Washington Redskins

Craig Hoffman: Our Room Will Never Be The Same

October 17, 2018 - 1:26 pm

By Craig Hoffman

As we walked back to the media annex after Alex Smith's press conference, I turned to Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and simply said "days like today remind me we do a stupid job."

Roughly an hour after most of us found out that our friend and beloved colleague Rich Tandler had unexpectedly passed away, there we were in the interview room with Alex Smith. The Redskins quarterback helped us immensely by offering simple condolences to Rich's family. Smith breaking the ice helped ease the burden facing us: how are you supposed to ask questions that seemed so critical just this morning when your mind is somewhere far different and more significant?

That place is with my friends at NBC Sports Washington, who have now lost two members of their family in just a short time. Specifically, I thought of JP Finlay and Peter Hailey. JP and Rich had welcomed me into their group many, many times on the road. We've enjoyed dinners and beers and countless laughs from Richmond to Los Angeles. Peter, one of the few of the other sub-30-year-olds around the beat, has become a good friend since he started coming to Redskins Park as and worked as closely with Tandler as anyone. If you have a way of reaching them, or any of the other countless good people at NBCSW, send them a thought, a prayer – if you're the praying type – or maybe even a memory. A smile goes a long way at a time like this.

However, as Michael and I walked back up to the media room, I – out of habit more than anything else – opened Twitter and was moved by how many fans had replied to a few thoughts I had sent about Rich with condolences and personal stories of how much his coverage meant to them.

Rich's place in our media room is hard to describe. The core group of media that's on the beat spends a lot of time together, and there is a definitive a family feel. That means you better be ready to throw a haymaker and take a punch. Rich was as good as anyone at either. He also had cooler tech than anyone else in the room, despite some of us being half his age.

My relationship with Rich certainly centered on football. He had an institutional knowledge of the league and, specifically, the Redskins. He and I found so many of the same things interesting about the sport. When it came time to talk roster mechanics, salary cap and the other little things that go a long way, Tandler was my guy. Plus, it was often easier to just ask Rich about certain things than trying to find an answer on the internet. He was that on top of it all.

His morning "Need To Know" column was exactly that. No matter what time you woke up, it was up before you. Whenever I did morning updates in the offseason, it was one of the first things I'd look at. It was easy. Nothing else is fresh on your Twitter timeline at 5 am. More than a few times some nugget from that article made it into my morning updates, from a storyline I may have missed to the number of days left until training camp. Nobody set the table for the day better.

As I've read through some of the tweets and seen what Rich and his coverage meant to so many of you, I'm reminded that this job may not be so stupid after all. Yes, asking Alex Smith about how he takes what he sees on film to the field felt rather pointless today, but without the sport in the center of it all, there's no way I would have ever met Rich Tandler. A day like today reminds us that sports has the power to bring people from all walks of life together, even if that fact is nothing more than a silver lining to a void that can't possibly be filled.

Rest in peace, Rich. Our room will never, ever be the same.

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