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  Miami Bursts Redskins' Bubble

By Richard Harwood
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 15, 1973; Page A1

The bubble burst and the illusions evaporated — officially — at 6:31 p.m. yesterday when a little gun was fired and the Miami Dolphins went off the field to collect their Super Bowl rings and the Redskins went off to weep over a 14-to-7 loss. The future was "now" but it was a future that neither Coach George Allen nor the 40 athletes of his team nor their millions of passionate admirers had wanted.

It had been a season better by far than this city had dared hope. But all of it turned to ashes in three hours in Los Angeles because, as Allen himself had said, losing is like death.

The first half was no contest. The Dolphins — titans of the American Football Conference — dominated play. The Redskins were unable to cope with the Miami defense and the Miami offense moved moved whenever it was necessary. At halftime, they had their 14 points and might easily have had more. One of their touchdowns was called back because of a trivial infraction of the rules.

The second half was even more frustrating as the Redskins marched up and down the field, coming close to touchdowns or field goals several times. Finally they scored on a fluke play.

A Miami field goal attempt was blocked and the kicker — Garo Yepremian — tried to pass the ball to a teammate. Mike Bass grabbed the ball and ran it back 49 yards for the only Redskin touchdown. There were about two minutes left in the game and hope, as they say, springs eternal; it sprang for the Redskins.

They kicked off deep, held the Dolphins and got the ball again with 1 minute 14 seconds left. But all their time-outs were gone and their efforts to pull out the tying touchdown were futile. It ended with Miami in possession deep in Washington territory, not even trying to get off a final play.

Consolations No Balm
For the Dolphins, there was an added laurel.

They became the first professional football team to complete a season record (playoffs included) of 17 wins and no losses. For Washington there was the consolation prize: the championship of the National Football Conference, the Super Bowl appearance, and a statistical "victory" in terms of first downs.

But for the Washington metropolis, these consolations were no balm yesterday. When it was all over, Jamie Williams bought a round for the crowd at the Zebra Room on Wisconsin Avenue and offered the loser's toast: "Next year, we'll go all the way."

Coach Allen tried to take it well: "Miami played better football . . . Our kicking game wasn't up to par . . . We just lost . . . We thought we could move the ball on the ground. We couldn't . . . It's hard to win just going through the air . . . We didn't seem to have the spark we had for Dallas and Green Bay . . . We're looking forward to next year."

That seemed to be the only rationalization that came to people's minds. The governor of Virginia, Linwood Holton, lamented the "heartbreaker," praised the "tremendous" Miami team and would up, "Ed Williams and George Allen and I'm sure the Redskins will all be saying it: Next year."

'Fine Game,' Nixon Says
Intimations of defeat seeped into living rooms and barrooms quite early. The first quarter had barely begun when a lad in Chevy Chase shook his fist at the television screen and accused Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer of stupidity. In a tavern in the Northwest, a woman beseeched the Skins to "fight dirty, fight dirty." At a gathering of VOICE, a citizen group concerned with public affairs, one of Mayor Walter Washington's aides, Ben D. Segal, looked forward glumly to the dinner meeting: "We're going to have to do something to change the atmosphere."

President Nixon, who allegiances were with the Washington team, watched the game in Key Largo, Fla., at the home of his friend, C.G. (Bebe) Rebozo. A man who has often spoken of the character-building virtues of defeat, the President said through a press aide that "the people of Washington and Miami can both be proud of their teams because they played well."

Deputy press secretary Neal Ball said Mr. Nixon thought the Super Bowl "was a fine game," and in Ball's words, "thought it was one of the best Super Bowl games because there was suspense right up to the end."

In Los Angeles, Mr. Nixon's communications director, Herbert G. Klein, told reporters after the game that the President would call coaches Allen and Don Shula today. Last night the President sent telegrams to both coaches.

One gathering place for Redskin fans yesterday was the restaurant at 18th and L, run by Fran O'Brien, once a Redskin player himself. Inside, about 80 people watched the second half on four television sets spread around the room. It was a depressed crowd. The manager, Joe Winter, said 75 to 100 people had left at half-time. "After the second half," he said, "mourning set in." One who remained until the end was Jack Whitcomb, a Washington stockbroker. "This is very depressing," he said. "No one realized how bad this would be."

In contrast to the gloom in Washington, rejoicing Miami fans filled the air with firecrackers, honking horns and chants of "We're Number One."

Out in Key Biscayne where Mr. Nixon is staying, scores of motorists reportedly drove past the presidential compound honking their horns to show, one driver said, "their resentment at Nixon's support of the Redskins."

So there is great sadness and emptiness in one city, a great joy and sense of fullness in another. The simple cliches and code words of journalism are inadequate to account for these mass emotions or for the phenomenon that professional football has become in the life of the United States.

To some extent it is a commercial phenomenon that vindicates the potentialities of capitalism. It is, after all, a huge and hugely profitable business enterprise.

Millions of dollars entered the trade stream because of this Super Bowl. Advertisers invested more than $10 million to reach the 75 million to 80 million Americans who presumably watched on television. Other millions were reaped by tourist and travel establishments. The Game brought in large revenues to newspapers (The Post had a special Super Bowl section, laden with hortatory advertisements, in its Sunday editions). Retailers flooded the market with a remarkable collection of goods, ranging from pins and pennants to burgundy-and-gold automobiles.

It is a market with an insatiable appetite for these symbolic trinkets and indulgences and an insatiable appetite, apparently, for "news" and information about anything connected with the industry: more than 1,500 reporters and broadcasters were accredited to the Super Bowl.

The sociological dimensions of the professional football phenomenon are equally provocative.

Theorists (and editorial writers) are telling us that it has become a unifying force in our community lives, a shared experience that — for a few hours each Sunday — enables us to put aside divisions of race, class, age, and ideology. It has set the psychological theorists to work, too. They see The Game as a genteel form of sadism, a substitute for the lethal games that once took place in the Coliseum of ancient Rome. They suggest, too, that we have become a nation of Walter Mittys, vicariously realizing our fantasies though the deeds of linebackers and split ends. They tell us that, in an age of anti-heroes, the Kilmers and Browns and Csonkas are the only surrogates left for the authentic men of a romanticized history, surrogates through whom we reconcile our frustrations and our aggressions and through whom we realize our need for pride.

There is no end to such speculations. There is only an end to a season and the unthinkable has happened: the Redskins lost and the city finds it hard to accept the ultimate truth that it was only a game.

© Copyright 1973 The Washington Post Company

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