Running backs hold a special place in our hearts as growing up we imagined ourselves as Lawerence McCutcheon carrying the ball for the old Los Angeles Rams or Ricky Bell or Charles White doing the same for the USC Trojans.
Some 30-35 years on, some things never change.
Thanksgiving weekend, the year 2000, and we’re sitting in the Brigantine in La Mesa watching John Carney line up a 40 yard field goal against the Kansas City Chiefs which would give the hapless 0-11 San Diego Chargers their first victory of the season when without warning, CBS News interrupts the broadcast to go live to Florida and Florida’s Secretary of State, Kathleen Harris, certifying the Florida vote count for George W. Bush.
While the fate of western civilization hung in the balance, we missed Carney’s successful field goal which would result in the only win for the Chargers that season and which would also result in the young bar tender at the Brig’ scratching his head and wondering what all this irate talk of the “Heidi Game” was coming from the other side of the bar. Such was the fate and image of the San Diego franchise at the time, that their most glorious moment in that miserable 1-15 season was pre-empted by something as seemingly mundane as to who would be calling the pre-9/11 free-world shots for the better part of a decade.
That following spring, the Chargers would trade out of the top spot that the Atlanta Falcons would use to draft Michael Vick and would instead select LaDanian Tomlinson out of Texas Christian and Drew Brees out of Purdue.
LT was released by the Chargers yesterday and it proves just how fast that 9 years can blow by and how decisively the fate and direction of a franchise can change. From a 1-15 laughingstock the year before he arrived to the Chargers being perennially tabbed as Super Bowl contenders in the second half of his career, LT was the finest running back of the decade and for one unforgettable season in ’06, LT was the finest football player on the planet.
We’ve been blessed in being able to witness in-person 3 great running backs at different stages of development here in San Diego: Reggie Bush (Helix High), Marshal Faulk (San Diego St.) and LT as a Charger and can say with certainty that no running back possessed more of a sense of the moment than LT. Putting the ball in LT’s hands late in the 4th or in overtime was fait accompli… game over. His instincts around the goal line or in picking up needed yardage for a first down was unparalleled. And no one, repeat, no one owned a single team like LT owned the Raiders which in these parts is grounds for live canonization.
LT wants to continue playing and we wish him success wherever he goes though we really, really hope it’s somewhere in an NFC uniform.
Perhaps we were inspired by that Jim Brown-LT jump cut in that NFL Pepsi commercial but we thought of this song when reflecting on LT’s career.
This one goes out to the two chumps we and our boy Jerry were sitting next to at LT’s very first game for the Chargers back in 2001 against the Redskins who scoffed at the notion there could ever be more than one “LT”.
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.