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Die-hard ‘Skins fans suit up for big game

VISIONS OF SUPER BOWL DANCE IN THEIR HEADS

BY MICHAEL ZITZ

THE FREE LANCE-STAR

Lifelong Washington Redskins fan James G. “Jay” Harrison III knew the world wouldn’t end on Dec. 21.

Fate could not be so cruel. He and other Redskins fans had suffered though too many lean years, and the team was too close to the redemption that could come with an NFC East title-clinching victory tonight over the hated Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field.

The Fredericksburg resident, who works in the Stafford County tourism office, posted this on his Facebook page on Dec. 21:

“Thankfully the Mayan/Hopi Indian apocalyptic prediction has not come to pass. The world simply cannot end yet are you kidding me?!? The Washington Redskins are only two victories away from the NFL Playoffs and a division championship. Come on, man!”

His ex-wife jokingly responded to his post that the Redskins winning a title by beating the Cowboys—a team that has caused them so much grief for so long—could in itself bring on the apocalypse, but that it would be worth it if the team won the Super Bowl.

“Who would think they would go from 3–6 to 9–6”? Harrison said this week. “It’s amazing. I’m not saying they’re going to win the Super Bowl, but whatever happens now, Redskins fans should be super proud. I cannot get over this whole year. The Redskins—I love them and will love them till the day I die.”

Harrison isn’t the only one who’s been lobbying a higher power on the Redskins’ behalf.

Husband and wife pastors Gaye and Buddy Marston say about one-fourth of Salem Fields Community Church’s 1,200 members in Spotsylvania County, including former All Pro Redskins kick returner Mike Nelms, typically wear their favorite team’s jersey to services on game days.

“Probably more this weekend because of the game,” said Buddy Marston, another lifelong Redskins fan.

“I kind of get people all hyped up about the game, just kind of talking smack,” he said with a laugh, adding that while most of those who wear jerseys to church are Washington fans, there are also Dallas and Pittsburgh fans in the congregation. “We’ve turned it into a fun thing to rib each other about on Sundays.”

Intra-family ribbing can be touchier.

Jane Wallace of Spotsylvania grew up a Cowboys fan in Fort Worth, Texas, during Roger Staubach’s heyday as Dallas quarterback. She moved to Spotsylvania in 1997.

“It’s hard to find fans as loyal to their team as Cowboys fans, but Redskins fans are the same way,” she said. “Honestly, I do love the Redskins, too, so it’s a win–win for me.”

She said she’s “fair and balanced” at work, displaying both Cowboys and Redskins memorabilia at her RE/MAX Bravo realty office on Courthouse Road.

Dan Wallace, Jane’s husband, is a lifelong Washington fan who said it’s “absolutely not” possible for someone to be both a Redskins and Cowboys fan.

“It can’t happen,” he said. “It’s illegal. No way. It’s impossible.”

Dan, who owns all the Arby’s franchises in Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford, Spotsylvania and King George, said he dreads going to work after Redskins losses to the Cowboys because he has to deal with grief from Cowboys fans. He said life was “painful” when the Redskins went 1–14 against the Cowboys from 1997 to 2004.

That wasn’t a losing streak for the Redskins and their fans—it was a trail of tears. Dan said that during seasons when the Redskins lose to the Cowboys twice, “You live with that all year.”

He’s had season tickets for 25 years, and Dan and Jane will attend tonight’s game, even though she says she’ll be pretty quiet.

“I have to silently pull for the Cowboys, because there would be a bunch of haters around me—including my husband—if I cheered too loudly for Dallas,” she said with a chuckle. She said only the Cowboys “affect him that way.”

Stafford Lakes resident Bob Simmons became a Redskins fan at age 15, when he got a part-time job working in the RFK Stadium parking lot during the team’s Super Bowl championship season of 1982.

“Seeing the players as they came out of the locker room was pretty exciting for me,” he said.

Simmons, who works as a quality assurance analyst at Mantech International in Springfield, said recent years have been frustrating for Redskins fans.

“We’ve had some close games we couldn’t pull out. Now they have a quarterback who can make things happen.”

Michael Zitz: 540/846-5163

mikez@freelancestar.com

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