Coin toss on Redskins-Colts: Heads, we lose tails, ditto


December 22, 1990|By JOHN EISENBERG

Here in the toy department there occasionally arises a dilemma dripping with complications. Perhaps you were aware of the recent and very public controversy over whether to serve kielbasa in press-box lounges. That was a delicate one. Then there was the debate over the morality of accepting a handful of blank receipts from a taxi driver.

The dialogue in these discussions was impressive, running two and three minutes at a time without someone quoting a batting average or resorting to the immortal cry of the sports department: "Huh?" The truth is that we sporting clods do prefer our black and white crayons, but don't mind getting philosophical, particularly if it somehow means we get to eat for free.

The point is that we can darn sure get highbrow when we have to, and I mention it now out of concern for the well-being of a number of honest, taxpaying citizens in our fair burg. A heavy issue sits before you today, as many are no doubt aware, and I thought perhaps you might welcome some sweet dollops of guidance from a dude accustomed to weighty matters.

The problem is that the Redskins are playing the Colts tonight on the tube. The game itself isn't the concern; it's a mere stocking-stuffer that the Redskins should win. Where it gets thorny locally, though, is in determining the proper allegiance. This is a tough one. Whom do you root for, Baltimore? Or, perhaps more appropriately, whom do you root against?

Now, I'm not talking about those too young to understand, or the late-coming interlopers who have adopted the Orioles. I'm talking about the people who bled when Johnny U. was cut, the people who remember when Artie Donovan was playing instead of talking, the people who sat shrieking in the horseshoe end of Memorial Stadium all those years.

I'm talking about the people who made this a rollicking football town long before anyone bothered to go see the Orioles, long before Bob Irsay showed up with his "burrrrrp, I said on the rocks, dammit" circus and everything fell apart and the Colts wound up in Indianapolis, which is a city in Indiana and a long, long way from where the team belongs.

These people hated the Redskins all those years. (At this point, ++ feel free to make like Travis Bickle: "You talkin' to me? Talkin' to me? I said are you talkin' to me?") The Redskins were losers, almost a joke in those days. But they were still Washington, and the Colts were Baltimore, and maybe we didn't have the eyes of the world on us, but, to paraphrase Mister Robinson, we could cream them in football.

The legion of people who bled when Johnny U. was cut never bought into the flag-changing that the newspapers and networks tried to pass off as real when the Colts took off in the midnight snow and the Redskins were all that was left around here. Root for those arrogant pantywaists? Never. Such habits don't die, and anyway, the Redskins were too much of a reminder of what we'd had. It didn't matter that they were on the tube every Sunday.

Perhaps time has cooled some of the passion, but there are plenty of people in this town who don't buy the Redskins' line of bull. And the only team that measures up similarly on their dirty-stinking-rat scale is, yeah, you got it, the Colts. The same Colts for whom they once cheered themselves hoarse Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.

It's Irsay, of course. Most of the players who were here are gone now, and it was never their fault anyway. Irsay committed the crime, and to the people who bled when Johnny U. was cut, there is no greater joy than watching the Colts lose again. It wasn't easy changing sides that way, rooting for losses instead of wins, but all you had to do was conjure up an image of Irsay in his box, telephoning the sidelines with a play. No prob.

So, what it comes down to tonight is this devilish choice: the dirty-stinking-rat Redskins or the dirty-stinking-rat Colts. Talk about an issue with complications. Whom would you rather see happy, Irsay or all those smarmy, bandwagon-jumping congressmen? It's a tough one. Can you forgive the Colts for a night in order to see the Redskins maybe blow the wild-card home-field advantage? Or can you join hands with Washington just this once in an anti-Irsay statement?

It is at this point where, as a veteran of taxing predicaments, I offer my assistance. The answer -- this is a trick I learned from Ronald Reagan -- is to ignore the problem. Just pretend it doesn't exist.

See, you won't be able to make up your mind anyway; it's an impossible choice. So just don't watch the game. Go out and rent "Diner," the ultimate Baltimore movie. Fast-forward to the part where Steve Guttenburg is testing his fiancee's knowledge of the Colts. Shout out the answers. Raise a fist in the air. Give a C-O-L-T-S cheer. And hey, don't worry. The Colts are lousy. The Redskins are a dozen players shy of the 49ers. As Robert Plant sang, your time is gonna come.

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