Being a fan of a team that hails from a different city than the one I live in has found me in tough situations throughout my life. OK, tough situations may be stretching it, but every time I tell someone that, yes, I am a Redskins fan, and, yes, I have lived in the suburbs of Chicago for the majority of my life, a skeptical glance appears on their face. What’s the big deal? Is there a big deal?
No, it’s not a big deal. People cheer for different teams in different cities; it’s normal, and it’s great for animosity in sports. But for me, it has caused irreparable damage to my fandom of my beloved Redskins.
You see, when someone roots for a team from a different city/state, that person is trapped in a double bind that is hard to escape from without damaging some of their fan hood. They are either a fair weather fan, the worst kind of person, I might add; someone who hops bandwagons so frequently he or she undoubtedly has no soul. They see no harm in rooting for the Patriots the entire season, then celebrating when Eli Manning hoists the Lombardi Trophy high above his head.
Then there is me. I am loyal to my teams, almost so much so that it is hazardous to my mental and physical well being. Never have my rooting interests conflicted, and I do find pride in that. I’m in another category of misplaced persons rooting for their favorite teams, yet it doesn’t really have a name for itself. For example, these are the different types of reactions I get when I tell people that I am, indeed, a Redskins fan, through and through:
This person, however keeping their composure, is utterly confused. Matrix like numbers are going through their head, trying to calculate the right reason a sane person would root for the Redskins. They try to think of something, anything, but alas nothing comes to them. You both stand there in silence, knowing that the person is conjuring any reasonable idea as to why you cheer for the ‘Skins. “Well,” I respond, “my Dad grew up in the D.C. area.” The other person tries to process the statement, but surely cannot, and then leaves the awkward encounter, still trying to figure out why that crazy person is a Redskins fan (he’s crazy BECAUSE he’s a Redskins fan).
The next reaction is pure evil, from someone who has never had to endure an over-involved owner who repeatedly kills any chance his team has of doing anything better than a last place finish.
It’s hard to put down on paper, but the sound is undeniable, a closed nostril grunt that, though not quite a laugh, is a sinister guffaw that is meant to torment. This person gets no pleasure when their team is triumphant; rather they get off on the demise of other teams. This person is a sadist; a creep whose little joy in life comes from seeing the Redskins score a touchdown in the final seconds of a game against Tampa Bay, only to see the Redskins botch the extra point, resulting in a one-point defeat. Simply put, this person is an asshole.
The third and final reaction that my rooting interest in the Redskins garners symbolizes everything about being a die-hard fan of a lousy team. Though it is neither oblivious to the situation or sinister, it is a one-word response that makes my body turn into jelly, searching for an answer to a near-impossible question.
“Why am I a Redskins fan? Well, that’s easy, my Dad grew up in the D.C. area” is what I say in response. And it’s over. The person wondering why my favorite football team is on the east coast gets an answer, and I’m satisfied because it’s the truth, my Dad and his family grew up in Silver Springs, MD in the 1970’s, back when the Redskins were a formidable team year in and year out; when Joe Gibbs was paving his way to Canton; when Joe Theisman and Art Monk and Darrell Green led the Redskins to NFC East titles and Super Bowl victories.
Every time I tell people why I’m a Redskins fan, I can tell my response is not exactly what they were looking for. The truth, in this instance, is not glamorous, but it’s the truth, nonetheless, and I hang my hat on it. And even though the Redskins have made a meager two playoff appearances since the new millennium, I continue to follow them week in and week out, watching their first game of the season with just as much enthusiasm as the last, even though it probably is meaningless.
Is it impressive that I watch every Redskins game year after year, or is my love and hope for a winning team too much for my sanity to overcome? I don’t know the answer to that question, but what I do know is that I love football and I love the Redskins, even if they deliberately crush my spirits multiple Sunday’s every fall. Also, I think I’ve finally found my follow-up response to the inquiry on my beloved Redskins:
“Well, my Dad grew up in Maryland, and he passed on his love of the Redskins to his first-born son.”
Incredulous inquirer: “That’s not much of a reason.”
“I’m glad you think my reasoning is ludicrous. How about this: Although they’ve never had any semblance of consistent success the past fifteen years, the ‘Skins just drafted a quarterback with a missile for a right arm and shifts so quick it looks like a gazelle is under center. He just won the Heisman trophy, has a cemented nickname already, and will succeed in the NFL, period. Does that answer your question?”
And with that, Robert Griffin III is my comeback to all naysayers. Thank you, RG3.