It's as if the football strike never happened.
Late in the third quarter Sunday, Tommy Kramer threw a 15-yard scoring pass to Ahmad Rashad to put the Minnesota Vikings ahead to stay in a 20-13 victory over the Redskins.
It's all been on the radio, every Sunday since the players and owners decided to test the nerves and patience of every football addict in the country. And Nat Allbright, the leather-throated broadcaster who used to "recreate" Brooklyn Dodgers games for listeners in 22 states, makes the whole thing up, every last shotgun, cross buck and buck beer.
Allbright is fast becoming a footnote of footnotes in sports labor history. Last year, when he was fed up with the baseball strike, he sat down in WEAM's studios in Falls Church, penned in a lineup card and "re-created" the All-Star Game. (The National League won, 5-3, further proof that realism is not a dead movement in some arts.)
"But I didn't think it would happen with football," says Allbright. "We didn't figure (the strike) would last so long. The first couple of weeks we did it for fun, and then we realized people have been hearing Redskin games on the radio for years. How were they going to do without it? . . . Now we're the only pro football happening."
When Allbright used to broadcast recreations for the Dodger Network in the 1950s, runners brought him pitch-by-pitch results from the wires. He would then, with the help of a few tapes of crowd noise and the national anthem, send every play out to listeners along the eastern seaboard just a half-inning after it happened.
Allbright said with a laugh: "Walter O'Malley once said I was so good at it, they should just let me make the whole damn thing up and forget about playing the game."
Which is what it's finally come to.
Allbright, a longtime Redskins fan who lives in Arlington and runs a small advertising agency, needs his imagination and little else for his Sunday games. He puts an 8 1/2-by-11 glossy of RFK Stadium in one corner of his desk and a position chart in the other. With his hands, he controls the crowd-noise tapes and the volume dial. That's all. No script.
A linguist once told Allbright that he has "a southern accent mixed with a Texas brogue," but the effect of his voice is not so easily defined. He has a gravelly tone and an unselfconscious rhetoric that embraces cliches lovingly, plus great attention to the minutiae of the game.
Allbright, who facetiously says he is 55 "because the Dodgers won it all in '55," has been practicing his craft since boyhood.
"I've been working at it since I was 6 years old," he says during a pregame breakfast of soda and four glazed donuts. "I would take two lineups out of the Roanoke Times and would do nine innings, every day. I never needed to see the game . . . With the Dodgers, I did 1,500 games and never saw one of them."
Although he says he has enjoyed doing the Redskins games this season, Allbright is angry about the strike, especially with the players' demand for a greater share of revenues.
"The strike is ridiculous," he says. "In these economic times, how do you explain it? These guys are already making big bucks . . . If anyone had ever told me that in the middle of a beautiful football season like this I'd be making these games up, I'd have told them they were crazy."
Allbright's irritation with the strike, however, does little to lessen his powers of imagination.
"A guy at a service station told me, 'I know the game isn't real, but when I heard that Joe Theisman hit Art Monk in the end zone I yelled, 'He scored! He scored!' "
Although the only real contest being played out this year is at a negotiating table, Allbright offers a prediction for the Redskins' 1982 season.
"The Redskins," he said, "are on a fast track to the Super Bowl."
He is a little optimistic for more than one reason, but then Nat Allbright knows exactly how it could end in January.
The Redskins, with seven victories and three losses, face the Giants next week at the Meadowlands.