With rain pooling in the pint-deep crease of his 10-gallon hat, Alvin Hall, a 12-year season-ticket holder, surveyed his first RFK Stadium tailgate party in 350 days.
Champagne cocktails. Crab meat salad. Filet mignon. Rum cake.
Despite the spread, Hall, a builder from Vienna, wore the expression of a man who knew something was awry. It wasn't the strike, he said. It was the rain that was dampening his sense of opulence.
"Usually we have tablecloths, candelabras, someone shucking fresh clams and oysters, the whole show," said Hall, emptying his hat.
Connie Reda, one of Hall's 20 guests, had made her peace with both the weather and the strike. As she packed up slabs of filet in tin foil and unfurled the wrapping on her rum cake, ever careful to avoid the downpour, she said, "I'm glad to be here after all these weeks. I missed the tailgates more than the football, to tell you the truth."
Heavy rain notwithstanding, the commerce outside the stadium before the Washington Redskins home opener seemed much the same as it did in seasons past.
Although he said business "was a little slow at first," self-described ticket scalper Cliff King said he was expecting modest sales for the Eagles game and "wildness as usual" for the Dallas game next Sunday.
"Today is Day No. 1 and there might be a lot of no-shows," said King, a 10-year veteran of his profession. "The money's standing right around here, so why not hustle some? It'll come, too. You just have to wait for the real contender teams."
King said he probably lost "about $150 to $200 per game" during the strike. Some of the other merchants in front of the stadium -- program hawkers, hot dog vendors and umbrella salesmen -- also said they were hoping to recoup some of their midseason losses.
"I'd say I lost about $5,000 in profits," said Leon Slade, a 73-year-old hot dog vendor. Less than an hour before game time, Slade was concerned that it might take a sunny day and a big game before business picks up.
"I don't know whether it's the strike or the rain, but it's going slow today. I don't know where the people are yet," he said.
Although it was the Redskins' 116th consecutive sellout, 6,732 ticket holders stayed away and either watched the game on television or continued to develop their new, strike-induced Sunday habits.
By halftime much of the crowd sitting in the exposed sections of the lower deck stands had thinned out.
"We sat in garbage bags but we got so wet after a while we had to leave," Grover Walker of Great Falls said as he left the stadium with a half left to play. "Not only that, I think I short-circuited my portable TV, too. And it only cost $400."
Walker's leather jacket and corduroy pants were drenched. "My wife thought I was insane to go when I left this morning," he said.
Walker's friend, Gary Garczynski, took a deep gulp of Scotch from a leather flask and shook his head. "I have second thoughts," he said as he wiped the water off his shoulder.
"Our wives stayed home," said Ken Thompson, the third member of the sodden group. "We came out here and caught pneumonia and they're at home in front of the fire. I guess we're a little nuts."
Perhaps it was second-grader John Bushman, 7, of McLean who showed the exemplary spirit of the day. He stayed for it all.
"This is my first Redskins game," Bushman said, during the fourth quarter in a section as unsheltered as the Montana plains. "I'm a little wet but I still love this game. I like it when it's muddy."