- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2008

If Redskins fans are to reclaim FedEx Field as the home of the burgundy and gold, it wasn’t going to happen Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys, who have one of the largest and most loyal fan bases in the league.

Two weeks after Pittsburgh Steelers fans filled thousands of seats and in some instances controlled the noise level in the 90,000-seat stadium, Redskins fans did a much better job of standing their ground amid a sizable contingent of Cowboys supporters.

Team-owned radio station ESPN 980 sponsored a giveaway of 50,000 “Redskins rally rags.” And Washington fans easily won the noise battle, even forcing the Cowboys into a timeout on the game’s first drive. With the Redskins controlling the play early on, Dallas fans didn’t have a chance to get riled up.

No question, fans in blue-and-white jerseys still were all over the place - tailgating, cheering, and enjoying themselves with little harassment - even on a night when Art Monk and Darrell Green received their Hall of Fame rings. They were just a little bit quieter than Steelers fans were two weeks ago.

“The more Cowboys fans here, the better,” said Allan Johnson, a Corpus Christi, Texas, native and a senior at George Washington. “I just think it’s important for the team to see they have support on the road.”

Johnson bought his ticket on eBay for $125 - and did not inform the seller he was a Cowboys fan until after the sale. He was among a throng of Dallas fans that mingled in the parking lots before heading into the stadium.

But not everyone accepted their presence. Jeannie Cooper of Bowling Green, Va., for instance, made it her mission to chide a nearby fan wearing a Tony Romo jersey.

“You’re lucky I don’t break your … arm,” she yelled. “[Romo] only broke his pinkie, but I’ll break his neck.”

For the past two weeks, talk radio and Internet message boards were filled with debates on whether Redskins fans had shaky loyalty or Steelers supporters were simply showing off their reputation as one of the best-traveling fan bases in the NFL.

“It’s embarrassing, man,” said Cooper’s husband, Doug, who attended the Steelers game. “That was a bad night all around. You’re supposed to have the home field advantage but you don’t even have that.”

The Redskins managed to keep the Cowboys fan contingent in check early, scoring on their first drive and stopping a scoring drive with an interception by newly acquired cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

While there were campaigns to block Cowboys fans from attending Sunday’s game, there is no way to ensure tickets won’t end up in their hands. The Redskins’ official ticket reseller, StubHub, allows tickets to be sold to virtually anyone. Sales on eBay are essentially anonymous.

StubHub showed hundreds of fans were selling tickets this past week, but it was impossible to know who bought them. The company declined to offer sales figures for Sunday’s game.

“It’s a sensitive matter for the team, and as a partner we want to be respectful of their public perception,” StubHub spokesman Sean Pate said.

Like Steelers fans, Cowboys fans are among the most passionate in the NFL. Sunday’s game, like the one two weeks ago, took place at night, which many fans find inconvenient.

“Why would you come on a Sunday night when you’re not going to get your kids to bed until 2 a.m. because you’re driving back to the suburbs in Virginia?” Johnson said.

The final two home games, against the Giants and Eagles, should be enticing for Redskins fans. Each game is - for now - scheduled for early afternoon, but Johnson said the size of FedEx Field may work against the team.

“You may have [50,000] or 60,000 loyal fans who are willing to come out for the game every week,” he said. “But if you have a 90,000-seat stadium out here, there’s always going to be those fringe people who think that maybe selling those tickets for that 400 bucks is going to be more important to you than actually standing out here in 40-degree weather and in the wind.”

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