Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Birds, The Bees, And The Fearsome Foursome

The amazing thing about Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier is what stars they were. Not just football stars; media stars. There was no such thing as a named defensive line prior to the Fearsome Foursome -- college or pro. The Seven Blocks of Granite were O-linemen; the Four Horsemen were a backfield, and so were Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. All the sportswriters spinning florid prose about the pigskin and the precipice and tossing around multi-word nicknames like they were em-spaces never once got around to laying a monicker on a D-line until the Fearsome Foursome, yet there were some fine D-lines prior to Olsen, Jones, Lundy, and Grier, S.C. The Bears' lines of the '40s and '60s, the Colts' lines of the late '50s and '60s, the Packers' early-'60s lines, and even the Giants' formidable fronts of the late '50s were to a man a match for the Rams' line -- but the Rams' line beat them all to glory (and a guest shot on The Beverly Hillbillies). Why?

The hint was two sentences ago. This was coming to pass in L.A., Hollywood Baby, Calif., the new media capital of the world. The Rams were respectable for the first time in more than a decade, and respectable on defense for the first time ever, and the four players most responsible (okay, three of the four players most responsible) were very charismatic, or at least charismatic enough. Think of the Fearsome Foursome the way you would the Beatles or the Monkees (or the way any woman would characterize any guy) and it takes shape: The brash one (John Lennon/Deacon Jones/Mickey Dolenz); the heartthrob (Paul McCartney/Merlin Olsen/Davy Jones); the quiet one (George Harrison/Lamar Lundy/Peter Tork); and the goofball (Ringo Starr/Rosey Grier/Michael Nesmith). Grier even went on the Dinah Shore show and talked about needlepoint, for crying out loud.

To the goyim up in Dreamland churning out I Dream of Gilligan's Acres this was material, and they ran with it. The only thing that was missing was the Rankin/Bass animated series, and that was probably on the drawing board, right after they wrapped Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town.

Like a lot of bands, athletic or otherwise, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. Olsen and Grier held down the middle so Jones and Lundy could attack the edge. Olsen was exceptionally strong and reasonably quick and way more intense than you'd ever know and his play never really fell off in 15 years, not even when he was sporting a Grizzly Adams beard. Think a taller, rougher Warren Sapp and you're getting warm. He deserved the accolades, if not his own TV series. It's just interesting how it all came to pass.

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