Ed Curran had an 11 a.m. tee time today down in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he owns a second home. The Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks kick off their playoff game at 4:30 p.m. Plenty of time for both, right? Not for a true Redskins fan.
"I didn't want to cut it that close," said Mr. Curran, who said he would tee off at 8 a.m. instead and then head for the couch and savor every minute of the pregame telecast. After all, moments like this are rare. This is the second game of the Redskins' first playoff appearance in six years.
After roaming through a wasteland pocked by frustration and disappointment, hopes raised and dashed, coach Joe Gibbs has given Redskins fans a glimpse of paradise. At 5-6, Gibbs' team needed to win its last five games to make the postseason. They did exactly that, then beat Tampa Bay last week in the first round of the playoffs. Now the Redskins stand two games away from the Super Bowl.
"It's probably taken a couple of years off my life," Mr. Curran, 62, said of all the close games the Redskins played this season, "but I knew Gibbs was gonna do it. He's always come through in December, and he did it again this year. No question he's the best coach, period."
Mr. Curran said his late father, Ed Curran Sr., a federal district court judge, was among the first 10 season-ticket holders when the Redskins moved from Boston in 1937. A retired automobile salesman from Bethesda whose high-end dealership sells cars to several Redskins and other athletes, Mr. Curran assumed ownership of his dad's tickets in 1968.
Life might have been better when the Redskins were going to four Super Bowls during coach Gibbs' first run with the team. But this, he said, is getting close. Forget the parade of coaches and free agents, the controversies over parking, seating and credit cards, the underachieving and the overselling. It's good to be a Redskins fan again.
"You hold your head up higher," Mr. Curran said. "It makes you feel better. It really does. ... I've got my Redskins hat down here and a little flag on my car, and all those Eagles and Giants fans are very quiet."
Redskins fans are not being quiet or anonymous. They are everywhere, from bustling Connecticut Avenue to Virginia's serene horse country to South Carolina and beyond, grown men and women sporting hats and flags and jerseys, lots of jerseys. One sporting goods chain reported a 40 percent increase in sales from last year. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday asked all D.C. residents to wear burgundy and gold, a superfluous request.
Here in what is considered the political capital of the world, a really important story, the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr., runs a distant No. 2. Then again, it was always said that in Washington, the Redskins quarterback commands more attention than the president. Only now the somber pall of losing has been displaced by the giddiness of winning.
"It's just been a beautiful, beautiful time," said Samu Qureshi, a celebrity in his own right by virtue of owning the largest-known collection of Redskins memorabilia. "After we won the third Super Bowl (after the 1991 season), it has really been bad times since then."
Mr. Qureshi, who has been known to attend Redskins home games in full uniform, helmet included, and holds legendary parties for road games in his memento-filled basement, had to go to the Kennedy Center recently to retrieve a lost wallet. He was wearing a Redskins jacket, "and when all the security guards saw me they were whooping and hollering," he said. "Everybody's excited about the team again."
That includes members of the team's extended family — former players, Redskins for life. Broadcaster and Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff, who played for the club during the lean 1960s, proudly wears his own jacket, a snazzy leather number, when he's out and about in Middleburg, Va., where he breeds horses. "I wear it more than I used to," he said.
"It almost seems like the monkey's off our back," Huff said. "This is something to be proud of."
Joe Jacoby, a member of the famed "Hogs" offensive line during the Super Bowl years, said what the Redskins are doing "brings back some of the things we did the first time around and brings a sense of pride back to the organization."
It extends over many miles. Mark Rypien lives in Spokane, Wash., and helps run the foundation that bears his name, dedicated to helping children with cancer. His 3-year-old son died of the disease in 1998. The quarterback of the 1991 Super Bowl champs plans to be at Qwest Field in Seattle today, cheering for his old team in January, a new experience. It hadn't been easy rooting for the Redskins lately.
"It was frustrating, but it also validated the team we had," he said. "We had something special here before. Ever since, those guys weren't very good. But now the excitement is back."