Washington might be the only football town ever whose fans got giddier the more its team didn't play. What Redskins faithful saw on the field with their eyes during the strike was neat; what danced through their minds was better.
The 3-0 Scabskins were an interlude, as everybody knew, part of the NFL whip that would cause regular workers to crawl back to their jobs -- and into court.
Mostly, Washingtonians were delighted. Remembering 1982, they figured their Realskins also would pack away strike signs and sail smoothly toward San Diego and victory in the Super Bowl.
So far, history is defeating itself. These Redskins are going against form with enough substance over the years to be called tradition. Until lately, Joe Gibbs' teams almost never were beaten by anyone inferior.
A season ago, including the playoffs, the Redskins lost a total of five games; four of them were to the Super Bowl teams, the Giants and Broncos.
In 1982 and '83, they were losers only four times in 32 games. Two were to Dallas, which was quite good way back when, and one was to the Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII. Even in the 10-6 season of 1985, the Redskins lost only one game to a team with a sub-.500 record.
This season, the Redskins have not even played anyone that sports better than a break-even record at the moment -- and have lost three times. That's three losses in seven real-league games to teams with a combined record of 9-21.
Let's comparison shop among NFC teams almost certain to comprise the playoffs: the Redskins, the Bears, the 49ers, the underappreciated Vikings and the meek-shall-inherit- the-earth Saints.
Based on results, the quivering vote here would be for -- ta da! -- the Saints. They have played as many good teams as the others -- and beaten three of the best.
Cleveland has a one-game lead in the AFC Central; one of its three losses was to the Saints. The 8-2 49ers lead the 7-3 Saints by a game in the NFC West; they split their series, each team winning on the road.
One of the Saints' victories was against the 8-2 Bears. It was a strike game, but their respective managements did field 2-1 squads.
The 7-4 Vikings have an outside chance at overtaking the Bears for a couple of reasons: Chicago also must play San Francisco and Seattle, and the Vikings in Minnesota.
At least the other four teams have beaten somebody good enough to maintain a winning record through a goofy season two-thirds complete. The Redskins have played just two .500 teams, the 5-5 Jets and Bills.
Washington's losses have been to the 2-8 Falcons, the 4-6 Eagles and the 3-7 Rams. Like their quarterback who is expected to start against the Giants here today, Jay Schroeder, the Redskins are hoping that real-season 4-3 record indicates a slump rather than a rut.
Spotty as they have been, nobody else in the NFC East is within two games of the Redskins. In last place are the defending Super Bowl champs, the Giants, whose experience has been sad and bad.
If the scab games did not count, the Giants would be just a victory today away from being even with the Redskins. Still, even a 3-4 show by the real players from New York/New Jersey is surprising.
Scenes of luck, good and bad, keep colliding. A year ago, the Giants made a first down on fourth and 17 to set up a game-winning field goal against the Vikings; this season, the Cowboys won with two tipped-ball interceptions.
Probably, the Giants are riding the same horse called Destiny. This one is a whole lot meaner. It will take another season to gain an honest look, not to mention an honest book, about the Giants.
The strike helped deflate anticipation about Giants-Redskins collisions this season. Nothing since some of the Redskins-Cowboys games in the '70s was more eagerly awaited.
The Redskins seemed to begin preparing for the first test this season about 20 seconds after losing the final one last season. Their frustration was understandable; the Giants were more dominant in each of the victories.
For all the lightning-rod attention on quarterback and special teams, the Redskins a good deal of this season have been terrible in what once was their specialty -- power running.
In the three Giants losses last year, the carries/yardage progression for George Rogers was: 16-30, 10-22 and 9-15. The coaches seemed to feel he was only partially to blame.
The company line was that the offensive line had to be beefier this season, mostly because of the Giants. Jeff Bostic kept fading from sight, because he was a shrimpo 260.
Probably, the major reason Bostic kept his place on the team was his link to the strike-interrupted glory march five years ago. His presence still is substantial within the clubhouse, and around town.
No matter what they said, Redskins coaches were planning to attack the Giants' exceptional front seven without Bostic. Guess who will be playing across the line on the first Redskins snap today?
It's been a strange season for both teams. The Redskins realize they are about three special-teams plays (vs. Atlanta and the Rams) and one pass (vs. Philadelphia) from being 10-0. So they will be the ones trotting onto the field today with hope in their hearts.