A eulogy for the Washington Redskins

After years of controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins, the name has officially been left in the rearview. The name used since the early championships from the Sammy Baugh era to the Super Bowl teams led by Joe Gibbs is now exactly what those moments are: history. It’s a new chapter for Washington football, and after 83 years as the Redskins (87 if you count the years in Boston), the Washington NFL team will go by a different name that’s yet to be determined.

Redskins purists are angry; while the phrase is a derogatory term for Native Americans, most fans (myself included) associate the term more with the football team. The movement for a name change, while building for years, didn’t gain any real traction until just a couple weeks ago. The rug has been swept from underneath them. That name is attached to championships, all-time great players and spending Sundays with your family decked in burgundy and gold.

I recognize all of that, and while it’s the name I grew up with, I understand it was due for change. Maybe it’s because I can’t associate the name with any actual success, since the team hasn’t amounted to anything in my 19-year lifetime, but it’s the team I supported regardless, and the fact that the name of my favorite football team since childhood is changing has not yet sunk in for me.

I still have plenty of fond memories of the Redskins of my childhood, like watching my favorite player, Clinton Portis, dash around the field before wearing goofy costumes in the locker room press conferences. I remember Sean Taylor laying out hits before a tragedy ended his life far too soon.

I remember Robert Griffin III torching the Minnesota Vikings defense on a 76-yard touchdown run, giving me and countless other fans hope that the team could one day soon, for the first time in my life, compete for a Super Bowl. His knees had other plans.

I also remember the blowouts, like the Monday Night massacre in 2010, where the rival Philadelphia Eagles took a 28-0 first quarter lead before winning the game 59-28. I also remember the seemingly countless years where the season was over by October. I remember Alex Smith, the veteran quarterback helming a 6-3 start to the 2018 season, having his career (likely) ended in an injury that parallels Joe Theismann’s in a freaky number of ways.

Those moments will all be a part of the franchise’s history. Just because the name will be changed, that doesn’t mean they’re wiped from the books. I still remember them (as much as I’d like to forget some) and I will for a long time. Now is just a new chapter.

Some fans have claimed they will stop supporting the team now that the name has changed. To them I say, ‘good riddance.’ If you stayed on board for the past 20 years of futility, but only now jump ship because of a name change, then… I don’t even know what to say, that just baffles me. It’s one thing to disagree with the name change, but walking away because of it just seems childish.

I support this team because they represent the city I was born in and the metropolitan area in which I was raised. Regardless of what the name is, I will continue to support this team. I’ve witnessed no real success in supporting them for 19 years, but I can’t just switch to another team. It would be easier if I could, but I can’t just abandon this fandom I’ve cultivated over my whole life.

I’ve never understood those who just pick a random team from a different city to root for. I’m from Washington, this is Washington’s team, therefore it is my team. I still appreciate and root for great players from other teams; I was a fan of Adrian Peterson for years before he joined the Redskins, but I don’t care if the Vikings win or lose.

No matter how dismal the seasons got for the Redskins, no matter how sickening and irritating it is to have Dan Snyder as the team owner, no matter how many jokes get thrown my way about the incompetence of the “Deadskins,” it doesn’t matter. I’m stuck with them, for better or worse, and a name change isn’t gonna end that.

I don’t know when the “better” will come. Ron Rivera is a two-time Coach of the Year. Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio took the Oakland Raiders to the playoffs in 2016. The recent No. 2 overall pick Chase Young has the potential to be a game-wrecker. If Dwayne Haskins can improve and more pieces are added, maybe things will get better. I know better than to get my hopes up just yet.

Whether I like the new name or not, I don’t foresee myself buying any new merchandise. While I will always support the team as a fan, I have already stopped supporting the team financially so long as Snyder is the owner. Maybe I’ll buy a bootleg t-shirt if the quality is decent. We’ll see how it goes.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m hoping the name is the ‘Redwolves,’ but I would settle for ‘Redtails’ or ‘Warriors.’ I don’t know how long the wait will be until the new name is revealed, but July 12, 2020 will go down as the last day of the Washington Redskins. Fans opposed to the change may continue to refer to the team as the Redskins, but much like when the ‘Bullets’ changed to the ‘Wizards,’ the new name will wear itself in someday.

A new name won’t change the state of the franchise, but hopefully change will come. For one last time, Hail to the Redskins.

Cover Photo Credit: Aaron M. Sprecher/AP

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