How Albert Haynesworth helped me find my way back to American football

If you are a fan of professional football and spend any significant amount of time living near Washington, D.C., you become interested (to some degree) in the Redskins, even if you find the name of the team needlessly offensive1. As a Jersey-born drifter who has spent almost half his life outside of the United States, it was Washington’s status as perpetual underdogs that piqued my attention and made their games worth watching when I returned to the D.C. area. Even when Washington should have easily dominated play, they would collapse in just enough areas to make the game closer than expected or, as has more often been the case of late (see: 2009-10 season), a textbook display of failure.

The Redskins have been my grandfather’s team for decades and I have fond memories of watching their games with him as a young boy — this being the case, I’m not terribly keen on them losing, even if that reaction is weighted more in familial affection and nostalgia than it is on true support. And seeing as the team I grew up supporting with my father, the San Francisco 49ers, haven’t yet found a way back to those glorious days when Joe Montana and Steve Young were at the helm, it’s not hard to lend my already battered football heart to Washington on game day to receive a few more kicks.

So, whether I really want to or not (and, honestly, as a sports fan it’s been difficult to avoid), I have been following the developments at Washington’s training camp. I remember a sense of muted optimism earlier in the summer when Washington’s fans could look forward to a new head coach, the performance of a veteran quarterback Washington has often suffered at the hands of while he was dressed in Philadelphia’s colors, new starters, and some smart draft picks. The fact that all of these positive stories have been overshadowed of late is disappointing, especially when the Onion can lampoon the team and still have the story come across sounding like straight news.

After a pathetic, near-comic week, Albert Haynesworth finally passed his conditioning test. While it’s nice to see Haynesworth ready to join the squad for practice, he only did so on the 10th day of the training camp and is still over a month behind learning Shanahan’s new system. As a professional athlete who is having a decent amount of Dan Snyder’s money thrown at him, this is unacceptable. And sadly, conditioning, preparation, system changes, and cash aside, it looks as though Haynesworth’s knee issues may sideline him for the upcoming preseason bout against Buffalo. For a team that has long suffered from injury problems, Haynesworth’s knee has to be a serious concern for the upcoming season. Washington knows as well as any team that anything that can go wrong often does.

Haynesworth’s recent behavior — and the press coverage surrounding it — has most likely deflated a lot of Washington’s fans’ hopes for a sudden and forceful comeback this season. This could be a good thing as the weight of unreasonable expectations can cripple a team in the process of rebuilding. If the team walks out onto FedEx Field knowing they have a lot to prove, with a chip on their shoulder regarding the negativity surrounding their training camp, they may perform at a much higher level than if they come out feeling like a team that finally has some good things going for them: a proven quarterback in Donovan McNabb, a tested coach in Mike Shanahan, and three new starters bolstering the offensive line, including first-round draft pick Trent Williams.

Ironically, I am grateful to Haynesworth — were it not for his utter lack of preparation and fitness, I wouldn’t have found a reason to care about American football until September at the earliest. We’ll see if this interest in sustained in the wake of Jermaine Jones’ debut performance (fingers crossed) in the USA-Brazil match tomorrow (ESPN, 8:00 pm) and the Premier League’s first fixtures this weekend.

1 Honestly, why hasn’t the franchise’s name been changed? Yes, I know what ‘history’ and ‘tradition’ mean, but I have serious doubts these arguments would exist if the color in question were black instead of red. If this issue also somewhat spoils Washington’s football team for you, there is a Facebook group you can join: “Hey NFL – the name Washington ‘Redskins’ is offensive – change it!” And if you know of any organizations, websites, petitions, etc. that are working towards changing Washington’s team’s name, please feel free to pass that information along.

One Response to “How Albert Haynesworth helped me find my way back to American football”
  1. b.crusherman says:

    This is Football man…..don’t get PC…..LIB- touchy feely now!! In your PC world what would you name the team. Changing the name of the Bullets to the Wizards sure did not help any. Would you change the KC Chiefs name? Atlanta Braves… Maybe just call them the SKINS….. then again Redskins… you may have a point, I just hate the thought of folks being so sensitive …. we will all have to wear our “hinderances” to make us equal (Cats Cradle?? Slaughter House 5??? I forget). Take from the haves give to the have nots….. no choice….. no individuals …. no individual rights…..the good of the collective…..Everybody is a Winner! Give me a Break……Go Redskins!!!

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