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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fan's Voice: Hail to the Redskins!


This is the fifth installment of the Fan's Voice series of guest posts on Banshee Sports.  It's a series that allows folks who aren't nerdy enough to run a sports blog to have a public forum where they can proclaim their love of their favorite NFL team.  This post is written by Todd Smartt.

I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area when things were going well for the Redskins.  We had a hall of fame coach, we went to all kinds of NFC Championships and won a few Super Bowls.  As a young boy, I was given a Redskins football outfit (pads, pants, jersey and helmet).  And, I lived in a neighborhood with all kinds of kids my age who also rooted for the mighty Redskins.  All of this added up to the perfect age where a formidable football fan experience and superiority complex for the Skins could be developed. For a while I assumed every team had a section of men that dressed up like women and wore wigs and pig snouts.

(AP Photo/David Stluka)
The teams of the 1980’s and early 90's were made up of hard-nosed guys like John Riggins, Art Monk, Joe Theisman, Doug Williams, Dexter Manley (great football name), Charles Mann, Mark May (would you please just smack Lou holtz in the teeth?), etc ....  They were fun for me to watch because they won and they were on TV every week.  Not because I knew anything about football.  

I drifted away from the Skins for 2 years when my family moved to California and out of the local viewing area.  But then my passion was reignited when we moved back to southwest Virginia where the Skins were back in their rightful place on our TV set each week.  I drifted away again during college when the local networks were filled with nothing but Rust Belt teams.  For 4 years, I had to endure the stench of Cleveland Browns fans and the grey-skied ignorance of Steelers fans.  

Fast forward to adulthood when I moved to Charlotte (where I learned that banking attire was apparently preferred garb for football games).  The Panthers were in the midst of some good times and made a Super Bowl run my 2nd year there.  I teetered on joining the Panthers band wagon after so many years of failure and disarray in Washington (never-ending "transition period" of coaches, players, ridiculous free agency spending and a Jerry Jones-esqe owner).  But then I got to meet one of my idols -- Joe Gibbs.

Not only did I get to meet him, but I was involved with an outreach ministry to high schools kids with which he was also involved.  Needless to say, when he went back to coach a 2nd time I wept and peed my pants at the same time when I heard the news.  He's not on a pedestal in my eyes because I stopped doing that with athletes/celebrities after I realized that they are human with the same struggles as the rest of us, but I do respect him greatly. 

(Jason Smith/Getty Images)
Here's what I know about Joe Gibbs.  In addition to the outreach ministry, I got to interact with him in a variety of settings.  I got to spend time at his house, I got to know some of the fine folks at Joe Gibbs Racing, and I got to see him at plenty of race tracks.  One of the greatest moments of my life was when I saw him at the Rockingham Speedway.  I was there with my then-employer and now-father-in-law.  I had seen Coach Gibbs a few nights earlier at a fundraising dinner.  At that dinner, I was the main character in a skit that made him laugh.  When I saw him at the racetrack, Coach said, “Hey, Todd,” and then just started laughing.  My boss was not sure what was happening, because he did not know that I knew Coach Gibbs at that point. Then he kept laughing at me and said, “That was some funny stuff.”  My boss/father-in-law was not sure what to do.  I again wept and peed my pants at the same time again.  Shortly after that, I was given a Skins polo that Coach Gibbs wore during a game in his 2nd coaching stint. I only wear it during playoff games … which has been exactly once since it was given to me.  

But, it was not just about Coach Gibbs.  The team in that era had players who were easy to root for.  At that time Chris Cooley’s sports blog came out.  It was one of the first athlete blogs online (http://chriscooley47.blogspot.com).  It offered an inside glimpse into his personal antics and into the locker room before any of this social media stuff came out.  Captain Chaos is one of my favorite skins of all time.  But, he wasn’t the only character on that squad.  In fact, Clinton Portis was several characters all on his own.  During that era,
I was on the Skins site everyday to see if there were any new Clinton Portis videos.  Some of my favorites are Choo Choo and Napoleon Dynamite, but there are many classics.

A few side notes:

I love Dan Snyder, and I don't love him.  Fed Ex field sells out every game even when the Redskins are terrible.  But, that’s partly because Snyder sells an exorbitant amount of tickets to away teams each week because he knows he can make more money than keeping them in DC.  But I don't fault him for being a good businessman.  What I do fault him for is for meddling.  Would I meddle if I owned an NFL team?  Yes.  Will I ever own an NFL team?  Probably not.  Would I pay Albert Haynesaretoosmallforhimsworth $100 million?  Maybe.  I give Snyder credit for trying to make big off-season acquisitions, but at some point someone has to have told him that 2 or 3 of these "reaches" for greatness weren’t wise. Neon Deion?  Donovan McNabb?  It seems like more recently someone (hopefully his GM) has gotten in his ear and told him to write checks.  Period.  No meddling.  No favorites.  No ridiculous deals that will ruin a cap for 3 years.  

I feel for Browns fans, Bills fans, Raider fans, etc ....  Even though Washington has not been consistently good, at least we have been good enough to make the playoffs every once in a while over the last 20 years.  I really do feel for those who have to pour their heart and soul into a team that has no shot at winning a division, a conference, a playoff game or a Super Bowl.  

The Redskins’ future looks bright.  We made the playoffs last year.  Our star QB broke many ligament-type things in his knee to end the season last year, but he seems to be rehabbing well.  We are some $13 million under the salary cap.  We have a lot of young talent that seems to be playing more consistently.  And, we are the Skins.  Also, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is a Redskins fans.  And he's like redneck Jesus, so I take pride in the fact that we have that in common.

Lastly, would someone please tell Dallas that they are not America's team?  Is that just me?  And that they are truly terrible.  And that they should please keep Tony Romo forever because it means they will not be good.  

HTTR!

Banshee Sports is extremely thankful for Todd Smartt contributing this labor of love.  This is where I usually give out plugs and shout-outs.  But, Todd is a working man who usually uses his hands to make a living rather than typing things for the interwebs.

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