WASHINGTON — I started covering the Redskins for WMAL Radio in 1974.
There were some pretty lean years for a while, but in 1981 they hired a new coach named Joe Gibbs. His first season, he went 8-8 after a 0-5 start. But the 1982 season was to be an odd one. A players strike reduced the number of games played from 16 to only 9. The ‘Skins went 8-1, though 3 of those were won by “replacement players” who crossed the picket lines while the regular team was on strike.
When the postseason began, Redskins fans were eager to get a crack at their longtime nemesis Dallas Cowboys. After winning the second game against the Vikings, the fans started chanting “We Want Dallas,” and the stands at RFK were literally shaking. They got Dallas, they won, and went to Super Bowl XVII to face the Miami Dolphins at the Rose Bowl.
I spent a week out in California covering the team and the faithful fans who followed them to Pasadena. I even did a pregame show from the field itself.
But when the game started, it was time for Frank, Sam and Sonny to take over the mic, so in the interest of getting a good view of the game, my radio partner Bill Trumbull and I climbed onto the roof of the press box. Wearing hideously yellow jackets issued to us by the station, we could later see ourselves in an aerial photo that showed up in Sports Illustrated.
The Dolphins were favored to win the game, and took control early. But the Redskins made a second-half comeback, capped off with what is now the most famous run in Washington football history. Joe Theismann handed off to John Riggins on fourth and 1 with under five minutes to play, and Riggo scampered 43 yards for the touchdown, dragging along a Miami defender with him.
After so many years covering mediocre football, this was the sports thrill of my life. Hail!