At The Welcome Home Luncheon

You know it’s a good party when the head coach tells the story of breaking someone’s nose, but we’ll get to that a bit later.

The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and the Redskins Alumni Association held the annual Redskins Welcome Home Luncheon today. The whole team and entire coaching staff attends, as do the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders, Redskins alumni and any fans who have bought tickets.

There’s a silent auction, lots of autograph signing, a speech from Coach Zorn, and the presentation of the Offensive, Defensive, and Special Teams Player of the Year awards — plus, of course, lunch, where each table of fans also has a player or two. It’s a big hoo-hah celebration, and it in some ways marks the official start of the football season.

(More after jump.)

Former Hog Jeff Bostic presented Chris Samuels as the Offensive Player of the Year, and Samuels followed up with the shortest and most direct acceptance speech in recorded history, not doing much more than thanking his teammates, the alumni, and the fans and getting off the stage. Emcee George Michael looked at him after he left and said, “You’ve still got seven minutes and ten seconds to fill.”

The loudest applause for Samuels came when he thanked offensive line coach Joe Bugel, “The best offensive line coach I’ve ever had.”

Dexter Manley presented London Fletcher as Defensive Player of the Year, and Fletcher — after thanking everyone — focused his speech on how is “honored to be a part of this legacy.”

And one of my favorite players from my earliest years as a fan, Mike Nelms, presented the Special Teams Player of the Year award to Rock Cartwright.

“I’ve never played anywhere else,” said Cartwright, “and I hope I don’t play anywhere else.”

Coach Zorn followed, and again proved himself to be an excellent storyteller and a genuinely funny guy. He apologized first to Fred Davis’ table, calling Davis “a shy guy, not a man of a lot of words,” which was pretty much just the setup to apologize to the people at Fred Smoot’s table, who he assumed hadn’t been able to say anything at all.

Next he prepared to give a football to a girl in the audience, which he prefaced by telling a story. Apparently, after his Seahawks playing career ended, he came back and played in some kind of charity game. On his team, in addition to alumni, were a few cheerleaders. Zorn, playing to win, drew up a crossing pattern for the cheerleader to run, and saw her come open over the middle.

“The ball slips through her hands and hits her right square in the nose. There was blood everywhere. She hits the ground, and I… I was like…” he paused, seemingly remorseful, then shouted, “CATCH THE BALL!” The delivery was impeccable. After suitably terrifying the poor girl — pregnant, no less — he tossed her the ball from the podium, and she caught it without incident.

The rest of his speech was more serious. He recounted some of the tragedies of the past years, and some of the small joys as well. “It’s real life,” he said. “It’s very real life on our football team.”

He then explained what sort of players he was looking for — “guys with character, not characters” — and addressed his criticism of Chris Samuels from earlier in the week, pointing out that after the play that led him to call Samuels soft, “When that happened, he shored it up. Nobody gave up. That’s what we’re gonna do all year. We’re gonna fight, and we’re gonna build.

“We’re gonna have to prove to this great DC area who we are.”

Zorn’s speech marked the end of the event, and before he and the players departed, he led the crowd in three cheers for the team. Yes, that’s three cheers as in “Hip hip — HOORAY,” and, yes, it sounded hokey to me as well. Somehow, though, it actually worked. Zorn boomed the “hip hip”s, and the whole crowd responded, and that’s what followed the team out of the dining room.

*****

I’ll have some more from the Welcome Home Luncheon through the afternoon, but no open practice today, as it’s the day before a game.

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6 Responses

  1. So…great link…to LAST YEARS first ladies of football. When will the website have this years roster and bios??

  2. damn those cheerleaders are….. looking fine!!!!

  3. the 3 cheers could be an homage to George Allen… look at an archive of George leading 3 cheers for the Redskins during the Over the Hill days…

  4. Good catch. A few other people suggested the George Allen connection to me as well — I hadn’t even thought of it, I’m ashamed to say — and that would make it even better. I mean, it was no “Clear eyes, full hearts, CAN’T LOSE,” but it was much more effective than it had any right to be.

  5. Yeah, the three cheers has got to be a throw back to Allen. There is a classic NFL films scene of Allen and the ‘skins in the locker room with Allen leading the cheer after the NFC championship game I believe.

  6. […] Making “The Mayne Event” Posted on October 10, 2008 by Matt Terl Kenny Mayne’s idea for his Mayne Event segment this week centers around the “Hip Hip Hooray” cheer, which appears to have caught the public imagination in a way that I couldn’t quite have imagined when Zorn first broke it out at the Welcome Home Luncheon. […]

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