Paul Reedy received a rude shock while standing in line to buy tickets to yesterday's inagural Washington Federals' game at RFK Stadium. He found out he wasn't going to see Herschel Walker play.
"Oh, no. Damn," said Reedy, 44, when told by some friends in line that Walker hadn't signed with either the Federals or their opponent, the Chicago Blitz. "I thought he was playing here. All week long I've been seeing nothing in the papers but 'Herschel this' and 'Herschel that.' I was sure he must be playing here."
But Reedy thought for a moment and then perked up with the blind optimism that most fans showed. "Then who is playing?" he asked.
For many, the Federals represent the only chance to see pro football in person in Washington. Despite losing, 28-7, in a steady rain, a number of fans said seeing a team lose in the rain is better than not seeing them at all.
"My wife and I camped outside RFK to try to get Redskins' playoff tickets," said Joe Laughlin, a construction worker from Silver Spring. "But all we got was an appearance on the news and frostbite in my toes. I don't care if the Federals lose, 100-0, I'm going to sit here and enjoy it."
The weather may have kept some potential fans away. A consistent rain began approximately 15 minutes before kickoff and continued throughout the game, forcing many spectators to watch from under the covered runways.
"And to think I could have stayed at home and seen the same game," said a young woman, hiding under a plastic garbage bag coat.
A crowd of 38,010 saw the game, a figure Washington owner Berl Bernhard said "went beyond our best expectations." But many fans, including several season-ticket holders, appeared to regret their investment as the Federals trailed, 21-0, at the half.
"I am a season-ticket holder," Mike Stewart of Charles County, Md., said carefully, as if to convince himself he had actually spent $108 on a season ticket. "They (Federals) don't come close to the 'Skins. It might be different if they were winning, but they don't have any offense and they need a quarterback."
"I am suddenly feeling very sorry for a lot of season ticket holders," said Bob Robertson, a security guard from Southeast. "I bet a lot of wet people can think of things they wish they'd done with that money."
But not all reactions to Washington's sloppy first-half play were negative.
"I think the Federals will just take time," said Will Anders, 32, an accountant from Silver Spring. "Right now you have to spend most of the game reading your scorecard because you can't tell who any of the players are. But some of them are very good--that guy (Chicago wide receiver Trumaine) Johnson, and (Washington running back) Craig James, for instance. They're legitimate stars in any league."
"Remember, the Federals are playing a very good team," said Martin Steinberg, a 27-year-old lawyer. "George Allen had something like 300 guys under contract, right? Hell, there's got to be a pretty good team in their somewhere."
Rich Rollinger, 23, and Mike Samson, 25, came to the game in full Redskins' regalia, complete with burgundy and gold war paint, and imagined they were watching the Redskins.
But perhaps the general feeling of the crowd was best summed up by a pennant salesman, standing outside the stadium in the rain after the game. "Right here. Get your pennants," he chanted. "They've only lost once."