The subject I heard discussed most frequently yesterday was, "What's wrong with the Redskins?"
Some of the opinions that were expressed were too vague to be worth repeating and some were too uncharitable. After all, many men on the team do play with all the intensity they can muster, and some of them perform very well.
However, the paying customers are hard to please. A summary of the more restrained comments I heard would run like this:
"Their blocking and tackling has been sloppy since they left training camp. On defense, they're weak only against the pass and the run. On offense, they can't seem to keep the other team out of our backfield without holding. Pardee ought to replace the guys who kill every offensive drive by being caught holding or committing some other illegal act. If the penalties assessed against us so far this year were laid end to end, you'd have to wait until 1987 for Metro to extend its subway far enough to get from one end to the other."
My own evaluation of the factors that have hurt the Redskins would include rotten luck, bad officiating, too many injuries, and the major misfortune of the Riggins affair.
John Riggins was under contract to play at an hourly rate of $18,750, with generous time out for rest periods, coffee breaks and other amenities. However, while still in training camp, Riggins decided that he didn't like his contract. He wanted his rate increased to $31,250 an hour, perhaps because 31,250 is his lucky number, or easier to remember.
The Redskins have a firm policy against renegotiating contracts that are still in force (i.e., yielding to strong-arm tactics from somebody who thinks he has the team over a barrel). And Riggins knew that.
But he left anyhow, and took with him much of the Redskin running game. The team's ability to advance the ball on the ground was diminished. And the Redskin passing game couldn't carry the burden alone.
You probably have learned all of the foregoing from regular perusal of our sports pages. However, there is one other thing that ails the Redskins, and it has nothing to do with the team's troubles on the field.
On Nov. 2, my colleague Juan Williams was a happy man. He had two $20 tickets to the Redskin game -- a rare treat for a young man who has a wife and infant to support -- and as he advanced toward the turnstiles at RFK Stadium, he was looking forward to enjoying the game.
But when he handed over his tickets and tried to enter the stadium, the ticket-taker stopped him. Pointing to 6-month-old Antonio Williams, who was strapped to Mrs. Williams' chest in a Snuggli, the ticket-taker asked, "Where's his ticket?"
Juan could hardly believe his ears. "He's just a baby," he said. "He's 6 months old. He has to be held in somebody's arms."
"Everybody has to have a ticket," the attendant said firmly. "Tickets, please." By this time he was reaching around the Williams family and moving other people through the gate. Juan and his wife were, in effect, pushed aside.
What to do? Should they throw away $40 worth of tickets? Leave the baby tied to a parking meter? Sue Edward Bennett Williams?
"Eventually," Juan told me, "we went to the ticket office, where we were again told that everybody must have a ticket, including 6-month-old babies held by their mothers. However, while this discussion was in progress, it was overheard by somebody who seemed to have some authority. He came over and said he'd do us a favor and give us a pass for the baby."
How terribly decent of you, old chap. Now do all of us a favor. Persuade the Redskin management to take its stupid policy about tickets for infants and stick it in its ear. Who said it first?
A few days ago, I told you of the trouble I had in trying to verify all the statements made in a fact sheet about the importance of "one vote." Today I have a new problem.
A Texas Tourist Council newsletter quotes Plato as saying, "The punishment of wise men who refuse to do their part in their government is to live under the government of unwise men."
It's an excellent line, but I can't find a reference book that lists it under punishment, government, or any other word. Can you tell me whose line it is and where it can be found?