Friday, August 9CDP Wayback Machine - Tackling Reggie White.
(Here's a classic 2006 essay from the CDP vault.)
With the upcoming 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.
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.
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.
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.
In August of 2006, 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.
Monday, August 5I Plead The Fifth.
1. “Hey, remember how you told everyone you were working on your next book this Summer? How’s that going for you?”
Shittily. It’s not that the story isn’t good, it’s not that the outline isn’t good, and it’s not that I’m not excited to finally start putting all the pieces together on Book #3. I just haven’t really started is all. I’ve got a sick cat and I just downloaded the first 100 issues of Nintendo Power, so my weekdays have been fairly booked. Surprisingly, my weekends have been adequately booked as well with typical Summer activities (most of which were planned against my will). Maybe I’ll get a better handle on it come Autumn. I’m better at this when I’m profoundly depressed.
It is going to happen, though. It’s certainly not for a lack of content or ideas; if anything, it’s too much stuff I need to sort and compartmentalize. We’ll figure it out, and you’ll have something new to read in your mitts before you know it.
2. “Hey, what else have you been up to?”
Eating Golden Oreos by the sleeve. Renewing my Sirius Satellite Radio subscription so I can listen to Art Bell’s new show when it premieres in September. Ordering NFL Sunday Ticket so I can watch ALL THE FOOTBALL IN AMERICA. Brainstorming a potential podcast/radio show. Hypermiling in an obsessive effort to get my car’s fuel efficiency above 45mpg. Working on my Foxy The Silver Fox impression, much to the chagrin of my wife and cats. Playing catch with my nephew and seeing Masked Intruder a bunch of times. Oh, and I finally ate a jalapeno last night, and it sucked ass.
Apart from not writing as much as I’d like, things are going pretty well. I’m enjoying the Summer with the Missus, keeping my binge drinking to a minimum, and making sure my weight stays within the 100-200lb. range. I’m certainly not complaining.
3. “Hey, what are you watching?”
Well, you should first read my amazing 2013-2014 Fall TV Preview. It’s really good.
We’re still in the doldrums of Summer TV, so the pickings are slim. I’ve been giving Under The Dome a chance, but it’s been quite the challenge to overlook the terrible dialogue and illogical decisions. I initially was sticking it out because I heard it was nothing more than a 13-episode Summer event. However, I recently saw that it was renewed for a second season (to air next Summer), which really soured me to the idea of ever watching it again. It’s not good enough for me to come back to it next year; I simply wanted to see how it would end. Now that an ending (such as escaping the dome) is virtually off the table for this Summer, I’m considering just pulling the plug entirely. I think CBS is going to be very surprised at how few people return to it in 2014.
Joe Rogan Questions Everything has been highly entertaining over on SyFy. It’s an open-minded-yet-skeptical look at conspiracy theories and the paranormal; like a cross between Destination Truth and Mythbusters.
In retro news, our friends over at The 90’s Are All That will be running some classic, sport-related shows this week, so pull out your orange couch and stay up late for Guts, Legends of the Hidden Temple and Double Dare this Monday through Thursday. Oh, and Toonami is on Adult Swim every Saturday night from 11pm-5am Central time if you’re an insomniac.
I was given The Wire as a Christmas gift, but I haven’t gotten around to making it a priority. I want conditions to be perfect. Same goes for Breaking Bad. Now that the series is drawing to a close, there’s a Netflix binge in my very near future.
4. “Hey, did you see Pacific Rim?”
You’re damn right I did. IMAX 3D on opening night, and my brain was sufficiently blown clean out the back of my skull. It’s a lot of fun, so go check it out. If not, then you’re the reason why we get nothing but sequels, remakes and an overall lack of original content on the silver screen nowadays (ignoring the fact that Pacific Rim owes a lot to Neon Genesis Evangelion and every Kaiju film ever made). If you don’t love it, you must not love fun. Why do you hate fun? Why do you hate America?
5. “Hey, what are you reading?”
The War For Late Night – Bill Carter
I Wear The Black Hat – Chuck Klosterman
A Man On The Moon – Andrew Chaikin
And all those Nintendo Power magazines I told you about earlier. I don’t care if it took 25 years, I’m conquering Ninja Gaiden once and for all. Because I’ve got the power. Nintendo Power!
6. “Hey, you got NFL Sunday Ticket? Can I come over? I’ll bring dip!”
7. “Hey, can I at least come over for Summerslam?”
No. If Daniel Bryan wins the WWE Championship I’m probably going to cry, and nobody needs to see that.
Sound off in the comments section, let me know what you've been up to, and enjoy your day.