For the second time this decade the Washington Redskins have won the Super Bowl. And for the second time this decade droves of devoted fans have turned out in less than hospitable weather to hail their conquering heroes. And for the second time this decade the area's residents who hail from someplace else are asking what the fuss is all about.
The question of why this town goes berserk over a bunch of guys in shoulders pads and cleats has been oft explored in the pages of this newspaper (too oft, say those who think the entire subject silly). Most of the theories run to the obvious. A popular one has to do with the lack of a professional baseball team, which would siphon off some of that fervent fanhood. A close second I call the Freudian Fan Theory: a city in which most people push paper needs a physical outlet, even if it's of the spectator variety. A variation says that in a political atmosphere in which wins and losses can be difficult to determine, much less measure, it's refreshing to watch something in which the winner isn't determined by a majority vote of the media. In football, to paraphrase the current toast-of-the-town, Doug Williams, when you have more points at the end of the game, you win. Period.
But I don't think any of these theories adequately explains the depth of devotion area residents have for our Skins. I call my theory the "Home-Town Deprivation Syndrome."
The crux of it is this: we Washington area natives don't have a hometown that's really ours. New York has Central Park and the Empire State Building, Philadelphia has Independence Hall and cheese steaks, and San Francisco has the wharf and Chinatown. But nearly everything worth having around here, from the monuments to the Kennedy Center to Rock Creek Park to the Smithsonian, belongs not just to us but to all Americans, as tourists are quick to remind us.
It's as if there were no such thing as a Washingtonian. And it doesn't help to have been raised in the suburbs, as I was. Tell someone who lives more than 100 miles away you're from Bethesda and they'll ask you if you live on the grounds of NIH. Of course, it could be worse. Tell them you're from Washington, and they'll ask you where you're really from.
There is one thing we have, though, and that's the Redskins. Besides traffic jams, it's practically the only thing that natives of D.C., Maryland and Virginia have in common. As any local parent can attest, every area schoolchild knows the words to "Hail to the Redskins" before he or she can do the multiplication tables, and most recognize Sonny Jurgensen at an earlier age than George Washington.
The team also provides one of the few aspects of continuity in a town noted for its transience. Politicians, neighborhoods and even landmarks (remember Rhodes Tavern?) come and go, but for more than half a century, the Redskins have been here. Players, coaches and even owners change, but the burgundy-and-gold lives on in the hearts of each new generation of Washington natives.
The Redskins are also the main thing that separates those of us who live here from those who reside here simply because this is where their job is. And we all know them. They're the ones who, after 10 or 15 or 20 years in the area, still refer to visits to their birthplaces as "going home." They're the ones who create little shrines on their desks to their home-town (read: real) sports teams when one of them wins a championship of one sort or another. And they're the ones last week who took a special pleasure in taunting us Redskins fans by belittling the less-than-stellar season leading up to last Sunday's super-blowout and insisting that the relentless hype makes them gag.
They are the main reason I almost choked when NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, in presenting the Vince Lombardi trophy to Skins owner Jack Kent Cooke, dubbed the Super Bowl winners "our new America's team."
Look, Rozelle, we Washingtonians share everything else we have with the rest ofthe nation. At least leave us our team -- Washington's team. -- Julie Rovner