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BR: The Tough Life Of a 22 Year Old Redskins Fan, by Philip Speake


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The Tough Life Of a 22 Year Old Redskins Fan

by Philip Speake

I still remember my first memory of watching the National Football League, it was January 1992 and the Washington Redskins were about to win Super Bowl XXVI. I was five years old, and man was football fun to watch.

There was a party at my house, my parents had plenty of friends and family over to watch and celebrate Joe Gibbs third championship in nine seasons. We played Hail to the Redskins after every score and I had learned every word by the end.

I fell in love with football that night, and with the Washington Redskins. My father groomed me into a fanatic. If I only knew what I was about to get myself into.

Stress, agony, heartbreak, death, frustration, excitement, impatience, anticipation, annoyance, and high expectations, these are just the feelings I can think of off the top of my head.

I honestly can’t remember much about Gibbs last season the following year, they made the playoffs, advanced a round and then he retired.

Between his retirement and eventual return to the sideline, the Redskins record was 74-101. This eleven year period was forgettable to say the least. There was one division title and playoff win in 2000.

Norv Turner and new owner Daniel Snyder, (names synonymous with winning) led the team to within a botched field goal snap of a possible NFC Championship game in 2000. It was about as bad as Tony Romos botched hold for those who do not remember. The Skins lost 14-13 and that is when Mr. Snyder became famous in NFL circles and a laughingstock of football fans everywhere.

Months after the loss Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Mark Carrier and Jeff George all signed with the team as free agents. Chris Samuels and Lavar Arrington were drafted 2nd and 3rdoverall. Giggity!! We are going to win it all!!!! Or so Redskins nation thought.

Nope, we finished 8-8 a huge disappointment. To add insult to injury the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl that year.

I live 30 miles north of Washington DC, which means 20 miles south of Baltimore. You get the picture; all of a sudden I am the only kid still rocking a Darrell Green jersey. All I see is purple, EVERYWHERE. All the kids in class apparently have “always been Ravens fans.”

Did they know the difference between Peter Boulware and Jermaine Lewis? No. All they knew was Ray Lewis and Marvin Lewis. Hell, that’s all they needed to know. Where I lived the Redskins were no longer the favorite team in town.

This was when things began going from bad to worse. Now every man is rocking purple in town, nobody likes the Redskins nationally anymore either, because of Snyder’s annual spending sprees every offseason. The previous two sentences still ring true this very moment. It just doesn’t seem right.

Finally a moment of happiness arrives when Norv Turner is fired, only to be replaced by Marty Schottenheimer. They started the year 0-5, yet somehow rebounded to finish 8-8. Great we’re making progress now, Stephen Davis was running like a beast. Arrington was becoming a defensive force and the team was playing smart football.

About two weeks later reports surface that Snyder was having dinner with the one and only Steve Spurrier fresh off of an Orange Bowl victory over my Maryland Terrapins.

Marty Ball out, Fun n’ Gun in.

The ole’ ball coach goes 12-20 in two seasons. Patrick Ramsey’s confidence is shot after Dallas beats him like a rag doll. Stephen Davis is let go in favor of Trung Candidate. Taylor Jacobs is our first draft selection in 2003.

More hype, even less results. And this memorable video. Oh Steve!

This was the breaking point for my father, a lifelong fan. He admitted to me recently he was losing faith, although I don’t believe it to be true. Once a Redskins fan, always a Redskins fan.

It was at the lowest point of his faith in the Burgundy and Gold when it all got exciting again.

Joe freakin Gibbs was coming back!!! I was woken up around 5am to hear the awesome news. “Were back!” my father announced.

The entire fan base needed to be rejuvenated and it happened. Unfortunately the game apparently passed Gibbs by. His offense only scored more than 30 points once and a 6-10 season ensued.

In 2005, Gibbs second year back the Redskins reeled off 5 straight wins to reach the playoffs and beat Tampa Bay in the wild card round. I got to experience an incredible playoff run with my family, friends and new classmates in college. Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Mark Brunell, and Sean Taylor were simply awesome.

I know it’s sad but a six game winning streak is still the best month and a half of football I have ever witnessed from the Redskins over an extended period. My little bro kissed the TV after Marcus Washington’s game sealing INT against Tampa in the playoffs. Sean Taylor sealed the playoff berth by leaping into the Eagles end zone in Philadelphia.

Maybe Gibbs hasn’t lost his touch for play calling after all.

After a great ride in 2005 Daniel Snyder once again ruined the chemistry of the team, bringing in Brandon (I have one great highlight) Lloyd and Adam (punt protector) Archuleta. While paying Archuleta the largest contract for a safety in football history, Snyder also released Sean Taylor’s good friend and excellent role player Ryan Clark. Clark went on to Pittsburgh and has continued his stellar play. I’m not really sure about Archuleta last I checked he was a tackling dummy for the Bears.

Another forgettable year followed 5-11.

The 2007 season was the toughest and most fulfilling of them all. The team was 5-3 hosting the Eagles at FedEx Field. Up late in the game, Sean Taylor left due to a knee injury and the Eagles came back to win. Two more losses followed to Dallas and Tampa Bay. It was ok because Taylor was getting healthy and would be back soon.

I woke up around 9am in the middle of the week to 8 text messages. “Sean got shot.” Later that night at work I heard he was showing signs of life in the hospital. I never thought the beast would have died that night. I skipped all my classes, called a few close friends and was brought to tears.

It was a strange pain, I mean I didn’t know him; he was just a football player. Should I be this upset? Well once I talked to a few friends who loved the team as much as me I knew it was ok to feel like I lost a close friend. I will never forget that day either, much like Super Bowl XXVI but for entirely different reasons.

First a young baby girl just lost her father, and the Redskins and Miami Hurricanes lost a legend. Second was the passion all Redskins fans showed, the love they all showed. Even Dallas and Philly fans came up to me and said they were sorry, he was the best they had seen. My Sean Taylor jersey was worn once more the following weekend.

The Redskins went on to play football that week and lose on a game ending field goal after a unmemorable gaff by Joe Gibbs calling two consecutive timeouts, putting the Bills 15 yards closer.

I sat in silence after the clock hit zero, the entire fan base was in shock. Some friends left the room to let off steam, some made excuses for Gibbs. The team had every excuse in the world, but nobody made any, they just celebrated Sean.

Coach Gibbs stressed character and resiliency through the entire ordeal, two cornerstones of his model for team building. What followed were 4 straight victories, including a playoff clinching win over Dallas at home by 21 points. It was an accomplishment I’m not sure any coach but Gibbs could have pulled off. Rallying men together for a single lost teammate, with a backup QB nonetheless was amazing.

From the Super Bowl in 1992 to present day I have lived, breathed, and sweat Redskins pride. All I have since that championship are two playoff victories, a few memorable wins over Dallas, and the memory of Sean Taylor’s abilities as a football player. And well a lot of games I wish I could forget that took years off of my life.

I would not trade it in for anything because being a Redskins fan prepares you for life. I hope the next 22 years are as tough on me as the previous 22. Through the good and the bad, “Fight for Old DC!”

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Nice piece, and it almost perfectly describes my life as a Redskins football fan, minus the first few years. Its been a long, tough ride, and when this team knows real success again, it will shock my socks off.

Now this is the type of Bleacher Report article I can get behind

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I've been blessed I am old enough to remember Lombardi, and have been a fan since, living through some of the teams greatest moments and players.

only regrets not old enough to see Slingin' Sammy and the two NFL championships

Nice read there Bubba, I can say I have been very blessed as well getting to celebrate 3 out of 5 Superbowl victories. I started liking the Redskins in 1971, and it wasn't long at all before my new team made it to the show. Without a doubt there is no other football team or any team in this world that has taken us through the journey that the Redskins have, and never one time have I ever regretted loving this team.

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I've been blessed I am old enough to remember Lombardi, and have been a fan since, living through some of the teams greatest moments and players.

I too have been blessed to have been old enough to live through the "Glory Days" of Redskins football.

I do feel bad for you younger fans that did not experience that.

The joy of seeing our Redskins just straight out dominate teams week in and week out and seeing them in the playoffs almost every season.

Going to see them play at RFK where we fans were so loud we would make the opposing teams jump off sides so many times the Refs would even ask Gibbs to try to quiet us down.

It never worked.

We would just get louder with every score.

Myself attending 2 NFC Championship games ('87 and '91) is some of the greatest memories I have had as a fan.

I also got to watch them (On TV) in all 5 Super Bowls they were in and I hope one day very soon you younger fans will get to experience that awesome feeling of winning a Super Bowl.

Their is no other feeling like it.

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Me, I'm 20.. I'll be 21 in August - I've had a very brief stint with the Redskins. I've grown up in a family that has always watched/embraced the Redskins but for some reason I had never sat down and watched it myself. I watched a little bit in 2004 but not too much.

I remember one night early in the 2005 season. My Dad was watching a Redskins & Cowboys game. I heard him yelling, screaming, whatever it may be. This is what drew me into the room where I took a seat and finally gave football a chance. I was left in awe of this game, now dubbed the Monday Night Miracle. I had to see more, so I watched the entire 2005 season. Once again was presented with butterflies thanks to the late-season playoff run. Disappointingly enough, the Seahawks had to end my first season watching the 'Skins.

For whatever reason, I didn't even watch the '06 season. I don't even remember watching one game. I don't know why I didn't watch.. I remember looking back in '07 and thinking, "Wow - they really did HORRIBLE last year." I was just really into my job at the time I'm assuming and was working on building a racecar - so my time was already occupied.

Next thing I know - the 2007 season rolls around. I got into some trouble with the law so I didn't have a license. I routinely found myself at home on Sundays with nothing to do. So I formed a habit of watching football all-day every Sunday. And this is the year, that I feel I truly became a Skins fan. I watched every single game this year (just as I'm sure many of you have done for the past decade) and somehow it made a game that lasts hours pass by in what seemed 30 minutes. The team once again managed an incredible playoff run only to be once again cut-down by the #$%*'ing Seahawks.

In the off-season after this playoff loss - it was the first time I really kept up with the team when it's not football season. I kept tabs on everything that was going on with the team and pretty much the entire NFL. The 2008 season rolls around - and I once again find myself watching every single Skins game. A phenomenal season, watched every game all the way to the Steelers game.

And then I found myself locked up for my stupid mishap that cost me my license in 2007. And I was unable to watch the team play - next thing I know I can't watch the Skins play anymore. I can just read in the papers about this abysmal slide they're going on. I felt like such a fan boy - because the only time I've been watching this team is when they've been doing well. Watched the '05 season (playoff berth). Then missed the '06 season (5-11). Watched the '07 season (playoff berth). Watched the beginning half of the '08 season (6-1) and then stopped watching once they started doing badly, though me not watching it really wasn't my decision.

I'm looking forward to being able to take the role of a couch potato for every Sunday in the 2008-2009 season (including the preseason) and watch the Redskins - win or lose. Though in the past, I must say, whenever I've watched in the past they've always won and this year I have nothing hindering me from sitting my ass in front of the TV every Sunday so hopefully that trend continues.

But I'll be honest.. I really do think I am a Redskins fan for life.

Thanks for having me here you guys.

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To be honest, life isn't tough because the Redskins have struggled.

I live burgundy and gold, I bleed it. When they lose, it ruins my Sunday... But your favorite football team losing a game doesn't make life tough. It really irks me when people say things like that.

Part of my living is based off of football. I love the game with an extreme passion. It runs through my blood. It's where I find the most peace. Standing on a football field, or in the stands near one, or sitting on my couch watching... No matter how bad it gets and how angry I get... It's not something that qualifies as having a tough life.

I have opinions, we all do... And that's fine. But let's keep this sport in perspective.

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That's funny cause my first Redskins memory is watching John Elway throw an 80 yard TD and Denver fans laughing and celebrating like the game was over.....then the Redskins popped their balloon and butchered them for the rest of the game. That was an awesome memory.

I almost always think of the big comebacks and the SuperBowls, or Art Monks big TD catch against the Raiders the next season where he dives into the end zone and it looked like someone threw a role of toilet paper on the field at the same time. Another good one is DGreen picking off a pass against the Lions and taking it back to the end zone to win in OT.

Man, there are so many great ones to pick from!

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Thats a snapshot of my fan hood right there. I don't remember the Super Bowl win as vividly as mentioned in the article but I do remember it a little and all the rest is basically my life as a fan. Living where I live, in the Valley, there wasn't the whole Baltimore deal though. Some kids were Ravens fans after that but not too many. Mainly where I'm from, if you're not a Skins fan then its either Cowboys or completely random. I have friends who are Bucs fans, 49ers fan, Packer fan, and of course, some Pats fans.

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This is about as perfect an explanation of about 6/8ths of my fan hood. As A Kid growing up in Woodbridge I was four when we beat the Broncos and I can remember this song to the tune of the Ghost busters but it was Bronco busters "Something strange in the super bowl Who you gonna call Bronco Busters" and my Dad going nuts. Then I would always watch with my dad from then on. In 1991 I went to training camp on a bus to Carlisle, I went to several games, I went to Redskins park to see them off before they went to minneappolis. I used to go to the Budweiser (PLAYER)parking lot after games and get autographs because my dad new all the guys from the Anhauser Busch Distributer. I have a famous yellow seat cusion covered in autographs. These were great times. Then I hit teenage years and stopped watching for a little while. I went in the Army and spent 4 years of 6 over seas and really got back into the Skins in 2004.

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prefectly describes my life, as i'm 2 years older than you.

i vaguely remember the 92 super bowl... and i was brought to tears too when taylor died - multiple times.

my dad also lost faith about the same time - he refused to go to the stadium. I offered him a ticket to a monday night game vs dallas. the game was actually on his birthday, and he refused out of hatred for snyder.

i got him to go to the dallas game last year, as he was retiring and leaving the area - his last skins game ever. outsid eof that, he refused to go.

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