Sports Outside the Beltway

Cowboys-Redskins Rivalry Not Dead

Brad Sham says that, while the rivalry isn’t what it once was, the rivalry between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys is far from dead.

The NFL used to have some of [the juice that makes high school and college sports rivalries so passionate] when the world was smaller. Dallas-Washington wasn’t always a rivalry, because the Washington franchise played for 28 years before there even was the Dallas Cowboys. So Dallas coming into the league in 1960 wouldn’t have created a rivalry all by itself.

Well, it wouldn’t have except for the way the Cowboys arrived. Not to bore you with too much history, but for the youngsters in the audience (under 40?), Washington owner George Preston Marshall was voting against a Dallas entry in the league until the Cowboys’ first owner, the impish and unmatched Clint Murchison, acquired the copyright to the Washington team song. Murchison literally held Hail to the Redskins hostage for the vote that allowed Dallas in the league, and of such stuff are rivalries made.


Once there is history, the history can’t be erased, and Dallas and Washington have more of it than any two teams in football. That’s why Cowboys receiver Terry Glenn, who has participated in this rivalry for only four years now, says “It has a feel to it like when you were kids playing cowboys and Indians. I felt that getting ready for the first time I played in it. And growing up, Dallas and Washington was always one of the games you knew about and watched.”

What the rivalry lacks is the intensity of the days when George Allen paced the Washington sideline, licking his lips, allegedly sending spies to the Cowboys’ North Dallas practice field. It lacks the fire of a provoked Harvey Martin throwing a funeral wreath into the Washington locker room after beating those Skins in 1979, convinced he tossed the circular flowers back from whence they came from. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the teams. It has to do with the industry.

Hall of Fame coach John Madden will handle the telecast of Sunday night’s renewal with partner Al Michaels on NBC. Speaking on the Cowboys Radio Network on Tuesday, Madden, who knows a thing or two about rivalries, said, “I don’t think it’s dead. I think all rivalries in the NFL have lost a little because of free agency. Players, and coaches too, move around so much more than they used to. They haven’t grown up in the culture. But as far as rivalries exist in today’s NFL, I don’t think there’s much question Dallas and Washington is probably the best one.”

And the reason it is so, dear reader, is you. You’re the fan. You care about Dallas-Washington and Dallas-Philadelphia more than you do about Dallas-Jacksonville. It’s a division opponent. There is history. Maybe you watched with your dad or aunt or grandpa. Maybe there’s a game in the history that stokes your furnace. Maybe you just hate the way those nasties hate your team and you by extension.

I agree. With players and coaches regularly moving from team-to-team these days, it’s not like it was in the 1970s. Heck, Bill Parcells has been the head coach of four teams in only two NFL divisions, moving from the NFC East Giants to the AFC East Patriots to the AFC East Jets to the NFC East Cowboys over his career. And there are a players who have played for both the Cowboys and the Redskins.

Still, as a Cowboys fan now living in Redskins country, I feel the passion that ‘Skins fans have when it’s “Dallas Week.” I hear it on talk radio and read it in the papers.

Interestingly, though, the NFL team whose jersey and other paraphenalia I see most around here, other than the Redskins’, is the Cowboys’. By far, in fact. That’s despite the fact it’s been a decade since the ‘Boys last won anything.

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