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Still, the Giants have improved noticeably. Ron Johnson, the team's best player, returned from thigh and knee surgery, and second-year man Charlie Evans developed into a redoubtable backfield partner for Johnson. The Giants also acquired a free-agent defensive end, Jack Gregory, and made him the rover in a heralded new defensive scheme. Gregory, it seems, has a veritable surfeit of something called "motor ability," as in "he is a great motor-ability athlete." Also, a newly acquired guard, Dick Enderle, improved the offensive line, Receivers Don Herrmann, Rich Houston and Bob Tucker caught Snead's passes, halftime director Sy Fraser and team dentist Dr. Francis G. Hedberg continually turned in steady performances, and suddenly the Giants were not in such dreary shape after all. From a 4-10 season last year they rebounded to win four of their first six. "They've gotten the smell of winning now," said Webster. And then his happy Giants ran into Allen's 'Skins.
Those are really the boys to show you what true happiness is. "Let's not just go out and have us a long day," 36-year-old linebacker and team leader Jack Pardee is wont to say before a game. "Let's go out and have us a good time."
This year's Redskins are undoubtedly the sunniest collection of grizzled veterans, former player reps, reputed problem children and Men Who Have Played Out Their Options in the whole U.S.A. If there is anyone among them who does not know how to have a good time it is not George Allen's fault. "The players around here are happy because they're treated like men," says Assistant Coach Joe Sullivan. "They are responsible for their actions. But you have to be part kid to play. It's a contact sport. It takes exuberance. We treat them like men while recognizing that they're kids."
In the dressing room after each victory Allen leads his adult minors in three cheers for themselves, and then the captains award at least three game balls. That does not seem at all inflationary to the Redskins. On the plane home from away games the players sing. They call Allen "Ice Cream," and the words to one of their favorite numbers are "Hooray for Ice Cream, Hooray at last, Hooray for Ice Cream, He's a horse's ass." Allen just smiles benignly upon the choral group. If the players like something, Allen thinks it's great.
They call him Ice Cream because he adores the stuff and because that's what he gives them every Thursday after a win. Duke Zeibert, the well-known Washington restaurateur, brings ice cream and cake out to practice, and all those hardened, bleeding, bull-sized professionals line up like little tads at a birthday party. Every Tuesday night there is a hairier-chested team get-together, variously described as a buffet and beer bust, which is not mandatory but which most players attend. Allen gives special recognition for previous-Sunday performances ranging from touchdowns to tackles on kickoffs inside the 20.
Allen's program is not all cakes and ale, of course. He is a man who, if you told him he had on a nice tie, would respond by explaining how the tie's niceness contributes to a winning season. In Pittsburgh before the last exhibition game, Trainer Joe Kuczo was sitting in the lobby of the team hotel, minding his own business, when Allen walked up and asked whether he was thinking of ways or had thought of ways to beat Minnesota. If you do not contribute to the Redskins' success, Allen does not see why you have any reason to be happy—even if you are allegedly a neutral observer. Hence, he has reproached the Washington press for not doing enough to help the home team win.
Nothing about his players seems to faze Allen, so long as they can exhibit a sober dedication to the cause of Redskin happiness. Within the past year, for example, both his star quarterbacks have been arrested—Kilmer for creating a wee-hours disturbance at a diner, and Jurgensen for drunk driving. Two weeks after the latest "new" Jurgensen was arrested, Allen promoted him to the starting job. "I didn't wait for 12 years just to hold again for extra points on a championship team," Jurgensen said before the Giant game.
That, sadly, it may have been his last game of the season, and perhaps of his career, does not doom Redskin chances, though. "Sonny is more dangerous," the Giants' Gregory said after the game, "but the Redskins seem to play better for Kilmer." And, after all, the prime element in the Washington attack is the rushing of Larry Brown. An unknown blocking back at Kansas State, Brown was taken on the eighth round mostly because the Redskins knew he weighed 195 and could do 40 yards in 4.7 seconds. In the 3½ years that he has been in the NFL he has gained more yardage than anyone else in the game.
Curiously, despite being the 191st man selected in the pro draft, Brown proved difficult to sign. When Washington's personnel director, Tim Temerario, first talked to Brown, he said he thought he might play Canadian ball. "Let me speak to him," said Vince Lombardi, in his best "I'll get rid of this nonsense" tone, but he got nowhere either.
Pressed by Temerario, Brown gave a reason for his resistance. "I'm going to get out of this ghetto," he said. Temerario asked him what he meant. Brown asked Temerario if he had ever been to Pittsburgh.