“I can’t wait for Patriots’ season”
For the longest time, I could never understood what all the hype for the beginning of the Washington Redskins season was all about.
In Washington and its suburbs, the start of Redskins season has always been a day of exaggerated hope and praying that this year would be different than the previous one. This is no different from any other football season opener for any fan base, but it just seemed odd coming from the Redskins fans because nothing was really done to change the fact that the Redskins would be a football team that would struggle to get to six wins and fail to make the playoffs. They were a team that always sacrificed draft picks to get aging players no one else wanted, they have an owner who could really give two craps about the fan-base and is more concerned about his Six Flags theme parks, and they never had a quarterback or good enough roster turnover to expect things could get any different.
Yet, there they always were, on a bright Sunday in September, celebrating the start of the football season with the rest of the country and hoping and praying that this year would be different without evidence to suggest otherwise.
Now, there is reason for that fan-base to be excited. They have drafted the savior of the franchise in Robert Griffin III who is supposed to return them to the promised land of the playoffs. They were a “Better-than-their-record” showed 5-11 team a season ago who beat the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants twice last year. If there was any year for the over-expectations from Washington Redskins fans, it would be this one.
If anything, their seems to be less buzz about the Redskins from my friends in the Washington D.C area before the start of this year. I am puzzled.
Eight hours north up I-95 into New England, there is a greater buzz about the start for the New England Patriots. One or two plays away from winning the Super Bowl a season ago, the team returns the leagues best coach, one of its best quarterbacks, one its best tight-ends and slot-receivers and has added in deep threats and pass rushers to make their team even more dangerous. Basically, everything missing from the same team that was ohsoclose to winning the Super Bowl a year ago is even better.
Call the New England fan-base spoiled, but this really isn’t much different from most Patriots’ teams in terms of talented acquired in the off-season and holdovers from the season before. There isn’t need for the fanbase to get super excited about the Patriots because, barring injury, Patriots’ fans know what to expect from this football.
Each day of training camp, however, has set new record highs in terms of attendance at Patriots’ training camp. On August 8th, 14,830 fans piled into the practice facility at Gillette stadium to watch the Patriots practice. TO put that in perspective, that’s only about 3000 less fans that go to a typical Patriots’ regular season home game. There was probably more fans at that one day of training camp then there were for the first preseason game last Thursday despite what the numbers may say.
In a way, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. There is no sexy new addition like a Tim Tebow in New York nor is there a brand new quarterback for the fans to watch and hope for the franchise to be saved. It’s the same Patriots we’ve basically known for the past 10 years, Belichick, Brady and the weapons they get to play with. The excitement level in New England seems to have reached a fever pitch, that same level of excitement I have typically seen from that same Redskins fan-base over the past three seasons.
I didn’t fully understand what was going on until last Friday when I spoke to my friend Ryan Sullivan. As a Boston everything fan growing up in D.C, he has seen that same previously aforementioned Redskins phenomenon for each year of his life also never understanding what was going on. This year, the fact that training camp is underway for the Patriots and that football season is right around the corner has him jacked up to that same level of excitement as the Redskins fans in the years before. He thinks he finally has it figured out and to him, it all linked back to baseball and the theory makes perfect sense.
See, this year, Washington’s baseball team, the Nationals, are good. They have the best record in the Major Leagues, a pitching staff filled with young stars like Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman, likeable young guys like Bryce Harper and the entire bull-pen and one of baseballs gorgeous, if not the most beautiful, ballparks in the entire Major League. Fans in the District have something else to root for before Redskins season, hope that these boys will deliver the city’s first baseball post-season appearance in over half a century.
The Boston Red Sox, on the other hand, are a bad baseball team filled with unlikable players and an ownership group that doesn’t give a shit about the fanbase. Most Boston Red Sox fans would rather just see the team get blown up and pave way for the younger guys to get their repetitions. Until then, there is no reason to like or follow the day to day proceedings of the Boston Red Sox.
Which comes back to the Patriots’. When Sully told me on Friday how excited he was for the Patriots’ season, everything fit into the puzzle. Most Red Sox fans will be Patriots fans and vice-versa. If the Red Sox aren’t good, all the excitement that would have been in a pennant race gets moved to the Patriots. Instead of spending the money to go to Fenway Park and watch an unlikable team play, families will head on down and watch Patriots practice, if only because its something good to watch sports wise for the first time in a while in New England. In New England, the fans want to the Patriots now, where in Washington this year, they can wait on the Redskins season to start because they have something else to be excited about down in the Naval yard.
In Foxboro, fans continue to turn up in record numbers for Patriots training camp, a get away from the blandness of the baseball at Fenway Park and on NESN. Down in Washington D.C’s naval yard, fans turn up for the Washington Nationals in record numbers and hope that this baseball season will end magically.
For the Red Sox and the Redskins, there is still fans going to see them and people still root for and cheer them on, but most of them have better things to do.