It's all about him now. Whether
How else to explain it? Billionaires do what they want. Big money allows the owner of a professional sports team to fade into the background, or be a gushing fanboy or a meddlesome presence, but none of those roles occur by accident. In essence, this is the realization that dawned upon the team faithful -- the whole Washington region, really -- over the last few weeks.
The Redskins are 2-5 coming out of their bye week and, yes, there's still chatter about Zorn's ability and the offensive line's failures and quarterback
"Most people think the owner's an idiot," said
Indeed, instead of tamping down the vitriol, the Redskins bye week only seemed to fuel further disgusted chatter about fan boycotts, about lifetime supporters turning in season tickets, about Internet-fueled plans for some kind of anti-Snyder demonstration for the Nov. 15 home game against Denver. The heat has grown so constant and so intense that Snyder, veering from his no-interview policy during the season, orchestrated an impromptu mea culpa on Tuesday, apologizing to the fans with a royal we. "We just feel terrible," he said of the team's poor play. "We're disappointed and we're embarrassed."
And he misread his audience completely. The outrage toward Snyder goes well beyond losing; it has been fired and fed by management moves that any sentient being would recognize as public-relations minefields. First, there was the
"The things he's done in the past, people sort of tolerated, but what he did with Zorn, hanging him out to dry like that? That was just plain cruel," Fenty said Thursday. "Either fire the guy ... but you don't let him hang out there like that."
Then, during the team's hapless Monday night loss to Philadelphia on Oct. 26, FedEx field personnel confiscated any signs from people entering the stadium -- many of them ripping Snyder, but one held by a woman sending a supportive message to her husband fighting in Afghanistan. The takeaway was irresistible: A near-caricature of an owner so tin-eared, hard-hearted and, well, dumb, that he all but begged to be ripped. On Wednesday, former Redskins running back and lifelong loose cannon
"This is a bad guy that owns this team. I'll just tell you that up front: Bad guy," Riggins said. And, he added for good measure, "Let me put it to you this way ... this person's heart is dark."
Never mind that, when pressed, Riggins had nothing to back up such a statement. Never mind, too, that the next day Redskins defensive coordinator
"There's nobody that cares more about the fans than Dan Snyder," Blache said.
The suspicion here is that Riggins' words will carry more weight. After all, Washington is a town that values perception more than reality, and winners most of all. Who do you think the common fan is going to identify with? The beloved former Super Bowl hero? Or the coordinator whose defense couldn't stop winless Detroit?
"You know, there comes a tipping point in these things," says former Republican congressman
"Somebody invited us to the Eagles game," Davis said of he and his wife. "And I said, 'How much you going to pay us?'"
But, he adds, "there isn't anything here that a winning team can't turn around. That's the bottom line."
Maybe. But fans have a way of separating a winning team from its owner, especially one whose image has crystallized in so negative a fashion; Steinbrenner won, but his rehabilitation came only after many decades, a debilitating illness and a much lower profile. Snyder, meanwhile, has only two playoff wins as Redskins owner. He is nearing 45, but hardly seems to be growing into the role. Even this week's apology came wrapped in pettiness: Snyder has long feuded with
Consider that: Snyder would've scuttled his apology to the fans if the region's biggest conduit to the fans had been present. The possibility of such a stance -- just the fact that Snyder's staff thought it possible -- points to an essential smallness that fans instinctively read into the sign and season-ticket imbroglios and that Riggins, in his inarticulate way, finds so repellent. It's no wonder, really. His career was powered by a mythic looseness; Riggins was, after all, the player who called across a table to Supreme Court justice
Of course, Riggins also played for owner
"We're all embarrassed with the way we've performed thus far this season -- so what he said is true," said linebacker
"It's not a good feeling to be who we are and where we are right now," said wide receiver
But then something in Moss kicked in -- pride, or maybe just the idea that he was forced to swallow something he didn't quite believe. His mouth twisted, his eye took on a harder glint. "But at the same time, I hope they understand that we're not trying to," he said. "You know what I mean? They have to have our backs. It's like, you have my back, I have your back. Just because we're not as good as you want us to be, that's not reason to turn your back. To me, that's not a real fan.
"For the ones that's truly behind us? We feel sorry and we are ashamed. But for the ones that's not? We're still ashamed, but there's nothing we can do about what you're letting out at us with your anger and signs and whatever else you've got going on. You know?"
It wasn't much, just a flash of fight, gone almost as soon as it appeared. Dan Snyder's team plays in Atlanta on Sunday, embarking on a second-half schedule that leaves little room for error or shame or apologies, for that matter. One of the world's most valuable sports franchises -- it says so right in his official bio -- stumbles onward, waiting for the next mistake.