By Alec Dubro
Ever since I moved to DC in 1993, I’ve hated my home town NFL team. For 18 years I lived in the Bay Area and got to root for the Raiders and the 49ers when both were Super Bowl winners and contenders. Then I moved to New York and watched the Giants win a few. Well, the miserable Washington Redskins didn’t lose this past Sunday, but that’s only because they had the weekend off. They probably needed some time to reflect. So far this year they lost to the Lions, who had lost 19 in a row, and to the Chiefs who were winless this season. Their only two victories this year were against St. Louis and Tampa Bay who had a combined record of 0-10.
The bye week gives the local media even more time to speculate, fulminate and despair about a team valued at $1.5 billion thrashing about the league’s nether regions. Every conceivable and generally furious reason for the Redskins’ failure is advanced and argued over, but in truth, no one knows why they’re such losers.
I do. Because I could barely get myself to say the plainly racist word, “Redskins,” about six years ago, I cast a curse on the team. Over the years the curse has just gotten stronger and more baffling to the team and its desperate fans. It’s really working well.
I resorted to a combination of Yoruba and Yiddish curses because Washington fans wouldn’t listen when presented with a real grievance. For years, Native Americans and their supporters had pointed out that the team name was a throwback to a time when openly racist words could be used with pride. More than one observer noted the irony of black Redskins fans flaunting a name which is the equivalent of the “n-word.” It was a term of contempt based solely on the perceived color of a whole people. You would think that as a Jew, team owner Daniel Snyder would be sensitive to racial slurs, but no, he just spends his millions and wonders why he can’t buy his team out of the cellar.
Fans fought back, saying “redskin” was a neutral word and that they were honoring the people who we had cheerfully eradicated from the Chesapeake Bay area. Someone came up with a poll proving that American Indians thought the word Redskin was OK by them. Every other poll taken on the subject showed otherwise, but the fans and the ownership chose to ignore them. The truth is, most people know that the name Redskins is racist, but they don’t want to admit they’ve been wrong. They attack the messengers, calling them politically correct or marginal activists.
Of course football fans, as a group act really dumb—that’s one of the joys of the sport. But in this case they’re carrying it too far, and ignoring the obvious curse on their collective heads.
Well, they’re paying the price. They’ll continue to lose as they cast around for someone to blame it on: owners, coaches, players, the media. But it’s of no help. Unless and until they ditch the racist name, Washington’s pro football team won’t ever compete without the added burden of my powerful curse.
From August to December, cars roar around DC with Redskins flags flapping in the breeze; large Redskins sweatshirts and jackets hang over potbellies; and Fed-Ex Field fills up with season ticket holders and is engulfed in the smoke of tailgate parties. But, as the curse takes hold, you see less and less of the paraphernalia, and for the first time in decades you see lots of empty seats as fans become unwilling to endure such humiliation.
But at least I know that I’m the one who brought the pain of justice to the defenders of racism. It’s not as much fun as winning the Super Bowl, but it’ll have to do.
Alec Dubro is a contributor to ColorLines and lives in Washington, D.C.