THE PLANK NOVEMBER 12, 2009
If you were a Redskins fan like I was during the team's golden era in the 1980s and early '90s, then there was one 'Skins anecdote that you cherished, as it said even more about the team than its impressive won-loss record--and that was that Joe Gibbs, the team's coach and savior, was so dedicated to his job that he slept in his office at Redskins Park.
So I think it's kind of fitting that in the midst of the franchise's remarkable collapse under the inept ownership of Daniel Snyder, we get this anecdote in today's WaPo profile of Snyder's public relations guru, Karl Swanson:
Swanson's colleagues describe him as a constant presence at the team's headquarters at Redskins Park, and in his case, this may be literally true. According to public records, Swanson lists Redskins Park as his home address. One co-worker said Swanson keeps an air mattress at his office to sleep on, and stores some clothes on a rack in his car.
That pretty much says it all about Snyder's ownership tenure--and the triumph of spin over substance.
P.S. If you're a Redskins fan (erstwhile or otherwise) and need a good, rueful chuckle, it's worth reading David Brooks's puffy profile of Snyder in the NYT Magazine from 1999. I think Brooks is arguably the most consistently interesting and provocative social and political commentator we have . . . which is all the more reason why he should never, ever write about sports. To wit:
Snyder may not be as brash as his enemies and his profile writers would like, but his influence on the Redskins has been unambiguously positive. He inherited a stadium with few amenities and made it a pleasant place to watch a football game. He quickly fixed a disgraceful parking system that caused fans to wait hours to get in and out. The practice fields at Redskin Park were substandard. He replaced them. He was ripped in Sports Illustrated for firing those front-office employees, but in their place he hired widely admired professionals. ''At first I had no use for him,'' says the sportscaster George Michael. ''You don't like him the minute you meet him.'' But the team needed the swift kick that Snyder provided, Michael says.
Indeed, if you get out of political and legal circles into Washington's long-eclipsed business world, you find that Snyder is admired. These folks don't go to the Gridiron dinner or the White House Correspondents dinner. They go to black-tie events like Fight Night, when 2,000 minimoguls get together in the Washington Hilton to watch boxing. And in these circles -- where ambition is unabashed -- Snyder is more welcome. ''This guy is going to produce a Super Bowl team in five years,'' says Phil Merrill, one of the city's wealthiest businessmen.
And this is the view that prevails around Redskin Park. The players, who fancy themselves businessmen, admire anyone who makes more than they do. And the jockocracy admires him on the Vince Lombardi grounds that winning is the only thing. ''He doesn't sleep the night before a game -- he won't sleep tonight,'' after today's loss, says the Redskins' Hall of Fame quarterback and current broadcaster Sonny Jurgensen. ''There's accountability. There's urgency.''