Let’s start by acknowledging that DC is growing as a sports town. Our teams are interesting, even though the biggest prizes are still on the horizon. But we have genuine superstars in just about every major league sport. In that context, the Washington Redskins’ season opener on Monday night was memorable for a number of reasons, beginning with quarterback Robert Griffin III’s debut—for better or worse—after a summer of knee rehab. Also, in all the sideline panoply that is a Monday night football game—fans, bands, players, guys in gray suits, media galore—it felt culturally significant that the Redskins cheerleaders had added twerking to their repertoire. Not a lot, but it was there between the hair flips.
The game conjured memories of the Washington Nationals opening day, when the excitement and anticipation couldn’t have been bolder. After all, the Nats season began with media proclamations of World Series destiny. For the Redskins, the focus has been almost singularly on Griffin’s knee.
We now have some resolutions to both. The World Series, and likely even the playoffs, won’t happen for the Nats, despite some exciting games such as Monday night’s 9-0 win over the Mets. They are on to evaluating players for next season and closing in on the choice of a new general manager (Randy Knorr is a reported front-runner). RG3 made it through the full and grueling loss against the Philadelphia Eagles, including some hard sacks, and did not appear hindered, except maybe by his knee brace. About the hits he took, Griffin said, “I know everybody wants to see that—wants to see me get hit and get up—and that’s what they got to see. … It’s football, man.”
Here are some other observations from being on the sidelines at the season opener:
• Traffic was bad but not horrible. Once we got on Route 50 and then the Beltway, we moved. Getting into the parking lot was crowded but smooth.
• The tailgate scene was vibrant, as usual, including the tailgaiters who’d been hanging out for just a few beers too long.
• The bag security is real. In the parking lot, two security guards happened to come by as I got out of the car. I showed them my relatively small clutch. “Will this cut it?” I asked. “No,” they said. So much for that. “And put it in your trunk,” they advised. “We’ve had a whole lot of car break-ins because people left their bags on car seats and visible.”
• Because of the crowd down on the field, it felt like everyone at the game had field access. There was a remarkable amount of team-related electronic equipment and a lot of media. The biggest crush of humanity was around the ESPN on-field anchor booth . . . at least until game time.
• Redskins general manager Bruce Allen bounded around the sidelines, shaking hands and giving man-hugs to pals.
• “Griffin III” T-shirts, sweatshirts, and jerseys outnumber the others by seemingly three to one.
• A beer is $9.50.
• The announcer proclaims “first down” with the same velocity as if he’s saying “touchdown.”
• When the Redskins scored that first touchdown on a turnover, it seemed like the stadium could collapse from the cheers. But when the team began fumbling and making its own mistakes, the mood deflated with a comparable silence.
• You could feel the crowd hold its breath when RG3 took his first snap.
• The fans stayed put. There was not a big exodus during the half, when the game looked especially grim for the Redskins. And those who remained were rewarded with a better second half.
• Owner Dan Snyder’s box was almost—but not quite—full. Spotted among his guests were Bernard Shaw, Alan Greenspan, Andrea Mitchell, former senator George Allen, and Michael Milken.