The saga of Sam Legard, the Redskins' barbecued ribs man, ended happily today, but not before Legard became a momentary national sports celebrity.
Legard, owner of a Loudoun County restaurant, has been cooking barbecued ribs for the Redskins after each victory since midway through this season. He replaced Mel Krupin, who supplied cake and ice cream for the players until team officials banned him from Redskin Park after he hung a Washington Federals banner in his restaurant.
Legard, saying he was asked by players to serve his ribs here before the Super Bowl, wanted to come to California but said he was not encouraged to make the trip by the team.
But after receiving unsolicted donations to finance the journey, he started toward the West Coast Wednesday, with a donated motor van pulling his portable barbecue pit.
But first the hitch broke, then the van motor stopped running. By the time both problems were fixed, he was running behind schedule. When a Loudoun radio station reported his plight, a public relations consultant in Leesburg contacted Continental Airlines to seek help for Legard.
A Continental official, a Redskins fan himself, told Legard that if he drove all night Thursday from Oklahoma City to Houston, the airline would fly him free to Los Angeles this morning.
Coach Joe Gibbs mentioned Legard's trek at a mass press conference this morning. By the time Legard, his barbecue pit and his helpers arrived in Los Angeles, he said, "There must have been 100 media and cameras and all waiting there to greet me. I couldn't believe it."
A few hours later, Legard was cooking ribs outside the team hotel.
"The players said they didn't want to break a tradition, not before this game," Legard said. "I'm just happy to be here."
Miami kicker Uwe von Schamann has the flu and is questionable for the Super Bowl, said his coach, Don Shula. Von Schamann, recovering from a hairline fracture of a small bone suffered two weeks ago, practiced kicking field goals without discomfort but afterward became ill, according to Shula. . . . Earlier this week, a man posing as a National Football League official made off with Super Bowl tickets and an official league car being used by the Redskins . . . Demand for Super Bowl tickets has dropped, so vendors have lowered their prices. Some tickets can be bought for under $100 now, after an early-week asking price of $200-300 . . . Gibbs said the only way he and his staff could prepare properly for this game was to "get ourselves on the second floor of the hotel and sort of lock ourselves in and not take phone calls."