Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Modest Proposal to Save the ‘Skins

A Modest Proposal to Save the ‘Skins

By Daniel Ozment

The Washington Redskins are valued at over $1.3 billion, nearly 40 percent more than the price Daniel Snyder paid in 1999. Forbes magazine has anointed the Redskins the most profitable American sports franchise. As owner, Snyder has increased annual profits by $100 million. Each year he “sells out” a 92,000-seat stadium for eight home games, markets tons of new merchandise, and even sells out of hot dogs every once in a while. Anyone who has walked more than 20 rows back to an upper-deck seat empty handed in the third quarter can sympathize.

The Redskins are a wildly successful business. But how often does a business find such success when its primary product is so unsuccessful?

Did you get lost there? “Unsuccessful?” Isn’t our football team the most profitable franchise in American sports? Yes it is. The Redskins’ logo apparel and accessories are an undeniable hit. So are the $6 hot dogs at FedEx Field. But Daniel Snyder isn’t running a clothing store or a restaurant chain. His business is football. And as far as football teams go, the ‘Skins are terribly unsuccessful.

Here’s a quick history of the Redskins’ futility on the field since Snyder bought the team 10 years ago. Regular season - Seventy-six wins and Seventy-four losses. Five playoff games (two wins, three losses). Six head coaches. No back-to-back winning seasons. The team’s best streak consisted of a 10-6 season followed by back-to-back .500 seasons in 1999, 2000, and 2001 under 3 different coaches. Snyder fired them all.

Daniel Snyder has all the makings of a comfortable executive. Maybe too comfortable. He’s comfortable in the way he operates the football side of the team because the marketing and sales operations are doing so well. If he were asked to choose between winning a Super Bowl while finishing in the red, or continuing to turn major profits in the pursuit of mediocrity, which would he choose? No matter: Snyder gets to play with his toy football team because the money keeps rolling in.

He has been quoted as saying he believes Washington’s fans are the only constituency he cares about. Faithful season-ticket renewals, he says, are evidence that he’s doing a good job. But given the die-hard nature of most Redskins fans, season-ticket renewal may be a sign of devotion rather than blind approval.

So what can ordinary fans do to change the situation? Here’s one idea: If Daniel Snyder is too comfortable with the profitability of his franchise, it may be time to make him uncomfortable. No real fan would seriously consider boycotting games or dumping season tickets, but ticket sales don’t represent a majority of Snyder’s earnings. They never have.

A better plan would be a boycott of merchandise, food, and alcohol. Next time you go to a game, tailgate. Bring enough beer and brats to feed an offensive lineman. Show up three hours early, drink and eat until you’re stuffed. When you’re tempted to grab an $8 beer between quarters, repeat this mantra: “I’d rather win a Super Bowl than get buzzed.”

This off-season, when Snyder signs a half-dozen new free agents and their jerseys go on sale, keep your money in your pocket. . If you must have a jersey, snag one on eBay with your favorite retired player’s name and number on the back. And repeat: “I’d rather win a super bowl than buy a $200 shirt.”

If you’re happy with your seats at FedEx Field, don’t pay to upgrade them the next time the front office sends you an invitation letter. If you really want to get Daniel Snyder’s attention, don’t pay for parking at the stadium. Carpool if at all possible. Metro if you can. If you take the Metro, try to eat before you come to the game. And then stop at one of the Largo Towne Center restaurants afterward.

Every team that has won the Super Bowl since Snyder bought the Redskins has a General Manager in charge of football operations. Successful teams have owners who count beans and stay out of the way.

Not Daniel Snyder. He will not go quietly, but a thoughtful fan base could eventually smoke him out. He thinks you love him. He thinks he’s doing a great job as owner. But win-loss records are a better measure of success than bobble-head sales. “Fight for old D.C.” should mean more than repeatedly following an owner off a cliff. We’re Washingtonians, after all. We see the squeaky-wheel theory put into practice every day. It’s time we greased the ‘Skins.


  1. This is an excellent post. In fact, I posted a very similar concept on and was amazingly banned from the website. If Dan Snyder is going to alter how he does business, then the fans must intelligently react to the lack of success on the field. Why do you think over-paid "celebrity" players are brought into this franchise? Because they sell! I hope everyone take this posts advice! I stopped buying anything Redskin related about 2 years ago.

  2. What are the chances of a class action lawsuit claiming false representation? They are advertising a professional team but fielding a fantasy football team.