Super Bowl Sunday provides a good opportunity to reflect on my Washington Redskins and the lesson they can teach us about the United States economy. On January 26, 1992 the Washington Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI, defeating the Buffalo Bills, 37-24. It was exciting, but not unexpected. It was our third Super Bowl win in the prior 10 years. We had been in the playoffs 8 of the prior 11 years. Winning was expected because we were a very high quality franchise.
Fast forward 20 years, 14 of them under the Daniel Snyder reign of terror and everything has changed. We have been to the playoffs only 4 times in those 20 years, including this year, have won only 2 playoff games and have never advanced beyond the second round. Coming into the 2012 season, we hadn’t been to the playoffs in 5 years and hadn’t won a division title in 13 years. But, along came RGIII this season and we made it to the playoffs, capped by an exciting 7 game winning streak. We were summarily dismissed from the playoffs in the first round by Seattle, but ask any diehard Skins fan and this season was a resounding success. We were just happy to be in the playoffs. Getting knocked out in the first round was disappointing, but getting to the playoffs was an accomplishment worthy of many front page articles in the Washington Post.
Twenty years ago it would have been unthinkable, indeed socially unacceptable, to suggest that merely making the playoffs was an accomplishment. We expected more. Success in the NFL is defined by winning championships, not qualifying to play for one. That was the standard to which Washingtonians held the Redskins. Win the Super Bowl or you have failed. Period. Full Stop. It was a reasonable expectation and one the Skins regularly fulfilled. So, ultimately, I find it very depressing that we have had to dumb down our expectations here in DC to the point where just getting into the playoffs is an accomplishment.
This is precisely what President Obama has done with the economy. I was stopped in my tracks this week when I picked up the USA Today in a hotel lobby to read the headline, “DIP IN ECONOMY NOT SO BAD.” Nearly 4 years after the end of the recession, the economy contracted at a rate of 0.14% in the 4th quarter of 2012. Yes, folks, contracted. And yet, President Obama has so terribly mismanaged our economy for so long that major newspapers (others had similar stories) have now recalibrated expectations to the point where, 4 years after the end of the recession, we applaud economic contraction because the contraction was only a small contraction and there are some faint signs that things might be a tad better in the next quarter. In the same painful way we Redskins fans slowly accepted losing as a way of life and celebrated tiny meaningless victories like just making the playoffs, Americans are now slowly starting to accept the Eucrosclerotic model of perpetual anemic economic growth and high unemployment (ticked up to 7.9% in Q4 2012) as the new normal. It’s just the way things are now. I find that profoundly depressing. It doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, soon after the Redskins defeated the Bills in Super Bowl XXVI, Bill Clinton, a Democrat, took office on the heels of a nasty recession, caused by George H.W. Bush’s cave in to democrats on raising taxes. After an initial attempt at his own version of Obamanomics and Hillarycare, Clinton was pushed to the right by Newt Gingrich and governed as a centrist who “ended the era of big government.” The economy boomed, as it almost always does coming out of a recession. In fact, it’s one of the few benefits of a recession – robust growth almost always ensues soon thereafter (see Reagan, Ronald). That is, until Obama decided to end the era of ending big government and put us on this path to permanent economic malaise.
This is sad. Believe me, I know. I have lived through 20 years of dumbed down expectations around my football passion. Maybe RGIII is going to change all that and put us back on a path of higher football expectations. If only Obama could have done the same thing for the country. Like Redskins fans, Americans deserve better.