A note to every Washington Redskins fan friend who has ever harassed me about the Dallas Cowboys: This week, I'm dishing a little of my own.
For years, I've been taking it. When you live in Redskins territory but root for the Cowboys, this is the kind of stuff you hear:
"Yo, Avis, what do you say to a Cowboy in a three-piece suit? Will the defendant please rise!"
"How many Cowboys does it take to screw in a light bulb? No one knows. The Cowboys have never been smart enough to figure it out."
Jokes. Sinister predictions about catastrophic injury. "Troy Aikman is one hard hit, one concussion, away from becoming vegetable soup," said my friend Kevin.
Harassment about alleged moral transgressions by some Cowboys players. I have one friend who sends me copies of newspaper stories from all across the country about the Cowboys, with the committed sin and subsequent embarrassing details highlighted in bright yellow.
Even in my own house, in the shadow of Redskins Stadium, I hear it. My husband, James, a diehard Rams fan until he jumped on the Redskins bandwagon, has taught our 6-year-old son Zachary that song.
"Haaaaaaaaail to the Redskins! Haaaaaail vic-tor-ee!" my otherwise sweet child screeches, running around the house.
Cowboys fans were feeling kind of low for a while Sunday. "I'm calling into work tomorrow if they don't win this game," said one man sitting two rows behind me.
We were frightened. We were afraid that the abuse would be more abundant then normal.
Then Rocket Ismael caught that ball. Now we're the ones waxing sarcastic, heads held high.
Before I left the stadium, I started calling people from my cell phone to gloat. For years, I've tried to be a lady and take the abuse like a man. I've been a Cowboys fan since the days of Roger Staubach and Calvin Hill and Too Tall Jones.
I followed the team while living in Germany, Texas, Virginia, Indiana and California before moving to Washington in 1990. Never had a problem. Sometimes I met folks who didn't cotton to America's Team, but that was okay. In most places, Cowboys detractors respected my right to follow whatever team I darn well chose.
Then I moved to Washington. I had always known about the rivalry between the Cowboys and Redskins, but I had no idea how rabid some Redskins fans are in their hatred of the Cowboys. I had a hint when friends of mine in Los Angeles, native Washingtonians and Redskins fans, warned me that it might be a good idea to keep the Cowboys thing in the closet until I got the lay of the land.
But I outted myself right away, at a cocktail party a few months after I moved here. I was talking to a lawyer who works on the Hill when he mentioned the Redskins-Cowboys game. "I can't wait," I told him. "I'd love to see the Cowboys kick the [devil] out of the 'Skins. I can't stand John Riggins."
See, back then, I could go there. That was before Leon Lett and the drugs, Michael Irvin and the hookers, Michael Irvin and the fur coats, Michael Irvin cursing out reporters, Barry Switzer and the gun, etc.
You'd have thought E.F. Hutton walked into the room. "You mean you're a Cowboys fan?" a stranger inquired, as though he were asking if I had some sort of highly contagious plague.
It hasn't let up since. I have been maligned, harassed, castigated and abused by perfect strangers in grocery stores, restaurants, at my child's school, at the shopping mall, at work. Especially at work.
Once I was even threatened, sort of, by a beer-sodden Redskins fan, sans shirt and deodorant who looked ominously at my blue and silver Cowboys cap during a showdown between the two teams at RFK Stadium.
"If you weren't such a cute little girl, you'd be in trouble in that hat," he said.
It's been tough. I've managed to survive only because Dallas wins frequently enough that we can't be run out of town; the Redskins hired their head coach, Norv Turner, from Dallas five years ago, giving me working material for barbs more cruel than any I ever delivered; and I have associated myself with some of the legions of local Dallas Cowboys supporters, who have buoyed my confidence in the team through bad seasons and bad press.
We search each other out at work, in sports bars, in gridlocked traffic, identifying each other by bumper stickers, baseball caps, T-shirts and jerseys, acknowledging other with a broad smile and "Go Cowboys!"
On Sunday, I lucked out. My husband, a member of the enemy camp, and I were surrounded by Cowboys fans. As I looked over the crowd, I saw so many Cowboys jerseys and hats that I felt heartened. I was not alone. I was among friends, even if they were dispersed among scores more Redskins fans.
When our team prevailed to tie the score and go into overtime, we were on our feet, working mightily to shout encouragement to our team over the deafening roar of tens of thousands of Redskins fans.
It worked. Brad Johnson blew it, but Troy Aikman cane through.
When Rocket caught that ball, we rejoiced. We had been redeemed. We had been given a rejoinder for the nasty comments that come our way frequently in Redskins territory.
We celebrated. Then we headed out.
There was gloating to be done.
CAPTION: Cowboys fan Keith Hogan smiles amid a sea of Redskins fans. Being a Cowboys fan in the Washington area is tough.