Lessons from a great team’s fall


Courtesy of Keith Allison, Wikimedia Commons

Longtime Redskins captain and fan favorite Trent Williams speaks to an official during a game. After a medical misdiagnosis, Williams has not played this season for the Redskins and has vowed to never return.

The Washington Redskins. When people – football fans or not – hear that name, a few thoughts go through their head. The first thought may be the simple fact that the team loses all the time.

Some people may think about the PR disaster that “Redskin” is defined as a racial slur.

I think of something else: The downfall of the Washington Redskins is a poignant tale and a lesson about life.

The Redskins used to be one of the best teams in the NFL. They were perennial playoff contenders and had a yearly chance to win the Super Bowl. In the 1980s and ‘90s they were the New England Patriots of today.

They were giants of the game. In the DMV, the Redskins were a source of unity, excitement and fun. They brought together people from all walks of life.

But the story of the Redskins shows how even the mightiest of us can fall.

The 1990s weren’t that long ago. The youngest of us at WJ were born only five or maybe six years after the turn of the century. Nobody back then would have thought the Washington Redskins would become a joke only a couple of decades down the road.

But that is exactly what happened. Not only did the Redskins become a failure on the field, the upper levels of management were in denial about it.

When fans first stopped attending games, the organization decided to remove sections of the bleachers in the stadium. They didn’t fix the user experience, they just made it look like there wasn’t a problem.

Today, the organization which once bragged about a year-long season ticket waitlist offers tickets to games for as low as $4. The good seats go for around $30. And even with this, the stadium remains half full. It’s pitiful.

The Redskins wasted millions of dollars on bad players; they had great players whose careers were decimated by preventable injury and they just kept losing, all while being overseen by an incompetent owner.

The lackluster performance of the Redskins, among other sporting failures, gave DC a reputation as a city of losing sports teams.

But guess what? As the Redskins’ nosedive continued, other teams cleaned up their acts. The Capitals won the Stanley Cup, the Mystics won the WNBA Championship and the Nationals won the World Series.

They’re calling DC the District of Champions.

Meanwhile, the Redskins are once again among the worst teams in the NFL, headed for yet another losing season.

Just as in sports, if you reach the top of something, don’t think for one second that you’re going to stay there.

Someone is always going to try to be better than you. Someone is always going to try to steal your spotlight. Sustaining success requires adaptation to ever-changing circumstances. It requires honest self-criticism. The best people know that complacency equals failure.

You need to scale an ever-increasing peak. That is the path to victory.