If you would have asked Dan Snyder in August where he expected his team to be going into Week 14 of the NFL season, his doomsday scenario could not have matched this 3-10, they’re-all-going-down apocalypse.
He brought in a new coach, a man of apparent good football stock. The quarterback didn’t rush his rehab this time. He added the star receiver. My-way Mike was out. Jump-start Jay was in. More talent and depth were added to the defense.
It still went horribly awry — again.
Fifteen seasons after he bought the team, the owner must now know there are some things beyond even his control. From injuries to personalities to the luck of the draft, there are too many variables to pin every ill merely on mismanagement.
Almost 50 years ago, an American economist named Alfred Kahn described a phenomenon he called the tyranny of small decisions, in which a number of individual minor choices impact the context of subsequent choices, cumulatively having a significant impact.
Since coaching and playing games are out of his hands, Snyder uses his power and influence to focus on things such as the name of his football team.
His entrenched position on this issue has served not only to rally opposition from scores of Native Americans and their allies but also to further vilify his stewardship.
So given that on-field success is largely out of his hands, how could Snyder alter public perception of him? By being human — by not alienating other human beings. Snyder really wants to win. The one way he actually could is by changing the name. The NFL has many teams that are struggling competitively; only one chooses to put its fans on the unenlightened side of a social issue.
This is a final plea for Snyder to do what’s right — before his business partners, the courts or society does it for him.
Defending the team’s name has led to an enormous upswing in Snyder’s popularity among the loyalists, many of whom can’t stand anything else he does. But whether he realizes it or not, he is starting to lose ground, even on that front.
Many loyal burgundy-and-gold fans love the team but want the name to go.
Some are tired of having their credentials questioned by those who believe loving the name and the team are mutually inclusive. They feel cornered by the zealots, as if this is a red-state, blue-state issue.
Others want to keep the name but are tired of the money and time taken away from actually bettering the football team.
Just since August I have received more than 600 e-mails of tried-and-true fans who want the name to go, about 450 of which came after I put out a posting on Facebook and Twitter about the issue.
I heard from Dave Connell, who has a dog named Riggins and wrote, “Lifelong fan. Cheered for the Hogs, the Fun Bunch, the Smurfs, and the Posse. I hung my hopes on Theismann, Williams, Rypien, Johnson. . . .The name needs to change.”
I heard from Mindy Moretti, who wrote, “I will be at my local watering hole every Sunday to watch them, but until the name changes I will never spend a dime on tickets or merchandise.”
Bryan Pahl wrote, “I will always love this team, the game, and the incredible sense of community I feel with all our fans. I’m also a high school teacher and I can’t in good conscience keep [telling kids that this is okay]. This school year started just like all the others, this time just with one less pennant on my bulletin board.”
Dan Levine, who described himself as “an old-school fan” who does not want the name to change, went on to write, “But should it? My answer is, yeah probably. I will be distraught and upset, but I will at least understand it. On a human level, it would make sense to me. I would hate it, but I would get it.”
Chris Conlon has a tape of himself singing the team’s fight song as a 2-year-old and runs a game-day watch group in Boston, but he asked, “When are the adults going to say enough is enough? At a minimum, do it to change the conversation.”
Whether it’s rooting for a lousy team while its name is under attack or defending the name while the team is lousy, fans of this franchise are fatigued — so tired that many are ready to spend their energy (and time and money) on other things.
Snyder’s efforts to make Sundays better for these folks have failed. But he could improve Mondays through Saturdays. He could make it so sticking through the tough times didn’t mean having to reconcile memories of football games with dad and gramps with semantic arguments attempting to justify a slur.
For all the talk of curses and karma, the team’s play has nothing to do with its name and vice versa. But for many of Snyder’s customers, it’s all part of the same experience, and the experience is just plain depressing right now.
At the end of the day, no one is going to stop permanently rooting for this franchise once the name is changed. But the longer Snyder fights the issue, he will lose more fans — even among his base, which he believes is the only faction he really needs to hold on to it.
It’s not too late for Snyder to have a change of heart on this matter. It’s not too late to use the control he does have to change his legacy as this franchise’s owner. It’s not too late to win where he can right now and wait for the other winning to happen eventually.
For more by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.