IT IS UNCLEAR from ticket sales, head counts or weekend rainfall measurements exactly which group of Washington Federals fans--the fair- weathers or the fouls--was greater in this first frustrating season, but as the last game approaches, a tip of the helmet is in order for the biggest losers this side of the Super Bowl. No football team of professional standing has matched this one for converting close shaves into fatal hemorrhages for as many weeks. And through it all, incredibly, the players never hollered "Uncle."
For those who insisted on following this black-cloud act week after waterlogged week, the script got all too familiar: like Lucy holding that football for Charlie Brown's kick, you knew what would happen in the last scene. But the Federals did make the record books, we are told, becoming the first team in the history of big-league professional football to lose five games by an aggregate total of 10 points. Eight of their games have been lost by seven points or less.
Most times, the Federals were too busy trying to read the names on each other's jerseys to pass, catch, block or tackle, to say nothing about scoring. Yet last Sunday at RFK Stadium, there were 9,792 die-hards on hand--sounding like three times their number as they cheered anytime a Federal came within six yards of the ball.
But this time, the plot didn't thicken in the usual way. Late in the final quarter, the Federals were leading the Los Angeles Express 28-21, and Los Angeles was threatening on the Washington 38-yard line, at fourth down. The quarterback of the enemy dropped back for the pass that could steal yet another game from the home team. But suddenly, a 40-year-old former Redskin rumbled out to chase the quarterback and bring him to the ground.
Victory to Washington--only its third in 17 contests. Better still, this football game for the most part had looked like a real one. Little wonder, then, that Federals owner Berl Bernhard, coach Ray Jauch and their entire intrepid crew acted as if they had won a world championship. Tomorrow, the Federals play their final game of the season, maybe under sunny skies, maybe under duress again. And even if these fellows boast no Hogs, maybe they've stopped being goats. Here's to 'em.