Two Old, Boozy John Riggins And Mark Rypien Stories For You

Here with a guest post for nailing his Eagles game prediction is Mr. Irrelevant reader/commenter Donk Donkerson.

I have a confession: I’m a band nerd. But there are perks to being in a band.

I spent 10 years in the Redskins Band, from 1986 to 1996. During that time, I never missed a home game. Not even if I had the flu.

The last time I played was the final game at RFK, when we beat the Cowboys in a meaningless game. I couldn’t stomach the fact that my team was moving to Landover, Maryland, even if I was from Maryland and a graduate of College Park. It just didn’t seem right.

All band members had an ID card that allowed you to park for free and enter the stadium through a side entrance. Every year I tried to get a player to sign the back of it. These are the two best stories from those attempts.

‘Holy Shit … It Is Rypien’

This was either Thanksgiving night or the day after, 1988 or 1989.

An old high school buddy of mine agreed to meet for drinks at The Gingerbread Man in Severna Park. We were sitting at a hightop table sharing a pitcher of beer. There was only one other table of people in the place. My buddy remarked that one of the guys at the table looked like Mark Rypien.

I took a look … holy shit … IT IS RYPIEN.

He got up to take a piss and I followed him in to confirm. This is all very awkward to recount, but I started pissing in the urinal next to him.

“Are you Mark Rypien?” I asked.


I told him I was a big fan, told him I played in the band. “No Shit!,” he said. (I was always amazed at how cool players thought the band was). “Well, let’s have a drink!”

He ended up joining me and my friend at our table for about 30-45 minutes, buying shots, etc., telling us college drinking stories at WSU. He was a really down-to-Earth guy, and really drunk that night.

He was in the middle of a story when his wife, (I think it was his wife) started telling him it was time to go home. He kept telling her, “In a minute! I’m telling a story here!”

I also remember them leaving in a minivan. His wife was reading him the riot act for taking so long.

Riggins: ‘Mark Rypien?! Fuck Him!’

This is during a game at RFK, 1990 or ’91. Half the band gets a break in the third quarter, so I left to go have a smoke.

I enter the bottom tunnel of RFK, where they keep the police cars, ambulances, etc., and there he was, dressed in a cowboy hat, leather trench coat and ostrich-skin boots. He also had a smoking hot blonde on his arm.

I have to get this autograph.

I stood about 20 feet in front of him with my pen and pass card in hand, hoping to make eye contact. Rightfully so, he was all about the blonde, entertaining her with some sort of alcohol-fueled conversation. This is how it went down:

Hot Smokin’ Blonde: ”John, John, I think this guy wants your autograph.”

Riggins: “C’mere, MAN! So, you’re in the band huh?”

Me: “Yes sir, Mr. Riggins! In fact, every year I get a famous Redskin to sign my ID Card. It’s such an HONOR to have yours now!”

Riggins: “Who else ya got?”

Me: “Well, a few years back I got Mark Rypien!”

Riggins: “Mark Rypien?! Fuck him!”

Me: “Oh, you’re right, John. He’s not in the same class as you, sir. He sucks.”

Riggins: “What?! He’s a good friend of mine!”

At this point, Riggins puts me in a headlock and starts to give me noogies. But he’s had a few beers and his noogies are rough. Plus he’s got his giant arm wrapped around my neck. Keep in mind I’m dressed in a polyester Indian outfit holding a horn, trying hard not to drop it.

The Hot Smokin’ Blonde says, “John! John! Stop! You’re hurting him,” but he’s laughing, and I’m laughing ’cause I’m so freaking happy that Riggins has me in a drunken headlock and I can feel his Super Bowl ring on my scalp.

He lets me go, signs the card, shakes my hand and tells me to get lost. And I’ll never forget it.

9 thoughts on “Two Old, Boozy John Riggins And Mark Rypien Stories For You”

  1. These are wonderful stories, best thing I’ll read all week I’m sure. I’m not sure I’m relieved or disappointed that Riggo didn’t put me in a headlock the time I met him at the old Mister Donut in Vienna (RIP).

  2. I’ve never figured out why, but football players love the Band. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fellow JMHS grad (1978) and I played tuba in the band.– The Warhawks had a couple very good years when I was there… and some not so good ones. The football players mostly had nothing to do with us during the week, but they were always disappointed when we did not attend or play at the away games. And when we did attend, we always got a big hand from the team.

    I’ve heard similar stories from other HS band veterans.

  3. This one time, in band camp….

    No, really. Back in the ’70s when I was in junior high, I made all-county band in MoCo. The leader was the band director at Blair, IIRC.

    Anyway, his dad was the conductor of the Redskins’ band. So in our big concert, Daddy came out and conducted us in a rousing rendition of “Hail To the Redskins.”

    It was one of the greatest moments of my life.

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