Here’s how Ted Abela was getting his giddy on five days before the Washington Redskins kick off their unexpected appearance in the NFL postseason: He had lunch in a vacant parking lot. Abela, a season ticket holder, pulled into his usual Orange Lot space at FedEx Field on Tuesday just to commune with the empty asphalt.
“Sometimes when I need a boost, I drive by,” explained Abela, an engineer from Washington and lifelong Redskins fan. “I’m definitely getting ready.”
Hey, it may not be painting your body burgundy and gold and streaking through Dupont Circle. But for a fan base that has been traumatized, dramatized and spirit-crushed by their star-crossed franchise in recent years (okay, a generation), eating a doughnut outside a silent stadium pretty much sums up the cautiously happy way Redskins lovers are bracing for . . . whatever happens next.
“I really want to be thrilled because it’s so unexpected,” said Brian Gregory, 25, a management consultant who lives in Chinatown. “I’ve never seen a Washington sports team win a championship. But I just have an impending sense of ‘Oh God, what’s going to go wrong?’ I think that’s keeping people from going too crazy yet.”
There’s no question that Redskins Nation has grown increasingly animated as a team that many had written off before the first game has shocked them with its success. As the sleeper Redskins climbed to the top of a feeble division and locked up a postseason spot, sales of Redskins merchandise jumped by almost a third over the previous year, according to sales data.
“It seems like it didn’t really take hold until they got that playoff berth, and then stuff started flying off the shelf faster,” said Ryan Sullivan, retail analyst for SportsOneSource.
Abela has tracked the growing fervor through the watch parties he organizes for away games. At his first one, against New England, the crowd was small, and they had to beg for the sound to be turned up at the bar TVs. By the last, the delightful season-capper against the Cowboys, the broadcast was drowned out by the door-busting crowd at Brickside Food and Drink in Bethesda, and even the servers were riveted to the screen.
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SOURCE: Steve Hendrix
The Washington Post