In the giddy excitement attending the Redskins' adventure as Super Bowl gladiators--oh, the glory of it--there must not be lost to memory the deeds of other Redskin teams in other years, Redskin teams that won it all twice.
They didn't call it the Super Bowl then, because the Super Bowl didn't exist. It hadn't been created as yet by cutesy Pete Rozelle as a super gimmick. In 1937 and 1942 when the Redskins won those National Football League titles, the NFL was content merely to call it the football championship of the world, hardly a demeaning reference.
So let it be remembered that there was Redskin might and Redskin fever before now, even before George Allen took the Redskins into the Super Bowl at the end of the 1972 season (and lost, 14-7), and before the now-prevailing bliss of owner Jack Kent Cooke.
Time now, perhaps, for Jack Kent Cooke to meet the original chairman of the board, George Preston Marshall.
More than any of his football players or all of them, the late George Marshall was the franchise; he, himself, personally. He created it, directed it, coached it by remote control, commissioned an appropriate song for it, invented pro football's first marching band and brought theater to halftime, signed Sammy Baugh, popularized the season ticket and the racoon coat.
And gave Washington a winner--the league championship--in the first year of the team's residence here.
He was not always beloved by Redskin fans or by the players limited to chintzy salaries, or the 11 coaches he fired before ill health forced him to give up active direction of the team in 1963, or by those who saw Marshall as an inflexible racist. But his teams were loved.
It was not until the Redskin's 25th year in Washington that Marshall signed a black player (Bobby Mitchell) and then he was threatened with losing his lease on federally financed RFK Stadium, then called D.C. Stadium. During those years one Washington columnist had been describing the Redskins' colors as "burgundy, gold and Caucasian."
The Redskins were Marshall's team and nobody else's, after he bought out his three partners of the group that in 1932 had promised to pay $1,500 for the Boston NFL franchise. They also promised to pay $1,500 more to guarantee the team would complete the first season, but in later years Marshall bragged he never contributed to either sum.
In Boston, the Redskins were unloved and unpatronized, and when attendance fell below 5,000 in their final home game of 1936, an angry Marshall decreed the move.
It was an inspired act. There were 958 season tickets sold that first season, but the total grew quickly. It was 10,951 by 1940 and, in 1947, all 31,444 seats at the old Griffith Stadium were sold on a seasonal basis; Washington season ticket sales had become the envy of every other club in the NFL. So did Marshall's profitable radio network. The Redskins band in itself was an attraction and when maestro Marshall thought some extra fillip was useful, he engaged the National Symphony Orchestra to help with the halftime show on the field.
A Redskin season ticket in 1937 could be had for $9. It broke down to $1.50 per game, a contrast with the current $20 mezzanine seat and the $300 a pair paid to scalpers for the Dallas playoff game.
The player who helped get the 1937 Redskins off the ground by taking to the air was Sammy Baugh. Marshall's signing of the lanky lad from Texas Christian was sheer genius. For a $5,000 contract plus a $500 signing bonus, the Redskins got a fellow who would lead the league in passing six times, throw six touchdown passes in one game on two occasions, play defense and intercept four passes in one game; when not otherwise occupied, he led the league in punting.
Cliff Battles, who was all-pro in 1936 at Boston, made it again in 1937 as he led the NFL in rushing, and that helped get the Redskins into the title game against the Chicago Bears, perennially the most feared team in the league.
Baugh brought the title back from Chicago a 55-yard touchdown pass to Wayne Millner, another one to Millner for 77 yards, and a concluding 35-yarder to Ed Justice. Score: Redskins 28, Bears, 21.
For their heroics, each of the champions earned $234.26.
That was to be the last Redskin game for Battles. He was on the payroll at a $2,600 salary and when he asked Marshall for a $400 raise, he got a nay. He accepted an assistant coaching job at Columbia for $4,000 a year.
The Redskins under Coach Ray Flaherty won the town with that 1937 conquest of the Bears. The following year when they sallied to New York to play the Giants, the Redskins band and thousands of followers also boarded the trains, for a planned march up Broadway. Marshall gloried in it. That was when Bill Corum wrote, "At the head of a 150-piece brass band and 12,000 fans, George Marshall slipped unobtrusively into New York today."
There will be no technical discussion here of the ghastly thing that happened in Griffith Stadium two years later, on Dec. 8, 1940. The score speaks for itself: Bears, 73, Redskins 0. The referee asked the Bears not to kick for extra points after their last four touchdowns because they were running out of balls.
All during the game Marshall, with his telephone hookup from his box seat upstairs to the Redskins bench below was frenetically trying to give his coach winning advice. And, oddly, the Redskins had more first downs than the Bears.
In 1942 the Redskins were back on top, winning it all again in another showdown with the Bears, 14-6. In addition to outpassing Sid Luckman, Baugh shocked the Bears with an 85-yard quick kick on third down.
George Marshall had the biggest attraction in the league, Baugh was the magic name, but his be-feathered band and his halftime shows lent pizzazz to the team. They were back in the Eastern title game in 1944, but lost to the Giants, whom they beat the next year only to lose in the world championship game to the Rams. Redskins season tickets became something of a prize. Marshall was selling out Griffith Stadium.
Redskin fever began 46 years ago.