Of all the cheap gin joints in the NFL, that drunken buffoon had to run onto Mike Curtis’s.
I think of Curtis, the half-man, half-linebacker, half-Tasmanian Devil of the NFL from 1965-78, whenever I read or hear of some loony who runs onto the field of play in pro sports.
Yeah, I know I assigned three halves to Curtis. If anyone was one-and-a-half of anything, it was Mike Curtis, who flattened an alcohol-soaked moron into a pancake in Baltimore back in 1971.
Curtis came to mind as I read of that lovely cesspool of rotten fans, Philadelphia, which was in the news this week. On successive nights, the baseball field at Citizens Bank Park was littered with two loose cannons who rushed the diamond.
Some controversy ensued on the first night, when the perp was a 17-year-old who was tasered by Philly’s finest, in front of some 30,000 witnesses.
He’s lucky he wasn’t Curtised.
Mike Curtis was a linebacker for the Baltimore Colts from 1965-75, for the Seattle Seahawks in 1976, and for the Washington Redskins in 1977-78.
Correction: Curtis wasn’t a linebacker; he was a tsunami.
People make a big deal about Dick Butkus, and that’s OK. But Curtis entered the league the same year as Butkus of the Chicago Bears and he was every bit as nasty, mean and demented as old No. 51.
Curtis wasn’t for his team—he was against the other.
He had the temperament of a bear rousted early from hibernation. If you played for the other side, Curtis hated you. If you played on his side, he tolerated you. He didn’t even get along with Johnny Unitas. Curtis once said so himself.
Curtis played 14 seasons in the NFL in a pissy mood. He was drafted as a fullback, believe it or not, but didn’t have the skill or the patience for the position. So they moved him to linebacker, where he could waylay opponents and save a bundle of cash on anger management classes.
“I play football,” Curtis once said, “because it’s the only place you can hit people and get away with it.”
1971 was an especially bad year to get on Curtis’s bad side—which for him meant crossing his path.
The Colts were defending Super Bowl champions, and you’d think that would make a guy who played for them at least a little pleasant.
The Colts’ win over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V only made him madder.
Curtis, you see, still wasn’t over his team’s upset loss at the hands of Joe Namath and the New York Jets in Super Bowl III.
Curtis wrote about it in his autobiography, Keep off My Turf, one of the more appropriately-named pieces of literature since they started binding books.
The Jets, who were 18-point underdogs, “were lucky that day,” Curtis wrote. “We were twice as good as the Jets,” he added.
I saw Curtis being interviewed by NFL Films some 12 years after that day in Miami, when Namath led the Jets to a stunning 16-7 upset of the 13-1 Colts.
Curtis was still pissed off.
“We should have been champions twice,” he growled.
So winning the Super Bowl in 1971 didn’t make Mike Curtis happy or relieved or satiated. It only served to re-open some wounds.
Such was the back story when Curtis and the Colts were taking on the Miami Dolphins at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.
In between plays, here comes the bozo onto the field, soused and delirious with soused happiness.
The fool grabs the football from the turf.
He’d have been better off sticking his head inside a lion’s mouth at feeding time.
Curtis wasted no time. He motored to the poor fool and slammed him into the Memorial Stadium turf with a vicious hit normally reserved for running backs and scrambling quarterbacks.
You may have seen the footage. The guy is so wasted that even after Curtis leveled him, he was still laughing hysterically. Being drunk probably saved him a world of pain.
Curtis acted instinctively, as wildlife tends to do.
For those instinctive actions, Mike Curtis became a hero to football fans. He did what a whole lot of others would have paid money to do.
As expected, Curtis was unapologetic about his recourse.
“The way I see it, he was invading my place of business,” Curtis said.
Teammate Bubba Smith, no Dale Carnegie himself, told Curtis on the field that he shouldn’t have hit the guy so hard.
“He shouldn’t have been on the field,” Curtis told Bubba—and the world, in subsequent interviews.
The use of the taser on the teenager in Philadelphia has drawn some criticism.
Too harsh! Overkill! He’s just a kid!
Nothing good can come from a nut invading the field or court or rink of play. I don’t care how old or young he or she is.
At best, it’s a needless delay in the proceedings. At worst, well…we haven’t seen the worst yet, and that’s what is terrifying.
Need I bring up Monica Seles?
You remember it when Seles, the tennis player, was stabbed in the back during a match by a crazed fan/stalker.
In 2002, Kansas City Royals First Base Coach Tom Gamboa was brutally attacked by a father-and-son act in Chicago. A knife was found on the ground near where Gamboa lay when the police and players rushed to Gamboa’s defense.
You still think it’s cute and harmless when some wacko runs onto the field?
It’s amazing that we haven’t seen something worse occur.
And we won’t, if extreme measures of incapacitation, like tasers, are continued to be used by stadium security.
I’m all for it.
When Henry Aaron finally clobbered home run No. 715, passing Babe Ruth, capping a run that saw everything from hate mail and death threats targeting Aaron as well as kidnapping threats against his daughter, his wife Billye’s heart leapt to her throat.
As her husband rounded the base paths, two overzealous fans had joined him. They wanted to offer nothing more than congratulations—to immerse themselves in history. But no one really knew that at the time—especially Billye Aaron.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, they’re going to get him now, as he’s running around the bases,’” Billye said about that briefly terrifying moment. “They’re going to get him NOW.”
They didn’t, of course.
But they could have.
We can’t have Mike Curtis at every stadium or arena, but we can have tasers.
I’m all for it.