Yesterday was a fairly huge disappointment; there’s no sugar-coating that. There were some in-game positives — the play of the defense for most of the game, for example, or another big game for Clinton Portis — but they were largely overshadowed by a disappointing loss.
There was one thing yesterday that was an entirely positive experience, though, and that was getting to spend a few minutes with First Sgt. Mike McGuire of the U.S. Army, his wife Pam, and his friend Mike Koulchar.
McGuire has become familiar to sports fans through his association with SI.com’s Peter King. McGuire is in the middle of an eighteen day leave, and with the Rams (from his hometown, St. Louis) playing at the Redskins (his favorite football team), the team invited McGuire to the game and arranged for him to meet some of his favorite players.
The fact that the game is in the vicinity of D.C. wasn’t convenient just because of McGuire’s fondness for the Redskins. He describes the eighteen day leave as “R&R,” but it’s not the beach vacation that phrase might ordinarily call to mind. “We went to a memorial service; then we saw my friend [at Walter Reed Memorial Hospital], who got wounded. It was tough, but it was nice seeing him. He was in good spirits, and he’s doing really well given the circumstances.” (Koulchar, who accompanied McGuire to the game, is the brother of Nick Koulchar, the soldier they visited.)
I was surprised that McGuire identifies as a Redskins fan, and I told him so. “Honestly, I’ve been a Redskins fan since I went to my first football game, which was the Redskins against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in … 1981, maybe? I was ten or eleven. I saw them way back then.”
He laughed, then added, “I couldn’t even tell you why. I was so young, and they were good. It was my first game, I just saw it and it clicked and I was hooked, I’ve been a fan ever since. I remember watching Joe Theismann, Art Monk, Clint Didier … you name it and I remember rooting for them.”
As McGuire stood on the sidelines watching pregame warmups, Theismann came over to talk to him and take a few photos. Predictably, this led to Theismann being mobbed by everyone nearby with a camera, but he was a good sport about it. Players stopped by to talk to McGuire as they came out to the field or finished up their pregame work, but it wasn’t just whoever had time to stop by.
The team had asked McGuire in advance who his favorite Redskin was, and he answered Chris Samuels — McGuire’s an old school Redskins fan who fondly remembers the Hogs. “The Hogs are by far my favorite. They were fun to watch – pull that left guard around to run behind … oh yeah.” So Samuels came over during his pregame warmups to present McGuire with a game-worn jersey (which he signed) and to thank him for everything he’s done in his service.
McGuire, a combat veteran and a soldier about to return to active duty, looked like a kid as he got to meet Samuels, and even moreso when former tight end and current scout Don Warren came by, thanks McGuire, and showed his two Super Bowl rings. “I can’t explain how it feels seeing these guys live,” McGuire said, more than once. “I’ve never seen a football game like this at all.”
It doesn’t remove any of the letdown from yesterday’s game, and it doesn’t make up for the loss or anything like that. In fact, from one perspective it makes it worse, that McGuire’s favorite team couldn’t pull out the win for him. But it did provide at least one undeniably good moment in an otherwise disappointing day, so there’s that, at least.