With five games remaining in a disappointing football season, the public's response to a plethora of Washington Redskin-related merchandise has, like the team's performance, been less than overwhelming.
It was a moment of high hopes and anticipation for the community of entrepreneurs when the Redskins opened their 1980 season against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 8.
Clothing stores, anticipating an epidemic of Redskin fever that naturally would accompany a successful season, stocked their shelves with a variety of Redskin paraphernalia ranging from official team pajamas to hats, raincoats, windbreakers and sweatshirts.
The C & P Telephone Co. introduced a new model telephone: the Exeter, a square, touch-tone, pushbutton set complete with a cover resembling a football helment decorated with Redskin decals. The price: $55.
Restaurants by the dozens placed advertisements in the opening day program offering pregame brunches to be followed by a ride out to RFK Stadium on specially chartered buses. For the ticketless, there was always the option of watching the game on wide-screen television sets in the comfort of a cozy bar.
And a travel agency, kicker Mark Moseley's Travel World, offered special package deals to away games.
The dreams of September have all but turned to dust in the middle of November.
"The response to our ads has been really low, insignificant," said Gary Crawford, manager of Travel World.
"Right now there is a lot of stock on the shelves, and it is not moving too well," said a clerk at the Montgomery Ward store in Gaithersburg. "They are selling, but not as well as they were before. And we're selling a lot of Dallas Cowboy things and things from some of the other teams."
At Jenkins Hill, a Capitol Hill restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue, the number of takers for the traditional brunch and ride to the stadium is down significantly, according to bartender Gregg Morrin.
"We always send a bus out to the game, but our bus figures are down this year," said Morrin, who was behind the bar on a recent Sunday for the televised account of a Redskin game. "There are even tickets floating around the bar for most of the games this year," Morrin observed.
Those who watched the contest at Jenkins Hill had lost interest by half-time when the Bears were leading, 35-0. "Everybody was pretty well loaded by the third quarter, and they didn't even notice when we scored," Morrin said.
Just down the street at Duddington's, patrons exercised another option and tuned in another game.
"There certainly is less interest in the Redskins this year," said Paul Meagher, the manager. "There is very little talk about the Redskins."
According to CBS ratings of television audiences for NFL football games are not broken down locally. At WDVM-TV-9, which televises Redskin contests, a spokesman said ratings indicate interest in the team's games remains at between 38 and 42 percent of the television audience.
But he observed that Redskin telecasts have faced less NFL competition this year from WRC-TV-4. On those days when Redskin telecasts have had competition, ratings have dipped slightly, he said.
Bob Bowen, general sales manager of WMAL radio, which broadcasts the Redskin games, said he suspects the poor record may have served to increase the radio audience.
"Even though they are not glued to the television set, they still want to know what's happening," Bowen said. "You don't have lots of people inviting other people over to their house to watch the game, but they still want to keep in touch."
With pregame shows, postgame locker room reports, listener call-in shows and weekly guest appearances by Redskin Coach Jack Pardee, quarterback Joe Theismann, strong safety Ken Houston and General Manager Bobby Beathard, WMAL probably gives more air time to the Redskins than any other local outlet. "I'm getting no bad vibes from our sponsors," Bowen said.
At the telephone company, the verdict is still out on special telephones, but it clearly is less than the barn burner company officials had hoped for.
September sales were 700, but that total includes Baltimore Colt and Baltimore Oriole telephones, too.
"The figures are not definite enough to say whether or not the Redskin telephone was successful," a company spokesman said.