This is a report from Section 307, Row 10, Seat 2 at RRK Stadium. A day with the fans watching the Redskins lose to the Chicago Bears, 14-10, ending once and for all Washington's bid for a spot in the National Football League playoffs.
Talk about pussycats. The Redskin fans are the sweetest people on earth. Mary Tyler Moore ain't in their league when it comes to sweetness. You'd have thought RFK yesterday has filled with the Walton family being serenaded by the Osmonds to raise money to build a garage for the Little House on the Pairie.
Oh, some boo-birds were loose. They remarked on Joe Theismann's every appearance. They found fault with Mike Thomas for running in circles. The coach/brain of the offense, Joe Walton, drew thunderous censure.
On balance, though, the Redskins slinked off to their offseason hideaways with a farewell kinder than they had any right to expect. Imagine, for a moment, what reaction would have been like in, say, Philadelphia, where Santa Claus once was booed at Veterans Stadium.
Given a fifth straight loss by the locals-after they had opened the season with six straight victories - the Philly fans might have broken Pennsylvania into teeny-tiny pieces and sold it for potting soil.
Not the sweet folks at RFK.
At game's end, when the Redskin had achieved their worst season's record (8-8) since the year preceding George Allen's ascension in 1971, the paying customers did not rip up the Washington Monument and pound Coach Jack Pardee
over the bald spot with it. They didn't even boo.
11. "It's no fun booing even anymore."
"I quit booing, " said a man in Row That is what this once-glorious season has come to: indifference. A half-hour before kickoff, the stadium one-third full, Dee Starry, a certified Redskin fanatic from Alexandria (she has a Billy Kilmer authograph framed on her family room wall), said, People just don't give a damn now."
About three months ago, they cared mightily. Dallas came to town on a Monday night. The president came down from Camp David to see the undefeated Redskins.
"I thought the stadium was going to take off that night, like some kind of spaceship, just rise off the earth," Starry said, "You should have heard the crowd before the game." She then did her impression of a spaceship rising: "Hmmmmmm."
That night's 9-5 victory was the last wonderful moment for these Redskins, who, to sidestep the boo-birds, were reduced yesterday to introducing their kickoff return team in pregame ceremonies. No one to boo on that anonymous unit.
Soon enough, Chicago led, 7-0, marching to a touchdown the first time it had the football. Scattered boos came down as a critique of the Redskins' defensive work, but the interesting thing here was that there were empty seat at RFK Stadium.
"Christmas shopping"? someone said.
"Christmas shopping when the Redskin are playing?"
Atendance was 49,774. But 5,257 customers chose to stay away on as beautiful a December afternoon as you'll ever see. The decision was wise. These Redskins have been consistently miserable for two months now. not only that, they developed a disheartening knack of raising hopes only to dash them immediately.
For instance: Dave Butz, the huge defensive tackle, intercepted a pass midway in the second quarter. "I like it ...I LIKE it," said a man in Row 13, his devotion signaled by a burgundy and gold wardrobe.
But then: Joe Theismann, the quarterback, on the first play, maddeningly, almost predictably, threw an interception far down the field, and from Row 13 came the lament, "I'm telling you, Theismann is not the answer."
Then, for the first time, the chant went up: "We want Billy." Billy Kilmer, the old quarterback, paced to and fro behind the Redskin bench. "Billy hears us," said Mary Lou Hoffmann, two seats over, "and he likes it."
Literary critics huff about sportswriters being cynics. They see journalists typing away in ivory press boxes, trading a Chicago barb for a Redskin jibe. Truth is, the kindly folks in Section 307 do it better.
At halftime, the Redskins trailing, 7-3, a man on his way to the hot dog stand said, "They call this entertainment?"
His buddy said, "Somebody on the Redskins ain't playing with a full deck. Run Benny Malone - Benny Mallone, who nobody wanted - on fourth and-one? Mike Thomas on third-and-one goes backwards. Why didn't they give the damned ball to John Riggins?"
Soon enough, it was 14-3, Chicago, and the elitist-cynic was catching on to his neighbor's style.
"The Redskins' only hope," he said, "is that George Halas insists on playing linebacker in the fourth quarter."
Hoffman topped him when shen heard Chris Hanburger's name on the public address system.
"I though he's retired already," she said sweetly of the Redskins' oftcriticized linebacker.
Then, with 10 minutes to play, there was a reward for the faithful customers who had not left early to finish Christmas Shopping.
The most exciting thing of the day happened.
Billy Kilmer unbottoned his warmup jacket.
"BILL-EEEEEEE," said Dee Starry. "Go, go, GO," said a man in Row 9. His sudden fervor was glas news to Starry and Hoffman, veteran Redskinmaniacs. Normally this man wears a tuxedo jacket and Indian headdress, but this day, subdued by continuing defeat, he came dressed as a sane person.
Well Kilmer did enough to get the Redskins a touchdown. Everyone cheered at that (everyone being about 25,000 people who hadn't left). By some miracle, the Redskins might yet win, yet get into the playoffs, salvage some shred of common decency.
It didn't happen. The defense couldn't get the ball away from Chicago. With the clock running down, Billy Kilmer slipped into the dugout and out of sight.
It was over. Dee Starry didn't boo. I'll have to wait until August to see 'em again," she said. "But Billy - he's opening a car dealership pretty soon. I'll go see him there." CAPTION: Picture, Billy Kilmer's entrance brings Redskin faithful to their feet.
By Joel Richardson - The Washington Post