Alex Karras, R.I.P.


Detroit Lions all-time great, broadcaster and actor, Alex Karras, has died after a long illness at the age of 77. Unfortunately, more people are mentioning his part on the junky sitcomWebster than his days as one of the fiercest and best defensive players of the NFL’s early days. Karras’ name also surfaced recently during the Saints bountygate clusterfuck since he and Paul Hornung were suspended for the 1963 season for betting on games but never against their own teams. That’s probably why Karras is not in the football hall of fame but he should be since Hornung is in like Flynn…

If you’ve ever read George Plimpton’s classic book, Paper Lion, or seen the Alan Alda movie based on the book, you know that Karras was an intelligent, articulate and funny man. If you’re unfamiliar withPaper Lion, check it out: Plimpton practiced with the Lions, and even played QB in an exhibition game. No, not a pre-season game, they hadn’t come up with that dread euphemism in the 1960’s.

Since Karras was one of the first Greek-Americans to achieve national prominence, my late father offered his classic commentary about that fact: “He’s Greek, you know. He’s doing very well.”

The main reason I am posting in honor of Alex Karras, however, is his indelible performance as Mongo in the Mel Brooks masterpiece, Blazing Saddles. I am prone to employ Mongo speak when it suits me, as I will now: “Mongo sad.”

2 thoughts on “Alex Karras, R.I.P.

  1. Part of what made the “Mongo only pawn in game of life” line funny was knowing that here was an actor of great intelligence playing a character of no intelligence uttering an observation of great intelligence. Supposedly that was why Brooks wanted him in the part. Alex Karras was the first professional athlete I was aware of who in effect said that he wasn’t going to be defined by his profession as an athlete, something I wish more athletes would do. Alex, you had a well rounded life, wherever you are I hope a candygram is waiting for you.

  2. a long time ago – back in my previous advertising life – i met karras at the old kroch & brentano’s bookstore on wabash in chicago. he was funny and very gracious. i got his agent’s number and i regret to this day that i never had the chance to use him in an ad. i think it would have been an incredible shoot.
    my favorite line of his is: “i only went to iowa for two terms. truman’s and eisenhower’s.”

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