The Washington Times - September 29, 2008, 02:46AM

The country may be on the brink of financial chaos, but here in Washington, D.C., today, people will be whistling a happy tune. The Redskins beat the Cowboys. There’s nothing like a win over the hated Cowboys to lift the spirits of this city, even in the most difficult of times.

When the Redskins had won their first three games in George Allen’s first year in1971, including a 20-16 win over the Cowboys in Dallas, District mayor Walter Washington met with the team and told them how much their winning streak meant to a city going through some bad times.

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The 26-24 win over Dallas changes everything now about the perception and expectations of this season under rookie coach Jim Zorn. It may also change the perception of the man he replaced. The second coming of Joe Gibbs was a failure in nearly every way compared to his first stint as Redskins coach, when he led the team to three Super Bowl championships. They made the playoffs twice in the four years Gibbs was here the second time, but overall he had a losing record of 30-34. We know all that. What may be coming to light, though, is how he was not equipped to deal with the pressures of game day even more than we thought.

Zorn may eventually be the second coming of Bill Walsh, but right now he is learning on the job. Yet the team seems far more composed and in control than it did under Gibbs, and the players seem far looser and more confident. This team may have been better than many of us thought — better than their coach was at the time, perhaps.

A legend dies

Paul Newman , who just passed away, was my favorie actor of all time.

These are my top five Paul Newman movies:

The Hustler

Cool Hand Luke

Slapshot

The Verdict

Nobody’s Fool

In The Hustler, Newman, as pool shark Fast Eddie Felson, goes into a great monologue about how he feels when he is running the table and can’t miss. It is a great description of what we now say is being in the zone:

“When I’m really going, I feel like a jockey must feel with all that speed and power underneath him. He’s coming into the stretch, the pressure’s on him, and he just feels when to let it go and how much, ‘cause he’s got everything working…timing, touch. It’s a real great feeling when you’re right and you know you’re right. It’s like I got oil in my arm. The pool cue’s part of me. It’s got nerves in it. You feel the roll of those balls. You don’t have to look. You just know. You make shots that nobody’s ever made, and you play that game the way nobody’s ever played.”

When it came to acting, Paul Newman was in the zone.

Boxing along the Beltway

I received a lot of feedback and reaction to my column last week about Juan Robles, the boxer, who amputated his own right pinky finger. It was a hot topic of conversation in Baltimore on ESPN 1300, as well as on the Internet. I had been hoping to do the Robles column for some time, but wanted to wait until he was in the area.

I found out he was fighting on a show in Milllersville in Anne Arundel County thanks to a great Web site for local boxing, www.boxingalongthebeltway.blogspot.com. It’s operated by Gary “Digital” Williams, and is the place to go if you want to know about any upcoming show or results, from amateur to the pros, in Virginia, Maryland and the District. Check it out.

Driving up I-95

I’ve driven north up Interstate 95 hundreds of times, as I did Sunday to catch the Nationals final game of the season against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. And there has always been a question that has bothered me.

As you pass by the exit for Havre De Grace, you see a sign for the Havre De Grace Decoy Museum. Now, is that a museum of decoys, or a decoy museum to keep you from going to the real Havre De Grace museum?

Loverro on the Radio

I will be on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980 today from 4 to 7 p.m.

If you want to know more about Thom Loverro, go to www.thomloverro.com