Friday, December 17, 2010

The Loser's Rejoinder

The Cowboys have been thumping the Redskins in some way or other since before their first season in the league. In 1959 Dallas bought the rights to “Hail to the Redskins” as a trump card over Redskins owner George Marshall to get him to vote the new franchise in to existence. All of the other numbers regularly trotted out in friendly and heated debate in the break rooms, tailgate lots and internet chat sites are legend so there is no need in repeating them here. In my opinion it is the catalyst reason behind this great rivalry that needs a bit more examination.

Legendary Coach George Allen came to Washington from San Diego to revive a moribund franchise and immediately set about installing a pervasive and raw hatred for the Cowboys in what I believe is the most damaging fashion of all – The Inferiority Complex. Coach Allen routinely motivated his players by serving up the schoolyard chestnut “They think they’re better than you!” and tossing off such sniffers as “They don’t want to get their precious white uniforms dirty,” or “They don’t play gritty, smash mouth football like we do!”

That kind of pep talk goes a long way in stirring up single-minded passions but it goes so much farther. If something is repeated often enough even though it is an untruth then it becomes the truth to the believer. In this case, the perception of “they THINK they are better” becomes the reality – “they ARE better.” Anywhere today on the streets of Washington , D.C. and Northern Virginia the sense of inferiority comes up at some point in the conversation. Sports journalists in the Washington area routinely decry the “overrated” Dallas Cowboys as a way to shore up confidence in the classic “drag them down to lift us up” strategy.

Ingrained in the hearts and minds of millions of Redkins faithful is the unshakeable, fundamental angst-ridden hatred that says no matter how many times the Redkins actually do beat the Cowboys, win the division, advance in the playoffs or even go to the Superbowl, the Redskins will simply never measure up. The George Allen Inferiority Complex lives on, perpetuating the idea that Dallas is still and will always be the better team.

So here is Coach Allen feeding second class citizen mind games to his own team and, of course, Dallas fans are going right along with it. “Hey, your own coach says you guys aren’t good enough! We won’t argue with him!” The absolute proof came the year after Cowboys beat the Dolphins in Superbowl VI by a score of 24-3 for their first Lombardi Trophy. With “We Want Dallas!” at fever pitch, the Redskins defeated the Cowboys in the next NFC Championship game and went on to face those same Dolphins in the Superbowl.

No one will ever know if the Cowboys might have gone to their third Superbowl in a row and beat Miami again. The Redskins lost and the Perfect Season of 1972 was born. If grudgingly, Dallas will respect a team that talks the talk and walks the walk. Washington spoiled Dallas ’ party then came up empty when it really mattered, 32 years before Philadelphia would go belly up against the Patriots. Hey, nice going!

At a family gathering this Summer an Eagles cousin and a Redskins cousin ganged up on me in a friendly yet still winner-take-all round of trash talking and chest beating. Said the Eagles cousin:

“When was the last time you went to a Superbowl?”
“Four years after him,” I answered calmly, pointing to the Redskins cousin. “And when was the last time you won one?”

Said the Redskins cousin:

“Oh yea," using the classic Loser's Rejoinder, "Well ... when was the last time you won a playoff game?”

“Last year, off of him!”

Gotta go.

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