My fantasy football team, known far and wide as Scorched Earth, is out of the playoff running. And so is my reality team, the Washington Redskins. But not only are both of my teams losers, they both lose in more or less the same exact way. Year in. Year out.
Both teams look good on paper at the beginning. There is talk that This Is The Year. This Will Not Be Like Other Years. If you follow the NFL, you will surely appreciate the potential talent Scorched Earth left the room with on draft day - Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Delhomme at QB; Randy Moss (who would have guessed he'd be averaging under 60 receiving yards a game??), Lee Evans, Justin McCareins, Tyrone Calico at WR; Willis McGahee, Tatum Bell, Mike Anderson, Duce Staley, T.J. Duckett at RB; Tony Gonzalez at TE; kicker David Akers; and the Defensive unit of the Chicago Bears. In late August, that feels like a winner, right? But it was not to be. We had ticky-tack injuries and mistakes, new game plans, and so forth - basically, it just didn't pan out. In other words, Scorched Earth is just good enough to get your hopes up, but not good enough to make a serious playoff run.
Same goes for the Redskins. I like Dan Daly's column in The Washington Times about this. Wilbon's Post column touches on it, too. It's like the Skins are in football purgatory, starting back in the 1997 playoffs when Dan Turk made the bad snap on that field goal against Tampa Bay. You know - about the time Daniel Snyder took over the team? Surely it is purely coincidental - Mr. Snyder, please do not vaporize me.
This past Sunday, I wish I could have put money on something like "The Washington Redskins will find a way to blow this 42-yard potentially game-winning field goal." And not just with something as mundane as the kicker missing it. Oh no, not the Redskins. All they had to do to set up the 42-yarder was stay where they were. Just don't go backward. Do whatever you had to do to accomplish that. Three meaningless runs, or a scramble to position the ball on the preferred hash mark. Throw out of bounds three times. Hey, just spike or kneel on the football if that's what it takes to get you to the field goal down. But they couldn't do it. They commit a holding penalty (a blatant holding penalty), and now it's a 52-yard try that place kicker John Hall promptly leaves short. Ballgame.
And after the game, the coaches and players make the same old maddening, milquetoast comments - we don't know what went wrong, I still really love this group of guys, we fought our hearts out, we're just a play or two away, we're staying positive, we're all "professionals" here. Well...that all sounds like loser talk to me. Where's the fire? When will the team decide as a group they've had enough of this perennial underacheiving? According to them, they've been a play or two away for eight seasons now. When's the ship coming, guys?
So that's the Skins and Scorched Earth both - snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Hey, I know that with the fantasy team, I've got no one to blame but myself. But I feel like I'd almost rather have my teams out-and-out suck than beat themselves week in and week out. In the end, the Skins and their fantasy alter ego of Scorched Earth are tough to love. So why do I continue punishing myself this way? Your guess is as good as mine.