Big Issue: What’s Wrong with Washington?

Lot of big policy fish in the skillet these days. The health-care public option — is back after the lobbyists and other gasbags declared it DOA a week or so ago. The administration has declared swine flu a national emergency — but good luck getting the vaccine. And the Prez is pondering whether or not to send more American men and women into the dark hole that is Afghanistan.

Yet as I was circling the neighborhood this morning at 5 a.m. it struck me that none of these issues matters as much to most people inside the Beltway these days as this — What’s wrong with the Washington Redskins?

Let’s face it, the Redskins are in worse shape than the nation’s economy.

The Redskins (2-5) got thumped by Philadelphia last night for their third consecutive loss. The fans are booing team owner Dan Snyder as though he were a Wizard of Wall Street cashing one of the mega-bonus checks. And coach Jim Zorn has been stripped of his duties for calling plays — with a newly hired consultant, Sherman Lewis, now directing the offense. By the way, that seems to me to reduce Zorn’s role to the equivalent of being a piano player in a whorehouse. Nice to have around — but not essential. I digress. (And I apologize for lifting that line from someone/someplace that I can’t even begin to remember.)

Full disclosure: I could care less about the Washington Redskins. That’s true for pro football in general — except for in late December when the whether is foul in NE Ohio and the Pittsburgh Steelers are on their way to another Super Bowl ring. Then I’m in.

But people do care — about the Redskins and sports in general at all levels. For professional sports, not sure exactly why. Maybe it’s a sense of community, aligning yourself with others and caring about something that you are really not directly a part of. (That, by the way, separates for me professional from college and high school sports.) Maybe it’s social networking in real life — sharing experiences with friends, family, business associates and so on. Maybe it’s just a way to kill time in front of the tube or on Twitter.

But people take pro sports seriously — and the debates over the Redskins in DC and elsewhere these days are every bit as contentious as the now long-forgotten health-care town hall meetings.

For instance, here’s the take of Steve Hendrix, writing in the WaPo, “As Redskins fumble, some fans are saying, See ya“:

Dave Hoskins did something a week ago he had never done in eight years of going to Redskins games: He didn’t go to the Redskins game.

A self-proclaimed team “addict” for 30 years and part of a season-ticket group since 2001, the Bethesda contractor woke up Sunday, looked at the likely poor weather and the likely worse game and just bagged it.

“Last weekend was the first weekend I decided to do something else,” he said. “I watched most of it on TV, but I wasn’t going to sit through that misery.”

In most cities, a few thousand fans skipping NFL games during a bad season wouldn’t be remarkable. But in Washington, the empty seats reported recently at FedEx Field have raised a question long unthinkable in Redskins Nation: Are significant cracks appearing in one of professional football’s most rock-solid fan bases.

OK. I don’t have a solution for the Redskins here. Maybe they are too big to fail — and warrant a federal government bailout.

But if that plan does start to emerge, I only ask that the DC pooh-bahs consider that things may in fact be worse outside the Beltway.

Anyone watch the Cleveland Browns lately?



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