In 92 years on this earth, a man experiences a lot and achieves the knowledge that gives him ready answers for what ails his favorite NFL team.
When Bill Brill talked about the Washington Redskins, he practically jumped at the chance to help their cause with his advice about everything from their player personnel to what the fabled marching band should be playing at halftime.
When Bill passed away in January, he had been actively watching and “helping” the Redskins for most of his 92 years.
He could recall the Sundays when Sammy Baugh passed, ran, intercepted opponent passes and even punted for owner George Preston Marshall’s championship-quality teams.
Bill suffered through the many lean seasons that befell the Redskins under a string of coaches named Eddie Casey, Herman Ball, Joe Kuharich, Mike Nixon, Bill McPeak, Otto Graham, Richie Petitbon, Norv Turner, Steve Spurrier and Jim Zorn.
Coach Joe Gibbs was a particular favorite and Bill could name the Super Bowl winners with a particular ease.
After working as a pressman, linotype operator and foreman for more than 50 years at the Spirit of Jefferson newspaper on North George Street, Bill made a partial retirement from his half-century of toil. He still came in one day a week to help get the completed papers out to post offices and subscribers.
Upon his arrival, smiles came to the faces stationed within earshot of what Bill had to say about his favorite pro football team.
He refused to be called the “Old Ball Coach” because he had his doubts about Steve Spurrier when he came from Florida to resurrect Washington’s chances.
As the afternoon moved along, Bill’s stories about his high school days in Harpers Ferry invariably crept into the conversation. Once that flow had been established, out came the tales of olden times when the Great Flood of 1936 swept through Harpers Ferry or how he had handled his World War II service in Europe with Gen. George Patton’s 9th Armored Division Tank Corps.
And later there were tales told with his wry smile about the hundreds of times he went dancing at the various Moose Clubs in the area and the Jackson-Perks Post 71 American Legion building in Charles Town. According to those who were in the same Saturday night locations as Mr. Brill, he was quite a dancer, prone to long nights on the floor without much rest.
His years with the Spirit were revisited with a particular relish and gusto as he recalled the “unusual” work conditions that prevailed with co-workers Meade Dorsey, Ed Dockeney, Bonnie Dunn, Pat Dockeney, Skinny Hammond, Junior Ennis, Donny Owens, Russell Miller, June Bohrer, Don Rentch and editor Max Brown.
Even after he was gone from full-time newspaper work, and Bill was beyond his 80th birthday, he could still be found dancing at the Moose Club out near Guy’s on old W.Va. 9.
He didn’t want to slow down. And for the most part he was successful against the advances of age. One thing remained constant: Bill’s sense of humor.
He always smiled when he approached you. His smile was a giveaway that a humorous story was coming your way. And when you were laughing out of control, he brought out another tale that had you pleading with him to stop because you could barely breathe anymore.
Too soon, the afternoon’s work was completed.
Mr. Brill had solved most of Washington’s football problems. And the ones that had not been alleviated could be tackled again upon his return the next week. He had the right answers to football failures. And he had the right mother lode of humor to be a delight with his often-told stories of his high school years at Harpers Ferry (where he graduated in 1940), his decades of work, his time spent in the Army in World War II and his years of long suffering with the Washington Redskins.
This is the Redskins first season without Bill Brill. You see their record. It could be better, maybe much better, if he were here to help the coaching staff with his advice and experience.