When the Redskins honored Art Donovan

Art Donovan died on Sunday. Among many other things, the obituaries for the popular defensive tackle mentioned his knack for story-telling.

Voted into the Hall of Fame in 1968, Donovan was an outstanding lineman and an even better storyteller. Long after his career was over, Donovan made a living on the talk-show circuit, weaving yarns about the NFL’s good old days — as he put it, “When men were, well, men.”

One of his most popular stories involved elephant dung, a story he evidently told in dozens of venues. Here’s SI’s retelling from 1986, which came in the form of a quote:

“We played the Giants in an exhibition game in Louisville. It was a brand-new stadium, and the first thing they had in there was a circus. Every time you put your hand down, you put it in a pile of elephant manure. That was O.K. During the game, after the offense set and the linemen couldn’t move, we’d throw globs of it at them.”

Why am I mentioning this? Well, Reader Matt — who admits his memory is uncommonly strong — wrote to me Monday morning, recounting the time the Redskins honored Donovan before their 1991 Super Bowl run began. This came at the team’s Welcome Home Luncheon in late August, and Donovan’s speech made copious use of the phrase “elephant [bleep].”

Matt recalls Glenn Brenner’s hilarious bleep-filled report on the speech that night, with Brenner joking that Donovan’s cursing nearly gave the famously Christian Joe GIbbs a coronary. The Post’s report did not mention elephant dung, sadly. Here’s an excerpt:

The 31st annual Welcome Home Luncheon for the Washington Redskins in a packed ballroom at the Grand Hyatt yesterday included awards for linebacker Monte Coleman, wide receiver Gary Clark and cornerback Darrell Green, an honor for Baltimore Colts Hall of Famer Art Donovan and remarks by several of the Redskins. Cornerback Alvoid Mays sang a portion of the rap song he recorded last year, the Redskins’ five Johnsons (Tim, Sidney, Joe, A.J. and Jimmie) posed for pictures and players fielded questions from the audience….

Donovan accepted the George Preston Marshall Award for contributions to the game after his playing career ended. “Not in my wildest imagination did I think a fat kid from the Bronx would get this award,” he said. “I accept this award. I don’t know what the hell I did to deserve it, but I’ll take it.”

As for the coming season, Gibbs was typically deferential.

“Right now, I’m nervous,” he said. “You see all the things that aren’t perfect. I guess that’s the thrill of it. None of us knows what’s going to happen. I can’t tell you. The team you have here now is the smartest and the hardest-working ever.”

A few weeks later, the Bandwagon was born.

PHOTO OF THE WEEKEND
Here are the t-shirts Bryce Harper made for his team. The Nats are 2-1 since then. Which is better than 1-2.

REDSKINS ON BRYCE HARPER WUSA’s Kevin Jones asked 21 Redskins players if they could identify a photograph of Bryce Harper. Fewer than half got the first and last names correct. Alfred Morris guessed Tom Brady. Aldrick Robinson wondered if it was Logan Paulsen. Read the full report.

QUOTES OF THE WEEKEND
The rare double-award. Via Kilgore’s game story in Saturday’s paper:

“When it comes down to it, you shouldn’t have to tell 30-year-old men who are getting paid millions of dollars to play baseball what to do or have to fire ’em up,” Zimmerman said. “I really don’t believe in that kind of stuff. I go out there every night and do everything I can to help the team win, whether we’re 30 games under .500 or 30 games over. Because that’s what I’m supposed to do….”

Johnson sided with Zimmerman. Anxiety, he believes, is the product of losing, not the root of it. “Shoot, earlier in the year my whole bench was hitting under .200,” Johnson said. “You think they’re going to be singing karaoke songs?”

VINE OF THE WEEKEND
Ray Knight does some fielding drills while wearing a suit in the MASN studio, and the ball goes flying. That kinda year. Via @recordsANDradio.

WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
The Nats host Atlanta at 7 on MASN. Kind of a big one. All TV and radio listings are here.

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Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · August 2, 2013