- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 1999

The Boy Owner is hoping to talk the Redskins into the playoffs. Talk is usually considered cheap, except apparently in the case of the Boy Owner.

Perhaps that is because he is wealthy. When the Boy Owner talks, it seems people are inclined to think the talk is profound, as if he just had come down from the mountaintop with the meaning of life.

Vast wealth is often taken to be a sign of vast intellect in America, although one is not necessarily related to the other.

Hollywood types, for instance, frequently demonstrate their lack of clarity on a number of subjects. But they are wealthy, plus famous, so America listens.

When Tom Cruise expresses concern over the environment as his smoke-belching, race-car flick hits the big screen, few bother to shout the emptiness of his convictions.

Cruise gives good face, as it is said, and he recites his lines with the best, and that generally is enough in America’s fast-food culture. He can open a movie and maybe save the environment, too. Hooray for Hollywood.

The Boy Owner merely wants to save the Redskins, which is not such a bad thing, considering the Norv Turner era. The Boy Owner talked a good game; the Redskins played one, too. One is not necessarily related to the other.

“This isn’t a game about talking,” Turner says.

No game is about talking unless you’re a member of the debate team.

Out of habit, Washington takes the Redskins seriously, even the pap that is dispensed between games. Most of it is harmless, banal, easy to consume.

It is rare when a coach or player says what he really thinks because candor, however embraced in theory, is discouraged in practice. Peer pressure is hardly confined to high-school settings.

Turner, because he has no choice, insists his authority has not been undermined by the ever-obtrusive Boy Owner. This probably comes as a shock to the players, most of whom read the newspapers and listen to the talk shows like the next person.

Turner’s tenuous position is the subject of daily monitoring, not unlike the weather, and to his credit, he has handled the humiliation with dignity and grace.

The Boy Owner has made Turner a sympathetic figure, even though his career record merits no sympathy. He has metamorphosed into the decent, hard-working underdog whose survival chances fluctuate with each game.

If the Redskins fold in the games ahead, as their recent history suggests, Turner will have his bags packed before the morning after the last game.

By then, a pink slip for Turner would be almost merciful, given the working conditions he has endured this season.

Turner is the one NFL coach who can’t win even when he wins.

Turner won a big game Sunday but only because the Boy Owner met with certain players and reminded them that it was a big game.

Turner won after the loss in Dallas but only because the Boy Owner met with the coach after the loss and reminded him that losing in Dallas was not good for his future. Turner has won this or that game, eight games to be precise, but only because the Boy Owner has huffed and puffed and threatened to hold his breath until he turns purple in the face.

Turner is 0-5, the Boy Owner 8-0, and the 11-2 Colts are next for the Redskins.

Turner’s professional life comes down to three games: at Indianapolis, at San Francisco and home vs. Miami. This stretch is hardly kind, even taking into the account the fall of the 49ers.

Turner needs at least two more victories to feel somewhat secure, with the emphasis on somewhat.

If nothing else, the Redskins lead the NFL in melodramatics, and with the Boy Owner around, that is not likely to change in the last weeks of the season.

The Boy Owner is learning on the job. He is a rookie, not to forget, and probably does not mean to subvert the influence of his on-field leader.

But he has done just that, in countless ways.

They don’t make movies about inspirational owners, do they?

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