The annals of the National Football League’s history holds a plethora of marvelous splendor. Decade after decade, NFL Films captured the greatest players perform, miraculous wins and heartbreaking losses, elation in locker rooms after victories against their rivals, and spectacular (controversial) plays.
NFL fans now can relive the moments by installing NFL Network and watch documentaries on Hall of Fame coaches and teams. But what about those in my generation and younger? Who’ll be able to tell them the captivating stories of John Madden, John “Paddy” Driscoll, or Tom Fears? These men are enshrined in Canton, Ohio in the NFL Hall of Fame. It’s not so much about reading that they existed, but what made them so special and memorable. The younger generation might want to know how the 1972 Dolphins won a Super Bowl while maintaining a spotless 17-0 record. The adversity that the ‘Fins faced had to be a hefty load especially with teams stymieing them (once they caught on). So without further adieu, this is a memo for future the Daniel Parks of the NFL world, a lesson for you to hand down to the generation after yours. Hopefully 40 years from now someone will stop by and enlighten himself.
Dear young NFL fan,
What’s 5’8”, runs like the Jesus Christ Lizard, and is as flexible as an Olympic Gymnast?
Known as the X-Factor, Dante Hall was the most dynamic player that I’ve ever witnessed to this day. No one else could return a punt the way he did. It almost seemed as if he had sword blades attached under his cleats–how he sharply cut in the grass and switched directions. With his blazing speed, the “Human Joystick” possessed an innate skill for improvising moves, dancing a little to buy some time, and bolting like lightning through a hole set up by his blockers. This was the only man on earth with 7 senses. I’d flip to an otherwise stodgy Kansas City Chiefs team just to watch this magician fool other grown men out of their shoes. His skinny frame didn’t last more than seven years in the NFL, and like other old joysticks he grew stiff as he was traded to the St. Louis Rams for his last season in 2007. His fearlessness was astronomical; if opposing coaches respected the Chiefs’ offense a little more, they probably wouldn’t have kept punting the ball his way.
Thank you Mr. Hall for the four consecutive games you returned a punt for a touchdown in 2003. You had this 15-year-old metal-mouthed kid practicing your signature moves and looking foolish dancing in front of the screen at one point. So much fun.
What’s harder to do? Being upset with your significant other, or crying in Hawaii?
If you answered the latter, you’re right. It’s too hard to sob on such a beautiful island. But the daredevil in me accomplished that feat (No, I’m really sensitive). January 12, 2007, there I was, sipping on my Pepsi in the fourth quarter with 3 minutes and 18 seconds left. Down 3 points, my Eagles had possession, and maybe their last chance.
Philadelphia Eagles at 03:18
- 1-10-PHI 44(3:18) (Shotgun) 7-J.Garcia pass short left to 36-B.Westbrook to PHI 43 for -1 yards (22-F.Thomas).
- 2-11-PHI 43(2:37) 36-B.Westbrook right end to PHI 44 for 1 yard (55-S.Fujita).
- 3-10-PHI 44(2:02) (Shotgun) 7-J.Garcia pass incomplete short right to 36-B.Westbrook [55-S.Fujita].
- Two-Minute Warning
- 4-10-PHI 44(1:56) (Shotgun) PENALTY on PHI-71-S.Young, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at PHI 44 – No Play.
- 4-15-PHI 39(1:56) 8-D.Johnson punts 39 yards to NO 22, Center-46-J.Dorenbos, fair catch by 25-R.Bush
New Orleans Saints at 01:48
- 1-10-NO 22(1:48) 26-D.McAllister left guard to NO 26 for 4 yards (97-D.Walker).
- Timeout #2 by PHI at 01:44.
- 2-6-NO 26(1:44) 26-D.McAllister left tackle to NO 31 for 5 yards (32-M.Lewis).
- Timeout #3 by PHI at 01:37.
- Timeout #1 by NO at 01:37.
- 3-1-NO 31(1:37) 26-D.McAllister right guard to NO 36 for 5 yards (55-D.Jones).
- 1-10-NO 36(:52) 9-D.Brees kneels to NO 35 for -1 yards.
- 2-11-NO 35(:20) 9-D.Brees kneels to NO 34 for -1 yards.
- END GAME
Three minutes? Plenty of time to methodically drive the ball down the field and score. See #5? The bold sentence. Our offensive lineman #71 Scott Young was called for a holding penalty on 4th and 10.
For those who don’t know, 4th and 10 means only one thing: if you don’t gain ten yards on this very play, you hand over the ball to the other team’s offense. After a two-minute warning commercial break, I, being the only Eagles fan in all of Hawaii, shouted on top of my lungs, “LET’S GO!”
And GO we did. Jeff Garcia, our backup quarterback who was filling in for the injured starter, completed a 17-yard strike to Hank Baskett. It was glorious, all the reassurance I needed buzzed and swarmed over my head like a hive of bees. We were going to tie this game. Then, flying from the bottom left of the corner of the screen you see the ugly, mustard-yellow flag. In my opinion, it was a late call. The completion was nullified and the referee penalized Scott Young for holding. On 4th down and 15, the Eagles opted to punt the ball, a huge mistake I still can’t get over.
The play-call could have changed the history of the Eagles. Instead of being on the threshold of greatness, we fell off the cliff to the bottom of the laughingstock.
Tearfully, I sat there like a lone pup on the side of a two-lane road as the setting sun was just as downcast as I.