It’s been exactly 20 years since a Washington pro sports team began a season 8-0. Like, exactly exactly 20 years.
The Bandwagon Redskins won their eighth straight game to start the season on Oct. 27, 1991. Thursday night in Edmonton, the Caps will have a chance to equal that mark.
And no other D.C. team has come close in the past two decades.
The Wizards’ best start since then was a 3-0 clip in 2005. They haven’t started 4-0 since 1978, and only reached 7-0 once, in 1974.
The Nationals have started 3-0 just once, in 2008. In fact, their record in season openers is a putrid 1-6.
D.C. United began 3-0-2 in MLS play in 2006, and 4-0 in 1997.
Before this year, the Capitals made it as far as four games just twice, starting 4-0-0 in 1997 and 1991.
Since the Bandwagon season, the Redskins’ best start was a 3-0 jaunt in 2005. Prior to the Bandwagon, the Skins started 5-0 in 1986, 4-0 in 1982, 6-0 in 1978 and 5-0 in 1971. Those were there only seasons of 4-0 or better since 1943.
Because I love to get paid for reading old Redskins clips, I went back to that day 20 years ago to see what was going on.
* It was a Sunday night game in the Meadowlands, pitting Mark Rypien and the undefeated Redskins against Jeff Hostetler and the 4-3 Giants. The Redskins led the NFL in rushing attempts at the time, behind Earnest Byner and Ricky Ervins, while the Giants had just made Rodney Hampton their starter. Washington was favored by two.
* To hype the game, then columnist Shirley Povich wrote a chill-causing column that started like this:
The Redskins are justifiably pleased with their 7-0 record. But without intent to deflate them, it could be asked, “What else is new?”
These Redskins haven’t broken any new ground despite all the hurrahs, the hallelujahs and Redskins euphoria that has seized the Washington community, dizzy with visions of a Super Bowl. A 7-0 Redskins team is no novelty. Such numbers simply are a season recycled. Flip the calendar back 51 years and it’s all there.
In 1940, the Sammy Baugh Redskins rocked the NFL by winning their first seven. In Washington, however, the attitude was: no big deal. On Sunday in the city, life did not revolve around Redskins football. Interest in the pro league ran a poor second to college football.
Did you want to see a Redskins game in 1940? Tickets were available at $4.40, $3.30 and $2.20, and there were thousands of empty seats. Those Redskins were all white, reflecting, in general, the prevailing attitude in sports in those days and, in particular, George Preston Marshall’s bias. “The Redskin colors,” it was written, “are burgundy, white and Caucasian.”
The day before the big eighth game in 1940, the Redskins couldn’t even make the sports section. No mention of them or their 7-0 streak in The Washington Post. Big mention, however, was given to the Middleburg Hunt steeplechase.
(See, haters? Even the great Povich wrote columns based on recycling things from the archives.)
* The Post Style section was also in on the act, as seen here:
It’s not from Frederick’s of Hollywood, but if you need to get in the mood for tomorrow night’s Redskins game against the Giants, you can slip into a Redskins garter belt.
This sexy little number costs $1.95, and Jim Halsey has it at the Stadium Store in Wheaton. Garters are selling well these days, as the team’s 7-0 record spurs fans to feats of greater shopping glory, even in the midst of one of the region's biggest retail downturns.
Less exotic fare like T-shirts, sweat shirts and hats are also for sale, along with gum-ball machines, fans, earmuffs, ties, clocks, flags, windsocks, helmets, marbles, bag clips, key chains, soda pop tops, hog noses, cards, toy trains, shoelaces, telephones, night lights and hundreds of other items. All of it, but of course, in burgundy and gold and plastered with the Redskins name.
“Fans will buy anything in those colors these days,” said Halsey, who has another store in Sterling and a mail order business and is the only legal vendor of team merchandise at RFK Stadium. “Imagine anything you can put Redskins on.”
* (Also, on the day of the game, The Post’s Tom Callahan wrote a column calling for the Redskins to change their name to the Peacemakers.)
* Boz was, naturally, in Minneapolis, writing about the World Series. “Tons of people have rooted for the Braves instinctively, but it has been a bizarre, uncomprehending bandwagon ride,” he wrote. “(Sorry, the Redskins Bandwagon is tiny compared to the Braves Bandwagon.)”
* After losing their previous six meetings with the Giants, the Redskins, of course, won 17-13 on this day. “Well....” said Ray Handley, after his first meeting with the Redskins, when asked about winning the NFC East.
* The Redskins were down 13-0 in the fourth quarter, but rallied behind their offensive stars. From a sidebar:
The consensus from the New York Giants was that they couldn’t have done much to stop it. They said it was simply a case of the Washington Redskins executing to perfection. And that perfection is the reason the Redskins remain perfect, at 8-0.
Quarterback Mary Rypien hit wide receiver Gary Clark in stride with a 54-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter tonight, giving Washington its first lead in a 17-13 victory over New York at Giants Stadium.
* The columnists, of course, knew that something pretty cool was going on. “The Giants, these Giants, are only good,” Wilbon wrote. “These Redskins are building something great. The Redskins weren’t going to lose to ghosts, not tonight. Too many guys like Clark have left these Giants games nauseated.
“There were times in the past,” he said, “when the offense tucked our tails between our legs and didn’t get it done. We just decided that tonight, we just weren't going to let it end this way.”
* The win was Washington’s first in New York since 1983. It made the Redskins 8-0 for the first time in D.C. history. And it put them three-games up on the Cowboys in the NFC East.
* And here’s George Solomon on A1:
From 7:30 on in this town, the big question last night was: What to watch? Redskins on Channel 9 and ESPN or the World Series on 20? Was it possible to watch both games and listen to Sonny, Sam and Frank do Redskins football on WMAL radio, in between snatches of Vin Scully doing play-by-play on WAGE? And can anyone find out how the Washington Capitals hockey team did in Winnipeg?
* As for the Bandwagon, “Vroooom, vroooom,” Tony Kornheiser wrote. “After coughing and wheezing through a fitful first half where the engine wouldn’t turn over at all, The Bandwagon is cruising smoothly again, slicing through the Jersey marsh, leaving the former New York Giants in the rear view mirror.
Um, no. He wasn’t.