Well, I made it this far into the week without mentioning Thanksgiving of 1974. The streak ends now.
That game is one of the most storied in the great and noble annals of Cowboys and Redskins loathing. It took place before I was born, but gosh, I’ve sure heard a lot about it — the rookie quarterback who replaced Staubach, the miraculous bomb to Pearson, the blown lead, the agonizing emptiness, the blank stares. Maybe you have, too.
“Generations of Washingtonians are imprinted with Thanksgiving Day trauma,” Tony Kornheiser wrote in 1996. “Cooks in years past slaved in kitchens for hours to create the Meal of the Year, only to serve it to a group of drunk, embittered diners — surly, without appetites, because of what happened to the Redskins….By the way, Clint, if you’re reading this: Drop dead, okay?”
ESPN.com’s Paul Lukas — a lifelong Cowboys hater — revisited that game this week, to similar effect.
“I can remember all of it, every last bit of it, in sickening detail,” he wrote. “I can still see my grandmother’s TV. I can still smell her apartment, which had that unmistakable grandma smell. And most of all, I can still see Clint Longley leading Dallas to an improbable comeback capped by a game-winning 50-yard touchdown pass to Drew Pearson with less than half a minute to play. I felt that last bite of pumpkin pie coming back up. I still feel it to this day.”
Dang, that’s vivid. Thomas Boswell wrote about it similarly, after Mark Brunell and Santana Moss’s 2005 miracle in Dallas.
“I still remember my late father’s grief-stricken look that day: the rotten, lucky, undeserving Cowboys, always heaving some brainless bomb when they should be beaten,” he wrote. “And having somebody catch it. So, let Dallas and Parcells chew on this one for a few decades, because the taste of this defeat will stay in Dallas mouths for many a year.”
I mean, everyone has taken a swing at this one.
“The Clint Longley game still aggravates our entire family,” Bruce Allen told Mark Maske in 2002. “It was terrible. Everyone in our family still doesn’t enjoy Thanksgiving because of it.”
The quotes just after the game were no cheerier.
“God, it’s a shame to lose like that,” Diron Talbert said.
“No [bleepin] rookie is supposed to beat us,” Deacon Jones said.
“This is the type of defeat that can stay with you for a while” George Allen said in the coming days. “It can take something out of your team if you let it.”
More from Kornheiser in ’96, on his friend Nancy.
“No one, not even the villainous Bob Short who moved the Senators to Texas, had ever laid Washington so low,” he wrote. “When Nancy arrived at her family’s table she was as drunk as a rat; she spent the entire meal pushing peas around her plate morosely. All around the city Thanksgiving dinners were eaten in stony silence. The legacy of that game is that the first cuss word you’re taught by your neighbors when you come to live in Washington is Dallas. The second and third words are Clint Longley. Longley is passed down from generation to generation in Washington like a hideous heirloom.”
Maybe not anymore. Maybe that honor is now owned by Pete Kozma, or Jaroslav Halak, or Korie Lucious, or Damon Jones. (And what a gut-punch to realize we’ve had so many joy-stealing villains just in the past six years.)
But this is part of our shared history as Washingtonians, or even Washington transplants. This can’t be forgotten. So here’s to a few cuss words about Clint Longley this week. And to fewer regurgitated bites of pumpkin pie.