It was Monday night, exactly 24 hours after the Washington Redskins had snatched a victory over the New York Giants from the jaws of defeat. Joe Theismann had quarterbacked a masterly game, and no football fan in all of Capitaland would have begrudged Number Seven a couple of beers and a couple of hours of peace with his family.
But Theismann is that rare professional athlete: a man with a sense of attachment to the city where he plays and a sense of loyalty to a local institution that once helped save his daughter's life.
That institution is Children's Hospital National Medical Center. Theismann's daughter, Amy, now 8, underwent open-heart surgery there five years ago. She survived and thrived. So grateful were her parents that Joe Theismann serves on the hospital's corporate board and has made a number of appearances there to drum up funds and excitement.
On Monday, he made a particularly visible one. Accompanied by sportcasters Glenn Brenner, Frank Herzog and Sonny Jurgensen and Redskin running back Joe Washington, Theismann was the featured guest on a live broadcast of WDVM-TV's popular weekly program, "Redskin Sidelines."
Rob Graettinger went along for the ride, and he filed this report:
"As the show opened, Theismann won the hearts of everyone in the place when he said: 'The Redskins and Children's Hospital stand for the same thing. They both try to bring joy into people's lives.'
"Theismann didn't need to offer anything else, but that's the beauty of it. He did. What he offered was a special note of thanks to the 2,094 staff members of Children's. 'These people are the heart and soul of this place,' he said. No one disagreed.
"The show had that special air of good-natured wit that is the undeniable property of a winning team on its home turf. The talk was of game-winning field goals, splitting seams and breaking tackles.
"But kids are always themselves -- notably a pre-toddler sitting stage left who apparently was hungry and decided to make it known by crying, live and in color. If there had been any doubt before then that we were all at Children's Hospital, the cries put the doubts to rest.
"After the show, I had the pleasure of accompanying Theismann and his wife Cheryl on a tour of the hospital's impressive facilities. Theismann had a smile and a special word for almost everyone.
" 'Aren't you . . . . ?' a woman said, pointing her finger at him.
" 'No,' he responded, wise to the ways of being a Famous Face. 'You must be thinking of the guy behind me.'
"Why such second effort for a hospital on Theismann's part?
"Five years ago, 10 days after her third birthday, Amy Theismann checked into Children's Hospital for open-heart surgery.
"It could have been a shattering time for the parents, but Cheryl Theismann said she had been most impressed by the way the staff at Children's involves parents in the healing process. 'They treated us as well as the kids,' she said.
"During Amy's illness, the Theismanns said they received straightforward, yet sensitive, preparatory sessions, during which they talked to the parents of other children who had had open-heart surgery. They received similar treatment when Joey, now 10, had his tonsils removed, also at Children's.
" 'The doctors tell you everything,' Cheryl said, 'whether you want to know it or not. And sometimes I didn't want to know.'
"This counseling, coupled with the honesty and character of the staff, so impressed the Theismanns that they have signed up as volunteers. As time permits, they will talk to parents who would find it comforting to hear a few reassuring words from a mother and father with waiting-room experience.
"While on his appointed rounds Monday, Theismann soon discovered that some of his most dedicated fans regularly stake out the pool hall in the orange corridor of the hospital.
" 'Joe said he would show me a few shots sometime,' one of the junior hustlers said, as he banked a tough shot. 'This is great.'
"But why, on the one day of the week during football season when he is not tied down by practice, is Joe Theismann strolling the corridors of Children's Hospital?
" 'This is more important than football,' he said. 'It is one of the nice things about being a celebrity . . . It puts a smile on the kids' faces.'
"On our way out, one woman confided to Cheryl Theismann that she had brought her daughter to Children's because she had seen Joe speak so highly of it in a television commercial.
" 'If Joe Theismann comes here,' the woman told Cheryl, 'it must be good.' "
That's exactly what it is, ma'am. But it won't stay good without the generous help of the community. Please give what you can, and do so today. As any quarterback knows, no football team, and no hospital, can do it alone.
To contribute to the campaign:
Make checks or money orders payable to Children's Hospital and mail them to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071.