Fans in this town greet Redskins with apathy, not antagonism

JOHN STEADMAN

January 15, 1992|By John Steadman

Attempting to explain reaction on the crab flats of the Chesapeake Bay to the mighty success of the Washington Redskins is erroneously perceived as being one of rampant disappointment. This is a situation fueled by envy, cheap insults and distortion. It's the wrong read. To be correct, it's more like apathy toward the Redskins than antagonism.

What is a source of aggravation to Baltimore football followers is the fact its newspapers have devoted columns of valuable space, ad infinitum, to a team that few among its readership care about. There is only limited interest in the Redskins. Pure and simple.

Hate the Redskins? No. Worship the Redskins? Another no. Baltimore is not that parochial or one-dimensional, unless you are a small-time, bush-league, humpty-dumpty thinker. And, come to think of it, we've never encountered any of those in all our travels from Glen Burnie to Ruxton, Columbia to Rosedale and points in between.

Let Washington enjoy itself. Baltimore has been there before. Just stand back to evaluate and appreciate the Redskins for what they are -- the team with the best record in the National Football League, which stands only 60 minutes away from winning the Super Bowl.

Because the Redskins are winning is no reason to demean their accomplishments. Observing the Redskins is tantamount to +V inspecting a work of art or fine tapestry. It has nothing to do with residence. Funny, Washington never harbored any ill-will toward Baltimore in all its championship seasons.

Certainly the loss of the Colts from Baltimore couldn't be blamed on Washington. The Redskins enjoyed having the opportunity to play here because it was the shortest of road trips and a top money-maker for management since they chartered a bus instead of an airplane. And the same was true when the Colts of Baltimore (not Indianapolis) played in Washington.

To be fair, the Baltimore Colts wouldn't have been possible without Washington. The team came here in 1947 when Baltimore wasn't interested in paying the price. It was Bob Rodenberg, a former Washington newspaper reporter and a resident of the District of Columbia, who decided to put up his own money to make a team possible, picking up the bankrupt Miami Seahawks of the All-America Conference, when none of the native sons would take the chance.

And, even before that, the Redskins originally gave Baltimore the chance to gain recognition as a pro football city. Those exhibition games in the early and mid-1940s involving the Redskins as host and such teams as the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions notified the country that Baltimore was a market waiting to be tapped. How true.

The Redskins' owner, George Preston Marshall, demanded an indemnification fee of $150,000 when the Colts were taken into the NFL by virtue of the fact Baltimore was within the 75-mile territorial agreement that was spelled out in the league constitution. Baltimore and Washington were supposed to represent an intense confrontation but the Colts won so frequently the matchup soon lost its impact.

At best, it was a one-way rivalry. Washington couldn't have cared whether the team it happened to be playing was Baltimore or Los Angeles. That the current Redskins are in the Super Bowl doesn't mean any more to Baltimore than if another team from Washington -- the Seattle Seahawks, happened to be there.

A veteran Colt ticket subscriber, Al Fitch, said, "You have to remember Washington was Baltimore's lifeline to the NFL. When the Redskins played those exhibitions here, before the Colts were even formed, we had a chance to see Sammy Baugh, Don Hutson, Sid Luckman and so many others. Those games ignited the pro football spark in Baltimore."

In fact, it was Washington, once again, which graciously allowed Baltimore's baseball Orioles to enter the American League in 1954. It could have claimed financial damages over the intrusion and been paid. But it allowed Baltimore to enter gratis. This was reason for the Orioles to reciprocate in Washington's behalf last year when it wanted a National League club, but that didn't happen.

Washington, the history books show, has done much more for Baltimore than Baltimore could do for itself. Being against the Redskins is a mind-set that represents blatant prejudice. Appreciation and applause are in order.

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