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 sitcom Webster 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 with Paper 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.”