The NFL Network recently aired the latest installment of its documentary series “A Football Life,” profiling Hall of Fame running back and Washington Redskins Super Bowl hero John Riggins.
Among other things, the film covered a memorable 1985 incident in which the bulldozer back drank his way through a black-tie dinner in Washington and told U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to “loosen up, Sandy baby.” Riggins then slumped to the floor and slept through a speech by Vice President George Bush.
What’s the connection to Virginia politics? Well, the dignitaries seated at Riggins’ table that night included Chuck Robb, then Virginia’s governor. Robb appears in the film and, with apparent delight, described what he called “one of the most memorable evenings I can remember in Washington.”
Riggins said he had spent the afternoon drinking beer with a friend before donning his tuxedo and heading to a Washington hotel for a “Salute to Congress” dinner. He then downed a couple of double Scotches on an empty stomach and ran into Robb.
“Gooo-be-na-tooor!” Riggins bellowed, according to Robb. “I understand that we’re going to be seated at the same table tonight!”
“There were two bottles of red wine and John, in a very expressive mode, managed to mow both of them down,” Robb said. “So they brought two more bottles of red wine, also within John’s reach, and [he] somehow managed to knock them over. So, at this point, the table is covered with red wine.”
Riggins waved off food and, as he said, “continued to drink my dinner.” O’Connor had to leave early, but the loaded fullback known as the “Diesel” tried to persuade the honorable justice to stay.
“Loosen up, Sandy baby. You’re too tight,” Riggins reportedly said.
In the film, Robb described what happened next.
“He just went back without a sound,” Robb said, describing Riggins hitting the floor. “And he stayed there for the entire speech.”
“It was a great evening as far as I was concerned, one of the most memorable evenings that I can remember in Washington because of the way it played out and the fact that everybody enjoyed it.” Robb said.
The account of this incident, with Robb’s recollections, begins at the 1:20 mark of this video segment.
– Michael Sluss