Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Thrill Isn't Gone...Yet

Let me say up front that I absolutely love the concept behind my Comcast digital video recorder. The convenience of easily setting up a season's worth of recordings--no matter what time the show comes on--instantly made my VCR obsolete. My Very Patient Wife used our first DVR to harbor three melodramatic seasons of "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" which I was forced to watch, but I didn't care because it was just so cool to have TV on our own terms. But that proved to be only half of the enjoyment. Being able to pause live television (on two channels if you've got the dual-tuner box) and go to the bathroom/store/marriage counselor is priceless. It's like having the home version of the "Matrix" Bullet Time.

(Remember that TiVO commercial years ago with the guy watching soccer, and his team is about to attempt a game-winning penalty kick? He pauses the game and runs 25 blocks, breaks into a church and apparently prays for a win. Then he scoots back home and unpauses the game. Cute stuff, but completely unnecessary. I have my own Redskins-themed prayer bench in a separate room.)

So this season I've been enjoying the freedom of digital recording while keeping up with All Things Redskins. Of the nine regular season games played, I've watched two live in person, two live on TV (Dallas and Philly). Every other contest I've caught hours later after playing Snake Eyes and avoiding every possible reference to the progress, score, or outcome of the game.

Sure, it's very beneficial when taking notes for here or Hog Heaven and avoiding the 25 showings of Jonathan Ogden dancing on GEBCO Insurance commercials. Can't put a price on that freedom. And I really appreciate being able to start watching Monday Night Football a full hour and a half after its scheduled start and catch up to the fourth quarter just in time to see Philadelphia hand the game and their season over to the Cowchips in just under two minutes.

But for watching Redskins football? The convenience is beginning to ruin the very reason one spends time watching a game: to intimately experience the highs and lows, the thrills and the anguish that the team is experiencing as it happens to the team. I've discovered that that experience is what separates the Journalist from the Fan, the Die Hard Supporter from the Apathetic Score-Finder. And don't slip up and see any reference to the final score--you've immediately erased every bit of the suspense that makes the NFL interesting. Kind of like finding out who Keyser Soze was in "The Usual Suspects." Sure, you could watch and see how crafty Verbal really was, but that's small incentive to sit through two hours of exposition.

And so it is with this 2005 Redskins season. Quite frankly, I cannot resist stopping my recording and peeking at the post-game scores. I have become weak, a cheater, and it almost turns me into an emotionless observer of football rather than a passionate fan. I can't stand that. I emphasize almost because my brother Herbs called, downtrodden, just as I sneaked a peak at the Buccaneers/Skins final and when I asked if I should bother watching the game, he replied "only if you want to be angry."

I watched anyway and found myself cheering when Ladell Betts ran a kickoff back 94 yards and booing lustily when the Chris Simms threw his 30-yard touchdown. And after the late-game ref's review I was knocking glassware over as I vaulted my coffee table to mash my finger on the TV glass, pointing at the grass between Alstott's elbow and the goal line. And yep, I was righteously indignant like Coach Gibbs about the officiating.

But it felt good. I felt like a fan.
Speaking of fans, I should reference the sadness of one coworker and Baltimore Raven fan, Guido. He thought--get this--that Kyle Boller's return would signal a difference in the Raven offense. So much so that he bet me weeks ago that Boller's first game back under center would be a win or he'd buy the office breakfast.

As I sat back enjoying a jelly-filled Dunkin Donut, I was left to wonder--is there a worse feeling than learning that the backup quarterback that you thought was The Spark, that Deserved a Chance, and can Move the Ball is equally as inept as the starter you wanted replaced? I feel for the fans who cheered when Anthony Wright stepped in after Kyle got the Turf Toe of Hades during the first game of the season in Indianapolis. Even after stinking up the rest of that contest, fans and local writers thought they could still get to the playoffs.

See, they still held onto the tranquilizing Great Football Hope: that they guy on the bench is better than the one playing. They said with vigor that Anthony Wright was the deep-throwing, comfortable, mobile slinger the Baltimore offense needed. A string of touchdownless games later, it's clear that Boller or Wright ain't the quarterback of the future. Maybe they should've made a play for Patrick Ramsey after all...
One other note. The other week at Hog Heaven I poked fun at the blatant marketing decision by the Redskins to sell black-themed Redskins jerseys. In retrospect, I'll admit that the jerseys are still garbage, but their greyscale dress tie may be a step in the right direction for the desk-jockey fan. Also, there is finally a Redskins Super Bowl DVD retrospective available that has extra NFL Films footage and some cool extras about the Fun Bunch. It may not be as authentic in the live-every-play-again sense of the unofficial DVDs floating around, but it is still a nice addition to your Redskins game library.

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