George Allen's two-year contract dispute with Redskin owner Edward Bennett Williams resembles a mindless rerun of a soap opera. Such a worn story that the man on the street could mouth the cliches long before either party uttered them.
People in Washington were weary of the plot, but few expected anything but a happy ending. Which is why the Perry Mason twist in the last reel came as a shock.
Williams did what few NFL owners would dare do: he fired his winning coach.
The only club owners in NFL history who have fired winning coaches are those owners who have fired Allen. The late Dan Reeves fired him twice from the Rams. George Halas of the Bears wished he'd thought of it when Allen jumped contract. Halas settled for a lawsuit. He won before releasing Allen.
Yes, Allen is man people love to hate. He has gone through life with the hangdog, worried look of a man who injoys misery. His life is devoted to the serious pursuit of winning football games. He is like a religious fanatic trying to buy his way into heaven with a won-lost record.
Much as Allen loves personal publicity he abhors the press. His office henchmen work hard leaking tidbits about Allen's charitable work - his letter to a sick child, his scholarship for the needy. But ask him a straight question about who is starting quarback and he accuses the press of aiding the enemy.
Allen needs enemies to exist. He bludgeons people with his cardboard personality to create martyrdom for himself in the eyes of his players. He purposefully creates a them-against-us world. It is no wonder that impressionable players fight to the death for him.
He tells himself he's a master motivator as he pins gimmicky HIT-WIN buttons on his Redskins the week before they play Dallas. But it is he, George Allen , who feeds his ego on that tearfully cultivated hatred of the Cowboys. He counts in negative numbers. He is a man who has his priorities filed in pigeonholes marked work, work and more work.
There is no time for social chitchat in his day devoted to Xs and Os. Stumbling non sequiturs substitute for real talk.
Once, in the middle of an interview, he startled me by suddenly complimenting my purse. It was a well-worn pocketbook that matched nothing in my entire wardrobe, and I guess I looked taken aback when he noticed it.
"I like anything that's real leather," he told me seriously, his eyes beseeching me to find hidden weight in his words.
Quality, I told myself, groping. He's trying to tell me he has an eye for quality.
Sure enough, Allen has taken old, worn-out football players and made a name for himself with their retreads. His fortune was made in the scrap business. He paid big money to players who knew their skills were slipping away: they repaid him with gratitude. The Over The Hill Gang didn't win any Super Bowls, but it left a Boot Hill of bodies and a string of victories behind.
Allen is a man with one passion - winning. In Washington they called him a Miracle Worker. They called his tenure The Glory Years.
He thought he had Williams where he wanted him. He thought to Redskins couldn't do without him. He thought winning was everything.
Nobody is invincible, not even a winner. Ultimately, it was not how many games he won that counted. All that mattered was how few friends he had made and how little grace he showed when he was in power.