Tuesday night, I hit the low water mark as a Wizards and Redskins fan. That's not as easy as it sounds. Watching a fan of perennial cellar-dwelling teams hit bottom is to witness the death of an eternal optimist. All that's left to do when the engine is burned out in such a way is think, and I found myself thinking about the last twenty years.
Both franchises have endured rebuild after circus after rebuild and each season I followed the moves the teams made, geared up my hopes after assimilating the logic employed and bought back in. Yet each season, as Aerosmith said, "It's the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend." Perhaps that's why my fandom is in so much pain right now.
Each franchise is in Year 3 of 'doing things the right way, because we finally get it now'. Dan Snyder removed his fingers from personnel decisions to get Mike Shanahan on board (who could essentially dictate terms with no other respectable head coaching candidate willing to go near the Redskins). Shanahan immediately moved to replenish a depleted offensive line while remaining under the radar in free agency and committing to the draft in 2011. Ted Leonsis taking over the Wizards began with the keys to the 2010 draft and the Ten Point Plan, a plan for D.C.basketball! Everything began with roses, change and hope that I have never known as a sports fan.
The fate of each franchise's rebirth is still fluid. Yet this is the first time I have been truly discouraged. You could point to a staggering number of factors to make a case that I'm going too far, or not far enough, so I'll just refer to a few points that sum up my tautological feelings in microcosm:
- The Redskins are the most penalized team in football. That's a player discipline issue and it's a fundamental coaching issue. If there was two areas that I thought would never be an issue in the Mike Shanahan era...
- The Wizards have fired off 154 three-point shots through just six games this season. The only proven long distance shooter on the roster has played all of 16 minutes while the upshot of the new motion offense appeared to be playing like the 2009 Orlando Magic sans three-point shooters and Dwight Howard. The Wizards just treated fans to what could possibly the worst loss the fanbase has seen in years, but the real onion here is quite simply the lack of talent, even for a squad missing it's top two players. Mike nails it down here. And this was the year the team was supposed to sniff playoffs.
I haven't given up on my teams. I wasn't banking on the playoffs this year, in either case. I simply thought, that in three years, certain minimum standards would be met, simply by virtue of the competent measures upper management seemed to be taking. That the Redskins would not be leading the league in penalties. That seven first-round draft picks and $33 million worth of starting veteran trade acquisitions could at least not get blown out by the Charlotte Bobcats when they shoot under 40 percent from the floor. I will watch every Wizards and Redskins game this season, regardless. I'll be there. Yet I am discouraged, which is very difficult to admit, and I am not alone.