It wasn’t just the bad snap or the missed field goals. It wasn’t the near 200-yard rusher that went to waste or another low-scoring offensive output. See, it’s hard to summarize exactly what was the most disappointing aspect in yet another tear-jerker for the Washington Redskins. Maybe it was a collection of things that prompted an already scarce FedEx Field to explode in a chorus of boos. Maybe it was the sights of another season turned to dust that caused radio callers to curse the team over the air. Maybe it was Donovan McNabb; maybe it was Graham Gano; darn, where’s Albert Haynesworth when you need someone to blame?

Washington reached a new level of futility after a botched extra point cost the team a chance to tie the game in their 17-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Dec. 12. The Redskins wasted a beautifully executed 69-yard scoring drive to pull within one. After McNabb found Santana Moss for a short touchdown, home viewers probably considered a quick race to the fridge to grab something, assuming the extra point was in the bag. Ironically, one of the Fox commentators had warned: “The team isn’t out of the woods yet.” And he was right, they weren’t even near the first signs of daylight. After Gano clanged two makeable field goals in the first half, even the commentators knew the extra point wasn’t a given.

But only in Washington, D.C. could something so easy seem so difficult. Maybe that was the source of frustration for fans: knowing that even the “givens” aren’t givens in the District. “It’s like a wound that never heals completely,” 35-year-old and lifelong Redskins fan Chief Honesty-Bey said after the game. “It starts to heal then you do something to reopen it again. But it’s funny because the wound doesn’t even hurt anymore; the season was over two weeks ago.”

Washington’s “season” has been ending early for the past few years now. A promising 6-2 start in ’08 and a 3-2 sprint this year seem like distant memories at this point. Desperate for answers after the game, I telephoned a few of my trusted Redskin faithful just to gauge the level of disappointment around the city. Suffice it to say members of Redskin Nation weren’t as anxious to talk but those that did couldn’t quite put things into words. “Maybe the city’s just cursed,” one person said who didn’t want to be identified (understandable). “How else would you explain the (Washington) Wizards and the (Washington) Nationals. Even the (Washington) Capitals have lost five straight. This isn’t Boston down here you know.”

Typically, in most cities there’s at least one thing to cheer for. A dominant NFL team, an exciting NBA team, a competitive college contender or even a nationally acclaimed high school team. The closest thing the District has to a perennial powerhouse is the DeMatha High School football team, and they just lost 42-3 in their title game last month—go figure.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO