The world is full of things that Woody Hayes never had much good to say about, including the team in the other color jersey. "I am considered somewhat of an authority," he said. "If I build up another team, they're liable to believe me." This puts Woody at odds with football's glad-handers who praise the enemy as stalwarts capable of anything, even opening a potato-chip bag.
Maybe all the nice things coming out of the Dallas locker room after Sunday's game ought to be taken lightly, because, after all, the Cowboys handled the Redskins decisively. So why say nasty things when all that could do is rile up the Redskins for another game sometime? The politic thing, then, is for the Cowboys to praise the Redskins as stalwarts capable of anything, even beating a 13-year-old at Pac-Man.
And that's what it sounded like an hour after the game when veteran Cowboys said, in effect, the Redskins are a young, demonstrative, solid team with an offense that can leave you for dead and a defense good enough to bring back memories of Redskin-Cowboy games that once were the NFL's standard of excellence.
But wait. These old Cowboys mean it. At least, that's how it came across to an ink-stained wretch who has heard this bullfeathers a thousand times in a thousand other locker rooms. He listened to the Cowboys build up the Redskins, and, with his hand on a stack of Willie and Waylon's records, he swears that the authorities -- Danny White, Harvey Martin, Drew Pearson and Ed Jones -- were believable.
"The Redskins are for real," said White.
Martin: "After being around 10 years, I have to say this is one of the better Redskin teams. Joe Theismann is a gutsy ballplayer and a better quarterback than ever. Joe Washington is a legitimate inside threat and John Riggins is a legit outside threat and Art Monk can catch anything. Hey, they've got a lot of good ballplayers. They are good."
Pearson: "No question they're a lot better this year than last year."
Jones: "They're better than they've been in a long time, because they're balanced offensively and defensively now. Used to be they were a dominating defensive team that depended on forcing turnovers."
These were winners in a 24-10 game that ended the loser's four-game undefeated streak on the loser's home field in front of 54,663 screaming meemies. The winners did yeoman's work under the most difficult circumstances in pro sports. At every turn, those fellows in blue shirts did what was necessary -- and then did more, which is for now the difference between Cowboys and Redskins.
More often than not, Dallas seems a lucky team. A fumble here, a fumble there, and the Cowboys recover. "Luck is the residue of design," Branch Rickey said. Good things happen to talented teams with good coaching. Against other teams with less talent or design done poorly, the Redskins might have recovered those two important fumbles Sunday.
Such little plays are done by skilled people (quicker, more alert linemen fall on fumbles a lot). So are the big plays, such as Everson Walls' first-quarter interception of a Joe Theismann pass that seemed a certain touchdown for Art Monk. Monk had a step on Walls. But with the ball nearing its target, suddenly Walls grew faster.
He stepped in front of Monk, which, at speed, is a tricky move that often becomes interference as the defender become tangled in the receiver's legs. Walls did it with balletic grace.
Instead of a touchdown for Washington, the ball belonged to the lucky guys in blue shirts.
A handful of plays was the difference, not the least being Danny White's run from punt formation deep in his own territory halfway through the last quarter with the score 17-10. For White's boldness, there had to be a mirror image of Redskin failure. On punts, one defender has no responsibility other than seeing that the punter doesn't run.
The Redskins did good things all day, too. They just didn't do as many as the other guys, which is the point White made later.
"The score today wasn't indicative of how good the Redskins are," he said. "They're much more emotional than any Redskin team I've seen. In George Allen's day, there was intensity but not a lot of yelling and screaming and jumping up and down. The Redskins today were really good."
Trying to measure how good the Redskins were, White started a sentence this way, "We played a perfect . . ."
"We played as good a game as we've played this season," he said, "and we've been playing pretty well."
So what does that say about the Redskins?
"They'll be at the top all season. We'll have to reckon with them later."
By that, White means he expects to see the Redskins again in the NFL's eight-team National Conference playoffs beginning Jan. 9. That would come as no surprise, either, to Pearson, who was an NFL rookie when the Redskins had fellows named Jurgensen and Kilmer, Bass and Fischer, Taylor and McDole.
"I miss those guys, especially Pat Fischer," Pearson said with a smile of nostalgia for battles fought at high speed. "But these Redskins are so much better than they were last year. We caught them early then when they were learning a new system. They were moving cautiously then. You could see at the end of last year, and see for sure now, that they now believe in themselves. They're going to be tough.
"When it was 17-10 today," Pearson said, "it was like old times out there."