WASHINGTON — Attendance at Redskins training camp has been noticeably minuscule in Richmond.
It’s gotten to a point where even the players have noticed, and curiously ruminate about the reasons behind the low-key crowds on Twitter.
106.7 The Fan columnist Rick Snider equated the sparse crowds to those in the “far-flung days of Frostburg (1995-99) when few Redskins fans ventured to Western Maryland.”
Jason La Canfora opened a recent CBS Sports column by describing the scene in Richmond as “downright boring.”
“There are no sideshows,” he wrote. “No divisive quarterback controversies. No assistant coaches who detest the head coach. No friction between the players and front office. The owner isn’t looking for ways to get rid of the head coach. No percolating dissent.”
Perhaps this is more indicative of a larger issue. The Redskins, who make modest roster upgrades throughout the calendar year and only occasionally splurge during the free-for-all free agency period when an All-Pro corner (Josh Norman) surprisingly suddenly becomes available, are no longer the offseason champions of old. Under GM Scot McCloughan, the Redskins have become… boring (to Jay Gruden’s delight).
Dan Steinberg of The Post theorizes their lack of starpower may also be a deterrent to fans considering attending camp.
Look at jersey sales. Last season, Ovechkin finished sixth in NHL jersey sales, despite not playing in a major hockey market. Harper was ninth in MLB jersey sales in the first half of this season. Meanwhile, the NFL has its own top 25 list. Want to know how many Redskins were on it this spring? Try none. (Six of the top 25 names play in the NFL East, including No. 1 Ezekiel Elliott, who topped the state-wide list in Virginia. Virginia!) And according to the NFLPA, the Redskins highest-ranked player in merchandise sales this spring was Kirk Cousins — at 35th!
“It’s too hot!” was a common — and reasonable — fan response on social media as temperatures soared through week one of camp. One day, the heat index reached 108 degrees. There’s certainly the location to consider. For the majority of Redskins fans, who are concentrated in Northern Virginia, D.C. and Maryland, driving to Richmond is a two-to-three-hour time commitment, and that’s only one way.
Scan Ihenacho’s Twitter timeline and you’ll find many different excuses from fans who have decided to stay home.
They all seem to amount to the same end result: lackluster training camp turnout. The team won’t even release attendance figures as they have in years past, former Richmond camps included.
What isn’t boring is winning. Although, fans want to see more than one division title. Perhaps the key reason for their newfound restraint — the same fans who painted Richmond burgundy and gold only three years ago — is a deeper desire to finally see sustained success.
Without splashy headlines or superstars, the Redskins are asking their fans to emotionally invest in a product which has let them down more often than it hasn’t, a franchise which, after its 2012 NFC East title, plummeted right back into obscurity and disarray.
If forced to invest — emotionally or financially — based solely on the product on the field, Redskins fans, it seems, will need a better, truer, look.