I’m sitting here in the expensive coffee chain, a half mile from Panthers camp waiting for the second practice of the day to start. I’ll post my thoughts on this morning’s practice once I get the pictures uploaded at home.
Since I’m waiting, I may as well rename the NFC North! If Chris Berman had his way it would be called the Norris Division, but he has no say here. In fact I wish he would….go…all…the…way…into….a coma.
Each team has at least one legendary player in its history. The discussion for the Lions begins and ends with Barry Sanders. With apologies to Scott Mitchell and his family, no other Lion comes close to what Sanders did. However, he’s the third best running back to ever play in this division, more on that later.
We’ll head north to Minnesota. All of Fran Tarkenton’s records have been broken, but he was apparently damn good. Now he just rags on Brett Favre on radio shows. Alan Page, Jim Marshall, and Carl Eller used to destroy offensive lines, not enough to win a Super Bowl, but they were beasts enough to be named the Purple People Eaters. Chris Carter can’t get into the Hall of Fame, so it goes without saying that this division won’t be named after him.
I don’t think Roger Goodell would approve the John Randle Sound Bite Division either. Maybe he can wow the committee with his Hall of Fame speech this year.
This one will come down to the Packers and Bears beating the snot out of each other. The Packers are loaded with history. There are few names that would symbolize what the division is about better than Nitschke.
I really enjoy saying Nitschke, and I suggest you say it aloud a few times today too. Don Hutson, Bart Starr (The Starr Division!), Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, these are all-time greats that I never saw play, but they left a huge mark on the league. Reggie White gets his name in the discussion for bringing The Hump to fame, but the White Division would not help racial harmony, nor would Reggie’s hate of tall midgets.
Which brings us to Chicago. I’m struggling with a reason to eliminate Gayle Sayers. He had six touchdowns in a single game, still holds the record for kick return average, and was half of the inspiration for Brian’s Song. Sadly, I think he’s getting eliminated, because of a nickname. He was nicknamed The Kansas Comet, because he was born in Kansas and went to college there. Walter Payton was named Sweetness, because he was f’ing sweet. I actually remember seeing Walter Payton play in Super Bowl XX. I think that may be my earliest memory of football, probably because of the Super Bowl Shuffle and all of the head bands worn on that team. Walter Payton was the first great player I remember seeing. The NFC North, though is not about sweetness.
It’s about cold weather, hard ground, blood and guts, beards and mullets and mustaches. It’s about Dick Butkus, the only man in this discussion who can surpass Nitschke as the most audibly pleasing name. Ray Lewis will go to his grave thinking he was better than Butkus and telling us all so. He may even be better, but his name isn’t Butkus.
Verdict: NFC North = Butkus Division.
P.S. This is probably all moot, because in 20 years they’ll just change it to Favre because he will have played for every team in the division by then.