Night Terrors and Day Drinking: The Self Inflicted Trauma of Being a DC Sports Fan Part 6
Here we are. The 2008 and 2009 seasons. The low point of our existence as DC sports fans. The funny thing is my personal life was at an all time high. I was engaged to be married to the woman that I loved and who is loved by everyone who has met here. In fact whenever I see anyone they always ask me where my wife is. People will tolerate me but they want to see my wife. I am simply the price they have to pay. I am something to be endured in order to be in the company of my wife who is loved by everyone.
Summer of 2008 was my bachelor party. This was a very small and private event. It was just me and my best man. We took a trip to LA, San Diego, and Vegas. We started the trip off by watching the St Louis Cardinals take on the LA Dodgers on a cloudy day with the only sunshine of the afternoon shining on Albert Pujols. Then we discovered Ruby’s Diner and had a breakfast that is still talked about to this day. In my humble opinion breakfast is the best meal of the day. I know this is a very cold take. You could call this the absolute zero of takes because breakfast is a meal anyone can enjoy on any diet or lifestyle. There is something for everyone. Remember when you’re a kid and you wanted to have cake for dinner and your parent’s would never let you. Then you’d wake up in the morning and you could have pancakes or waffles or French toast which are all different versions of cake. Muffins are general considered a healthy option for breakfast but they are cupcakes without icing. The difference between a pound cake and a muffin is what tin you bake them in in the oven. In other words it is hard to have a bad breakfast but Ruby’s Diner was something special.
San Diego is one of the cleanest and nicest cities in the world. I’m certain you all know about the weather. Whenever it is 70 degrees and sunny outside someone is mentioning how it is San Diego weather, but what I enjoyed most about San Diego was it was a city meant to be walked through. As soon as a pedestrian would step to the curb the do not walk sign would change to walk and all traffic lights would turn red. At different points we got the famous fish tacos and a California burrito. This is where at 27 years old I discovered Horchata and cursed my suburban WASP upbringing.
That isn’t 100% honest. I am fairly certain my father is a closet atheist and at some point early on in my development my mother was too sick to fight him about not going to church. Even with that that vast majority of my friends in high school were ethnic and I came to appreciate their culture or more apt their food. I don’t know if I’d love pancit as much as I do now if I didn’t get it every New Years or on my friends birthday, and as much as I loved to eat free food was always welcomed. How and why I was fed at friends houses really explains the difference between my ethnic friends and my white friends. To my white friends parents’ I was a tool. No better than a trash compactor. I’d show up and they’d say, “Have fun going out but before you do we have some left over pizza we’d like not to have to keep in our refrigerator so eat it,” and I’d eat it because I was a glutton. Now my ethnic friends’ parents didn’t shove food in my face or treat me as a food for disposal. They invited me to sit and eat as one of the family. It is something called hospitality that may have been lost by the money driven suburban WASP culture of the mid to late 1990’s.
The 2008 Washington Nationals vs the San Diego Padres was a strange game to witness. Shawn Hill was the starting pitcher that day and he was a typical story of those times. A cast off pitcher that played above his head for a bit but was in the process of plummeting back to earth. To encapsulate this the guy seated in the row beyond us kept yelling, “You suck 41,” as if anyone cared about his opinion. The actual game wasn’t that different from many other Nationals games of that time. Aaron Boone hit a homerun and Ryan Zimmerman was out with a shoulder injury. This is where it all started with Zimmerman and his shoulder, and jokes about the Washington Nationals medical staff. Zimmerman wasn’t supposed to be out that long and he defiantly wasn’t supposed to have an injury that would eventually change the course of his career. Those were the facts at the time and also a fact at that time was that Stephen Strasburg was going to be the first overall selection in the 2009 draft and the Padres and Nationals were fighting for the right to draft him. That made the game even weirder because it benefited the Nationals far more if they lost. So therefore when Trevor Hoffman came on the Padres fans around us cheered because they thought he would blow it and I cheered because it was an incredible entrance for a Hall of Fame closer and the Nationals offense stank and they weren’t going to mount a rally against even a declining Trevor Hoffman.
If a 70 win season is forgettable but enjoyable in an odd no pressure just enjoy watching baseball sort of way, a 100 loss season is a torture to be endured hoping for a future reward. The Nationals got Strasburg and Harper out of their back to back 100 loss seasons but at that time baseball was not fun. Imagine waking up every morning and watching the family pet getting ritually sacrificed again and again. That is a 100 loss season. It will beat you down like nothing else can.
As I said though life was good. At work we’d transitioned from a photo store to making cabinets. There is a steady rhythm to working with your hands. To starting with 4 x 8 sheets of particleboard and turning them into cabinets. It is an overall enjoyable experience that I still sometimes miss. I of course don’t miss working in a warehouse that didn’t have air conditioning and it rained every time we had to load a truck to send a job out, but for those two years everything in my personal life was going well.
The sports teams couldn’t be much different and the worst was close at hand. I got married in January of 2009. The wedding can be summed up by the fact that I messed up the vows by laughing through them and as my wife would point out I was laughing so I wouldn’t cry which she finds sweet, but the fact is I messed up the vows. The other big takeaway from my wedding is I don’t have any pictures that include my nephew and that’s because I was hungry. We had Dixie Bones cater our wedding and I would smell the BBQ while the pictures were being taken in the chapel and I just wanted to eat. To put it bluntly my wedding day was a typical day for me. I rushed through the important stuff to get to meal time.
The list of bad free agent signings made by Daniel Snyder is long and ever growing, but Albert Haynesworth has to be the worst. This was a mockery from the start. Haynesworth refused to participate in off-season workouts and showed up to camp out of shape, he criticized the team’s defensive scheme, and was overall bad in every imaginable way. He ended up with 4 sacks and 29 tackles in 12 games that first season and he became just one of the simples of failure of that year. Jim Zorn and the swinging gate was the other. In 2009 Albert Haynesworth was a bad player and a bust of a free agent signing but the worst of his antics was still yet to come. Jim Zorn was finished and he knew it.
In 2008 he had started the season 7-1 before an absolute collapse in the second half had the Redskins finishing 8-8, but Dan Snyder no longer fired coaches for going 8-8 and Zorn was back for a second season. If the 2009 record of 4-12 wasn’t bad enough the way it happened made it all that much worse. The Redskins scored 266 points and allowed 336. Both offense and defense ranked in the bottom half of the league and then to show that special teams could be just as bad on December the 21st against the New York Giants Jim Zorn ran what may have been the worst play in football history. Describing the swinging gate is close to impossible because no one knows exactly what the purpose of it is and what is supposed to happen if it works. For the Redskins the center, kicker, and holder lined up in the middle of the field. The traditional place where the entire team would be on a normal play. The rest of the formation shifted to the left with one lone wide receiver going to the right. The Giants just stayed where they were and then there was a penalty. There was some trickery when the team shifted. Perhaps the Giants would have been thrown off, but then there was a penalty and Jim Zorn didn’t alter his plan at all. He went ahead and ran the swinging gate, but he looked up at the owners box before he did. As bad a head coach as Zorn was he was put in a no win situation by Dan Snyder. Greg Williams was the man meant to be the coach. The man meant to follow Joe Gibbs but Dan Snyder bungled the process like he bungles lawsuits against old ladies and Jim Zorn, who’d never been more than a quarterbacks coach, found himself head coach of the Washington Redskins. The swinging gate was his giant middle finger to Dan Snyder on his way out. Haynesworth, swinging gate, 100 loss baseball team, and we’re not even to the worst part of 2009. In fact this incident might be the worst in all of DC sports history.