Sports Sermon: Taking back the Redskins

October 2, 2008

I broke up with the Redskins years ago. Where the team once held a stranglehold on professional football in my lexicon of favorite franchises, there is nothing but an empty void, creating in me the rare American sports fan that is indifferent towards the country’s most popular league. But now, I want them back. For fear of sounding like a fickle fan or worse, a bandwagon jumper, I feel like I should explain myself.

I grew up in Central Pennsylvania: the brackish valley where Steeler fans flow into Eagles country. But in my hometown of Carlisle, there was always a small but strong pocket of Redskins supporters. Between 1963 and 1994 the Skins held their annual summer training camp on the campus of Dickinson College. Imagine living in a town of under 20,000 residents and being able to hop on your bike each summer to get a free, intimate look at a Super Bowl Champion football team. I defy anyone to resist becoming a fan under those circumstances.

But when the team left in `94 to train closer to its home base, I, like the rest of the town, was crushed. The team returned in 2000 at the behest of then-coach Marty Schottenheimer, only to be whisked away again at the whim of Steve Spurrier. Enraged and betrayed, I divorced my former team and began a decade-long NFL identity crisis. Until now.

The new-look Skins, led by head coach and likeable underdog Jim Zorn, are intriguing for a former fan. Quarterback Jason Campbell has as much an upside as any other quarterback in the league, and he looked as comfortable as ever in the West Coast offense last Sunday against the Cowboys.

But am I guilty of any crimes as judged by the Common Law of Fandom? If there is a tenth circle of hell in Dante’s Inferno, it’s for fairweather fans and bandwagon jumpers—two groups I want no part of. According to sub-clauses of Rule 19 in ESPN Sports Guy Bill Simmons’s laws of fandom, I am already in the clear. The rule states that you must stick with the team you choose forever unless they move to a different city, and that you cannot change teams unless there is no team in the town you grew up in and you move to a city where there is one (as was the case when I came to Georgetown). But that’s not enough for me, not with the specter of the bandwagon looming. On Sunday I watched the game with my roommate, a self-proclaimed Cowboys fan. Despite the fact that his own fandom is suspect—a Cowboys fan from Arizona?—I didn’t feel right heckling him or even openly backing the Skins in his presence. I’ve been heckled by the quasi-fan before, and I will never be that guy.

So perhaps I’m not ready to go buy a jersey (yet) or cheer them on (too loudly), but I’m paying much closer attention than I ever have. For now, Saturdays are for football and Sundays are for homework. But to be honest, homework can always wait until Monday morning.

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