Somewhere, maybe, hearts beat today in regular fasion. Not here. Not in Texas Stadium. Not even in the final seconds when the Redskins hoped to make a miracle in response to the wonders worked by the Cowboys.
"I haven't ever been in a game like this," said Roger Staubach, the famous, level-headed, never-get-silly quarterback. "They probably the most excited I've been."
The Dallas Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins today, 35-34, and won the NFC Eastern Division championship. In the doing, they eliminated the Redskins from the National Football League playoffs. They did it on Staubach's eight-yard pass to Tony Hill with 39 seconds to play. Less than two minutes before that, Staubach's passing recorded another touchdown to narrow a 13-point spread to six.
So in these last 39 seconds, the Redskins scrabled desperately to get within field goal range for their star kicker, Mark Mosseley, who can score from 60 yards. But it all ended -- all of it . . . a game they twice seemed to have won. . . a season better than they dared hope for . . . a dream that moved them to a classic performance today -- it all ended with Moseley slamming his helmet to the ground.
"I'm getting a heart attack," said Washington Mayor Marion Barry, who was no closer than his television set about 1,500 miles from a stadium filled with 65,058 candidates for cardiac arrest. And the mayor clutched at his chest long before that final second when the Redskins, in desperation, tried to call a timeout to give Moseley a chance at a 59-yard field goal.
For three hours, the Redskins and Cowboys did battle to remember.
"If this wasn't the best professional football game in the last 10 years, I don't know what was," said Fred O'Connor, a Redskin assistant coach. Twice the Redkins seemed certain winners, so certain they taunted the Cowboys. But twice the Cowboys came back, and at the end it was Harvey Martin, the angry defensive end, who said, "We got the last laugh."
He said that after tossing a funeral wreath into the Redskins' locker room. The wreath, Martin said, had been mailed to him by someone in Washington with an attached note of sympathy. "The Redskins need it more than I do," he said bitterly.
Martin's pettiness was the exception on the Dallas side, where most of the Cowboys believed they had been tested fully by a team of quality. "It's a shame someone had to lose," Staubach said.
Craig Duncan of Alexandria, Va., and Joe Herrman of Silver Spring, Md., are grown men who have real jobs and real children. Posts, if not pillars, of society. They pay their taxes and don't kick small dogs.And here they were in Texas Stadium. Really neat in their Indian headdresses. Nice beads, nice deerskin fringe. The red war paint was smudged, as if applied hurriedly for a date with angry cowboys.
Come on, guys. Account for yourselves.
"We're level-headed most of the time," said Duncan, a parts manager for an auto dealer. "But for some reason we got a shot in the butt and said let's rent these Indian outfits for $30 each and go to Dallas with the Redskins."
"My wife was getting worried," said Herrman, a dry cleaner. "She thought if we wore this stuff in Dallas, we might get killed."
Whatever might be said of the estimated 2,000 Redskin fans brave enough to sit with 63,000 Cowboy worshipers today, it is not their heads are as level as Staubach's. These people's heads are on upside down, the way your head gets when you're crazy in love.
Lt. Gerald Kirby, who has been on the D.C. Fire Department for 18 years, said the excitement about the game reminded him of an "important" game the Redskins played about eight years ago. He said he couldn't remember the opponent.
He said his engine company had been called to the scene of a fire in Northeast Washington. When they got there, the occupants were glued to the television set in one room. The fire was in another part of the house."By the time we knocked the fire down the whole room (with the television) was full of firemen," he remembered.
In the waiting room for emergency services at George Washington Hospital about two dozen patients, doctors and other hospital employes were watching the game.
"I wouldn't miss it," said Dr. Brad Simpson. He said he had worked as "a glorified water boy" for the Redskins for four years during the George Allen days.
This is to introduce Pat Harding, who cheers for the Redskins with the gentility of a locomotive at 80 mph. She is 31, a mother who lives in Laurel, Md., and works in the classified department at the Washington Star. As we meet her in Texas, it is an hour before kickoff.
Already, Washington people are ready. Down on the field, O'Connor has said, "I'm wired. I could play today. I already told my wife, 'In 16 years in this business, I've never come home on my hands and knees. But if we win today, don't wait up for me."'
And up in Section 116 of Texas Stadium, so high the warming-up players seem toy figures, Pat Harding hears cheers as the Cowboys come onto the field.
She goes into her locomotive-passing-through-town impression.
"Boooooo" this cute little mommy says, a cute little sneer adorning her lips.
Harding and her husband John, a painting contractor, don't go to restaurants. They don't take vacations. Movies are taboo. They have their money for the Redskins. They have been to every Redskin game, home and away, for the last six years. Her bedroom, Pat Harding says, is "a Redskin musuem," with Redskin photos, Redskin lamps, Redskin mirrors and a towel she stole off Sonny Jurgensen's neck once.
Also in Redskin heaven, way up there in Section 115, a Texan whose heart truly belongs to Washington looked down on the field and pointed to a single Redskin, alone warming up.
"That's my boy," said Jack Moseley, the father of Redskin kicker Mark Moseley. Along with about 30 other friends and members of the family from Livingston, Tex., Moseley drove the 225 miles to Texas Stadium for the big game.
"I've worn out several cars following Mark around," Moseley said. "Used to be, we'd be at a high school game for another son, Danny Lee, and then drive 400 or 500 miles that night to see Mark's college game someplace. We'd just sleep in the car. It was worth it, yes, sir."
Moseley had a prediction on the game.
I'm hoping we get 'em by six points," the proud papa said. "Yes, sir, two field goals would be fine." Moseley's wife, Rossie, wore a sweat shirt with the message: "Yes We Can." That was on the front. On the back: "You Gotta Believe."
Tears came to Joe Theismann's eyes in the postgame locker room. Jack Pardee wept. Never, ever had the Redskins beaten Dallas twice in the regular season. Some players cursed Harvey Martin and his bitter wreath, some railed at the officials for not stopping the clock with that single second left.
But all the Redskins believed what wide receiver Ricky Thompson said as he stood, head down waiting for an elevator to take him out of Texas Stadium.
"We kicked their fannies all day, he said, in not exactly those words.
The Redskins were greeted by an estimated 200 fans last night at Redskin Park following their flight from Dallas.
The spirited crowd, some of whom waited 2 1/2 hours in the chilling cold for their heros, swarmed over Pardee and the two busloads of players and staff.
"The fans support has been fantastic," said Pardee, "We rally appreciate everything they've given us."
"I think it's great," added offensive tackle George Starke.
Before the team's arrival, the crowd kept spirits high singing Christmas carols and cheers. "Let's hear it for the officials and timekeeper," shouted one fan who drew a lusty round of boos.
"If they had won I would have stayed home and played pinochle," said Carrie Zack, "they wouldn't have needed us. But I'm out here 'cause that's when they need us."
"We got hooked by one second," said Peter Herndon, who held a banner with words "one second" written on it. "We got a field goal coming."
The crowd waved posters, pennants, and towels emblazened "Wild Bunch." One sign read "America's Team lives and plays in Washington," but the real "Wild Bunch" were the enthusiasts who showed up tonight.