It's a good thing the rest of the nation has a football alternative to watching Redskins-Cowboys tonight. This isn't a rivalry; it's a beat-down. The Cowboys have won 14 of the past 15 games in the series against a team that once upon a time was their rival. The Cowboys have beaten the Redskins nine straight at Texas Stadium and 11 of 12 down there. Why would anybody outside of Dallas and Washington want to see the pro football equivalent of Georgetown vs. St. Leo?
The Cowboys win close (9-7 in 2001) and they win easy (31-7 in 1994 and 38-3 in 1993). Also, they beat anybody the Redskins have running the show, from Joe Gibbs to Richie Petitbon to Norv Turner to Terry Robiskie to Marty Schottenheimer to Steve Spurrier, to Gibbs in his second time around. Norv was 1-5 at Texas Stadium (and 0-6 overall in his last half-dozen games) against the Cowboys. Meanwhile, whoever Dallas has wearing a headset wins against the Redskins. It's understandable that Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells have won their fair share in this series, but Chan Gailey? He beat the Redskins twice in two tries down in Texas. Dave Campo won only 15 games in his three-year career as head coach, but one-third of those came against the Redskins, and he was 3-0 at Texas Stadium.
A series that was once unpredictable and dramatic has been nothing but stale and uninteresting for folks who don't really have a rooting interest.
If the Redskins, relegated to the perfunctory 1 p.m. start times for all but six games this year, thought they were going to bore the nation to death with their impotent offense and their Dallas-itis, they were mistaken.
Hurricane Katrina's devastation and some bad decision-making by the NFL mean the Redskins will not have the nation's undivided attention; they'll have to share their prime-time network exposure.
Don't be surprised if Redskins-Cowboys viewership takes a big hit from the New York Giants-New Orleans Saints game, moved from New Orleans to the Meadowlands and from yesterday afternoon to tonight because of the devastation of New Orleans and the Superdome. Of course, it's a game that shouldn't be played on Monday night, nor should it be played eight miles outside of New York City on the Giants' home field. It's a New York-centric decision, an impossibly arrogant presumption that if you can't be where you want to be, you certainly want to be in New York. Boy, it's so nice of the executives on Park Avenue to be so kind to the Saints, who are displaced from Louisiana and have relocated to San Antonio.
Here's what I know to be true about Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, the states where Saints fans could drive and see their team if they want to: They've got football stadiums. They've got 'em in Starkville and Oxford and Hattiesburg in Mississippi. They've got 'em in Baton Rouge in Louisiana, in Birmingham and Auburn and Tuscaloosa in Alabama. We're not talking rinky-dink dumps like the 49ers' home, but big-time college football palaces that seat 60,000 or more and are suitable (if not preferable) as the site of one measly NFL game. San Antonio, where the Saints' families are trying to set up something that resembles home for an indefinite period, might not be ideal, but it is where the Saints are. The Alamodome there was built to host football games. Perhaps Saints fans who have been displaced by this storm but care so passionately about football and all that it means to their community would like to have had the chance to drive a few hours to see a team with "New Orleans" on the uniform, a team representing them.
"America's Team" is playing tonight, you know. No, I'm not talking about the Cowboys. The Saints are the team so many of us root for now, especially after they held together so admirably last week, when football had to be way down the list of priorities, and found the resolve to beat heavily favored Carolina on the road. It was the inspirational moment so far in the NFL and they're the sentimental favorites for the entire season. And their reward for winning the game of the week was this? Give up a home game, play where their people can't come and see them, in New York, no less? Late last week, fewer than 2,000 Saints fans had reportedly purchased tickets to the Saints "home game" in suburban New Jersey.
Giving the Giants an additional home game also is unfair to the other teams in the NFC East. The Cowboys, Eagles and Redskins will play eight home games, not nine like their rival. I'm not suggesting for a second that NFL executives who work on Park Avenue are stacking the deck for their New York homies. But please don't tell me that playing in Giants Stadium is the best possible solution the league could have come up with for the Saints.
But the average football fan may be entirely grateful for not having to watch Redskins-Cowboys. Look, there are results virtually every week that are absurdly unpredictable, like the Saints winning in Charlotte last weekend. But there's nothing to suggest folks would be better off leaving Giants-Saints after halftime to watch Cowboys-Redskins.
The visitors can't figure out who their quarterback is, and they're coming to town on a night when the Cowboys will retire the numbers of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, their Hall of Fame-bound trio. To quote one league insider anticipating the expected scene at Texas Stadium tonight, "It'll be like the Boston Garden with the Lakers coming to play the Celtics in a playoff game."
In other words, Texas Stadium will be juiced. Maybe Mark Brunell is just the person the Redskins need to restore some competitiveness to this dead series. Then again, maybe folks would rather see the apparently improved Giants and young Eli Manning go against the sentimental favorite Saints. And a victory for the Redskins might start to revive an important rivalry while a victory by the Saints might grab the hearts of millions, and those two things are certainly not equal.