Last Saturday, my beloved Redskins survived a torturous fourth quarter to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17-10. I watched the game in New York City's unofficial Redskins bar. When the game ended, we went berserk, performing a celebratory Fun Bunch and singing "Hail to the Redskins!"
After a few minutes of revelry, I remembered an oft-overlooked tenet of sportsmanship: It's not enough to celebrate your favorite team's victory in the company of your fellow fans. During times of conquest, I always remember to celebrate the other team's defeat in the company of their fans.
During football season, my consumption of sports media is dictated in large part by the performance of the Redskins. A tough loss will chase me away from the sports pages for an entire week. After a big win, my need for Redskins reportage is insatiable. Daily newspapers, a handful of blogs, the Redskins home page, ESPN, Sports Illustrated—it's still not enough.
When the Redskins humiliated the Cowboys on Monday Night Football earlier this year thanks to two late Santana Moss touchdowns, I went on a reconnaissance mission. The next morning, I ventured into the formerly hostile territory of the Dallas sports pages and savored every harsh word tossed at the hometown losers. "[T]he Cowboys came out on the wrong end, somehow blowing a late 13-point fourth-quarter lead, eventually blowing a game, and maybe even wrecking an entire season," Randy Galloway wrote in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "Pathetic and disgraceful is being too kind to the Cowboys." This was fantastic!
With that schadenfreude in mind, I raced back to my apartment a few minutes after the Redskins' first playoff victory in six years. I immediately started surfing through Bucs Web sites and cranked up Tampa sports radio WDAE—the "Sports Animal."
Earlier in the day, I had tuned in to the pregame show on the same station. Until then, I hadn't harbored a strong impression of Bucs fans. As I quickly learned, they are a scurrilous and foul-mouthed bunch with a hearty appetite for good defense and liquor. Several of them predicted a Bucs blowout. One noted that he was going down to the stadium "to harass Redskins fans."
By the post-game show, the Animal had transformed into a delightful dirge. Gone were the fight songs, the barbaric howling, and the idiotic kazoos.
"It's going to take a while to get over this as a fan," moaned a caller who went by Timmy. Don: "The offense sucked." T.J.: "This is a tough one." A woman named, curiously, Aussie D: "We just didn't have enough fire on the barbie."
Much of the bellyaching centered on a controversial play: a pass late in the fourth quarter that would have given the Bucs a chance to tie the game if only the refs hadn't ruled that the ball squirted loose at the last instant.
"There was a little bit of a conspiracy on the NFL side," explained a caller named Jeff. "They didn't want [Bucs Coach Jon] Gruden in the playoffs." Host Scott Ledger agreed: "We got rooked. … How is it that you don't know, when you're an NFL referee, that the ground can't cause a fumble. … Killing me. Killing me."