I love the Washington Redskins.
Since I was a kid growing up in Virginia, I’ve felt that I had few choices in finding a favorite professional football team. These were the pre-cable days when the local news only showed Redskins highlights, stores at the mall only sold Redskins apparel and, if you listened to sports and/or talk Radio, the only team they talked about were the Redskins. I had no choice, much like a kid born on a farm is predestined to be a farmer or how a kid born on a boat is destined to be a fisherman, I was destined to be a ‘Skins fan. Again, it’s not that I mind, that’s just how it is.
There were a couple of people that I grew up with that were Steelers fans or Browns fans, even some Eagles fans and some *GASP*, Cowboys fans, but I just couldn’t understand how or why they could do something like that. I mean, we’ve got the ‘Skins, man! How could you root against the burgundy and gold? How could you deny their greatness? It just seemed like geographic betrayal, like they were intentionally eschewing the Redskins to be “different” or somehow stand out in the crowd. Or even worse, they were just bandwagon fans of whatever team had just won the last Super Bowl or had the coolest looking jersey. That’s not being a fan. In fact, I didn’t think you could live in Virginia and claim to be a true fan of anything lest you were a fan of the Washington Redskins.
Every Sunday, I got to sit on my grandparent’s floor and watch my boys take the field at RFK and make me proud. John Madden and Pat Summerall calling the play-by-play as my heroes of the gridiron enthralled me with each pass, catch, run, block, tackle and interception. Hail to the Redskins. Hail victory.
The ‘Skins were winners. Consistent winners. Super Bowl winners. Braves on the warpath…
…and then Jack Kent Cook died.
Ol’ Jack was the owner of the team and had built them up over the years into the perennial winners that they had become. He understood the needs of the fans, he understood the importance of putting a quality product out on the field and he understood that the value of the team wasn’t just in ticket and merchandise sales, but also in creating endearing love and loyalty. We knew that things were going to be different without Jack, but we still loved our team and we still knew we had the tools and the talent to keep going.
In comes Dan Snyder.
To say that Dan Snyder’s tenure as owner of the Redskins has been bad would be like telling someone that the Bataan Death March was just a really long walk.
Snyder bought the team with all of the good intentions of a crooked billionaire who needed something to do with all of the money that he had. Clearly a train set wasn’t going to be enough and he couldn’t book a plane ticket to space, so buying an NFL franchise would have to do. I’m sure his intentions as a fan were noble, unfortunately, his acumen as a businessman got in the way. You know that guy in your fantasy football league who doesn’t mind paying the $25 transaction fee to move around players because he really doesn’t know what he’s doing? Well, imagine that guy with billions of dollars and having a real football team. Overzealous, overpaid and under-informed; that’s Dan.
Through a series of bad trades, poor drafting and dubious free agency decisions (yes, we paid Bruce Smith and Deon Sanders boatloads of money well past their primes), Snyder took what was once one of the NFL’s marquee franchises and turned it on its head. Coaching changes, GM changes and constant meddling turned my team from champions to laughingstocks. It was like seeing your childhood pet get punched in the face every Sunday, the team I loved getting consistently mollywhopped by everyone else’s favorite team.
But as much as Dan Snyder has hurt me, he still hasn’t taken away my love for the Redskins.
Ownership aside, my love and loyalty lie with the franchise, the heritage and the spirit of the team. I don’t care who is in the owner’s box or who’s signing the checks. Dan Snyder isn’t the Redskins, he’s just a steward of them until we get our next great owner. That’s what I believe. That’s what I have to believe. I can’t stay a true fan and abandon the thing I love because one person has decided to abuse it.
I joke with my friends who are fans of other teams when every season starts because they actually think their team can go all the way this year. They have “maybe if” and “once we do” peppered into their discussions. They keep a flame burning for the first few weeks until they finally come to the hurtful realization that it’s just not going to be their year. Luckily for me, Dan Snyder has kept me from getting hurt like that. Those fans have hope. I’d rather be surprised by the Redskin’s success rather than hurt by their inevitable failures on the field.
But even with all that said, my apathy is a coping mechanism. I still love my Redskins.
Over the past few months, I’ve had a series of interviews with agencies all over the US, Canada and even parts of Europe. After a while, the conversation tends to be scripted.
Tell me about yourself.
Tell me about your career.
Tell me what you’re looking for.
I felt like I had adequately answered the questions. I thought that I’d explained who I was and why I was qualified pretty clearly. I thought that it was just a matter of finding the right person to talk to at the right time. It can’t be that hard, I’ve got the tools and the talent, so let’s do this. But the word that has been the bane of my job search, the word that keeps popping up over and over again is “passion.”
Like I said before, I had an interview where I was asked if I was passionate about having A job or having THAT job that I tried to reconcile through the confusing nature of the statement. I mean, yeah, I have passion for A job, but to ask me if I have passion for THAT job isn’t a fair position to put me into. Layering on that word to anything somehow evokes some kind of visceral and emotional attachment to something that’s bigger than the idea itself. Like I shouldn’t just like the opportunity or be interested in the job; I somehow need to have a deep emotional drive to do it. Some kind of compelling need to be THERE at that moment instead of anywhere else.
I’ve tried to make it a point to not get too emotionally invested in my work (and I’ve failed several times) because I want to reserve those feelings for other things that I want to think are more important. My family, my personal life and my sanity. I understand that work often encroaches on my home and vice versa, but I try to keep the two as church and state. I see people at some of the agencies I’ve worked at who have become personally connected to the company in a way that I just can’t. It’s not that I don’t like where I’m working or the people that I’m working with, but I just don’t want to buy into the hype. I’ll subscribe to the agency culture, but I don’t want to join the agency cult. That’s not to say that I don’t want to like or even love the place that I work or the people that I work with, but instead to say that I want to protect myself from them and I’d protect them from me.
I want to be happy about where I work and proud of what I do. But I don’t know if that’s passion.
There have been projects I’ve worked on and people that I’ve worked with that have enthralled me and driven me to push my work beyond 110% and made me want to do and learn more because I wanted to learn and do more. I’ve had projects that I’ve spent weeks and months laboriously slaving over to make sure that I got them just right or to become an expert in because I’ve become intellectually invested and thus, enjoyed doing them even more. There have been threads on sweaters that I couldn’t resist pulling or closed doors that I couldn’t resist opening, but the draw has been more academic than emotional.
I want to be smarter about what I do and I want to take that hunger for knowledge and share that with others. But I don’t know if that’s passion.
When I sit across the desk from someone and they ask me if I’m passionate about the opportunity or if I have a passion for this job, I can honestly say no. Or at least, not yet. How can I tell how I’ll feel until I get there or how can you tell what I believe in until you see me do it?
Do I have a passion for cheese? No. But what I do have is a passion for learning about how and why people buy it.
Do I have a passion for working at your agency? No. But what I do have is a passion for working for and with smart people who want to do creative things.
I don’t have a passion for a job. I don’t have a passion for an agency. What I have is a passion for is being able to do what I do with people who want to get the job done.
Don’t mistake my passion for my work with a passion for a job. I can do good work at any job, all I ask is that the job give me an opportunity to do good work. I’ve loved working for an insurance client more than I loved working on a global consumer electronics brand. I didn’t have a passion for the jobs, I had a passion for the work I got to do.
I don’t want to get emotionally or viscerally connected with your agency or your client. I want to be passionate about what it is that I’m doing. Whether it’s A job or THAT job, I just want to do something that means something.
I don’t like Rex Grossman. I don’t like Clinton Portis. I don’t like Mike Shanahan. I don’t like Dan Snyder.
But I love the Redskins.
You see, for me, it’s my love for the team and for the game that trumps my love for the individual people that are involved with it. What they do on the field is important, but I don’t feel as passionate about one or two good plays or a few wins or losses as I do with the integrity of my team.
Personnel will come and go. Players will get traded. Hell, we don’t even play games at RFK anymore (and when I was there last week, I almost shed a tear). But that’s not what matters.
It’s the essence of the team just like it’s the essence of the work. It’s what they team stands for, not what the team is doing just like it’s what the work entails rather than the job description.
If we’re to believe that passion is momentary and only reserved for certain people or things in certain situations then we’re all living life on the bandwagon. We don’t support our football teams until they stop winning just like we don’t stop working hard for clients because they’re not “sexy” or spend less than others.
Yes, I have passion for A job just like I have passion for football. My Redskins make me want to watch their games, but I’ll still root for the Bears (I live in Chicago, what do you expect) and I’ll pick my team for the Super Bowl and support them for the game.
Do I have a passion for THAT job? No. I don’t stop watching football altogether when the Redskins lose. My love for football isn’t predicated on how much we paid Donovan McNabb last season. The game is the game, that’s why we watch it.
The question is whether or not I have passion for THE job. I’ll always love the Redskins and I’ll always want to see them win. I cheer just as loud when they’re 0-7 as I do when they’re 7-0. THE game of football is bigger than A game on a particular Sunday and THAT game doesn’t determine whether or not I’ll keep watching. Passion isn’t in the moment. Even if my team isn’t the best to others, they’re still the best to me.
My next job may not evoke the same passion out of me as the Redskins, but I’m sure there are lawyers that are Eagles fans and doctors that root for the Saints that can say the same thing about what they do.
Any given Sunday or any given Monday, we don’t just root for our teams, we root for a good game… unless you’re a Cowboys fan. I hope they lose every game, every season for as long as I live.
*Please note that I know that the Redskins name is terribly racist, but hey, that’s the team I was raised on. I’m sorry.