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Redskins fans are optimistic

(Amazing training camp photo by Win McNamee - Getty)

During my first trip to Redskins training camp this summer, I wandered through the jerseys and tattoos behind the fence, stopping randomly to ask people for a prediction on their team's final record this season. I talked to fans white and black, old and young, male and female, extremely deranged and moderately normal.

The Redskins, you might remember, had four wins last season. The Vegas over-under for their 2010 win total is 7.5. I talked with 36 people, on the record, using their actual names. The most popular answer was 10-6. The average response came out to 9.9 wins. Only one person saw the team finishing worse than 8-8, and he predicted 7-9.

"Is he really a Redskins fan?" asked guard Artis Hicks, when I showed him my results.

Now, this was admittedly a self-selected audience: people who wished to stand on a shadow-less grassy knoll on a lovely summer Sunday watching large men in shorts crash into each other at great distance. Fans, in other words. So what do the results mean?

"I'll tell you what it says: come to Redskins training camp on August 1st any year and ask how many wins, and you'll get the exact same result," Chris Cooley said. "It doesn't matter what the team is, who the coach is: everybody's gonna say that."

I'm sure Cooley is right. And yet many of these fans seemed genuinely convinced that the only question was whether the Redskins would sneak into the playoffs at 9-7 or 10-6, not whether last year's disaster might be repeated. Remember, the Redskins have reached 10 wins just twice in Daniel Snyder's 11 years, including just once in the past decade.

"I just think they're gonna do it this year," said Chris Stull, who predicted 12-4. "They made a lot of good moves, they've finally got a quarterback, they've finally got a serious coach."

"McNabb and Shanahan, that's what it's about," said Marcus Talley, who went with 9-7.

"It's gonna be a good story, I'm telling you," argued Jason Lane, who saw 12-4. "If our line steps it up, we're gonna be good, real good."

"Ten wins, at least," said Tom McElroy. "It's a different, proven regime. I just think it's gonna be a much better team this year, and we could have easily been a 10-6 team last year."

Sure, some of my other respondents sort of gulped and said 8-8, maybe 9-7. And some, such as Steve Wall, refused to be realistic. Wall said 16-0, and he had the logic to back up his prediction. Donovan McNabb, he said, would add five wins. The new defensive scheme would add three more. Mike Shanahan instead of Jim Zorn was good for three more, moving them from four wins to 15.

"The fact that we don't have Vinny Cerrato any more, that's a guaranteed win, that makes 16-0," Wall concluded. "I can't say we're gonna lose a game, I can't say it," he apologized.

This has to say something about the human condition, no? We're beaten across the brow, humiliated repeatedly, made to suffer and agonize year after year, beset by tragedy and loss and hardship. Then we go to sleep. And then it's a new day, and the chocolate Cheerios are still crunchy, and somehow we decide yet again that everything will be all right.

This is why training camp stories coming out of at least 24 or 25 cities this month will be of hope and improvement. You can be realistic and blinded all at the same time.

"You always say [optimistic things], but I've got a real feeling that it's expected here, it's not just a bunch of hot hair," Hicks said. "You have to have that mindset -- this is the team that's gonna do it this year. I'm sure people would have thought the Saints were crazy when they came to camp last year and fans were saying we're gonna win it this year."

So would the results look differently if I took an anonymous poll of the Redskins locker room? Would more than one out of 36 men forecast a losing record?

"On this team?" Cooley repeated my question. "No one thinks we're gonna win six games. I wouldn't be here. If I honestly thought we were gonna win 6 games, I would go up and tell Dan [Snyder] I've had a good career, take it easy."

And so, let the playoff drive begin.

"Every year I think we're going to be 10-6, 12-4," Gus Strange admitted. "You know you're a real fan if you stick around through the bad years. And honestly, last year we weren't that far away...."

By Dan Steinberg  |  August 2, 2010; 4:53 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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Next: Golic, Smith sort-of pass Haynesworth test


Are you sure that picture was taken in Ashburn and not some Ethiopian village. Wow. Could someone please get that woman a bowl of pasta?

Posted by: KAS2 | August 2, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

6-10. Mcnabb doesn't finish the season.

Posted by: Leeguru | August 2, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

cry, this picture makes me

Posted by: 3tripleiii | August 2, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I can't remember one season in the past 25 years where fans and Sonny J alike didn't predict at leasat 10-6 and a playoff berth during preseason. This is new(s)?

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | August 2, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

I know, the ribs, distended belly, protruding belly button and skin on bone arms...thanks Steinberg...I'm about to lose my late dinner. I will donate $ for some water and a nutritious meal for this person.

Posted by: jbfromfc | August 2, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Wait a minute! Wait a MINUTE! STOP THE PRESSES!...

they make chocolate cheerios?

Posted by: horseydeucey | August 3, 2010 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Redskins fans delusional and think "this year will be different"? Color me shocked

Posted by: Bagher | August 3, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

The Skins will be lucky to win one divisional game.

Posted by: Scoonie97 | August 3, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

YUCK on the pic. That chick needs a sandwich.

Posted by: vmrg1974 | August 3, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

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