Some parallels are obvious: gritty defense, soft-spoken but shrewd head coach, underrated quarterback(s) craving validation on the biggeststage. Yet more deeply, what distinguished those Redskins was the way they played together. They were never the flashiest teams, with the brightest stars or even the most talent. Instead, they played over their heads in the biggest games. Those Redskins were great because they were more than the sum of their parts — just like today’s Ravens.
Compared with most Washingtonians, that’s easy for me to say. I’m a Ravens fan whose fondness for the Redskins has cooled over the years. But I recall enough of the joys of watching John Riggins blast through the line or Darrell Green swat away a pass to know that the Ravens can offer similar thrills for those looking for a pleasant diversion while RGIII’s knee heals.
So put down your burgundy-and-gold pompoms and your rubber pig snout, and consider embracing the Squirrel Dance, the Flacco Fling and Hey Diddle Diddle, Ray Rice Up the Middle. Hop on the purple-and-black bandwagon for the final leg of a miraculous Super Bowl run.
I don’t have anything against the 49ers. San Francisco is a lovely place, with all kinds of good Northern California karma and high-tech wonders, while Baltimore is, well, still Baltimore. But Baltimore is a terrific football town — loud and proud, with the scars to show for it.
The son of divorced parents, I spent a fair chunk of my childhood shuttling between the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington, growing up as an avid fan of the Orioles and the Redskins, especially after 1984, when the Colts stole away to Indianapolis in those cursed Mayflower moving trucks.
When I moved to Washington as an adult, I pondered my fandom fairly seriously. The revolving-door leadership of the Redskins under Dan Snyder, combined with my newfound discomfort over the name and logo, made the team harder to embrace. The Redskins of the original Joe Gibbs era were a distant memory.
The Ravens, by contrast, were a smart, well-led organization with an appealing group of players and a name inspired by — of all things! — a poem by Edgar Allen Poe.
Happily, the Ravens rewarded my loyalty by winning an awful lot of games. But true devotion is forged in the crucible of suffering, such as last year’s crushing last-second loss to the Patriots in the AFC championship game(nearly as painful as the Redskins’ loss in Super Bowl XVIII, when the Screen Pass From Hell doomed the team before halftime even arrived).