You sit in the frigid finality of a December evening at RFK Stadium, and you think: A football season, or anything else, shouldn’t end like this, with barely a death rattle.
The second annual (but not exactly classic) EagleBank Bowl at RFK matching traditional nonrivals Temple and UCLA? Who are these folks flailing so frantically on the greensward, and why should anybody in these parts care about them? Where’s Hondo? Where’s Teddy Ballgame? Where’s Sonny? Where’s Riggo?
Where’s the relevance?
A personal note, if you don’t mind: As a callow youth and sportswriter, I was an eyewitness nearly 50 years ago when a hopeless, hapless (1-12-1) Redskins team became the first to dig cleats into the brand-new grass at RFK, then known simply as District of Columbia Stadium. The Redskins lost. At least that much hasn’t changed in Loserville, USA.
Just about everything else has, though. Back in that autumn of ‘61, D.C. Stadium stood as a proud precursor to the wave of uniformly uninteresting multipurpose stadia that would interrupt skylines across sporting America.
In this innocent age, nobody realized that every city would need separate football and baseball facilities with luxury suites for corporate fat cats and overpriced ticket concessions prices for individual fans. Besides, the District’s new playpen was s-o-o-o expensive. It cost all of $24 million to erect over several years in Northeast, hard by the National Guard Armory and the D.C. Jail.
Could that really have been more than 48 years ago? Why does it seem like 148?
Gradually, the teams left and Joe Gibbs’ infamous crud formed in the rafters. The Senators moved to Texas in 1972 and the Nationals to Southeast in 2008. In between, the Redskins departed for Prince George’s County in 1997.
When you drove down the ramp from Interstate 295 onto East Capitol Street after that, the stadium’s roller-coaster exterior still glittered prettily in the sunshine. But the game being played was soccer, and many of the fans came from elsewhere around the globe.
Someday the place and its memories will disappear, too - the Senators’ forfeited finale in ‘71 and baseball’s return in ‘05, the major league All-Star Games in ‘62 and ‘69, the Redskins’ glorious 26-3 bashing of the Cowboys in the ‘72 NFC championship game. But on Tuesday afternoon, old RFK was still alive and kicking as a gutsy, respectable crowd of 23,072 braved temperatures in the 20s and wind gusts in the 30s to watch two teams whose appeal to local fans is limited at best.
UCLA? Isn’t that where John Wooden won all those NCAA basketball tournaments?
Temple? Isn’t that where Bill Cosby ran track?
As a latecomer to the NCAA’s overblown bowl schedule, EagleBank must take whatever teams and dates it is given. We should applaud the sponsors for providing another minimally major sports event in a city with relatively few, but the result is unlikely to cause seismic waves even on ESPN, which carried Tuesday’s arctic activities.
UCLA made the scene by winning three of its last four games for a 6-6 record, thus becoming what the NCAA calls “bowl eligible.” This is the same organization, I’ll just point out, that perpetrated the BCS mess.
Teams with .500 records shouldn’t appear in any bowl except perhaps the toilet. Athletes being the positive people they are, though, the Bruins and Owls went about the business at hand as if it mattered.