Saturday, December 15, 2007

Billy Kilmer and the Redskins!

I've already taken a bit of flack for my "seven things" meme last night in which I mentioned that I am a dyed in the wool Washington Redskin fan. Seems that has Debo Blue and Gene Bach wondering about my IQ on that choice.

I also mentioned last night that perhaps I'd have to do a post about Billy Kilmer and how he came to figure closely in my life and decided maybe tonight would be as good a time as any to explain that deal.

When I first went to work, back in 1964, in Washington, D.C. , I started out working as a "Fingerprint Technician" for the FBI - a job I absolutely hated - loathed, abhorred and despised that place! I only worked there about 7-8 months before I found another job -as a clerk typist with the National Rifle Association and I stayed there for 8 years.

About a year after I went to work for the NRA, I was selected to train to become a "keypunch operator" and worked with the data entry department as we changed our membership system over from a Remington Rand equipment set up to IBM computers. It was after I started working in the keypunch department and became friends with several other co-workers who happened to be football fans that I formed my first allegiance to the Washington Redskins. After all, it made sense since I was now living and working in that city that I should support the local home team I thought.

At that time, as I mentioned last night, the Skins were under the leadership of Otto Graham and their record then was pretty poor. Ok, downright lousy! However, as I got to know more people around the area, many who were true-blue Redskin fans, I started then to learn about a few different players, etc. One of them was Sonny Jurgeson who the press touted as being a first rate quarterback but yet, no matter how good they said he was, the Skins still couldn't seem to get their collective acts together.

Then in 1970, a miracle happened to the Redskins - well, the beginning of a miracle, that is, in the form on one Vince Lombardi, legendary former coach of the Green Bay Packers who was hired to coach the Skins. He started them on the road to having the potential to win and when he died and the Skins then hired George Allen -former coach of the Los Angeles Rams - Mr. Allen took the reins and really began to move the Skins forward with his "Over-the-Hill Gang" of players who were old by pro football standards.

In the early fall of 1971, the Skins got off to a good start and then Sonny Jurgeson, the supposedly great quarterback was injured - out for the season - and Billy Kilmer, the backup quarterback took over. With him handling the ball, calling the signals and plays, it seemed the Skins really came together under him -they jelled ya know! I had never really liked Jurgeson - in my opinion, I thought he was arrogant, uppity or some such. Not that I knew him personally but that was just the impression I had of him anyway but Kilmer - now there was a player I liked!

In the mid-season of 1971, one Sunday night after a home game, Kilmer and his date had been out and were at a Toddle Shop in Arlington for breakfast about 2 a.m. and when he went to leave, he gave the clerk a $100 bill to pay for their check. I forget the exact amount of their bill but I think it was around $3.00. Anyway, the clerk couldn't break the $100 bill - didn't have enough change in her cash register and Kilmer supposedly got a bit radical, raising a little stink and there just happened to be an Arlington cop, off-duty, in the restaurant at that time. He arrested Kilmer for, I think, disorderly conduct.

Ok, this is not that big a deal - by the standards of 30 plus years ago and certainly not by today's standards. But it was enough of a publicity event that it definitely made the news for a while.

Back then, I used to hang out at a little restaurant/bar in District Heights, Maryland - "The Shady Oak Inn" and it was pretty much a redneck type bar - a lot of the regulars who frequented the place then were construction worker types, big football fans and especially Redskin fans. The group I was friends with was pretty much evenly split in whether we liked Jurgeson or Kilmer as quarterback although maybe Jurgie had a bit of an edge due to how long he'd been quarterback for the Skins perhaps.

But that fall, the Redskins really came alive - a winning season was on the horizon and it really felt good too!

On January 3, 1972, I had gone out after work with some of the folks I ran with from "The Oak" and we were camped out at another bar just up the street - the "House of Henley" where we were all having a big philosophical discussion on the merits of Kilmer vs Jurgeson.

To be honest, I was probably more than a bit on the tipsy side too.

Anyway, we were sitting around the bar, having this really high-level discussion ya know, when this guy came in and sat down beside me. No conversation, he just sat there for a minute or so till the bartender came by and then he ordered a draft beer. No big deal with that either now is there? Not till he paid for the draft which was I think a dollar then -something like that - with a $100 dollar bill!

Now, as I said above, I was more than a bit tipsy but not so much so that I didn't catch sight of that $100 dollar bill floating across the bar and I spoke to this stranger then, asking him point blank, "Who the hell do you think you are, Billy Kilmer?"

And that my friends is how I met my ex-husband!

That also probably explains why about 8 years later, my ex developed a very strong dislike then for Billy Kilmer -or probably anyone who played for the Redskins since he then had to begin paying me (and our kids) child support you see.

And for me -well needless to say I will always think of the Skins and Billy Kilmer especially as pretty darned special cause without them, good, bad or indifferent as my marriage may have been, if it hadn't been for my being a Redskin fan and in particular, a big fan of Billy Kilmer, I probably never would have met my ex-husband and then, I wouldn't have had my son and younger daughter either. And I sure wouldn't have the three beautiful grandchildren I have today either now would I?

Keep this in mind too now though, although the Skins in recent times seem to have reverted back to playing like they did way back when I first started working in the D.C. area, I firmly believe that someday, they will come back to life again - like a Phoenix rising out of the ashes and will go on to having a winning season again -sometime before I curl up and die - I hope!

And that's the TRUTH!


Anonymous said...

You, Darling, are hilarious.

I started hating on the 'Skins during my 2nd season of watching football. The boy I was liking didn't like the Redskins because of the on-going rival between dem Boys and the Redskins. As the years passed and the rivalry grew, it was 2nd nature to hate on the Skins. So, here's an olive branch...

I'll say I love the Redskins if YOU come over to my site and say you love the Cowboys.

I promise:-)

Debo Blue

Theresa said...

Didn't think that was were the story was going!-- great meeting story! So do you still send Christmas cards to Billy and thank him for your blessings?

fermicat said...

What a great story! I remember you mentioning the Shady Oak Inn at my blog. I had no idea it played a role in meeting your husband though. That was a great line you came up with.

A couple of our friends (originally known from the pub we go to, except they don't hang out there any more) are die hard Redskins fans. They go to a local "Redskins bar" on game days. We stay away from bars on NFL game days - not our thang. We like the college football crowd, so in the fall we stick to Saturdays at the pub.

dr sardonicus said...

As I remember from my misspent youth, Sonny Jurgensen's name often came up whenever talk turned to athletes who had a million-dollar arm and a ten-cent brain. Billy Kilmer didn't have a great arm, but he was a bit more mobile and a heck of a lot smarter. It's no surprise that the 'Skins started winning after Kilmer became their QB.

And then along came Joe Theismann.

Gene Bach said...

Cool story Jeni. I'm not going to continue to gig you about rooting for the skins...I root for the Cubs and have no room to talk. LOL!!!