Redskins fans cheer win over the Vikings Sunday (Ricky Carioti/Washington Post).

 Dear Redskins,

Let me introduce myself: I’m your newest fan. Don’t get too full of yourselves; you didn’t do anything to earn my fandom. I’m becoming a fan for reasons beyond anyone’s control. Let me explain.

Two Sundays ago, my brother-in-law Pat died. He was 36. In addition to being my sister’s husband, he was also my best friend. He was a lifelong Redskins fan, and he passed away shortly after your loss to the Falcons. Don’t feel that you let him down in his last moments, though; you were still coasting off good will built up during the first Joe Gibbs era.

Pat had two boys, aged two and ten months. He had big plans to turn them into Redskins fans. He was able to keep both boys in size-appropriate Redskins jerseys by snagging them at half price every time a player was cut. His boys now have closets full of Donovan McNabb and Ryan Torain jerseys, but no father.

That’s why I’m a Redskins fan: because Pat would have wanted his boys to be Redskins fans. As one of the few male figures in their lives, I have more say in that than anyone. I’m coming to you from the Bengals, whom I dumped with great glee. Dissing the Bengals – who haven’t won a playoff game since the Reagan administration – was the only moment of joy I’ve had in the past week. I broke up with them via seven page fax; the first page was just a big “F”.

This is an arranged marriage, but I’m coming into it with a positive attitude. I’ve already bought an RGIII jersey and called Verizon to add NFL Couchbound Sunday (or whatever it’s called) to my cable package. But I have expectations for you, as well. You will be playing a role in these boys’ lives, so let me spell out my hopes and expectations.

Try to keep the felonies to a minimum. I’m not naïve enough to expect any group of 53 testosterone-laden, 20-something millionaires to stay completely out of police reports, but if you could avoid crimes that involve guns, hard drugs, violence against women, or anything that might inspire an episode of CSI: Special Victims Unit, that would be great.

Don’t win too many games. One of life’s most important lessons is that things don’t always work out the way you want. This is why my parents signed me up for Little League: they wanted me to learn how to fail. I did fail (turns out I’m quite gifted at failure), and that skill set has served me well in adult life. The boys need to learn: sometimes, you lose. You have been doing a bang-up job in this department recently.

But please do win some games. If you don’t ever win, the boys will learn – incorrectly – that life is hopeless and bleak. They will also learn – correctly – that their uncle is a petulant whiner. Maybe some day you can even win a Super Bowl, though I’d prefer that you wait until the boys are old enough to remember it. But that should work out because from what I can tell, your path to the Super Bowl is at least a five year plan.

Maybe think about changing the name. I know this is a touchy subject and that it has been debated to death, but my sister is teaching her boys that all races are equal and beautiful and I would prefer to stop buying them merchandise with a full-on racial slur on it. My suggestion for a new name: the Bullets.

Last Sunday, immediately after the memorial service, a bunch of us went to Old Town Alexandria to watch the Redskins beat the Vikings. It was my first game as a die-hard fan, and it left me with high hopes. I’m excited to jump on the RGIII bandwagon. I’m excited to buy the boys Billy Cundiff jerseys. And I’m excited to use football to teach the boys about failure and – hopefully – success. It’s what Pat would have wanted.

Your newest fan,

Jeff Maurer