LANDOVER (Md. FedEx Field has been criticized many times over the years. But, you’ll have to be very careful when trying to find those critics Sunday’s opening game for the Washington Football Team.
After empty seats and recorded crowd noise last year, a sun-drenched Landover stadium was packed with clapping, chanting and cheering NFL fans happy to welcome the return of football — even if the home team did come up short in the end.
” “It’s great to be back in person,” said Seth Lockard. “Last year we had no fans and nobody was able to attend the game. Now it seems like everyone is excited for week one .”
The 24-year-old Washington fan was among an estimated crowd of 52,753 on hand for the season opener, a 20-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
For Connor O’Brien, 31, attending the game is a big deal because he was able to restart a family tradition. He and his brother attended nearly every home game for about 11 years until the pandemic hit.
” “Because the COVID thing has been a bummer,” Mr. O’Brien stated. “So we’re happy that we’re here .”
The stadium was filled with the smell of brats and burgers as pregame tailgating traditions were in midseason.
” There are tons of cars around. “Everyone’s tailgating, having a great time [getting], to drink beer — all of that,” Mr. O’Brien stated.
A new season for the NFC East champion brings excitement and hype. But Mr. Lockard also noted “a new culture” for the fans and the entire team .”
The culture shift, he stated, is due to Ron Rivera who was the coach last season, and also beat cancer.
” I think he has changed the team. It’s totally different,” Mr. Lockhart stated. He changed the culture in the team and it’s [going] heading in the right direction .”
Mr. Lockhart stated that fans have made a significant change by changing the nickname of the team before last season.
Under pressure by activists and corporate partners, the franchise changed its name from “Washington Redskins,” to “Washington Football Team.”
The generic placeholder was created as a temporary measure until a new name could be chosen. However, “Washington Football Team”, which is apparently on the shortlist after an unexpected run to make the playoffs, is said to be on the shortlist.
Joshua Schall, 40, said he understands the temporary name but wonders why it is taking so long to nail down something permanent.
” I don’t blame them if they changed from Redskins but I’m really pissed at the lack of any in place,” Mr. Schall stated. “How could you have missed this? This is the .”
He is not a fan of the current name because the “location sport” naming method is common for soccer, not football. Of names that are in the mix, he likes “The Washington Generals” and “The Washington Defenders.”
Mandy Schall, in burgundy-gold, and Mr. Schall, dressed in gold and folded chairs before they entered the stadium.
Ms. Schall, 39, said it’s “a day without the kids, the sun is shining so beautiful — it’s a perfect day for football.”
A former dancer, she stated that she was thrilled to see the Washington Football Dance Team’s first performance. The coed team was formed in the offseason to take over the role of the cheerleading troupe that had been all-female. This group was at the center of a scandal regarding sexual harassment involving Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, and several former executives and officials.
In a nearby parking lot, Thomas Maddams, 20, doused himself with sprayable sunscreen before taking down a Washington-themed tent and heading into the stadium.
He was accompanied by his mother, brother and father and stated that they hadn’t been to a game at home in two years.
” “It’s nice having fans here,” he stated. “You know, the last time we were here was [against] Detroit. There weren’t many fans .”
There was too many Detroit fans on that day, he stated, so it’s nice to see some excitement for the Washington Football Team.
As for the team’s name, Mr. Maddams said it does not matter “as long as they win football games.”