What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Do you remember a few years back when all those “Chuck Norris” jokes were so popular? I’m sure they are still out there, and I’m sure there’s one out there which goes something like “Chuck Norris tested positive for COVID-19. Now the virus is in quarantine.” The idea was that Chuck Norris is the baddest “mofo” on the planet. The only reason Chuck Norris got that title is because Mike Curtis let him have it.
Face it, Chuck Norris was a one-man wrecking crew in all of his movies, and he learned every mother-loving one of his his tricks from Mike Curtis. If you were a football fan in the 1960s and 70s, you were watching an era in which a middle linebacker could be a dominant a force in a football game as a quarterback. From that era, everybody remembers legends like Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke. But for my money, the name “Mike Curtis” belonged in that same rarefied air.
In those days, a great middle linebacker was like a fine wine…a subtle blend of things which normally didn’t belong together, but became greater as a whole. For a vintage Chateau Middle Linebacker of the time, you needed a melange of athleticism, instinct, and “locked in a cage and fed raw meat” violence. You can debate amongst yourselves which guy of that era defined which characteristic; most will name guys like Dick Butkus or Ray Nitschke. But Mike Curtis had the deed for “raw meat” violence tucked safely in his safety deposit box.
The video above has so many examples, but the best comes at the 2:30 mark, when Curtis pancake-flattens a fan trying to abscond with the game ball. That’s what earned Curtis the moniker “Mad Dog” from not only Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts fans, but devotees of the National Football League (NFL) in general. But that one shining example aside, Curtis’ combination of strength, speed, intensity, and instinct is why he appeared in four Pro Bowls in his career. In terms of play-making moments, the best example was his interception in Super Bowl V which set the table for Jim O’Brien’s 32-yard game-winning field goal. That kick brought the Colts’ their first Super Bowl championship.
The casual fan has relegated Curtis to the dustbin of history; overshadowed by the like of the aforementioned Butkus and Nitschke, but the guys that played with him cannot understand why Mike Curtis isn’t in the Hall of Fame, particularly center Ray Curry, who played with Curtis in Baltimore, but also with Ray Nitschke in Green Bay.
“How Mike could be left out is beyond me. You really missed the thrill of getting to see a great NFL linebacker if you didn’t get to see him play. … It was like watching a guy with the muscularity of a defensive tackle who could run like a corner. It was incredible to see him run people down. How could he do that? But he did it every day.”
For my money, you can have Butkus, Nitschke, Tommy Nobis, or other linebacker of that era; I’ll take Mike Curtis every damn time. I always called his style of play “symphonic rage;” if one were to express it in musical terms; it was the mathematical accuracy of Brahms, the pace of a Buddy Rich drum solo, all covering a soul which would give death-metal a Freudian case of rage-envy. For a movie comparison, forget about the aforementioned Chuck Norris…his locker-room statements carried the power of Moses delivering the Ten Commandments. The irony is all those other guys I mentioned might just be Charlton Heston, but Curtis was every bit a gridiron “John Wayne;” tough as a cob and larger than life.
But sadly, that life came to an end Monday night during Curtis 77th trip around the sun at his home in St. Petersburg, Florida.
RIP, James Michael Curtis. Chuck Norris may know Victoria’s Secret, but Mike Curtis was the reason she had one in the first place.
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