BGO Review: Jim Gehman's "Then Gibbs Said to Riggins..."
Heading out the door on a recent 2 day jaunt to Buffalo, I impulsively snatched up the copy of Jim Gehman’s “Then Gibbs Said to Riggins…” I’d recently obtained, and threw it in my overnight bag. I knew I’d have some airport time to kill, and what better way to kill it than by reading a book full of ‘the best Washington Redskins stories ever told’.
I’ve always had good impulses. Gehman has written one helluva little book.
Gehman’s book is chock-full of ‘I didn’t know that’ moments. As a rabid and lifelong Redskins fan, I consider my knowledge of Redskins history, of the players, coaches, and games, pretty damn solid. If the history of the Washington Redskins were a gourmet meal, Gehman provides some tantalizing and unexpected appetizers whetting your appetite for the main course to come, and even offers a private tour of the kitchen and glimpse into the minds of the chefs who’ve created so many great meals.
Want to know how Mark Moseley became a Redskins fan? In his introductory foreword, Moseley reveals his childhood love of the Houston Oilers. His youthful hatred of the Dallas Cowboys would lead him inexorably to a future as a Washington Redskin, and provide him countless opportunities to put a dagger in the hearts of their fans.
Any Redskins fan is well-familiar with the QB controversy that dominated the George Allen era. Many of us may have had our own personal ‘I love Sonny’ or ‘I love Billy’ bumper stickers. Such knowledge is requisite for a real Redskins fan.
But how many of us know how Sonny and Billy felt about each other, George Allen, and their competitive relationship? How did their teammates feel about the two rival quarterbacks and who did they favor? “Then Gibbs Said to Riggins…” provides those answers in the most direct and honest way possible – through the words of the players who lived those moments themselves.
Gehman expertly weaves the tapestry of Redskins history, spanning 50+ years and thousands of players and coaches, with the words of the men who made it.
A child of the 60’s and 70’s like Gehman himself, my fandom blossomed during the most glorious period ever in the history of the Redskins franchise. I watched Riggins throw his famous forearm shiver to break out for a historic Super Bowl run. I saw Joe Theismann’s ill-fated sideline pass in the waning first half seconds dooming the Skins to a Super Bowl defeat to the Raiders. But what a pleasure it was to hear, feel, and experience those moments all over again through the eyes of the players and coaches who were immersed in them as they occurred.
The reign of success and NFC East dominance that began within a year of a nearly unknown Joe Gibbs arrival in D.C., and that was sustained for nearly a decade, is rich with legend. Gehman gives us a backstage pass to experience it all over again, courtesy of the hundreds of players who blocked, ran, passed, threw and kicked the Washington Redskins to Super Bowl glory.
Interspersed with hundreds of player quotes, stories, and narrative, Gehman delivers a comprehensive lesson in Redskins history in the form of essays that put the quintessential moments into perfect context. He navigates well-travelled territory, reviewing the great coaches, quarterbacks, and stars of Redskins past. But Gehman delivers something unexpectedly delightful as well.
One of my favorite aspects of “Then Gibbs Said to Riggins…” and one which sets it distinctly apart from other Redskins history offerings, is that we learn not just about the expected heroes and dominant figures of Redskins legend, but about the guys in the trenches, specialty players, blue-chippers, the ‘less-remembered’.
Guys like Don Warren, Len Hauss, Doc Walker, Rich Milot, Martin Mayhew, Joe Jacoby, Dave Butz, Perry Brooks, Mike Bass, and a hundred others you may not have thought about in years, add their recollections and memories to the canvas of Redskins history. We know what happened. Gehman gives us a glimpse at what our Redskins were thinking about while it was happening.
Redskin’s fans are a fortunate lot. For beloved followers of one of the NFL’s most storied franchises, there is no shortage of Redskins history books. A wealth of talented, prolific writers has produced a veritable smorgasbord of delicacies for Redskins fans to dine upon. I hope Redskins fans have saved some room, because dessert, Jim Gehman’s “Then Gibbs Said to Riggins” is on the way.
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Jim Gehman has also authored “Then Levy Said to Kelly…” and has covered sports in print and on television since he was a teenager in the late 1970’s. He has written articles for numerous organizations and publications including the NFL Alumni Association, Warpath! Magazine, Shout! Magazine, Silver & Black Magazine, and Hail! Magazine. Jim has also been an active contributor for numerous NFL-related websites and has been a columnist for the New England Patriots Football Weekly and Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine.