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Redskins, Cowbows Fans Square Off This Weekend

Rivalry Dates Back Nearly a Half-Century

By Sean Woolford
On September 26, 2008

  • Cars with Redskins flags are a common sight in the region. Howard University News Service
  • Washington Redskins fans fill FedEx Field in Landover, Md., despite disappointing seasons. They made the Redskins the highest grossing NFL team last year with revenues of $345 million. Creative Commons

Come this Sunday, another chapter will unfold in the half-century rivalry between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys. With such a heated rivalry between teams separated by 1362 miles, Washington has more than its fair share of Cowboys fans — something uncommon in rivalries.

"I never really understood that," said Kamilah Harris, reflecting on how fellow Michigan residents respond to a similar rivalry between the University of Michigan and Ohio State University. "I don't know many people who root for Ohio State and if they do, they're not open about it until they win."

The Cowboys and Redskins will square off at 8:20 p.m. Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., in the season opener with new quarterback Donovan McNabb. The rivals play again on Dec. 19 in Dallas.

Birth of Rivalry

The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry started back in 1960 when  Dallas entered the National Football League as an expansion team. The teams played only once that year, but in 1961 the Cowboys and the Redskins were put in the same division. The teams have played twice in the regular season ever since, with the Cowboys holding a lead in victories. The Redskins won the only two post-season meetings.

Despite all the Cowboys supporters in the D.C. area, the Redskins still have a sizable number of fans.

"Redskin fans are loyal; we have history," Henry Martin, a D.C. resident, said. "The Redskins were in the first football game I ever watched. I love the Redskins! I bleed Redskin colors."

Martin attributes the number of local Cowboys fans to a generation gap. Some Dallas fans weren't born or were too young to remember when the Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1982, 1987 and 1991 under the leadership of Coach Joe Gibbs.

"A lot of these young kids 'round here grew up in the era when the Cowboys have been good," Martin said. "They don't remember the Redskins winning that trophy. They see that everyone else likes them so they do, too. Just bandwagon fans."

An Inherited Bias

D.C. natives who are Cowboys fans do not want to be looked upon as bandwagon fans. Michael Bell explains that some fans inherited their bias.

"My dad is from Oklahoma, and he's a Cowboys fan," said Bell said, adding that his first football jersey displayed No. 22 for former Dallas running back Emmitt Smith.

"I used to love to get on my friends when the Cowboys would whip them Redskins," Bell said. "I would wear my jersey outside the next day to rub it in."

He cites the traditional reasons for explaining why so many Cowboys fans are in Redskins territory.

"The Cowboys are America's team," Bell claimed, smiling. "It's not Dallas' team or Texas' team; they're America's team, and we're part of America."

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