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Media make Snyder target

By Patrick Hruby


Patrick Ramsey doesn't have it so tough.

Oh, sure, the battered n' bum-rushed Washington Redskins quarterback limped out of Dallas on Sunday with a dislocated pinkie and a bruised left forearm, the latest in a series of sack-induced ouchies.

But hey — it's not like he needed a wheelchair or anything. Well, at least not yet.

Besides, the beating that Ramsey suffered at the hands — and forearms, knees and helmets — of the Dallas Cowboys had the airy makings of a day at the spa compared to the cheerful flogging the Redskins took from the Fox network's NFL crew.

Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson guffawed over a phone call he received from Washington owner Dan Snyder. Analyst Cris Collinsworth noted that Redskins coach Steve Spurrier looked "completely bewildered" on the sideline. Studio host James Brown actually apologized to Collinsworth for having to cover the game.

For his part, Terry Bradshaw was downright charitable.

"I'd like to congratulate Mr. Snyder for taking a storied franchise like the Washington Redskins and virtually destroying it," he said.

OK, scratch the charitable part. Still, Bradshaw wasn't any harsher than the rest of the media buzzards circling around Redskin Park last week. Take USA Today columnist Jon Scaraceno, who went "Kill Bill" on the franchise by proclaiming "the $25 Million Experiment is over" and that Snyder was "incompetent," "foolish," "petulant" and "the Napoleon of pro football."

And to think: That was written before the Cowboys sacked Ramsey four times.

Of course, none of this is new. Not the losses, not the turmoil, not the national merrymaking. Back in the halcyon days of Ebenezer Ekuban sack-dragging Jeff George across the Texas Stadium turf — was it really three long seasons ago? — football fans and commentators across the country reveled in Washington's ineptitude. Even ESPN carnival barker Chris Berman got into the act, slamming the Redskins in prime time.

All of which raises the question: What is it about Washington that provokes such widespread Schadenfreude?

After all, the Arizona Cardinals are a lousy team in a crummy stadium with a horrible owner. But nobody wastes airtime and ink celebrating the fact. So what makes the Redskins any different?

It's hard to blame the players. Granted, Champ Bailey and Co. aren't getting it done in the win-loss column. But by and large, they're a likable bunch. And unlike, say, the Portland Trail Blazers, they pretty much stay out of off-field trouble, largely by avoiding parties involving Darrell Russell.

Also, did we mention George was gone?

Similarly, Spurrier has done little to create coast-to-coast ill-will. Smack talk and running up the score made him a marked man at Florida; the "NFL-ized" Spurrier has been disappointingly muted, saving his strongest words for his own club. And while it's always easy to hate a guy making $5 million per, hate gets a little harder when that same guy gets rebuffed by the likes of Danny Wuerffel.

Really, who wants to kick an ol' Ball Coach when he's way, way down? And trust us: When Wuerffel is saying "thanks, but no thanks," we're not talking about the shallow end of the pool.

No, the man most responsible for Washington-as-national-whipping-boy is the same man who, for better or worse, has become the oft-red face of the franchise. In other words, Snyder.

What, you were expecting Rob Johnson?

For one, the Redskins owner most certainly is a victim of his own good fortune. Society has a long tradition of resenting the rich and successful, particularly when the rich and successful go out of their way to demonstrate both qualities at every possible opportunity. Though, in Snyder's defense, there are probably a couple of other NFL owners who enjoy choppering into practice like Col. Kilgore in "Apocalypse Now."

Likewise, Snyder's management style — "hard-charging" or abrasive, take your pick — makes him an easy target. Throwing tantrums in the owner's box. Reportedly storming out of owner's meetings. Keeping a straight face while calling himself "a guy's guy." Taken together, these are hardly the sort behaviors that endear a fellow to the sporting proletariat, to say nothing of the jackals in the press.

Add in Snyder's splashy, hands-on, megabuck approach to football operations — plus a corresponding lack of on-field success — and it's no wonder Washington's woes inspire equal parts mirth and mockery. Just imagine George Steinbrenner without the World Series rings.

"Dan Snyder treats the Redskins like a fantasy football team, rolling players in and out without any regard to continuity, chemistry or the character of his players," Johnson said on air Sunday, echoing a common lament. "Then in the middle of the season he brings in a couple of ex-coaches to evaluate his coaching staff. Everyone has to realize that there should only be one voice heard on each team, and that's the coach's, not the owner's."

Keep this in mind, too: Snyder wants to be liked. A lot. Criticism stings him, not-so-good-natured ribbing even more so. He cares about what his critics say and think. He even solicited advice from Johnson about the coaching transition from college to the pros.

"He was very nice to talk to, but all I was thinking was, 'I can't believe this die-hard Washington Redskin is calling an ex-Cowboy football coach!' " Johnson said. "People would cringe at the thought of it."

Speaking of cringing, if six years on an elementary school playground taught us anything, it's that the kids who react loudest get teased the hardest. Until Snyder learns to act and manage in a manner that isn't fun to, well, make fun of, the Redskins will keep on taking gratuitous blows. Just like their black-and-blue quarterback.

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I know I have been critical of the Skins team lately, because they are talented but UNDERACHIEVING AGAIN, but I like Snyder and I am glad he is the owner. Yes, he has made mistakes. But who doesn't? But I'll take an owner who is a diehard fan any day, who is willing to put up his money to improve the team, rather than one that always looks at the bottom line [Eagles, etc.]

The Raiders suck right now too, but Al Davis is not getting the same heat as Snyder because Davis rarely gives interviews and stays in the background and also has a few Super Bowls to his credit.

As soon as the Skins start winning again, this bullcrap about Snyder will cease. :)

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