Midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday’s preseason opener, speakers at FedEx Field churned out a song that hadn’t been played here in over two years. It sounded more jazzy than before – more trumpet, less drums – and the crowd was a bit slow to react. But eventually, recognizing the moment, fans started singing along.
It was arguably then, in Washington’s first home game as Commanders, that the franchise emerged from cultural purgatory. The two long years of planning and the difficult six months of deployment had finally resulted in a collision of past and present, and as the pace picked up, some tried out the new lyrics on the video board – “Fight for our commanders! ” — but many instead shouted out the old lyrics, which came naturally.
Minutes before the game, the team presented two versions of the new song. One was slower and longer, the other punchier, for singing after touchdowns. These renditions received polite applause and a few loud boos. But once there were dots on the scoreboard, the crowd seemed to feel it, and in the end, fans came together to sing the lyrics that hadn’t changed: “Fight for old DC !
“I didn’t even hear it,” Washington running back and fan Jaret Patterson said after the 23-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers. “I am a native of the country. I’m used to the old one. But once I hear the new one, I’ll probably fall in love with it, like I did when I was a kid.
For most of the afternoon, FedEx Field felt like it had for the past decade. The stands were sparse as the home side played from behind. Even the time of day – early afternoon, unusual for any pre-season game – seemed normal. Since 2019, the Commanders have played 20 of 24 home games in the 1 p.m. Sunday window, tied for second in the NFL, according to TruMedia.
But in the fourth quarter, as the team rallied around rookie quarterback Sam Howell, it was possible to glimpse the vision the optimistic business executives had laid out before the game. Team President Jason Wright and Vice President of Customer Experience Joey Colby-Begovich said they are committed to improving the fan experience despite the challenges posed by the team’s recent performance and the FedEx’s aging structure.
Wright spoke enthusiastically of front office progress — more tickets sold this year already than all of last year combined, sequel sales up 30%, highest sponsorship revenue since 2005 — but declined to share any comments. precise numbers.
“I don’t want my team to be able to tell their story,” he said. “We are not there yet. We’re not going to have a full stadium in every game this year. I don’t want to get ahead of our team to be able to tell the real story of the fanbase resurgence, which is probably still a year or so away.
On Sunday’s stadium walk, FedEx looked much the same. The new logo was visible on lampposts, directional signs and burgundy bins. There were a few banners on the south side of the building, next to those of partner companies – although there were glimpses of the past. An ad for United Airlines read, “Proud to fly for the Washington Football Team.”
In a sea of hatchback tents, 57-year-old Will Sowell had one of the few with the “W” logo. He bought it because he was excited about the new era. Sowell said that while he liked the old name, he had no trouble getting over the change because he was born in Georgetown Hospital and still lives in Prince George’s County. He wouldn’t give up on his hometown team because it changed its name or had a troublesome owner.
“It would be like going to my high school and saying I won’t support my high school because I don’t like the principal,” he said.
Inside the stadium, the Commanders had redone what they could. They have put up more than a dozen works by local artists from their “Command the Canvas” initiative. They introduced new technology to speed up concession stands, including an in-the-bowl program for pre-ordering on the Grubhub app. They expanded the local food and drink offering and, as they apparently still don’t have a beer sponsor, they offered a range of alcoholic beverages including Bud Light, Yuengling, craft beer and hard seltzers.
After kickoff, new quarterback Carson Wentz took the field to a round of lukewarm applause. Fans seemed cautious to embrace him, and until the fourth quarter comeback, the loudest cheers were reserved for receiver Terry McLaurin.
During breaks from the action, the team launched “Command Force,” its 44-person entertainment team with goblets, gymnasts, and cheerleaders, and reintroduced the marching band. The team also included “Beat Ya Feet” dancers, who represented a style born in the district in the 1960s alongside Go-Go music. In the first quarter, the team also encouraged fans to vote on one of four categories – pig, dog, historical figure or superhero – to help narrow down the choices for the mascot that commanders will unveil at home during week 17.
The new name was everywhere. The video board aired themed segments, including “Command the Season,” in which players picked out the games they were most looking forward to, and “Command the Drip,” which featured Wentz’s teammates evaluating his outfit. introductory press conference, a golden jacket and a red shirt. Veteran tight end Logan Thomas gave him a score of 3/10; second-year tight end John Bates, an 8/10.
Despite the barrage, the past few days have served as a reminder that while the team puts in two years of hard work, there’s still a lot of hard work left.
During a practice at Joint Base Andrews on Friday, the commanders introduced their new name to the military personnel it was supposed to honor, and some fans seemed divided. Some didn’t like the name because, really, what had the team commanded for the past two decades?
But Rhonda Killmon, a retired Coast Guard officer, argued the story was more important.
“It’s been my team since I was little,” said. “I’m not giving up now because they changed the name. Just like in the army, you have to adapt and overcome.
At the stadium on Saturday, Colby-Begovich, the vice president of guest experience, said he hoped fans would recognize his team’s hard work despite things they couldn’t control, like playing on the terrain and FedEx limits. He wanted fans to imagine the innovation the team might implement at a new venue in the future, and as Washington took a brief lead late in the fourth quarter, fans delivered a strong second rendition of “Hail to the Commanders”.
The game ended as many have at FedEx over the years – with disappointed fans heading for the exits – but with upgrades on and off the field, it’s possible that, at least for for now, they have a little more hope.
- Wattpad and WEBTOON Merge Studio Divisions to Create Wattpad WEBTOON Studios, a Fully Funded, Fan-Driven Global Entertainment Powerhouse
- Group to Honor Beloved Curve Member on July 14 | News, Sports, Jobs
- Summer camp returns to Linden as Ohio State program expands
- Trace Adkins, Luke Bryan and Pitbull reunite for Summer Bop