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Sporting Rivals



September 10, 2004

Kevin Bell is a diehard Washington Redskins fan who's rarely missed a game over the last decade. So what prompted him to swap four pairs of seats from his season-ticket package for a better pair of seats at one early-season game? The chance to see the Redskins play against -- and beat -- the Dallas Cowboys. "I want to see the stadium rock like it used to," says the 33-year-old New Jersey marketing manager.

For some football fans, this autumn has a single focus: bringing back the Redskins-Cowboys grudge match. Though the rivalry stretches back more than 30 years, it sputtered out in the late 1990s when both teams' performance started slipping.


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Now, with the re-hiring of retired coach Joe Gibbs in January, Redskins fans dream of a return to his winning ways, which include Super Bowl victories in 1983, 1988, and 1992. Even before training camps opened this summer, 50-yard-line tickets for the Monday night Redskins-Cowboys game on Sept. 27 were selling for as much as $800 -- twice what they cost a year ago, according to ticket brokers.

The seeds of the rivalry go back to the late 1950s, when Texas oilman Clint Murchison secretly bought the rights to "Hail to the Redskins" in retaliation for the then-Redskins owner blocking a Dallas expansion team. Ultimately, Washington got its fight song back and Dallas, in return, got a franchise (the Cowboys now also have coach Bill Parcells, who came out of retirement to lead the team to a playoff spot last year).

For ABC's "Monday Night Football," the Parcells-Gibbs matchup has made it an even bigger draw. Commercial spots for the matchup have sold as briskly as for yesterday's season opener -- normally the regular season's fastest-selling game.

Ardent fans notwithstanding, the obstacles in front of the Redskins are formidable. Even if they win both of their Dallas games -- a huge feat against a team that made last year's playoffs -- they must play in a division with the Philadelphia Eagles, which many regard as a championship contender.

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