Reggie White died Sunday morning. He was only 43 years old, and the passing of one of the most talented players to ever appear in an NFL uniform came as a complete surprise to those who knew him. All day today, former teammates and coaches expressed their sorrow while doing their best to remember him as most football fans will recall him -- as an unstoppable 290-pound freight train preparing to mow over a seemingly defenseless quarterback.
I had a special fondness for White, at least as a player, because of his pedigree. White began his professional career playing for the Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League in the mid '80s. As a devoted season-ticket holder for the USFL's Oakland Invaders, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for USFL refugees. White was one of the best ever to come out of that rowdy league of malcontents; in fact, he will likely become the third player to begin his career in the USFL and end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, following 2003 inductee (and Houston Gamblers alum) Jim Kelly and possible 2005 inductee (and Los Angeles Express starting quarterback) Steve Young.
In addition to his football career, White was also an ordained minister. The man nicknamed "The Minister of Defense" dedicated an awful lot of time and money in his efforts to help inner-city youths lead better lives. It's probably safe to say that Reggie White left a lot of people better off than they were before they met him.
However, Reggie White also was famous for another reason. He had a notable dislike of homosexuals, and he spent little time or effort keeping that information a secret.
"I'm offended that homosexuals will say that homosexuals deserve rights," White told the Wisconsin Assembly in 1998. "In the process of history, homosexuals have never been castrated, millions of them never died. Homosexuality is a decision."
In the same speech, White hinted that gays -- and, hilariously, not professional athletes -- were to blame for sexually transmitted diseases. "As America has permitted homosexuality to establish itself as an alternate lifestyle, it is also reeling from the frightening spread of sexually transmitted disease," he said at the time. "Sin begets its own consequence, both on individuals and nations."
A month later, a reporter from ABC's 20/20 gave White, who had attained legendary status thanks to his great on-field success, a chance to back away from his comments. "Are you saying there that homosexuals are like liars, cheaters, backstabbers and malicious people?" asked reporter Peggy Wehmeyer.
"Yes," White replied. So much for that.
I don't mean to speak ill of the recently deceased, and I'm quite certain that once I inevitably keel over, so many people will line up to talk about what an asshole I was that passers-by will think free beer was being made available. I just find it disappointing that people like ESPN's Chris Berman are deifying White today as if he was Mohandas Gandhi's spiritual shaman. Granted, Berman is nothing more than a bloated cartoon character these days, and perhaps White's passing reminded was especially painful for Berman because it reminded that rotund little chipmunk of days long ago when he was nearly relevant, but many other mindless television drones followed Berman's suit.
Reggie White was an amazing football player, and my guess is that he was also a good man. However, he was also an ignorant individual who had developed a nice, juicy, irrational dislike for a segment of humanity that never did an ounce of damage to him.
I'll miss Reggie White, but I won't miss his opinions.
WHILE STICKING ON THE TOPIC OF FOOTBALL, I listened to the 49ers game on the radio last Saturday as the Washington Redskins became the latest mediocre team to beat the tar out of that once-proud franchise. Niners fans may be upset because their team has hit rock bottom, but they needn't worry about radio voice Joe Starkey slipping any further. When you're as bad an announcer as Starkey, the only way to go is up.
Shortly after the second half began, Starkey read an ad for Coca-Cola that concluded with the phrase, "Happy Holidays from Coca-Cola." But Starkey, believing for some reason that his witty ad-libbing would somehow gild the lily for the fine people at Coke, continued to speak. The only problem is, he had no clue what was coming out of his mouth.
"Why be so generic?" asked Starkey, apparently confused by Coke's all-encompassing "Happy Holidays" declaration. "Let's be specific. Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, and Kwanzaa, everyone!"
Perhaps someone should point out to the worldly Starkey that Kwanzaa is a real event recognized by millions of human beings throughout the world, whereas Festivus is a holiday created by Frank Costanza on "Seinfeld." If you're going to give a shout out for Festivus, common courtesy (and premier comic timing) suggests you do it last -- call out the actual holidays first, Joe.
There. That's one less airing of grievances for me around the Festivus Pole this year.
I'D LIKE TO EXTEND A WARM WELCOME to the new couple that has moved into the apartment directly below mine: Mr. and Mrs. Malignant Tumor, welcome to the neighborhood.
This new couple is probably the fourth or fifth neighbor we've seen occupy the unit below ours since we moved in here nearly five years ago, and they are (lucky for us) by far the most pungent. Judging by the constant stench that has now managed to penetrate our apartment after only one week, I'm guessing the happy couple goes through about three or four packs a day per person each. Because of the high quality of construction evident in these apartments -- they were built from the best Legos that KayBee store credit can buy -- odors travel up through the bathroom pipes and fixtures as if they were stench elevators. Our master bathroom now smells like the V.I.P. closet at the Whiskey River saloon.
To put it bluntly ... those of you looking for any gift ideas for me and Tiersa may want to consider fragrant candles. Lots of 'em. Please.
My favorite part about Mr. and Mrs. Winston Marlboro and their pet Camel is that, no matter what time of day it is, I am guaranteed to hear hard, violent coughing fits coming from downstairs. There's nothing quite like hearing someone who's been inhaling burning leaves for 40 years launch into planet-shattering coughing sessions as they grab at the desperate hope they may taste oxygen one final time.
Smoke 'em if you got 'em, you cancerous balls of phlegm. And thanks for choosing the apartment directly below us. We were tired of our home smelling like fresh air -- we're much happier having it smell like smoldering poo, especially when you could have chosen one of the dozens of other vacant apartments in this very complex.
We'd walk downstairs and thank you ourselves, but we're too busy trying to locate retailers who sell organic incense so we can somehow mask your replusive brand of stink.
FINALLY TONIGHT, our household may now smell like someone else's cigarette butts, but at least we have a TiVo. Tiersa took advantage of a recent TiVo promotion to donate toys and clothes to little kids in exchange for a shiny new TiVo. She refers to the device as her Christmas present to me. I refer to it as The Almighty One.
Yes, it has taken me all of 24 hours to fall in love with TiVo. I watched an entire football game last night in about 75 minutes. It's recording shows for me that I habitually forget about until five minutes after they end. Thank you, Almighty One. I'll bring you a sacrifice shortly. You don't mind if they stink of cigarettes, do you?
Happy Festivus, everyone! Like the pole?