Why all the long faces? Why all the sad eyes? Walk around town, you'd think you stumbled into a convention of basset hounds. So many glum expressions. What is this, a David Souter look-alike contest?
C'mon everybody, repeat after me:
It's only one game.
And not to be a cheerleader (no, honestly, I can't do any of the tumbling, and I look preposterous in a pleated skirt; a sundress, maybe . . . ), but have you considered all the aspects of that one game?
First of all, it was against the best team in football. Maybe the best team ever in the NFL. Oh no? Well, this could be three Super Bowls in a row, and the one that got away -- the 1987 team that was upset by Minnesota -- had the best record in the league.
Not only is it the best team, it's the best team in its home opener. Here's who didn't win their home openers: Seattle, New England, Tampa Bay, San Diego, Detroit, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia.
New Orleans lost to the 49ers in the last minute, excusable.
The Eagles losing to the Cardinals? The Phoenix Cardinals? Joe Bugel's tone deaf chorale? The ones who lost 31-0 to the Redskins, and went beyond inept and into unept? Unbelievable. By Wednesday, we'll find out it was a misprint.
What's the common thread among the others? They stink. Their combined 1989 record was 38-58. Good teams don't lose their home openers.
To top it off, the 49ers were nearly flawless. Joe Montana, who has played in 153 NFL games, had his sixth-best game ever. This is not Gary Cuozzo's sixth-best game ever, or Jim Zorn's sixth-best; Joe Montana's. Jerry Rice, who is 6 feet 2, not to mention the best wide receiver in football, beat 5-8 Darrell Green for a touchdown. And the San Francisco defense had one of those goal-line stands that if it was December and snowing, NFL Films would ask George C. Scott to narrate.
Through it all, the Redskins could have won . . .
(Whoa, big fella!)
. . . come real close anyway.
They lose, 26-13. Chip Lohmiller has a gimme field goal blocked. How many times has that happened? None. So that's 26-16. That goal-line stand? If Mark Rypien tries the naked bootleg on second down instead of third, he scores; someday coaches will learn not to be so stubbornly macho inside the 2. So you take down the field goal, and add a touchdown, that's 26-20. Actually, it's 23-20 heading into the fourth quarter. And that's a different story, isn't it?
So now we're reading that Rypien is not Joe Montana. This is supposed to be a revelation? Here are some other quarterbacks who aren't Joe Montana: Joe Namath, Bob Griese, Len Dawson, Dan Fouts. Some of us think it's a trifle early to press the plunger on Rypien, but that's the recent history with Redskin QBs, isn't it? Since Theismann, they've all been so maddeningly average, and nobody here has any patience with average. The Redskins made the 1986 NFC championship game with Jay Schroeder, and by midseason 1987, fans were screaming for his scalp; same happened to Doug Williams a few months after he won the Super Bowl. Rypien had a five-game winning streak at the end of last season, so naturally folks want him benched now -- and as accommodating as he is, they may get their way before long. In a town where everyone maneuvers for plausible deniability, it's strange, almost unnerving, to hear a man so forthrightly admit his mistakes. You can't help but root for him, but he's not Tinkerbell, wishing alone won't make him fly.
Rypien skidded some passes on Sunday, sailed some others; some were dropped too. Rypien's no Spielberg back there; he doesn't wow you with creativity and special effects. If the deal was available, I'd package all the Redskins' quarterbacks and throw in Kelvin Bryant's custom packing crates to get Steve Young. But it's curious all this focus on Rypien, as if he gave up 487 yards. How come no fingers are pointed at the Redskins' alleged pass rush? Where were those guys, at the Fog City Diner trying to pay with American Express?
Some of us see Sunday's game -- forcing a great team to play almost to the top of its tank, and earning that team's sincere praise -- as a glass half full.
You want half empty? Forget half empty, you want totally empty? The Eagles. Maybe Bo Jackson can do two things at once. But Keith "Fummmmmble! I Do Believe I've Recovered" Jackson better give up that announcing career and head back to tight end or this team sleeps with the fishes. The Steelers. Great move, hiring Joe Walton as offensive coordinator. Who wrote his resume', Clifford Irving? Joe brought the multifaceted offense that produced nine points a game for the Jets all those years. No fool, Bubby Brister didn't think it would work. It doesn't. The Steelers have yet to score an offensive touchdown. (Freed from Walton, the Jets scored 24 on Sunday; fathers in the stands were dumbfounded how to explain the word "scoring" to their children who'd never seen any.) The Seahawks. Talk about cryogenics. When they thaw this team out, somebody get an IV for Chuck Knox. Have you seen that diet commercial with the NFL coaches bragging about how much weight they lost? Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs, Art Shell, Buddy Ryan, who lost 290 pounds -- unfortunately 250 of it was Keith Jackson. Well, Knox lost the most. Knox claims he feels great; meanwhile he looks like a professional blood donor. He makes Lou Holtz look healthy.
And if you're still gloomy about the Redskins, how about Gene Stallings at Alabama? He's 0-2. The last 'Bama coach who started 0-2 was hung. Bill Curry was 10-2 last year, and 'Bama fans rode him out of town. There's an old story about a coach getting an angry letter threatening to kill the coach's dog if the team loses another game. The coach says with relief, "I don't have a dog." The very next day, a puppy arrives at the coach's door with a note that says, "Don't get too attached." Gene, don't answer the door.