The Redskins have had a mediocre-but-not-terrible record over the past two seasons. They’ve had a number of impressive wins, and they employ a number of impressive players. There have been seasons when the Redskins were obviously embarrassing; 2017 wasn’t one of them. And yet longtime fans continue to express a perhaps uncommon level of dissatisfaction with the franchise and a perhaps uncommon level of apathy.
Maybe this is just a case of social media making it easier to see such unhappiness. Maybe our modern era provokes quicker and more extreme reactions, in NFL fandom as in everything else. Or maybe the culmination of years of pain have indeed made this team’s relationship with its fans more tenuous than it was a decade ago, making a 7-9 season feel far more depressing. Already this season, I’ve chronicled fans who gave up the family’s season tickets after generations and fans who were willing to give up pricey seats for a candy bar. After Sunday’s listless finale, I ran across Jay Richardson, a 48-year-old (nearly) lifelong fan who unfollowed the Redskins on Twitter and followed the Steelers instead, and who changed his favorite team on ESPN’s site from Washington to Pittsburgh, and who wrote that “life’s too short” to stick with the Redskins, that “I have to change teams or quit the NFL altogether.”
“Hope my grandfather isn’t rolling over in his grave, but I can’t take anymore Dan Snyder football in my life,” he wrote. “Goodbye, Redskins.”
So, bearing in mind the first paragraph above, this left me curious. What follows is our conversation. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
What’s your history with the Redskins?
I’ve really been a fan for pretty much my whole life, I guess. I grew up in the Hampton Roads area, and my grandfather was a big Redskins fan — and lots of other people in the family — and I’ve been watching for years. When I moved up to Fairfax and lived there for a couple of years, I had season tickets until I realized it was no fun going.
You know how kids, when they’re impressionable, they root for a front-runner? When the Steelers were good [in the late ’70s], I kind of got on the Steelers bandwagon, until I realized that the Redskins were the team I should be rooting for. There were people that were way bigger fans than me, but I’ve been pretty passionate about the Redskins for a long, long time. When I go to the microwave, if I want to heat something up for 45 seconds, I press 44 and I say, “Riggo,” or I push 47 and I say, “Chris Cooley.” So corny. But there’s stuff like that.
I’ve got two boys that are 16 and 18, and when I think about it, the Redskins have been mostly bad in their lives. The Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were terrible when I was a kid; my kids and their entire generation think of the Redskins the same way now.
When did you start getting so disillusioned?
Oh, it’s been a long time. Like a lot of people, during the Snyder ownership I’ve not always been real happy. It’s been a long time coming. You put your heart and soul into being a fan. People want to be a sports fan to bring a little joy into their lives. And when you realize it doesn’t, you’re just like, “Why am I still doing this?” I mean, I still hold out hope that this thing turns around and it’s not a disaster every year, but they just never seem to take any steps forward. Just up and back all the time. It’s just a culmination of years of there not being a whole lot of fun associated with being a Redskins fan.
Obviously there are a lot of people who feel similarly, but it’s curious to me, because there have been far worse years than this one.
Oh yeah. I’d agree with that.
So why now?
I don’t know. I’m not really sure. Partway through the last couple of years, all my T-shirts and hats — and I only have one jersey now — I’d literally have them in a stack in my closet, ready to just get rid of everything. I can’t take it anymore. I don’t really know. I can’t pinpoint why right now. Part of it is the handling of the [Kirk] Cousins situation. I mean, I think he’s good enough to keep around, when you look around the league and see what you could have otherwise. I think he’s way, way, way better than many other options. And it just seems like if we’re not going to [keep him], then what’s this all about?
So what’s next for you?
I don’t really know. I’ll watch the playoffs. I’ll probably have feelings of disappointment that the Redskins aren’t there very often. It’s hard to just say “I quit.” Maybe I’ll just shut it off for a while. I don’t really know.
What’s the Steelers thing about?
When I was a kid, I had a Lynn Swann jersey. Like I said, I rooted for the Steelers. And honestly, now I enjoy watching them play. Mike Tomlin’s from my home town. And aside from the games that are always on Sundays — the Redskins and the Ravens — there are a lot of Steelers games on. So I figure, well, let’s watch some Steelers games and see how that goes. I’ve always kind of felt myself wanting them to win anyway, except when they play the Redskins. I’ve been an NFL fan for long enough that I still find the games interesting. I’m still an NFL fan. I’ll still watch [the playoffs], and I’m sure I’ll root for the Steelers, and we’ll see what happens.
So you’re not really positive that you’re done with the Redskins?
I just can’t take any more Redskins right now. It’s the time of the year. They’re done; I’m done. Unfollowing their Twitter feed, it was literally just like, “I don’t want to look at that crap anymore. I just can’t take it. I need a break.” Maybe I still love the girl, but I need a break.
But if next year rolls around and they start playing well, you could get back into it?
And that would make me look like a jackass. I don’t know. It’s hard to quit after 40-plus years. I don’t really know. But I can tell you: I think Dan Snyder’s not been good for the Redskins, and to continue to support him makes it hard.
Then how do I describe you? I can’t really say you’re done. Trial separation?
That might be accurate. My brother-in-law was bashing me, saying you can’t just change teams. He said, “Why don’t you pick the Browns? Or go straight for the Patriots?” I just told him why. I explained about being a Steelers fan as a kid, about Mike Tomlin, how you can watch them on TV. I’ve always had respect for their ownership. It’s one of the more solid franchises in the league, that people love.
Do you feel guilty about this?
No. Why should I? When I don’t get enjoyment out of watching it and getting behind the team, I don’t feel guilty about not wanting to do that right now. I don’t think it’s just me; I think everybody is so unhappy. … The whole thing doesn’t smell good anymore. It seems like the whole thing is poison, and has been for so long. And I think there are people like me that go back to their grandfathers’ generation, that were fans and just kind of grew up with it. But it’s not really enjoyable anymore. I still have hope that one day the whole thing turns around, and you’ll feel good about being a fan again. I have hope that it can return to its greatness — let’s put it that way.
You’re still invested then?
I think probably. It’s hard to totally quit. But I just can’t take it in my life anymore for the immediate, foreseeable future.
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