Redskins Fans' Anxiety Gives Way to Elation

Fans celebrate the Redskins' 31-20 win against Philadelphia on the Eagles' turf. The team clinched the final playoff spot with its fifth straight win.
Fans celebrate the Redskins' 31-20 win against Philadelphia on the Eagles' turf. The team clinched the final playoff spot with its fifth straight win. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
By Amy Gardner and Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, January 2, 2006

The crowd at Caddies on Cordell was uneasy but hopeful, even the young woman in the burgundy-and-gold, floor-length Washington Redskins skirt. Their team was playing what could be the final quarter of its season against the hated, lackluster Philadelphia Eagles, who had the ball and the lead, 20-17. All eyes at the Bethesda sports bar were on the TV screens.

Eagles quarterback Koy Detmer, fleeing Redskins defenders, fired off a pass. Washington linebacker Lemar Marshall stretched to the sky, batted the ball, then grabbed it and held on for the interception. Redskins' ball on Philadelphia's 22. On the next play, running back Clinton Portis scampered to the left and dived across the goal line.

The Redskins were ahead to stay and into the playoffs for the first time since 1999. How sweet it was.

"Way to go, boys!" bellowed Hosea Summers, 47, a District native and lifelong Redskins loyalist who was among at least 100 fans in various hues of burgundy at Caddies. He bear-hugged his friend Jill Fischer, 32, of Laurel, jabbed at the television with his finger and then turned to a stranger and high-fived him.

"That's what we do. That's what we do!" answered Aaron Houghton, 31, of Silver Spring, jumping up and down nearby. Houghton and a high-school buddy, Jon Nachtsheim, 31, had been quietly nursing glasses of Miller Lite -- an exercise in caution, they said, the day after New Year's Eve -- until the game turned. After that, they hardly took their seats.

The folks at the bar and most other fans across the region had been nervous leading up to that play. Summers grasped his head and groaned at every missed first down. He and Fischer regularly shouted at the TV.

Several fans sounded a common theme: that they, and the Redskins, deserved a little glory after years in darkness.

"We all grew up in the Joe Gibbs glory years, then we had to suck it up for a lot of years," said Nachtsheim, who is such a die-hard fan that he follows 2005 NASCAR champion Tony Stewart because Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs owns the driver's team.

"Now, in the last game of the season, the playoffs are on the line," Nachtsheim said. "It's like a dream come true."

Going into the Redskins' final regular-season game, all the numbers seemed to favor them. They had a 9-6 record and needed a win to ensure a playoff berth.

But if the numbers favored the Redskins, someone had forgotten to tell the Eagles. Quarterback Mike McMahon's passing and the strong running of University of Maryland product Bruce Perry gave Philadelphia a 17-10 halftime lead. Meanwhile, Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell struggled the entire game.

At Lucky Bar in Dupont Circle, the Redskins crowd was thin. But that was no matter for a table of five friends who have been gathering at the bar for eight years to watch Redskins games, commiserating over losses while remaining steadfast in their loyalty.

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