Fresh off admitting that their 200,000-person season ticket waiting list never actually existed, Washington hosted the Indianapolis Colts in their home opener yesterday. The team’s stated 50-year home sellout streak has long been bunk, but if there was ever a time to see a big crowd at a Skins game, a home opener following a Week 1 beatdown of the Cardinals seemed like a good bet. That’s not how things went.
The announced attendance at yesterday’s game was 57,013, more than 20,000 short of the 78,658 who attended last season’s home opener. It was the Skins’ worst-attended home opener since the stadium opened in 1997. It was a crowd befitting of the game itself, in which Washington punted on four of their first five possessions, got booed off the field at halftime, and lost the game 21-9. Take a look at this truly electric atmosphere:
The gloomy crowd caught the attention of the players, too. When asked about getting booed by his own sparse crowd during a home opener, free-agent signing Adrian Peterson told reporters, “That was a new one for me. It was different.”
There are all sorts of ways to try and explain how an NFL team in one of the country’s biggest markets fails to fill its stadium for the first home game of the season—the high cost of tickets, traffic, worries about Hurricane Florence, the generally bad experience of attending a live NFL game—but none of them are as convincing as the most obvious one: this franchise stinks. Aside from Robert Griffin III’s rookie season, the Skins have been nothing but moribund and mismanaged for more than a decade, and not even a team with as much unearned mythology as Washington can go on cashing in on legacy forever. People in D.C. who want to have fun at a live sporting event simply have more and better options these days, and that means the Skins are going to go on playing in front of the sort of crowds you’d expect to find at a preseason game. Which is to say they’ll play in front the crowds they deserve.