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Monday, May 2, 2022

OPINION:

They had a party at Ghost Town Field last week to celebrate the team’s drafting of hostages.

After all, that’s what they are — hostages. Players rarely come to Washington to play football of their own free will. 


They wanted a quarterback and no one would come, so they went out and got a hostage who had no choice but to be a “Commander” — Carson Wentz.

When Wentz found he was traded from Indianapolis to Washington, he prayed — “OK God, I’m going to just take the next right step. I’m going to be obedient, wherever you have me, whatever it looks like.”

That’s not exactly a prayer of thanks.

Still, the team saw the draft as cause for celebration and they hosted fans at the stadium for a party, giving them their first look at the facility with the new name “Commanders” to welcome them.

From all accounts, it appeared to be a fun time for those who attended. They got to see the “W” logo on the field, along with a tour of the locker rooms with the new look.

They also got to see the team’s three Super Bowl trophies. Coach Ron isn’t going to be happy about that. He wants everyone to forget about the past.

But this was a party, and apparently, if there is one thing Ghost Town Field seems to be able to do, it is to host a party.

It may be the only thing.

Turns out it is not able to host a World Cup soccer game.

Lost in the sea of embarrassment that sweeps over this organization seemingly on a daily basis was the fact that in Washington’s bid to host 2026 World Cup games, the gangsters at FIFA took one look at Ghost Town Field and said, “How about Baltimore?

Is there anything more embarrassing for Washington sports fans than to hear, “How about Baltimore?” Well, besides, “The owner of the Washington Commanders, Dan Snyder?”

When local officials announced two years ago that they had formed the group DC2026 to join the many cities that were seeking to be part of North America hosting the World Cup games, the bid centered around hosting the games at Ghost Town Field.

Greg O’Dell, president and chief executive of EventsDC, said the team — still called the Redskins at the time — had been a great partner in “supporting this bid, recognizing FedEx will be the venue, independent of whatever their aspirations are for a new stadium … and we anticipate they [will] make sure the venue is ready for play of the caliber of the World Cup.”

Silly rabbit.

In a statement released by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office, Commanders team president Jason Wright boasted about the quality of Ghost Town Field before the FIFA tour.

“Our entire organization could not be more excited to continue our proud tradition of hosting major soccer events at Fed Ex Field,” Wright said. “The opportunity to welcome the 2026 FIFA World Cup would be yet another capstone moment for our stadium.”

That was before FIFA officials got a firsthand look at Ghost Town Field, after seeing it virtually previously (what did organizers do? Show them a video of SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles?).

I’m guessing the virtual presentation did not include the burst pipes and the tunnel railing collapse that were among the highlights of the 2021 season at Ghost Town Field. 

FIFA officials may have tried to flush a few toilets and wondered what the duct tape was for on the railings.

“Got anyplace else?” they asked.

Baltimore, with its M&T Bank Stadium, had made its own separate bid to host World Cup games and was considered a long shot. But they had a stadium that was far more acceptable than Ghost Town Field — especially with $600 million available for state-financed improvements. When that became clear, DC2026 had to join up with Baltimore to have any chance for a winning bid — the festivities in Washington and the actual games in Baltimore.

Colin Smith, FIFA’s chief tournaments and events officer, told The Washington Post that quality stadiums are “absolutely fundamental for us. What we need to do is provide [players] the best playing surfaces and the best facilities in the world.”

Ghost Town Field apparently is neither. But it is good enough for Commanders players and their fans?

Maybe the Commanders should look into playing at M&T Bank Stadium.

When officials announced the joint bid on April 21, there was no mention of Ghost Town Field — like a ghost, poof, gone as if it never existed.

Turns out that quietly, all that excitement about how the Commanders looked forward to “another capstone moment for our stadium” had faded. Wright said the team had already stepped aside, as if it was its idea.

“We enthusiastically support the joint bid between DC and Baltimore and know that M&T Bank Stadium will be a great venue for all of us to watch historic matches,” Wright said in a statement. “Earlier this month, we shared with Events DC that we would be withdrawing from our role as the venue partner for the DC2026 bid to focus our efforts on stadium enhancements projects specific to our overall fan experience and our new venue project.

“We are committed to supporting the World Cup through other means as it has the great potential to unite our strong soccer community regionally and collaborating with Events DC to attract other major, non-NFL events that can serve our sports-obsessed region.”

Maybe even a World Cup party.

⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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