what with it being football season and all, i figured i should write a football-themed listicle one of these days, even if the thought of my beloved Raiders being terrible for yet another year really keeps all this professional football from being very fun. Sundays for me are less about the majestically violent ballet of football and more about crying into my alcohol as i discard my Raiders jersey in disgust.
ANYWAY, if i can be indulged in a seemingly-random story that i swear IS going somewhere, back in the days of my youth, i briefly played some youth football. despite my passion for the sport, it was an experiment that was doomed to fail, because i was forced to play on a team of kids twice my size (seriously) due to groupings by age, which made for some seriously painful collisions between myself skull and the bodies of larger children. also, our team was no better than my lot: we lost every game we played, including one 2-0 loss that we lost due to a safety from a blocked punt. i think my 50 pounds also played defensive end in that game, which should REALLY tell you something about the depths to which a youth football team can sink. more to the point, though, when i was playing, i was generally assigned the position of free safety (which is like the equivalent of me being stashed in right field when i played baseball as a kid), and now that i am a grown man (no, really, i am) who’s more about rooting for football teams than make me cry than about reliving any past high school/college football glories in pick-up and/or flag football games (you know who you are), i figured it’d be a good time for a “best safeties of all time” listicle. ready? here we go:
JANKLOW’S 13 MOST FAVORITE SAFETIES EVER (WHICH MAKES THEM THE BEST)
honorable mentions: Ken Houston (because it’s awesome that a guy named Houston once played for Houston), Adrian Wilson (see that YouTube video of his vertical leap sometime), Rod Woodson (helped get Oakland to a Super Bowl that they did, in fairness, lose horribly)
13. Stuart Schweigert (free safety, Oakland Raiders)
yeah, okay, i know, what a TERRIBLE start to the list! even if you thought i was probably going to be a little ridiculous here, it’s got to be a disappointment. but come on, have you ever seen his fierce beard? have you? it was pretty fucking awesome. plus, it was always funny to watch him slide around on the field after his latest attempt at a play. i’m not saying he’s a better safety than, say, Gibril Wilson… just that i have a soft spot in my heart for Schweigert’s beard.
it’s really just too bad that he didn’t have the football prowess to back up such a fearsome beard; he’s like the Ambrose Burnside of the NFL
12. Steve Atwater (free safety, Denver Broncos, New York Jets)
okay, true, Steve Atwater should not actually be on this list: he played for the Broncos, whom we all know to be a team of cheating murderers and child molesters, and i should accordingly hate him eternally. that said, Atwater’s notorious hit on Christian Okoye on Monday Night Football gets him on this list, as it was a great day for men of smaller statures playing safety in the NFL. however, it IS worth noting that he stole his fucking nickname from a better player.
11. Andre Waters (free safety, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals)
i suppose it’s around this point where you might start to notice that i give the highest marks to the hardest-hitting safeties out there, and Waters was assuredly one of those. and even beyond that and the fact that he was nicknamed “Dirty Waters” and caused a rule about hitting QBs to be developed (unofficially termed the “Andre Waters” rule), one should read Mark Bowden’s book “Bringing The Heat” to get a good look at Waters essentially having multiple personalities, one of which wanted to kill Emmitt Smith. and hey, Waters hit guys so hard it caused HIM to die. okay, that last one was a little much.
10. Brian Dawkins (free safety, Philadelphia Eagles)
okay, it’s widely known that i am supposed to hate Dawkins (for being an yet another dastardly Eagle on this list and for that infamous suplexing of Brian Westbrook), but really, how can i? he’s a punishing hitter, he’s got a child-like obsession with comic books (see also his “Weapon X” nickname and his locker that’s apparently full of action figures), and he wears that cool visor! really, i think those visors are very cool. i’m just saying.
not visible: the aforementioned visor, which a certain quarterback is about to become very familiar with in a short time
09. Pat Tillman (strong safety, Arizona Cardinals)
there is basically one reason i own a Cardinals jersey among the rest of my Tim Brown-heavy jersey collection, and it’s not the previously-referenced Adrian Wilson, though he is pretty cool; the correct answer would be “uh, Pat Tillman.” rather than dwell on all the conflicting reports of his social beliefs or the circumstances of his death or the rah-rah “9/11 NEVER FORGET” nature of his enlistment, i’ll just say this: not only did he quit the NFL to go into the military, but he also once declined a bigger contract out of loyalty to the Cardinals. and speaking of the Cardinals…
08. Larry Wilson (free safety, St. Louis Cardinals)
now, to be honest, i never really followed the Cardinals (especially as they were long the rivals of the Redskins), so i’m not that familiar with the legend of Larry Wilson; Wilson is mostly getting on this list by virtue of the fact that he once intercepted a pass while playing with casts covering his TWO BROKEN HANDS. this is the kind of awesome feat that makes me not need any more information about you to know you’re a bad man to mess with. i also assume this is basically why no one cared about Tyvon Branch picking a pass off with a mere one cast on one hand (well, that and him playing for Oakland).
07. George Atkinson (strong safety, Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos)
to be honest, i recall Atkinson being a free safety (mainly due to who i recall him playing with), but the internet disagrees, so we’ll go with SS. it’s very true that Atkinson is not nearly as good a player as some of those ranked below him (that group does include a couple of Hall of Fame players) … but he DID brutalize Lynn Swann with forearm smashes to such an extent that Swann was twice concussed and Chuck Noll called Atkinson part of the “criminal element” in football. and that’s just cold-blooded enough to make this list.
06. Troy Polamalu (strong safety, Pittsburgh Steelers)
some guys i know don’t care much for Polamalu because they think he’s overrated, but even though i hate the Steelers, i know a quality safety when i see one. Polamalu’s a very classy guy, his distinctive hair is pretty cool (even when Larry Johnson is using it to abuse him) and he now stars in that neat David Fincher ad, so while he’s a recreational flower-grower, he can show up on this list. it doesn’t hurt that when he talked about awesome guys who couldn’t play in today’s NFL due to it becoming “like a pansy game,” he mentioned Dick Butkis, Ronnie Lott… and Jack Tatum. plus, i’ve personally gone through both his and his wife’s belongings, though purely for work-related reasons, i can assure you.
Troy Polamalu: not quite a Muppet, not quite a Biblical figure known for his power-giving hair and enemy-crushing; he’s like a mystery inside an enigma wrapped in a curtain of steel!
05. Ed Reed (strong safety, Baltimore Ravens)
the internet claims he’s a free safety, but i could have SWORN he entered the league as a strong safety, though maybe i was just fooled by some year’s version of that Madden videogame. oh well, he’s still a nice guy and an absolute interception machine (as well as making some dazzling plays in the process), so while he’s not as brutal of a hitter as some here, he’s all about the turnovers… and that’s really what gets you in the Hall of Fame.
04. Bob Sanders (strong safety, Indianapolis Colts)
he’s tiny (5’8″) and yet he absolutely crushes guys, which makes he all the more frustrating that he plays with such abandon that he’s always hurting HIMSELF in the process. still, when he’s not injured on the bench, he’s one of those players that elevates his defense to a higher level. i also find it funny that he seems to collect nicknames: the Hitman, the Sandman, the Hulk, etc. can’t we just agree on ONE of them by now?
03. Sean Taylor (free safety, Washington Redskins)
i actually really disliked Taylor for some time when he was first in the league, as he was a great player with a shitty attitude (a key example here would be the spitting-on-Michael Pittman incident); i even went so far as to tell my sibling i would never buy any Redskins fan anything that commemorated Taylor. but then it seemed like he actually got a handle on being a good guy shortly before getting killed, which makes all of the above a shame. more to the point: an absolutely awesome safety who pumped out vicious hits.
02. Ronnie Lott (strong safety, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs)
true, Lott played CB and FS as well, but when you’re known for hitting guys as hard as Lott did, you should just be considered a strong safety and leave it at that. and this list is all about safeties hitting people as hard as humanly possible. plus, there was that whole thing about him having the tip of a finger removed, though the part about it being during a game would appear to not be true. every single player who hits hard is compared to Lott, though it might be because they overlook:
while Sammy White would eventually find his helmet, his soul would remain stolen by Jack Tatum’s fearsome hit
01. Jack “the Assassin” Tatum (Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers)
if i make a joke about him being the best ever because as hard as Ronnie Lott hit, he never killed anyone, is it too soon? perhaps. still, Tatum’s known for vicious hits (and not the Immaculate Reception, which was NOT A CATCH) for a reason: in college, he once knocked out an opposing team’s entire supply of QBs; his hit that knocked off Sammy White’s helmet in Super Bowl XI is fairly memorable as well. no other safety compares to him (at least not in my book, anyway).
so there it is: Tatum’s the best, and that’s that. also, i have some bonus materials!
ADDENDUM TO LAST WEEK’S NC-17 ANTHROPOLOGY POST
so i came home halfway drunk last week and when i sobered up, i forgot some of the things i had meant to cover in that update; not a big deal, but rather than let them be lost to the sands of time, let’s just cover them right here, right now!
-so i was driving home, quite sober but feeling no pain at all, when i realized the following musical fact: two of the best songs to drive around to at 3:30 AM while smoking a fine Dominican cigar are Isaac Hayes’ “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic” and Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice.” seriously, give it a try some time.
-so the whores dance to a variety of music: some appropriate, some lame, some just too direct. case in point: you don’t really need a song that declares “show me your pussy” as part of the lyrics; that’s your JOB. weirdest, however, was one whore dancing to Pantera’s “Walk.” really? Walk? a raging 1990s metal tune from Pantera? seriously? it just didn’t make sense.
okay, we’re good here. maybe next week we’ll have something about Fallout 3?