What happened to football as I once knew it?
By: Les Barnhart 
Posted: 2003-12-03
Category: Washington Redskins News
What happened to football as I once knew it? So much has changed over the years and yet, so much has remained the same. The trials and tribulations of being a Redskin fan have been documented before. The changes in the league, whether it is the salary cap, free agency or expansion, have also been documented and dissected. What really bothers me is that while the Redskins organization has been admittedly mired in more controversy than the last days of the Clinton regime, an overwhelming number of "fans" have done what many more feel is unthinkable. They have turned on this team like a rabid dog.

Now, I live in the middle of Steelers and Eagles country. If not for my brother, Redskin fans in my neck of the woods are simply not to be found. I have friends that follow a number of teams including the Bengals, Packers, Titans, Dolphins, Panthers, Vikings, Cowboys, 49ers and of course the Steelers and Eagles (though I don't have many of these). There are other teams that I have left out but my point is that we come from different angles when it comes to our teams. There was a time that the only time the Bengals, once a Super Bowl team, were atop their division was if you looked at it upside down. Now they are again seemingly headed back to the top or at least are in the right direction. The Dolphins? Their late season swoon should start any time now and their fans will admit they start holding their breath once this time of year rolls around. The 49ers? If ever a team was in worse shape than our Redskins, it is them. The Steelers have thrown just about everybody than can under the bus (not that one) this season but that is because are panicking and on top of that, their domination of Ohio has come to an end. And the Eagles? Hell, they even boo Santa Claus off the field. There is no helping them.

My grandmother used to tell me that behind every storm is good weather. Well, if that is the case, the Redskins and their fans had better pack plenty of sunscreen. Of course, that means nothing to those who would rather turn their backs or heap the criticism on to a team that doesn't need anymore. This is one area that certainly has changed in my mind. Living here in Central Pennsylvania, you hear season after season of hope and tons of loyalty. No matter how bad the seasons go for either team, their fans support them with unwavering devotion. For the longest time, I thought all fans were that way. My brother and I were that way about the Redskins and all my friends were that way about their teams. Sadly, though I started to realize that an alarming number of so-called "fans" of the Redskins were only fans because the team was winning Super Bowls with the Hogs and Coach Gibbs. Hell, it is pretty easy to call yourself a fan of a team that dominates a sport like no other every has or will. But once their run was over and the bad weather settled over our nation's capital, those "fans" started to turn. It was slow at first, but after Daniel Snyder took over and the media started their quest to ouster the young owner, the uprising was born. Since then, every move has been criticized and analyzed to the point where the front office was being graded even on their moves in the restroom.

I have asked fans of other teams about Redskin fans and their seemingly overcritical views of their own team. I had hoped that my thoughts on this were being blow out of proportion in my own mind by a few encounters with Redskin loyalists. That theory has been proven wrong as it appears we (Redskin fans) are viewed on the whole as egotistical, spoiled fans that seem to fold like an accordion when faced with the normal tough times that come with being a fan of any team. That smacks of irony considering the team's performance the last few seasons. That doesn't excuse fans for giving off this attitude. I have never been more disgusted to be a Redskin fan as I am currently. The reason is not because of the team's performance on or off the field, nor is it the job being done by the front office. No. I am disgusted by the attitudes of those of you who like to call yourselves fan of one of the greatest franchises in all of sports but can not resist the urge to kick them when they are down.

I know what argument will be raised next; it will be the one that as a fan of a team you have the right to criticize that team, either fairly or unfairly. That may be true, but some may view that as a lack of loyalty to a franchise that gave us so many memories. I agree that fans have the right to question and discuss their teams but that needs to be done with an open mind. And how about throwing in a fair comparison once in a while. Things will never be like there were under Jack Kent Cooke and Joe Gibbs. That's what memories are for and for those who were able to enjoy those seasons, saw something truly special. Those days are over and the times have changed. Sadly, the most noticeable change has been the support this franchise has or should I say doesn't have.

While I realize that this will do little to change the views of those of you who seem to thrive on seeing this team struggle but for others, I hope you will take at look at the kind of fan you have become. Not only to other fans of other teams but especially to those who you share a special bond with…the Redskins family.


-Wingman

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