Last week, I posted a couple of reminders that the buses were leaving earlier, so people who were planning to see the buses off should adjust their schedules accordingly. These weren’t particularly controversial messages, but they did generate some email, most of which contained a variation of “Do people really see the buses off?”
Yes. Yes, they do.
The sendoffs are organized by Christie Lopez (Huly on ExtremeSkins) with her husband Chris (pez on ES), and they’ve actually become something of a big deal. “This is my third or fourth year doing them,” she says. “After Coach Gibbs retired I was not sure if this was going to end or not. I know Gibbs loved it and the team seemed to enjoy it too so with a new coach I was not sure what to expect. I hope Zorn likes it also as the fans enjoy having them.”
That was a bit of question as of the opener in New York. “In previous years, Coach Gibbs used to stop, come out, say hi, give a couple of words to the group,” Chris says. “Coach Zorn, the Giants game was his first one and had this look on his face like ‘What the…?'”
But the Dallas send-off brought a promising development: Coach Zorn stopped by, spent some time, and asked the assembled group what they were doing there instead of Texas.
The group arrives about an hour before the buses leave to get things set up and get people in place (and off the road) by the time the buses depart. Before the Dallas game, Chik-Fil-A dropped off a bunch of sandwiches for them to eat, and many of the fans adjourned to a nearby brewpub after the buses rolled out to watch college football and make a day of it.
I gave Casey Rabach a camera to document the roadtrip (much, much more from this once we’ve gotten some technical issues sorted out); here’s a short video of the fans from the inside of the bus, plus some commentary from Casey and Todd Yoder.
But that’s not the end of the weekend for these fans. At around 10:45 on Sunday night, the Lopezes show back up at Redskins Park to get things set up to welcome the buses back. “We waited about an hour for the buses,” Christie says. “It gives everyone time to go over the game and we were listening to the Bears beat up the Eagles.”
Christie makes sure she’s the last one to leave, sticking around to clean up the space and make sure everyone else leaves safely, so after the Dallas game she departed Redskins Park around 1:00 a.m. to head home and get some sleep before being in at work at 6:30 in the morning.
This is dedication. If you’ve never seen the players return from a professional football game, here’s how it pretty much shakes down: the players, exhausted following the game, shower and do an hour of media. Next they board buses, which take them to the plane. After three hours on the plane, they reboard buses, which take them back to Redskins Park — and at THAT point they get into their cars and drive home.
So if you’re a fan waiting for the team to return, this is essentially what you see, about 60-odd times:
Like I say, this takes some dedication. So is it worth it?
“You like the support of it,” says DT Anthony Montgomery. “They come before we leave, they sit out there and wave to the buses. Feels good to know you’ve got the support of the fans, win or lose. After we lost to Dallas last year, they were out there. After the Patriots game, they were out there. These are die-hard fans.”
Fred Smoot agrees. “They always there: rain, sleet, snow, win, lose, they’re there to welcome us back. Just to know that people care that much about the Redskins … you really appreciate it if you — like I did — go play for another team and realize there’s a big difference in the organization.”
The buses depart this week at 12:30, and Christie Lopez promises that she’s got something interesting planned for the sendoff. Last week, she made hats in anticipation of the Dallas game; she won’t tell me what she’s got this week, but if the hats are any barometer, it should be good.