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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."

+1, WSJ.

"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.

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 24, 2009; 8:59 AM ET
Categories:  Media , Redskins  
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Steinberg, taking WSJ to the mat! The makings of a brand new media war.

Posted by: EYoung77 | November 24, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad the WSJ ran this -- puts more pressure on Snyder. No offense to the Post, but Snyder can always write off your criticism --- an axe to grind with him etc., When a big, national, outside paper rips him it can't be explained away. David Donavan should probably just shut up at this point. He just fans the fire with his inane, company line comments. Typical condescending tone from this arrogant franchise.

Posted by: dbunkr | November 24, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Also, for the sake of historical acccuracy, the WSJ is wrong in saying Jack Kent Cooke was the "primary architect" in creating the bond between D.C. and the Redskins. While the Cooke/Gibbs teams were certainly when the Skins reached their height of popularity, the George Allen years were really the beginning of the Redskins obsession in D.C., and while Cooke did own the team in those years, he was an absentee owner and minority owner Edward Bennett Williams ran things in D.C. That 1983 NFC Championship game wouldn't have had quite the same meaning if Allen hadn'd ginned up the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry in the 1970s.

Oh, and as for Jim Moran--there's no populist crusade on which he wouldn't jump on the bandwagon.

Posted by: TheFingerman | November 24, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

To Steinbag and the WAPO schills;

DC is a major league town, the 30+ years of no baseball, bad basketball and hockey played in obscurity are over. Instead of this useless diatribe by the WSJ, why not embrace the fact that people now have a choice to enjoy all five, embrace what they like about their favorite and hope that one day all five reach the promise land at the same time. Never understood the minimization of one over the other! Maybe that has been Synders intent all along. I'm glad we have all 5, I buy tickets and go to the gmaes becuase I'm a DC Sports Fan, it sure beats sitting around for 8 months a year waiting for the next game.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | November 24, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse


I'm not he monitor of all blogs by any means but you're starting to walk that line that LaCanfora went over a few years ago.

I used to LOVE coming to your blog and reading funny, engaging articles about players, Smoot, Cooley, etc. Thought they were great. But since the season started you've been pretty consistent in your ripping of the team, ownership, coaches, players, executives, training staff, announcers, ex-players. Honestly, I haven't heard you rip the cheerleaders but I might have missed that day.

Point is, LaCanfora started off getting a following by ripping the management, but after a while people started to get sick of him and his schtick because he wasn't a fan and didn't care for the team, he just had an ax to grind. Remember, almost everyone that reads this is a Skins fan and they all like the Skins more than they like you. You do a great job, but your getting close to that point.

Posted by: 6-2StackMonster | November 24, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Hey StackDaddy, trust me, I know that people like the Skins more than me. I also don't think what I just wrote was negative; I tried to balance both sides of it. Would it be better for me to ignore the nation's largest paper's massive take on the city's most important franchise?

Also, trust me, it's a lot harder to get funny, engaging articles out of a 3-7 team. Smoot no longer talks to the media. Cooley's ankle is busted. And players don't always want to joke around when their record is dismal. I'm not sure funny personality articles would serve much purpose for anyone right now.

And I won't judge the merits of the team's front office, but I think some of the members of the front office who host radio shows happen to say ridiculous things a lot. I think it's my job to point that out.

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | November 24, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

More like $nyder's losing fans.


Posted by: hessone | November 24, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

WSJ, the same newspaper that printed a story last week contending the payroll of teams in MLB has minimal effect on their records. It has a significant bearing if not all encompassing one... But maybe Danny being a businessman reads that story and makes all the relevant changes that have been hashed and rehashed her lest he looses his fan base.

Posted by: gatsu | November 24, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

"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.

That's a lie in itself. Every year fans debate whether the Redskins made good off season moves. STFU Donovan.

Posted by: hessone | November 24, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Here we go again with the JLC was "not a fan" and built his following by "ripping" the management. Last I checked, reporters were not supposed to write pieces as "fans." The reason that people were angry at JLC was that he called it as it was - the emperor has no clothes. And it seems the masses on this site have no eye for talent - JLC left this gig to move on to a much bigger stage with the NFL Network. We're still stuck here in the minor leagues with this buffoon of an owner and his puppets.

Posted by: i155133 | November 24, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight, with the circulation issues all newspapers are facing these days, the Washington Post is not only paying Dan Steinberg to read the Wall Street Journal, but also advertise it to his readers. Sound business plan. But I guess this makes sense with the re-design of the paper.

Posted by: nfb987 | November 24, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

These ASSHATS STILL DON'T GET IT!!!!!!! It has NOTHING to do with a bad or off year. It has everything to do with the perpetual mismanagement of the team, the lack of direction, an meddling scheister of an owner, and an NFL game day experience that is about as pleasant as JAILHOUSE ANAL RAPE. Seeing how Dan $nyder and his personal toilet slave/sex gimp Vincent ButtBoi™ Cerrato enjoy that type of thing, not that there's anything wrong with it, no wonder they see nothing wrong with the Experience at FedEx Field™.

Posted by: VeloStrummer | November 24, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

WSJ, another crappy Murdoch paper. I'm surprised they didn't try to put a Republican spin on it. Ain't Murdoch great...hrmph.

Posted by: atidwell | November 24, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

hessone - you still off the hotdogs??

Posted by: funkey | November 24, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

i'm sure there are fans like me...that were 1 and done after 1 trip to DEADex Field...and who will NEVER return short of a Snyder Limousine...Snyder box seats..and a free Snyder Henry VIII feast (preferably seafood)...otherwise, won't be back as long as it is available on or pay...

But as far as TV goes......i'm there at the start all 16 games (for now)..and will order DTV Football package when i move......

Posted by: FletcherChristian1 | November 24, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Hey Dan, quick question to you. I know this is an old post now, so you probably won't see it (I probably won't come back to check up on it anyways), but once the season ends and the next season starts, does the "Burgundy Revolution" continue? Maybe if they play poorly? As long as the Snyder/Cerrato connection is in tact? or is it just something for this season and once next season comes around there's another cool phrase for the Redskins' suckiness?

Posted by: superpaqman | November 24, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Burgundy Revolution? What utter nonsense. That's why the mainstream media isn't part of the solution these days, it's part of the problem. The team lost five of its games by five points or less. Had they won those games, the "revolution" would be over. If they win next year, goodbye revolution. News flash, fans don't like it when their teams lose. But I guess that wouldn't make much of a news story for lazy writers who do their research by reading on-line message boards and listening to sports talk radio.

Posted by: sonny2 | November 24, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Snyder, the hand writing on the wall is present. Leave before the business arena squeezes this team away from you, you chump.

Posted by: cbmuzik | November 24, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

The "Burgundy Revolution" will end once Snyder realizes that this is not a fantasy football. Snyder needs to hire a real GM that will run football operations. Snyder needs to improve the gameday experience which includes stop harassing fans and the press!

Viva La Revolution

Posted by: mb15 | November 24, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

you know I don't agree with people saying its all about if the Skins win or loose. The Skins can win everyday from here on out. I hate Pretzel Boy with a passion and can not give my heart back to the Skins until he's gone. I'm 15 years younger then Pretzel Boy so even if he lives a while I can probably wait the bastard out and when I"m old I will return to my true love. Supporting him is supporting a really bad human being and I really cant do that anymore.

Posted by: doesntmatter | November 24, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

As for me, I'm one of the few, the proud, go Nats.

Posted by: cokedispatch | November 24, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Ummm, yeah, sonny2. If the Redskins were a well-run organization that fielded decent teams, there wouldn't be a Burgundy Revolution. That's kinda the point of the whole thing.

'Skins fans have put up with a lot since Snyder bought the team, and they've finally reached the breaking point. Yes, this absolutely miserable season has contributed, but the backlash has been a long time coming.

Can the organization turn it around? Of course they can. Will hard-core fans continue to support the team through thick-and-thin? Of course we will. But we're fed up with the incompetence at the top, and we're demanding some accountability from the organization. The fact is, Snyder has turned (Burgundy and) Gold into Lead...that's some poor alchemy right there.

Posted by: js_edit | November 24, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I have been a Redskin fan and season ticket holder since 1963. Since Dan Snyder took the reins as owner and chief meddler the team and the Redskin experience has been in a steady decline during his time of ownership. In all my years, this season has been the worst in terms of team managemnent, fan enjoyment experience and the resulting poor performance of the team. Until Dan Snyder realizes that he needs to fire Cerrato, to bring in a true knowledgeble football person as the general manager and finally to stop his meddling with the operation. If these things do in fact happen in the off season we will still be 2-3 years away from fielding a competitive team. Unfortunately my wife and I and our 6 tail gate friends will not be at the stadium to observe because I will not be renewing my eight seaon tickets after this season.

Posted by: Warecrawford1 | November 24, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

This is yet another indication of how wacky the WSJ has become under Murdoch's ownership.

Either the writer is not from DC, is a Cowboys fan, is delusional, or all of the above. The backlash amongst Redskin fans is against Dan Snyder, not against the team itself. The Redskins have one of the most loyal and devoted fan bases in the NFL.

Posted by: TripLBee | November 24, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

funkey - are you still a pessimist?

Posted by: hessone | November 24, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

With the Wall Street Journal now joining Sports Ilustrated to chronicle Mr. Snyder's missing PR gene, one must include his handling of the Redskins for a casebook study of what not to do. It digests as one of the starker examples of public relations malpractice anywhere across the sports spectrum. One word sums up the cause of the needless, heedless wreckage: HUBRIS.

A basic rule of persuasion is to neutralize opponents if you can't convert them. What Mr. Snyder chose to do with the Washington Post for its sin of lack of sycophancy was shut it out, apparently. Only colossal not-ready-for-primetime arrogance would dictate such an unwarranted course with the largest local medium. The same attitude manifested in both brazen treatment of fans and personnel mismanagement.

The only cure, and it is a complete antidote, is HUMILITY with wise if not self-evident actions stemming therefrom. This fan's thinking (the royal "we" omitted here) lately has evolved to conclude such capacity does not reside in Mr. Snyder. Winning ways will return to our Redskins players and coaches--"a noble army, men and boys." But we will not look at the Redskins "brand" quite the same until there is a new owner--an exit strategy. Mr. Snyder, it's cap 'n trade time. You're over our cap and we need to trade you.

Posted by: lalaca | November 24, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

a realist, hessone, a realist! why is the burgundy revolution losing momentum?? did you have a hotdog?!?!?

Posted by: funkey | November 24, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

good for you WARECRAWFORD1 I am in full agreement with everything you say. I too bought season tickets in 1963 also played in the Redskins Band for 11 years and have attended all 5 Super Bowl Games the Skins have played in. You are not going to renew next year and I gave my season tickets up after the Jerk owner Charged $10 for parking at the practice facility a few years back. I used to think Al Davis was the worst owner in the NFL but Snyder {Little Napoleon} Now has him beat.If and until the Leopard changes his spots and hires a real GM their is little hope as long as he is owner.

This owner has killed the spirit. I for one wish the Washington Post would stop devoting so much space in the paper and for their sports writers to write more about the only good team in town--The Caps and the worlds best Hockey player Alex Ovechkin And the best owner Ted Leonsis. I Had tickets to the Deadskins for 43 years gave them up and now have season tickets to the greatest show in Washington--The Capitals
My advice to Redskin fans is to give up your season tickets and make Fed-X a Ghost stadium next year.

Posted by: duckyjimpond | November 25, 2009 2:44 AM | Report abuse

The guy who wrote the WSJ article said it was the Upper Deck that swayed. Of course we Redskins fans know it was the lower deck at RFK that bounced up and down.

Posted by: skinsfanmiami | November 25, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Right on, Dan, Right on! There is a Spirit of being a REDSKIN and a REDSKINS FAN that is unique among professional sports. SKINS fans recognize it in others. You have it. Dan Snyder has never had it. Neither has Vinnie The Pooh. Neither have many of your responders.

For example, if D & V really had it they would NEVER allow REDSKINS to be seen again on ANY field of play in RED pants! Those atrocities are not "throwback" or "old school" like the Denver socks. They are indicative of bad decision making by a poser. D & V should KNOW that. They do not. They are V lizards under their "Redskins" veneer.

Dan Snyder has no clue what it feels like to actually BE a TEAM PLAYER. He is life imitating art. He is Richie Rich personified. He can buy Betty and Veronica. He can buy Jughead. But he can't buy Archie. Archie is a REDSKINS FAN. He knows that the Spirit and the Purpose and the Loyalty are contained very clearly within "HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!"

Keep On Truckin', Dan!

Posted by: wiseoldude | November 25, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

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