August 1, 2008

Not Your Father's Redskins

A lot has changed since the last time I wrote about my favorite football team.

On a personal level (might as well get this out of the way up top), at the time I was still writing for, by and through the auspices of Extremeskins, the teams’ official message board. For a variety of reasons I won’t get into, that is no longer the case. Instead, at least for a while, I’m going to channel my burgundy and gold addiction through this blog.

To those of you who have been kind enough to ask, I honestly have no idea what the future holds in that regard. And as to this blog, while I have hopes some will choose to read it, I have no real expectations. The Skins blogosphere is already a robust one, so adding one more entry to the rolls may or may not register any noticeable impact. I also know my style isn’t for everybody. What I do know is I needed an outlet for my addiction, so here we are.

And that’s all I have to day about that.

Far more interesting are the changes that have taken place at Redskins Park since January. It would be hard to understate them.

When I last sat down to write about them, the Redskins had just finished a wildly emotional and equally improbable season-ending run to the playoffs. Through funeral tears, Bears, Giants, Vikings and Cowboys, the team wrote a storybook ending to their year you’d surely reject as ‘too Hollywood’ were sifting through screenplays.

In a classic Gibbsian late-season surge, the old legend himself had, for the second time in three years, willed a wounded, undermanned team to the post season.

The young QB Apparent, Jason Campbell, had fallen to season-ending injury in Week 13, leading in turn to the deus ex machina-esque appearance of perennial bridesmaid Todd Collins, who breathed life and fire into former Offensive Coordinator Al Saunders’ suddenly dangerous offense. In those heady few weeks, what the future held at the quarterback position in Washington became an even more intriguing question than before.

Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams’ defense, despite all manner of walking wounded and outright missing parts, had tightened up and were playing legitimate NFL post-season level defense. In their last three games, dominating the NY Giants in the Meadowlands, stifling Minnesota on the road and rolling Dallas at home, they looked capable of playing deep into January.

Just ahead lay the Seattle Seahawks, and had Washington’s karmic run continued another week, perhaps another date with nemesis Dallas, a team NFL observers generally agreed at the time wanted nothing to do with the Redskins again.

Largely gone was the public perception around the football world of the Washington Redskins as “Dan Snyder’s fantasy team.” In its place was a growing perception--for better or for worse depending on if your cup tends to half empty of half full--as “Joe Gibbs’ Redskins.”

It was impossible to imagine then, even as the magic ride ended in a flurry of late-game mishaps and mistakes in the cold Seattle night, just how different the burgundy and gold landscape would look seven short months later.

Which brings us to this weekend.

With Coach Gibbs gone—really and truly gone this time—and the new Redskins set to take the field for the first time Sunday night under new first-time head coach (and totally different kind of cat) Jim Zorn, I find myself standing on a kind of fandom threshold.

How so?

Well, I'm setting aside Saturday to wallow, one last time, in What Was. I find it highly fitting—serendipitous even—that Darrell Green and Art Monk, two pillars of the Glory Years, are being inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend. There’s a sense of closure about it—as if we have, at long last, come full circle.

For one more day, I’m going to allow my Inner Skin to relive, and revel in, the memories of those wondrous years. I suspect I’ll shed a private tear at Green’s giddy sincerity on the podium, and probably another, fiercer kind of tear at Monk’s sure-to-be understated acceptance of his preposterously overdue recognition.

And then ... after a good night's sleep, with the new day will finally come time for this veteran Skins fan to turn the page. Perhaps it’s just that I’m a product of those years, but looking back now I realize that between Gibbs’ first retirement in ’92 and the day he returned in ’04, I never really had. Not consciously, no ... but undeniably.

Looking back on those years, I recall at times dealing with the gutting disappointment of watching my team fall from the ranks of the NFL elite to just another struggling club, sometimes even a punch line, by recalling the championship years. We may have been getting pasted again on the field, but it was never too hard to take a short psychic step back, look at those helmets through my own personal filters and summon the memory of seeing them held aloft in ultimate victory.

Well … for a host of reasons I look forward to exploring in the months ahead, this old Skins fan is getting a distinctly different, and distinctly intriguing, vibe about the 2008 Redskins. One unlike any I’ve had in years. And as it so often does in life, everything seems to have coalesced to this very weekend.

Saturday is about The Past ... a glorious, perhaps once-in-a lifetime joy ride that will hold a special place in the hearts and minds of those fortunate to have lived it forever.

And Sunday is about The Future ... a future that sitting here today looks to be one of … well, let’s save that until after tomorrow’s trip down memory lane.

Only one word is capable of knitting together any attempt—even a ham-handed, bloggy one such as this—to seamlessly knit together Redskin Past and Redskins Future. I know you know what it is, but I’m going to say it anyway.



TK said...

Good to see you writing again, ya bastige. :)

nomadskin11 said...

Hi Om,

Long time lurker and occasional poster on Extremeskins here. Just wanted to say I'm glad to see you sharing your sincere and thoughtful point of view once more on the Eyenet.

I am very excited about the changes I have seen this offseason, and have an inkling that the transition from Gibbs to Zorn might make the most sense in the world. And what a wonderful observation that Saturday is a celebration of the past, and Sunday an initiation into the future, whatever it may be.

Sending support and unabashed Skins pride,


ldy said...

Nice read! I was wondering what happened to you. Good luck w/your "new" blog. I look forward to reading about this season thru your eyes and my own.


Mark "Om" Steven said...

Many thanks for the comments.

Hopefully we'll be able to talk about how well the transition from past to future is going. The alternative wouldn't be nearly as much fun ...

Anonymous said...

other than the unfortunate misuse of "serendipitous", another fun read.

Boone said...

As always, you captured my feelings almost perfectly. Quite serendipitous.

Mark "Om" Steven said...

"Serendipity (noun) - the gift of making fortunate discoveries by accident."

Dunno, Ron. I appreciate both the read and the comment, but I think I used the term pretty much the way I wanted to. Here's to the whole "eye of the beholder" thing. :)