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Redskins: Up in Flames

McNabb's jersey, before the fires.

I'm choosing to pretend it's still 12:15 pm on Sunday. The Redskins are still favored to win, it's still sunny and warmish, Rick "Doc" Walker is still calmish, an optimistic home crowd is still streaming toward the gates, and one of my favorite tailgates in the FedEx lots is getting ready for its thrice-yearly tradition: the burning of the divisional uniform.

This is Ted A.'s tailgate, featuring homemade deep-fried funnel cakes topped with powder sugar, deep-fried turkeys (i.e. Eagles), a motorized cooler scooter and a penchant to hang opponents' jerseys on a metal cross and then douse them in lighter fluid. The tradition started in '05, against the Cowboys, with the burning of an Emmitt Smith jersey.

"At the Tampa Bay playoff game, we burned a few," Ted told me. "The Tampa Bay fans were kind of pissed out."

"All of my friends got arrested at that game in different locations," tailgater Adam Hoffman added. "It was amazing."

It begins.

I asked Ted how long it takes to burn an NFL jersey. "Seconds," he said. I asked what they do with the jersey after the brief fire.

"It's pretty much just charred ruins," he said, "so, nothing. Cheesecake?" he offered, pointing to a lovely dessert topped with raspberries. I'm telling you, he does this right.

The iron cross was a new addition this year, a gift from a buddy of Ted's named Joey who is a metal fabricator. "That way we don't end up burning ourselves," Ted noted. Yes, he once burned his hand without the aid of the prop.

I asked about the jersey acquisition process. "Let's just say it's nice to have a friend who works at Sports Authority," he said. "Friendly donations."

Fire. Fire. Fire.

They choose the most popular player on the opposing divisional teams, which this week meant Eli Manning, Donovan McNabb and, eventually, Tony Romo. For the heck of it, they also crisped a Jason Taylor jersey at the home opener.

It had been announced that the fires would begin at 12:15, so around that time the crowd gathered, chanting "Burn It, Burn It," and the like. Even a guy in a McNabb jersey was yelling "Burn It." People can unite around the cleansing power of fire. Of course, the crowd was briefly distracted by some gents shotgunning light beer of some sort.

I asked Ted if he had any tips for novice jersey burners. "Just don't light yourself on fire," he advised. "Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, that's about it."

Finally the fires began, and the crowd exulted, and the crowd sang "Hail to the Redskins," and the jersey really did disappear within seconds. "It is no longer there," one fan remarked.

Another guy in a McNabb jersey ran up and attempted to blow out the flames

The NFL: Where Amazing Happens.

I asked the crowd to help explain this phenomenon.

"It brings people together," Mike Zajac said. "You want some vodka?"

"What better way to just say 'F the other team' than to burn that [bleep] up," explained John Zurcher as fans yelled "you smell that?" to passing Eagles supporters.

The sad end.

"They can burn No. 5, he won't be there much longer," said Cory Frasier, the McNabb jersey-wearing Eagles fan who had watched the entire proceedings. "But they burn No. 36, that's when I start fighting."

Finally, Charles Schara picked up the G-string like strand of green that had survived the fire and took it to the nearby thoroughfare. "Who likes Fried Eagle?" he called out? "I like Fried Eagle. $10. Get it while it's hot."

Ha. Hot.

If you look closely, you'll see that the NFL logo survived.

UPDATE: Here's the video. It contains profanity. Also singing.

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 12, 2007; 9:21 AM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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God's work, Agent Steinz!

Posted by: Jamie Mottram | November 12, 2007 10:18 AM | Report abuse

The 4th picture is a little disturbing, considering the symbol burning and the ethnicity of the crowd gathered to watch.

Posted by: Rod | November 12, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

The Football Gods obviously look down upon such behavior.

Posted by: Kim | November 12, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Thanks again for stoping by Dan

Please don't comment on the Ethnicity of the crowd unless you were there. I was and it's a very mixed bunch.

Posted by: G20 Fdacowboys | November 12, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

What the hell is wrong with these idiots?

Posted by: | November 12, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Wow, what a band of strange, strange people. Burning effigies hasn't been a good thing since the American revolution.

Posted by: R.J. | November 12, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Great job Ted!

The DTC burned an Eagle jersey to, it was just still on a 43 year old Eagle fans body.

Posted by: The Mayor of Fed Ex Field | November 12, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

We do this in Baltimore also ... with Steve McNair jerseys.

Posted by: Bill Fitzgerald | November 12, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

too bad the eagles burned THE REDSKINS on the field. joe gibbs is senile. he needs to go to a retirement village.

Posted by: igglefan | November 12, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

How appropriate. The most racist organization in professional sports burning a cross (with a black man as a target)...

The same lot where a black figure is hung from a tree by a noose...

Classy. Racist organization, racist fans...

Posted by: Bamm-Bamm | November 12, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

FYI...not racist as they said, they burn Eli Manning jerseys too. It's all in good fun people. And it is a ton of fun! His tailgates are the best in the lot with amazing food. He puts a lot of work into it...good write up!

Posted by: ella | November 12, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Thanks ella stop by and say hi next time

Posted by: G20 Fdacowboys | November 12, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse

If we're so racist can you explain why half of the people at the tailgate were spanish and asian? The only things I am racist against are Cowboy fans, Eagle Fans and ignorant people like you. Racist isn't a term you just throw around unless you know wha you're talking about. Stop by the tailgate and just observer and you'll see that everyone is welcome regardless of race

Posted by: G20 Fdacowboys | November 12, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I've known and tailgated with him (before the gates open, during and afterwards)for years. Racist? Please, he is one of the best!! Stop with the PC crap!

Posted by: Craig M | November 12, 2007 5:17 PM | Report abuse

History lesson - what does the term "Redskin" mean? How did the term originate?

If you don't know, I will explain it to you (with references). I do know what I am talking about.

Perhaps if you understood the history of the word, and the history of the organization - George Preston Marshall, refusal to integrate, the original words to the fight song - you might feel differently.

Symbols of cross burnings and lynchings in the parking lot don't help the perception of the fans and the organization.

Posted by: Tommy | November 12, 2007 5:41 PM | Report abuse

The picture of the lynching was from a different tailgate and has nothing to do with the one in G20. Did you see anyone wearing a white hood in the picture with the burning cross? I didn't but I might not have looked hard enough. If you think the person hosting the tailgate is a racist then that's definitely your opinion but you know what they say about opinions ...

Posted by: G20 Fdacowboys | November 12, 2007 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about racist, but certainly uneducated, judging by the grammar and spelling in your posts.

Posted by: Westbrook owns you | November 12, 2007 6:37 PM | Report abuse really showed the eagles

Posted by: fly iggles fly | November 12, 2007 7:05 PM | Report abuse

You found me out. I'm a racist uneducated bastard. I was hoping to keep that a secret but you caught me. You guys got lucky and won the game but even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.
If the Eagles are so good why haven't they won a Superbowl? Enough said

Posted by: G20 Fdacowboys | November 12, 2007 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Why haven't the Iggles won a SB?

Because Andy Reid has no clue how to get more out of less talent yet sure knows how to get less out of more talent. He's amazing!

As a Vikes fan, I'm seeing that Childress took to Reid's methods and is "improving" upon them in remarkable ways. Uneffingbelievable!

I'll be burning #5 jerseys weekly should that guy end up in so-so 'sota under Bungling Brad.

Posted by: shortstack34345 | November 12, 2007 8:59 PM | Report abuse

My son and his friends were there-and in the midst of things. This group of people are NOT racist. Good greif. Look ALL over at tailgaiting parties in any city! This is a harmless 'rite' of beginning the game. I am a middle aged(or more) mom-and would not even begin to think this was racism. Stupid...crazy behaviour? Yes! LOL. But they are young ones!(although a few of our friends have been known to do this too!) And just b/c our team is the make it to be more of a point? Good greif. We did not NAME it! So if a 'Eagle fan' burned a 'Giants jersey" does that make him unamerican or racist..? Give it up! Good job Ted! Keep it up!

Posted by: mykidsmom | November 12, 2007 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Eagle fans are idiots.

Posted by: DTC | November 13, 2007 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Cross burning and lynchings - all in good fun?


Posted by: Tommy | November 13, 2007 2:40 AM | Report abuse

So you did not name the team, but you do choose to support it.

Would you support a team named after another racial slur? What if they were the Washington (N-words)?

Would you see a problem with that?

If you know the history of the word, you realize that there is no difference.

Posted by: Tommy | November 13, 2007 2:47 AM | Report abuse

Good work as always! I remember when this all started in Tampa Bay! We really made them mad!

Keep up the good work!

Posted by: President of the DTC | November 13, 2007 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Y'all need to shut up and stop crying. Who cares the Tirds suck and won't win aother super bowl, the Deadskins will get to watch a real football team play when they carry their sorry asses down to Dallas this weekend. Just ask Peyton's little sister, who's still somewhere in the corner of the locker room sucking his thumb. And quit using the racism angle, you still haven't produced any references, or an explination for that matter. Racism is the only american thing left, leave it alone. And yes i am a mexican cowboys fan, of course.

Posted by: Mayor Of The NFC East | November 13, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Meant to say the Tirds won't win a super bowl, have to win one first, and i thought it was hilarious burning the McNabb jersey, and for me seeing the Deadskins loose every weekend is watching them go up in flames, so good enough. Don't care if your burning a Romo jersey, we're in first and your no where near. Yea we're arrogant again.

Posted by: Mayor Of The NFC East | November 13, 2007 9:24 AM | Report abuse

this sunday cowboys win 99 to 1..:P

Posted by: crazy old cooter | November 13, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

"In the annals of European American historical, journalistic and other creative writing about Native peoples, 'redskins' was and is the worst racial epithet hurled at us in English," wrote Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Muscogee) in the Summer, 1999 issue of Native Peoples magazine. Use of such a term is true "unsportsmanlike conduct," in that like other racial slurs, it denigrates an entire race of people. It has a bloody, murderous history, going back to the use of "redskins" or Indian scalps as proof of bounty by Indian hunters of the 17th and 18th centuries. It is a term used by soldiers, writers and editors of that time to espouse the removal, destruction, and extermination of Native Americans and their civilizations.

Posted by: Tommy | November 13, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse

So when does Oliver Willis comment on this?

I'm guessing the answer is "never".

Posted by: Gravypan | November 13, 2007 11:48 AM | Report abuse

This DTC thing is kinda cute. I hear all these stories about what a tough bunch of lunatics they are, but if that were the case, how come 10K+ Eagle fans continue to come down to DC each year?

And why don't we ever see any Redskins fans up at the Linc carrying on in such a hardass fashion?

Posted by: Mark | November 13, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I was at the Linc on Monday night in my Sean Taylor Jersey and not a single Eagle fan said anything to me. There were a bunch of Redskin fans there with me so getyour facts straight. I'll be back again next year to see yu guys lose and cry all the way home.

Posted by: G20 Fdacowboys | November 13, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Hail to the Redskins, Hail victory... fight for us... fight the endless fight...fight until you've won...

Essentially? Right?
Doens't that sound loving, cheering, supporting, and respectful to native americans? While misguided, it seemed an attempt.

Harjo was cited above -Was this the Harjo that succeeded in Cancelling The Redskins Federal Registered Trademark rights under the "offensive to a substantial portion of people test" in Federal Court?

Apparently, "Redskins" is indeed de facto, and de jure, offensive to some people. In 2007 though, in a time where it is pretty damn difficult to find anyone who has any problems with Native Americans, can't we as Americans just come together and celebrate a great secular tradition that brings ALL fans of all creeds together in peaceful assembly?

Are positive stereotypes always bad? If we celebrate a race of people who had a tremendous spirit, a bravery, a prowess for battle, a strong solidarity, a fleetfooted, intelligent, respectable, worthy adversary... wouldn't that be ok? Doesn't that incentivize that race/nation/group of people to continue that strong tradition of excellence?

As a white male, I feel terribly sensitive to stepping on someone's toes... though, I have no idea who my ancestor's were or what they did... I feel guilty for their transgressions and will occassionally overcompensate in trying to show my understanding of the plight of a certain people. Yet, I myself, I believe am Irish. We were a target of genocide, enslaved, demoralized, tresspassed on.... while satire, it was even suggested that our children be sold to the English as a delicacy. Even in early America, in recent times, derogative racial and ethnical slurs were targeted at us Micks. We couldn't find work... we starved... we changed our names from O'Bryan and O'Shea to Bryan and Shea and pretended we were English or Whelsh just to find work.

YET - The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame is an analogue to Redskin in that it is a symbol gaining meaning from a generalization or stereotype that we accept, and have come to cherish.

Let's hope that as time has cured the wounds of history, time will continue to bring us all together in the future. I have a dream that one day, little white children and black children and Chinese children and Indian Children will one day play for the Detroit Coloreds together. That we will ALL love and cheer for them together!

Posted by: HailSkins | November 25, 2007 3:31 PM | Report abuse

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