Saturday, February 05, 2005

Headbands and bodyslams

Charles Martin, a defensive tackle who played for the Packers, Oilers and Falcons from 1984-1988 (and the USFL Stallions in '83), died recently at age 46. Martin's footnote in football history is being kicked out of a game in 1986, and suspended for two more, for pile-driving Jim McMahon. A Packer-fan friend of mine maintains that because McMahon had thrown an interception on the play, Martin was within his rights to stuff him, as the QB had become a defender. This is a good point. The fact that Martin had written down a hit list of Bears jersey numbers (including No. 9) and was literally wearing that list compromises this argument only a little bit

The news of Martin's passing got me thinking about McMahon. You say "McMahon," and the typical fan responds, "Bears." But ...

With the Bears, the guy was hated -- absolutely despised -- across the NFC Central. Yet he started for the Vikings in the '93 season. All of Green Bay cheered when Martin pasted him. Yet guess which one -- Martin or McMahon -- was a member of the world champion Packers?

McMahon was a Bears icon, but how many years of his 15-year career did he play in Chicago? Seven -- and never a full season. McMahon ... the tough guy ... the, er, punky QB. Yet, what do Vince Evans, Steve Fuller, Rusty Lisch, Greg Landry (for God's sake), Bob Avellini, Mike Tomczak, Doug Flutie and Jim Harbaugh have in common? Each spent significant time under center for the Bears because McMahon was hurt. In the end, McMahon spent as many games in Chargers, Eagles, Cardinals(!), Vikings, Browns and Packers colors as he did in Bears attire.

The persistence of memory ...

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