by Taylor’s defense, the Redskins held on for the 14-13 Monday Night Miracle.
“That was easily the worst day of my life, and just when I thought it was going to get worse because we were going to lose on Monday night, we came back and did something no one expected,” Ohanian said. “I will never forget that hit.”
A big Taylor fan, Ohanian has hung a banner on the 40-yard line by the visitors’ sideline since Taylor’s death. “I don’t plan on taking it down until we win a Super Bowl for him,” he said.
Ohanian also channels his Taylor fandom in strenuous situations.
“If I have to do anything that gets me anxious or nervous, I watch Sean Taylor highlights,” he said. “Seriously, if you see me on a flight, eventually I get tired of doing emails and I just start watching Sean Taylor highlight videos. I’ve got a half-dozen on my hard disk at all times — we are talking hours of footage, even college ones.”
The Redskins, of course, fell to Green Bay, 35-18, on Sunday. But Ohanian, like many fans, remains optimistic about the team’s future.
Sunday “was a tough loss, but we came a lot further over the course of this season than anyone — except for Fred Smoot — expected,” Ohanian said. “I liked that. With a full offseason of Captain Kirk, our coaching staff, and the team all together — as well as Scot McCloughan working his magic — we’re going to come back with something to prove next season.”
Sung Min Kim is a freelance sports and music writer and photographer based in Washington.