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When They Were Champs: The '83 Redskins

(1983 AP photo)

To help us get through the slow-as-Jansen summer blogging season, each Thursday until Skins training camp begins I'll post a little something from The Post archives concerning a past DMV championship moment. Memories and requests for future championship moments are welcomed. Previously: the '78 Bullets, the '84 Hoyas.

I chose the NFC championship game over the '83 Super Bowl because it seems more iconic to an outsider who didn't live here in the '80s, so feel free to disagree with the selection. Also, the game story from the '83 NFC title game just wasn't as great as this A1 scene piece, but the gamer did end with this quote from a near-tears Joe Theismann: "I'm the happiest man in the world," he said. "I never thought this would happen to us or to me. This is the greatest moment of my life. We beat the Cowboys, we're going to the Super Bowl. What else could you want?"

Fans Go 'Hog' Wild as Redskins Gain Super Bowl;
Silence -- Then Came Mighty War Whoops

By Blaine Harden, Washington Post Staff Writer, with contributions from Ed Bruske, Michel Marriott, Rosa Michnya, Courtland Milloy, Keith B. Richburg and Ronald D. White.

For three hours yesterday afternoon, most streets and stores of Washington stood strangely silent as the city turned its collective attention to vanquishing the cursed footballers from Dallas.

The White House put a lid on all news just before the opening kickoff, and the Secret Service huddled around a press-room television set. Shoppers in a Chevy Chase Safeway who had been six-deep in the check-out lines suddenly disappeared. The emergency room at Arlington Hospital, busy all morning, emptied of sick people. At Lorton Reformatory, 1,237 inmates crowded around 25 TV sets and yelled as one. There was quiet concentration in suburban homes.

"No one's having parties for this one," said one Bethesda man. "It's much too important."

When it was finished, when the Redskins had rolled 31-17 over the Texas interlopers who dared call themselves "America's Team," Washington erupted with joy.

Tens of thousands of jubilant fans spilled out of RFK Stadium to a symphony of horns, cowbells and sirens. Downtown, car horns honked amid yells of "Go Get 'Em, Hogs." In Metro subway stations, fans screamed and stomped their feet, heaping verbal abuse on isolated but unyielding Dallas fans.

Sleet and snow began falling almost as soon as the game ended, prompting one fan outside RFK to point heavenward and exclaim, "Look, even the angels are throwing confetti."

In Georgetown, Redskins rooters drunk with victory poured into the streets. Some played football at the intersection of Wisconsin and M streets, throwing soft foam balls to each other. Redskin pennants waved above the bumper-to-bumper traffic. Some people, painted up like Indians, rode on top of their cars and trucks, cheering into the sleet.

Police, anticipating that the crowds would grow more exuberant as the night progressed, sent in reinforcements from precincts throughout the city, including those specially trained in crowd control.

By midnight, police reported about two dozen persons had been arrested for disorderly conduct and many others had been arrested for driving while intoxicated.

The informal center for the festivities remained in the heart of Georgetown at Wisconsin and M streets NW throughout the night as clusters of fans gathered on each corner and sometimes blocked the intersection altogether. Police said they expected that many more fans would join that crowd as bars in the area closed early this morning.

"Most of the people couldn't care less what happens in Pasadena [where the Redskins will play next Sunday in Super Bowl XVII.] Beating Dallas is what's important," said Mike Kipp, manager of the Market Inn on E Street SW, a favorite watering hole for Redskins fans since the 1930s.

Thousands of people in this city of the highly educated and the strait-laced headed for bars.

"We are just three PhD's and one master's degree. We'll get drunk," said David Mabon, a historian for the State Department who was walking side by side with another historian, a defense analyst and an editor.

At the Hawk and Dove Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue, Redskins supporters stood on tabletops and chairs in the bar to sing "Hail to the Redskins, Hail Victory, Braves on the Warpath, Fight for Old D.C."

The day that ended with jubilation began, for some, with the jitters. Dallas, after all, had beaten the Redskins six times in a row and handed Washington its only defeat this season.

"I had to bring my tranquilizers with me," said Dale Summerbell, who had to postpone his football libations at the Market Inn. "I'm going to take one before the game and won't even be able to drink before the second half."

Some fans simply refused to let their business get in the way of watching the Redskins.

The Alexandria City Council, two hours into its monthly Saturday meeting, was struck with a paralyzing case of Redskin fever. Without explanation or apology, the council recessed for two hours starting at kick-off time.

Angus Olsen, executive director of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, had had to give up two game tickets to attend the meeting. But he didn't seem to mind the recess, having brought a radio and headset with him to the meeting.

Council member Donald Casey had ducked out two hours earlier, missing his first council meeting in two terms of office. "Urgent business in Washington. Front row, balcony," he said as he disappeared from City Hall.

Outside RFK Stadium yesterday, scalpers showed up from as far away as the West Coast trying to make a fast buck. They were asking as much as $100 a ticket, but those prices declined steadily as a growing roar from the stadium announced that the game was already under way. Five minutes into the first quarter a man who said he had flown out from San Francisco to buy tickets and sell them at inflated prices was still trying to break even.

Two students from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., who had driven all night in hopes of getting a seat at RFK, paid nearly $100 for two grandstand tickets, which they purchased only a few feet from D.C. police officers.

"After a few beers, you'll do just about anything," said Dennis Allory.

Among those who couldn't get inside the stadium yesterday was John Mann, an American Bell Company employe from Burke, Va. He brought a TV set to the grassy mall outside RFK so he could watch his team with the crowd noise as backdrop.

"I was here 10 years ago, right in front of that stadium," said Mann, referring to the 1972 NFC championship game when the Redskins also drubbed the Cowboys. The score that day was 26-3.

"You get more spirit here than you do in a room somewhere," said Mann, who drew a crowd of rubberneckers to his six-inch screen.

Yesterday was not a pleasant day in Washington for those who professed faith or financial interest in the Cowboys.

At the Metro bus barn at 14th and Kennedy streets NW, one wayward Dallas fan flashed $30 and asked: "Any true believers? I got something here says you ain't got no faith in them 'Deadskins.' "

Two men jumped for the bet, one holding a chicken wing in his mouth as he dug into his pockets for money. "Don't make me have to break your turkey neck to get my money when my team wins," announced a fan who wouldn't disclose his name.

In Adams-Morgan, in the Carlos Gardel Restaurant, Hector Rodriguez struggled to understand the game that transfixed the city. He knew about football from his days in Mexico. But this was different. So much more throwing and so little kicking.

With about seven minutes left in the game, it apparently all came together for him. Cowboy substitute quarterback Gary Hogeboom was attempting to pass, but it was blocked and intercepted by defensive tackle Darryl Grant, who ran for a touchdown. "Man, that's bad," exclaimed Rodriguez. When Redskin fans stared at him, fire in their eyes, wondering what he meant, Rodriguez explained confidently:

"That means good."

By Dan Steinberg  |  July 9, 2009; 4:22 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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Boy, Dan, it's pretty unprecedented for the local media to re-visit, and re-visit, and re-visit, the Skins championships of yesteryear. Kudos on the creativity.

Posted by: mdean3 | July 9, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: littles_ | July 9, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

had tears in my eyes.. i still remember when RFK rocked with fans chanting "We want Dallas! We want Dallas!".

Posted by: RedCherokee | July 9, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Awesome, dude. Forget what the bore-hards want. Awesome.

Posted by: shekb | July 9, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

mdean3, what eles is there right now when you look out and see a Redskins team without a proven quarterback, with Antwaan Randle El still starting at wide receiver and with 375 pound former bust #1 pick Mike Williams actually in the mix for a starting job after missing 3 years?

The Redskins in the 1980's never depended upon a guy out of control enough to be 440 pounds before he determined he wanted to continue playing football.

Win or lose, the Redskins under Gibbs I had a team of overachievers.

The few guys that came here and didn't want to sign up for the program were out of here after one training camp or one season.

We didn't have to suffer them for 3-4 years because of bad contracts that locked us into them.

Posted by: leopard09 | July 9, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Idea for a future Bog, 2002 Terps NCAA Title

Posted by: NatsMan21 | July 9, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Sooo long ago....this franchise actually was first rate. Remember? Then along cam Snyder. Hello mediocrity, so long class.

Posted by: dbunkr | July 9, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Pure and simple, this NFC Championship game was the greatest day EVER to be a Redskins fan. The sack by Manley that knocked Danny White out cold, the interception and TD return for Darryl Grant, it was simply amazing and although I was only 9 years old at the time, I remember that whole day like it was yesterday. Hail to the Redskins!

Posted by: ebberger | July 9, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Then there's the 96' 97' 99' and 04' titles for DC United. Or the 98' Concacaf Championship, or 98' Inter-American Cup over Vasco de Gama of Brazil.

You know, the only team in the DMV that actually wins consistently, has a fanbase who don't need a jumbotron or piped in music to tell them when to cheer, and actually volunteer their time to helping kids in the city. Wow, imagine that, a Pro Sports Franchise that isn't all about the money.

Posted by: alecw81 | July 9, 2009 10:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure that Dan Snyder bought and paid for the space in this Bog. Don't be surprised when you see 1983 Commemorative Jersey's at Fed Ex Field this year. Yours for the low low price of just $200. And what better way to compliment your new jersey than with a delicious Johnny Rockets burger? Buy them for the whole family. You'll be glad you did.

Posted by: VeloStrummer | July 9, 2009 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the memories and it matters not at all that you're talking about the 1982 Redskins!!

Posted by: charlie814 | July 10, 2009 7:21 AM | Report abuse

I just got a little chocked up..

Posted by: alex35332 | July 10, 2009 8:17 AM | Report abuse

The good old days. i hope we can have that feeling again soon.

Posted by: BlackHammer | July 10, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

This game produced my favorite SI cover of all time.

It shows Darryl Grant spiking the ball in the endzone after his interception. Clearly visible is the Budweiser sign over the bleachers. The caption: "Wham! Bam! It's the Redskins!".

I love the SI cover two weeks later with Riggo ("Power and Glory") but because the D. Grant issue shows such an intimate view of RFK and because it was against the cowgirls (and because James Arthur Monk never made the cover), this one is my favorite.

Posted by: Maxwell_Smart | July 10, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

"Two students from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., who had driven all night in hopes of getting a seat at RFK, paid nearly $100 for two grandstand tickets, which they purchased only a few feet from D.C. police officers."

AH, nice to remember we now pay much more for a more mediocre product.
Despite all the appearance of parity in the NFL, the league is still divided into the haves and the have-nots. The Have-nots bounce between 5-11 and 9-6, giving just enough wins to fool the fan base into thinking they are doing anything but treading water. The Haves rally for 10-6+. It's all about who's assembling the team. I love the Skins. The sack of Danny White in the 83 NFC champs game (concussion by Manley?) was the highlight for me.
But anybody who doesn't think this franchise needs a checkup from the neck-up is fooling themselves. Rah rah, nostalgia, but the true way to honor the excellence of the past is to insist it live on in the current team and the way it's run.

Sorry for the cold shower.

Posted by: minorthread | July 10, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I couldn't decide if this should be called the '82 Redskins or the '83 Redskins. Obviously people associate this with the 1982 season, but it felt strange to be reprinting an article from well into 1983 with a headline about 1982. So I just went with '83.

But I can see where you'd have gone the other way with it.

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | July 10, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone remember Danny White crying on the sideline after he was knocked out of the game? The only thing that kept me happy during the Ronald Reagan years was the skins. Sorry Reagan fans.

Posted by: ged0386 | July 10, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I was there and its still one of my two best sports memories along with seeing s Secretariat win the Belmont Stakes live also!

Posted by: tomb4 | July 10, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Dan, I love it. Please go 2002 Terps and 87 & 91 Skins.

And bring back the Bandwagon

Posted by: jpfterps | July 10, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone remember the Skins vs Raiders regular season game the following season? I think it ended with the skins winning 37-35. It is one of the best football games I have ever seen. Several lead changes, both teams came back from two TD deficits. You had green, monk, riggo, Monk, Charlie Brown, cliff branch, Jim Plunkett, Doc Walker Joe Washington (marcus allen did not play) Howie Long, Lyle Alzado, Matt Millen, Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes. I remember one play where the raiders got an interceptions and during the runback the LB Rod Martin was knocked out by our O-Lineman who then recovered the fumble and got the ball back for the skins. Just an example of how good this game was. Thats what made the supperbowl loss to the raiders so disapointing, because it wasnt even a good game compared to the game they played during the season.

Posted by: ged0386 | July 10, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

@ged0386 I remember him crying. The hit on White was the original tuck rule. I have the entire game on VHS and have watched it over 50 times, maybe more. My dad actually purchased a VHS recorder just for this game. Thank you dad. I'm working on getting the VHS tape moved to digital format.

Posted by: inchesfromyourface | July 10, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

@ged0386 I attended the Raider regular season game and post season game that year. I remember a crazy kick off by Jeff Hayes that resulted in a Redskin possession. Plus after Joe Washington caught the winning touchdown a fan ran on the field in front of the Raiders bench to challenge them in a fight.

Posted by: inchesfromyourface | July 10, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

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