News & Politics

Will Dan Snyder’s Fans Last?

With yesterday's loss to the Eagles, the Redskins continue their downward spiral this season.

Is it possible that Dan Snyder and his losing football team are starting to lose the loyal Redskin fan base? Did the stands at FedEx Field yesterday look like Swiss cheese, with holes of empty seats punched into the stadium from top to bottom and all the way around?

And why did 15,000 Eagles fans (by my estimate), sporting green jerseys and painted faces, show more spirit and than the Redskins fans?

FedEx Field, the biggest in the National Football League, holds 91,665 fans. The official attendance yesterday was 84,164. That leaves 7,501 empty seats. But from my vantage point from club section seats at the 40 yard line, there were far fewer fans in the stands.

I’m sure Redskins owner Dan Snyder doesn’t care who buys the tickets, but if you figure that 15,000 Eagles fans showed up at FedEx Field, the Redskins fan base was whittled down to about 70,000.

Even by the Redskins official records, yesterday’s game drew the season’s smallest crowd. The numbers have been tailing off all season, like a Mark Brunell pass fluttering in the breeze. The biggest crowd—90,608— came on opening night of September 11, to see Minnesota beat the Redskins. The team says 90,250 came a few weeks later to see the Dallas game. Drop that to 85,450 to see Carolina. Attendance for yesterday’s Eagles game was the lowest of the season.

With the Redskins 4-9 and out of contention, it may not be a big surprise that some fans stay home on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

But these are the Redskins! The day was sunny and warm—a pefect football day. The Burgundy and Gold was playing the hated Eagles from up the road in Philly.

Yet more and more fans chose to leave their seats empty. Even the tail gate parties in the parking lot seemed desultory.

Up in my section, a few Redskins fans mustered up some good-natured heckling of the many Eagles fans. The Redskins fans cheered first downs and field goals; the Eagles fans got to cheer touchdowns.

The enduring image was a guy in a Donavan McNabb jersey on the front row of Section 321 turning around during the last two minutes of the game and flapping his arms slowly at the the Redskins fans, who were quiet and glum.

Since Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999, the team has floundered. If you look at the past five years, the team’s won-loss record averages out to 6-10.

Snyder thinks he’s done everything a shrewd businessman and loyal fan can do. He’s enlarged FedEx Field. He’s resurrected Joe Gibbs, the legendary coach who last brought the Redskins to the Promised Land of Super Bowl victories.

But the fans at FedEx Field are turning against Snyder. Fans pay high prices for seats and for food. Frisked on the way in, my 15-year-old daughter was relieved of two granola bars and a bottle of water. Fans endure awful traffic getting to and from the stadium. Then they try and root for a team that kills a scoring drive by fielding 12 players, taking a five-yard penalty and settling for a field goal.

Sonny Jurgensen, legendary Redskin quarterback and now a commentator on radio and TV, told his audience yesterday that the Redskins seem to be playing in the “National Field Goal League.”

That got a laugh from fans, but even Sonny—maybe the great Redskin of the past 50 years—seems to be losing his patience.

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