I tolerated Bobby Mitchell because he went to Illinois, but George Allen, Diron Talbert, Pat Fischer, Sonny Jurgensen, Roy Jefferson, Kenny Houston, Billy Kilmer, Larry Brown, Mike Bass, Len Hauss, Chris Hanburger they and just about everybody else in a Redskins uniform were my longtime enemies. More than anything else, I think, I was infuriated by Redskins fans, who acted as if the moment a transplant came within 50 miles of the Potomac, he or she should discard a lifetime of allegiance to the Bears or Cowboys or Eagles.
I'd ask them, "If tomorrow morning you were relocated to Detroit, would you drop the Redskins like a rock and become a Lions fan?" Usually the response would be a blank stare, as if it had never crossed their minds that fan loyalty isn't so easily transferable.
This is, of course, part of the larger transplant problem: When exactly do you become a Washingtonian? When do Washingtonians stop becoming "them" and "you all" and become "us." Not having accepted that status 17 years into my tenure here, I suspect that it has something to do with the deepest way we plant roots: having children. At that point, I imagine, you get so entrenched you simply have to commit to being from and of one place.
But my problem, as a sportswriter, was unique to Redskins-hating. The systems analyst who comes to work for the federal government doesn't necessarily have to deal with, well, Redskins. I remember the first time I actually liked a Redskin. I was a summer intern at The Washington Post when I met Jean Fugett. He was young, Amherst-educated, a tight end, and had been aPost reporter. He was too smart and too engaging and too irresistible not to like.
Then I met Bobby Mitchell, the Hall of Famer who was the first black Redskin and who has been with the team for about 35 years. There has always been something regal about Mitchell, a greatness and dignity that, while most easily noticed in an athletic arena, probably have little to do with sports. I was too young at 21 to figure it out, but Mo Siegel wasn't. Siegel was the sports columnist for The Washington Star and one of the great storytellers. Most of Mo's stories began with him having lunch or dinner with somebody, and this one did, too.
The night before Bobby Mitchell's first game as a Redskin in 1962, he and Mitchell were having dinner in downtown Washington. Mitchell's arrival in town was a huge deal, the biggest imaginable for black Washington.