This town is in imminent danger of going into megahype overkill. The first symptoms appeared before the National Football Conference championship when things got printed in newspapers and said on airwaves that were, to put it gently, a little much. And the early warning signs are all over this week that things are going to get pretty silly before they return to normal. Between some of the media and some of the fans there is every reason to believe that Redskins fever is about to turn into Redskins folly. And that would be a shame.
What follows should in no way be taken as criticism of the Redskins or of football. My credentials are in order: I took my sore throat to the first playoff game and spent the rest of the week in bed. It is merely a plea for sanity, for keeping in mind that what we are witnessing is a football team going to the Super Bowl. It's exciting, but it's not a license to revert to being a kid.
We are coming perilously close. To wit: A famous Texas playwright, leaving no page of the Redskins press guide book unturned, took to the pages of this newspaper last week to declare to the waiting world that he is a Redskins fan and not a Cowboy fan.
Radio announcers none too subtly suggested that fans help the ball club by being quiet when Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann called his plays and by being loud when Cowboy quarterback Danny White called his. Presumably the suggestion was made in fun. But what would it have proved about the quality of the Redskins if they had beaten the Cowboys because the Dallas team was hearing-impaired? And where is the moral distinction between broadcasters suggesting dirty tricks in the stadium and a fan taking a punch at a wounded Cowboy quarterback at the end of a game?
Then there is the matter of "we." You may not have noticed it, but practically everyone in town and almost everyone talking on the airwaves has suddenly become part of the Redskins: "We are Number 1," and "We did it," and "We're going to the Super Bowl." Now, if I were a Redskins player, I might be asking the latest members of the team precisely where they were when I was working out on the Nautilus machine at Redskins camp for the last two months, or where they were while I was enjoying the sights of beautiful downtown Carlisle, Pa., last summer.
"We" in fact, have done nothing other than root for an enormously appealing group of athletes. "We" have done none of the work and taken none of the physical abuse.
This detail hasn't gotten in the way of some of the sportscasters and broadcasters who have hung up their reporters' hats for the week and turned into Redskins cheerleaders--literally, in the case of one reporter who was filmed leading his section of the stadium in a cheer at last Saturday's game.
Channel 9 looks like it is going to leave no angle untouched, no stone unturned in its coverage of this momentous event. Monday's late newscast led with the state of the Redskins: the news was that the team had met earlier in the evening at its headquarters in Herndon and then, greeted by fans who at one point applauded their luggage, the players took a bus to Dulles for the flight to California. Granted, all of Washington wanted to know that they were on the way, since they are expected there for Sunday's game. But this news about the Redskins took precedence in the broadcast over the news that the Arab oil cartel had broken up in Geneva, posing a major threat to world financial markets and causing a 23-point decline in the stock market, the sharpest plunge in three months.
Minutes later, there was more Redskins chitchat, this time from Costa Mesa, Calif., where two sportscasters were sitting next to a waterfall, informing us that a third one was at the airport waiting for the Redskins, who would be landing in an hour and a half. This, mind you, was not the return of the Iranian hostages that was being covered: It was the travel schedule of a football team going to the Super Bowl, and it was a sure-fire symptom of potential Supersaturation.
A wonderful thing is happening to some wonderful athletes who happen to live and work in this town. That's all. That's enough.
Let's enjoy it, and not wear it out.