Strasburg, Vince Lombardi and Joe Gibbs
Sept. 21, 1969. The Washington Post reports on Vince Lombardi's upcoming first game as coach of the Redskins:
For 23 straight seasons the Redskins have reached their level of incompetency short of the championship round in the National Football League.
For the last 13, the starveling fans who have tolerated them have not even had a winning record to show for their loyalty.
But on Sunday, the 50th anniversary of the NFL, the history of Vince Lombardi's expertise promises the beginning of the Redskins' deliverance from mediocrity.
So don't tell me Washington has never hyped a debut before. In fact, the estimable Andy Pollin drafted a must-read list of the five most-hyped arrivals in the past four decades of sports history: in order, he cited Lombardi, Joe Gibbs II, Desmond Howard, Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing. Albert King and Heath Shuler got honorable mention.
Here's the report from Ewing's first practice, courtesy a couple guys named Feinstein and Wilbon:
Patrick Ewing walked onto the floor at McDonough Gym at 4:10 p.m. yesterday, the way cleared for him by Bill Stein, an assistant coach.
There were several reporters and a camera crew in the gym but no one made a move toward Ewing. Everyone knew Coach John Thompson's edict: no one talks to Georgetown's most prized acquisition since the C&O Canal was completed.
Ewing, wearing No. 55 on his practice jersey, his knees wrapped in white pads, picked up a basketball and joined senior Ron Blaylock, who was casually shooting at a basket.
Holding the ball like a baseball, Ewing walked to about eight feet from the hoop and took a soft, flat-footed shot. It went through the net and the 7-foot freshman smiled. He was one for one at Georgetown.
And here's a passage from the A1 story when Joe Gibbs came back. The headline: "Faithful See Chance of Salvation."
People spoke in theological terms -- of football rituals, of belief, of faith. They recalled that on dark twilights of defeat, they had often wondered: What would Gibbs have done?
Hands were clasped in prayerful thanksgiving to the sports gods. And woe to those of little faith who had given up their season tickets.
The hallowed words, Joe Gibbs, struck such a vein in Brian Riordan's 48-year-old football psyche that hope, joy and nostalgia all poured forth yesterday as he sat in the living room of his home at lunchtime with his longtime friend and 30-year season-ticket holder Linda Garritty of Kensington.....
"I've got friends, season-ticket holders, that have let their season tickets go," he said. "Can you imagine the people that let their season tickets go, that didn't believe, didn't believe in the Redskins? They're kicking themselves now. This is going to be a huge boost for the Washington area Redskins fans," he said. "Maybe get them back on the bandwagon, maybe try to reestablish some Redskins belief, in what the Redskins stand for....Joe Gibbs, he's got the magic."
So maybe Baseball Jeezus and Strasmas and all that is still tops on the list, but there are some other legit contenders.
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