Barry is the former three-term mayor who was imprisoned for six months on a misdemeanor narcotics charge after an FBI camera recorded him smoking crack in a D.C. hotel room. Before running into trouble, he was close to completing a deal with Cooke to keep the stadium at home—a deal that went to pieces when a new administration came to power. The issue remains unsettled, but there's no doubting where most fans would choose to have the stadium built. The Redskins are still Washington's team.
"For a long period of time our fans have been treated to winning football," says Jeff Bostic, the former Redskin center who retired in March after 14 years with the team. "It even got to the point where we could win a game and they wouldn't be happy with how we won. There was actually a certain way you had to win. Now what does that tell you about the place?"
Washington is growing restless, but Turner, for one, is undaunted. He and his wife, Nancy, would not have bought' a $700,000 house in Oakton, Va., he says, if "we didn't plan to be here for a while." And all one need do is examine his past to see whether he owns a hide tough enough for a place like Washington.
Turner is the son of an alcoholic ex-Marine who abandoned his family when Turner was two and died about 10 years later. When Turner was eight, his mother, Vicky, learned she had multiple sclerosis. Relying on welfare, she raised five children by herself in public housing in Martinez, Calif., near San Francisco. Turner won a football scholarship at Oregon in 1972 and for a time played quarterback there behind Dan Fouts, the future NFL Hall of Famer. Two of the assistant coaches who helped recruit him were John Robinson and George Seifert, both of whom became NFL head coaches themselves. Turner says he was working as an assistant to Robinson at Southern Cal in the late '70s when one day he looked around and realized that he'd landed in a pretty fair place in the world, far from the one he'd known as a child. "Jesus, I thought to myself, now this is a different deal. There were a lot of very influential people around—alums and whatever—and they all wanted to be around you and you're only 26, 27 years old. And you're thinking to yourself, Now why does this guy care about me?"
Turner doesn't bother to answer the question, for that seems obvious: He was a football coach. And a coach who won.
Turner says he has made only a few trips into D.C. so far, to play at RFK and to eat at restaurants, not to attend any fancy Georgetown soirees. He doesn't know much about Cooke's box, and he's had no introduction to the city's ruling social set. Mention Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn and he shrugs. Mention a couple of the reigning power brokers and his eyes grow dull and flat. "But look," he says finally, "that's one of the reasons why this job was so exciting to me. My Number 1 issue right now is this football team, but as time goes on and we have an opportunity to be here awhile, then some of those other things will be fun and, er, interesting."
For now, anyway, Turner and Cooke seem to be enjoying some measure of bliss in each other's company. "Oh, he's marvelous, a marvelous guy," Cooke says.
"I'm fascinated by Mr. Cooke," Turner says when informed that he is marvelous.
Their relationship probably has a greater chance of sustaining itself if Turner can avoid many more repeats of what happened Sunday against the Falcons, but maybe Cooke is softening. He has been a regular at practice, watching from a red hardback chair on the sideline, his Italian sunglasses giving him the appearance of an aged movie star with a lifetime of secrets to tell.
"I think 44 is a wonderful number," Cooke was saying one day recently as he watched his team train. "John Riggins, you'll recall, wore 44. Yes, 44 is a helluva number. Any of the double numbers is a great number. Twenty-two is great...33, 44, 55, 66—any of the double numbers I think is the best."