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Op-Ed: A lifelong Skins fan says goodbye

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I have been a fan of the Washington Redskins my whole life. That is, until now. With the team's cavalier handling of its star rookie quarterback -- Robert Griffin III or RG3 -- and the career-threatening injury that has resulted from that negligence, I can no longer support the franchise of my youth.

I was born and raised in D.C. My formative years coincided with the team's heyday. During the '80s and early '90s, the team was a model of success, appearing in four Super Bowls and winning three. The team's venerable coach, Joe Gibbs, brought both acumen and class to the sideline. John Riggins bulldozed would-be tacklers. Doug Williams became the first African-American quarterback to play in a Super Bowl. Mark Rypien became the first Canadian to start at quarterback in the NFL, and, like Williams, was a Super Bowl MVP. I watched from the upper decks of RFK Stadium when Art Monk set the all-time career reception record. "Hail to the Redskins" was the anthem every fall Sunday; it was a joy to be a fan.

When the glory days of Gibbs and Jack Kent Cooke gave way to the quarterback and coaching carousel of the profligate Daniel Snyder era, I stayed true to the burgundy and gold. After all, this was my team. And being a true fan requires sticking with the club, through good times and bad, wins and losses.

But there are limits to that loyalty. The support of the fan is not absolute. For my part, I have to believe in the fidelity of the franchise's foundation -- a team's commitment not just to win, but to play -- as well as coach and oversee as owner -- with character and class. The results on the field will vary, but fans have to trust in a team's purity of purpose.

There was incontrovertible visual evidence that Griffin was not fit to play. By playing him anyway, the team's leaders broke that trust. Griffin's knee injury was not a fluke event, an ordinary course collision in a violent sport. It was a slow-motion disaster. Griffin came into the game badly hobbled by a gruesome knee injury suffered three weeks prior. As that injury was exacerbated during the first quarter -- as his throws became increasingly errant and his stride painful even to watch -- it was clear his body was on the brink of collapse. The commentators calling the game were asking the same question my 5-year-old did: Why is he still playing?

Griffin is only 22 years old. He plays with a passion and at times a reckless abandon that is thrilling to watch. He would -- and essentially did -- play to collapse. It is the job of the coach and the owner to temper that energy with prudence and foresight. Griffin should have been protected.

It is the coach's job to make the tough call and pull a player when his capabilities and health are so markedly compromised. Dan Snyder, as the coach's employer, should have made it clear that Griffin's future trumps the ego of a stubborn coach. Deferring to Griffin the decision to continue playing was an abdication of Shanahan's responsibility to think about the player's -- and the team's -- future. In doing so, Mike Shanahan failed a young man in his care. He failed a loyal fan base in the midst of its revival.

Like many others, I saw in RG3 an incredible array of ability, character and optimism. He infused hope into a sports community longing for something to cheer for. I held up his exploits enthusiastically for my children as a model for all that is wonderful about sports.

One of the many joys of fatherhood is sharing your passions with your children. For me, rooting for my childhood team with my children was first among them. It ties your youth to theirs and -- for at least an afternoon -- you become young again. On game days, I took pride putting my 3-year-old son in his Redskins jersey. I hope to do so again one day. But for now, the team's colors do not merit the mantle.

Devin Talbott works in finance and lives in Chevy Chase, Md., with his wife and three children.

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