Congress leaves town, with good reason. A great stench rises up from the former swampland. Air conditioning tries nobly to offset the heat, and fails. The city becomes a veritable ghost town until school starts.
But there is one good thing about August: it's football time.
And that means it's time to make fun of Washington's entry in the National Football League: the Redskins.
Ahh, if only the team were also built by Home Depot.
First of all, the team had to deal a disgruntled Laveranues Coles. (More about that later.) They struck a straight-up deal with the Jets for Santana Moss; although the receivers are similar, most people consider this to be a bit of a downgrade for the Redskins.
By itself, that's not a disaster. But instead of the usual flurry of free agent signings, the team lost a bunch of players it wanted to keep. Cornerback Fred Smoot decided to move to Minnesota... for only $500,000 more than the Redskins were apparently offering. Coupled with the loss of linebacker Antonio Pierce to the Giants, the team lost two of its most important defensive cogs.
Certainly poor salary cap management is a factor. Bad signings from years past restricted the amount the team could spend. It's a state of being I like to call "Salary Cap Hades." Remarkably, the Redskins, a 6-10 team, had the highest payroll in the league last year at $117.4 million (perennial champion New England spent $77 million).
A lot of people questioned the team's draft strategy. It seemed like wide receiver was the biggest need, and a good one (Mike Williams) was available when the Redskins' turn came; but the team drafted a cornerback with its top pick, and followed that up by trading three of its picks to... reach for yet another quarterback. As part of that deal, the team traded its first-round pick next year, plus this year's third- and fourth-round picks, for this year's 25th overall (a late first round pick). Sooo... this is what happens when you can't pay for players, I guess. Give away all the draft picks.
Meanwhile, among the remaining defensive players, there were other problems: Lavar Arrington complained the team had hung him out to dry during his recovery from surgery; rookie safety Sean Taylor, whose selection in last year's draft was described by Gibbs as one of the "most researched things in the history of sports," never showed up for offseason workouts, and then briefly traded his burguny-and-gold for prison grays.
So the offseason was like a Perfect Storm. Of Crap. And, if you're into schadenfreude... and I think you know that I am... it was hilarious at every turn.
Meanwhile, the parallels between the Redskins and the culture of Washington continue to astound me. The team introduced a plan to charge fans $7,500 to join the "Touchdown Club", and vault over the thousands of people on the season ticket waiting list... because rich people shouldn't have to wait in line, dammit. This happened about the same time Virginia introduced a proposal for high-occupancy-toll lanes on the Beltway, derisively nicknamed "Lexus Lanes" by certain bitter people. (I choose not to do that; I prefer to simply call the non-toll lanes "Hispanic Lanes.")
There's a chance the salary cap, which enforces league parity and a fair playing field, will go away for a year, in 2007, while the NFL's collective bargaining agreement is renegotiated. The Redskins, being completely unable to control their spending, are, of course, actively rooting for this situation, in which they would be able to outspend all the other teams at a geometric rate.
"Sure, if only we didn't have play by these pesky RULES, we'd be doing great!" You might recongnize this as the competitive strategy trademarked by George Steinbrenner. Or, like, every lobbyist in town.
Meanwhile, the team's relationship with the press seems to mirror that of a certain white house in town. In retaliation for printing an (accurate) article about the team misleading fans by selling them obstructed-view seats without telling them, the team cut off the Post's long-time season ticket supply. Then, the team starting promoting its website, redskins.com, as the place to get the "unfiltered" story on the Redskins, instead of that anti-Redskin bias apparently rampant in the media (sounds... so... familiar!).
And for a while, all was good in Redskinland. The website published exclusives you couldn't get from the Post, like "Patrick Ramsey Gives Back to the Community" and "Fans Enjoy Staring at Concrete Pillars." That is, until the team posted video of its voluntary offseason workouts, which included "live blocking" drills, something that's prohibited by rule.
"Do you know how we caught them?" NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw said. "We saw it on their Web site."Hi, larious. The team was stripped of some of its practice days as a result.
And really, the schadenfreude is fun, even though I don't have anything specifically against the team. Really, the only reason all the mistakes and problems are so much fun is the owner, Daniel Snyder.
Mr. Snyder is best described as an Evil Rich Guy. He somehow manages to represent everything I hate about humanity in one bite-size package. He's clearly the kind of person who assumes that succeeding in business will translate into success at anything else, which has delightfully been proven untrue over the past five years. The team has steamrolled through big-name coaches but failed to reach the playoffs each time. Danny continues to make plenty of money off the franchise, all the better to fuel his helicopter; but a steady stream of high-profile free agent signings have failed to improve the team.
The Danny's last coach, one Mr. Steve Spurrier, recently vented some sour grapes about Mr. Snyder:
[Spurrier] says he realized his NFL career was a mistake at the beginning of his second season. That's when Redskins owner Daniel Snyder made several personnel decisions without consulting him.
This conflicted with a big interview that Snyder granted the Washington Times (another obvious slap at the Post):
I've never told anyone who to draft. There's a false impression out there that I'm watching film, that I'm grading players. That's silly. I've never watched film and graded players. I don't want to be a coach. I just want to be the owner.Ahhh, who to believe?
Well, that's only Exhibit A in People v. The Danny. When Coles made his desire to leave the team known, Snyder was apparently less than accomodating:
[Coles] described every week of last season as a "miserable" experience and added that the most important lesson he learned while in Washington was "trust nobody."The "flat-screen" quote has become somewhat infamous. Granted, Laveranues was being more than a bit immature, but having this quote out there is not the kind of pub you want for your team, if your team typically is a heavy player in the free-agent market, as the Redskins usually are.
If you want to know how badly Coles and the Redskins needed a divorce, consider this: Redskins owner Daniel Snyder threatened Coles when the receiver's refusal to accept [a trade to the Jets] without a contract extension thwarted the deal last month. "He said that if I stayed in Washington, he would turn me into another Terry Glenn," Coles said. (Glenn, now with the Cowboys, missed most of the 2001 season with New England as his public feud with head coach Bill Belichick resulted in various fines, suspensions and ultimately Glenn's benching). "He said he would send a flat-screen television to my home because I'd be better off watching the games there. That was his way of saying I'd be sitting for the next couple years until they cut me."
Gotta love the rich-guy hubris. It continued into last month, when the National Park Service started re-scrutinizing a deal that allowed Danny to clear-cut a goodly number of trees adjacent to the C&O Canal National Historical Park. You see, it seems that... hee... it seems that... heh, hold on...
!!! RICH PEOPLE CLICHE ALERT !!!
...Snyder wanted a better view of the river.
And so, to achieve said view, he went ahead and cleared 50,000 square feet of trees. Without permission from the county, which claimed the trees provide erosion protection on that particular slope.
Wow. I abso-fucking-lutely LOVE THIS. You couldn't make this shit up. Could the man be anymore hateworthy?
Well, yeah, he could. I mean, the deceiving people into obstructed-view seat thing alone should tell you something about the man.
I don't think you can appreciate exactly how obstructed the seats are, until you've seen photographic evidence.
Yeah. That's not Photoshopped, people. The fan who bought this season ticket last year was apparently told by the team that "the corner of the end zone would be obstructed by a pillar." Cost for the season: $690/seat. (This year, the seats have been discounted to a mere $440/seat.)
So, yeah... as much as I hate to fall back on an old standby: