Thursday, October 06, 2011

Coming Tomorrow: The History of RFK

Sunday best

Last Saturday, a Washington milestone passed: The fiftieth anniversary of the opening of RFK Stadium. It was precisely fifty years ago, 1 October of 1961, that the Redskins played their first game in what was then known as DC Stadium. The Redskins would play every home game there for the next thirty-six years, through the 1996 season.

The stadium, the experience, the emotion, the home field advantage all became part of the culture of the nation's capital. Redskins fans over a certain age (40? 35?) get wistful just at the mention of RFK.

Now, it has been fifteen years since the Redskins played at RFK. Fifteen long seasons in Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, later known as Redskins Stadium, now known as FedEx Field. None of it is the same, nothing in that stadium captures anything of the experience of RFK.

I worry that Washington and Redskins fans at large are losing this part of our history. Why do I worry?

Because this milestone went largely unnoticed. Last week, Tom Boswell of the Washington Post wrote a column on the occasion, it was mostly a misty eyed revisitation of his youth, the early days of RFK and what it meant to have that thing in your neighborhood. A colleague told me Andy Pollin and Steve Czaban and Thom Loverro discussed the occasion on The Sports Reporters on ESPravda 980 this week, wondering aloud if RFK was not drifting out of memory and into lore.

It should not. I will not be letting this moment pass without giving RFK Stadium its proper due. All through the Redskins bye week, we will be running a special eight part series on the history of RFK Stadium, how it came to pass, how it was almost taken from us, and how the Redskins became forever intertwined with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Starting tomorrow. Only on Curly R.

RFK Stadium: Dudley Brooks / Washington Post photo from here via here.