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Fanning The Rivalry Flames

No one got hurt, but the fans smelled blood. I was comforted by the fact that the security guards wouldn't allow them onto the field. 

The officials broke up the ruckus. Defeated, we walked to the back of the end zone toward the ramp to our locker room. The noise was deafening. 

The tunnel was in a dugout that bordered that end zone. RFK was a classic old baseball stadium that doubled as a football field. The dugout was below field level. The fans spilled over to the top of the dugout. Still in full gear, I focused my attention on carefully negotiating the concrete steps with my steel cleats. That's when the beer bottle exploded on my helmet and beer doused my face and neck, pieces of glass flying everywhere. I looked up and made eye contact with the attacker, who was still holding the neck of the shattered bottle. He was probably some congressman, venting his alter ego. He taunted, "Yeah, big guy, that was me. You want some of this?" gesturing for me to come up. I think he felt safe in the stands. 

I scouted the area for security and noticed my partner Cliff Harris had witnessed the assault. He had fire in his eyes. He said, "Let's go get him!" And that's just what we did. We climbed up on top of the dugout and launched ourselves right into the midst of the Washington fans, fists flailing. They couldn't retaliate because our armor protected us. 

We bloodied as many as we could before two security guards literally dragged us out of the melee by our ankles. Cliff and I exchanged elated high-fives as we scurried up the tunnel to the dressing room.  

There were no fines, no lawsuits, no suspensions - no repercussions whatsoever. And thank goodness there were no cameras.   

By now, Joe was on me and extending his hand in friendship. The handshake morphed itself into an awkward semi-hug and back slapping greeting. We exchanged pleasantries and he then took the conversation immediately to that night so long ago.  

"The last time you were grabbing me was up at RFK, on another Monday night." 

"Yeah, I vaguely remember that night," I understated. 

Joe was then called over to someone that looked important, so he was gone. Since he remembered that night and the crowd at RFK being so close to the field, I did want to quiz him on my new theory, which is: The big stadiums being constructed could take the fan out of the game, and ultimately the rivalries, unless the fans' proximity to the team is addressed.  

Most of these gigantic stadiums are dedicated to packing as many people into the stands and boxes as possible to the detriment of any intimacy. 

My partner, expert radio veteran, Brad Sham, "Voice of the Dallas Cowboys," having covered the team for 28 years, believes that the rivalry is alive and well. This is his premise: The Washington fans still hate Dallas and the Dallas fans still hate Washington. That's what fuels the rivalry. 

I like this, and I agree with Brad and his theory. However, I think these rabid rivalries like the Redskins-Cowboys, though in tact now, will become extinct if these massive stadiums keep getting built in a way that impersonalizes the player from the fan because there is such a long distance from the field to the fan. I am hopeful the new Cowboys stadium has addressed this potential problem. 

A partial deterioration of our great rivalry started when the Redskins moved out of RFK. The NFL has the responsibility to keep the fans in the game.  

Especially if the fans from the opposing team would like to share a beer with you after the game.                       

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