City Paper is not for tourists
Waterboarded prisoners talk less than Dan Snyder‘s been talking lately. The former shut-in Redskins owner has done interviews with his employees, and also with his employees, and now with his fans. (I’ve put in a request to join the fun! Vegas is skeptical!)
Snyder’s Q&A’s thus far have been loaded with lame Q’s — Larry Weisman, who with the collapse of journalism as a profession went from a fun-to-read sportswriter to a Snyder PR hack, has reduced himself to asking the boss planted queries like “Is there anything in the works or any plans for an indoor practice facility, practice bubble or upgrades to this building?” Good god. And most of Snyder’s A’s have a familiar ring: “I’m still a fan, a lifelong fan,” Snyder told the operators of the fan site Hogs Haven.
But at least Snyder’s talking now. That’s a step. And of everything to come out of this interview spurt, what interested me most was when Snyder discussed the prospects for setting up a Redskins Museum on the grounds of his practice facility. “The Redskins museum to me would be really important,” he said. “I’ve been collecting now, since I’ve bought the team, a tremendous archive. It’s in storage. We have some great stuff that would really be fantastic.”
I was aware Snyder had indeed been collecting stuff. In 2005, I’d done a story about a guy named Lawrence Smith who lived in Southern California. Smith was trying to cure himself of a compulsive disorder that compelled him to buy every Redskins souvenir imaginable. Really. The first step in his recovery was to sell off all the burgundy and gold memorabilia he’d been hoarding since childhood. Few tales I’ve ever come across fascinated me more than Smith’s.
From the story:
Among the hundreds of items now being cast away: An entire set of D.C. Law Enforcement Redskins trading cards from 1982; an official Redskins marble; a six-pack of Redskins Coke bottles from Super Bowl XXVI; each of the three Redskins Wheaties boxes; a complete set of 1976 Redskins RC Cola bottles; a complete set of Redskins Super Bowl Beanie Babies; a complete set of Fleer Truck Haulers in Redskins colors; a complete set of Redskins Matchbox Truck Haulers; Redskins-themed bobblehead dolls in the likenesses of LaVar Arrington, Clinton Portis, and Mickey Mouse; helmets autographed by Darrell Green, Mark Moseley, Joe Theismann, John Riggins, Chris Hanburger, Larry Brown, Dexter Manley, and the entire 2004 Redskins squad; an autographed 8-by-10 of Dan Snyder; and, alas, an official Redskins fishing lure and Trung Canidate’s rookie card.
Smith traced his disease to an unsatisfying relationship with his father, who had taken him to his first Redskins game as a 9-year old. It wasn’t any ordinary game.
More from the 2005 story:
He got his first Redskins item in January 1983, at Super Bowl XVII in Pasadena, Calif. He went to the game, between Washington and Miami, with his father as guests of family friend Merlin Olsen, who broadcast the event on NBC. At the time, Smith says, he didn’t even know who the Redskins were.
He didn’t know his father real well, either.
“I was never close to my father,” Smith says matter-of-factly of his relationship with Mike Smith, a traveling golf pro and tournament organizer. “He was never around. And I didn’t even care about football. I was a little kid. But that was a big day for me, going there with my dad. Before the game, he said, ‘Pick a team, son. You want the red team or the green team?’ I said, ‘Red.’ ”
Mike Smith then went to the concession stand and bought his son a hat for the “red team.” And with the youngster wearing the gift from his father, they saw the Redskins, behind a climactic 43-yard, fourth-down John Riggins touchdown run, beat the Dolphins, 27-17.
When the little Smith got home from the big game, he put the Redskins hat on a shelf in his bedroom. And, for a long time after that, he says, the hat became almost a surrogate parent. Whenever his dad was away on a golfing outing or a business trip, Smith would stare at the hat and remember their shared Super Bowl outing, just to remind himself that he had a father.
“Just looking at the hat made me feel good,” he says. “That’s what got me and my whole Redskins thing started.”
When I found Smith, he was 32 years old, and the Redskins collection was taking up too much emotional and physical space, and he was trying to get rid of it all. He put the whole lot up for sale on eBay and in classified ads, including one in Washington City Paper, with an asking price of $7,000.
After my story came out, Smith got a phone call and a certified check from the Redskins, and shipped everything to Ashburn. Well, not everything. He kept the first Redskins souvenir he ever got: The hat his dad bought him at the Super Bowl.
So if you see a complete set of Redskins R.C. Cola bottles from 1976 and an official Redskins Fishing Lure in the Redskins museum Snyder’s going to open up, you’ll know where they came from.