July 30, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER
Roll Call

Heard on the Hill: Riggo Reflects on ‘Sandy Baby’ Riposte

In the sports world, John Riggins may be best known for his 43-yard, go-ahead touchdown run in Super Bowl XVII to seal a Washington Redskins victory and earn himself the game’s MVP trophy. But on the Hill, Riggo is likely remembered for a single phrase: “Loosen up, Sandy baby.”

The NFL Hall of Famer uttered the infamous words 25 years ago this month at the National Press Club Foundation’s annual dinner. The recipient: Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

“This occasion changed the course of western civilization,” Riggins quipped in an interview with HOH. “I think what we’re talking about here is what I’ll be remembered for much longer than being an MVP.”

There’s been some confusion this past quarter-century about the specifics, so let’s clear the air. Here’s how it went down, according to the man himself: Riggins, surrounded by the Beltway crowd, said he felt a bit nervous and out of his league. So to “loosen up” himself, he had a few double scotches and chased that with several glasses of wine — all on an empty stomach. As he was chatting up then-Virginia Gov. Chuck Robb, Riggo noticed his tablemate O’Connor and her late husband, John, getting up to leave.

“It got to that point, when someone is trying to leave a party, we all say, ‘Oh come on, stay a little longer,’” he recalls. “That’s the spirit it was meant in.”

Riggins said he has the utmost respect for the glass-ceiling-shattering justice. He even considers her a friend. And there doesn’t seem to be any hard feelings on her end, he said. They met again a few years ago.

“I was already thinking that this is going to be on my tombstone, and that’s what she said to me,” he said. “We’re linked together for life, which is good for me, but not so good for her.”

Another misconception: That Riggo passed out during a speech by then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. While he readily admits sleeping through the speech, it wasn’t Bush that put him out, but rather the night’s master of ceremonies.

“It was Sam [Donaldson]. He was so boring. I couldn’t take it,” Riggins said. “I went down like a chunk when he was talking.”

Here’s hoping this year’s dinner, scheduled for Feb. 10, will provide even a fraction of that kind of drama.

Members of Congress: Just Like Us. House Minority Leader John Boehner is a busy man, maintaining a packed schedule as a top leader of the Republican Party. But it seems even he couldn’t get out of a trip to the dreaded dentist’s office last week.

An HOH spy eyed the Ohio Republican sitting quietly in the waiting room of the Capitol Hill Dental Group on Thursday morning, presumably in anticipation of his turn in the dentist’s chair. There’s no word on what specifically Boehner was doing at the tooth doctor, as a spokesman declined comment — although HOH wondered whether the longtime smoker had an appointment to get his teeth whitened.

A Match Made in ... Trenton? Unlike, say, Snooki or The Situation from “Jersey Shore,” Senate staffers Michael Pagan and Yasmin Yaver are two New Jersey-ites who are happy in love.

Pagan, press secretary for Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), popped the question last week to Yaver, senior policy adviser for Hispanic affairs to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

The Garden State power couple was out for a jog Wednesday when the crafty Pagan steered them toward the picturesque National Cathedral grounds, he tells HOH. He faked a cramp and pulled over to a park bench, where he presented a ring to his very surprised girlfriend.

The two met Senate-cute back in 2007, when they both played for the combined Menendez-Lautenberg softball team.

And as if the ring on Yaver’s finger wasn’t enough proof of the couple’s commitment, here’s another, more modern, sign: “She changed her status on Facebook,” Pagan says.

The happy twosome hasn’t set a date, but they’re thinking about a destination wedding, possibly in the Caribbean ... sometime when the Senate is in recess.

Paging the Grammar Police. Astute HOH readers surely remember that last week we dished about a new series of writing clinics designed to help Senate staffers with their commas, plurals and commonly confused words. And HOH admits we poked a tad bit of fun, noting that there are some sophisticated, well-educated (and coughsnobbycough) Congressional aides out there who need help with verb usage.

But as it turns out, at least one Senator has put in a call to the grammar police.

Shortly after the item ran, HOH heard from a tipster who pointed out a sign — located by a telephone near the Senate subway heading from the Capitol to the Senate office buildings — reading, in part:

“RESTRICTED TELEPHONE

POLICE & SENATOR’S ONLY”

Punctuation-wise, the sign makes it appear that the phone is only for one Senator — or a person named Senator.

HOH hears the sign has aggravated the grammar-conscious Senator, whose staff has tried (in vain) for years to figure out how to go about getting it fixed.

Wondering who that Senator is? We aren’t telling — but just keep an eye out for the guy or gal carrying around a dog-eared copy of “The Elements of Style.”

Overheard on the Hill. “It’s nice to know a Republican governor [who] when he goes hiking, he doesn’t go to the Appalachian Trail.”

— Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), taking a jab at infamous South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford during the Marijuana Policy Project’s anniversary gala on Jan. 13. Cohen spoke after former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R).

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