Included among the various oddities of a childhood spent in Pacific Palisades, California, are as follows: 1) Michael Keaton was my flag football coach; 2) I was big enough to start on the offensive line of said flag football team. At 75 pounds, 11 years old, I was hardly an imposing member of the line, nor was I so much a serviceable one -- fear of physical contact being a poor attribute in a lineman -- but the experience instilled in me a deep sympathy for the least appreciated position players in team sports. Here are these hulks of men, taking relentless punishment, recognizing that their hearts will give out years before they should -- and although they make far more money than they did 15 years ago (left tackles are only out-salaried by quarterbacks now, actually), they're barely respected for it. Do you know the names of all the starting o-linemen on your favorite team? Right. But over the past week, we have been reminded by excerpts of upcoming books and by the forced removal of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms' spleen that linemen are, in fact, germane to football success. So next time you're watching Football Night in America, don't forget who's setting up those Manning-to-Harrison connections or creating those giant holes for Tomlinison to snake through.
Now that we've internalized that very, very important lesson, I would be doing a terrible disservice by screening YouTube footage of sweet offensive line play. (Why? Because it's boring, and Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick probably don't read a lot of mentalfloss.com.) So I'm going to show you what happens when blocking goes wrong. Or when a receiver gets led a little too far down the middle by a pass. Or when the demons of deepest hell come to inhabit a safety's corpus. A pancake block may be impressive, but in terms of sheer entertainment value, does it match this?
POW! It doesn't, huh? Don Beebe backflipping on his head, Earl Campbell bulldozing suckas... this stuff is YouTube gold. Here's another hard-hitting highlight video, this time with non-Semitic rappers earning the musical honors:
KABLAM! I am frothing at the mouth. I am not kidding. I have detected froth. Now watch Lawrence Taylor end Joe Theisman's career (wait for the reverse angle):
WHAMO! And to end this bloodfest, I bring you unabashed visual hagiographies of my two favorite defensive players: Taylor and Ronnie Lott. Key things to look for...in LT's: Bill Parcell's full head of dark hair, the unbelievable one-handed sack at the 3:45 mark...and in Ronnie Lott's: everything; there's never been a nastier safety in the history of the game.
PS: Special shout-out to YouTube Hunter reader Simon who sent in this Japanese game show clip to the comments section two weeks ago...
That very footage was projected on the big screen at last night's Flaming Lips show, conferring everlasting coolness upon him and his family. Congratulations on being cool, Simon. Let us know how that works out for you.
PPS: In case you're wondering, the only thing I remember about Michael Keaton is that he always smelled good. A very fragrant man.