washingtonpost.com  > Nation > Search the States > California

The Redskins: The Team We Love to Hail

By Don Podesta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page GZ60

There's a very good reason the Washington Redskins' fight song begins "Hail to the Redskins."

"Hail" conjures up biblical-movie visions of Roman legions marching before a grateful city after conquering yet another barbarian people. And in a modern-day analogy to ancient warfare, that's what the Redskins are: the fighting face of the nation's capital.

With the possible exception of the Green Bay Packers, who are owned by their fans, there is no other team in the National Football League whose fortunes -- victories, defeats, personnel changes -- consume the attention of its hometown, week in and week out, the way the Redskins' do.

Philadelphia? Eagles, schmeagles. Philly fans turn on their team at the first sign of trouble on the field, morphing into a massive flock of boo birds.

New York? Make up your mind. Are you a Giants fan or a Jets fan?

Arizona? Please. Not many in the Valley of the Sun care much about the Cardinals, transplanted from St. Louis.

The Los Angeles Rams long ago departed for St. Louis, and the fabled Baltimore Colts of yore have been hanging their horseshoe logo in Indianapolis for two decades.

But the Redskins have been here for 68 years, taking their fans from the depths of hapless, nearly winless seasons to the soaring heights of NFL championships and back down again. The Redskins were on the losing end of the most lopsided game in NFL history, a 73-0 drubbing by the Chicago Bears in 1940. Last season, the Redskins finished with a disappointing six wins and 10 losses. Still, through all the ups and downs, the waiting list to buy season tickets continues to be years long.

At the height of the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry in the 1970s and '80s, "Dallas Week," leading up to the game, was the talk of radio and television day and night. On game day, RFK Stadium would literally shake from the fans' frenzied foot-stamping and roaring. A win, and the Washington area would be on collective cloud nine for several days into the workweek. A loss, and the sun would go behind a dark cloud for the rest of the week.

Although the white-hot rivalry with Dallas may have cooled some in recent years, there has been no letup in Washington area residents' mania for the Redskins. If any proof was lacking, consider the unrestrained media attention given to the return last year of Joe Gibbs, the head coach who led the Redskins to three Super Bowl victories.

Hope for another glorious era with the return of a conquering hero?

Hail to the Redskins. Hail, Joe.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company