Every so often here at Redskins Park, you can open a drawer that’s somehow been ignored for years or a box that’s been in storage forever and find something completely awesome. These pictures would be among those somethings.
Most Redskins fans remember Osaka pretty clearly. That’s where the American Bowl was played during the 2002 preseason, the one night when Steve Spurrier’s offense really lived up to the hype before coming brutally back to earth during the regular season. Osaka is now a shorthand warning for Redskins fans not to take the preseason too seriously, and many of the stories from that trip have been told.
These images, though, don’t come from the trip itself. Then-young offensive lineman Chris Samuels and then-49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia went on an advance promotional trip to Osaka in March of that year to help drum up enthusiasm for the game. The trip included visits to a baseball game and a sumo match, school visits, press conferences, and at least one appearance at a retail store. The resulting images and press clips were collected in a binder commemorating NFL ON TOUR: Osaka 2002, which is where I came across them.
These pictures were new to me, and I didn’t notice any record of them online so I’m hoping they’ll be fairly new to everyone else.
Here, for example, are Samuels and Garcia at a sumo match:
And here they are with a sumo wrestler:
Samuels was unintimidated by the rikishi. “”That felt different for me because they were 500 pounds,” Samuels said at the time, according to a Rick Snider Washington Times story that doesn’t seem to be online. “I couldn’t get in the ring with them, but on the football field I could block them.”
I assume something like that is what’s happening in this press clipping, although I’m completely unable to read the text. (Click image to enlarge.)
Here’s a couple from the baseball game, the Yomiuri Giants vs. the Kintetsu Buffaloes on Saturday, March 16:
A stopover at the NFL Japan Shop in Osaka:
Here’s Samuels and Garcia with Osaka mayor Takafumi Isomura. He’s holding a Niners jersey presumably because San Francisco and Osaka are sister cities — you can read his thank you note here. At the press conference, according to this binder, both players “gave a pledge to do their best for the game,” a pledge that the Redskins team seems to have taken very seriously indeed.
And then there’s this press clipping, which is .. I honestly don’t even know what it is, to be honest. Click for a much larger version.
My favorite part of all of that? This bizarre logo.
Somehow I don’t expect this year’s game in Canada to generate quite as much internationally-flavored excitement, or as many unusual logos.
(I apologize for the occasionally shoddy picture quality; many of these pictures were scanned and printed out to be put in the binder, and I had to re-scan them to post them here. So there’s been some unavoidable image degradation … and some of them weren’t the greatest shots in the first place.)
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