by Rick Snider

There were two good opponents, a fashionable preseason third game, beautiful weather and prime weekend dates. So why was FedEx Field largely abandoned by Washington Redskins fans?

The official crowd against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday was 52,016.

Actually, that was the number of empty seats with maybe 20,000 attending. Against the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 19, the box score said 55,219. I’d say it was more like 19,000, including 5,000 cheesehead fans.

What happened to Redskins fans?

It has been a slow eroding fan base since owner Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999. The days of overflowing RFK Stadium grew to 80,000 in the early years of FedEx Field. But seating has slipped to 70,000, and even then, it’s a rare game that sees the upper deck crowded.

Preseason games have become a joke. The crowds are sparse with few in the upper deck.

Preseason tickets are included in the overall 10-game plan so essentially 40,000-plus fans opted to just eat the cost. Even at the low end, that’s $150 for two tickets (plus taxes and fees) plus a $50 parking pass. Fans are paying $200-plus not to attend.

The logic that it’s better to eat that cost than also spend another $100 on food and drink is absurd. No one forces you to drink $9.50 beers. It’s only a few hours, no one will die of thirst. But that regularly one-third of the crowd isn’t sober says drinking is part of the experience.

If the games were on Thursday nights (like many years) and fans had to get up early for work, I’d understand them skipping. If it was a thousand degrees like many August nights, watching from air conditioned homes is understandable.

If it was the dreaded first and fourth preseason games, where starters play little-to-none, no one blames those absent. And if the opponent was some hapless far-flung team like the Los Angeles Rams, then it might be tolerable to skip the game.

But none of that happened this preseason and crowds were horrible. It makes me wonder how many fans will attend the regular-season opener against Philadelphia on Sept. 10. Most likely, there will be 20,000 Eagles fans and 50,000 Redskins fans.

Home-field advantage against NFC East opponents Dallas, New York and Philadelphia, plus Baltimore and Oakland is marginal, especially when Washington isn’t playing well. It feels like there are about 40,000 Redskins fans at most FedEx games. Snyder will be smart to remember that when building the next stadium to 60,000-seating capacity.

After all, it seems nobody’s home anymore.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.


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