Wall Street Journal covers the Burgundy Revolution
The big national media folks are covering my favorite little indie band, and so I'm going to react with the usual mix of prideful satisfaction over the validation and immature resentment over them not totally getting it. The Wall Street Journal sank its teeth into the Burgundy Revolution this week, under this fairly provocative headline: "Are the Redskins Losing Washington? Another Bad Season and Continued Missteps Are Loosening a Disparate Region's Ties to Its Team."
I'm even going to quibble with the headline. Maybe I'm living in a warped bubble of passionate sports bloghood, but to me this Revolution stuff has been mostly about anger, not apathy. If people didn't care so much, they wouldn't be so upset.
Also, "another bad season" feels wrong to me. They weren't bad last year, and they weren't bad the year before. Over the past five seasons, the team went 37-43 with two playoff appearances. They've been the definition of mediocre; the badness is pretty new.
Anyhow, three things that were interesting from the story, and two substantive complaints.
Declining national popularity
These three sentences are the most striking in the piece.
A Harris Interactive poll taken in 2003 put the Redskins at No. 6 in the NFL in nationwide popularity. In the most recent poll taken earlier this year, they had fallen to No. 17.
"It's very possible that the ownership of this team has ruptured themselves in a way with the fans where a lot of them are through," says John Riggins, a former star Redskins running back who has been openly critical of the team's current owner, Daniel Snyder.
Many Redskins fans still consider their franchise to somehow rank with the NFL's most prestigious franchises, but 17th nationwide is their lowest Harris ranking in at least a decade, and that ain't prestigious.
On the other hand....
While it's true the team was No. 6 in 2003, the Skins were also 10th the year before Daniel Snyder bought the team. And 16th in 2005. (It's a PDF, but see the Harris data here.) Yes, the Redskins and Raiders had the biggest fall from 2008 to 2009, but the Titans jumped from 25th to 9th, and the Falcons from 27th to 13th. Both teams were really, really good last year. Maybe this is largely a function of won-loss record. In the past decade, only the Cowboys, Packers, Bears and 49ers have never dropped out of the top third of the league. So the Redskins' national fan base is no longer one of the special few, but we already knew that. Still, seeing them below the Arizona Cardinals is definitely jarring.
Declining local relevance?
And this paragraph is the piece's most ridiculous:
The Redskins don't have the monopoly on Washington they once did. Major League Baseball's Nationals opened for business in 2005, and the city's Major League Soccer team is popular. The Washington Capitals, led by Alex Ovechkin--one of the NHL's brightest stars--have also siphoned away fans. "The Capitals are the only team here where you can go watch them and actually leave happy," says Ed Richards, a fan who moved to the Washington suburbs two years ago.
I mean, are they seriously using the Nats and D.C. United as factors in the Burgundy Revolution? The compelling parts of the Nats' seasons, such as they are, have not once overlapped with Redskins season, and while I'm the biggest D.C. United homer you could find, they're a toe-nail on the 500-pound sports gorilla. Yes, many fans explicitly compare the Caps to the Redskins, and yes, the Caps make you a lot happier, and yes, Ovechkin is probably D.C.'s most popular athlete, but you'd have a hard time convincing me the hockey team's success has chased away many Redskins fans. I know it's apples to kumquats, but when the Skins were on Monday Night Football, they drew a local rating something like 26 times higher than the Caps' Comcast SportsNet average. And don't even get me started on the Nats' TV audience. I mean, really Wall Street Journal, the Nats?
An easy target
I'm not sure anyone is supposed to be more in tune with a region's emotional state than a politician, and the politicians see that it's open season on the Skins. It happened again in this piece:
Virginia congressman Jim Moran, who moved to Washington in the 1970s and instantly became a fan of the team, says the mismanagement and commercialization of the franchise has robbed it of its meaning to him. "I find it very difficult to root for the Redskins these days," he says. "A team should stand for something...the Washington fans are great, but Snyder doesn't deserve them."
He knows that he can rip away at will, and that suggesting Snyder doesn't deserve these fans will actually increase Moran's standing among constituents. That's significant. When Sports Illustrated did its Burgundy Revolution piece, one of the strongest quotes was from ex-Congressman Tom Davis, who said ""Somebody invited us to the Eagles game, and I said, 'How much you going to pay us?'"
"By 1983, Mr. Gibbs had won the first of two Super Bowls."
"The team drew fire after reports surfaced that they were suing season-ticket holders who were unable or unwilling to honor their contracts."
"Reports surfaced" is a funny way of saying "The Washington Post discovered."
"Some fans have told reporters they were hassled by security guards for holding signs critical of Mr. Snyder. (The team says the guards were not acting on team policy)."
This is just false. After once allowing signs, the team then explicitly banned all signs at some point in 2009 before publicly revising its policy.
Another Donovan quote
David Donovan is a very smart man. I was sort of being unfair in incessantly re-using his quote, the one about "in terms of the way our actual fans are behaving, we don't see any difference." As the designated frontman for the team this year, he's in pretty much an impossible situation. What could he possibly say, short of "We're sorry, we're going to change things" that would appease angry fans? Still, I'm not sure his latest quote captures the mood quite right.
"I'd be surprised if any team that has a tough year doesn't have fans critical of last year's draft picks and last year's free agency," says team executive David Donovan. Last season, when the team won six of its first eight games, he says, nobody was questioning its personnel choices.
He's mostly right about the first thing, but the point is that the franchise has frittered away much of its reservoir of goodwill. No fanbase would be happy at 3-7, but not every fanbase would be threatening revolt. For reasons both on the field and off, there are a huge number of fans who entered this season without much patience, unwilling to give the front office the benefit of the doubt. The game-day experience still stinks, and without Joe Gibbs--the only man who brought stability in the Snyder Era--a lot of people have trouble seeing a brighter future.
So yes, absolutely, the "tough year" is the icing on the cake, but if the actual cake part wasn't all soggy and occasionally rancid-tasting, maybe you'd just scrape the icing off and move on. When you just can't find any part of the cake that you'd like to eat, that's when you get customers standing up and screaming.
Posted by: EYoung77 | November 24, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dbunkr | November 24, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: TheFingerman | November 24, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: TippyCanoe | November 24, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: 6-2StackMonster | November 24, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | November 24, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: hessone | November 24, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: gatsu | November 24, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: hessone | November 24, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: i155133 | November 24, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: nfb987 | November 24, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: VeloStrummer | November 24, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: atidwell | November 24, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: funkey | November 24, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: FletcherChristian1 | November 24, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: superpaqman | November 24, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: sonny2 | November 24, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cbmuzik | November 24, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mb15 | November 24, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: doesntmatter | November 24, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cokedispatch | November 24, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: js_edit | November 24, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Warecrawford1 | November 24, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: TripLBee | November 24, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: hessone | November 24, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lalaca | November 24, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: funkey | November 24, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: duckyjimpond | November 25, 2009 2:44 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: skinsfanmiami | November 25, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: wiseoldude | November 25, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.