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Is 'detest' too strong? Not for Danny, et al.

Mark your calendar: Get that snarl in order. The Bucs play at Washington on Oct. 1.

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By GARY SHELTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2000


Think of the Danny. Don't you just hate The Danny?

He's smarmy and he's young and he's loaded, and doesn't it all just rub chalk against your blackboard? He's a bully and a snot and a gouger. He's every rich kid you've ever known, the one who received a Mercedes for his 16th birthday ... and it wasn't his first. He's the NFL owner who ticks you off more than Art Modell, more than Jerry Jones, more than Wayne Huizenga. More, even, than Malcolm Glazer!

Yep, Daniel Snyder, Little Danny, is the owner to hate, all right. He fires secretaries. He bullies employees. He charges for practice. And he buys things, like spare Hall of Famers. If you had to, you could probably work up a vent against The Danny whenever you wished.

Then there is Deion. Aren't you just way over Deion?

He is fast and he's flashy and he's flimsy, and doesn't he just curl your lip? Deion Sanders has an $8-million signing bonus and about eight career tackles. And wouldn't you just love, one time, to see Mike Alstott bearing down on a goal line with Prime Time in the way? Can you say "Grind Time?"

Then there is JeffGeorge. Do you respect anyone any less than JeffGeorge?

He has all the throws and the all the stats and all the excuses, and aren't you glad he's someone else's problem? JeffGeorge can do things no other quarterback in the league can do: He can make the head cheerleader hate him. And the center, wide receiver, offensive coordinator, head coach, laundryman and parking attendant. One look at JeffGeorge, and Deion's going to say "Dang. And I thought I was full of myself." Wouldn't you love to see a big game in JeffGeorge's hands at the end?

Ladies and gentlemen, might I present the newest rival of the Tampa Bay Bucs: The Washington Redskins. Ta-daaaa.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Around here, there are certainly plenty of rivals at which to sneer. There are the Packers, who have beaten the Bucs so often. There are the Vikings and the Bears and the Lions, because they're in the same division. There are the Dolphins and the Jaguars, who share the same state. There are the Rams, who stubbornly refused to tell the official "Heck, we know Bert made the catch. We're going to be standup and let the Bucs have the ball at the 22."

Ah, but if Papa needs a brand new gag, let's talk about the Washington Under-your-skins, the paper champions, the best team money can buy, the team in the way of the Bucs. Because the prevailing opinion is this: When it comes to getting better in the off-season, the Bucs have won the silver medal. The Redskins have won the gold. And don't you just hate that?

The Danny has bought everything this off-season, which shows us that, evidently, he made a lot of money by allowing Kevin Bacon to play him in Animal House. It's like he went onto eBay and, voila, bought the 1992 All-Pro team. He bought a Bruce Smith and a Deion Sanders and a JeffGeorge. He bought a Mark Carrier (no, the other one) and a Marco Coleman and an Adrian Murrell. In the coming days, I fully expect them to sign Otto Graham, Jim Brown and Pudge Heffelfinger. If I lived in the suburbs of Washington, I'd make my kids play catch on the lawn and, just in case The Danny drove past, I'd put up a sign: Yard Sale.

Does this work? Probably not. If nature abhors a vacuum, it should also be noted that fortune gets really annoyed with an owner trying to purchase a trophy. There will be locker-room clashes and cliques, divided loyalties. The perception of the Redskins has changed into a team that is now as smarmy and advantaged as the guy in the owner's box, so the pettiness could grow to the point of implosion.

Can you imagine next season? Won't you think it's a hoot if the Redskins lose to, say, the Giants? Wouldn't a slow start be a dilly? Wouldn't a quarterback controversy be an E-ticket? Wouldn't you pay to see the veins stand out in The Danny's forehead? Yeah, we'd all pay to see practice then.

You can imagine Bruce turning and saying "You know what we used to do in Buffalo?" And Deion would say "Yeah. Lose to Dallas." You can imagine when Snyder orders The Norv to play JeffGeorge, after which Stephen Davis would sidle over to Michael Westbrook and say "Remember when you suckerpunched me? Well, you should hear what JeffGeorge has to say about you."

Oh, we know what's going to happen. The Redskins are going to sputter from time to time, and there will be growing pains. But pretty much, they're going to be a good team. Heck, they were a good team last year until the last four downs of offense, when Norv Turner let Mike Shula call plays for him, too. Once again, the Bucs and the 'Skins (sounds like Davy Crockett's wardrobe, doesn't it?) will battle for home-field advantage (Oct. 1 in Washington). We'll have Keyshawn vs. Deion, Bruce stunting and running into Randall McDaniel, Les Steckel scheming against Ray Rhodes. The Redskins' mercenaries against the Bucs'.

And if that doesn't work, think of Westbrook. Doesn't his name make you sneer? He's big and he's strong and he's fast, and doesn't he sound like a sour note? Wouldn't you love to be there when he returns and carries on another pregame conversation with John Lynch? "Hi, Mike," Lynch will say. "I'm going to rip your (extremely bad word) head off out there." And Westbrook will say "Man, you're crazy." And Lynch will grin and say "Yes, I am." And Westbrook will go out and catch one ball for 4 yards again.

The Redskins. Don't the Redskins just grind your gears?

Then start hating them now. Because before long, it's going to be very, very popular.

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