With fans chanting “sell the team” at games, their popularity waning in the District, and someone neglecting to put their name on sweatshirts, things look increasingly bleak for the Washington Redskins.
On the bright side, the sorry state of the franchise means that tickets for games are at an all-time low, going for as little as $4 on some resale websites.
This past Sunday’s game against the similarly abysmal Detroit Lions (2-7-1) seemed like the perfect opportunity to see just how thrifty I could be while getting the full Washington Redskins (2-9) experience.
My challenge this weekend was simple: get tickets, get something to eat and drink, and get home for $25 or less.
Early on, I hit a snag: While GameTime Tickets and StubHub offered the lowest prices, they also had the highest fees per ticket. I ultimately settled on Ticketmaster, which offered two $8 tickets in the nosebleeds for $11 each once you factored in fees. Told of this complication, my editor raised my limit to $30.
After finding a semi-willing participant for the occasion, I was all set for Sunday’s action.
On the morning of the game, my companion and I met up at my apartment in Chevy Chase at 10:30 AM, opting to drive to FedEx Field. The combination of game day and early Thanksgiving traffic meant that we arrived at the Morgan Boulevard Metro station parking lot around 11:15 AM.
Because of the special event pricing it cost $15 for parking, which my friend covered with her pre-loaded Metro card. Like most Gen Z/millennial friends, we’re stuck in an endless loop of Venmo-ing funds back and forth for weekend outings, so I didn’t feel too bad letting her cover the parking.
Stuck behind a long line of football fans and flanked by police tape and cones to direct traffic, the 20-minute walk to the stadium felt like a sorry combination of a walk of shame and a scene from March of the Penguins.
Still, there were some interesting sights along Morgan Boulevard, such as the mural that depicts African American inventor Garrett Morgan and some decorative seals along the sidewalk.
With an hour to kill before the game started, I decided to check out the tailgating scene in the lots by the stadium. While there was a decent smattering of Redskins fans grilling in the parking lot, the largest group I saw was repping Lions gear.
Floyd Sartin, a loyal Detroit fan despite living in the District for 13 years now, says that the group is mostly Michigan transplants or visitors who found each other through mutual friends.
Another fan, Andrew Harrell, flew in for the weekend just to see the game.
“I bought the tickets before I knew they’d be cheap, but I am on the 50-yard line,” Harrell says. “It’s nice, especially the way our stadium is designed, that the parking here is right on the grounds.”
Though the conversation around the Redskins is often one of despair, the fans I met at the field were surprisingly chipper.
“I’m a loyal person. It’s like if I had a girlfriend,” Ray Shields, an Upper Marlboro native, says. “If she got big, ugly, anything like that, I’ll still stick with her while she gets things together.”
For fans like Lauren Mandley and Jose Elliot, who met their tailgating squad three years ago, friendship makes a losing season a little easier to stomach.
“We gotta lean on each other in tough times,” Mandley says. “We’ll still be here every week, win, lose, or draw.”
As someone from Boston, where teams hear Bronx cheers just for failing to meet expectations in the playoffs, this loyalty to a flailing franchise surprised me. My companion, a Maryland native, said that, given the state of DC sports before the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018, the loyalty was hardly surprising.
Still with time to spare before kickoff, we entered the stadium and surveyed the food options on the concourse.
Mindful of the budget, our options were severely limited. After buying a ticket for the game, I only had $19 remaining.
Acquiring beverages proved to be the greatest challenge. The cheapest beer available was $14 for a 25 oz. can of Bud Light—nearly three times the nominal price of my tickets. There was also the punny Ale to the Redskins brew by Devils Backbone, though I couldn’t help but wonder how it compared to Harpers Ferry Brewing’s “Sell the Team” double IPA.
I instead opted for a hot chocolate spiked with Baileys ($13), which had the dual benefit of being $1 cheaper and providing warmth to my already frozen fingers.
With $6 left in my budget, my food options were scarce. Gut-busting offerings like the “West Coast Nachos,” loaded with chicken, avocado, tomato, corn, black beans, salsa, jalapeños, and cilantro, were blessedly out of my budget. My options were limited to a pretzel ($3) or fries from Johnny Rockets ($5). I went with the latter.
Walking up the ramp that makes even a Foucauldian panopticon seem cheery, I realized the error of our ways. The blustering winds were even worse as we made our way up the ramp, and I spilled most of my hot chocolate on my coat. By the time we made it to our seats, my fries were all but frozen. Nevertheless, we persisted.
The seats were not much better than the fries—in fact, they were worse. While the view of the field was surprisingly clear that high up, the wind meant that I spent the game bundled in my coat and dodging food containers that the breeze threw around. I also had a great view of the rest of the stands, which were noticeably blue-tinged from all the Detroit jerseys.
Like rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins, I did not see the final drive of the Redskins game. Instead, I opted to leave sometime in the late stages of the game to beat the traffic leaving the stadium.
By my estimation, I had more than earned back my $11 tickets. After all, I saw what is probably the Redskins’ wildest touchdown of the season and, though I did not know it at the time, witnessed (most of) the team’s first home win since last October.
I left cold, dejected, but, somehow, under budget by $1.
The cheap tickets to Redskins games are great for diehard fans looking to ball on a budget. But for casual viewers, like myself, $30 might be better spent enjoying a hot bowl of ramen at a restaurant that’s showing the game on television. This is, coincidentally, what I ended up doing after the game to make it up to the friend I dragged along with me.