The 7pm Saturday night slot on NBC4, during football season, has forever featured Redskins programming. That slot is now occupied by a show called “Redskins Showtime.” It’s hosted by the station’s sports anchor, Dianna Russini, and features two of the ex-Redskins on our staff, Chris Cooley and Doc Walker. They all do a fine job and it’s a good way to get ready for the game the following day.
This past Saturday I was watching it and couldn’t help but think back to the days when the spot occupied by “Showtime” was the home of “Redskins Report.” The quartet of NBC4 Sports Director George Michael, Hall of Famers Sonny Jurgensen and John Riggins plus Michael Wilbon, who was still writing columns for the Washington Post, set the standard. I sent out a tweet recalling that show and was surprised at the Twitter reaction I received.
So, with the season underway, I thought it would be a good time to look back on Redskins shows of that type over the years. I’m relying on my memory and whatever I could find on the inter net, but I’m certainly leaving out a few. I would love to hear from you on recollections of the following and the ones that may have left out:
The Sonny Jurgensen Show – This was likely a Channel 9 production. Sonny spent many years there while he was still playing for the Redskins and after his career ended. I don’t know how many years the show lasted, but I do remember an interview he conducted with Coach Vince Lombardi near the end of the 1969 season – the one year Lombardi coached here.
The Warner Wolf Show – Warner had two go-rounds at Channel 9. The second one in the early and mid 1990’s didn’t go so well. He was let go before the end of his contract. But in the late 60’s and early 70’s, Warner invented modern sportscasting. He brought the fun of the games into the coverage of the games. He was not just the most popular sportscaster in town, he may have been the most popular television personality, period. In 1972, when Jurgensen tore his achillies tendon playing the Giants, coincidently a week later, Warner did the same thing playing touch football. In Warner’s first biography, “Let’s Go to the Videotape”, there’s a photo of Sonny and Warner sitting on the set with their casts and crutches. Not long after that, the show became, “Redskins Sidelines” with a live studio audience.
Redskins Sidelines – It had at least a 20-year run and was a weeknight staple for fans. After Warner left Channel 9 for ABC Network in New York in 1976, Glenn Brenner and Sonny co-hosted the show. They had at least one active player on each week, which got a little uncomfortable when Joe Theismann showed up. Sonny never really liked him. But Glenn and Sonny were great together. And in the 80’s when the Redskins were really good, it was great fun watching everybody celebrate the previous Sunday’s win.
Redskins Playbook – A unique show put together by great producer and director Ernie Baur, who had produced “Redskins Sidelines” at Channel 9 and wanted to do something a little different when he made the move to Channel 5 in the early 80’s. This was shot in the Channel 5 newsroom and featured writers, players and even a betting expert, Gerald Strine. They sat around in loosened ties and shot the bull about the team, with the discussion led by the station’s main sports anchor. Bernie Smilovitz gave way to Joe Fowler, who gave way to Steve Buckhantz. Six years ago, in a book titled “The Great Book of Washington, D.C. Sports Lists”, co-authored by Len Shapiro and uh…Andy Pollin, Buck recalled a special “Playbook” show shot in San Diego as the Redskins prepared for Super Bowl XXII. Baur manged to get Michael, Brenner and Channel 7 anchor Frank Herzog on the set to tape the show. With competition the way it is, something like that may never happen again. Anyway, during one of the breaks, the always funny Brenner, noting that the four prime D.C. sportscasting jobs were sitting on the set said, “If Harvey Smilovitz (the Channel 5 weekend anchor who was back in Washington) rolled a grenade up here, he could take over the whole market.”
Countdown to Kickoff – This was Channel 7’s offering. It ran in the 80’s and into the early 90’s and was hosted by Herzog. Sam Huff was a regular on the show. When the Redskins played on Monday Night Football, Herzog would do the show from 8-9 as a pregame show for MNF.
Redskins Report – This started out as the Joe Gibbs show on Channel 4, hosted by Michael. When Gibbs left after the 1992 season, Richie Petitbon slid in for the one year he coached the Skins. But when Norv Turner replaced Petitbon for 1994, Channel 7 came up with the bigger offer and Norv did the the basic coach’s show with Rennie Knott, who by that time had replaced Herzog. Michael decided to go in a different direction. He’d already managed to get Sonny away from Channel 9 and paired him up with David Aldridge, who was covering the Redskins for the Post at the time, and John Riggins. When Aldridge left for ESPN in the late 90’s, Michael Wilbon moved into his spot. The four independent voices gave you a great look at what was going on with the team every week.
Redskins Saturday Night – I’m not positive this was even the correct name and the channel is uncertain – either 20 or 50. But I do know the show featured former Redskin Pete Wysocki, Doug “Greaseman” Tracht and Tony Kornheiser. It probably only lasted a few years.
I’m sure that’s not the complete list. If anything here is wrong, or I’ve left something out, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call the Sports Reporters on Sportstalk 570 in the morning at 301-230-0980.