At a time when so many things seem to be going sour in this city -- from ongoing probes of corruption to talk of moving the Redskins from RFK Stadium to a stadium in the suburbs -- it sure was fine to see Doug Williams come out smelling like a rose in his debut as quarterback of the Washington Redskins against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon.
Frankly, I would prefer to see Mayor Marion Barry perform so well under pressure -- or even see his fire chief, Theodore R. Coleman, tackle that continuing 911 problem. But these days, you spot your stars where you find them, and I saw one shoot off the bench Sunday afternoon with mind, body and soul still intact after a nerve-racking five-year wait.
So many people would have given up after such a frustrating ordeal, copped a bad attitude and then when opportunity knocked just blown it. Instead, Williams grabbed the bull by the horns, as they say, and rode that sucker to victory.
The qualities that he exhibited on the football field Sunday were exactly the kind of things that make for success off the field. Note how he dealt with what looked like a devastating setback when Eagles defensive lineman Reggie White stole the ball from him and ran 70 yards for a touchdown.
"No one ever took the ball from me before," he said in an interview after the game. "You've got to push it right down their throats" after such an embarrassment.
What Williams showed his fans, young and old, is how to take an obstacle and turn it into a steppingstone. He used a 39-yard touchdown pass to Art Monk to make the point, but it was his "never say die" attitude based on an intelligent assessment of the game he plays that was the key.
It would have been a nice touch to hear the television announcers talk about how smart Williams really is, as they do for winning white quarterbacks, as opposed to how "strong" that Negro's arm is.
But that's okay, because Washington sports fans already know.
When microphones were pushed into his face and he was asked how he felt, he projected the kind of emotional stability that made sports fans hungry to see him in action some more. Here he comes off of a thrilling 34-24 victory against the Eagles with the kind of humility that makes you know that this dude is truly bad.
Not only does he refuse to brag, but he protects the injured starting quarterback, Jay Schroeder, saying that he sees himself as just a caretaker until Schroeder mends and, although he wants to play, he doesn't believe that a person should lose his position because of an injury.
It is difficult to explain how much this gentleman's demonstration of talent and determination meant to the city's young black people, who are virtually surrounded by examples of black political leadership that leave much to be desired.
During Sunday's game, tension mounted wildly around the city. At the home of Ivan Brandon in Northeast Washington, for example, the telephone rang as soon as Williams walked onto the field.
"Is there going to be a race riot at RFK Stadium?" the caller asked.
"Not if Williams doesn't screw up," Brandon said. "If we win, white folk will buy the drinks."
There is no question that in a city that is about 70 percent black, the good vibes from the Redskins win were amplified because Williams, too, is black -- and even if some white fans don't understand this, Williams does.
"If I play in this league for 20 years, I'm still going to be a black quarterback. I know that," Williams said during an interview in 1980, when he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "Every morning when I wake up and look in the mirror, I know I'm a black quarterback.
"I think most black guys in this league would like to see me succeed," Williams continued. "They know there have been other black quarterbacks in this league who were never given a chance to play. Now I have a chance. I think they're rooting for me."
That was true seven years ago -- and when it comes to rooting for Doug, it's even more so today.