“Escape another sad Redskins season by reliving glory days w/my book Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.”
So David Elfin tweeted on Thursday, and it got me thinking yet again about the Glory Years. Has anything burnished the legacies of the Darrell Greens and Joe Theismanns and Art Monks — who wrote the foreword to Elfin’s recent book — more than the nearly two decades of misery that followed?
“Maybe people need an escape,” said Elfin, the longtime Redskins beat writer currently working for WUSA. “It’s like the movie musicals in the 1930s, that were an escape from the Depression. Maybe people need an escape; maybe they need to look back to the glory years.”
Heck, there’s even a chapter called “Glory Days,” including the above image, which Elfin described as the most iconic shot in Redskins history. Which is not to say that Elfin’s book — his fifth on the Redskins but first published on this scale — ignores the present. There’s a lengthy and soul-crushing chapter titled “No Return to Glory,” which covers Spurrier and Zorn and Haynesworth and all the rest.
But there’s a reason Monk’s picture is on the cover, a reason that images of Sammy and Sonny and Joe illustrate the introduction, a reason the back cover includes images of Gibbs and Riggo and Green.
“Imagine if you were writing a Miami Dolphins book, a Minnesota Vikings book, a Detroit Lions — it’d be the same,” Elfin told me. “It’s still fresh enough in enough peoples minds. And Sonny and Sam are still on the air, Darrell’s in the community, Joe Theismann and Doc Walker are always on the radio. These people have not gone away. They are still with us in a lot of ways. Fans hear the names Brian Mitchell or Art Monk and they smile. They hear the name Jabar Gaffney and they go who? These guys bring back happy memories in a time when we’re in a sports depression.”
Which helps explain why Monk has accompanied Elfin on his book signings, and will again be there Saturday at Politics and Prose on Connecticut Ave. (at 3:30) and Dec. 3 at the Barnes and Noble in Rockville (at 3). In an age of David Anderson, a book endorsed by Art Monk can make Redskins fans feel a certain kind of way.
“I had trepidation about that for this book,” Elfin said, when I asked if these feelings will ever go away. “Some of these [illustrated histories] have done real well, and some haven’t. There are more and more people in this town that don’t remember this team being good, and it’s a lot easier to not root for the hometown team than it was when I was growing up. Yet look at the numbers at FedEx. It’s not 90,000, but it’s certainly not 40,000 either. The Redskins have been lousy for going on 20 years now. They’ve made the playoffs three times since 1992. They’ve won two playoff games since 1992. And yet it’s still a Redskins town.”
It’s a point Elfin makes explicitly in the book’s introduction, next to a picture of a bottle of wine celebrating one of Washington’s Super Bowl titles. He has been following the Redskins either as a fan or as a reporter since 1970, and while he continues to write about the current team, there’s obviously a certain pleasure that comes with writing about success.
And so, does this mean fans are living in the past?
“They have to,” he said. “What else can you live off of? You can’t live off today.”