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Edskin
01-07-2008, 08:06 AM
www.edkleese.blogspot.com

There was a moment. A Disney moment.

After trailing 13-0 to start the 4th quarter, the Washington Redskins scored two touchdowns in less than two minutes to take a 14-13 lead. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, the ball bounced over the head of the Seattle return man, and nestled in the arms of a Redskins player. It was a play you see maybe once every ten years. For the Redskins, it occurred during the 4th quarter of a one-point game in the playoffs.

It was at that moment, that my hope gave way to belief.

After enduring countless injuries, media criticism of our beloved coach, a 5-7 start to the season, and most importantly, the murder of our best player, it appeared as if 2007 would simply be an ugly black mark in the Redskins history book.

But something happened over the final four games of the season. A 36 year old quarterback, who hadn’t started a game in over 10 years, led us to four straight victories. Everywhere you looked, there were “signs” of the fallen Sean Taylor. The team was playing for him, and in many ways, it appeared he was playing through them. With each win, the emotion boiled and the Disney-like ending seemed more plausible.

Then, there was that kickoff. I had done my best to keep my hopes and dreams in check. After all, how much more could this team give? But when we recovered that kick, I suddenly had visions of playing the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. What a story that would have been. The writers at Disney wouldn’t have even had to work for that one.

But then, almost as suddenly as it had started, the Disney script was torn to shreds. The Redskins failed to score a touchdown on that possession, and in what proved to be a complete momentum killer, they missed a short field goal. We still held the lead, but something had changed. All of a sudden, I realized this was the real world—not Disneyland, and that the Redskins were playing an actual NFL team, on the road, in the playoffs. The Seattle players and fans weren’t overly interested in our fairy-tale ending.

We held on as long as we could. We held that slim lead with just over 6:00 minutes to play. But that was it. Everything unraveled at the end, and we lost 35-14, in a game where the final score truly did not indicate the type of game we had just witnessed.

The season ended. And with it, so did the dreams of the Disney ending. Todd Collins would not be hoisting the Super Bowl MVP trophy to the rafters as Tom Brady trudged off the field. The Redskins would not be pointing skyward to their fallen teammate as the final seconds ticked off the clock. In other words, no need to call Disney. It was just another 9-7 team losing a road playoff game in the first round. Happens every year.

Or does it?

That’s the thing about endings. Just because it wasn’t as we hoped, it doesn’t mean it didn’t matter. It doesn’t mean it didn’t have an impact. It doesn’t mean that it didn’t change things.

For me, as a fan, the 2007 Washington Redskins will always be one of my favorites. From a personal standpoint, I had the rare opportunity to see this team play live on three different occasions. Two of those games were part of a cross-country road trip I took my with future brother-in-law. One of my most vivid memories of the trip was during the Redskins-Lions game in Washington. During a punt return late in the 4th quarter, a Lions player was knocked senseless with a viscous block. My brother-in-law turned to me and asked, “Was that Taylor!?” My reply was a resounding “Oh yeah.” Of course, we were talking about Sean Taylor, who just over six weeks later, would be gunned down in his home. The next week, we traveled to Green Bay, where Taylor may have had the finest game of his brief career.

Later in the season, I was fortunate enough to travel to Dallas. I met some wonderful fellow Redskins fans and endured yet another gut-wrenching loss to our arch rivals. I watched from home the next week as the Redskins fell to Tampa Bay. At that point, I wasn’t sure things could get much worse.

Then the news that Taylor had been killed, followed by a one-point loss to Buffalo. Oh yeah, the Redskins had to fly to Miami the day after that game to attend Taylor’s funeral. And on top of all that, they had yet another game to play that Thursday.

From that low point, the Redskins resurrected a season, and in many ways, resurrected hope, behind the rock solid leadership of their coach, Joe Gibbs. For the next four weeks, the Redskins tore through their competition, all the while ignoring the injuries and tragedy that had befallen them earlier in the season. Even without several key starters, the Redskins won their final four games, including a 27-6 pounding of the Cowboys on the last Sunday of the season that clinched their improbable playoff berth.

From rock bottom to the playoffs in four weeks? That doesn’t happen in the real world. That’s Disney stuff.

So you had to forgive Redskins fans for having wild visions when we recovered that kickoff last Saturday. How else to explain all of this?

But I suppose that’s what separates the Disney World from the real world. There are no cruel twists at the ends of Disney movies. There are no head-scratchers. Disney movies don’t leave you with a pit in your stomach.

What I learned this year is that the common saying, “there’s always next year,” doesn’t always apply. At least not for everyone. There will be no “next year” for Sean Taylor. He was with the team during this amazing run, but given time and distance, things will change. He will always be remembered by the organization, his friends, his fans, and the NFL community, but his presence won’t be nearly as tangible as it was during this year. Now, the reality sets in. He’s gone. And so is the 2007 season.

I’m grateful for the 2007 Washington Redskins. Grateful for the way they played, grateful for the way they represented my beloved franchise, and grateful from a personal standpoint that I was able to witness the season from such a close vantage point, with so many wonderful people.

I really don’t know what to expect next year. I’m hopeful, but not sold. Right now, next year seems like a faraway place.

For now, I’ll focus on this year. 2007.

Maybe we didn’t get our Disney ending. But then again, maybe we did.

rotnoid
01-07-2008, 08:33 AM
Good stuff Ed.

I'm a lifelong Cowboys fan, but even I found myself rooting for the Redskins Saturday. The heart they played with the last month of the season was truly inspiring. Seeing interviews with guys like Portis and hearing him say he still talks to Sean during the game, between plays, was powerful stuff. When that one was over, for the first time in my life, I actually felt bad for the Redskins.

These are the kind of events that put sports and rivalries, which can loom large, into perspective. Thanks for the read, and congrats to you and the 'Skins on a strong finish. Best of luck in 14 games next season. :)

Edskin
01-07-2008, 10:20 AM
Thanks, rot. I REALLY wanted another shot at you guys, but alas........thanks for the kind words though :)