For this week’s despised-by-visionaries print edition of Washington City Paper, I took a shot at my first charticle. Couple things I came away with:

1)Henry Allen really is a cocksucker. Charticles are hard as balls.

2)Charticles don’t work real well in the pro-visionary online format. See for yourself! But charticles are grand in print. So pick up an analog copy of City Paper now. Patronize the advertisers therein! You’ll not only be helping save this newspaper, you’ll be giving the charticle a future!

This particular charticle deals with how Redskins fans can spend all that money they save by giving up season tickets. Sure, season tickets used to be harder to get around here than a legitimate invitation to a state dinner. But from everything I’ve heard and read and felt and tasted lately, I’d bet there’s going to be a waiting list to get rid of Skins tickets after this season.

I’m still suffering from sticker shock after reporting this charticle — and, yes, I’m going to use “charticle” as often as possible henceforth, because it’s the greatest word I’ve learned since “jism.” Thousands of families in this area have given Dan Snyder tens of thousands of dollars a year for years just to attend Redskins games. I mean, I guess I always knew that. But seeing these figures in print left me stunned: Using essentially the same template as Team Marketing Report, the godfather of fan-expenditure surveys, I calculated that a family of four spends about $24,190 per season to sit in the Loge section of FedExField.

Depression? What depression?

The biggest rush I got out of reporting the charticle(!) was the chance to talk to Gerry Bessell.

Redskins fans might not know Bessell’s name, but they sure know his work. He’s the guy who kickstarted Joe Jacoby’s acting career by hiring the biggest Hog to be the spokesmodel for TheaterVision, the Rockville-based big-screen TV retailer that Bessell owned.

(AFTER THE JUMP: How come we don’t have TheaterVision commercials anymore? DeMatha and Montrose Christian just plain don’t like each other? Mike Jones and Stu Vetter are the latter day Morgan Wootten and John Thompson? Who’s going to punk who?)

“And yes, and you can have this set here, 50 inch, four-foot screen, for as little as $895,” Jacoby told viewers while wearing a tight t-shirt and those polyester coach’s shorts that were huge in the 1980s but later banned by the United Nations. That scene, from the first of many TheaterVision commercials that starred Redskins, was burned into the brains of a generation of Skins fans.

Bessell, like Alfred Hitchcock, did cameos in most of the TheaterVision commercials. He says the first Jacoby spot, filmed in 1984, was the most popular ad he ever produced, mostly because of how awful the Redskins star’s line delivery was.

“Those were the world’s worst and best commercials,” says Bessell. “Joe Jacoby wasn’t married when we did that first one. But his wife made him come back and do another commercial after they got married, and she was in it. She looked good, standing next to him, and he sounded a little better in that ad, but not much.”

Bessell no longer owns TheaterVision, but he still works there. He misses the old days, when an independent businessman such as himself could produce godawful commercials with amateur production values, and still put throw them out to the masses.

“It’s too expensive to get any time on TV now,” he says. “You gotta be a big chain.”

Oh, well. We still have BathFitters.


Past is prologue: Great piece in today’s Washington Post, titled “Deprived of a Dream Matchup.” Josh Barr writes about a feud brewing between the top two prep basketball programs in the area. The schools are avoiding playing each other as the head coaches snipe at one another.

Nowadays, it’s DeMatha and Montrose Christian doing the avoiding, and Stags coach Mike Jones and MC’s Stu Vetter doing the sniping.

From Barr’s story:

Jones does not want to play Montrose so late in the season because the Stags play in the competitive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and get plenty of tough games at that time of the year. Plus, Jones noted, what if Montrose or DeMatha was having an off year, would that hurt the game’s billing?

Vetter, whose team competes as an independent, sees the game as a natural for late in the season, with the ability to hype the matchup for a few months.

“He wants to play us after he has a chance to mesh his new talent with his old talent,” Jones said. “I’d be a fool to play Montrose so close to our playoffs. It just would make no sense. Bottom line, they don’t have a league championship to worry about. We do. If we beat Montrose and don’t win our league championship, it won’t make a difference. Nobody is going to pat us on the back if we beat Montrose.”

Countered Vetter: “We would love to play anybody in the area. Obviously, DeMatha has an outstanding program. We would love the opportunity to play DeMatha, and I think they should love the opportunity to play us. I think it would be great for the area, and I think it’s something that should happen.”

But dang if the whole episode doesn’t harken back to the old brouhahas between DeMatha and St. Anthony’s circa 1970, when Hall of Famers Morgan Wootten and John Thompson went at it.

DeMatha’s Wootten and St. Anthony’s Thompson, as Keith Jackson used to say, just plain didn’t like each other. After a couple seasons of both saying the other was ducking ’em in regular season scheduling and postseason tournaments, the schools found themselves in the same summer league at Jelleff Boy’s Club. And so they were scheduled to settle it all one night in June 1970 at an outside court at Jelleff, off Wisconsin Avenue NW just north of Georgetown.

The hype was ridiculous for any sort of high school sporting event, let alone a summer-league matchup.

“It took a summer-league basketball schedule to accomplish it, but DeMatha and St. Anthony’s high schools will finally meet,” said a preview piece in the Washington Post that appeared the morning of the big game. A crowd of anywhere from 400, as the Post reported, to 5,000 fans, as former DeMatha star Kenny Roy and several attendees now estimate, showed up to watch.

But Thompson pulled one of the biggest stunts of his legendary coaching career that night. He sat all his regular players and suited up St. Anthony’s students who weren’t even on the school team.

DeMatha’s regular lineup, which included future NBA superstar and Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley, brutalized Thompson’s scrubs.

Final score: DeMatha 108, St. Anthony’s 26. Legend holds DeMatha full court pressed from start to finish.

Days after the game, Thompson confessed to the Washington Post’s Ken Denlinger that he’d set up the prank to get back at DeMatha coach Morgan Wootten for blackballing his team from a tournament a year earlier.He said he’d included the non-players’ names on the roster he submitted to league officials at the beginning of the summer season knowing he was going to use them to mock Wootten and DeMatha when the schools met at Jelleff.

Many DeMatha backers have never forgiven Thompson for what Roy calls “the greatest game never played.”

“Finally, it was going to happen,” Roy told me a few months ago. “This was the game everybody wanted to see. And then John Thompson pulls what he pulls. What a disappointment.”

But Merlin Wilson, a high school all-American and future Georgetown star who played center on Thompson’s loaded St. Anthony’s team, still has no problem with his coach showing Wootten up.

“[T]his was on the two coaches, just going at each other, this was their deal,” Wilson told me recently. “But we knew [Wootten] wouldn’t play us [in a regular season] and pulled out of tournaments, kept us out. If his team was all that, why wouldn’t they play us when it mattered?”

Though times have changed too much for there ever to be a high school rivalry as renowned as the vintage DeMatha/St. Anthony’s feud, Barr’s article in the Post makes it sound like DeMatha/Montrose Christian is certainly worth paying attention to.

And with the money at stake to both programs, you just know they’re gonna play each other.


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