Landover, Maryland- The Washington Redskins home opener came under cloudy skies that cleared up around kickoff. The Redskins were coming off an impressive win over the Arizona Cardinals on Week 1. Opening day should have been loud and packed. And yet there was only 57,013 fans in attendance Sunday when the Redskins took on the Indianapolis Colts. Why is this happening now, surely this Redskins team isn’t as bad as others assembled? So what really is the problem? I asked some fans this question and the answers were not always pleasant.
“The gameday experience isn’t as fun as it used to be,” says Thomas Williams, 42 of Waldorf Maryland. When pressed Williams continued, ” prices keep going up but the services either stay the same or have gotten worse. For instance you used to have to be in the parking lot by 10:30am and even by then it was packed with tailgaters. Now I can show up at 12:30pm and there are parking spots everywhere.”Allison Johnson, 38 of Alexandria, Virginia echoed those sentiments. “We used to get here, tailgate, go inside and watch the game, come back and eat and tailgate some more. Now the staff clears you out off the parking lot an hour and a half after the game. It sorta takes all the fun away.”
When I asked some fans in the stadium about some of the upgrades answers varied as well. Charles Lincoln, 34 of Glenarden Maryland liked the new bar viewing area. “You have a great view of the field and it is open. I can stand here and still see the game while walking around talking with friends.” Roland Knight, 45 of Washington DC, had a different sentiment. “I came here looking for the band and I couldn’t find them. When I saw the bar area I was like cool but where is the band?” The band the Mr. Knight was referring to of course was the Washington Redskins Marching Band. A very unique experience that only the Redskins offer, and also the Baltimore Ravens, are a full marching band at games. Knight found out that they were moved to the club level away from most of the fans. ” I was wondering why they sounded so far away. They used to play a lot but all we get during breaks now are commercial after commercial. The interaction with the band hyped the crowd.”
While the Redskins stumbled on the field Sunday the crowd that had shown up and started fairly loud got quieter and quieter. Eventually that silence turned into boos. Running back Adrian Peterson noticed. ” It was a new one for me. It was different.” It’s hard not to notice those things. Are the fans truly tired of the franchise and its direction under Daniel Synder? This 2018 version of the Redskins is plenty talented. If the fans can fill up the stadium when Rex Grossman or Danny Wuerffel were the quarterbacks, certainly Alex Smith, Josh Norman and the others can fill the stadium. FedEx Field was built in a bad location and isn’t that good of a stadium, that fact is known. However Redskins fans made it home by their spirit and energy. The Redskins fan experience was unique and more importantly ours, different from the flashy over the top Dallas Cowboys, and it was personal. Now the games are almost like watching the games on TV at home, you turn the TV on, a quick pregame, the game happens, and you turn the TV off and everything goes quiet. That’s kind of how the game experience at FedEx is now.
While the team looks ahead ten years for when the team moves, the team must also figure out what to do with their home right now. Winning would definitely be the best cure. In 2012 the stands were full and loud while rookie Robert Griffin III led the team to probably its most fun season at FedEx. The drama with Griffin and the Kirk Cousins have turned away fans. Some fans may have been turned away because of the national anthem protests. Others fans are tired of getting a subpar product. Others prefer to watch at home, where they can flip channels and see other games. But never was an opening day so sparsely attended, especially when the team was already 1-0 on the season. While the team focuses on winning the team should not forget the culture that build this loyal fan base. Things such as tailgating, fellowship, and the marching band mean as much to the fans as read options and safety blitzes. While focusing on one the team cannot lose focus on the other otherwise the traditions that made the Redskins franchise great may slowly pass away.