The Washington Commanders began their 2023 Training Camp in Ashburn this week. Open practices for fans began on Thursday, and at the “Back Together Saturday” themed celebration yesterday – Commanders Park was “sold out”.
Somewhere in the region of 10,000 fans descended on the OrthoVirginia Training Center on Saturday. The buzz is real. After all, what could be more galvanizing to the fan base, than finally being free of the ole ball and chain?
Josh Harris hasn’t really had much of a chance to do much yet as the owner, and yet, it’s doubtful that Daniel Snyder was ever as beloved or regarded, as Harris already is.
When the league finally stamped an okay on the $6.05 billion deal to buy the team, tectonic plates shifted, and earth actually moved.
Harris is the one that freed a fanbase from what seemed like an ever-lasting state of dysfunction.
He is the one, that ultimately may save this franchise.
Obviously there is a brand new vibe in D.C. Obviously it just feels different at the moment.
Is it justified?
That remains to be seen. However, there are plenty of signs that things are changing. The organization being a little more appreciative and a little less exploitive, is definitely something that fans will cherish.
Take for example the Fan Pack given to fans on Saturday – it contained sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm, a fan, and an autograph booklet for getting signatures.
It’s hard to recount a single time or moment where Dan Snyder didn’t try capitalize on an opportunity to make even a couple of extra dollars.
That’s a simple, but great gesture to fans.
Whatever the new ownership group is doing right now, it is working. Fans swarmed to Commanders Park in droves. It’s been a while since crowds like that have been at Camp – probably since the early 2000s when Joe Gibbs returned.
The energy was palpable too. People were excited. People were bubbling. People were genuinely happy to be enjoying the football they were there to watch.
Is it because of Harris?
Is it just because he’s not Snyder?
Sure. Partly. It’s hard to envision anyone being worse than what Washington fans have grown used to. In any way.
But the new guy is also making the most of things and making all the right moves to hit the ground running. He is available. He does things properly. He’s not seeking to be some enigmatic figure that people whisper about.
Virtually every Washington fan out there is genuinely interested in seeing this thing get turned around. There’s an entire generation that hasn’t known what it’s really like to be a proud fan. It’s a damaged fan base. It’s going to take time to heal completely. Harris appears ready to lead the organization into the next phase of it’s existence, and that leadership will go a long way in restoring damaged fan faith.
So between now and August 19th when camp will close to the public, fans should descend on Ashburn and show their support.
Drink in that energy.
It isn’t likely to be rivalled again in your lifetime.
The swing in momentum is massive, because the fall from grace was so tremendous.
The big victories have been far too small – on and off the field.
So far this ownership change definitely feels like a big victory.
The fans deserve it.
It is now twenty years ago that I made my first foray to a training camp practice in Ashburn. I drove down from Canada – met up with some people from the website’s message board – met some great new people, and had one of the best vacation’s I have ever had when all was said and done.
It’s great to see that while things have changed some – Washington fans hanging with other Washington fans, is still what it’s really all about.
Hail my brothers and sisters!