Wednesday, August 9

Tackling Reggie White.

Acme Packers - 1928.

With the 2006 NFL season on the horizon, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite personal experiences with football royalty. Even if you're not into sports, I think you'll still enjoy this.

Is this story better than the time I got Brett Favre's autograph, only to have my then 6-year-old sister destroy it with a Sharpie? I believe so.

If I may digress for a minute, I don't hold ill will towards my sister or anything. I'm sure there will come another time when I'll be able to sit down and talk with the single greatest quarterback ever to play the game; a man that won a Super Bowl, three MVP awards and my unwavering worship for the last 14 years. I mean, I'm certain that you get more than just one chance to meet your idols over the course of a lifetime. I'm not too worried about it; never mind all the crippling nightmares I've had about the situation since I was 10.

No, this story is about the greatest defensive player in NFL history, who just so happened to play with the Green Bay Packers for six seasons.

The Minister Of Defense.

Reggie White. #92. The Minister Of Defense.

For those unfamiliar, here's a quick history lesson. It's only a paragraph long, so read it:

(Some quick football terminology for you. When a quarterback is tackled before he can throw a pass, it's called a 'sack.' You're going to need to know that, otherwise the following paragraph would sound horribly obscene.)

Reggie White averaged 1.75 sacks a game, and has a lifetime total of 198. He has had more sacks than the number of games he has played. This amazing record still stands today, along with his franchise sack records for both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers. He's been to the Pro Bowl an astounding 13 times, and won 6 different NFL Player Of The Year honors. He won the Super Bowl with Green Bay in 1997, has had his number retired with three different organizations, and was selected for the NFL's All-Time Team in 1994. Off the field, he was a husband, father, minister and Evangelical Christian that devoted his life to what he believed in.

In short, Reggie was the baddest-ass mo-fo I've ever seen on a football field. If you know even the slightest bit about the game, then chances are you share my sentiments. Off the field, he was a mild-mannered, soft-spoken giant. On the field, he was a monster. He could knock 400-pound linemen off of their feet with one arm. Watching him run around with the Lombardi Trophy after Green Bay won the Super Bowl is etched into my memory forever.

Reggie died at the age of 43, on December 26, 2004. He had suffered from sarcoidosis for many years, and it had caused a cardiac arrhythmia that stopped his breathing in his sleep. I remember waking up the day after Christmas, turning to ESPN and watching grown men cry as they related the news to the public. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see someone like him go at such a young age.

Super Bowl XXXI.

Now that you're all caught up, let's get to my story.

In 1993, my family went to Green Bay to watch the Packers practice at Training Camp. They have an area set up for the public to watch the team run drills and prepare for the upcoming game. This was a chance for people to see their* team up close and personal, and considering that Packer season tickets are nothing short of impossible to come by, this was the best chance most Wisconsinites got.

(*The Green Bay Packers are the only professional sports franchise in the nation that does not have an owner. They are a community-owned team with 112,000 stockholders in tow. They are owned by the fans; my family being one of them. If I have to explain to you why that rules, we're no longer friends.)

The big news this season was the acquisition of Reggie White from the Philadelphia Eagles. Already the most prolific lineman in the game, we were all very excited to see what he would do to revolutionize our lacking defensive line. There we stood, faces pressed against the chain-link fence, watching our beloved Packers do wind sprints and pass patterns.

As an 11-year old, this was amazing to me. I had never been to an actual game before, and seeing these people up-close was a dream come true. Everyone was huge; even the Kicker was larger than anyone I had seen in real life. Frankly, they could have all been doing crossword puzzles behind that fence and I still would have cheered them on.

Reggie White was a beast. Despite proving himself every single week, he worked as hard in practice as he did on the field. Every play, he would explode across the line, leaving a scattered pile of rookie linemen in his wake. As far as I was concerned, he should have been wearing a cape. I was in awe.

Now, the Packer practice facility was on the other side of the street from the stadium, where their lockers and showers were. That meant that when practice was over, the entire team would walk across the parking lot together, wade into the crowd and chat with the fans. Some of the kids would often lend their bikes to the athletes, so they could bypass the crowd and get to the stadium quickly. In exchange, the players would give the kids photos and autographs, as well as the dream of riding along with their favorite Packer player.

Old Lambeau Field.

When practice was over and the team migrated off of the field, they were instantly swarmed by the hundreds of people in attendance. I felt like I was on the steps of a high-profile court case; it was absolute chaos. I was there with my cousin at the time, and we were just looking around for any Packers that were kind enough to sign autographs. Some were more than willing to give you a few seconds of their time; most of them just wanted to take a shower and go home.

Children, adults and giant athletes were everywhere, waving pens, helmets and anything else they could to get one another's attention. In the midst of the insanity, I lost track of where my cousin was. I became disoriented and started looking everywhere, anywhere for a familiar face. People started pushing and shoving, so I attempted to make a beeline out of the crowd.

As I made my way out of the unruly mob, I made the mistake of taking my eyes off of the oncoming human traffic for a fraction of a second. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a herd of fans, snapping flashbulbs, and what looked like police officers. One of the cops was shouting, "Give him room! Give him room!" Everything started going in slow-motion.

I turned around just in time to see a giant, green mass with the number '92' imprinted on it.

I hit the ground and everything went dark.

Seconds later, I looked up to see Reggie White, The Minister of Defense, and about fifty people looking down at me. While every other Packer did what they could to avoid the crowd, Reggie was doing his best to sign every piece of paper that was thrust in his direction.

He also ran right into me in the process, knocking me straight off of my feet. I didn't have a prayer; I could have used one of his pant legs as a sleeping bag.

"You alright?" Reggie asked me.

I looked up at him, in a balled-up heap on the pavement of the Lambeau Field parking lot. He was already a massive guy; from this view, he was positively God-like.

"Uh...yeah...I think." I stammered back. I quickly got back to my feet and ran out of the mob.

I met back up with my family, where they griped a bit about not getting any autographs. They asked me if I got anything signed. I told them no, but that it really didn't matter to me. I didn't need a piece of paper to remember what happened to me that afternoon.

It was the day I was sacked by the greatest defensive football player of all time.

Hall Of Fame Induction.

Last Saturday, Reggie White was officially inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame, which is what reminded me to share this story. The plaque under his name will say that he sacked 198 people, but I'd like to think of myself as #199.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

That was a great story, or should I say memory. I remember the day Reggie sacked you. You also had your picture taken with Brett Favre (when he was new in Green Bay) for $1.00 and I forget to go pick them up when they were processsd. You have not had good luck when it comes to the Packers.
Yup, no photos or autographs exist from that day, so everyone thinks I made the whole thing up.

It should also be noted that I was at the Monday night game against the Titans, when the Packers suffered the biggest blowout in Lambeau Field history. Another memory I'll never forget for all the wrong reasons.
I kind of hate football, but that's a good story.
Thanks. I thought the sentiment of the story stood on its own, regardless of the sporting theme.
But does Reggie White have the biggest rectum in the NFL? No. That honor belongs to Tootie Robbins.
I never heard that you got knocked on your can by Reggie White before. You learn something new every day!

Well here's something I'm SURE you haven't heard before (har har har)---Adam West told me I had a pretty name! Yes, that's right! BATMAN!!!
Yes, I'll never forget that historic exchange between John Madden and Pat Summerall:

Madden: "Tootie Robbins has the biggest rectum in the NFL!"

Summerall: "I don't think that's what you meant to say."

I can't believe I never told you this story. I guess I thought you wouldn't find it interesting, which is still probably true.

Adam West has played more strip mall gigs than Gary Coleman.
So...YOU never met him!

The fact that I would remember that exchange after approximately 13 years (and that I've probably watched a total of 8 football games my entire life)goes to show just how funny it was. My mom couldn't stop laughing for about 20 minutes.
Even if you don't like football, you need to listen to John Madden call a game at least once in your life. He's always a nanosecond away from an obscenity-laced tirade.
A few months ago my girlfriend was shopping for shoes and I was keeping myself entertained the best I could. There's a shoe designed called Steve Madden, and I thought, "Wouldn't it be hilarious if John Madden made shoes?"

Pretty much for the rest of our time in the store I was making up different shoes that John Madden would develop, mostly involving food and football, and the commercials that would advertise them.

A few I can remember off the top of my head are the jogging shoes with eight turkey legs attached (Madden loves turkey legs) and the shoes with gravy pumps (a la the 90's Reebok fad).

I guess you had to be there.

But yeah. John Madden is hilarious. He knows a lot about football, but he sure doesn't talk like it most of the time.
That reminds me of the "Nike(y) Turkey" commercial on SNL, where the turkey had a pump on it, and Chris Rock raps about it. Hilarity.
Long time reader, first time commenter.

This was the best thing you have ever written thus far. you need to submit this story to EPSN Mag or S.I. Really.

BTW, I don't even like football, but I know many people who do.
Wow. Thanks Mike, I really appreciate the compliment. Thanks for being a long-time reader, too. Don't be a stranger to the comments section!

I wouldn't have the foggiest idea how to submit this essay to a publication; I just plod along in the hopes that the right people will check out the CDP someday. Even if it never happens, I'm not going anywhere.

And who are the 'right people' anyway? The 'right people' already read my page; I should be so lucky to have people take time out of their day to tell me they liked something I wrote. For that alone, you rule much more than I.

When I get a book deal, however, I'll include this essay and you will buy 10 copies for friends and family.
I concur with Mike on this one - this article should be published somewhere, in print.

I'm not a big pro-football fan (I'm from the South, so it's all about the NCAA down here), but it was great nonetheless. Also, I didn't know that the Packers don't have owners - very cool.

Very touching story, much more so than my story of being hit on by drunk Stone Temple Pilots one night while at a club in Charlotte, NC.
Thanks, Godot. I'm glad that a few people read this one; it was quite a memorable part of my childhood. Also, if he would have injured me, I'd be rich.

I'm an ass. I've ruined everything.

Yes, the Packers are owned by the fans & stockholders (ever wonder why Packer fans are so rabidly loyal?). I've actually been to a Green Bay Packer stockholders meeting; there were so many folks, it was held inside the stadium.

You don't want to sleep with Scott Weiland. Something tells me he has diseases the doctors haven't come up with names for yet.
Awesome story. I agree with Mike, this could easily be published elsewhere. Not that the CDP is an unworthy forum, just that other places will pay you money. Sure, you could hand yourself $5, but it wouldn't be the same.

I used to be a Packers fan back when I followed the NFL more closely, and will still pull for them unless they happen to play the Bengals, but am mostly an NCAA man now.

I shook hands with Ric Flair once, but he was really drunk and spilled beer on me. Still, it was the Nature Boy.
Stylin' and profilin' with The Naitch? WHOOOOOO!

If you keep up with RAW, you'll see that he's pretty much been drunk on camera every week for a month. It's a true sight to behold.

As much as I love the Packers, they're going to need all the help they can get this year. I just found out that I'll be going to the Home Opener against the Bears on September 10.

Whooo, indeed.
Oh, and thank you for the mad props and respek concerning the essay. Could this be the turning point in the evolution of the CDP? Will I start writing nothing but heartwarming essays about childhood nostalgia and fading youth?

Probably not. Well, maybe not. Sap is like Tabasco; it's only good in small amounts.
Yep. The Nature Boy knows his off-the-cuff quips are no match for Mick Foley unless he's totally smashed.
Actually, I haven't kept up with the squared circle in many years. Not surprised that Flair is smashed most of the time, though. Foley is back? Is he still doing the Mankind gig?

I also met the guy who used to be Hugh Morris, super nice guy. David Flair (Ric's son) and some random no name were around too. David is, surprisingly, not too much bigger than I am...and I'm no Kevin Nash. Also, David is an ass.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ric and Mick are feuding right now. Last week, Ric took Mick's autobiography into the ring, gave it a leg drop and threw it into the audience. Now just try and tell me that those are the antics of a sober man.

Then Mick came out and called him a washed-up piece of crap.

They're both old, but they can work a microphone like nobody's business. I think the writing crew just tells them to go out there and yell at each other; no script necessary.

Scott Weiland is like Mr. Burns; he has everything:

Burns: Well, doc, I think I did pretty well on my tests. You may shake my hand if you like.

Doctor: Well, under the circumstances, I'd rather not.

Burns: Eh?

Doctor: Mr. Burns, I'm afraid you are the sickest man in the
United States. You have everything.

Burns: You mean I have pneumonia?

Doctor: Yes.

Burns: Juvenile diabetes?

Doctor: Yes.

Burns: Hysterical pregnancy?

Doctor: Uh, a little bit, yes.

You also have several diseases
that have just been discovered -- in you.

Burns: I see. You sure you haven't just made thousands of mistakes?

Doctor: Uh, no, no, I'm afraid not.

Burns: This sounds like bad news.

Doctor: Well, you'd think so, but all of your diseases are in
perfect balance. Uh, if you have a moment, I can explain.

Burns: Well ... [looks at his watch]
This was one of the best stories I've read on your site.

I just wanted to take a moment to say that. =)
Welcome back, Jessica! It's good to know you're still hanging around my neck of the woods.

Man...I can't believe so many people took the time to read a football story. As I started to write it, I thought it would be one of those things that gets lost in the shuffle after a day or two. I almost didn't write it, in favor of another cartoon.

I'm really glad it struck a chord with people; I was hoping I could properly convey my childhood sense of awe and idolization.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Man...I can't believe so many people took the time to read a football story. As I started to write it, I thought it would be one of those things that gets lost in the shuffle after a day or two. I almost didn't write it, in favor of another cartoon.

I've found with my blog that entries like that tend to be what touches people. Maybe you don't want to put it up because it comes from the heart, so you may not what people to know that, may not think people will get it, or whatever crap some Freudian would say.

But I've never met an NFL player (okay, I saw Tom Rathman in the line for the movies once . . . ). so it's a cool story and you wrote it well -- like why White was so special, before we knew he smacked yo to the ground.

good work! Keep it up! of course, more family wedding stories will counter-act any of the sap stories like this produce. :)
Coming up next on the CDP: More jokes about Tony Little and Chuck Norris.
I think you nailed it, Mike. I didn't think anyone would care, even though it resonated with me quite a bit. It's cool that it did.

Makes me wish I had more of these stories. Now, I'll have to start making up stuff about childhood heroes that injured me.
In all seriousness though, you really ought to compile a bunch of your better stories and send it to some publishers or something.
I was shopping around for literary agents in Madison a couple years ago, but most of them didn't appeal to me. I was serious about it for awhile; perhaps I should get back into that mindset.

I'll be compiling the 20 best CDP posts for an upcoming retrospect, however.
By all this support, I take it to mean that if a CDP Best-Of book is available someday on Cafe Press it will be purchased by some of you. You have made that your obligation by pledging your support.

I, for one, would buy at least 5 copies to distribute to loved ones around the holidays. Makes a perfect gift!
She's my publicist. She also wants to retire early.
I will buy several copies, put me on the list!
Everything's being worked on as we speak. I expect a early-2009 release date for The CDP Complete Masterworks.
Call or text me a mailing address for the CDP. I need it.
What's your e-mail address? I can send it to you.
Ryan, text RJ our freakin' address for crying out loud.
I lost his number and I don't know his e-mail address. He's going to have to contact me again. RJ, just give me your e-mail address!
That's sad.

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