DOUBT AND AMBIGUITY dogged the Washington Redskins all through this strange football season. Like the weather and the NFL labor situation, they were something nobody could quite get a handle on. They won a lot of games, but their opposition wasn't that tough, and they lost to some weak teams. Moreover, they had this leadership problem: they couldn't decide who would be quarterback.
Even by midday yesterday, although the sun shone warmly and hopes of a trip to the Super Bowl in San Diego stood high in this city, the RFK Stadium crowd wasn't shaking the seats with the stadium-levitating din we remember from similar moments in past years: that guttural, game-long roar, sufficient to unsettle even the inhabitants of a place as loud as Minnesota's Decibel Dome.
After a quick start, the Redskins' offense bogged down, and at several points thereafter the home-town fans, who have been ever quicker to boo in recent years, were making that unpleasant lowing sound. It took a lot of hard work to get them happy: two noble goal-line stands, an onslaught of sacking and pillaging by the defensive line and a couple of absolutely indispensable touchdown passes by quarterback Doug Williams.
And when, in the fading afternoon light, the Minnesota Vikings' final pass fell incomplete just inches from the Redskins' goal line, the city of Washington finally let itself go and made a great noise compounded of equal parts joy, relief and appreciation for what is -- as anyone with any sense could plainly have seen from the very start -- one great football team. In two weeks they'll be the toast of San Diego. No doubt about it.