- Where did we leave off? I know June was a tough month for many of us. I had to spend some time focusing on a few other things but I am hopeful that moving forward will bring us all back a little closer together. I am sure the struggles my family and I are dealing with are no different than the ones so many of you are dealing with—it really is a remarkable period in our lives that will simply...well, it’s gonna leave a mark! Sometimes even I grow tired of drawing comparisons between our reality and sports/Redskins/less important things, but this is a Redskins site, and we do come here to draw our focus away from things. In the absence of sports over the last few months, I have grown to appreciate the lack of distraction. So many important things are happening that deserve to be the center of attention, and free from the kind of diversion that highlights and box scores so easily provide the masses. From making sure people hear me/us say important words like, “Black Lives Matter,” to making sure people see important things like all of us wearing masks in public, we have priorities that rise above daily win-loss check-ins. As sports slowly return, I look forward to seeing professional athletes use their voice and platform to raise awareness for these and other topics. They will...and I hope we don’t get caught up in arguing over that.
- One thing that I have been noticing is this kind of fatigue regarding our situation. It is at the heart of the dissent on what the right course of action should be, and it is driving people to act irrationally. And this is where I will add my two cents as a Redskins fan. The idea that this crisis that we find ourselves facing was going to somehow be over quickly was always flawed. It was always misguided. We are all so accustomed to the world spinning so damn fast in 2020, with seemingly everything at our fingertips. Thinking we would blast through this pandemic and be back to the normal we had made for ourselves in a mere matter of months was a thought that came naturally, but reality is seldom confined by man-made laws of nature. Faced with the kind of worthy opponent we are staring at on the other side of this gridiron, we have little choice but to dig deep, believe in the plan of attack, and grind away until the final whistle. It is this thought that marks the intersection of sports and life for me this week, because Joe Bugel would have been one hell of a coach for us all on days like this.
- When I think about growing up in the Washington, D.C. area as a kid in the 80’s (yes, a long time ago, but remember that I was five years old in 1982), it is marked as much by Star Wars, Saturday morning cartoons and glam rock as it was by being a Washington Redskins fan. Rooting for the Skins was what we did as a family. It was what we did as a church community. It was what we did as a neighborhood. Thanks to the research done by Kevin Ricca, I know that there was no team in the league that was better than the Redskins from 1982-1991, or the decade that Joe Bugel influenced the most. (I understand that Bugel was the head coach for the Phoenix Cardinals from 1990-93, but his fingerprints were still all over the Washington franchise when Mark Rypien took his turn behind The Hogs.) What I continue to find so fascinating is that the face of the best team in the NFL for that decade was not a flashy wide receiver, a legendary running back or a glitzy quarterback. It wasn’t a stingy defense. It was a hog. The big boys up front...that was the calling card for that team. For a small kid, you would think that concept would be difficult to understand. Highlights on television were reserved for plays made by skill players. While every child in the DMV pretended to take the rock on 4th and 1 to the house like Riggins, we all understood why. The identity of the Redskins wasn’t a mystery buried in marketing or cloaked in contrived storylines pushed on us by an overzealous, greedy owner. I remember the diesel sound being played on the radio, on TV and in living rooms wherever the Redskins were viewed. Sure, it called up images of a rowdy running back that owned the entire city, but it also was the sound of an offensive line running over opponents for four quarters.
- Joe Bugel conjured the image of a dynasty on the practice field during training camp. We were all educated at a young age that the game of football was won and lost in the trenches. Joe Bugel spent his career preparing the men who fought in those trenches on Sundays to be winners. He wasn’t handed a stable of first-round picks, either (I believe Mark May was the only Hog the Redskins drafted in the first round—though Jim Lachey came to the team after Oakland had made him a first rounder—h/t Ricca). Bugel formed a unit out of men who were interested in working hard and working together. And the players who lined up for him knew that they were getting it from a man who genuinely loved them and who was willing to work as hard as them to achieve success. I wish every Redskins fan knew the joy of expecting to win every week like we did during that run. I wish every Redskins fan felt that confidence we all felt when the camera would pan the sidelines and we’d get a glimpse of Joe Gibbs, Joe Bugel and Ritchie Petitbon all bundled up in those bulky Starter jackets on a cold winter’s day.
- No, I didn’t know Joe Bugel well, or much at all. I had occasion to meet him a few times, and he was unbelievably gracious each time I did. I remember meeting him once and making sure he knew that my partner (Kevin Ewoldt) and I ran a site that was completely predicated on his creation. His response: “There’s only one?!?!” He was generous with his time when I wanted to pepper him with questions about John Riggins and Joe Jacoby. (For the love of all that is holy...how do you have a Hall of Fame without the left tackle from the greatest offensive line in NFL history?)
- It was Joe Bugel’s enthusiasm that turned an offensive line coach into one of the most beloved men in Washington Redskins history. I recall when they announced that Joe Gibbs was returning for his second tour of duty. That was enough for most of us...until Gibbs announced that he was putting the band back together. That press conference with Joe Bugel talking about bringing slobber-knocker football back to Washington was a high-water mark in terms of hope in the Dan Snyder era. It was no surprise that those Redskins teams ranked among the top rushing teams in the league with Bugel back in tow. I am a grateful Redskins fan for having had the opportunity to watch Joe Bugel work. I know full well how responsible he was for the amazing days so many of us remember. Which brings me back to the idea that it is that Joe Bugel brand of enthusiasm and discipline that we are in such dire need of these days. We could all use a dose of Joe Bugel in times like these, being reminded that hard work does pay off, but more importantly, that we don’t quit at halftime. (In case it wasn’t clear, I am of course suggesting we need to keep doing the hard work of social distancing and protecting each other.) Stay the course, y’all! And may Joe Bugel rest in peace.
Looks Like Someone Has a Sixpack of the...Wait, What Day Is It?
Without Joe Bugel, there wouldn’t be a lot of things, but one of the is definitely Hogs Haven.