Grif­fin pos­si­bil­ity re­vives Red­skins fan base

Block­buster trade boosts ticket sales

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY RICH CAMP­BELL

Aneesh Me­hta had a weird feel­ing Fri­day. With his beloved Washington Red­skins pur­su­ing a fran­chise quar­ter­back just days be­fore the start of NFL free agency, he sensed some­thing big was about to hap­pen. That was why he con­tin­u­ally re­freshed the Twit­ter feed on his phone while at a birth­day party Fri­day night.

About 10:30 p.m., he learned that the Red­skins had ex­e­cuted a block­buster trade to po­si­tion them­selves to draft one of two highly touted quar­ter­back prospects: Stan­ford’s An­drew Luck or, more likely, Heis­man Tro­phy win­ner Robert Grif­fin III out of Bay­lor.

“I screamed it at the din­ner ta­ble, ‘We got RG3!’” Mr. Me­hta re­called with a laugh. “Then [my best friend] and I just went straight to the bar and started tak­ing shots.”

Mr. Me­hta’s joy took him a step fur-

Photo gallery, wash­ing­ton­times.com/mul­ti­me­dia

Pres­i­dent Obama’s re- elec­tion prospects are get­ting a boost from the plung­ing un­em­ploy­ment rate and the pickup in the econ­omy and fi­nan­cial mar­kets this year, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts say.

The eco­nomic im­prove­ment since the mid­dle of last year has been marked, with un­em­ploy­ment fall­ing from more than 9 per­cent to 8.3 per­cent and eco­nomic growth ris­ing from less than 1 per­cent to healthy an­nual rates closer to 3 per­cent. All this prompted a solid rally in stocks that, by the end of last month, had pushed the Dow Jones in­dus­trial av­er­age to more than 13,000 for the first time since 2008.

While threats re­main and all sides agree that the econ­omy still has far to go to re­cover all the ground lost dur­ing the Great Re­ces­sion, the un­ex­pected and some­times star­tling gains bode well for an in­cum­bent com­ing so close to the elec­tion.

Es­pe­cially help­ful to Mr. Obama was ev­i­dence last month that, thanks

ther Satur­day. He wrote the Red­skins a check for $2,580 to re­new his two sea­son tick­ets, some­thing he pre­vi­ously told a team sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive that he would not do un­less the Red­skins traded up in the draft to ac­quire a quar­ter­back.

A sam­pling of fans shared sim­i­lar sto­ries, ex­em­pli­fy­ing how im­me­di­ately Washington’s bold trade en­er­gized at least part of a sea­son-ticket base tired of pay­ing to watch a team that has fin­ished last in its di­vi­sion for four straight sea­sons.

The Red­skins, who re­moved ap­prox­i­mately 10,000 seats from Fedex Field be­fore last sea­son, fig­ure to ben­e­fit from over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive fan re­ac­tion to the move, es­pe­cially be­cause it oc­curred be­fore the team’s April 1 dead­line to re­new sea­son tick­ets.

“I went to bed, I woke up and I re­newed my tick­ets,” said Al Ma­honey, 35, of Sil­ver Spring. “It was a no-brainer for me.”

The Red­skins ex­pect Grif­fin or Luck to solve their long-stand­ing quar­ter­back prob­lems and serve as the cen­ter­piece of their on­go­ing ef­fort to re­turn to league promi­nence. The car­ry­over to the busi­ness side is ap­par­ent, at least anec­do­tally.

Mr. Ma­honey emailed the Red­skins this win­ter in­form­ing them that his decision to re­new his sea­son tick­ets was based on how they ad­dressed the quar­ter­back po­si­tion. Af­ter learn­ing of the trade via Twit­ter on his way to bed Fri­day, he stayed up lis­ten­ing to sports ra­dio un­til 1 a.m.

“That was what I had hoped for and it was ex­actly what I got,” he said. “I couldn’t be hap­pier.”

Lo­cal sports ra­dio mea­sured the public’s ini­tial re­sponse. Grant Paulsen, the Red­skins beat re­porter for 106.7 The Fan, raced to the sta­tion’s stu­dio in Lan­ham af­ter news of the trade broke. He and co-host Pete Med­hurst went on the air shortly af­ter 11 p.m., ex­pect­ing to host for about 90 min­utes. They in­stead hosted com­mer­cial-free pro­gram­ming un­til 5 a.m., phones jammed the whole time.

“Peo­ple got this news and they were so elated, it was this sense al­most of eu­pho­ria,” said Mr. Paulsen, who re­ceived calls from Cal­i­for­nia, Las Ve­gas, Ver­mont and Michi­gan. “They were just gush­ing. They didn’t want to go to sleep. We just de­cided to pull the plug at that point so that we could go home and go to sleep.”

ESPN 980’s Al Galdi over­hauled the for­mat of his Satur­day morn­ing sports show to fo­cus ex­clu­sively on the Red­skins.

“The phone lines, the sec­ond I gave out the num­ber, they lit up,” Mr. Galdi said.

Some fans have fol­lowed that ini­tial rush with their money.

John Over­ing­ton, 26, of South­west is be­tween jobs, so he was a bit dis­ap­pointed when the team re­cently of­fered him the chance to buy tick­ets af­ter he spent five years on the wait­ing list. It wasn’t a lux­ury he could af­ford at ap­prox­i­mately $1,800 for two tick­ets and park­ing. But af­ter Fri­day’s trade? “Now, I think I have no choice,” Mr. Over­ing­ton said. “It’s the first time to be ex­cited in 20 years. It’s some­thing I want to be a part of more than be­fore.”

Ja­son Ross, 33, and his fa­ther, Ben­jamin, were un­sure whether they would re­new their two club seats and two lower-level seats. They made up their minds, though, when they learned of the trade as they were leav­ing a Mi­ami res­tau­rant Fri­day.

“I just couldn’t see go­ing out there for that same of­fen­sive per­for­mance, not week in and week out,” said Mr. Ross, a North­west res­i­dent. “It gives you some hope for the fu­ture.”

Mr. Me­hta, 30, of Re­ston, still is re­joic­ing. Now he won­ders how the Red­skins will build around the new quar­ter­back, be­gin­ning with the open­ing of free agency Tues­day. Sud­denly, there’s much for him to an­tic­i­pate. “I couldn’t stop smil­ing for the rest of the night,” Mr. Me­hta said. “I was up un­til 4 a.m. on Twit­ter read­ing stuff, lis­ten­ing to stuff. That was the mo­ment I was wait­ing for.”

KYODO NEWS VIA AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ja­panese pro­tect them­selves from ra­di­a­tion as they hold a re­mem­brance cer­e­mony at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant Sun­day, one year af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake set off a tsunami and nu­clear melt­downs. Story, A11.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Washington Red­skins are ex­pected to se­lect for­mer Bay­lor quar­ter­back Robert Grif­fin III in April’s NFL Draft af­ter mak­ing a block­buster trade to ac­quire the No. 2 over­all pick.

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