There is no NFL franchise in Schenectady, N.Y. Growing up almost exactly equidistant from Boston and New York City and about four hours east of Buffalo, I didn’t have a “home” team to root for. In the early 1980s, when I really started to get into watching football, my hometown had fans of the Giants and Jets as well as of “national” teams such as the Cowboys and Steelers. But in 1982, I got hooked — as a Redskins fan. As any longtime Redskins fan knows, there was just something special about that team, in that era. Even though I lived four states away, I felt like the Redskins were my team. I’ve been a die-hard ever since.
Being a young African American man, playing high school football — and playing quarterback — imagine how important Doug Williams was to me. I heard my father, who played HBCU football at Delaware State in the early 1960s, talk about Eddie Robinson, Grambling and Doug Williams, and I followed Williams’s career during his Tampa years and into the USFL. Picture my excitement when Joe Gibbs signed Williams to play for my beloved team. Someone I looked up to, idolized and had rooted for was going to be a Redskin. Thirty-one years later, I still have the Sports Illustrated cover from the week following the 1988 Super Bowl, with Williams, the MVP, adorning the cover.
These experiences, along with watching perhaps the greatest team of all time, the ’91 Redskins, always made it easy for people to understand why I was a Washington fan, despite never living in or near the area, even as an adult. People could understand why a cornerstone NFL franchise with a winning tradition and a highly regarded reputation was something worth rooting for.
My disdain for cold weather pushed me south, first to North Carolina, then to Atlanta and finally to South Florida, where I currently live. It hasn’t always been easy to stay connected, but I’ve been an avid reader of The Post and a member of team message boards and have downloaded daily podcasts of Washington sports radio shows.
To see the Redskins play, I’ve traveled to Washington, Philadelphia, Dallas, Arizona, Tampa and Memphis (when the Titans briefly played there) and have attended Redskins games when I lived in Atlanta and Miami. My closets have been littered with Redskins jerseys: Arrington, Bailey, Davis, Ramsey, Gardner, Orakpo and Griffin III. My identity is so closely tied to being a Redskins fan that, by my estimation, more than half of the gifts I have received as an adult have been Redskins-related.
But in recent years, it has become harder and harder to justify rooting for the franchise. Let me be clear: I don’t care what others think of my fandom. I have always been a loyal fan to the teams that I support. Until recently. I have completely lost faith and enthusiasm for this franchise. Based on some key decisions made over the past months — claiming Reuben Foster, throwing Williams to the media to explain it, ousting Brian Lafemina and his allies, keeping Bruce Allen as team president — I no longer think that this team, as currently run by Daniel Snyder, is worth supporting.
And so, just before the holidays, I did the unthinkable. I started seeing other people. Fed up with the Redskins, I decided to purchase 2019 season tickets . . . for the Miami Dolphins. I know their on-field results haven’t been much better than Washington’s, and they’ve had some off-field bumps as well, but I get the sense that the organization cares about its fans and that owner Stephen Ross wants to do things the right way.
My wife and I have a son who will be 4 this month, who is starting to be intrigued by the game. I wanted nothing more than to pass along my love of the Redskins to him. But I simply can’t at this time. Not with what team leaders are doing and the manner in which they are doing it. I can’t explain to him why it was acceptable to sign Foster. I can’t explain to him why good people who want to do right by the team are fired for thinking differently and for not being afraid to express their opinions.
I want nothing more than for the Redskins to regain their stature as a cornerstone NFL franchise. Nothing would make me happier than another Super Bowl run. If they start to make the right moves off the field to regain honor and dignity, I’m here for it.
However, there is a phrase that I’ve used for years professionally as it relates to my commitment to influencing people: “I can’t care more than you do.” The on-field product has been mediocre at best during Snyder’s entire run, but I at least bought into the idea that he cared. My faith in that is now gone.
It has become abundantly clear that I have been caring more about the Redskins than they care about themselves, so it’s time for this fan to get off the carousel.
John Little, 48, lives in Hollywood, Fla.
Read more Redskins coverage: