- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 23, 2004

A lonely wind whistles from your television speakers. The screen pans across the Rose Bowl as the sky darkens. And then the resounding, familiar voice-over begins.

“In the fourth quarter,” NFL Films’ legendary John Facenda intones, “the Redskins lit up the Super Bowl sky with a game plan straight out of pro football’s distant past.”

Highlights roll. The Joe Gibbs-led Washington Redskins make a dramatic offensive shift, ditching trickery for straight-ahead power. John Riggins pounds the ball; the Miami Dolphins wither. Finally Riggins scores, now to sounds of the original “Sonny, Sam and Frank” WMAL broadcast, on a 43-yard off-tackle rumble for the ages.

All is right with the world.

Or at least that’s what many Redskins fans might think when they view this portion of a five-DVD package of highlights and features from Super Bowls XI-XX. Warner Bros., which released a DVD set for Super Bowls I-X in 2003, now hopes to hook the Father’s Day crowd with this offering, which will be available June1 at a suggested price of $64.92.

For Redskins fans who suffered through the 1950s and 1960s, who rallied around George Allen’s “Over the Hill Gang” in the 1970s but still didn’t know the elation of a Super Bowl win, there’s a lot on these DVDs to cherish and relive from that memorable Sunday afternoon in Pasadena, Calif.

But another key audience might be fans who have moved to the area in the past decade, when the team has been better known for unmet expectations, a revolving door of coaches and players and just one playoff appearance. For those fans, these DVDs provide a window into Gibbs’ halcyon years and perhaps a taste of what he might recreate now that he is back as coach.

Each DVD reviews two Super Bowls, and each big game gets about an hour of footage split into a four-part package. Comprising the four parts are a season overview (culminating with quick highlights of the Super Bowl), an in-depth piece on the championship game and two features on key players or units from the contest.

The programming on Super Bowl XVII, which capped the strike-shortened 1982 season and provided Gibbs his first title, contains features on Riggins, Washington’s colorful star running back, and Miami’s outstanding defense, dubbed (for the first letter in many of the players’ last names) “The Killer B’s.”

The late Facenda, whose vocal gravitas makes any football game sound like an epic struggle, narrates the show on Washington’s 27-17 Super Bowl victory. Broadcaster Harry Kalas, who does NFL Films’ voice-over work these days, provides a backdrop for the 1982 season.

The latter, as you might expect, begins with the eight-week strike. When play resumes, it is dominated by passing offenses like San Diego’s “Air Coryell” set. Cincinnati’s Cris Collinsworth catches a bomb from Ken Anderson. Tony Dorsett busts a 99-yard run for Dallas to beat Minnesota. New England reaches the postseason when a snow plow driver clears a spot for a game-winning field goal against Miami.

The Redskins don’t even get a mention until about 12 minutes have elapsed, when twangy farm music signals it’s time for the “Hogs.” Shown are Joe Theismann, the “Smurfs” and Mark Moseley. Russ Grimm gives a postgame interview with blood running down his nose. The RFK Stadium stands buckle as fans chant “We want Dallas!” at the end of a playoff victory against the Vikings before pounding the Cowboys for the NFC Championship.

Little time, relatively speaking, is given to Washington’s Super Bowl win in the program on the 1982 season. In fact, the Dolphins (who led much of the game) seem to go down rather easily.

But the segment on the game itself compensates Redskins fans hoping to see a blow-by-blow recount and in-depth analysis. An interview with a “Starsky & Hutch”-era Joe Bugel explains the famous “50 gut” running play and how Washington’s pre-snap motions kept versatile Dolphins linebacker A.J. Duhe from rushing on the edge.

Riggo’s famous touchdown, which put Washington ahead for good with 10 minutes to play, is reviewed in detail. A Redskins fan in full tribal gear sets the atmosphere by making engine sounds and calling for “the Diesel.” Sam Huff, on the WMAL broadcast, predicts the fourth-and-1 call. Riggins plows over cornerback Don McNeal and races down the left sideline. Facenda calls it “the most dramatic touchdown run in Super Bowl history.”

The separate feature on Riggins demonstrates what a nut he was. Gibbs provides a funny anecdote about how a plan to trade Riggins during the running back’s contract holdout was thwarted. The rusher returned to football, of course, after sitting out the 1980 season, famously declaring, “I’m bored, I’m broke and I’m back.”

The 1983 segment, with Washington’s 38-9 loss to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII, is solid if less compelling for Redskins fans. Most memorable is Gibbs’ decision in the title game to throw a screen pass in the waning seconds of the first half; linebacker Jack Squirek’s short interception return for a touchdown effectively sealed what at the time was the biggest blowout in Super Bowl history.

Redskins fans understandably might balk at paying $60 plus for about an hour of what might be considered must-see television. In fact, none of the segments is new; each was produced years ago. And the narration by Facenda and Kalas, in typical NFL Films fashion, can be comically heavy handed.

But Warner Bros.’ production, the first time Super Bowl footage has been available on DVD, is in effect history’s take on the NFL’s greatest teams. Memories will fade, but Riggo’s run can be vivid for even the youngest Washingtonians. The product emerges, on balance, as a winner for Redskins fans old and new.

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