‘Commanders Song’ is a viral anthem for new optimistic fans

‘Commanders Song’ is a viral anthem for new optimistic fans

‘Commanders Song’ is a viral anthem for new optimistic fans

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One afternoon in April, Woody “Oh Goody” Sellers, a 58-year-old part-time DJ, was in a recording studio trying to finish the hook for a song he’d been thinking about for three years. He wrote most of the words, bought a rhythm and spent many days behind the wheel of his FedEx delivery truck with the radio off, scrambling, trying to find the flow.

In the studio, he mumbled “Commanders” over and over again, hoping to find a hard, catchy phrase to complete the hook. But nothing seemed quite right. Finally, for reasons that are still confusing, he blurted out: “Left hand up! Who are we? Commanders!’

Later, at their home in Capitol Heights, he made a model for his wife Chaquita. He asked why he said “left hand up”. After all, most people are right-wing.

Initially, Woody and his nephew, Wayne Sellers, the 25-year-old security guard who sings the third verse, promoted the song on their personal social media profiles. Slowly, he gained a wider audience, and was mostly ridiculed. But during the fall, the feeling changed. Clips from the music video they made went viral. Talk show hosts praised the tune to hundreds of thousands of viewers. The Wizards’ DJ toured Capital One Arena. One company created “Left Hand Up” T-shirts for $28 each. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke raised his left hand during an interview. Before a game earlier this month, Sellers was followed at FedEx Field, and many fans in attendance had visceral reactions to the song, throwing their left hands in the air or racing their cars out.

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The reception has left the Seller in awe. Woody’s YouTube posts typically get around 100 views. The video for “Commanders Song” recently surpassed 107,000 views.

“I didn’t see that coming,” Woody said. “Where we are right now, I had no idea. … This is, apparently, so amazing. It’s a definite thing in life.”

During their meteoric rise, Sellers said, it was their lifelong dream to have the band they’ve loved perform their song at FedEx Field. The Commanders were recently invited to play in their next home game, November 27th against Atlanta.

Vendors will be there. Wayne plans to take a break from his offseason work at FedEx Field.

“We made it through”

Sellers represents an important part of the Commanders fanbase that has survived the last 20 years: the black community in the DMV. Their song taps into the nostalgia that has gripped many fans, but it’s more than just a requiem. It provides intergenerational connective tissue to a franchise that repeatedly tells fans, despite the new nameit is not an expansion group.

The anthem never mentions embattled team owner Daniel Snyder, and as Woody sings, his only agenda is to “say something about some good fans.” The result is the first popular piece of core Commanders culture.

Rappers bridge rich heritage and complicated present with symbolic verses. Woody raps with a rhyme-stopping, crowd-pleasing style known in his glory days that references the hogs, John Riggins, Doug Williams and Joe Gibbs. Wayne is all modern, breathy autotune, and while he name-checks his childhood greats, Santana Moss and Albert Haynesworth, the yearning for success in his day is palpable in the lines: “You know what I want: the Super Bowl. My head. Get three rings.” we have, but I think we need nine.”

“I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Yeah, that’s what I wanted to do,'” Woody said with a laugh. “Because that’s my time, because it’s my time. I remember the Super Bowl where [Doug Williams threw four touchdowns]”. He paused, lost in the memory of watching the game with his brother, Wayne’s father, who was shot and killed in 1999. He continued: “I’m getting choked up because it was such a good feeling.”

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In late July, Sellers shot their music video. They rented Clinton’s Glow Bar/Nexxt Gen Event Center, hired a photographer and videographer, and invited about 50 family and friends. Woody asked the crowd to join in as he hit, “Left hand up!” and “We want Dallas!” He posted the video on YouTube on August 3.

In the first few weeks, Woody calculated that for every 10 expressions he disliked the videos. Cowboys fans led the clowning, but Commanders fans joined in. Some of the comments were particularly nasty, but the Sellers said they didn’t mind.

“I loved it,” Wayne said. “A troll will draw eyes to the song.”

After Washington won in Week 1, Woody said, the tone of the comments began to change. Every week, there were more views and more fans. On October 4, after the loss in Dallas, former NFL player Pat McAfee played the song on his popular YouTube show, which has more than 2 million subscribers. Three studio producers sang, left hand raised.

Woody’s phone started blowing up.

“I was like, ‘Uh-oh, this could be big,'” Woody recalled. “When I saw that, and I saw the guys in the back singing the words, I was like, ‘Oh my god.'”

Within days, the video got 20,000 views, then 30,000, then 40,000. Woody’s Apple Music artist profile showed listeners from Switzerland and the Bahamas. He noticed that most of the new fans were not black, as they had been in the beginning.

“I noticed that the people he really liked were Caucasian,” Woody noted. “I said, ‘We crossed it.'”

The following month, the Commanders won three games, and Snyder announced considering selling the team. The fans seemed energized, and Sellers’ anthem found the right audience at the right time. Comments poured in, with a few stating that, while they hated the name “Commanders” at first, they were warming to the song.

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Commanders fan Eric Sollenberger, better known as PFT Commenter on Twitter, suspects there are two other reasons why the songs blew up. Its organic origins contrast with the manufactured culture that the organization has fostered over the years — the name Commanders reflects that — and the song’s initial criticism has suddenly sparked an optimistic fan base.

In recent weeks, Sollenberger, who has nearly a million followers, has become arguably the song’s biggest online champion. Instead, he celebrates good news by tweeting pictures of celebrities and historical figures, from Jesus Christ to George Washington to Miley Cyrus, with their left hand raised.

“I never imagined there was another level”

Whatever happens, Sellers said the song has already given them more than they bargained for. And in a way, it is the end of almost 40 years of practice.

In 1983, Woody was in the army at Fort Hood, Texas, when he met a soldier who was always playing a DJ in his room. He loved listening, he loved record art, and when he met another DJ while stationed in Germany, he decided to teach himself how to play.

In the late 80s, Woody bought a small set. It took him about eight hours to figure out how to tie it all together. Over the next decade, hip-hop grew, and when he watched music videos, he looked beyond the rappers to the turntables. In 1998, he decided to try DJing professionally and went to the pawn shop to buy better equipment. She trained hard for about a year, bombed her first gig and continued touring. Over the years, he developed a side business, in parties and weddings.

“It’s not even about the money,” Woody said. “Just looking there, and I got control of 100 people or 200 people or 150 people or 30 people. … That’s very satisfying to me, just to see people enjoying the music. And then to receive compliments: ‘Do you have a business card?’ Or, ‘We had so much fun’. I like it. I just love that.’

In 2019, Wayne had recently returned from college in Arizona, and Woody thought he was a bit lost. Wayne worked as a bouncer and at Costco and as a security guard, spent his free time in the studio, rapping, and Woody suggested they do a song together. The Washington Football Team canceled their plans for two seasons, and resumed in the spring of 2022. What happened next, Wayne described only as “God’s plan.”

“I never imagined there was another level of this,” Woody said. “I was so happy with where I was. I didn’t think this would ever happen.’

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At the Commanders facility, coach Ron Rivera said he had never heard the song before. Running back Antonio Gibson said he heard from a teammate that “it’s awesome.” Receiver Terry McLaurin said he had seen social media posts from “the two guys” but was only slightly familiar with the song, but knew it included the line “Left hand something.”

“Go hard on that one,” safety Kam Curl said approvingly, and Benjamin St-Just nodded. Curl noted that the song was “much” better than the one used by a group of fans on brand new day, replacing “Commanders” in the Farmers Insurance jingle. When Charles Leno Jr.’s wife showed him the song recently, he laughed.

“It’s expensive, but I love it,” he said. “Left hand up!”

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