It’s a perfect 85 degrees F, with a light cross breeze and the most perfect, panoramic blue sky above. Out on a Potomac River daddy-daughter summer day, we sneak away from in-laws on vacation in D.C., our inflatable tubes connected by bungee cord, a box of chilled sangria for me, and well, she’s college age so she’s partaking too. We make our way around a bend and spot up ahead what looks like a miniature Carnival Cruise ship, gaudily out-of-place on this quiet stretch of river.
We paddle in for a closer look. From the waterline, this massive water sportscar is breathtaking. Easily longer than a football field, multiple decks, and (I kid you not!) a heli-pad. A scripted “Lady S” adorns the stern. We see no visible activity amidships. But as we approach the bow, a gangly, grinning, dark-haired boy in red trunks emerges, eyeing us with a long, orange, double-barreled, water-filled assault weapon.
Like a gun-slinger, my daughter wheels around and in an instant has the waterpark equivalent of a sidewinder missile system trained on the boy. Both sides blink, then unload. Suddenly I’m in a drive-thru car wash without the benefit of a car. I clutch the sangria protectively. As they pause to reload, a small army of kids emerge along the bow rail – we are outnumbered. The ensuing volley of water balloons is so overwhelming, all we could do was lay back, accept our douching like adults and laugh our guts out.
Drenched and dazed, we drift into the vessel and before I know it we’re being helped up a ladder by a no-nonsense, hyper-fit guy in sunglasses, oddly overdressed for this scene. As the kids cheer our arrival, this serious athlete is tying off our inflatables, pulling us up the ladder all while talking into a Bluetooth.
“Honey, I think I know who this creep is.” I smile as I ponder it all. “And oh boy am I gonna interview him.”
My daughter is introduced to Gerry (the primary gunman), and an attractive band of kids closer to her in age, as I am quietly ushered aft. I hear the security guy speaking to his boss while we walk. As I finally step onto the highest deck, I enter a scene that can only be described as pure decadence. Maybe a dozen young women are sauntering around a spectacular four-sided bar and elliptical-shaped pool, wearing only what I would call “genital covering.” Off to the side I notice three men sitting under a sun canopy. Two are talking with drinks in their hands. Between them is a stockier man in sunglasses, laptop in his lap, on the phone. The guy who runs the NFL equivalent of the Playboy mansion, hiding out from government subpoenas.
Not sure what to do, an absolutely stunning woman wearing actual clothing approaches me from the bar. Still sloshing in muddy river water sneakers, the lovely barista, who might have been created with code written by the world’s horniest software engineer, looked into my eyes as if greeting George Clooney. A beautiful blue iced drink in a tall glass finds my hand.
“Hey handsome, you look like you could use a Blue Lagoon.” Before I know it, she’s removing my offensive footwear, effortlessly and without breaking an easy smile. “I’ll take these. Come meet Dan.”
“Ha, dude, you’re a viral superstar!” One of the seated men leaps up to greet me. “I’m Greg, get over here.” The genetically engineered barista disappears with my shoes and a weatherbeaten sangria box. On cue, two more twenty-somethings (without the clothing) appear, who I now think might give the barista a beauty contest run for their money.
“We already know you, man. Check out your entrance,” Greg hands me his iPhone, showing a viral video of the epic water battle my daughter and I just lost. “In ten minutes it’s already got 13K hits.” I feel the buzz of my somehow not waterlogged phone—a texted video clip of my daughter and Tiffanie Snyder launching basketballs on a gods-honest hoop court somewhere on this floating den of iniquity.
DAD CHECK THIS OUT LOL
“Welcome. Curtis tells me the kids really love your daughter.”
I surmise many things in these first moments: 1) Dan Snyder might be the spawn of Donald Trump and Hugh Hefner, possibly raised by Ghislaine Maxwell. 2) He maintains a very tight access to his inner world. 3) If I’m gonna learn anything I don’t know already, I need to gain his trust, and quickly.
I lean in. “Jack Jacobs [my neighbor’s best friend]. My daughter and I specialize in ocean SEAL Team missions against boats like this.”
“You clearly lost this one,” The Danimal points out, sunglasses cloaking where he’s truly focused. The corporate equivalent Crabbe and Goyle snicker.
“Well, my daughter’s having a blast, and I’m talking to Dan Snyder, so I’ll judge it a victory.”
Dan’s eyes finally appear from over the sunglasses. “What’s your story, Jack?”
As if on a mafia undercover mission, my lies continue. “Well, I worked at Marin Capital [saw a USA Today article yesterday] in the heyday.” I sigh and look up for wistful effect. “We all know how that worked out.”
Dan removed his glasses and sat up. “General Motors… shitty bet.” [SHIT…of course he knows more than me.] Eager to measure my response, his stare tightened.
Ever the poker player, I call and raise. “We all make our bets. Convertible arbitrage. [where in the hell am I getting this?] You know how it goes. You win and you lose.” [what does that even mean?] I look around admiringly. “I see how things turned out for you, though.” I lift my glass his way.
Dan sat up straight and removed his glasses. “Married?” [whew!]
“Weren’t we all, once?” [sorry, honey] I give him my signature forced laugh. “Just glad my ex settled when the arbitrage phase at Marin made me look the poorest. [I’m in the zone!] And she gave me a rock star daughter.” [sprinkle in some truth] I take a long sip of my Lagoon. “Right now… I’m just a rolling stone.”
His sycophants awaited their cues, the barista’s highlighted hair and tanned arms nestled into his stocky shoulder, the girls from Ipanema kept passing by just like a samba. I could see how you could get used to this.
Soon I felt that phone buzz again. My daughter, laughing in the cockpit of a helicopter with Brittanie Snyder.
OMG DAD CAN WE GO HOME IN THIS?!?!?
Time to get to work. “Okay, so tell me. What were the other names you considered before picking Commanders?”
Greg, who I learned later was the team COO, clearly had grown comfortable with me. “Man, did we take a lot of shit for that. Okay, so you’re not gonna tell anyone, right?”
I nod like a dunce. He rises, belly straining, eyes squinted, fighting hysteria. “The Washington Wombats (everybody laughs)… then there was The Washington Generals (really?)… okay … and lastly, let’s not forget The Washington Indigenous Persons.”
Now I’m laughing. Is this all their focus group came up with, factoring the obvious constraints of answering to an owner convinced that his mutant barista and everyone currently in his pool adore him?
“Did you ever consider a name really authentic to D.C.? How about the Washington Gridlock? A team where the priority isn’t actually winning, but making sure the other team fails. Just like our government.”
“Jack, we should have had you on the naming committee. That’s hilarious.” He says it flatly, without smiling. “You know I never would have changed from Redskins, ever. Those politically correct Capitol Hill fucks and that idiot Roger Goodell forced it.” My new little buddy’s gloomy now. A quick nod and the barista disappears.
“Jack, how rich are you? Give me a figure.”
[think quick] “I try not to look at the market, but I’d put it at maybe $20 million right now [almost blurted $50 million, these drinks are going to my head]. I’ve got something in the works that could triple that, god willing.”
Dan took a long drink while checking his phone. “Jack, it’s like this. You evaluate assets, acquire pieces, increase their value, then flip ’em.” He adjusts his sunglasses. “Ever watch HGTV?”
I nod, not knowing what the hell that means.
“You get stuff, you add some value to it, you flip it. THAT is the secret to being rich.” He looks at his buddies and smiles. “And you fuck absolutely everything you can along the way.”
I do all I can to keep a poker face while I feel the buzz of my daughter’s next text. A pic of her, Tiffanie and Brittanie, bare feet up in the IMAX theater watching The Rise Of Gru.
THEY EVEN HAVE A POPCORN MACHINE LOL
I can no longer do this. I break character. “Yea, this lifestyle would definitely present an obstacle from appearing before a congressional committee on workplace abuse and sexual harrassment.” I finish my drink. “Dan, can you email me the SKU on that brunette over there? I wanna order several of her for my next pool party.”
Eventually he takes off his glasses, leaning right into me. “Jack, I’m gonna tell you straight up how it is. You do what I told you, you make the rules. That simple.” The corners of his mouth curl. “Money makes the rules. Money makes… this.” He gestures to his the enormity of his floating fuck pad.
“How’s Tanya doing? You know, the mother of those adorable children playing with my kid right now. Or, has she just shrugged and accepted the rules as you’ve defined them?” Everyone stares at me, stock still. “Sad.”
Dan talks quietly into a Bluetooth as I continue. “Oh, and I thought I read that Tanya—that’s your actual, legal wife, right? Isn’t she kind of in operational control of the team now? I can see you’ve cleaned this culture up nicely. I’m sure she’s all good with the routine dehumanizing of women. How come she’s not up here with the boys, enjoying all this scenery?”
Curtis (that athletic guy) is right on top of me. “Sir, your daughter wants to go home. I think it’s time for you to leave.”
The jig is up. I rise graciously. “What a fun afternoon, gentlemen. Can’t thank you enough for your hospitality. Good luck with Carson Wentz.”
Floating back down the river toward home, the sun beginning a lazy descent, she entertains me with at least ten video clips of recreational insanity aboard Lady S. We laugh as we check our sunburn.
“Dad, did you get to meet that owner guy?”
“I did. No real surprises, honey. He’s the creep I always imagined he was.”
She continues to watch her videos as I pull out my phone and tee up an email to the office of Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) of the House Oversight Committee. I attach an audio file of significant length. I show it to my daughter
“But I did get a full audio transcript of today’s creepy encounter. Should I hit send?”