This makes me SO happy.
The great Detroit Lions tackle Alex Karras was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame. He was and remains a hero. Though I never saw the Detroit Lions defensive tackle play (he retired in 1971), when I was a kid I fell in love with the great author George Plimpton’s books on his attempts at pro football, Paper Lion and Mad Ducks and Bears, thanks in large part to Karras, who figures prominently in both (especially in the latter). Most might know him as Mongo from movie Blazing Saddles (“Mongo just a pawn in the game of life”) and the 80’s sitcom Webster. But before his movie and TV career he was an amazing defensive tackle, despite being severely near-sighted, and who was hilarious. He had a genuine talent for funny, stream-of-conscious improv and story-telling. If there was a Jonathan Winters of the NFL, it was Karras.
Oddly enough, I recently finished reading Paper Lion and just a few days ago started reading Mad Ducks and Bears – I’ve read both at least 10 times since I was 11 or 12 years old – and they still make laugh and smile just as much. Just the other night I was yet again laughing out loud at one of Karras’ stories he told in Mad Ducks and Bears; the stories about Karras’ annual golf tournament and his (and fellow Lion John Gordy’s) failed off-season business ventures always gets me guffawing uproariously.
Sadly, Karras died on 2012; I think he’d be surprised and happy at his induction. For more on Alex Karras’ career, click here.