Jokes aren’t ticket to new stadium
Gov. McAuliffe’s insults toward Maryland and District are wrong way to lure Redskins
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.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, middle, called his state “the only place to be and the future home of the Redskins.”