The Redskins have been Washington's top sporting dog since Sonny Jurgensen was a boy, or at least a carrot-topped quarterback tossing touchdown passes. But now that dominance could be nearing an end.
Redskins uber alles? Maybe, just maybe, not much longer.
All of a sudden, after 34 dreary years without, we've got a real, live major league baseball team. (Though not much longer, hopefully, a team owned by Major League Baseball.)
Not only that, the Nationals are in first place as the season sneaks up on the halfway point. They may not stay there, but even so they've already provided enough thrills and chills for a full season. If you don't believe it, just tune in whenever closer Chad Cordero is working.
Couple this with the Wizards' strong improvement last season, and you have a sports scene where the Redskins won't automatically be on the minds of every fan hereabouts 12 months a year.
Consider: If the Nats are in or out of first place by a game on Sept.19, will the Redskins' Monday nighter at Dallas seem quite the be-all and end-all it has in the past?
I don't know about you, but I'm seeing a lot more Nats caps and other gear around town lately than Redskins stuff. That could change when football season starts, of course, but baseball is back in our thoughts to stay.
Was it only 17 months ago that Joe Gibbs' return was hailed as the greatest arrival in town since Vince Lombardi's, or maybe even George Washington's?
Nowadays, Gibbs is just another coach sweating to turn a losing team into a winner. But, hey, let's hear it for Frank Robinson.
Eddie Jordan, too, while we're at it.
It's been quite awhile -- 13 years in fact -- since the Redskins deserved automatic applause. The coaching reigns, if that's the word, of Richie Petitbon, Norv Turner, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier and Gibbs II have produced nothing but heartbreak for loyalists who paint their faces burgundy and gold each Sunday during the fall.
In addition, the impulsive and often arrogant behavior of owner Dan Snyder has alienated lots of folks. At least with the Cookes, Jack Kent and John Kent, you knew they were devoted to producing a winner. Perhaps Snyder is, too, but he and we don't have much to show for it.
As a Redskins watcher of half a century, I hope Gibbs can turn the franchise around. Yet despite his Hall of Fame resume, that's hardly a given. As we all know, the NFL is a much different animal than it used to be, with free agency, salary caps and multimillionaire jocks. And last season's 6-10 record gave no indication that an upswing is imminent.
But for now, who cares? Training camp doesn't open for another month, and we've got more important things to worry about than minicamps, LaVar Arrington's sulks and whether Patrick Ramsey can hold off Jason Campbell at quarterback.
Let's see ...
How soon will Jose Vidro return at second base? Will Cordero and Nick Johnson be on the National League All-Star team, as they should be? Will Tony Armas Jr. prove a reliable No.4 starter behind Livan Hernandez, Esteban Loaiza and John Patterson? Will Jose Guillen, Brad Wilkerson and Vinny Castilla start hitting more home runs at RFK Stadium?
And above all, will 69-year-old F. Robby keep his cool, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, when opposing managers get in his face?
So far it has been a glorious spring for Washington baseball fans, especially those diehards who refused to root for the Orioles during our three decades of disenfranchisement. I love watching those creaky stands at RFK shake and shiver when the Nats are doing something good. And judging from the team's 24-9 record at home, the players love it, too.
After all, no Washington team has really savored a pennant race since 1945, when a wartime gang of Senators chased Hank Greenberg's Detroit Tigers to the wire. With the National League East offering no true powerhouse, I wouldn't be surprised to see these Nats in first place or thereabouts when the season ends Oct.2.
Did I really write that sentence?
Yep, and it's wonderful.
If you'll pardon a biblical quote in this context, it is written in Ecclesiastes that to every thing there is a season. Surely this one belongs to the Nationals, and the Redskins will just have to wait their turn.
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