Inside sports fans of all ages, there exists the little kid who first fell in love with the sport. So the athletes they rabidly rooted for back then will always hold a special place in their hearts. It’s been a tough month for my inner sports child, because The Snake and The American Dream are gone.
I grew up in Arkansas, which has no professional teams. So I could pick and choose my favorites without any geographic constraints. Back in the Dark Ages when I was a wee lad, the Oakland Raiders were actually good. (Hard to believe now, I know.) And leading the Silver & Black attack was Kenny “The Snake” Stabler. A soft-throwing, hard-partying southpaw who fit the Raider renegade mode perfectly.
“I was head coach of the Raiders the entire time Kenny was there, and he led us to a whole bunch of victories, including one in Super Bowl XI,” former Raiders coach John Madden said in the team release. “I’ve often said, if I had one drive to win a game to this day, and I had a quarterback to pick, I would pick Kenny. Snake was a lot cooler than I was. He was a perfect quarterback and a perfect Raider.”
Of course, in addition to real sports, I also followed the fake sport of professional wrestling. I’d get up every Saturday morning to watch the antics of greats like Andre The Giant, Ernie “Cat” Ladd, Dick Murdoch, and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. I knew it was theater, and I still loved it. Dusty Rhodes was great in the ring, but even better outside it with a microphone in his hand. He wasn’t the most athletic wrestler, but he was easily the most loquacious. Dude could talk a great game. His forehead was filled with crosshatched scars, because back in those days the rasslers would surreptitiously use a razor to cut themselves during a match, adding a bit of blood to the drama. Dusty paved the way for the Rowdy Roddy Pipers of the world. Now my sons watch WWE, and I can see Dusty’s fingerprints all over it. I’m sure he’s having fun in the squared circle in the sky.