Illustration by Kerry P. Talbott
The Redskins training camp is set to fully eclipse every other story in Richmond in 3 ... 2 ... 1.
There is not a platitude left unuttered — "I'm absolutely convinced that this is going to be one of the greatest things to happen to this region in a long time," for instance. There is not a football cliché left unturned — "Trees Mistakenly Tackled on Redskins Training Site."
What could possibly still be said? Well, I happen to have a few thoughts that might not be what you'd hear from the suits.
Single guys don't stand a chance for 17 days this summer.
Think about it. Dozens of young, ripped millionaires are about to descend on Richmond. It will be nearly impossible for a single guy to get a date between July 25 and Aug. 16. And even though Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen would like us to believe that training camp is like the gulag, I feel pretty safe in saying that the boys will be having their fun around town. RGIII has said that the team will want to just hang out and do nonathletic things like play ping-pong. I've seen big men dance, and I think that can be easily described as nonathletic, so my guess is that club goers around town are going to be dancing shoulder-to-conspicuously-large-shoulder with some of them.
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But ... the cheerleaders will be here, too. That's right, guys, the cheerleaders also will be in town for public appearances and autograph sessions. You'll definitely have a shot with them. We are, to paraphrase Taylor Swift, never ever ever going to understand the financing. Here's what I can piece together: The city leases land from the state for $40,560 a year and pays $10.8 million to build the facility, financing that in part by diverting funds that were supposed to go to schools, jail and other public works projects. The Bon Secours Richmond Health System pays $6.4 million over 10 years for the naming rights and sponsorship and for leasing space in the new facility. The city plans to recoup the rest through additional leases and sponsorships. You got that? I sure don't. Your taxes could go up because of this whole thing . It's conceivable. If we build it but they don't come, or not that many of them come, or they stop coming after a few years, it's possible that the city will not recoup the cost of the project. So when it comes time for the important public works project that was put on hold, the city may need to raise taxes. But that won't happen because this is a sure thing. Right? This is not a sure thing. If you believe the muckety-mucks from the city and business community and the Redskins, this whole deal can't lose. Sorry, folks, but it can. Football training camp is not like baseball spring training. Spectators won't be watching exhibition games between whole teams in full uniforms. Is it a stretch to suggest that sitting on a picnic blanket in the hot Virginia sun watching drills and scrimmages in a beach-free city without much of an identity outside its own borders might not hold much allure for out-of-towners? Well, I truly don't know, but I do know this ... Richmonders will never stop coming. I predict that every day of training camp will be wall-to-wall people, most of them local. Richmond takes a lot of flak for being stuck in tradition, but the flip side of our resistance to change is our ability to turn anything into an instant tradition. The cement dries quickly when we take an event into our hearts, and if this first year goes well, Redskins training camp will be cemented into the Richmond consciousness the same way the Folk Festival and the Monument Avenue 10K are. The trees will never be brought up again. Oh, and remember the dozens of old-growth hardwood trees that were accidentally, um, tackled to make way for the training camp? Trees? What trees?