"With more than 90,000 fans" "packed into the stadium," the "crowd presence" is so "deafening you have to yell your conversations to the people sitting next to you." "Unfortunately, the stadium is constantly compared to RFK, which was a band box and held in the noise; FedEx is so huge, much of the noise dissipates." Further, this is "not the same crowd that went to games at RFK." There are die-hard fans who bleed burgundy and gold. Then there are those who "see the games as a social event," the "cell-phone yappin' crowd" who "show up for November and December games wearing mink coats." To many "it has that forced-party atmosphere because the seats are so expensive." "The exhortations of a pregame emcee on how to be a great 12th man and the moronic suggestions on the video boards of when to be loud are irritating and insulting." "There's not enough focus on the game," nor on the Redskins, argue some who feel that "since a lot of people in D.C. are from elsewhere, the opposing team sometimes has a lot of fans here." It's enough to cast doubt on "how many people are actually fans," no matter how "passionate" they claim to be.
3 out of 10
FOOD & SOUVENIRS
Soda (22 oz.)
Beer (20 oz.)
Expected Meal Cost
"There's not much variety" "for John Q. Public" "beyond hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, chicken tenders and pretzels." And "be prepared to pay an arm and a leg for food that would cause Oliver Twist to say, 'Sorry, sir, I'll take a pass.'" "One positive thing is that we now tailgate whenever we go; when I can buy a T-bone and a six-pack of good beer at the grocery store for what a soda and a hot dog go for, it's an easy choice." Another positive or two are the mobile carts offering "Italian sausages ... on French bread with grilled peppers and onions that [are] the best some fans have "ever had," and "big circular bars at either end of the stadium with flat-screen TVs." Fans don't need to dig as hard to find quality on the club level, where the "bars are excellent" and the food is "great," including a "full-service Hooters" that "has a pretty solid chicken sandwich for a reasonable price." But as one fan summarized, "that's on the club level, and generally, I'm not."
5 out of 10
"In a city of dreadful commutes, this one deserves a medal for willful intent." "If you drive, you'll sit" in "bumper-to-bumper traffic" on 495, otherwise known as the Capital Beltway. "If you're not a season-ticket holder, you can't park in the stadium lot, which means" you'll have to pay $30 to park in one of the satellite lots "a mile away," or more. "Then you have to catch a shuttle bus" to the stadium, a process "that can take an hour." "After the game you wait in line for 45 minutes to get ON the bus to take you back to the parking lot. Then you sit on the bus in insane traffic for an hour to get back to the lot. Then you still have to drive home," "sharing the road with 90,000-plus fans." At least stadium personnel "seem to have the traffic logistics worked out well ... and there's lot of information and traffic reports on game day." In theory, the Metro (Washington's rapid transit system) makes the game accessible for those who don't wish to drive," but "it isn't convenient" because the almost two-mile "walk from the station is a bit lengthy." Simply put, "plan to get there hours ahead."
3 out of 10
Despite the fact that "you are almost forced" to tailgate "because of the horrendous traffic getting into and out of the stadium" "it sometimes is the best part of the game" considering "the way the past decade has gone for the 'Skins." As stadium parking is limited to season-ticket holders, "the more your tickets cost, the closer you are to the stadium; the closer to the stadium you are, the more extravagant the tailgating becomes" as fans in "the satellite lots are scurrying to get to the stadium in time." For those who have time, the scene is "pretty good." "You can find [everything from] shrimp and wine to hot dogs and beer," and there is "lots of barbecuing." While many find this to be a "friendly" atmosphere "with good food and a common disdain for both [owner Daniel] Snyder and whomever the opponent happens to be," often "there is little interaction between [different] groups." "[Stadium personnel] won't let you spread out beyond your space; they patrol the lots and give you grief for a number of minor things." Bringing a bucket of chicken and a cooler [sometimes] is all you have room for." With sitting in traffic, "one of the few alternatives," fans have little choice but "to get there early and tailgate all day."
7 out of 10
Clinton Portis :: Simon Bruty/SI
Record through Week 9
Players Worth Watching
Clinton Portis (RB), Jason Campbell (WR), Sean Taylor (S)
7 out of 10
"An oval with no distinguishing features," FedEx Field "looks like a big slab of concrete" that "exudes no sense of history," leaving long-time fans "feeling like strangers." "It has all the charm of an office park or a suburban mall, which it will likely end up being someday." "It looks the same from every angle, and every usable inch has been converted into seating." Not all of it is prime seating. "There's no leg room. There are no cup holders." "Some of the seats in the lower level are ... almost directly behind pillars, which block some of the field." And an upper level so far from the field "you can't even identify a player's number sometimes" makes it feel like "a view from the space shuttle." The stadium "feels ... like it was sold [to the team] wholesale," a notion that is hard to escape when "a nice escalator up to the 'nose-bleed section'" and the ease of "getting food/merchandise at any point during a game" are two of the more positive comments regarding the stadium. True to the characterization of many that the facility "is all about the money," the "club level suites create a feeling of luxury unlike any other," complete with large-screen TVs, marble floors, leather chairs" and a "cigar humidor." Despite "the crass marketing and cross-promotional drivel driven down your throat every other minute" "you can't help but feel like you are part of something big because of the sheer number of people." It's equally easy, though, to feel "one of [the NFL's] least imaginative stadiums" is a place "maximized for capacity, not enjoyment."
6 out of 10
"You never get the sense of the neighborhood surrounding the stadium" since the facility is in "a sea of parking lots." Beyond the mile from which FedEx "has isolated itself" from the town of Landover are "low-to-middle class suburbs and a mega church ("on the road into the stadium"), which lends its parking spaces [to fans]." "There's absolutely nowhere to hang out before or after the game." Minus the Redskins, "the area would otherwise be a pass-through for anyone. Other than stopping for a bathroom break, I don't know of anything that would attract someone to the area who didn't already live there."
1 out of 10
When fans are left with the impression the owner "would charge you for the oxygen you breathe during a game if only he could regulate it," that "going to a Redskins game is as much fun as a dentist appointment" and that "unless there is a master plan to bring the team back to the friendly confines of RFK, you're better off just catching the game on television." It's clear there's some deep-seated discontent flowing beneath the 90,000-plus seats at FedEx Field. In Snyder's defense, the high prices haven't stopped the Redskins from selling out each week, and that doesn't leave much incentive to ease up on the price gun. But Snyder isn't giving his team's fans any credit for their belief in this regularly disappointing franchise. If Joe Gibbs were corralling trophies like he did in the '80s and early '90s, fans would swallow the costs with smiles on their faces. If you operate a club that has reached the playoffs only twice in the last eight years, the seemingly constant charges feel like extortion. Especially when many of those fans don't feel the product they're getting now in the stands or on the field is as good as what they paid less for in the past. With the NFL's largest stadium and one of its most loyal fan bases, Redskins games should be a celebration. Instead, they only give fans a reason to say, "Thank you, Mr. Snyder, for ruining Sundays."