February 21, 2018

Bubba Smith

Bubba Smith passed away last week and joined his teammate John Mackey in the great Super Bowl in the sky. His playing days were a bit before my time. I mainly remember him from Miller Lite ads. I forget if he was part of the “Tastes Great” or the “Less Filling” camp, but he’d rip the cans open.

Joe Williams here calls me Mr. Connection. I caught the bug when my buddy, the White Rhino, turned me on to the Kevin Bacon game. That’s where you name an actor and try to link him to Bacon in the fewest steps. I came up with the ultimate Kevin Bacon game earlier this year; The Diner at The Center of The Universe. It transcends the screen. Bacon played Fenwick in Diner. Barry Levinson directed it and two of the other cast members were Mickey Rourke and Ellen Barkin. Bacon’s father, Edmund, was a city planner who knew Buckminster Fuller. Levinson once roomed with Boston George Jung. Jung was a drug smuggler and was played by Johnny Depp in the movie Blow. Rourke tried his fists at boxing. Freddie Roach trained him for some of his fights. Roach now trains Manny Pacquiao. Barkin was married to Ron Perelman for a while. Perelman was a buyout artist who purchased Revlon with the help of Michael Milken’s junk bonds (or high yield, if you prefer.) The worlds of genius, cocaine, boxing, and Wall Street are all within two degrees of separation from Bacon. But one connection didn’t occur to me until last week.

The movie Diner is about young men growing up in Baltimore fifty-some years ago. One of the gang, Eddie Simmons, is getting married. Before he ties the knot, though, he wants to ensure that his bride to be has a firm grasp on Colts trivia. He makes her take a 140-question test on the team. Steve Guttenberg played Simmons. Guttenberg would go on to the Police Academy movies where he’d play Carey Mahoney. Bubba Smith played Moses Hightower in those flicks.

Smith, of course was a Baltimore Colt. He played with Johnny Unitas. Unitas had a long career and he quarterbacked the team in the famous 1958 championship game. Alan Ameche ended that game with a touchdown run. Ameche was a Heisman trophy winner and he made a big splash in his NFL debut. He had a 79-yard run from scrimmage on opening day 1955 against Chicago. Tying things together, this was the answer to one of Simmons’s quiz questions: “What was the longest run from scrimmage by a rookie in his first game?”

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension— a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Red Zone.