This past Sunday night, I had what I initially expected would be a pleasure to attend the much anticipated matchup between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys in what turned out would be the battle for the NFC East championship at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. The winner moved onto the playoffs while the loser went home. This scenario on its own is obviously not uncommon and always makes for an extremely important and usually exciting game, but the fact this game was between two bitter historic rivals who have both spent the better half of two decades trying to match the immense success they both last enjoyed in the early 90s, the stakes for this game couldn’t have been higher.
Knowing this, I decided had to be there despite certainly knowing that the game was already sold out which meant I had to be prepared to pay a lot of money for a ticket from a third-party ticket broker. On Wednesday, I texted my buddy who is a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan to see if he wanted to go to the game, he instantly agreed and we both immediately jumped on StubHub to find seats. Tickets in the nosebleeds were already in the hundreds of dollars price range so we decided to pony up a little bit more for some great seats in the fifth row for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Turns out that’s exactly what we got.
After quickly throwing together the bare essentials for the tailgate, the three of us (Brian, his buddy and fellow Cowboys fan Dave and myself) took off from Richmond en route to FedEx Field. We arrived around 4:30pm and parked in one of the Orange lots closest to the stadium. The game didn’t start for another four hours, but the atmosphere in the parking lot and outside the stadium was already buzzing with excitement from fans of both teams. It was windy and bitter cold, frigid enough to numb toes in two pairs of hiking socks and insulated snow boots, but like everyone else going to the game, we sucked it up and put on more and more layers as we struggled against the wind to finally light the hibachi to grill some bratwursts. Eventually, a minivan full of Redskins fans pulled up to our left and one friendly guy looked at us and jokingly asked what I was doing wearing Redskins apparel hanging out with two dudes in Cowboys jerseys. Soon thereafter, an SUV pulled up to the spot on our right and out came four Cowboys fans and another sole Redskins fan, all of whom greeted us immediately and over the course of the pregame tailgate, we enjoyed casual conversation with one another. There was the occasional banter but it was all in good fun and much expected as was the case with every single other sporting event I have been to in my twenty-plus years of being a sports fan.
Before we knew it, it was time to pack up the tailgate and head into the stadium to find our seats. As I have already mentioned, everyone knew this was a HUGE game for both teams and with the impending kickoff just moments away, the air was chockfull of excitement. Combine this situation with several hours of pregame tailgate drinking, pretty much everyone was even more pumped up in the ticket line. Some of these pumped up fans, whose inhibitions were clearly lowered as a result of their loyal fandom passion or alcohol (most likely a lot of both), loudly started chanting whatever they could think of, especially whenever they saw fans in Cowboys attire by spouting out “FUCK DALLAS!” for everyone to hear. Since Dave was wearing a Tony Romo jersey, there must have been at least ten different shouts and chants of “ROMO HOMO” aimed right at him. Or my personal favorite, “ROMO IS A FUCKING FAG!” right in Dave’s face. I’ve been to many other big-time sporting events well attended by fans of both sides so I was not all that surprised by these kinds of comments and just chalked it all up to the whole gameday experience. Only later did I realize this was simply a sign of things to come.
We made our way to our seats in the fifth row of Section 125, seats 13, 14, and 15. While we were on the Cowboys sideline, most of the fans surrounding us were Redskins fans, which again was expected considering it was a home game for the Skins. There were other Cowboys fans scattered about however and everyone was amped up and ready for the game to finally start.
If you watched the game and most NFL fans likely did since it was such a big game and the only one on Sunday Night, it was a back-and-forth battle for much of the night and either team looked like they could pull out the win. Which meant the intensity was riding high the entire game.
Whenever the Redskins scored a touchdown or picked off Tony Romo for an interception, all of the fans in burgundy high-fived each other while those clad in silver and blue silently looked up at the big-screen, pondering what seemed to be an impossible fate. Whenever the Cowboys fought back, their fans erupted while their counterparts stood in disbelief. Other than the sporadic mild trash talking between fans after a big play was made, the crowd was generally pretty civil.
Then it all went downhill, fast.
With two minutes left in the fourth quarter, with the Redskins leading by 3 and the Cowboys driving down the field threatening to score, Tony Romo threw his third and final interception which effectively sealed the victory for the Skins and added to his unshakable legacy of choking in the clutch of big games. This time, as home team fans celebrated the play, one intoxicated Redskins fan in particular had the nerve to reach down two rows, rip the Cowboys hat off Brian’s head and proceed to throw it down to the first row as if to make one final statement of FUCK DALLAS! I witnessed this happen and was able to retrieve the hat almost instantly from another Redskins fan, but as soon as I looked back, Brian had already turned around and unsurprisingly was completely outraged and was shouting back and forth with the fan who threw his hat and his equally inebriated and belligerent buddies. Both Brian and the other guys threatened each other to “meet us outside in the parking lot” or “meet me in the smoking section” (the area right outside our section) so they could fight.
Now, I’ve never seen the point of fighting (other than obvious self defense) since it rarely ever settles anything important and usually ends up causing more trouble, either with stupid injuries or even criminal charges and/or civil lawsuits, all of the sake of the little drunken pride of being able to tell the story “of beating someone’s ass.” That shit might’ve carried more weight in middle school or high school for some people, but considering nowadays I’m a grown man with a wife and great job and promising future that I have too much to lose to throw it all away by getting arrested for a stupid brawl at a football game.
Anyways, back to the shouting match in the stands. Dave and I were holding Brian back, telling him to shut up while trying to calm down the other fans and assure them that nobody needs to fight. However, it unfortunately escalated and somehow Brian made his way to the aisle and moved up closer to the seventh row, where these dudes were sitting. I remained standing in the row by my seat still trying to tell one of the guys to shut up and calm down, nobody’s going to fight, we’re all cool, let’s just enjoy the end of the of game but this particular guy appeared to be completely inebriated in that he made no change in his reaction or manner whatsoever, he just continued shouting while drunkenly wavering side to side. It was at this moment that I glanced over to see Brian still in the aisle while shouting with the other guys in the 7th row. Several other Redskins fans in the crowd started jeering at Brian “Throw him out of here!” and began spitting at him. Security and other FedEx Field personnel were nowhere to be found. I realized we needed to leave now since I figured it was useless to try and reason with this guy in his state of mind and Dave and I just needed to get Brian out of there before it actually results in an all-out brawl.
Then right when I turned my head back towards my seat, I was suddenly rocked with a suckerpunch to my right eye from the same fan I was trying to calm down seconds earlier, slicing the skin right underneath my eyelid causing it to bleed and significantly chipping one of my front teeth. I was completely taken off guard and likely in temporary shock as I was thinking to myself “what the fuck, I just got punched in the face” while holding open my eye and telling other bystanders nearby. I moved out into the aisle and ran up the steps behind Brian and Dave to find someone for assistance.
The first person I approached was a uniformed officer leaning against a merchandise table a few sections away who looked like a police officer but was a private security guard. I quickly told him I was just suckerpunched in the face and my tooth is chipped, by a fellow Redskins fan no less, and I wanted his help. He responded that I should “talk to the cops right outside the stadium over there.” I told him I didn’t want to leave the stadium and asked him to please find a police officer to come in and help. He chuckled and was of no use, so I started walking towards another uniformed officer still inside the stadium and asked if he was a cop. He replied that he was and so I told him the situation. He slowly walked with me towards our section before he told me he “was going to pass me off to this other officer who may be able to help.” I told the new officer the situation and they both sorta just stood there since at this point, the game had just ended and fans were starting to pour out of the stadium and all of us stayed in front of Section 125 scanning the fans to find any of the assailants. After a good 20-30 people walk through, Dave runs back into the stands with the cops following to see if the dude who threw Brian’s hat and punched me in the face was still there, but he and his buddies were nowhere to be found.
The cops walk back and nonchalantly suggest “there’s nothing we can do at this point” as if we should just forget about it. I couldn’t believe this and said that there’s gotta be somebody else to talk to so they pointed me towards Guest Services, which is right by a First Aid room. I approach Guest Services and a nice older lady noticed I was visibly bleeding and suggested I go into the First Aid room. I walked in to find four men dressed in EMT gear in an otherwise empty room, all looking down onto their own phones, not even looking up when I came in. I told them I just got punched in the face and my tooth was chipped, but all of them just sat there and kinda laughed to each other, I’m assuming because the game was over and they were all ready to leave. I took notice of their unresponsiveness and repeated that I just got punched in the face and my tooth is chipped and nobody seems to care. They all just stare at me, like “yeah?”
I leave the First Aid room and talk to the woman at Guest Services. She invites me back behind a closed glass door to escape the commotion of thousands of fans exiting the stadium and I tell her my situation. While she was friendlier than all the other FedEx Field personnel I had encountered up until this point, the whole “well what do you want me to do about it?” attitude persisted.
I asked her if they have security cameras that we could look at to prove my case, and she replied they didn’t, which I don’t know if is true or not but not unreasonable since it’s a huge outdoor stadium and thus few places available to mount security cameras.
I asked if they had record of anything about the people who were sitting in those seats and again she said no and again I’m not surprised since people buy and sell tickets all the time.
I was not ready to just forget this incident and head home so I asked if I could fill out some kind of form or something. Somehow that didn’t occur to her to ask me if I wanted to fill one out before I asked her about it, but she did leave to go into her office to retrieve a complaint form. At this moment, I was talking to a younger woman who apparently was associated with Guest Services and explained to her my situation. I kept saying, “I just got punched in the face and my tooth is chipped, don’t you see it?” and she said “well, yeah” but apparently again, I was unfortunately going to be out of luck. She also explained that “it was her first day” so I should understand why she is not going to be able to assist me.
The older lady returns with the form in which I fill out with my name, mailing address, phone number, and a description of my complaint under the “Fan Behavior” checkbox. When I finished writing, I handed it to her and asked her what the next step would be and yet again, it was the same kind of “whatever” attitude. I asked her if they could make me a copy of the form so I had record of it and she said that they didn’t have a copier so I took a picture with my phone just to have some kind of paper trail. I asked what she was going to do with the form and she said she would pass it along to whoever handles complaints and then it would be out of her hands, but I responded that I know I’m probably never going to hear anything back about this and asked if she would call me personally. She said she would so I will give her the benefit of the doubt, although it’s now almost Thursday and I haven’t heard anything yet.
After this conversation, I realized we had probably exhausted all of our options of FedEx Field personnel who could help us this late on a Sunday night, so the three of us got into the car and headed home to Richmond.
I’m writing this post Wednesday night, a full 72 hours after the incident. I keep replaying it in my head and can’t believe how unbelievable the whole situation was, how unbelievable it is for a Redskins fan to go to a Redskins game to get suckerpunched by a fellow fan and how unbelievable the complete lack of response was from the FedEx Field personnel. My right eye is now bruised up black and blue with a scab underneath my eyelid. I am finally going to the dentist tomorrow to see what the options are and the cost are for fixing my broken tooth.
What is the point of writing this post?
I wanted to get it written down not just for my own sake but also to get the word out. My ultimate goal - I don’t know if it’s going to be possible to ever find out the guy who assaulted me, but the only way to do so is to get word out. If this guy somehow is located, he should be charged criminally and at the very least he should cover the expense of my broken tooth. I don’t have any pictures of this guy or know anything about him, but he was at the game in Section 125, most likely in seats 13-15. He is probably in his mid 40s with peppered gray hair. So if anyone who is reading this and has any information as to the attacker is, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second of all, due to the unbelievable lack of response or anything resembling anything other than apathy from any of the FedEx Field employees when I was clearly in need of assistance, I want everyone to know that FedEx Field is a downright unsafe environment and steps should immediately be taken to ensure such acts of fan violence don’t happen again. My immediate suggestion is to put uniformed security in every aisle of every section. If security had diffused the situation as soon as Brian’s hat was thrown, at the very least the guy who threw his hat would have been ejected and most likely Brian as well for responding in the manner he did. Then it wouldn’t have escalated nearly to what it did.
Finally, fan violence in sports stadiums has been a huge story in the news recently, as it should be. Yet somehow FedEx Field and the Redskins organization must have missed that memo as across all the levels of personnel I encountered were found to be completely incompetent, indifferent and inconsiderate. I expect them both to treat this matter seriously and get in touch with me at email@example.com. I also hope that if they are in fact going to take this matter seriously, then they will quickly review and immediately overhaul their current process for dealing with fan violence in an effective and considerate manner to ensure something like this never happens again. Until that happens, I will no longer be attending any future Redskins games at FedEx Field.