The Washington Redskins – the football team I grew up on and still follow – was eliminated from the playoffs last week. This week they lost their final game to the San Francisco 49ers on a last-second field goal. It was another disappointing game and another torturous season from a talented team that, at times, showed signs of becoming a contender.
The season turned south right after my layoff. At the end of October, the Skins were 6-2 and poised to make a run at the postseason. The running game was working, and the defense was snuffing opponents. They were playing Redskins football, as it’s called in and around DC. I lost my job, and the team dropped 6 of their next 8 games. Critical breakdowns in what once worked led to an 8-8 finish. By many accounts, the team had lost its way.
This isn’t a post about how football (or any sport) is an allegory for life. That’s been bandied about ad nauseam. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. Who cares? And, obviously, my layoff had nothing to do with the team’s misfortunes. The timing is purely coincidental.
Football is entertainment. And the ups and downs of your favorite team is a distraction from life’s larger problems. For me, it’s one of the few things that can get me out of my own head. During Redskins games, I don’t worry about finding a job or paying the bills. For three hours I submerge myself in a world that exists on a TV screen in my living room or in a bar. I get a break. And now that their season is over, I have to wait 9 months for that weekly distraction.
I know the playoffs are coming. And you could argue that some of the best football is played in the playoffs. Maybe so. But as any fan of a team will admit, it’s just different when your team isn’t playing. You don’t get as excited for the kickoff. You don’t cheer as loudly at the touchdowns. You don’t complain as much about the little mistakes or revel as much in the little successes. You just care less. And more importantly, you don’t lose yourself in the game and forget about your reality.
I am fully aware (and extremely thankful) that my problems aren’t that bad in the grand scheme of things. I have my family, and I have my health. I’m in no danger of going hungry or sleeping on the street anytime soon. Unemployment can be overcome, though it will take some doing in this market. And the bills will get paid.
Without my team to root for, unemployment gets a little harder to take. Still, I wouldn’t trade this season for anything, except maybe a better record and a playoff spot (i.e. another week or more of football). Thanks to the Redskins (and everyone else’s favorite teams) for the welcome distraction. I really needed it. And thanks for making life a little better. See you next year.