Friday, September 15, 2006

It's Time for the Redskins

Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1978, was the first time I ever watched the Dallas Cowboys. I was seven years old. My uncle turned on the game which was a matchup of the Cowboys and Redskins at Texas Stadium. My uncle watched with enthusiasm, and I joined him to watch the game and root for his Cowboys. After that day, they were my Cowboys too.

If for no other reason, the fact that the Redskins were the first team I ever watched the Cowboys play and beat, the matchup between the two would be special. However, this rivalry goes so much deeper than that and has a history spanning back far beyond that game in 1978. Cowboy fans love to hate the Redskins.

I didn't hate the Redskins when I watched the game with my uncle. I didn't really know I was supposed to at the time, but that would change quickly. I watched many close matches over the following years and began to pick up on the fact that the players from each team actually didn't like the opposing players. It wasn't just a game to them. If the Cowboys could only win one game in a season, it had damn well be against the Redskins.

In 1982, the Cowboys played the Redskins during the strike-shortened season, and beat them quite handily. The two teams met up again in the NFC Championship game for a trip to the Super Bowl. Early in the game, the Redskin's Dexter Manley hit Dallas quarterback, Danny White, and put him out of the game. The inept Gary Hogeboom took the reigns for the Cowboys, and the Redskins won the game 31-17 and went on to win Super Bowl XVII. After suffering a heartbreaking loss to the 49ers and "The Catch" just one year earlier, I was devistated.

The opening game in 1983 matched up the Cowboys and Redskins on Monday Night Football at RFK Stadium. The game started as a total blowout, and I began to get a sick feeling in my stomach. The Redskins held a 23-3 lead at halftime. At that time, not team had ever recovered from that large of a margin on MNF. In the second half, the Cowboys scored four unanswered touchdowns before Washington got one last desperation score, and the Cowboys won 31-30. It was the first time I realized that anything can happen and to never give up hope.

Later that same season, the Cowboys met up again in Texas Stadium, but this was for the NFC East Title. Anyone that followed football very closely could tell you about the infamous "No, Danny! No!" game. The Cowboys trailed in the game, and were lined up to snap the ball on 4th down and 1 in their own territory. The Cowboys only lined up to try and pull the Redskins off sides for a cheap first down, but Dallas coach, Tom Landry realized that QB Danny White was going to run a play. The always stoic Landry was filmed standing on the sidelines yelling at his quarterback. It was impossible to hear what he was saying, but a blind man could have read his lips: "No, Danny! No!" The Redskins went on to win the game 31-17, and my hatred for the Redskins was permanently seeded. I relished in the Redskins defeat to the Raiders later that season in Super Bowl XVIII.

The rivalry died down as the Cowboys were really bad while the Redskins were good and the other way around. The Cowboys found new rivals in the Philadelphia Eagles, but it never matched the intensity of the old Cowboys/Redskins matchups.

Now, the rivalry may be back. Until last season, the Cowboys had beaten the Redskins about 15 out of the past 16 meetings. That's like eight years of ass whoopin'. It appeared the streak would continue during the second game of the season last year, again on Monday Night Football. Dallas lead 13-0 with barely more than 2 minutes to play. The Cowboys lost the game 14-13, and some of that old hatred started to well up inside of me again. The Redskins beat Dallas again later in the season, making it the first time the Redskins had beaten the Cowboys twice in one season since Neanderthals roamed the Earth or thereabouts.

There are high hopes for the Cowboys this season. It's Bill Parcells fourth year as head coach, the leagues best wide reciever joined the team, and there is just a lot of talent all the way around. Some analysts are picking the Cowboys to make the Super Bowl. Well, the road to the Super Bowl begins on this Sunday night against the Redskins.

Both teams looked bad in the season opener, so I expect this to be a heated game, and some of that rivalry to be brought back to life. Both teams have weapons. It's going to come down to which team executes and which doesn't.

I have to go with my Boys. Final 24-27, possibly in OT.

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