- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 17, 2005

As football fans file into FedEx Field tomorrow for the much anticipated Cowboys-Redskins showdown, many will be stopped and searched in this security-conscious post-September 11 era. Under those conditions, it would be pretty difficult for Bert Sugar to engineer the stunt he pulled off 44 years ago at D.C. Stadium at another Redskins-Cowboys game.

After all, how could you get a bunch of chickens past security?

“I would figure out some way,” Sugar said. “I’d put snouts on them and say they were the ugliest-looking Hogettes you had ever seen.”

There are all sorts of tales surrounding the Redskins-Cowboys feud. Some of them actually took place on the field, such as when Dexter Manley put Danny White out of the NFC title game in the 31-17 Washington victory on Jan. 22, 1983, or when Clint “The Mad Bomber” Longley did in the Redskins 24-23 on Thanksgiving Day in 1974.

The feud has gone far beyond the field of play through the years, though. When Norv Turner, a Dallas offensive coordinator, was hired to coach the Redskins, many former players couldn’t accept a Cowboy coaching the Redskins. It runs deep through Redskins tradition, fueled in the latter part of the 1960s by the number of Washington players who grew up in Texas, pumped up to feverish levels by Redskins coach George Allen and milked appropriately by Joe Gibbs.

In recent years, because of the dismal performance by the Redskins, the rivalry lost some of its luster. But thanks to the Redskins’ stunning comeback earlier this year in Dallas and their competitive play since then, tomorrow’s game has come close to the feel of a typical Redskins-Cowboys game.

So how did all this begin? When did the bad blood start to boil?

Many believe it began before the Cowboys even began playing as an expansion team in 1960. Former Redskins owner George Preston Marshall considered the South — all of the South, including Texas — his territory, and he opposed efforts by Texas oilman Clint Murchison to get an expansion team in Texas.

So Murchison fought back by buying the rights to the song “Hail to the Redskins” from Washington bandleader Barney Breeskin, who wrote the song and was fighting with Marshall at the time. The story goes that Murchison used the song rights to force Marshall to go along with the expansion and then sold the rights back to the angry Washington owner, and the feud was on.

Murchison didn’t leave it there, though. He loved to irritate the Redskins owner. So when the Cowboys came to Washington on Dec. 17, 1961, the Dallas owner had a little present for Marshall. Murchison employed a Washington public relations man named Irv Davidoff to hatch his little plan.

That’s where Sugar, a Washington native and one of the pre-eminent boxing historians and sports authors in the country, came in. At the time he was just out of law school and working as a stringer for Washington investigative reporters Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson.

“I was in Pearson’s offices on K Street, and they shared their offices with a public relations man named Irv Davidoff, whose client was Clint Murchison,” Sugar said. “Clint was always trying to get under George Preston Marshall’s skin. For some reason, they had a running joke, dating back to the days when Marshall, a showman, put on the Dallas Exposition shows that involved chickens.

“Davidoff came to me and said, ‘I’ve got $100 and chickens. Can you get four people to sneak these chickens into the stadium and release them at halftime on the field? I can get you the tickets.’ I got some people, and we got them into the stadium and let them go on the field. They were running all over the place, and we were running back to our seats. People were running all over the field trying to catch them, and they looked like chickens with their heads cut off.”

The Redskins also earned their only victory in a 1-12-1 season that day under coach Bill McPeak. Running back Dick James scored four touchdowns and ran for 146 yards in a 34-24 win before a crowd of just 21,451 at the new stadium.

You couldn’t pull a scheme like that at FedEx Field, although in recent years the Redskins sometimes have looked like chickens with their heads cut off. Tomorrow, though, Redskins fans would settle for a win. That will be nostalgic and colorful enough.

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