Why It’s Okay for Washington to Be Excited About the Redskins

Sure, last week’s stunning win was just one game—but the time for pessimism is over.
Photograph by James R. Brantley.
Photograph by James R. Brantley.

This was not some elaborate hoax meant to torment a city that has seen much more sports
heartbreak than success over the last 20 years. This was an honest, real segment with
ESPN reporters explaining the hype and palpable sense of enthusiasm surrounding local
sports.

As somebody who has watched it all since I was a little boy, it was hard to take.
I loved seeing it, but as more and more national media coverage descends upon our
city, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But you know what? The time for pessimism is over. We have real talent in town, and
it was on display last week in New Orleans and this week in New York.

Robert Griffin III was simply stunning in his debut. Not every week will go as smoothly, but to put
it mildly, RG3 proved his worth in the season opener.

And before we get too caught up in RG3 mania, let’s take a quick look at the baseball
standings: The Nats rebounded from an awful home series against the Marlins by sweeping
the Mets in New York. The team has an 8.5-game lead over Atlanta, and playoff baseball
in Washington becomes more likely by the day.

We’re allowed to be excited.

We can celebrate our baseball team, which features baseball’s first 19-game winner
in
Gio Gonzalez and a cast of hitters pounding the ball in
Adam LaRoche,
Ryan Zimmerman, and
Ian Desmond.

We can celebrate our new rookie quarterback, who conceivably broke all accuracy and
efficiency records kept for rookies and, more important, delivered a win for his team.

The Saints are a tough team to play, especially in the Superdome. This Redskins team
performed like none other in recent memory. They got down early, came back, took the
lead, and never let it go.

As I watched
Drew Brees and his cohorts tried to come back, I was, to put it mildly, freaked out. I figured
the Skins’ lead would vanish, and in the end, this loss would sting more than others.

Except the Skins didn’t lose.
DeJon Gomes made a play and got an interception, and the Redskins won, on the road, against a
playoff team.

The naysayers will point out this was only one game. I get that. But if you can’t
see that there is something different with this Skins team, you weren’t watching over
the past 20 years. I am not making any grand predictions—you will not read proclamations
of an imminent Super Bowl here—but the team and the culture have changed. RG3 could
be the reason.

So here we are, in week two, with the Skins traveling to St. Louis to play the Rams.
St. Louis is tricky territory for the Skins, as the Rams haven’t been much of an imposing
team since the early 2000s, yet they continue to give the Redskins fits.

Vegas lists the Skins as a 3.5-point favorite, and I imagine many savvy gamblers would
love to wager on a home underdog Rams team that played well last week against Detroit.

This game makes me more nervous than last week’s against the Saints; the Skins lose
the adrenaline of the season opener and the allure of facing off with the explosive
Saints. Sunday in St. Louis, the Redskins will face a hungry team in a half-empty
dome with little crowd noise or expectations.

Quite simply, in past seasons this game would most likely result in a Redskins loss.

This year, as ESPN and countless others want to tell us, could be different. For that
to be true, the Redskins must leave St. Louis with a win.

It’s going to be close, but I think the Skins will do just that. Redskins 31, Rams
28.

Find JP Finlay on Twitter @jpfinlay.

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