Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Detroit Lions great Alex Karras always had a flair for the dramatic

I have two older brothers, and remember distinctly as a kid how they and my father would wax poetic about Alex Karras firing his helmet at Lions quarterback Milt Plum, reputedly barely missing his head, after Plum threw a late interception that cost the Lions a victory in Green Bay in 1962.
As the Lions were losing continually throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, it was like this prideful moment for them.
That was Vince Lombardi's best team. Its only loss that year was being destroyed in Detroit Thanksgiving Day in a rematch. To this day, many Detroit fans from that era feel the Lions were better than the Packers that season and loved Karras, who died Wednesday, for his antics.
It's long been a disgrace Alex Karras isn't in Pro Football Hall of Fame
Karras, a defensive tackle, was both rugged and extremely agile. He came to the Lions following a truly brilliant college career at Iowa. Karras was suspended from the NFL the following season in a gambling scandal. Unlike running back Paul Hornung of the Packers, who was also suspended for the same reason, he didn't get his spot in the Hall of Fame, likely because he wasn't nearly as contrite. It was more Karras' style to sound off than apologize, actually.
While he was suspended, he wrestled Dick The Bruiser at The Olympia, another iconic moment in Detroit sports history.
When George Plimpton wrote the "Paper Lion," Karras wasn't even on the team, but he Plimpton became great friends. "Paper Lion," the movie, truthfully, was awful by cinematic standards, but Karras stole the show nonetheless. It got his foot in the door in LA LA Land, and he did the rest. Ever see "Blazing Saddles?" Karras as "Mongo" is genuinely funny. So "Webster" will go down in history as "bad TV from the 1980s." It was on for a long time, and Karras undoubtedly raked in a lot of cash while sharing the stage with his wife, actress Susan Clark.
It also brought recognition to Karras the NFL didn't. He belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With all due respect to Lem Barney, Dick LeBeau and Charlie Sanders, other Lions greats of the same era who are in, Karras was at least as good a player as they were, and probably better.
Ultimately, Karras became a lot more Hollywood, yet he always carried an edge that screamed "Motown."
There will never be another quite like him in either place.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you didn't like Karras, you were insane.
Good bye Alex........they don't make to many like you.

9:06 AM 

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