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What's Burgundy and Gold and Read All Over?

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It can even generate negative advertising. Last Wednesday's 14-page special section on the Redskins and the NFL included a display ad tied to Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, recently released from prison for involvement in a dogfighting ring. Placed by an animal rescue group, the ad promises five bags of dog food will be donated to a local animal shelter every time Vick is tackled by the Redskins when they play at FedEx Field on Oct. 26.

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Why are the Redskins so much more popular than other area teams? Perhaps it's the absence of a strong local competitor. The nation's capital was without a Major League Baseball team for 33 years until the Nationals started playing in 2005. The Wizards haven't claimed an NBA championship since they won as the Washington Bullets in 1978. The recently rejuvenated Washington Capitals have never captured the Stanley Cup.

By contrast, the Redskins have won three Super Bowl championships. For years, there were no NFL teams farther south, and the Redskins built a huge following in the region.

"Generations of fans have passed their loyalty to their kids, and they've passed it to their kids," said Redskins Senior Vice President Karl Swanson. "We have a loyal fan base. The stadium has been sold out for almost 70 years."

The NFL brand is powerful throughout the nation, and The Post isn't alone in providing wall-to-wall coverage of the hometown pro football team. Among teams in sports-crazed Dallas, "nobody is close" to matching fan interest in the Cowboys, said Dallas Morning News Sports editor Garry Leavell.

Vita said high reader interest "should not be the sole determinant of how we cover things." He noted a "responsibility" to cover all sports, despite limited space and staff.

It's a balancing act. But during the NFL season, the Redskins tip the scale.

Andrew Alexander can be reached at 202-334-7582 or at ombudsman@washpost.com. For daily updates, read the Omblog.


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