In the decade of the steroid, the mug-shot gallery of the current-day NFL, cyclers re-cycling blood (the big dopes!), the joke that is modern-day boxing, and revelations of referees on the take, colleges recruiting junior high basketball players…it really does look foggy out there. But, sometimes the fog does lift, and as Simon and Garfunkle once sang, we really do see a ‘boxer in the clearing’.
He really wasn’t a boxer, but he knocked plenty of people down. He was one in a thousand, maybe a million. He played a normally anonymous set of positions for 19 years and he played them as well as ever played. Scour the record books for offensive linemen who played 19 years. You won’t find many. Then scour the books for a man who played all five positions of the offensive line and played THEM ALL WELL. Good luck with that search, if you are looking for anyone beyond Bruce Matthews.
Bruce Matthews, late of the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame yesterday. His humility and gratitude were on display once again, even on a day when he was enshrined as one of the best of the best. He was a titan.
More importantly, if there was a Hall of Fame just for humans who achieved in any endeavor, but more crucially in what it means to be an example, a guide, a quiet but compelling leader, Matthews belongs in that joint as well. A whole lot of life, as they say, is just showing up, not just showing up when we feel like it or when it is in our best interest, but day after day after day, hurt, mad, frustrated, wanting to leave, ready-for-a-vacation or just plain wanting one damn day off.
Matthews got up, suited up, and showed up every day. This is not one of those balancing acts that redeems all the bad stuff that goes on in sports, but it does tell me that there are still heroes in the game. Sometimes you just have to look down in the trenches to see em’.