I wrote this week that the Redskins deserve a bit more patience, and I actually do believe that. No one figured this franchise would go from disarray to excellence in two years, and promising teams in the recent past (2000, 2005) have been submarined by a lack of patience. Pro Football Talk just ran a poll about the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL, submitting six choices, and Washington didn’t make the cut. That’s just unimaginable progress.
But there are those for whom patience has little appeal. Count legendary WRC broadcaster Jim Vance in that group. After a commercial break this week, he noted how two of his colleagues had been going back and forth about Washington’s recent loss to the Giants, about the costly interceptions and the specific pratfalls.
“I’m sitting here going, ‘Puh-lease,’ ” Vance said. “I am sick of these dudes, quite frankly.”
“Oh, c’mon,” Eun Yang joked to Vance.
“I am. I’m sick of them. Yes,” the 74-year-old insisted.
“Oh, no,” Yang replied.
“For so many years [it’s been] ‘Wait till next year. Wait till next year. Wait till next year. Wait till next year,’ ” he went on. “I’m gonna be dead before these guys ever go to places in the playoffs again.”
Vance is no latecomer to the Redskins, of course. Read what George Solomon wrote about him in a book about the Redskins’ 60th anniversary, published a quarter-century ago.
One of Washington’s most popular television news anchors, WRC’s Jim Vance, went on the air one cold, winter night in early 1988 with a wish. “The Redskins play for the NFC championship against the Minnesota Vikings at RFK Stadium in two days, and I want them to win,” Vance said.
“I want them to win not so much because I like them as a team — which I do — but rather because of what it does for this region. It brings us together: black, white, young, old, rich, poor. When the Redskins beat the Cowboys to win the NFC five years ago, I remember people coming out of their homes and hugging each other, horns blaring, singing ‘Hail to the Redskins.’
“Nothing brings this place together like the Washington Redskins. So I hope they beat the Vikings and go to the Super Bowl and win that, too. If that makes me a homer, that’s okay. Because no city in the country needs the unity, even for one night, like we do.”
Well, there’s not as much unity in losing, apparently. And you don’t want to wait 25 years for happy hugs.
“You’ve read this book before,” sports anchor Sherree Burruss said to Vance this week. “You’ve seen this story play out.”
“Yeah, for about 30 years now,” Vance answered. “Twenty-five of them, anyhow. I’m sick of ’em.”
This is, in fact, a fair rejoinder to the calls for patience. It’s been 25 years since the Redskins won 11 games in a season, 25 years since they’ve done much of anything in the playoffs. That’s, what, a third of a lifetime? And if it’s the final third of your lifetime, asking for patience probably doesn’t do much good. Regardless of your age, if I promised you that the Redskins would win a Super Bowl five years after your death, would it make you feel good? Would you jump and scream and shout? Or, once you’ve gone to the great Burgundy Beyond, is the team’s performance sort of beside the point?
My equally morbid pal Matt Terl raised the same question last week, writing about the death of Chief Zee, and how he wouldn’t be around for any playoff runs.
“Even when sports cares about you, it doesn’t care about you enough to stop moving forward when you’re gone,” he wrote, and it’s true.
This is the case with the always-next-year Nats, with the window-still-hasn’t-closed Caps, and with the maybe-next-century Wizards, too. The only solutions I can think of are to care less about sports teams, to scream in anger loud enough to convince a local team to win, to hide under your covers, or . . . just to accept that there has to be some satisfaction in watching sports, even if you don’t get to see a parade.