The Hogs arrive in Canton
When I entered the massive Memorial Civic Center in Canton for the Friday night's Hall of Fame Enshrinement Dinner, I wasn't exactly sure how I'd find the Hogs. It's not like they were gonna be holding up signs, wearing dresses and pig snouts or sporting mud-stained burgundy and gold.
Turns out it wasn't that hard. I saw Joe Bugel and Russ Grimm -- the former unmistakable with his facial crevices, the latter with his mustache-- sitting at the head table. Then I saw a large-ish man -- Jeff Bostic -- talking to them. Bostic led me to Fred Dean. The two of them then found George Starke. And a few minutes later, they were all sitting in a group in the audience: Bostic, Starke, Dean, Joe Jacoby, Donnie Warren.
"The whole starting offensive line from the first Super Bowl," Bostic noted, though I didn't personally see Mark May.
Why such attendance?
"He's the first Hog in," Warren said, gesturing toward Grimm. "We wanted to come out and just support our man."
I was talking to my editor the other day about the meaning of this event and the Monk and Green party two years ago, why these celebrations of the '80s Redskins are so important not just to adults, but to folks in their late 20s and early 30s who were just kids during the Hogs Era. Many of the reasons seem obvious, I guess, but still worth asking the Hogs about.
"The Redskins haven't had much success, and people live in the past," Starke said. "The Redskins have no recent memories that are interesting, really. They haven't done anything. There's no memories to replace [the Gibbs Era]," so that still seems like yesterday.
"The style is also important, the style that the Redskins had," Starke continued. "There's winning, but when you win on the ground, it's a whole different thing. But of course the whole style of the NFL has changed.
"These guys have three rings," he went on. "A lot of the guys you see here never won anything. Floyd Little never won anything. John Randle never won anything. Rickey Jackson never won anything. Very few guys in the NFL have had the success of [the Hogs]. Most guys never win in the NFL.
"And no one's replaced the lore," he concluded. "There's no recent lore, so you have to live in the past. Every time the Redskins lose, we become more famous. Every time they have a 4th-and-1 and get stuffed, people think about John Riggins and the Hogs. You create your own history. We created it, and no one's replaced it."
The Hogs, of course, were loved for lots of other specific reasons; the posters, the Five O'Clock Club, the blue-collar mystique.
"It was because of the branding of the Hogs," Monk speculated. "We had such a good offensive line for so many years, and our fans just loved them."
The "so many years" part is important, too. Several of them pointed out that they were one of the biggest constants throughout the Gibbs run.
"Four Super Bowls in 10 years with three different quarterbacks and three different running backs," Bostic summarized. "Just drive the car, don't run it over a ditch. Just drive the car, just don't wreck it. Just drive it."
"The Hogs were a staple," Warren agreed. "We kept the line intact. You had the Purple People Eaters and everything else, but in the '80s and '70s, there really wasn't an offensive line like that. People still love us, and that's because we had a lot of success."
And Beathard, who worked in several NFL markets, said that part of this enduring love has to do with the nature of football in Washington.
"I'd never been in a town that was so attached to its football team," he said. "In all the years I was in the NFL, there was no place like Washington. Washington has something that I've never seen in any sport. It's just incredible. It was a lot of fun with the Chargers, but there are other things that people in San Diego are interested in. Washington is the most exciting football town I've ever been around. There's no place like it that I've been."
The Hogs said maybe they'd be back in Canton for a Jacoby celebration. Whether they remain such a huge attraction to Redskins fans might depend on what goes on with the current team.
"I guess we were pretty good," Bostic said with a chuckle. "Until something happens, that's the best era of Redskins football that city's ever known."
August 6, 2010; 9:27 PM ET
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