“Washington Bails out Detroit” was the headline in the Post Monday morning, but it wasn’t about the economy. In a game obviously overflowing with cheap metaphors, the Washington Redskins lost to the Detroit Lions in Ford Field. That game ended the Lion’s losing streak at 19, second longest in NFL history. With insincere apologies to my Washington area neighbors, I couldn’t help but root for Detroit. The Lions were such infra-underdogs, underdogs so far under they might as well have been moles. Plus, it’s so easy to dislike the Redskins…there’s that name issue, then there’s, well, pretty much everything else.
It’s not rational of course. Nothing in sports fandom is. It’s the last bastion of acceptable irrationality and I make liberal—I couldn’t do otherwise—use of that permission to cheer for and rail against teams for a variety of certifiably nutty reasons. I don’t like teams with dopey logos. A dolphin with a helmet? Tampa Bay and that pirate ship thing? I don’t like teams with silly uniforms. The Seahawks new safety-green jerseys make them look like they should all be waving traffic around roadside construction. And, I save most of my venom for teams that won’t commit to their own locations, teams that want to wrap themselves in the ineffable iconicity of a city without any of the responsibility to be a part of one. Carolina Panthers? Pick one, North or South. They’re different states. New England Patriots? Talk about hedging your bets. Worse still are the location-deniers and, until recently, the champions in that group were the Giants and the Redskins. The Giants play in New Jersey. The day they proudly admit that and embrace their Jersey-ness is the day they win my affection.
The Redskins abandoned their power position at the east end of the monumental axis of Washington in 1996 and moved to an “unincorporated area” in Prince Georges County, Md. An unincorporated area. Not a town, not a borough, not a city, not a municipality. No neighborhood. No nothing. During their decades at RFK Stadium the ‘Skins were once a powerhouse of the NFL, not to mention a picturesque venue for television. Enough mojo, or momentum, or whatever, still clung to them as they packed up and moved to their current unmemorable location that they managed to win the NFC East championship in 1999, but alas, that was pretty much it. Conspiracy theorists might want to look into this, the hidden power, the significance of the axis. Maybe that’s the big secret in Dan Brown’s new book.
It’s with that in mind that I confess to being a Dallas Cowboys fan, but I have to admit that were I to rebuild all of my NFL affections anew I would probably have to reconsider. It’s the whole suburban package that grates on me. The Cowboys are now the most egregious of location-deniers. The over the top new stadium isn’t even in Dallas, which is itself only marginally a real place by my strict definition. Commentators are digging deep into their thesauruses to describe the new stadium, but I’m struggling to find a way to describe the sea, ocean, galaxy, of parking in which the stadium floats. They claim the stadium in Arlington, but it looks like it’s in Outer Asphaltia.
And that brings me back to the beleaguered Lions, who actually moved back into the city after years on the fringes. We urban fans of this largely suburban sport have give kudos not only to the Lions, but the likes of the Packers and the Steelers. But maybe the winner of this little Urbanity Bowl is the Baltimore Ravens, who celebrated 10 years deep in Baltimore last year. They’re 3-0 this season…more than coincidence? So, here’s a rational cheer for the Ravens. But I still can’t stand ‘em.