LOS ANGELES, September 4, 2014 – Welcome to Narcotics For Leatherheads, a column for anyone around the world who is obsessed with the National Football League. This is for those who eat, sleep, bleed, and breathe the game of professional football.
There is nothing else in this world like it.
Many of you may know me as the TYGRRRR EXPRESS. Since 2007, Narcotics For Leatherheads has been dedicated to the NFL. Period.
There is no off-season. From the Draft in New York City to the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, every day is an NFL day.
Casual fans should be warned in advance: This is not a column for casual fans. This is for those obsessed with the greatest game on the planet.
This is not about cheerleaders or fantasy leagues. This is about actual games and actual teams. This is for fans who get excited when a running back leaps over the top on fourth and goal at the one, only to get blasted backward in a game-saving goal line stand. This is about seeing a quarterback get belted down hard, only to see that leader get up and throw the winning touchdown pass.
This is about special teams, whether it be Sebastian Janikowski leveling long kickoffs, Devon Hester returning them the distance, or a psychopath flying down the field and blowing up a mini-wedge like Bill Bates did.
This is for those who understand why football matters. When the Saints blocked that punt against the Falcons in 2006, the entire Gulf Region was lifted. When the Giants won their first game after 9/11, Chris Berman channeled an entire nation in echoing what a classy performance it was.
This column is for those who love characters. It was Dennis Green who thundered “They are who we thought they were! If you want to crown ‘em, then crown their ass!” Jim Mora summed his best speech up in one word: “Playoffs?”
Characters will not be discussed if their oddball behavior came at the expense of their teams or winning. Characters only deserve credit in this column if they improved the game itself. Brett Favre, John Randall, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler, and Art Donovan are among the best characters.
This column is about the title of Jon Gruden’s book. “Do you love football?” Well? Do you?!!!!
This is about those who made the game what it is today long before the modern television era. From Jim Thorpe and Pudge Heffelfinger to Vince Lombardi and George Halas, appreciating the present requires respecting the past. Homer Jones invented the spike and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson is the father of the End Zone dance. Long before Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis, there was Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Dick Butkus, and Mean Joe Greene.
As an Oakland Raider fan myself, there will always be the controversy of the Immaculate Reception, the Tuck Rule, and the Holy Roller. The Sea of Hands and 17-Bob-Trey-O will always matter. “On came Marcus Allen, running with the night.”
Most of us are mere mortals, spectators. We do not possess the stamina of Peter King, the thoughtfulness of Don Banks, acid tongue of Jason Whitlock. The legendary career of John Madden eludes me. None of us are the voice of God. That would be John Facenda. “The Autumn Wind is a pirate.”
For some of you football is the offensive explosions that began with Sid Gillman,and were passed down to Don “Air” Coryell and Al “Just Win Baby” Davis. From them, Mike Martz created the Greatest Show on Turf.
For others it is bone-crushing defense, best exemplified by the head-knocker games between the Steelers and Ravens and the nasty battles between the Legion of Boom Seahawks and the 49ers. Yet long before Buddy Ryan created the 46 Defense, Dick “Night Train” Lane and Deacon Jones were blowing up opposing offenses.
For others it is special teams, the craziest of the crazies. Vai Sikahema, Mike Nelms, Mel Gray, and Steve Tasker paved the way.
For some it is just textbook power. Jim Brown colliding with Sam Huff was and always will be what football is about. Bart Starr had the winning sneak in the Ice Bowl, but it was Jerry Kramer with “the block” on Jethro Pugh that won it. Mike Jones saved a Super Bowl with “the tackle.” Jim Otto will forever be Double-Zero.
For some it is just those moments etched in time. It was Jeff Fisher getting down on one knee and whispering something in Steve McNair’s ear at the Super Bowl after the Titans came up one yard short. It was Bill “The Tuna” Parcells getting the Gatorade Bucket from Harry Carson. It was Steve Young screaming his lungs out while clutching the trophy many thought he would never win. “No one can ever take this away from us! Ever!”
For the purists, it is what Parcells would call a “parking lot guy.” This is a guy who would show up at 6:00 a.m. on a Wednesday morning in a grocery store parking lot if he was told a football game was being played. These people understand why Ed Sabol is in the Hall of Fame.
Any leatherhead who is awake at that hour and not preparing for a game is probably watching an NFL Films Documentary. From the old “Football Follies,” to the phenomenal new series’ “America’s Game,” and “A football life,” the chronicling of the NFL is better than ever. “The Missing Rings” episode about the 1998 Vikings must be watched.
It starts with that first September regular season game when the coin is flipped in the air. The opening kickoff is accompanied by the battle cry of “Let’s get it on!”
So let’s get it on. Let’s get down to the business of the National Football League.
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