Fa­mil­iar fu­til­ity

Team sits at 3-6, won­der­ing what fu­ture holds, for third straight year

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather - BY ZAC BOYER

There was no de­fin­i­tive prom­ise, no ral­ly­ing cry, not even a mis­con­strued as­sess­ment Thurs­day night af­ter the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins squan­dered a 13-point sec­ond-half lead to lose to the Min­nesota Vik­ings, 34-27.

Coach Mike Shana­han, in a cramped Metrodome hall­way af­ter the game, lit­er­ally stood with his back against the wall. Some­what de­feated him­self, sweat bead­ing rest­lessly on his fore­head, Shana­han’s dul­cet tone seemed pow­er­less as he pon­dered how the Red­skins should pro­ceed af­ter fall­ing to 3-6 for the third con­sec­u­tive sea­son.

“Same thing as a year ago, same things we did to­day: You have to take it game by game,” Shana­han said. “We fell short to­day, and hope­fully, we take care of busi­ness next week.”

It was just over a year ago when Shana­han, con­fronted with another sea­son slip­ping out of con­trol, stood at a lectern deep within FedEx Field and seem­ingly changed course on his team’s fu­ture. Not an hour be­fore, the Red­skins had lost to the Carolina Pan­thers, who en­tered that af­ter­noon with only one vic­tory in their first seven games. Go­ing for­ward, Shana­han said, the coaches would be look­ing at which play­ers would be on the team in the com­ing years.

The state­ment, an­a­lyzed and shred­ded from all an­gles, seemed to make sense. Shana­han knew that the team, with rookie quar­ter­back Robert Grif­fin III, faced a bright fu­ture. With lit­tle shot of glory over the next seven weeks and mul­ti­ple de­ci­sions to be made dur­ing the off­sea­son, it was time to take a crit­i­cal eye to the ros­ter and de­cide who could be of great­est use as a re­cov­er­ing fran­chise geared up for a play­off run per­haps as soon as the fol­low­ing sea­son.

What hap­pened af­ter­ward wasn’t at all ex­pected.

over the hel­met, gloves and shoul­ders. When flags age, they don’t look as if they’ve been cov­ered in blood. No, they fade. All this is sup­posed to sup­port the Wounded War­rior Project. Sup­posed to honor vet­er­ans. Hy­per­pa­tri­otic splat­ters.

Where well-in­ten­tioned spe­cialedi­tion Adidas cleats au­to­graphed by Robert Grif­fin III to ben­e­fit the Op­er­a­tion Re­newed Hope Foun­da­tion come with a dog tag and are pack­aged in a replica of an ammo can.

Where play­ers tuck in cam­ou­flage tow­els the same way they tucked in pink ones last month to re­mind us about breast can­cer.

Where salutes, in­stead of dance moves of ques­tion­able taste, cel­e­brate touch­downs.

Where the NFL boasts an “of­fi­cial mil­i­tary ap­pre­ci­a­tion spon­sor.”

The mes­sage isn’t sub­tle: This is much more than a mere game.

“Our cul­tures are sim­i­lar in so many ways,” NFL com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell told a group of West Point cadets last year.

The wall tells another story. Games end. They are a di­ver­sion, an es­cape. The wall swal­lows you.

Down the way from Kalsu’s name, a white-haired man in baggy black slacks and a wind­breaker strains to start a rub­bing.

“Let me get that for you, sir,” a vol­un­teer says.

“This is my list,” the man says, hold­ing a palm-sized piece of pa­per cov­ered with names. “This is all of us.” Tears start. “I get all choked up,” he says. “I don’t know why.”

The man flicks open a knife to sharpen his pen­cil.

The vol­un­teer pats his back. She tells him the tears are nor­mal. They are good.

Nearby, a wrin­kled piece of pa­per leans against the wall. The wind can’t seem to move the scrap.

“In the end,” the pa­per says, “there is only the mem­ory of the dead and the sound of old sol­diers weep­ing.”

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