After the trio chatted about their favorite NFL team via an ongoing group text throughout the 2020 season, Ross approached Shapiro and Devens about launching a podcast.
“I was so excited,” said Devens, a former Atlanta news anchor who finished fourth on “Survivor: Edge of Extinction,” which aired in 2019. “Washington Football Team fans are always looking for someone to share their misery with, and our text chain had accomplished that to a certain degree, but this way we could bring so many more people into the fold to suffer with us.”
In the debut episode of the podcast last week, Ross, Devens and Shapiro, a Herndon native who competed on “Survivor: Ghost Island,” recounted the worst moves of the Snyder era, from firing Marty Schottenheimer and replacing him with Steve Spurrier after the 2001 season, to signing Albert Haynesworth in 2009, to drafting quarterback Dwayne Haskins in 2019. “Survivor” legend “Boston” Rob Mariano then joined the show to share stories about his six appearances on the series.
“We want to be a Washington Football Team podcast, but the problem is you can’t talk about the Washington Football Team without getting into Dan Snyder,” Ross, who as a 12-year-old attended Super Bowl XVIII in Tampa dressed in camouflage “Riggo’s Rangers” gear, explained. “The one constant through all the losing the past two decades has been the owner.”
The Washington Football Team was recently fined $10 million for fostering a workplace culture where sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation were commonplace. While Snyder’s wife, Tanya, will assume responsibilities for all day-to-day team activities for at least several months, the league did not suspend Snyder, who bought the team in 1999.
In the context of “Surviving Snyder,” the Washington owner’s apparent imperviousness to being forced to sell the franchise by his peers is enough to make one wonder how he might fare as a contestant on the TV show.
“If Daniel Snyder was on a losing tribe and went to tribal [council] early, I think he’d be voted out almost right away,” Devens said. “You can’t have him around. If he’s on a winning tribe and he gets to the merge, then all of a sudden everyone wants to take him to the end. Everyone wants to be in final tribal against that guy. How do you lose to that guy?”
The podcast is intended to appeal to football fans, “Survivor” aficionados and the not insignificant number of people who enjoy watching people compete both on 100-yard fields and far-flung islands. Upcoming guests include The Athletic reporter Ben Standig and NBC Sports Washington reporter and 106.7 The Fan host JP Finlay, both “Survivor” fans. During the season, Ross plans to have “Survivor” contestants who are fans of Washington’s upcoming opponents on the podcast.
There’s been some crossover between the NFL and “Survivor,” with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Gary Hogeboom, defensive back Alan Ball and Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson among the show’s alumni. Former Cal kicker Tyler Fredrickson, who spent a few weeks with Washington during training camp in 2007, competed on “Survivor: Worlds Apart,” which aired in 2015. Devens, who now lives in Atlanta but grew up in Fairfax and remains a WFT die-hard, likened his fandom to his own “Survivor” experience in Fiji.
“You go out there and you just suffer and starve and all of this bad stuff happens to you for 38 days — 39 days if you’re luckier than I was — and then at the end of it, you don’t remember the painful times, you only remember the good times,” he said. “That’s what I’m hoping happens at the end of this Washington football journey.”
Ross is optimistic about the team’s prospects ahead of the 2021 season, even after two decades of disappointment and unrequited love during Snyder’s tenure.
“You cannot snuff my torch of hope,” he said, “no matter how hard you may try.”