It happens about this time each year. I get anxious any time I hear the sportscasters talking about injuries. Burgundy and gold make me smile. My heart flutters on Sunday afternoons because I know one thing is true—the Washington Redskins are back and maybe, just maybe, this will be their year.
Now, here’s the thing. I love the Washington Redskins and have my entire life. My upbringing deeply embedded two key facts that will forever be with me: Virginia is in the south, and the Washington Redskins are the only team I should ever love. My grandfather always had season tickets. My uncle gave me a Redskins onesie when I was born. My mom used to sing me the fight song as a lullaby. My love of the Redskins was inevitable.
Sunday afternoons were spent with family and friends in someone’s living room cheering on the team that so often broke our hearts. I’ve heard this love of the Redskins referred to before as an unhealthy relationship. Fans know it is not healthy, yet year after year we return for more…heartache. In my lifetime, there have been occasional winning seasons, but that is how I know the love of this team is about so much more than winning.
Imagine the shock and horror my family faced when I told them that I would be attending college in Texas. I think most families worry about college freshmen not calling home enough, not studying enough, or not taking care of themselves enough. Not my family. They only had one concern. At my farewell party, held a few days before I left for the wide open skies of Texas, my Uncle Mark and the truest Redskins fan I know pulled me aside, saying he had something important to tell me. He fidgeted with his keys and then looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Listen, I’m happy you’re going to college. But you have to promise me something.” Because I always think of the worst case scenario, my mind was racing. I reluctantly said, “OK, just tell me what is going on.” He took a deep breath and spoke these most disturbing and inconceivable words: “It’s just that you’ll be in Texas for a long time. I’m worried with all the pressures of college and people there that you might…well, that you might become a Dallas Cowboys fan.”
I shudder even remembering that conversation. Any Redskins fan, or for that matter, any Cowboys fan knows that type of switch is against our very nature. Impossible. For the record, I lived in Texas for eight years and upheld my loyalty to the Redskins.
There is something about football season that gets me all in a tizzy. Autumn is upon us. People bundle up in sweatshirts and join together with strangers to cheer for something bigger than themselves. In fact, my favorite thing to do on Sunday afternoons (after church, of course) is to go to the grocery store right before a Redskins game. Donning my burgundy and gold amidst a myriad of other colors, I pick up a few items. (Since so few people in DC are actually natives, there are many other teams represented. Even…Dallas has fans here.) In those moments of standing in line at the checkout, a stranger also in his burgundy and gold and I will exchange a knowing smile. We will speak to each other about our new quarterback and how we hope for a winning record this year. It is those moments that make me love the Redskins even more: little pockets of community created all over Washington, D.C.
I love the Redskins. I love the connectedness of a community supporting them. And my church loves knowing that if I am preaching any Sunday in September through January, we will finish on time. So this week, I’ll listen extra closely in the grocery store and on the metro to conversations, just in case they are about the game from last Sunday. Pray for the Redskins if you think about it; they need all the help they can get.
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