Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Experiencing the loss of hope . . .

Warning: This post is about football.

Anyone else try watching the Redskins last night?

I have never not watched the 'Skins. They were the only team in the South back in the Fifties, so they were the team my father and I watched Sunday afternoons in Greensboro, North Carolina, where I grew up. Pop had five sisters and two daughters, and in those more rigid times, this meant he had no go-to sports-viewing partner. I, the younger of those two daughters, was born rebelling against the confinement of "femininity." So I happily filled this hole in Pop's life.

My father taught me two things during those fall Sunday afternoons together. The first was the nuances of the game of football; the second, loyalty to the Redskins. For decades, no matter how personal, professional, national or global life might be going, I've always, always looked forward to NFL kick-off weekend full of hope for my beloved 'Skins.

The team was bought a decade ago by Daniel Snyder, Chairman of the Board of Six Flags, Inc. and owner of the Johnny Rockets restaurant chain. Snyder is a man who knows how to make money through marketing, not how to run a football team.

A decade later the team is in structural shambles;  its legendary fan base is disintegrating. It is also the richest franchise in the league.

Last night, I almost didn't watch. This was not because I knew the team was bad--we long-term Redskins fans have dealt with bad teams many times--it was that my Redskins have somehow been sullied by a decade of decisions driven by money. The team for me was no longer the guys on the field and the coaches on the sidelines, but those problematic (at least football-wise) suits, who sit up in their glassed-in luxury suite and think because they're rich, they can run a football team. The Redskins are a team whose soul has been crushed by the weight of cold, hard cash.

I turned the game off at half-time. I was simply out of hope. And to exercise our ability to hope is, after all, the main reason we watch football.

Okay, so right now I'm grieving the loss of "my" Redskins. So, what's the big deal?

Well, the big deal is that it scared me to experience the loss of hope even in such a limited arena.

It made  me feel as though I'd somehow gone over to the dark side. Hope in hard times is, after all, our main defense against hostile takeover by the evil forces of cynicism, negativism, and general skulduggery. The forces that can be bought.

Thank goodness the Redskins have a bye-week. I've got a week to rest up. A week to hope that hope returns.

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