The old Washington Federals are now the new Orlando Renegades. The colors have gone from green to blue and owner Berl Bernhard has sold out to the equally alliterative Don Dizney.
But some things never change. These Renegades, just like the old Federals, can lose U.S. Football League games with the best of them.
They return to the area today for a 4 p.m. game against the Baltimore Stars at College Park's Byrd Stadium with a new owner, a new coach in Lee Corso, and only 14 members of the old Federals.
"Obviously, there are some individuals who feel strongly about 'going home,' " Corso said. "There will be some incentive to play their best. But this is almost like a new franchise and what the Federals did is history."
The Renegades (4-12) seem just as bad as the old Federals, who had the worst record in the league for two seasons. Their game with the Stars (8-7-1) is also a golden opportunity to relive some of the hapless hilarity that marked the Federals' stay here. A Stars victory would clinch a playoff spot if Jacksonville loses to Memphis tonight.
Many of the key Federal figures are still in the Washington area, and some will be going to the game to see a few old friends who remain from a team that went 7-29 in its two seasons here.
Former head coach Ray Jauch is starting his own home building business. He was fired after the first game of the 1984 season, a 53-14 loss to the expansion Jacksonville Bulls. That was the day Bernhard said the team "looked like the Muppets" and that "a group of untrained gerbils can play as well."
Jauch, who plans to attend the game, surprisingly is not bitter but has all but given up on coaching again, simply because he is unwilling to leave his home in Vienna. There aren't too many opportunities in the area, particularly for a coach who went 4-15.
"All I think about is that we had a bunch of guys who tried real hard, and I felt bad for them," Jauch said. "We had a lot of comical things happen, and we laughed at them at the time. Some of the things that happened probably wouldn't happen ever again. But that's life."
Offensive coordinator Dick Bielski took over after Jauch's firing. The team finished 3-15, and when it didn't lose by huge margins, it lost by fumble, fight, penalty or broken play.
Bielski is not sure if he'll attend. His memories are mixed. He recalled the Federals' lack of talent at many positions and the crazed endings to many of the games.
"I think we were sometimes lacking in personnel," he said. "Some positions we had it, at others we didn't. There just wasn't enough to compete with a lot of the other teams. When we did, it took a superhuman effort. There were bad snaps, missed kicks, fumbles, tipped passes that went for interceptions."
Bielski, who also lives here, is seeking another coaching job. "I'm not doing anything," he said. "I'm in semi-retirement, between jobs, whatever you want to call it. I think I'm going to coach again when the right situation comes along."
Former general manager Dick Myers remains in Washington. He spends much of his time caring for his two children while his wife obtains a master's degree. An executive with the Redskins for nine years, he is seeking another job in sports, preferably in the NFL.
"I'm reacquainting myself with my family," he said. "I would like to get back into football. But it won't happen this season because the administrative jobs fill up quick. I may take something else for a short period of time."
Myers maintains the Federals weren't as bad as they were made out to be. They lost eight games by a touchdown or less in their first season. But there is no denying their uncanny misfortune.
"Those games could have been transposed to wins," Myers said. "Had we done that, who's to say what might have happened the second year. But it was a stream of bad luck, we lost some games in incredible ways. Everything that could go wrong went wrong.
"There was a change in philosophy in the league. We had good ownership, but we didn't have the spending power the others did."
The Renegades are financially sound under the ownership of Dizney, who also is chairman of an Orlando company he founded that owns and operates a chain of acute care and psychiatric hospitals in the South. While the Renegades' record is unimpressive, they have displayed none of the slapstick nature of their predecessors.
The front office staff is entirely new, and Dizney has spent $300,000 on an advertising campaign in Orlando to build a new identity. It might have paid off, because the Renegades are averaging 25,951, sixth best in the USFL. In the waning months of the Federals, 4,000 was a good crowd on a nice day.
"The good memories are of the fans who hung in there to the bitter end," said Joey Walters, a Renegades wide receiver and former Federal. "You could basically remember them face by face. We became kind of close-knit. We didn't have many, but there were some."
There does seem to be some improvement on the field as well. The Renegades have been competitive in most games, and lost, 34-21, to the Stars in their previous meeting this season. Three losses have been by a touchdown or less.
"I think the whole country has seen this isn't the team that was in Washington," said quarterback Reggie Collier. "We've shown them we can play ball. We just need a little help."
Like most of the remaining Federals, Collier cannot regard returning to the Washington area as a pleasant walk down memory lane. In his case, the memories mainly consist of sitting on the bench behind Mike Hohensee, who later was traded to Portland.
"About my only good memories are some of the people I met," Collier said. "I love the city, but the program was a circus and I don't miss that at all. It was crazy there, and I'm just glad to be out of it, to tell you the truth. This is a good opportunity for me to show that I shouldn't have been sitting on that bench."