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Stadium living in new age

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If Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder thinks his life has gone south on him now, he is in for a series of frightening shocks when he gets a dose of the rage and despair building up in the hearts of his once-loyal football fans in the metro-Washington area.

It is a huge and far-flung fan base of millions of rabid supporters in the wealthiest per-capita metropolitan area in the U.S. -- and these people are extremely stirred up by the disastrous fate they feel Snyder has brought down on their once-beloved Redskins. Which is true. They are doomed, lost like pigs in the wilderness -- a gang of squabbling losers with no pride and no shame and no hope at all of anything but failure for the next 20 years. In three games this season, they have been outscored 112-16.

I was a Redskins fan, in the pre-Snyder days. It was impossible not to like a winning team led by rogues like Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer. They were wild boys, anarchists, boozers and freaks who could win or lose on a whim and torture the hopes of their fans.

Daniel Snyder
Daniel Snyder, right, understands the value of putting people in the seats.
Betting the Redskins to cover the spread on any given Sunday was like throwing your money to the winds of fickle chance, something only a common junkie would do -- but there were many junkies, and not all were "common," by any standard. They were big-time people -- U.S. Senators, Presidents, evil pimps and gold-plated whores from mysterious harems in Hong Kong, Turkey and Liechtenstein. The power they wielded in the years after World War II was enormous. They traded in diamonds and rubies and atom bombs. They rarely slept, and their blood was always boiling. Those were wild and lawless years in the Capital District.

Which brings us back to the much-despised Daniel Snyder

The Redskins were whipped again like rabid skunks on Sunday, but only a few people cared. Brooding on the fate of the Redskins is no longer considered cool, in Washington or anywhere else in the English-speaking world. Not even the President of the United States gives a hoot in hell about the pitiful fate of the 'Skins. They are the worst team in the NFL, and their owner is widely vilified.

But that doesn't bother Daniel Snyder. He is a rich and busy man, the owner of a proud franchise and the brand-new, state of the art FedEx Field, where his team plays eight games each year.

Snyder bought these properties in 1999 for $800 million, which some people said was too much. But Dan ignored their warnings, and spent millions more for "stadium improvements," like creating new Luxury Suites and replacing new steel girders with newer glass ones, so that people in $100 seats could better see the field. The average price of a seat at FedEx Field is $82, the most expensive ticket in the NFL, and that doesn't include $4 hot-dogs and $6 cups of beer.

That is a very pricey ticket for a sports event -- with the exception of bizarre things like Jack Nicholson's seats for Lakers' games and folding metal chairs in the Governor's Box on Kentucky Derby Day. But those are the best seats in the house, and cheap at any price -- particularly for real-estate developers and shrewd Hollywood stars who need massive publicity for their movies, but would rather not be seen on the Letterman show.

    Tell me, Britney, why did the chicken cross the road?

    Because he wanted to be seen. The chicken is smart, he is cool. He is making a sound investment in himself -- unless he is drunk, and then he has no future. But he wins either way. If the chicken is Flamboyant as he crosses the road, he will soon be rich and famous. If he is bitchy and neurotic, he will be eliminated. This is the Law of the Road.

But what is Daniel Snyder really up to? Is he as stupid as a chicken on a freeway? Is he a natural fool?

No. The Redskins owner has been called many things -- from a treacherous greedhead to a savage jackass -- but he is rarely called a fool. Snyder is a high-rolling businessman in Washington D.C., the crossroads of power and politics in a nation of dangerously frustrated warriors who love football and hunger for personal Security. It is a nervous climate for businessmen: They crave a solution -- and Daniel M. Snyder thinks he has one. All he needs now is a proper market for it.

That is where the Redskins come in. The team itself is a loss leader, a pawn in Snyder's larger scheme -- which is to lure confused rubes into his futuristic football stadium and sell them highly secure space, where they can relax and be entertained in peace and personal comfort for as long as they feel afraid.

Click here to buy Hunter S. Thompson's new book, Fear and Loathing in America : The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist.

It is a pretty good scheme, on its face -- a walled city with a high-tech security system and rigidly-controlled access, like a perfect Super Bowl experience with all-American people and all-American fun that never ends.

Yes sir, young Daniel is definitely on to something. There is method to his free-spending madness. He is crazy like a fox. Ho ho. I have already signed up as a charter member of the first true Redskins Club, in Landover, Md., which isn't too far from where Michael Jordan and his supercool Washington Wizards call home. Snyder doesn't own the Wizards yet, but could a deal be pending? Michael will play for another 20 years, and Dan will call him a Partner.

As for the Redskins, they will dump the whole roster, including coach Schottenheimer and all his failed relatives, then slowly rebuild through the draft. It will be a long and painful process for fans, but in the end they will know Victory and Joy for the rest of their jittery lives. Snyder guarantees it. He already owns the most expensive football franchise in the history of the game, along with FedEx Field with its 88,000 new seats and the indoor shopping mall and 20 acres of parking space, with armed guards to punish evil strangers. They will be flayed and turned into germ-free hamburgers, with just enough purified animal fat to make them sizzle.

We are talking about a new kind of City, folks, a danger-free mecca of sport without fear, and without bogeymen to make innocent football fans nervous. Daniel is ambitious. He loves music and friendly people with green money. That is his dream and his passion. He has plenty of Luxury Suites, and plenty of beer for club members. Welcome to the Stadium Life.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's books include Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, The Proud Highway, Better Than Sex and The Rum Diary. His new book, Fear and Loathing in America, has just been released. A regular contributor to various national and international publications, Thompson now lives in a fortified compound near Aspen, Colo. His column, "Hey, Rube," appears each Monday on Page 2.

hey, rube! 

Hunter S. Thompson Archive

Thompson: Will sports survive bin Laden?

Thompson: When war drums roll

Thompson: Fear & Loathing in America

Thompson: Nashville and Jack Nicholson

Thompson: Jack Kerouac and the Football Hall of Fame

Thompson: Patrick Roy and Warren Zevon -- two champions at the top of their game

Thompson: How 'bout that Patrick Roy?

Thompson: Going to war for justice

Thompson: The Derby & other gambling disasters

Thompson: The Fourth Stooge?

Thompson: Bad craziness at Owl Farm

Thompson: Notes on the wrong way to gamble

Thompson: Notes on the wrong way to gamble

Thompson: Where were you when the Fun Stopped?

Thompson: Memo from a gambling victim

Thompson: Cat scratch fever

Thompson: Gamblers, beware the ides of March

Thompson: A crime against nature

Thompson: XFL, R.I.P.

Thompson: Death in the afternoon

Thompson: Mad cows and sick sports

Thompson: Several grave injustices

Thompson: Giants, gamblers go down in a ball of fire

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