SNIDER: For Redskins, losing games equals losing fans

Rick Snider
September 14, 2018 - 10:48 am
FedEx_Field

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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FedEx Field has been a ghost town for years not because of poor fan experience. Oh, that doesn't help, but it's just a convenient excuse.

No, the Redskins have been down to 30,000 faithful fans the past two years because they've stunk at home ever since opening the Landover stadium in 1997.

New team president of Business Operations and Chief Operating Officer Brian Lafemina is doing anything, even becoming the first top Redskins official to appear on 106.7 The Fan, to sell tickets. He admitted the team no longer has a 200,000-person waiting list (though, what do you want to bet that sellout streak since 1966 continues?) and is making a major push to sell tickets. Why, you even get discounts on food and team merchandise.

Listen, Lafemina is a good man and the best thing that's happened to the Redskins front office since Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999. Lafemina actually knows what he's doing and isn't another greedy corporate stooge. He's the first glimmer of hope I've seen in the Redskins Park front office since general manager Charley Casserly was fired in 1999. And the ideas Lafemina is offering are nice steps to regaining fans.

But talking with dozens and dozens and dozens of longtime fans over recent years who gave up their season tickets convinces me it's solely about losing. Until that's rectified with more than three straight seasons of mediocre ball, but a real Super Bowl run, then no cheap hot dog or nachos are going to turn FedEx into a real home-field advantage.

Those surrendering their tickets give many reasons why they've stopped attending games. It's a long walk to the stadium. Parking is expensive. Upper deck seats are too high. The food's mediocre. It's an eight-hour day. Frankly, they're trying to validate their guilt of no longer attending games with convenient excuses.

But I counter with a simple question: If the team was heading to the Super Bowl this year, would you keep your tickets? They always say yes.

So it's not about anything other than the won/loss record – period. The Redskins are 84-83-1 in regular-season games at FedEx. Maybe they should have kept the nickname The Big Jack, because sometimes they don't look like they know jack about playing football.

But what this is really about is future sales at the next stadium in 2027. The die-hard RFK crowd that still attends games at FedEx will be largely gone by then. The team needs to sell tickets to an expensive coming venue to fans who largely never saw the 1983-91 Super Bowl era. The only way to do that is getting a running start on them now, at surely cheaper prices than the next venue that's looking like it will be on the Dulles International Airport flight path. Build a base that will spill over to Loudoun County Stadium.

The Redskins need to win, though. Show up in January more than occasionally. Find a way to recapture past glory under coach Joe Gibbs and become the next dynasty. Otherwise, cheap hot dogs won't taste any better in a fancy new stadium, either.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks