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Say Goodbye to Deacon Jones

5:49 PM, Jun 4, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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Richard Goldstein writes at the New York Times:

Deacon Jones, a prototype of the pass-rushing defensive end who became a master of the sack and one of the N.F.L.’s greatest defensive players with the Los Angeles Rams’ line known as the Fearsome Foursome, died on Monday in Anaheim Hills, Calif. He was 74. 

Jones liked to slap the offensive lineman opposite him upside the head.  The unfortunate's ears would still be ringing while the quarterback he was supposed to have been protecting was picking himself off the turf where Jones had planted him.  The head slap was eventually outlawed which is one of Jones' legacies.

The other is the glamorizing of the pass rusher and the front four.  Jones and the Fearsome Foursome led to Alan Page and the Purple People Eaters, Mean Joe Green and the Steel Curtain, Joe Klecko and the New York Sack Exchange, and so on.

But before them,  there was Big Daddy Lipscomb of the Baltimore Colts, the first of the mythic defensive linemen about whom Randall Jarrell wrote the best football poem ever.  It is, admittedly, a fairly rarefied literary category. But it is also a great poem.

By Randall Jarrell

Big Daddy Lipscomb, who used to help them up
After he'd pulled them down, so that ''the children
Won't think Big Daddy's mean''; Big Daddy Lipscomb,
Who stood unmoved among the blockers, like the Rock
Of Gibralter in a life insurance ad,
Until the ball carrier came, and Daddy got him;
Big Daddy Lipscomb, being carried down an aisle
Of women by Night Train Lane, John Henry Johnson,
And Lenny Moore; Big Daddy, his three ex-wives,
His fiancee, and the grandfather who raised him
Going to his grave in five big Cadillacs;
Big Daddy, who found football easy enough, life hard enough
To -- after his last night cruising Baltimore

In his yellow Cadillac -- to die of heroin;
Big Daddy, who was scared, he said: ''I've been scared
Most of my life. You wouldn't think so to look at me.
It gets so bad I cry myself to sleep -- '' his size
Embarrassed him, so that he was helped by smaller men
And hurt by smaller men; Big Daddy Lipscomb
Has helped to his feet the last ball carrier, Death.
The big black man in the television set
Whom the viewers stared at -- sometimes, almost were --
Is a blur now; when we get up to adjust the set,
It's not the set, but a NETWORK DIFFICULTY.
The world won't be the same without Big Daddy.
Or else it will be

(From ''The Sporting Spirit: Athletes, Literature and Life,'' edited by Robert Higgs, Harcourt Brace, 1977.)

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