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George Allen made it special.
In 1960, Texas oil tycoon Clint Murchison proposed to bring a football team to Dallas, with the support of NFL expansion committee chairman George Halas, and needed unanimous approval by the league’s owners. All but Redskins owner George Preston Marshall approved the proposal – he didn’t want the Cowboys to encroach upon his southern radio listenership, among other qualms – but quickly realized he needed to make some sort of deal.
That’s because Murchison sneakily owned the rights to “Hail to the Redskins.” The only way for Marshall to get the song back was if he approved the expansion team in Dallas. An agreement was eventually made, the Cowboys were born and a heated rivalry would soon emerge.
It didn’t get really going until 1972, when George Allen had taken over as head coach for Washington and encouraged the bitterness between both teams. That happened mostly because the Redskins won the NFC East division that year, marking the first time the Cowboys hadn’t since divisions formed in 1967. Washington would meet Dallas in the NFC Championship and defeat them handily, 26-3, to go to the Super Bowl.
When you say “Cowboys vs. Redskins” it is about two teams who between them have been to the Super Bowl 13 times. Two teams that are the top five most valuable sports franchises in the world. Two teams who have the highest television ratings in a league that dominates national television ratings.
This rivalry is so much more than the Game on the Field, that is only the by-product of a deep passion and envy between fans, cities, organizations, owners and the penultimate, Hall of Famers. It is not about wins and losses, it is about a cultural pride that both teams represent that has captured the heart of the nation who only wishes that they had a rivalry with so much meaning…
Ask Redskins fans who their fiercest rival is, and most will answer: the Dallas Cowboys. SB Nation proved it by asking exactly that question this week.
I can’t help but think that, back in the 1970s and 80s, Dallas fans would have probably reciprocated by identifying the Redskins as their top rival, though, by the mid-90s, a number of them might well have said it was San Francisco after the two teams met in the NFC Championship game in three successive Januaries — ‘93, ‘94 and ‘95. It is, after all, the team that is constantly in your path on the way to the playoffs that most fans see as the top rival.
Unfortunately, the lack of playoff relevance for the Redskins that has lasted around a quarter of a century seems to have dulled the sense of rivalry between the Cowboys and the Redskins — at least from the Dallas side of things.
As you can see, Dallas fans see the Eagles as their top rivals; only 18% identify the Redskins, which is barely more than the number who said Green Bay!
It seems like the days of bad blood promoted by George Allen and playoff losses inflicted by Joe Gibbs are now forgotten or immaterial to Dallas fans.
And it appears that Philly fans and New York fans are equally indifferent.
Readers from Bleeding Green Nation see Dallas as their top rival.
The only thing that can be said for the Redskins as rivals of other NFC East teams after seeing these two sets of numbers is this: at least Dallas and Philly fans hate us more than they hate the Giants, who seem so inspire little to no sense of rivalry at all.
The Giants ‘rivalry factor’ scored 6% with Dallas fans, 4% with Philly fans, and — amazingly — didn’t register with Redskins fans at all. While the Redskins may not be the top rival for any team in the division, really, the Giants appear to be completely irrelevant to their divisional foes. Almost no one perceives the Giants as a team to concern themselves with.
So, who do the Giants see as their rivals?
Giants fans really aren’t sure. They are almost equally split between Dallas and Philly, but neither team was identified by more than 50% of the Giants fans.
While Redskins fans may not be able to inspire enough passion among Dallas fans for the 20th century rival to be relevant today, at least Redskins fans know who they truly hate. The Giants fans don’t seem to be able to even agree on that basic question.
One thing Redskins fans and Giants fans seem to agree on is that, for as little as they care about our team, we care about their team even less. I mean... zero percent! How could one fan base care so little about another in their own division?
But back to the Cowboys. I think it’s fair to say that the only thing that is going to reignite the rivalry between the Redskins and the Cowboys is for both teams to return to playoff relevance at the same time; after all, what creates a rivalry between teams is consistently having to overcome that team to progress in the playoffs towards a championship.
In that respect, I’m surprised that the poll-takers included the Ravens on the Redskins questionnaire since they showed, with the Dallas questionnaire (where they included the Packers instead of the Texans), that they understand this playoff-success or playoff-failure based rivalry concept.
It would have been much more reasonable to have asked Redskins fans about the Packers (the most recent team to beat the Redskins in the playoffs) or the Seahawks (who have stopped the Redskins’ path to playoff success more than once) than to put Baltimore on the ballot — an AFC team that may be nearby, but has had zero relevance to the Redskins’ playoff hopes or success.
This season, with the Redskins and Cowboys currently tied atop the NFC East, and the Cowboys sure to fall by the wayside and miss the playoffs as the Redskins win the division and advance to the playoffs for the third time in seven years, it should do a lot to reignite the passions of Dallas fans towards the Redskins, whose fans hate the Cowboys so very much.
I’m looking forward to winning the division again this season. It will be nice to know that the Redskins overcame the Cowboys to do so. And it will be even nicer to know that the Cowboys fans will hate us a little bit more next year.
It’s good to have a rival.
The following is an abridged excerpt from the book, Stadium Stories: The Washington Redskins (Globe Pequot Press), written by John Keim. It’s available on Amazon.com and through major bookstores.
It started after a first-round playoff win against Detroit, the fans anticipating -- craving -- one matchup in particular.
’’We want Dallas!’’
Then it continued the following week. After the Redskins grabbed a 7-0 lead against Minnesota in a second-round playoff game, the fans let their wishes be known, ignoring the fact that the game was far from over.
’’We want Dallas! We Want Dallas!’’
Call it the chants of a lifetime, for the crowd received what it wanted in the 1982 playoffs, drawing Dallas for the NFC Championship Game. And they maintained their fever for those three words throughout the week. As Redskins staff drove to old Redskin Park, they saw banners expressing one sentiment: ‘’We want Dallas!’’ At the Cowboys’ hotel, fans gathered outside and shouted the new mantra some more.
’’We got there and the stadium was half-full an hour before the game,’’ said former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly. ‘’You never saw that many people in pregame. When the Cowboys came out the fans chanted, ‘We want Dallas!’ You were getting chills.’’
‘’That day was the most intense I can remember ever seeing my teammates, to a man,’’ Grant said. ‘’There were comments made the week before the game by Dallas that they would prepare to go from Washington to Pasadena for the Super Bowl [played a week later]. There could not have been any greater motivational point than that.’’
On Dallas’ first play from scrimmage following Moseley’s field goal, Manley and Grant combined to put the game out of reach. On first down, Hogeboom wanted to throw a screen pass to Dorsett. Earlier in the game this play had gained 25 yards. This time, it ended Dallas’ hopes.
Grant read the screen and headed out to the flat. Meanwhile, Manley bulled his way toward Hogeboom and tipped the ball. Grant intercepted at the 10 and high-stepped his way for a touchdown and 31-17 lead. Grant spiked the ball, a moment captured on the cover of Sports Illustrated the following week.
’’I hear about that play maybe every other day, if not every day,’’ said Grant, who played here through 1990 and still works in the Washington area. ‘’It’s humbling. People constantly come up and tell you stories of relatives who saw that game and they remember how happy they were. It’s very heartwarming. I never realized the impact that would have on so many people. I’ll be at a restaurant and someone buys me a meal. Other people said their relative was in the hospital and that was the last thing they saw. And I think I’ve met every single person who sat in the end zone that day.’’
‘’They were unbelievable,’’ Dorsett said. ‘’You could tell they were waiting for us and wanted us for a while and they showed it. Their team delivered what they wanted. I wish that our fans could be as boisterous as Redskins fans. Fans don’t realize what that does for a team to have that kind of support.’’
‘’I was scared, I was elated, I was overwhelmed,’’ Theismann said. ‘’People can’t appreciate this, but it was the only time I actually felt the ground shake beneath my feet in that stadium. The fans were pounding away on those metal stands with such force and in such great unison that as I stood on the field and the clock wound down, I’m an emotional person anyway and my emotions overwhelmed me. Tears came to my eyes and the ground was shaking. I thought, This is beyond belief. These were a bunch of guys who no one gave any credit to and now we’re about to beat the vaunted Dallas Cowboys. We were going to the Super Bowl.’’