Eighty three years ago, the destiny of D.C. sports fans changed forever. No one knew it then — and if anyone had, he should be counted among history’s cruelest jokesters for not stopping the madness when he had the chance — but the Washington Redskins franchise was born on this day, July 9, in 1932. Washington businessman George Preston Marshall and his associates bought an NFL franchise in Boston that day, the Braves. More than eight decades later, the once-Braves, now-Redskins are in a battle for that name and for on-field relevance, the team that looms over the D.C. sports fan like no other can.
Marshall owned a laundry business in the district when he bought the team, which first played in the same Boston stadium as the Boston Braves baseball team and adopted their name. A year later, the team moved to Fenway Park and Marshall changed the name to Redskins. Five years later, Marshall moved the team to D.C.
The now-Redskins won the first game in franchise history that October, over their eventual rival the Giants, 14-6. The win earned three paragraphs in The Washington Post a day later, in a roundup column just above a recap of an auto race and the signing of a blacksmith from Montana to a 10-round fight in Winston-Salem, N.C. against some guy from Akron.
Coverage has changed slightly since. Interestingly enough, that same week, Shirley Povich wrote about Washington’s status as a football town. George Washington was playing Alabama that week, and 20,000 people were expected to attend — “the best advance sale for any game in the history of the Capital,” he said — which proved D.C. could love football when given the chance. His point would eventually be proven vehemently by a franchise founded a few days earlier a couple hundred miles north of here.