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Reading Dave McKenna’s article “Babies Who’ve Grown Up to Be Cowboys” (Cheap Seats, 11/27), a collection of the more embarrassing run-ins Dallas Cowboys players have had with the law, I was struck by McKenna’s too-quick attempt to paint the Redskins as a cast of perennial good guys. Certainly, I am not questioning (nor, as a lifelong Redskins fan, bothered by) his decision to make public the nefarious history of these few Cowboys, but I think in such an article, some mention should be made of the grand poobah of pro-football ne’er-do-wells, former Redskin Dexter Manley: the former all-pro player kicked out of the pros for repeated drug-test failures, who eventually wound up serving jail time in Texas for his many offenses. Reading the article, I was expecting some mention of Manley, a player who is simultaneously one of the greatest Redskin defensive players and the Skins’ worst failure. It seemed only fair to remind Skins fans that we, too, are not without our faults.
I don’t write this intending to pooh-pooh Manley. He was for many years a hero of mine, and in many ways he still is: a heck of a defensive threat, having helped the Skins to a couple of Super Bowl championships. He was the first professional athlete to come out as dyslexic, admitting he’d graduated from Oklahoma State University with the reading ability of a grade-school child, and went so far as to testify before Congress regarding the problem of athlete illiteracy. All of this is, to me, unassailably commendable. He was, however, as big a failure as any of the Cowboys mentioned in McKenna’s article. McKenna missed another opportunity here, too: Manley wound up jailed in Texas. The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry has grown heated enough to extend beyond football and into geographic/social pot-shooting. Why not then mention Manley’s history and seek an answer to his problematic nature by pointing to geography: He went up the creek in Texas! All the more reason for the Skins and their fans to cast stern looks all the way from the Mid-Atlantic to that dusty land the cowboys stole from Mexico.