DMA 7-22 Sports

October 1, 2009 6:09 AM

'Sonny and Sam Show' Runs Course

Call it the "Sonny and Sam Show" -- maybe the most entertaining aspect in a season of moribund Washington Redskins football.

The Redskins' loss to the always-bad Detroit Lions on Sunday, allowing the Lions to snap a 19-game winless streak, along with an uninspiring 9-7 home win over the lowly St. Louis Rams the week before, has Washington fans in a lather. So bad is the 2009 version of the Redskins so far that the rampant speculation among fans and in the media is that head coach Jim Zorn might not last the season.

But about Sonny and Sam. Sonny is the colorful quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, and Sam is the legendary linebacker Sam Huff. Sonny and Sam are Redskins color analysts on WTEM/ESPN 980 in Washington, thus the "Sonny and Sam Show." They are a hoot.

Simply, Sonny and Sam are beloved Redskins heroes -- not to be taken lightly. But is anybody in Washington wondering why these two are still announcing Redskins games? Maybe Sonny and Sam are characteristic of what is wrong with the Redskins franchise in today's current era of professional football.

Sonny is 75 and Sam turns 75 on Oct. 4. The two Hall of Famers are nearing great-grandfather status with the new crop of NFL players. You listen to their radio game commentary and wonder if they are relating to Clinton Portis or a Haynesworth, Campbell or Moss. Sounds like they are announcing the games from recliner chairs -- seemingly no real sense of urgency about the game, but plenty of thoughts about outmoded 1950s, 60s and 70s football.

Nothing against the wisdom of age, but pro football -- unlike Major League Baseball where skill is defined by experience -- is a young man's game. Except for a few select players, football players compete for a few years and then drop out the game. Sorry, Sam. Sorry, Sonny. Behind the times.

It is entertaining if it means anything today that Sonny was backup to the great Norm Van Brocklin for the first four years of his career starting in 1957 or that he played for the great Vince Lombardi when the coach took over the Redskins for the 1969 season after leaving the Green Bay Packers.

Sam started out with the New York Giants in 1956 (when Lombardi and Tom Landry of Dallas Cowboys fame were assistant coaches). In fact, Landry, then the Giants defensive coordinator, put in the revolutionary 4-3 defense in to capture Huff's middle linebacker skills. Huff also played in what has been known as the "The Greatest Game Ever Played" -- that 1958 sudden death title contest won by the old, Johnny Unitas-led Baltimore Colts, 23-17.

Surely, you can't diminish what Sonny and Sam have meant to pro football. But to hear them over the air carrying on like Matthau and Lemmon in "Grumpy Old Men" gives a reason to tune out. On one play during the Rams game, one of them was heard saying, "He leaped and caught the ball." Boy, that's insightful.

In many respects, the nation's capital is an old town with 70- and 80-year-old politicos in their twilight years running the country. And as historic championship-winning franchises go, you can't argue with the tradition of the Redskins, dating back to 1937 and irascible owner George Preston Marshall. But should that be the draw in 2009?

Sonny and Sam calling Redskins games for over 30 years really should be enough.

Football is a game growing in popularity each year. In fact, judging by television ratings and polls, the NFL has never been as popular. Young people, women and minorities today all are embracing a sport that no longer has an offseason. Sure, grandpa is still there rooting, but times are changing.

We all know that ex-players become announcers. Take a listen someday to the Baltimore Ravens' broadcasts with the impressive Rob Burnett, the defensive end who retired in 2003, and then do a comparison with acknowledged greats Sonny and Sam. Just no comparison.

Time to change Redskins.

Photos: Sonny Jurgensen (top):; Sam Huff:

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