One of the ancillary story lines to come out of Pittsburgh's convincing win over Washington on Monday night wasn't the suddenly impotent Jim Zorn offense, or the sight of Carlos Rogers dropping another interception. It was the fact that FedEx Field had been taken over by Steelers fans. So much so, in fact, that the Redskins offense used a silent count for part of the game. That's unheard of.
Today, the Washington Post's Michael Wilbon expects more of the same on Nov. 16, when the Cowboys come to town. But he also explains why it happened in the first place, which says more about the owner than the fan base, I think. (When in doubt, blame Dan Snyder. It's just easier.)
But what is unique and beyond the control of fans is that a 90,000-seat stadium is 25,000 seats too many. There's no team or city in the league that should have a stadium with more than 70,000 seats. Tickets are too easy to come by. And at least one-quarter of the people at FedEx go for the purpose of getting ripped, which, along with the excessive traffic, lack of close parking and inadequate public transportation, makes the Redskins game-day experience probably the most uncomfortable experience in the NFL. I've covered games in all 31 stadiums, many of them 20 times or more. It's an eight-hour day for most Redskins fans and many just don't have that kind of time on a weeknight as well as the tolerance to endure the intoxicated bums who make the game itself completely impossible to enjoy.Certainly a more measured response than what Wilbon had to say in his Tuesday online chat. (To be fair, Willybuns gets his fair share of inane questions during those things, and that he doesn't go off more often is actually pretty impressive.) Whatever, he's right -- and a lot of 'Skins fans were making these very same points in the days since the game -- although I think the biggest issues is the ginormity of FedEx Field? Does any NFL stadium need 90,000 seats?
Nobody should have to spend an entire game shielding his or her children from a barrage of profane language, drunkenness and the threat of fights. I need to pay, in my case, $5,400 a year to get that? The NFL established a fan code of conduct in the offseason to reduce all of the above, yet what I saw and have been told about Monday night was business as usual. I guess what I'm saying to people who bailed to watch the game on television is, I get it. But it is interesting that fans of other NFL teams are willing to put up with the same conditions to see their team. And D.C. has always been an unusual market in that so many people who live in greater Washington are from elsewhere and maintain their rooting loyalties.
I understand that the demand for tickets would suggest so, but there are obviously other factors at work, some described above. And while I'm not naive enough to think that this isn't about one thing -- Snyder making a ton of cash, and to seem VERY IMPORTANT in the process -- for someone who seems to be very image conscious, having a stadium full of opposing fans looks pretty bad. And such a spectacle makes Fred Smoot very, very sad:
"I'm disappointed," Smoot said. "FedEx has never had that many other teams' fans. I don't know, it kind of shocked me when I seen all those terrible towels. I know Pittsburgh ain't but a couple miles away from here, but we've got to keep them out of our place. I'm not disappointed on the fans, but somebody let 'em in there. It wasn't me and I know it wasn't Dan, so SOMEBODY let 'em in there."Actually, it was Dan. Good job, short stuff!