- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

Every good person has a breaking point. A point where pity becomes conviction. Where conviction leads to action. Where do-nothing idleness will no longer, um, do.

For some, it’s the image of starving infants in Africa. For others, it’s the plight of Afghan land mine victims.

For me, it was the sight of Washington Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey, battered and bruised, being smacked around by the Dallas Cowboys like an overstuffed pinata.

Let’s not mince words: Ramsey is the last man standing on a Titanic of ouch. Game after punishing game. The Redskins’ second-year signal-caller has been sacked 26 times this season, second most in the NFL. He has suffered a sprained left shoulder, a bruised left forearm and a dislocated pinky. (And those are just the maladies we know about). Over the next three weeks, he faces Carolina and Miami, two of the fiercest pass-rushing teams in the league.

Never mind his 25th birthday. Ramsey may not live to see Thanksgiving.

Deeply moved by last Sunday’s carnage — not to mention the phrase “Tim Hasselbeck now under center for Washington” — I decided that the Second Most Important Man in Washington needed help. Serious help.

But where to get it?

A Man, a Plan

This was a tricky proposition. For one, the NFL wasn’t about to let Ramsey wear his no-hit practice jersey during actual games, let alone force the other guys to rush on five-Mississippi; for two, FEMA was busy tending to the California wildfires.

Exhausting all other options, I realized that Ramsey’s dilemma required a hands-on solution. A knuckle-dirtying, roll-up-the-sleeves effort. For years, I had asked what the Redskins’ quarterback du jour could do for me, outside of the occasional self-administered concussion; in the here and now, it was time to ask what I could do for the Redskins’ quarterback.

In essence, I would have to get off my couch.

Since I wasn’t about to suit up, step on the field and try to stop a Dexter Coakley blitz — concerned, yes; stupid, no — I settled on a more manageable approach, a three-pronged plan that coincidentally encompassed much of daily life in Washington:

1. A petition;

2. A protest;

3. A fund-raiser.

To start, I would draft a suitably alarming/demanding letter, collect signatures from the public and forward the results to the appropriate authorities, including Redskins owner Dan Snyder, Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich, former President Jimmy Carter and the anti-torture division at Amnesty International. The text follows:

Your Excellencies:

I am gravely concerned with reports that Washington Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey was sacked four times and hit a half-dozen more by the blitz-happy Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium last Sunday, even though the Redskins had nearly two weeks to plug the Humvee-sized holes in their pass protection scheme. Ramsey reportedly suffered a bruised forearm and a dislocated pinky and had to be replaced by someone named Tim Hasselbeck. Afterward, Redskins coach Steve Spurrier reportedly claimed, “We thought we had a good, solid game plan … [but] Dallas came from places we didn’t think they were coming [from].”

I urge you to open an independent, impartial investigation into the ongoing pummeling of Ramsey, to make the findings public, and bring to justice anyone, including members of the Redskins coaching staff, found to have ordered a single running back and/or backup tight end to block Simeon Rice one-on-one.

Furthermore, I urge you to repeal the section in the NFL rule book that limits teams to fielding a total of 11 players at any one time. Given the disturbing circumstances surrounding Ramsey, the Redskins should be given a special dispensation and allowed to field two or perhaps three extra pass blockers, depending on the formation in use.

Your excellencies, Ramsey already has been sacked 26 times. Eight games remain. I implore you to watch the game tape. No man, not even Terrell Owens, should be forced to spend that much time lodged under Warren Sapp.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Next, I would take my cause to the streets and stage an outdoor demonstration, showering in advance to distinguish my cause from that of the IMF protesters commonly seen downtown. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure that one angry man would even be noticed — but if a handmade placard reading PRIESTS ARE PEDOPHILES worked for that bitter guy outside the Vatican Embassy, I figured SAVE PATRICK was worth a shot.

Finally, I would solicit donations for the Patrick Ramsey Relief Fund, 25 cents at a time. With any luck, I hoped to collect enough money to buy Ramsey a bottle of extra-strength Advil ($8.99), a jar of Icy Hot ($5.99) and a full-body massage at the Ritz-Carlton hotel spa ($60-plus).

Granted, 60 bills is a bit steep for a massage. But remember: When not flat on his back, Ramsey has thrown 10 touchdown passes this year. Isn’t that worth a little splurge?

Takin’ It to the Streets

Being exceedingly lazy — and wanting to make it home in time to catch “The O.C.” on Fox — I decided to tackle all three tasks at once. And so, with petition, signs and collection cup in tow, I headed to MCI Center, where the Wizards were scheduled to take on the Dallas Mavericks.

Why the Wiz? Simple: Sports fans were bound to show up. Besides, anyone forking over $100 to see the Jerry Stackhouse-less ‘Zards probably was in a giving mood.

Setting up shop between the Metro station and the Modell’s store on F Street, I summoned my best town crier impression.

“PATRICK RAMSEY RELIEF FUND! MAKE A DONATION! SAVE YOUR QUARTERBACK! ARE THERE ANY REDSKINS FANS HERE TONIGHT?”

“No,” replied a typically indifferent passerby. “Thank God.”

Hmmm. Things weren’t going as well as I had hoped. My 25-cent jar was empty. My voice was getting hoarse. And people were looking at me with a strange mix of pity and revulsion — possibly because I was wet from a rainstorm, probably because my water-smeared SAVE PATRICK RAMSEY placards made me look like a crazy homeless person.

So much for that $60 massage: At this rate, I wouldn’t end up with enough money to buy Ramsey a Band-Aid. It was time to change my pitch.

“NO MORE SACKS! NO MORE KNOCKDOWNS! STOP THE BRUTALITY! SIGN THE PETITION! SAVE PATRICK RAMSEY!”

“I don’t think it’s possible,” cracked another passerby. “You can’t save him.”

Never mind the nattering nabobs of negativism. I was determined to try. One fan wearing a Ramsey jersey plunked a quarter into my collection cup. A woman on her way to the game followed suit.

“Thanks,” I said. “For the price of a cup of coffee — or one-tenth of a cup at Starbucks — you can help a beat-up quarterback.”

Jonathan Long of Forestville agreed to sign my petition. I explained that it called on the NFL to let Washington field extra blockers.

“You’d think our Pro Bowl line would be able to block,” Long said, shaking his head.

Whitney Wilson, a 20-year-old Redskins season-ticket holder from Ashburn, Va., sounded a similar note. Yet as the signatures flowed in — well, more like trickled — I discovered that Washington fans were remarkably adept at spreading the blame around.

Greg Chottiner, a 47-year-old from Maryland, blamed the team’s blocking schemes. So did James Cawley, a District resident who has been following the team since 1963.

Snyder, Spurrier and O-line coach Kim Helton also were mentioned frequently, though not in terms suitable for publication in a family newspaper.

“Why didn’t they just hire Joe Bugel?” lamented Jack, a fan who didn’t want to give his last name. “Ramsey’s on his way to being a good QB. But in three years, he’ll be done. They’re beating the [heck] out of him.”

Jack paused, noting that he had been a Redskins supporter since 1977, when the team was “losing to Minnesota in the yellow pants.”

“I’ve suffered with this team,” he added. “Lived and died with this team. And I’ve never been more distraught than now.”

Still holding my pen, Jack gestured toward MCI Center.

“With Snyder, we’re looking at the new millennium Abe Pollin,” he said with a sigh. “Great stadium. Big payroll. Bad team.”

Jack suggested that the Redskins hire former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf, a respected NFL personnel man who lives in Annapolis.

University of Maryland student Bobby Safaipour, 20, said the team should stop asking running backs Trung Candidate and Ladell Betts to block — a curious request, given that neither back has blocked much of anything this season.

“Have 10 men block and let Ramsey run the ball,” added Michael Tates, 20, from the District. “Otherwise, I don’t think he’ll make it to Thanksgiving.”

After 45 minutes of shouting, I had collected 75 cents. My success didn’t go unnoticed. A fellow in an all-beige outfit — call him Track Suit Guy — stood next to me and began to solicit pedestrians.

“Patrick Ramsey said any extra tickets that you got, throw ‘em in the bucket!” he yelled.

Wait a second. This wasn’t about personal gain. This was about selfless charity. I asked Track Suit Guy if he would be willing to donate a quarter.

“Sure, I’ll give you a quarter,” he replied. “Just give me six bucks for a Wizards ticket.”

Even by the creative standards of Congressional accounting, that didn’t seem like a good deal. Back to the task at hand. To my surprise, most Redskins fans didn’t want to discuss the Dallas game. However, the mere mention of Ramsey’s mangled left hand provoked a mix of slack-jawed awe and lip-quivering sympathy.

Then again, so did that hiker who cut off his own arm to get out from under a boulder.

District resident Erving Goodall, 54, called Ramsey “tough.” Cory Ashby, a 17-year-old from Remington, Va. did Goodall one better, dubbing Ramsey “the toughest quarterback ever.”

“I’m very concerned for Ramsey’s health,” said Bill Love, a Redskins season-ticket holder from Alexandria. “I’ve never seen a quarterback take so much punishment. When Sonny Jurgensen played, at least he had a stomach to absorb some of it.”

The pity was universal. Clad in a Tampa Bay Bucs cap, Maryland student Dawayne Pinkey, 20, offered his condolences. Sebora Kargbo, a 20-year-old from the District, gave a quarter while noting that he “felt sorry for anyone who doesn’t have a chance.”

“I’m a Cowboys fan,” said Monty Roberson, from Mitchellville. “And my heart still went out to him.”

Talk about heart: Roberson the Dallas fan signed my petition, leaving me with 31 signatures. And a grand total of $1.25. Short of my goal, I decided to call it a night.

I was exhausted. Hungry. Wet. My throat felt like beef jerky. I had done all I could. Let someone else figure out a way to keep Ramsey afloat, if not upright. Let someone else buy the poor guy a massage. Maybe even someone like you.

Remember: In his annual MDA telethon, Jerry Lewis reminds us that it’s never too late to help. He’s right. After all, the Redskins have eight games remaining.


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