"BRASH EAGLES Are Ready to Do Some Bruising," said one headline in an out-of-town paper last Saturday morning. That didn't seem to be an unreasonable forecast for the day's coming football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins. The last time the teams met, on Nov. 12, the Eagles won easily while inflicting injuries that knocked the Redskins' two healthy quarterbacks and a half-dozen other players out of the game. Then they stood around making wisecracks about the toll. Last week they went to Tampa, Fla., to practice for their playoff game against Washington. "We wanted to come down here and get a look at where the Super Bowl is gonna be played," said one of the Eagles. "We're coming back, you know." They made it clear they were looking beyond the Redskins to next weekend's game.
The Redskins, meanwhile, practiced at home and quietly ignored the bluster. It was all corny enough to be a remake of "High Noon," and as it turned out on Saturday, that's pretty much what it was, only the suspense was less because the posse didn't stay home this time. Everybody pitched in, and Washington's team walked off the field in Philadelphia with a surprisingly one-sided 20-6 victory. Three days later, Buddy Ryan, whose demeanor as coach has set the tone for the bumptious Eagles, was fired by the team's owner.
It's not reason to gloat when a person loses his job, and in any event the Redskins this week have stuck to an agreement they'd made among themselves not to talk about the Eagles or their coach, which was probably a good idea, since any team that is about to face the San Francisco 49ers has more important things to do than talk about a past victory. The Eagles aren't the ogres of professional football, nor are the Redskins its shining knights. But in his decade of coaching here, Joe Gibbs has, like Buddy Ryan, set a certain tone for his team, and it was nicely summarized in a remark he made Saturday after the game: "We want to win the right way and lose the right way," he said. "You always want to try to do things with character and class."
It's not a bad thing when the team that brings the people of this area together more than any other is one that's capable of teaching some lessons in sportsmanship.