Monday, April 30, 2007

Redskins draft party is a "must do"

I've got to hand it to Daniel Snyder. He knows how to throw a party.

I went to Saturday's Redskins Draft Party thinking only two types of people go to the stadium to watch the draft process: diehards, and bloggers snooping for an angle. I qualify on both counts. Although admission was free, this was a Daniel Snyder event. I just knew it was going to cost me.

Surprise number one, there were a lot of cars in the FedEx parking lot. While not at game day volume, there were traffic monitors to manage the flow. The only admittance was through Gate A. It plainly said that on my invitation, but I overlooked it. My car is used to going to my favorite game day parking spot near gate D, so that's where it led me. Rather than walk, I drove to the lots near Gate A. That's when I saw it. A tailgate party tent.

Why didn't I think of tailgating for this thing? It's Spring in Washington. It was a perfect day to arrive at 9:00 am and bar-b-que until noon. Note to me. Next year, if the Skins make the playoffs and draft late, organize a party and tailgate this succa.

Gate A wasn't open. The 17,000 partiers were directed throught the Redskins Hall Of Fame Store (clever move Mr. Snyder) for admittance to the stadium. We could linger past the clearance tables for the best deals you are going to see on Redskins-logoed merchandise. "2005 Redskins Playoff Bound" tee shirts for $5.00. What a bargain.

You had two choices for your in-stadium destination: admittance to THE FIELD, or escalator up to the privileged Club Level. Most people with kids, and anyone who wanted player autographs, headed down to the field where the team organized sports games for the kiddies. There was a line of people that extended about 100 yards to enter a field level tunnel that, I presume, led to the players. The Lombardi Trophies were on display in the Club Level, so I headed up there after being handed a ticket for the door prizes. Oh yes, the team gave away a couple of game worn paraphernalia.

The Club Level is one of those money-makers that boost the value of FedEx Field to the Redskins. The team charges an ungodly amount of money just to "license" the right to buy game tickets on that level. That is, you buy the multi-year license and then you buy the tickets. But, the level is plush by stadium standards with wood decor and comfortable lounge chairs and sofas. The sight line from that level is outstanding from any seat. I checked out several. It's not as intimately close to the field as were my family's upper deck seats at RFK, but it did remind me of the view.

The Lombardi Trophies were in the open but secured by very large men. There was a snake line to channel fans to the trophies. The line took you past the Redskins 1937 Championship Trophy, and champion team portraits. The NFC Championship Halas Trophies were also on display.

The line moved fairly quickly to bring you to the Lombardies. Here, let me give you some advice. If you are going to a big event where you want to capture treasured photos, make sure the batteries in your camera work, or carry spares. I didn't, so several deleted expletives later, I resorted to my cell phone to get the money shot of me with the trophies.

You weren't allowed within two feet of the trophies, much less to touch them, but an attendant would gladly take a photo of you and the Lombardies with your camera, or cell phone. Violation of the security zone around the trophies would invite violation by the giant standing nearby, or by the three very muscular PG County police who stood nearby. I almost told them I was a blogger doing a story, then thought better of it. I didn't think they would see the humor of it.

In need of sustenance to feed my disappointment, I visited the concessions to get my next shock. HALF-PRICE ON FOOD AND BEER! Thank you again, Mr. Snyder. I never had a $2.00 hot dog at FedEx. I was so excited that I double downed on the buy.

Replenished, I toured the table offering Redskins framed, autographed player pictures, and assorted other trinkets. The most impressive item on the table was an authentic, but unautographed, Marcus Washington game-worn helmet that could have been mine for just under $300. Big men wear big helmets.

The Redskins were on the clock and the crowd gathered around around the indoor monitors, or went outside to watch the pick on the Jumbotron. It was Landry. The crowd was festive. No anguish at the pick, just cheers and the eternal optimism that has characterized Redskins fans since the 1990s.

At 2:45 PM THE COACH and his two deputies choppered in to greet the fans. Even with all the skepticism, criticism and disappointment of a losing season, an appearance by THE COACH melts a Washington crowd. That would include me. Gibbs opened with a few words about how they made the pick. His comments sounded to me as an attempt to deflect criticism from Daniel Snyder. Then he took questions from the crowd and signed autographs. A transcript of Gibbs Q&A is up at Hog Heaven.

I left at around 3:30 pm, but the party was running through 5:00 pm and was still going strong when I left. I'm going to do this again, with fresh batteries next time.

For another viewpoint, see Man Of Faith at washingtoncitypaper. Not sure what draft party they attended, but I didn't see what they described. They described an apathetic crowd. I saw a festive one (why would apathetic fans show up at a draft party anyway?). The photo accompanying the article showed empty seats below coach Joe's image below the big screen, meant to imply fan disinterest. Only, that portion of the stadium was closed off. Fans couldn't get there if they wanted, as you can see in the photo below.

Photo: Master4Caster with the Lombardi Trophies, by Anthony Brown
Photo: Joe Gibbs at Redskins Draft Party, Don Wright Photo,

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