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Once Again, Preseason Hype Didn't Match Season Opener

I watched my first Washington Redskins game on television when I was 8, fell in love with the team, and have never missed a season-opener since.

So losing the first game of a season is no big deal. Winning the first one isn’t either, as there were times like when Sonny Jurgensen threw 4 touchdown passes against the Bears – including a 99-yarder out his end zone to Gerry Allen – that made you think that first game portended a great season. Then you looked back in December and realized it was only a moment in time, as the team ended the season with a 5-9 record.

Heck, this team won its season-opener last year, then proceeded to lose 7 of its next 8 to the point they were nearly unwatchable. Yet despite playing like a third-rate Indoor Football League franchise at times, they got it turned around in a season where the rest of their NFC teammates did not, managing to make the playoffs despite not even having a winning record at 7-9.

So anything can happen, no matter what you do in September.

But there was something about today’s loss that was annoying. Over my 57 years as a fan of the team, I’ve watched the relationship with the pro football team in Washington go from a feeling of deep trust and I can’t live without you, to the edge of separation, divorce and a feeling of I don’t even know who you are.

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Tonight's The Night: Hokies To Watch During NFL Preseason

For fans hungry to watch their favorite pro football team, the preseason begins tonight for most of the NFL, and when the games begin, Virginia Tech will be well represented.

Currently, there are 25 former Virginia Tech players on NFL rosters. This year, there will be a few more guys playing significant roles than there have been recently – especially given the program’s impressive representation in the 2021 NFL Draft.

From VT To WFT

The Washington Football Team has rostered a few Hokies for the past few seasons, and although the faces have slightly changed, the WFT will still have more than its share of Virginia Tech players. Kendall Fuller remains one of their starting cornerbacks, while Logan Thomas (who recently received a three-year, $24 million extension with the team) is their top tight end (No. 82 at right).

Tim Settle will be one of their second-team defensive tackles for the third consecutive season, and Justus Reed (an undrafted rookie) has joined him this offseason as a reserve defensive lineman.

Cornerback/part-time kick returner Greg Stroman is also on Washington’s roster for the fourth year, but he is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

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Back In The Fall Of 2011, I Just Had A Feeling About These 2

We all, as sports fans, do it.

We watch our favorite high school and college teams and think to ourselves “that guy is going to play in the pros one day,” as if somewhere inside us is some hidden NFL GM gene that just hasn’t been given the chance to see the light of day.

Most of the time, to be honest, we’re wrong.

But I seem to recall one weekend in September of 2011, where, as my Dad would say, “even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then.” 

It started on a warm Friday night here in Ashburn. The two local high school football powers – Stone Bridge and Broad Run – were finally playing each other for the first time. As I live one mile from Broad Run and a mile and a half from Stone Bridge, I can tell you it was an electric evening on September 23, 2011. The game was at Stone Bridge, and it’s the most packed that field has even been or ever will be.

Walls of people were on both sides of the field, people were ringed around the fence, and local media, former players, and just about anyone who was anyone in Ashburn were standing on the sidelines. So were a number of players from what was then called the Washington Redskins, including Santana Moss.

Despite the huge buildup for the game, it started off looking like a dud. Broad Run sprinted to a 24-0 lead at halftime, and it looked like the huge gathering was going to see a rout by the upstart Spartans when Broad Run took the second-half kickoff and drove down to the Stone Bridge 1, facing a third and goal.

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Kicking The Can Down The Road On A New Name. Again.

There are certain phrases in history people have learned to be skeptical about. Like I’ll pay you tomorrow. Or the check is in the mail.

Then there’s the one we all hear when football season is about to start: The NFL team in Washington is going to soon announce its new nickname.

That happened this weekend when team president Jason Wright – who from everything I’ve seen and heard is an extremely intelligent good and honorable man – said the team nickname would be decided by 2022. I believe he meant this and has every intention of seeing that it happens.

I just don’t believe it.

Instead, it smacks of kicking the can down the road – again – and that the team doesn’t really want to announce a new name. I said this the day the team announced it was retiring the Redskins name, and I based it on the belief Dan Snyder would like to have things both ways.

With the absence of any new name, people continue their habits of the past. In my house when the team scores a touchdown, we sing “Hail To The Redskins.” When we talk about the primary game to watch on TV on a Sunday, we talk about the “Redskins” game. The mountain of shirts, sweatshirts, jackets and other objects accumulated from over 50 years of being a fan of the team all use that name and have the previous logo all over it.

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Recent Comments
Dave Fulton

Titans

You're right. Of course I doubt fans of any persuation forget the Washington Redskins as quickly as they forgot the New York Titan... Read More
Monday, 12 July 2021 11:18
Dave Scarangella

That's a good example

That first year some people probably still called them the Titans, as it takes a couple of years for the old name to die out and t... Read More
Monday, 12 July 2021 11:33
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Kyshoen Jarrett Finally Comes Home To Virginia Tech

Some sports reporters will tell you they are entirely objective. They will further claim they never have and never will let their personal feelings about a player, coach, executive or team get in the way of how they cover their beat.

They’re wrong.

The truth is writers and reporters are human too. We have emotions. We make mistakes. Sometimes, we let our personal opinions dictate an angle that we take on a story. Occasionally, that’s in a negative light.

But ever so often, it’s just the opposite.

My junior year at Virginia Tech was a lot of fun, as I served as the opinions editor, sports editor and managing editor of the Collegiate Times at different points in the school year. I also got to cover Virginia Tech football that season, attending the games as a writer and reporter.

As the 2014 season came to a close, I started putting together a piece on Virginia Tech’s two senior safeties: Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett. The two were great young men and I enjoyed interviewing both.

Jarrett’s interview sticks with me. He had an admirable innocence; Jarrett’s soul was honest and pure. Nothing had been given to him, yet Jarrett was still thankful that he got the opportunity in the first place. Even though football was offering him a chance to play professionally, Jarrett had already thought about how he could contribute off the field.

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In 100 Days, You Can Watch Hokies' 1st Game Against UNC

Seems like since the mask mandates in Virginia were dropped a week and a half ago, I’m finding more and more experiences closer to the normal ones I enjoyed every day before words like pandemic and COVID became mainstays of everyone’s vocabulary.

One simple pleasure always occurred around Memorial Day. While I follow all sports, I’m first and foremost a football guy. I played it as a kid, I understand it, and I look forward to football season every year. Doesn’t mean I don’t care about the Nationals, Capitals, basketball or racing, but if I can only watch one sport, football is going to be the pick.

My wife has even asked many times over our 40-year marriage how many days there were until football season, because she knows the odds of me going anywhere on a Saturday or Sunday is pretty close to zero. I’m going to be parked back in my office, where I have a setup of more television screens than any sane man would have, and I watch every game I can. Since there are snacks, Maggie the WonderBeagle joins me, usually sleeping on my lap.

So every Memorial Day, to be prepared for such a question, I pull out a spreadsheet that is designed to provide an answer. It has three columns, and you can see it in the upper right part of this post. It tracks six events that are important to me: The first NFL exhibition game (the Hall Of Fame Game), the first NFL regular-season game, the first college football game, the first Virginia Tech game and the first WFT exhibition and regular-season games.

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Things Won't Be The Same Without Ryan Kerrigan

My NFL fandom hasn't consisted of much success.

From the days I could comprehend the sport, I was a Washington Redskins fan. Everyone on my dad’s side of the family was a Redskins fan and my dad and I were the two strongest fans in the family. We would watch every game, follow the team through the offseason and when we could, we’d make the trek to Fedex Field to watch the team in person.

No, the team wasn’t very good. In fact, the Redskins made the playoffs just five times after 1994, the year I was born. I was fortunate enough to get to see one of those games in person — a 27-13 Wild Card round win vs. the Lions in 1999.

Despite all the losing — and there was a lot of it — I miss it deeply. Things just aren’t the same anymore. And when it came to light that longtime Redskin Ryan Kerrigan was signing with the Philadelphia Eagles for the 2021 season, that felt like the nail in the coffin.

Kerrigan was one of my last deep connections to the franchise. Drafted in 2011, Kerrigan became one of the most feared and reliable pass rushers in the NFL. He registered 95.5 sacks in his career in Washington and from 2011 to 2020, Kerrigan missed just four games. Before 2019, Kerrigan hadn’t missed a single game in his NFL career.

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It Wasn't Just A Good Weekend. It Was A Great Weekend.

As sports weekends go in the Nation's Capital, local teams may have just finished a rare great one.

Think about it. The Capitals won an opening-round Stanley Cup playoff game. The Wizards rallied to win and clinch an 8th-seed in the NBA playoffs. The Nationals won a series on the road. Plus the Mystics opened their season, DC United took to the pitch, and even the Washington Football Team and Hokies down in Blacksburg had an eventful last few days.

Not  bad. Not bad at all. Here are the details:

Capitals Win A Postseason Thriller

Caps fans had their hearts in their throats early when starting goaltender Vitek Vanecek left in the first quarter due to injury, leaving the game in Craig Anderson’s hands. Anderson only had two starts this season, his last win was in May of 2017, and while they said he was 39, it was just barely. He'll be 40 this week. So on top of concerns for injuries to TJ Oshie and the return of Alexander Ovechkin from injury, Caps fans had plenty to worry about.

But soon after realizing Anderson was even on the team, Caps fans realized they were seeing a calm, experienced goaltender who kept the Boston Bruins in check. Tom Wilson scored the game’s opening goal, showing he can score AND fight, then Jake DeBrusk responded – which was also the play on which Vanecek left with an injury. The call-and-respond action continued in the second period, when Brendan Dillon and Nick Ritchie traded goals, and the teams held each other scoreless throughout the rest of regulation.

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These Are Not Autographs You Will See For Sale On Ebay

Yesterday, I wrote a piece about Mitchell Gold, and in it I mention that I ended up getting a chair autographed by both Mitchell AND his dog. Some found that a little unusual.

“That’s not the only thing unusual about my Dad,” would be my daughter’s response.

But I will grant you that I do look at the whole autograph deal a little different than most. I have some sports memorabilia – an autographed picture of Julius Erving in a Virginia Squires jersey, a throwback Redskins helmet (the gold one with the big “R”) signed by Sonny Jurgensen, and a Virginia Tech helmet signed by Frank Beamer and Michael Vick.

The first one I ever pursued was Erving. I grew up in Norfolk watching the brief tenure of pro basketball in the area, and Erving was amazing. At the same time, Jurgensen was the quarterback for the Redskins, and at the age of 13, I thought he was the best quarterback of all time (still do, for that matter).

But it was Erving who soured me on any further sports hero worship. Later in life in the late 1990s, a great friend and business partner knew one of the then-minority owners of the Orlando Magic, and Erving worked for the team at the time. My friend and I were in Orlando, so he arranged for us to get tickets to the Magic game that night and meet my childhood idol.

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Baltimore Apparently Has No Chance; You Hate To See It :)

It’s been a busy day, as I’ve been running around to grocery stores to stock up, since the local weather people are saying Thursday we could have anywhere between 2 and 103 inches of snow and ice.

Nice job of nailing that forecast down with precision, guys.

So as I'm catching up on what I’ve missed this afternoon, I came across a graphic from the good people at Fangraphs rating every Major League Baseball team’s postseason odds. At this time of the year, common wisdom has said, everyone has a chance. Everyone’s 0-0. Hope springs eternal.

Except if you’re a fan of the Baltimore Orioles.

Their chances are listed at 0.0 percent. Senator John Blutarsky’s GPA in Animal House. The membership fees on a Discover Card. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. You know that meme that says “So you’re saying there’s a chance?” They’re not. They are saying you have NO chance.

This may have brought a smile to my face. You see, if you don’t live up here in the Northern Virginia/DC/Maryland area, you may not be aware of the “special” relationship between fans of Washington and Baltimore professional teams. It’s a nice way of saying Baltimore fans can be one colossal pain in the backside to Washington fans, never just being happy with their own success. They’ve got to make sure you know about it, whether you want to or not.

Over the years if I post something good about how the artists formerly know as the Washington Redskins are doing, I can count on at least two fans from Baltimore telling me how much better the Ravens are doing. When the Nationals won the World Series, they jumped in my feeds to make sure you knew that all Nationals fans were at one time Orioles fans and were just front runners without any real character who abandoned the O’s for the Nats.

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Rest In Peace, Marty Schottenheimer

I was saddened to learn today of Marty Schottenheimer’s passing. Was even more saddened to see some in the media focus their stories not so much on a successful, regimented teacher of the game, but instead shining the light on his 5-13 record in the playoffs.

That’s not fair.

Schottenheimer passed away yesterday from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease while in hospice care, and if you’ve ever watched a family member deal with that, well, you know that’s not fair either.

Schottenheimer was an old-school coach who insisted on rugged defense, a Vince Lombardi-type running game, and doing things the way he taught them. No one was immune to it, either, as he even once critiqued Darrell Green’s way of returning punts, despite Green being an all pro and student of the game.

With his passing, I remember the day with Green, the straw hat he wore in practice (I even went out and bought a replica and called it the “Marty” hat, and my initial belief that when he came to Washington, the game may have passed him by. All this attention to detail and strict views on conformance to how he viewed football, I thought at the time, won’t work any more.

Then it did.

The Redskins started off 0-5, his coaching ways were mocked, and folks wondered for the first of many occasions if Dan Snyder had a clue. He had, after all, fired Norv Turner in the middle of an 8-8 season, one year after going 10-6, then winning a playoff game against Detroit before losing the division final to Tampa.

8-8 may not have been great, we all thought at the time, but it beat the heck out of 0-5.

Marty never wavered in insisting his plan would work. He had bounced Jeff George a couple of weeks into the season and was willing to rely on a tough defense, Tony Banks at QB, and a belief in the players he had.

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