Feinstein: Redskins Fans Can’t Quit Team, Though They Wish They Could

John Feinstein

When I was in the fourth grade, my class went to a Mets game one April afternoon at Shea Stadium. The Mets were still awful—several years removed from the miracle season of 1969.

There were 30 kids in the class. I was the only Mets fan. The rest were Yankee fans or fans of whatever team their parents had grown up rooting for and quite a few were Cardinal fans, the Cardinals having won the World Series in 1964. Some didn’t care. They couldn’t understand why in the world we were going to baseball game.

The Mets were playing the Cardinals that day and went into the ninth inning with a 3-1 lead. This, of course, was unusual, especially against the Cardinals of Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Curt Flood and Tim McCarver—among others.

I honestly don’t remember the details, but the Cardinals scored three in the ninth and won the game, 4-3. I was crushed. I had spent most of the game lording it over the Cardinal fans in the group and talking about how this was the year the Mets were going to get good.

On the subway ride home, my classmates buried me with reminders of how bad the Mets were—STILL were—and would always be. I felt sick, humiliated and angry.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and I announced, “Okay, I’m done. I’m going to be a Red Sox fan from now on.”

This made a little bit of sense. I couldn’t be a Yankee fan—just couldn’t do it—and, when my family went to Shelter Island each summer out on the eastern end of Long Island, we picked up WTIC on the radio coming across Long Island Sound from Hartford and could also see Red Sox games on TV.

You get ‘em Yaz!

Except, I couldn’t do it. For a while, I pretended—but not for long. The Mets owned my heart and there was nothing I could do about it. Ed Kranepool, after all, is forever.

I thought about all this the other day reading my friend and colleague Tom Boswell’s column in The Washington Post. A lifelong Washingtonian who has lived and died with DC’s teams since he was a boy, Boz suggested to frustrated fans of Dan Snyder’s NFL football team that they just ignore the team and focus on Washington’s other professional teams—the Nationals, Capitals and Wizards, each of whom has enjoyed a modicum of success in recent years.

The Nats have made the playoffs three-of-the-last five years; the Caps always make the playoffs—although they haven’t been able to get past the second round since 1998—and AGAIN have hockey’s best record; and the Wizards, who have been mostly brutal for almost 40 years, have been remarkably competent this winter.

So, Boz said, focus on Washington’s winners! Of course, they aren’t exactly winners: the Nats have bombed out in the playoffs each time they’ve reached postseason—including 2012 when self-described baseball genius Mike Rizzo let an agent tell him he should sit his best pitcher out even though he was healthy.

The Caps have found a different way to lose every single spring—beaten by a hot goalie or a cold Ovie. The Wizards haven’t been in the playoffs often enough to worry about choking.

Still, Boz, who is the ultimate silver lining in every dark cloud guy, decided that the last DC-Danny’s debacle was enough.

In case you missed it, the team fired general manager Scot McCloughan last week after two years on the job. This came about 10 days after McCloughan was a no-show at the NFL combine and the given excuse was that he was dealing with the death of his grandmother.

His grandmother was 100. She had died almost a month earlier. That excuse made ‘the dog ate my homework,’ look brilliant. Bruce Allen, Snyder’s henchman/right-hand man kept telling people that the team still loved McCloughan and he would be back at work soon.

He may be back at work soon—but it won’t be in Washington.

This all took place against the backdrop of a completely blown negotiation with quarterback Kirk Cousins. A year ago,  after Cousins took Washington to postseason, the team could have signed him to a five or six-year deal with somewhere between $40 million and $50 million guaranteed.

Cousins isn’t Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers by any stretch, but he’s better than anyone else the team can hire right now. If he’s not among the top 10 quarterbacks in the league, he’s probably in the top 15. Which means he’s better than anyone else the team is likely to draft or sign anytime in the near future.

Apparently Snyder, who was still pining for Robert Griffin III—or perhaps Sonny Jurgensen—wasn’t ready to commit long term to Cousins. So, the team franchise-tagged him for just under $19 million. After he had another solid season, they still weren’t willing to cough up long-term money so they tagged him again, this time for just under $24 million.

In short, they will pay Cousins $43 million for two years when they could have paid him somewhere in that range for five or six years. And then, after next season, he will almost certainly bolt, leaving the team without a quarterback.

Snyder/Allen—they’re basically the same person; Snyder says ‘jump,’ and Allen says, ‘how high?’—are now trying to whisper to people that it was McCloughan who wasn’t certain about Cousins.

This is right up there with the grandmother lie. No team—repeat NO TEAM—commits to a contract with $40 or $50 million guaranteed without approval of the owner. The GM might recommend it, but it isn’t happening without the owner giving the go-ahead.

Cousins doesn’t have a long-term contract because Snyder doesn’t want him to have one. Many fans are willing to blame Allen. I’d be delighted to blame Allen too because he’s as bad a guy as Snyder, but the most important decision Allen makes each day is deciding what time to bring Mr. Snyder his morning coffee.

Here though is what’s worse. Incompetence can be excused up to a certain point—it happens. But cruelty is another story. Within minutes of McCloughan’s firing, stories—using anonymous sources of course—began to circulate that McCloughan had been fired because he’d been drinking again; that he’d shown up drunk in the locker room; that this was an issue for 18 months.

Question: if that was so, why didn’t anyone do something about it: get McCloughan to rehab; intervene if need be or, if all else failed, fire him months and months ago.

I have no idea if McCloughan is drinking again. But if he had been drinking for 18 months, don’t you think SOMEONE would have leaked it? Chris Cooley, the former player, who works for a radio station OWNED by SNYDER, floated the drinking idea weeks ago. Every day—or so it seems—he swears no one in Snyderville put him up to the story, that he was just ‘speculating.’

I happen to like Cooley and I think he’s pretty good on the air—especially working at a radio station that is 99 percent DC Danny apologists. He’s since apologized for what he said but, frankly, that kind of recklessness is pretty inexcusable.

But, sadly, it fits right in with the entire pathetic storyline of this franchise since Snyder took over in 1999.

Which is why I completely understand Boz wanting to believe that it’s possible to just say, ‘I don’t care anymore, I’ll just focus on the other teams in town.’

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked. I’ve known that since the fourth grade.

John Feinstein’s most recent book, ‘The Legends Club—Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry,” is now on sale in paperback after six months on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list.

His latest kids mystery is, “The DH,” and he is the author of “Last Shot,” which won the Edgar Allen Poe Award for mystery writing in the Young Adult category.

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