Who cared that they were standing in the middle of Belvedere Street? So what if it was drizzling? Amy Hendrix had a death grip on Pete Wysocki's elbow and, sports fans, she was not to be denied.
"Right over here, Pete," Hendrix said, posing the barrel-chested linebacker, who was nearly twice her size, in front of a burgundy and gold van. Gamely, Wysocki draped his arm around Hendrix, who giggled. J.B. Hendrix took aim with his camera. Two smiles, a click, a flash and the Hendrixes had a souvenir for the wall of their Oxon Hill basement.
The Hendrixes could never hope to come so close to a Real Live Washington Redskin once fall, and the football season, descends. So that is why they and hundreds of other Washingtonians have been day-tripping up to this Pennsylvania farm country for the past three weeks.
The setting is the Redskins' annual preseason training camp at Dickinson College. For the 15th year in a row, dozens of gigantic gentlemen are lumbering onto two football fields twice a day to stretch their muscles and strut their stuff. And for the 15th year in a row, those curious beasts known as Redskin Fans are here to watch their gods.
The difference this year is that George Allen has given way to Jack Pardee as head coach.
Under Allen, Carlisle was a nunnery. Workouts were closed to the public, and a security man on a bicycle kept making the rounds, shooing away anyone who even dared to peek through the fence. Fans never got within several hundred yards of the sweat, the cursing and the Gatorade. They saw a player only when he broke for meals.
Under Pardee, Carlisle is nearly Nirvana. Fans are welcome, free of charge. Pardee's 7-year-old son, John, says hello to most of them, and will even throw a football around with some. Fans are not allowed on the field, but from the bleachers they are as close to a Billy Kilmer pass as they ever will be when he throws them on television in a month.
Unsurprisingly, the word is out, Redskin practices have been drawing 300 to 400 people a day. The surest sign of a boom is the teen-aged boy who is selling Redskin information booklets - at the big-city rate of $2 apiece.
Some of the watchers are old-line Skinsies who tried Carlisling in the Allen years but gave up. Some have never been outside the Beltway. Some are taking a day of annual leave. Some are too young to know what "annual" or "leave" mean.
But many are as hard-core as fans come.
One man let it slip to his grandstand neighbors that he had given up a day at Ocean City to come and "see for myself." Only later did he tell an inquisitive stranger that his anti-football wife thought he was in Washington on business.
Another man saw the stranger's notebook and began to beg. "Please, please forget my face and don't ask me my name," the man implored. It seems he had told the boss he was sick.
George Hampton, a vocational rehabilitation supervisor for the District government, had taken the day off on the up and up. As he stood near the 20-yard line, though, he was thinking of other days long ago.
"Did I play? Only about 18 years worth," said Hampton, who lives in Riverdale, Md. "We had a semipro team named the D.C. Collegians.
"Ah, me. There's just something about it. That old smell and that old hitting. And the atmosphere seems good and loose here.
"I just wish they could use me out there."
Woodrow Johnson, of Northwest Washington, has no such illusions. At least not yet, for he is only 10. But as he sat and watched idols Mike Thomas and Jake Scott, he said he hoped to pick up pointers. "I want to be a su-u-u-per star just like them," he said.
Jack Graves, of Arlington, a supervisor at the Fort Myer boiler plant, has had Redskins' season tickets for 25 years. "I'm the kind of fan where, if they make a first down, it's time to sneak a drink," he said.
Graves was not drinking on this day. He was ruefully recalling his visits to Carlisle in the Allen era. "We knew we couldn't get in," he said. "So we'd just drive up and ride around the field a couple of times.Us Redskin fans, we're dedicated, you've got to give us that."
But none matched the dedication of Bob Kelly. A Carlisle postman, Kelly has Dickinson College on his route. Thus, over the years, he has developed friendships with Redskins past and present, and he is spicing those friendships by taking a week off this summer just to sit in the Dickinson stands and watch.
"The town has a really good feeling about them being here," said Kelly, whose two young daughters were crawling over his knees as he spoke. "You have your negative, yes. But overall there is a stimulation because of them being here. It definitely stimulates interest later in the season."
Interest was hardly absent in Carlisle. When quarterback Joe Theismann emerged from the locker room, he was nearly trampled by young autograph seekers from the John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Methodist Church of Washington. When a matronly lady applied a kiss to the cheek of defensive end Dallas Hickman, he was the only one who looked surprised. Even retired quarterback Sonny Jurgensen was beseiged by backslappers and handpumpers.
If this all seems weird or excessive, or if it seems to be starting months too soon, you just don't know the species Washingtonius Footballius. Half the pleasure is in the displeasure of having to wait.
"I love the off-season, because then you're talking about next season all the time," said J.B. Hendrix. "Redskins, Redskins, Redskins," he said, rolling the words around his mouth like wine. "It's a thrill just to be there."