The Fan Who Came In From The Cold

October 14, 2001

My old Russian contact, Ivan the Unbearable, showed up at my door
yesterday. Before I knew it, he was plopped on the sectional,
drinking my beer, scouring TV Guide. Seems Ivan had just finished
a lengthy engagement in Siberia for using five aces to win too
many rubles from the czar's great-grand-nephew.

"Amerikansky," he said, eating my hoagie, "it is 10 years since I
have seen TV or newspaper. What is buzz in your National Foozball
League?"

Uh, well, I said, the San Diego Ch--

Suddenly he jumped on the coffee table and roared, "What is
this?" He was pointing to a listing in TV Guide. "This week:
Monday Night Foozball--Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys! It
does not get better than such as this, Amerikansky!"

Well, actually, Ivan--

"Holy borscht!" he cried, pounding the buttons on my remote. "Is
best rivalry in all foozball! Is best rivalry in all sport!"

No, Ivan. It's not what you think. Both of these teams are aw--

"Awesome, yes, I know! We shall have monster kegger! You bring
Hogs noses, and I dress in Tom Landry fedora! Give me phone! Must
get hands on good tickets to scalp to senators!"

No, no. Nobody wants Redskins tickets anymore. They want Wizards
tickets!

"Bah. You drink too much wodka. Do you know toll-free for Eastern
Airlines? I will rent giant 747 to bring rowdy Redskins fans
down. Must call my friend Jack Kent Cooke, smartest owner in
sports. He will bankroll deal for his comrade Ivan."

No, no, no! Cooke's dead. The Redskins now belong to the dumbest
owner in sports, Dan Snyder. He signed all these old guys he
must've had posters of on his bedroom wall when he was a kid, and
now the Redskins are just bad--

"Boys! Yes, they have always been bad boys! Riggo under
table--'Loosen up, Sandy, baby!' George Allen shutting off hot
water in Cowboys' shower! Harvey Martin throwing funeral wreath
into Redskins' locker facility! Oh, what a rumbling we will
have!"

No, no. No rumbling, I tried to say as he went through my closet,
trying on sport jackets. Bumbling, but no rumb--

"How can it miss? Joe Gibbs, great, great coach, no? Jimmy
Johnson, great, great hair spray, no?"

No, no. Those guys are gone, Ivan. Johnson just rides around in
his boat, and Gibbs just runs race cars. Neither of them coaches
football anymore.

Ivan's face was starting to fall like the Berlin Wall. "But what
of Troy Aikman and Moooooose Johnston and Joe Heisman Theismann?"

All in the broadcasting booth.

"Delightfully zany Cowboys owner Jerry Jones?"

Well, he's still the Cowboys' owner, but you might not recognize
him. He lost weight and they say he had a face-lift. He looks
more like Shirley Jones now.

"Still! Redskins-Cowboys always great game, no? For Eastern
National Conference of Foozball lead, no?"

Sorry, Ivan, they're now the two worst teams in the NFL.
Together, they're 0-8. The Cowboys start a rookie quarterback
named Quincy Carter with a passing rating of, like, a hat size.
The Redskins are even worse. Their quarterback is Tony Banks, who
couldn't drive a Toyota 80 yards, much less a football team.
Combined, both teams would have a hard time scoring on Madonna.

Ivan finally put down the phone. He looked as if he wanted to
jump off the top of the Winter Palace. "No more Clint Longley on
Thanks of Giving Day? No more Darrell Green catching Tony Dorsett
from behind? No more 'No, Danny, no!'?"

No, Ivan, no.

I thought he might cry. "The lobster whistles on the hill," he
groaned. "The unthinkable is thinked."

There was a sad pause. Suddenly, Ivan's face lit up like a
1,000-watt bulb. "Ahh, Amerikansky friend!" he said, snatching up
the TV Guide. "At least there is always collegiate foozball!
Collegiate foozball never to disappoint Ivan!"

Absolutely! I replied. You can always count on college football!
Who are your favorite teams?

"The two greatest collegiate foozball teams, all time!" he said,
beaming. "Notre Dame and Penn State!"

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA

"Redskins at Cowboys! It does not get better than such as this,
Amerikansky!"

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)