You want to know why Sunday’s Washington Redskins game is so big? It’s against Baltimore.
Washington hates Baltimore.
In a sporting sense, anyway.
Yes, it’s an out-of-conference game. Yes, the Ravens are in position to possibly clinch the AFC North with a win. Yes, the Redskins can’t afford a loss if their postseason grope is to find traction.
But here’s the thing. Baltimore also hates Washington. Kind of the same way that New Jersey does not like New York.
New York looks at Jersey and shrugs. Washington looks at Baltimore and can’t even manage a shrug. After all, there are Georgetown parties to attend. Or so the narrative goes.
In fact, Baltimore is Washington’s burr – at least when it comes to the NFL.
The Redskins may have had Sonny Jurgensen back in the day, but that was the same “day” the Baltimore Colts had one Johnny Unitas.
The Colts won NFL championships in 1958 and 1959 and are widely credited for having sent the NFL to the so-called next level.
The Redskins won three Super Bowls under Joe Gibbs in the 80s and, with the Colts having left Baltimore in Mayflower moving vans for Indianapolis in 1984, Washington finally was rid of its headline-grabbing neighbor.
For a while, anyway. Then came the Ravens, brought to town by Art Modell when the NFL agreed to his Browns-to-Baltimore move.
Since then, the Ravens – and Ray Lewis -- have been one of the NFL’s more consistent winners while the Redskins have wandered through ever-changing templates of incompetence.
Admit it, citizens of the D.C. area. Rather, Redskins fans from any area.
You do not like Baltimore. Baltimore makes you look small. And you no doubt cringe at what Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said this week about the game.
“Because [the Redskins] are so close, I am sure there will be a lot of people out there that will have a little bit more interest in the game, just based on where the line stops for each of the teams,” he said. “So, it will make it a little more interesting in that kind of sense.”
In other words, whatever. The same sentiment that might have come from Johnny U -- or even Bert Jones in the mid-70s.
Washington has tolerated the backwash of Baltimore’s success for more than half a century – Gibb’s Roman-numeral victories notwithstanding.
Come Sunday, it’s an acrimonious family affair.
Whether or not either fan-base wants to admit it.
Skip Wood covered the NFL for the better part of 15 years while at USA TODAY.