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Sunday, October 23, 2022

OPINION:

Even prison inmates get a respite from their confinement, and are allowed some time outside in the “yard” to see the sky, to feel the sun, and maybe take their minds off the burden of a life of imprisonment.

That should be what the actual game of football is for Washington Commanders fans — a respite from their daily lives of anger and embarrassment they face when they wake up in the mornings, go to work and then make the commute home. That drive oftentimes is when they hear the reminders that their once-beloved football team is constantly under attack for a litany of sins — a list of transgressions that someday may get their owner excommunicated from the Church of the NFL.


For many fans, that would be the best win of all.

But if it’s ever going to happen, it likely will be a long and painful process, with one investigation after another hanging over the franchise — from the NFL probe into sexual misconduct allegations against owner Skipper Dan the Sailor Man to the investigations by the attorneys general in Virginia and the District, plus others.

Sunday, though, should be football. A break from the turmoil, a chance to don their Redskins…sorry, Commanders jerseys and head for Ghost Town Field to forget about it all for a least a few hours. A little time in the prison yard.

But it’s hard to find peace in the team’s cursed home, even on a day that the Commanders (3-4) pull out a 23-21 win over the Green Bay Packers for the lowliest two-game win streak (12-7 win over Chicago two weeks ago) you might ever see.

There it was, before the game, when the NFL’s partner, Fox, had their interview with Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay in the pregame show, where he doubled down on his comments last week at the NFL owners meeting where he said there is some “merit to remove” Skipper Dan as Commanders owner.

“I do not feel it’s in the best interest of the shield and NFL,” Irsay told Fox Sports. “This is not how we should be represented. It is regrettable that we have to be in this position.

“I want to talk about it,” he said. “I will not be muzzled and I will stand by it.”

You didn’t have to have your television on to be reminded of life as a Commanders fan. It was right next to you, everywhere, at Ghost Town Field, surrounded by Packers fans, who took over the stadium, with Aaron Rodgers jerseys and cheese heads and cheers for their team.

This is nothing new. Ghost Town Field is typically overrun by visiting fans, and Packers fans travel particularly well. But it was so bad that the in-house video crew showing shots of Commanders fans on the big video boards in the stadium had a hard time finding any that didn’t have Packers fans in the shot.

By the end of the game, it may have been easier to find celebrating Washington fans in the wake of their victory. Earlier, though, the mood was angry, and it wasn’t the Green Bay fans who were filled with venom.

Security guards in the stadium were confiscating “Sell the Team,” signs from Commanders fans. But they couldn’t silence them. Chants of “Sell the Team” could be heard at various times throughout the crowd — in particular at halftime, when Skipper Dan’s wife and co-owner, Tanya Snyder, was shown on the video screen in a public service announcement promoting the team’s breast cancer awareness efforts. Boos went through the stadium, along with more chants of “Sell the Team.”

This woman is a breast cancer survivor.

A 23-21 win isn’t going to make that anger go away.

Even if somehow Skipper Dan survives the multiple wounds he has received — and that is a big if — it would take a tremendously successful multiple-season stretch of success to put this stench behind them. The Commanders under coach Ron Rivera are galaxies away from that kind of success. Good, consistent, winning football is no closer on the horizon in Rivera’s third year than it was with Jay Gruden, Mike Shanahan, or any other coach who has come and been sucked into the aura of self-destruction that surrounds this franchise.

They are no closer to having a franchise quarterback now that when Rivera was hired at the end of December 2020. Taylor Heinicke was evidence of that Sunday. The former undrafted free agent out of Old Dominion and XFL backup captured the hearts of, if not Washington football fans with his 15 starts last season, the hearts of his teammates. They clearly loved having Heinicke behind center Sunday — rocky 63-yard pick six first quarter interception and all — perhaps more than the guy Rivera traded two third round picks for and is paying $28 million, Carson Wentz, who is on injured reserve after surgery for a broken finger on his throwing hand.

When asked after the game Sunday, after Heinicke (20 for 33, 210 yards, two touchdowns) led the Commanders to their third win of the season, about the differences between the two quarterbacks, he replied, “Both guys have their merits and both have tremendous ability to put the ball down the field.”

One guy is the $28 million quarterback you traded for. The other is the backup. If you can’t differentiate between the two other than saying “both guys have their merits,” then you don’t have a starting quarterback. And if you don’t have a starting quality quarterback in this league, you are light years away from competing at a championship level.

And if the Commanders are not competing at a championship level now or sometime soon, then the time fans get in the yard on Sunday will continue to feel more like solitary confinement — until, of course, Skipper Dan sails away.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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


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