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Ol' Ricky's Redskins Tales - The Wreath Game

Ol’ Ricky remembers “The Wreath Game” that actually caused an injury in the locker room and kept a rivalry hot for years. Plus, thoughts on Kendall Fuller.

Emotions were high after losing the 1979 finale to the Dallas Cowboys 35-34 that knocked Washington out of the playoffs. But to make it even worse, Cowboys defensive end Harvey Martin threw a funeral wreath that a Redskins fan sent to Dallas’ locker room into Washington’s instead.

Let’s just say it’s lucky somebody didn’t really need that wreath.

It was an emotionally-charged game. Washington kicked a field goal in the final seconds of the season’s first encounter a month earlier despite a big lead. That really angered the Cowboys, being shown up like that, and they were ready for the rematch.

The winner would end the season as the NFC East champion, the loser would go home. The wreath was supposedly ordered by a Dallas fan via a Rockville, Md. florist to the Cowboys facility before the game as motivation. Dallas players thought it was the Redskins taunting them.

“I got to thinking, ‘Man, that means I’m dead or something. They sent me a wreath,’ ” Martin told the Associated Press. “I just kept looking at it. So on the way to the stadium, I told [the equipment manager] bring that thing with us.”

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Martin grabbed the wreath after the game and threw it at Washington players, who were too stunned and tired to quickly retaliate. The wreath hit kicker Mark Moseley’s knee and needed three stitches to close.

Martin later apologized to the team and Moseley before his 2001 death. But Martin was right in that it was the end of the “Over the Hill Gang.”

Nowadays, players don’t buy into the rivalry. It’s for fans and I’m not sure fans really care much anymore, either. The rivalry formed for several reasons, the biggest was coach George Allen needed someone to focus upon and the Cowboys were the division’s best team then. Beat the Cowboys and they could be the best. Certainly, the two NFC Championship victories over the Cowboys are the Redskins’ best wins ever aside the Super Bowl.

But Martin got the last word that day.

Tomorrow: Ol’ Ricky remembers former Redskins left tackle Ed Simmons. Lots of stories in my book and these are the types of tales I’ll tell on my coming “Pizza and Pigskins Tours.”

Rick Snider is an award-winning sports writer who has covered Washington sports since 1978. He first wrote about the Redskins in 1983 before becoming a beat writer in 1993. Snider currently writes for several national and international publications and is a Washington tour guide. Follow Rick on Twitter at @Snide_Remarks.