A decade ago, as the Washington Redskins headed to their first and only Super Bowl appearance, Allen Kauffman, the president of the Crane Rental Co. in Northeast Washington, created a massive, 29-foot-wide Redskin head from concrete reinforcing rods, hoisted it on a crane 140 feet in the sky and lit the night with 300 lights around its outline.
The stern-looking Redskin has been dark ever since. Now the lights are back, along with a special kind of craziness throughout this sometimes blase town that shrugs at the comings and goings of world leaders and presidents. Something really important is at hand.
The archrival Dallas Cowboys, alleged in some parts to be America's Team, are coming to town, with a berth in the Jan. 30 Super Bowl at stake in Saturday's 12:30 p.m. battle.
Even those who might be inclined to root for the Cowboys have been caught up in the Redskins excitement.
"I'm from Texas, but I've got Redskins fever," said Richard Hardison, a 34-year-old Forrestville insurance salesman. "There's a conglomeration of people here like no other. It's like a good mixed drink. You got to love this fever. It's all over the place.
"Dallas has always been my heart. It's 'America's Team,' but the Redskins make you have Redskins fever. If you're here, you've got it. It's contagious."
Victory-starved fans are making the most of the chance to witness local sports history. Some are paying up to $300 for a pair of end zone tickets on the thriving scalpers' market.
Hundreds of others have deluged the Redskins ticket office--and those willing to sell a pair of tickets--with telephone calls in fruitless search of one of the ducats that guarantee a seat at the sold-out game.
The tickets, which officially cost $15 to $27, have become as precious as gold.
"We're still getting a lot of requests," says Redskins ticket manager George Christophel, "but the answer to everyone is no."
A Springfield painter, John Skelly, 26, wanted to see the game so badly that he placed a classified advertisement in The Post agreeing to paint two rooms for free--two days' worth of work--for someone willing to give him two tickets. He got his deal within a day.
Other fans have made a run on local sporting goods stores, virtually buying out the entire stock of anything that says Redskins on it.
Especially popular are T-shirts with the inscription, "Love Them Hogs," referring to the nickname some members of the 'Skins offensive line gave themselves, along with football jerseys with numbers 7 and 44, the numbers worn by Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann and running back John Riggins.
At the Music Box Center on F Street NW, Redskins fan Marion Lewis said that since the first of the year she has sold about 35 specially made, burgundy-and-gold Swiss music boxes that play "Hail to the Redskins."
One fan, she said, bought the $35 item and promptly mailed it to his new granddaughter, a Dallas resident, "to put her on the right track right away."
When a WDVM-TV television crew held up a "Honk if you hate Dallas" sign in the middle of Connecticut Avenue NW on Tuesday night, bedlam broke out.
Country radio station WPKX is playing its special versions of "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," "The Last Cowboy Song," and "Old, Worn-Out Cowboys." Listen closely and you'll hear rabid Redskins fans in the background shouting, "We Want Dallas!"
Some entrepreneurs already have their eye on a possible Redskins appearance in the Super Bowl, to be played this year in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
Twining Tours of Ann Arbor, Mich., set up shop at an Arlington hotel yesterday to offer a five-day, $798 package, including a ticket to the game.
Meanwhile, the United States Travel Agency said it had already taken 300 reservations for two-day and one-day jaunts to the Super Bowl that likely will cost $499 and $449, respectively, but do not include a game ticket.
D.C. police warned yesterday they will arrest ticket scalpers outside RFK Stadium on Saturday, because city law prohibits the resale of event tickets in public places. That is not stopping the legal, private sale of the Redskins-Cowboys tickets, although Redskins ticket manager Christophel said that each year the team bans season ticket holders from reordering for the following year if it finds they are scalping tickets.
For brothers Brian and Mark Davis, however, the game has already proved a financial windfall. They waited outside the stadium all Saturday night and eventually bought four tickets, costing $80 total, about 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
They sold one pair of adjacent end zone tickets for $300 and two single tickets for another $250, after fielding more than 300 offers.
"I waited in line 16 hours in the cold," Brian Davis said. "I did the footwork and someone else can pay the price."