Redskins Fashion a Fine Farewell
Monday, September 29, 2008
IRVING, Tex., Sept. 28 -- For one final Sunday afternoon, a Washington Redskins team looked up at the clock dangling from the almost-domed roof of the doomed, old stadium and willed time to tick away. And for one final Sunday afternoon in Texas Stadium it went ever so slowly.
"It's painful to only have one second become another second and another second," Redskins Coach Jim Zorn would later say.
But when the seconds finally disappeared on what may be the last Redskins-Dallas Cowboys game in Texas Stadium, there erupted on one sideline a euphoria. They had survived, 26-24.
This is when they laughed and danced; when defensive end Rob Jackson held his helmet aloft and began to chant; when teammate Anthony Montgomery stood on the bench and waved at the crowd as he shouted "Bye-bye" at the faces that glared back from just five feet away. No other stadium in the NFL has the intimacy of this place that has come to haunt the Redskins for most of four decades. It has led to a tempestuous intersection of players and fans in a game that is annually one of the National Football League's fiercest.
Then suddenly, in the last regular season Redskins-Cowboys game before the gates are closed on Texas Stadium and the rivalry heads to a sparkling new home, the Redskins did something that seemed to surprise even them. They won.
This was remarkable because no one much expected it to happen. Dallas roared into Sunday undefeated, having scored the most points in the National Football Conference, while the Redskins had muddled their way to a 2-1 record with two straight victories that didn't seem very impressive in the light of the Cowboys' run.
So, yes, the Redskins acted a bit like children as they scampered off the field in jubilation. Off the ragged artificial turf they ran, sprinting past the blue plywood walls that separated fans from field, careful not to touch the cheap plastic stars affixed to the walls that always seemed to have the consistency of a child's toy fire helmet, and up the long, mildewed tunnel toward the smallest locker room left in the league.
A few stopped to gaze up at the huge roof that loomed over the field, with the odd, rectangular hole in the top that, according to the Cowboys legend, was put there so God could look in on his favorite team. One Redskin, center Casey Rabach, dropped to his knee in the end zone, right on top of the painting of a silver Cowboys helmet, and began to pray. Not that this is something he normally does. It's just that the emotion of the day was so different from the others.
"This was one of those wins you've got to thank God for," he said. "I think He had a hand in winning this one for us."
Not that anyone could be sure God noticed. The sunbeam that, during games, usually shines straight down on the field, had crawled far up on the opposite stands. Rabach's prayer might well have been trampled by his elated teammates thundering past.
If signals were crossed, Rabach would have understood. A few minutes later, he stood sweating even after a shower, in the steamy locker room, and surmised that he would not miss this stadium.
"Hell, no," he said. "It's a [dump]."