Jokes aren’t ticket to new sta­dium

Gov. McAuliffe’s in­sults to­ward Mary­land and Dis­trict are wrong way to lure Red­skins

The Washington Post Sunday - - WASHINGTONPOST.COM/SPORTS - BY DAN STEIN­BERG dan.stein­berg@wash­post.com

Give credit to Terry McAuliffe for cre­ativ­ity. The Vir­ginia gov­er­nor, who has spent years ad­vo­cat­ing for the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins to move to the Com­mon­wealth, ap­par­ently has lit upon a new strat­egy this time around: in­sult­ing the Dis­trict and Mary­land.

In an im­promptu (and, yes, light­hearted) ap­pear­ance on NFL Net­work dur­ing Thurs­day’s open­ing prac­tice of train­ing camp, the gov­er­nor quickly launched into his prac­ticed stump speech.

“You guys are in the great­est state in the United States of Amer­ica: the Com­mon­wealth of Vir­ginia — the only place to be and the fu­ture home of the Red­skins,” he said. “Let’s be hon­est: The [Red­skins] play­ers all live in Vir­ginia, their head­quar­ters are in Vir­ginia, the train­ing camp is in Vir­ginia, 65 per­cent of the sea­son ticket hold­ers are Vir­gini­ans. Why would you go any­place else? And we’re boom­ing — 81/2 mil­lion peo­ple.”

“I mean, I like D.C. — it’s a nice lit­tle sub­urb of 600,000 peo­ple,” McAuliffe then said. “And Mary­land, I mean, their crabs all come from Vir­ginia. They’ve got noth­ing up there.”

Okay, okay, he’s jok­ing. And yes, he has al­ready pre­vi­ously caused days of head­lines by mak­ing the same hys­ter­i­cal joke about Mary­land’s crabs.

But he chose to go af­ter the team’s for­mer and cur­rent homes on the same day that I re­viewed what late news an­chor Jim Vance once said about this fran­chise.

“I want them to win not so much be­cause I like them as a team — which I do — but rather be­cause of what it does for this re­gion,” he said be­fore the 1988 NFC ti­tle game. “It brings us to­gether: black, white, young, old, rich, poor. When the Red­skins beat the Cow­boys to win the NFC five years ago, I re­mem­ber peo­ple com­ing out of their homes and hug­ging each other, horns blar­ing, singing ‘Hail to the Red­skins.’ Noth­ing brings this place to­gether like the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins.”

Seems noble. Per­haps a tad more noble than in­sult­ing two-thirds of the re­gion while declar­ing your own state’s su­pe­ri­or­ity. Then there was McAuliffe’s even wack­ier state­ment to The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Liz Clarke as he touted sim­i­lar Com­mon­wealth­ian virtues.

“If they were smart,” he said of the Red­skins, “and they re­ally wanted to be Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons, they would have that fa­cil­ity in Vir­ginia.”

That huh what well um, gov­er­nor, sir, the Red­skins ac­tu­ally did win some Su­per Bowls. Three, ac­tu­ally. All while play­ing in the Dis­trict.

Which, of course, has noth­ing to do with them win­ning Su­per Bowls, nor does their move to Mary­land have any­thing to do with their lack of Su­per Bowl wins. Be­cause the Bal­ti­more Ravens, as it turns out, have won two Su­per Bowls this cen­tury, all while play­ing — get this — in the same state as the Red­skins.

Be­ing a bet­ter foot­ball team seems per­haps as im­por­tant a vari­able as the num­ber of oys­ters and crabs your state pro­duces. Oys­ters, you ask?

“Maybe we can get it done,” McAuliffe told NFL Net­work, speak­ing of a Red­skins sta­dium. “Three hun­dred winer­ies, 215 craft brew­eries, eight va­ri­eties of oys­ters. You eat our oys­ters. You drink our wine. Vir­ginia is for lovers. You fig­ure the rest out.”

McAuliffe has made sim­i­lar pitches dur­ing pre­vi­ous train­ing camps; last year’s speech, de­liv­ered on ESPN 980, also in­cluded a pitch to move to Vir­ginia to honor the troops.

Which is per­haps an­other vari­able that does not need to be lever­aged, lest ev­ery sports team that doesn’t move near a mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tion be ac­cused of not hon­or­ing the troops.

“You look at the mil­i­tary here, we have per capita more vet­er­ans than any state in Amer­ica,” the gov­er­nor said last year. “We have the largest naval base in the world, 27 mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions, the Pen­tagon, the CIA, Quan­tico, Lan­g­ley, all in Vir­ginia. So we’re such a pro-mil­i­tary state, and all our mil­i­tary — ac­tive duty and our vet­er­ans — love the Red­skins.”

Vir­ginia has been down this sta­dium road with the Red­skins be­fore and seemed on the verge of lur­ing the team dur­ing the last sta­dium de­bate, in the early ’90s. Things were plenty con­tentious be­tween Vir­ginia and the Dis­trict over those ne­go­ti­a­tions, and yet then-gov­er­nor L. Dou­glas Wilder — who faced a skep­ti­cal con­stituency and plenty of po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion — had a slightly dif­fer­ent pitch.

“It puts us on the map,” he said of a Red­skins sta­dium, which he also said would be “a shin­ing jewel of North­ern Vir­ginia, the cul­tural cen­ter of a place no longer in Wash­ing­ton’s shadow.”

It was a pos­i­tive pitch, not a neg­a­tive one.

(Even the most Red­skins-steeped Vir­ginia politi­cians were cau­tious back then. “I think it would be great if we could get the Red­skins into Vir­ginia,” then-U.S. Rep. Ge­orge F. Allen (R) said, adding that “the eco­nomic cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis would have to wind up in the black. Pres­tige is not enough.”)

Any­how, this de­bate isn’t go­ing any­where, even if McAuliffe is. A sta­dium deal isn’t ex­pected to be con­sum­mated be­fore the gov­er­nor leaves of­fice in Jan­uary, and the woo­ing ef­fort thus fig­ures to be passed on to his suc­ces­sor. Maybe who­ever that is can make the com­pli­cated and con­tentious case for a sta­dium with­out in­sult­ing the Dis­trict and Mary­land.

STEVE HELBER/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, mid­dle, called his state “the only place to be and the fu­ture home of the Red­skins.”

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