I grew up in Washington, D.C. I was a Washington Redskins fan. Hard core, unconditional, undying – the way young boys can be about their home teams.
They sucked when I was a kid, despite such roster legends as Sonny Jurgensen, Chris Hanburger (yes, his real name), Kenny Houston and Charley Taylor – all Hall of Famers. Plus Larry Brown – who should be in the Hall but isn’t – and, of course, Billy Kilmer, the New Orleans Saints first expansion draft pick and starting quarterback during their debut season in 1967.
He was eventually replaced by a guy named Archie Manning. Maybe you’ve heard of him.
Manning, that is. Kilmer found his way to D.C.
The Redskins eventually got good. And a different quarterback for the team made history in the 1988 Super Bowl when he threw for four touchdowns – FOUR freaking touchdowns – in one quarter of the game. The most single quarter touchdown passes in Super Bowl history to this day. His name was Doug Williams. He beat John Elway and the Denver Broncos 42-10.
Williams, a native of Zachary, Louisiana, was named Super Bowl MVP, the first African American quarterback to earn such an honor. Never mind that he had a six-hour root canal procedure the day before the game.
Not making this up.
After his NFL career ended ignominiously, tail tucked safely between his legs, Williams took a job as head coach at Pointe Coupee Central High School. He later moved on to coach at his alma mater, Zachary High, where his team played on a field named after him. They lost the 1993 state championship game to Newman High School, who had a quarterback named Peyton Manning.
Maybe you’ve heard of him.
Williams went on to coach for nine years at his college alma mater, Grambling State University, and then eventually settled into a job as senior vice president of player personnel for – you guessed it – the Washington Redskins.
The world, it spins round and round.
I was probably about 30 when I actually realized how abhorrent the name of my beloved home town team was. They had a theme song we all knew as well as the National Anthem – and easier to sing: “Hail to the Redskins.”
Part of it goes:
Hail to the Redskins!
Braves on the Warpath!
Fight for old D.C.!
It’s the second oldest NFL fight song after “Go! You Packers. Go!”
Not sure which is lamer, actually. But packers are guys who hustle and bustle beef and pork into sausage skins. Redskin is a pejorative, nefarious and offensive term for Native Americans.
As of this week, the “Redskins” are now officially eradicated from the NFL. The name and logo have been retired. New name and logo TBD.
And so it goes.
New Orleans was officially awarded an NFL franchise team on Nov. 1, 1966. It’s All Saints Day on the Roman Catholic Calendar. Hence, the name. Our Fleur de Lis logo comes from our French provincial origins and is not itself immune to controversy.
Back in the 1990s, there was a small kerfuffle among folks who complained that it represented colonialism, and therefore slavery. I suppose you could argue that point all night long at Thanksgiving dinner, but I’m not sure it holds water against the term Redskins.
A lot of names are going to change in the coming weeks, months and years. A lot of images. A lot of historical context. (Not history, mind you; just context.)
You can thank George Floyd for this mess we’re in today. Just a regular guy trying to get along and go along. Who, with his final words, “I can’t breathe,” changed the world we live in.
I’m not naive enough to think everyone’s minds have been changed, their prejudices dimmed, their agendas altered. There’s no looking past this point: The only reason the Redskins owner Daniel Snyder agreed to change the name of the team is because of pressure from corporate sponsors and advertisers. It’s a thin, milky act of acquiescence. But it’s happened.
If they had a name like The Saints, they never would have had such a problem. I mean, anybody gonna challenge that?
Probably, someone, somewhere, but screw them.
Bless you boys. Let’s hope we all live long enough to cheer them again.