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Jim Patterson says that no matter how much he feels beaten down by Snyder’s gouging and Angelos’ meddling and all of Unseld and Jordan’s bumbling, he still finds joy in root, root, rooting for the home teams. And he thinks that a lot of sportscentric folks around here and across America want to hear from somebody who feels their painand bliss.
He’s banking that he’s that somebody.
Patterson is the editor and publisher of SportsFan Magazine, a new Bethesda-based quarterly that he describes as the first national publication devoted to the folks in the stands, not those on the fields.
“I want the fans to see themselves in my magazine,” he says. “There’s nothing out there like that. I have no vested interest in building up the sports even when they stink, or in putting out boilerplate hero-worship stories about the athletes. I’m not selling them any team or league. I’m not selling the fans anything except themselves.”
Well, themselves and his magazine.
Now 48, Patterson grew up in Bethesda. He says he learned the ins and outs of fandom at RFK Stadium, the Redskins’ former home, where he spent fall Sundays with his father from the venue’s inaugural season, in 1961 (when it was known as D.C. Stadium), until the team moved to Raljon, in 1997.
“I’m a huge fan of all sports, but it all goes back to RFK and the Redskins,” says Patterson. “Sunday was the only day my dad had off from work, and that was how we’d spend our time together. With my dad, I think I saw every home game Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer and Joe Theismann ever played. That’s a pretty typical way to become a sports fan.”
Patterson thinks his pair of season tickets to the Washington Capitals”Way up in the nosebleeds, where I belong,” he saysand his closet full of hockey jerseys have helped him pass the sports-fan gene on to his son, now 15. But because the magazine reflects the elder Patterson’s nostalgic bent, SportsFan isn’t really meant for his son or any other reader too young to remember a world without seat licenses or “Who Let the Dogs Out?” or $6 beers.
In the latest installment of his regular column, “A Fan’s Notes,” the editor recalls the near-familial relationships he had with other RFK season-ticket-holders, including the rough-and-tumble guy named O’Reilly who sat next to him until committing suicide outside what was then the NFL’s smallest stadium. He dedicates the issue to other Skins fans who will never feel at home at FedEx Field, now the largest stadium in the league.
“The new stadium the Redskins inhabit holds 85,000 fans; included therein are 55,000 broken hearts,” the editor writes.
But D.C. fans aren’t the only ones who won’t start thinking about tomorrow. SportsFan, for example, recently profiled a New Yorker who runs a fan club for the New York Giants baseball team, though the franchise left the Big Apple for Los Angeles in 1958. The fall issue chronicled the history of litigation filed by fans who feel disenfranchised against the sports franchises they hold dear. Though almost all of these suits have been fruitless, writer Tom Kane credits a suit brought by Cleveland Browns fans in 1995 with forcing Art Modell to leave the team’s name, colors, and record books behind when he took Maryland’s money and relocated.
Patterson has three issues of SportsFan under his belt and says that, for the time being, it will have a run of 50,000 copies and a size of 32 pages”This is coming out of my pocket, and it’s not a deep pocket,” he says. The magazine, which can be sampled at www.sportsfanmagazine.com, is Patterson’s first foray into publishing; his background, professionally speaking, is in stage humor. He was a founding member of the Pheromones, a local giggle-rock duo that had some brief brushes with global greatness in the ’80s and early ’90s by making fun of Reagan and the ruling class. The single “Yuppie Drone” had a long run in heavy rotation on Dr. Demento’s show.
Then the U.S. economy went bad, and the ‘Mones’ well of material dried up. After the band’s breakup, Patterson says he took care of his dying mother for the last few years of her life, mulling over his next career. Her death helped him decide he ought to chase a dream and run a magazine. The editorial focus of his fantasy periodical wasn’t as easy to resolve.
“For a long time, I had ideas about running two different kinds of magazines. I remember I was watching a football game with my buddy, and I told him that I knew plenty of talented people who could help me get a magazine going,” Patterson says. “He asked me what my two ideas were, and I said, ‘I think there needs to be a magazine about artists, about what they’re painting and about where they’re giving shows.’ He stopped me and said, ‘What’s your other idea?’ That’s how SportsFan Magazine got started.”
Wes Johnson, a contributing editor and cartoonist for SportsFan, was among the first crop of creative writers Patterson contacted. Johnson, along with being a Redskins nut and RFK regular, shares a comedic past with the guy atop the masthead: He once starred in a traveling company of Rap Master Ronnie, Garry Trudeau’s critique of the former Cold Warrior.
“There wasn’t much of a market for making fun of Reagan after he came out with his Alzheimer’s,” notes Johnson, explaining his availability.
Johnson, also a former WHFS DJ, says he’ll let Patterson’s other writers rail against the sorry state of professional sports while he takes his walks on the lighter side of being a fan.
“I don’t want to get too serious about sports fans,” says Johnson. “Because, really, how serious can you take the guy who paints his body in greasepaint, stands outdoors half-naked in below-freezing weather, and spends all day screaming at the top of his lungs? For me, being a sports fan is about going to sporting events and letting the child in me come out. Whenever I’m reading about the business aspect of sports, I try to cover up my inner child’s eyes, just like I would if I’m watching that scene in Basic Instinct when Sharon Stone uncrosses her legs.” Dave McKenna