I’ll be honest, I’m not actually sure this fire is even burning. But I’m going to go ahead and throw some gas on it anyway.
You might remember last week that I ran an article mentioning a consulting group, hired by the Washington Redskins, asking fans if they would want to see a game played at RFK Stadium. RFK, of course, was the home of the Redskins from 1961-96. As the stadium that hosted the team during its most glorious age (1980s-early 1990s), RFK still holds a place near and dear to the hearts of Redskins fans. Many still claim to recall the smells, sounds and sensations of the venerable stadium with incredible alacrity. Personally, I attended probably 25-30 games at RFK, and have incredible and fond memories.
Further, the mere inkling of a possible game at RFK (keep in mind, the team has not formally stated this is even a consideration) was widely applauded, particularly amongst younger fans, who never saw a game at RFK and have only the memories of their elders as reference. Some even phoned into local sports talk radio shows, suggesting they would pay three-five times the price of a regular ticket to see a game there, and you have to imagine Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was listening.
One got the sense listening to many fans, that they saw a potential game at RFK as an opportunity to almost go back in time. And anyone who knows the D.C. sports scene could tell you a Redskins game at RFK would be one of the biggest sporting events in the history of the city.
Of course, RFK is somewhat unique amongst vacated stadiums in the sense that it is well, still standing. Most stadiums are demolished once a team leaves. For example, old Yankee Stadium was demolished in 2010. Likewise, we can’t go back to say, Ebbets Field and recapture the magic of the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers. Theoretically, we could go back and capture the magic of the 1980s Redskins.
But should we?
Aside from the practical considerations of hosting a game in a stadium built over 50 years ago, that has seen little upgrades, would a game at RFK actually capture the nostalgia of the past? In this age of billion dollar stadiums, complete with the latest and greatest modern amenities, do people really want to visit a multi-purpose concrete slab built over 50 years ago? Undoubtedly, long bathroom and concession lines, the absence of high definition scoreboards and WiFi would be part of the deal. Or would such things be part of the charm?
Do Redskins fans risk tainting their cherished memories if the experience doesn’t match the expectation? And would a game at RFK actually make Redskins fans long for FedEx Field? In other words, would a game at RFK actually taint our cherished memories of the glorious past?
I think it could.
But if done properly, this has the potential to be a smashing success.
Now, when I say done properly, I mean specifically done rarely, maybe once every decade. For example, if the Redskins decided to play one game annually at RFK, it would become an “I’ll just go next year” type deal, almost like the circus. Further, a regular annual game at RFK would expose the old stadium’s faults. And at some point the nostalgia of long concession and bathroom lines, puny scoreboards and parking in the mud, would wear off. And keep in mind, the most vivid, spectacular images of RFK currently exist in the minds of Redskins fans. Too much reality would risk impugning those cherished memories
But if a game at RFK was held once every few years, it would be a magical experience, arguably unprecedented in sport. The Redskins would be offering their loyal and rabid fan base something other franchises could not, the chance to go back in time.
You just don’t want to go back too often.