As another Washington Redskins season ended Sunday evening — as fans packed up their tailgating supplies, and season-ticket holders said their offseason goodbyes — one FedEx Field regular began spreading some shocking news.
Michael Torbert, a.k.a. Mikey T. Boss Hogette, would be packing up his dress and pig snout. Not just for the offseason, either.
The Hogettes — the male superfans in floral prints, pig snouts, blond wigs and floppy hats — were joining RFK Stadium, Joe Gibbs and single-bar face masks in the NFL history books.
Torbert, 67, is a longtime nuclear waste engineer for the Department of Energy. In the fall of 1983, he borrowed his grandma’s white polka-dot dress and persuaded 10 buddies to join him at RFK. This was when the Redskins were built around a stout offensive line — the Hogs — which Torbert thought deserved more attention.
The Redskins would dominate the NFL for much of the next decade, and the rising tide lifted all snouts. The Hogettes became staples on television broadcasts and in newspaper photographs. There were high-profile TV commercials for local car dealers and for a national credit card company, an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s “Hall of Fans.”
“Thirty years of guys in pig snouts and dresses is probably enough for any society,” Torbert said on Friday, echoing a statement posted on the group’s Web site. “It’s a new era. It was great seeing RGIII and Alfred Morris break onto the scene, and it’s a perfect time to retire the old era and start the new.”
This being a new era, of course, word of Torbert’s decision leaked on Facebook before the Hogettes had managed one final group meeting. So Torbert then went public with the news, while at least some of the 13 active members were still trying to persuade him to stage a final farewell season.
“I told him, in writing and in passing, people are gonna miss us more than you think, and if we have to go, we should offer a hug first,” said Eddie “Hog Ed” Souder of Laurel, at 47 years old the group’s youngest member. “I’d like to tell everybody out there one more time, take a chance, do something for somebody a little less fortunate. But he is our leader; I won’t make a move without his blessing. He is the Hogettes. We all feel that way.”
The Hogettes this season had 13 active members (including four originals). There also are 14 “Missing Links” and one is deceased.
They forged relationships with players and made up to 100 appearances a year. Torbert said the group helped raise millions of dollars for children’s charities.
“The things they were able to do for the children’s charities that they were involved with, it was just outstanding. I salute them,” said former Redskins offensive lineman Joe Jacoby, a member of the Hogs. “[One day] we looked and there they were, right behind our bench at RFK. You’re looking around, and they continued to grow. I thought rabbits were the ones that multiplied; I didn’t know it was pigs.”
As the Hogs gradually retired and the Redskins’ fortunes sank, the Hogettes became something of an anomaly, hearkening back to the good old days. Now there were teenaged fans at FedEx Field who had never seen the Hogs play, and younger kids who had never even been inside RFK. But this season’s resurgence, some Hogettes said, helped bring back the good times.
“I feel we were more beloved this past year than ever,” said Dave “Spiggy Hogette” Spigler, a realtor and retired Naval officer from Lusby who logged more than 20 years as a Hogette. “The number of requests for pictures at the game, the autographs — it’s in conjunction with the good feelings and the success of the team on the field. It goes hand-in-hand. When Redskins fans are happy and the team is winning, the Hogettes are loved. When we’re losing, we get blamed for their losses.”
Some of the NFL’s best-known fans require elaborate pregame prepping for their costumes — think of the ghouls from Oakland’s Black Hole.
The Hogettes always kept things simple. But that didn’t mean it was easy to slip on a large frock and head into the testosterone cauldron of an NFL stadium.
“A lot of people think it’s kind of weird to see these grown men — and it’d be even weirder if they found out where these guys work — going out on a Sunday afternoon wearing dresses and pig noses,” Jacoby said.
“I was a little afraid to wear it at first,” Spigler admitted. “But once they gave me the big white hat that made me an official Hogette, I was just amazed at the love and the treatment and respect we had from the community.”
It would seem that a new era of on-field success is imminent, bringing with it new opportunities for the Hogettes. But Torbert retired from his job last month after having considered doing so for months.
He even went to last Sunday’s Seahawks game in civilian clothes with his son.
“It was nice to be just part of the burgundy and gold crowd, believe me,” he said.
Torbert was open to the possibility of a reunion for special occasions or extraordinary requests, but he said there will be no farewell season and he hopes his fellow members respect that decision.
“It’s a free country; obviously people can do whatever they want to,” he said, “but I would hope that wouldn’t happen.”
Like other Hogettes, Torbert was besieged on Friday; more than 20 phone calls, two television interviews and two radio interviews, all by the early afternoon.
(“It’s like the Stones breaking up,” joked Souder, who himself received three phone calls during a brief telephone interview.)
Torbert hadn’t expected that reaction. Then again, he hadn’t expected to spend much of his adult life in a wig and pig snout.
“You do stuff for a year, and then do stuff for another year, and then do some more stuff for another year, and all of the sudden you look back and 30 years went by,” he said. “I mean, to have so much interest in a bunch of guys in pig snouts and dresses just kind of amazes me, but whatever. It’s a crazy world in which we live.”