Tag Archives: Hall of Fame


From NFL Hall of Famers to the corrupt 2016 Olympics

by Dell Franklin

COMMENT.SPORTING.ORLANDOOf late I have developed conflicted feelings about the sporting world and lost interest in teams and players, which has led me to boycott the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro for the first time—except for the sprinting events. At the same time, for the first time ever, as the farthest thing from a football fanatic, who never watches college games and few pro games, I viewed the entire day-long National Football League Hall of Fame induction ceremony and found myself utterly absorbed and repeatedly in tears while listening to men who had come up from the very bottom of our socio-economic ladder in America and reached such heights in the bone-crushing and wildly emotional game of professional football.

Having sampled football up until the tenth grade and realizing it was for kids more gladiatorial than me, there is this respect and admiration for those who continue to play. My father, who played big league baseball and faced fire-baller Bob Feller without a helmet and was an amateur boxing champion out of tough Chicago, also found football simply too brutal in the stone-age era of the 1930s when he was recruited by the University of Illinois to play for the legendary coach, Bob Zuppke, whom he characterized as a “miserable goddamn heartless sadist.”

“Football players at that level are a different breed,” he always said, with a touch of awe. “They’re not like other people. They’re a select club of men.”

Nowadays, these men play for more money while enduring even more pain and brokenness because they’re bigger and faster and smash into each other with horrifying force, so much so I wince and hate to look at the players who after collisions lay writhing in agony, their magnificent athleticism temporarily and sometimes permanently crippled. To face such savagery, and even dare to be paralyzed, as in some cases, their courage is something us mortals cannot possibly relate to or understand, only stand in awe of.

And perhaps that is the reason I tried but could not hold back tears while listening to Orlando Pace, a black giant, talking about his mother, who raised him and his sister while working two jobs in Sandusky, Ohio, the camera panning to his mother and sister dabbing at tears as they sat under a warm Ohio sun.

John Madden, home and ailing, possesses such profound respect for these men he could hardly get through a taped introduction of the deceased Kenny Stabler, a slender Alabaman quarterback who, on badly damaged knees, stood the charges of thunderous defenders for over a decade and won games with guile and daring.

Kevin Greene, all-American boy and ex-Boy Scout, talked of his dad, a retired Army officer wounded in Vietnam, the camera panning to this man who struggled to keep his composure as Kevin gave him full credit for teaching him the military discipline to succeed in such a tough business.

The most impressive speech was by an ex-owner drummed out of the league, Ed Debartalo, a diminutive man so in love with his players that he immediately visited them, in the locker room after injuries and took care of their futures as family. His message to NFL powers that ran him out of the game was to treat these men as he had; a chastising of their greediness and ruthless inattention to the physical and mental debilitation these men suffer long after retirement.

If these men brought tears and cheers, Brett Favre brought roars and copious weeping. The toughest of the tough, he barely made it through his speech without breaking down, but brought down the house when talking about how hard his dad was on him, yet at the same time, behind his back, extolled his character and determination to his coach, something I think all jocks and their jock dads have experienced, including myself.

All of these speeches were delivered by a bunch of big old sentimental slobs. At times they were awkward, unpolished but always sincere, and always moving, boy/men still, thanking just about everybody who helped them get there, the memories so poignant, the game so dear to them, the teammates and coaches so valuable, that it wasn’t really about them, but the totality of the experience, from peewee football to the prized NFL that has broken the heart of so many gridiron stars trying to make it.

Small wonder American football fans are so crazy about these gladiators.


COMMENT.SPORTING.RIOThe 2016 Olympics in Rio are the accumulation of decades of the IOC turning a magnificent competition into a corrupt grab-bag of billionaires and politicians on the take. It is about the rich pushing around the poor, and in some cases taking their homes to build monstrous and soon-to-be obsolete sports complexes, as in countries like China and Russia. It’s about a broke country like Greece going broker. It’s about a country like Russia, caught red-handed in a colossal cheating scheme and then let off the hook by the political whores in the IOC knuckling under to the latest global bully, Vladimir Putin.

It’s about the Russians recruiting desperately impoverished migrants from Eastern Europe to build their complexes, withholding their pay, housing them in sheds, disposing them as lifeless carcasses when they’re sick and broken and used up—and dead. It’s about this very same country forcing their poorest people out of their homes and out of their turf, paying them nothing, essentially breaking them, while billionaire oligarchs become richer, and we in America, along with the IOC, stand by as we wave our flags of superior athleticism—another vehicle to buoy our image to ourselves and the world.

It’s about Brazil, a country caught in an economic tragedy so severe that people are literally starving to death, and protesting, somehow spending billions to put on the usual pomp and pageantry and the construction of soon-to-be abandoned venues as, like Greece, get fleeced by the greed-hogs from the IOC.

It’s about NBC manipulating the emotions of every American TV viewer with its saccharine music accompanying maudlin depiction of certain athletes and their heart-breaking situations, a literal soap opera, while two-minute commercials seizing on the gullible masses stuff their corporate pockets.

Every year, since I can remember, the Olympics arrived every four years as something great, but as time passed it became this monster of flag-waving, country-chanting hypocrisy, another money grab perpetrated by a pack of rapacious scoundrels known as the IOC, a group not unlike NFL owners whose entire goal in life is to stock-pile more treasure and territory and keep their foot on the neck of their slaves.

I just want to watch the sprints. §

Dell Franklin grew up in the rough-and-tumble of sports in Compton, Calif., where his father, “Moe” Franklin, a professional baseball player, built a shoe business and supported a family. Dell writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog, Wilbur. Visit Dell’s website at dellfranklin.com.

Slapping hats with Ted Hendricks

CULTURE.SLAP.hendrickshby Dell Franklin

I was sitting on a stool at the end of the bar at Brennan’s Irish Pub in Manhattan Beach, where I was employed as a bartender, and winding down from a two-day-plus binge celebrating my fortieth birthday, when, through the front swinging doors, Jim Plunkett entered, followed by Ted Hendricks, Dave Dalby, Bob Nelson, Steve Sylvester, and Matt Robinson, all of the Los Angeles Raiders, who had moved down here from Oakland and just broken camp in Oxnard and were experiencing their first sample of beach bar life.

It was a late Sunday afternoon toward the end of August, and beside me was Lita Colandrea, my most-of-the-time female companion who was trying to convince me to stop drinking before I killed myself, but I kept insisting on one more and the bartender, Donnie Sipka, continued to serve me beers and shots as he chuckled at my relentless mindlessness.

The Raider crew passed behind me and sat down five or six stools down, along the rectangular bar, facing the entrance. I told Sipka I had their first round and to welcome them to Brennan’s. After they were served beers, each new Raider raised his mug and nodded at me, thanked me, and after Sipka conversed with them for a few minutes, Ted Hendricks, all 6-feet-7 or 8 inches, stood and walked over to me and said, “I hear it’s your fortieth birthday.”

“That’s right,” I said

Hovering over me, he said, matter-of-factly, “Forty’s big.”

“Yes it is,” I agreed. “I’ve been at it for two days worth of big.”

He nodded. Then: “I like your hat.”

I was wearing my yellow cap with elongated bill, a very, very long duck bill. I had about ten other caps and goofy hats in front of me, as a person celebrating his fortieth needs a variety of headwear over the long haul.  

“Thanks,” I said.

Ted nodded toward my headwear. “I’m a hat man, too,” he explained.

“So I’ve heard. I have about thirty-some hats and caps, Ted.”

“I have around a hundred” he said, offering me his huge hand. “You know me, but I don’t know your name.”

“Dell, Ted. My name’s Dell.”

“Would you be too offended if I asked to try on your hat, Dell?” he asked. “I know I get irritated when people ask to try on my hats, but since we’re hat men, I thought it might be okay.”

“Sure,” I said. I handed him the cap. He tried it on, pulled it tight, and pointed to one of my many caps, which included a blue one with elongated bill but also with earflaps in red letters, “BULLSHIT PROTECTORS.” I often wore this cap when a woman was taking me to task, carping at me, and pulled down the flaps when they ranted, lifting them when I had my say. I explained this to Ted while I tried it on as Lita sighed and shook her head in a longsuffering manner and Ted nodded in complete understanding. Then Ted asked me to stand, if I was able, so we could slap bills. I stood, and big Ted leaned down and we slapped bills, bobbing our heads in rhythm, making a bit of a racket as his teammates looked on. When we finished slapping bills Ted motioned to Sipka and ordered two shots of wild cherry brandy and two shots of anisette. He turned to me. “For your fortieth.”CULTURE.SLAP HATS.DELL

“Ted,” I said. “I’m on my last legs, man.”

He issued me a look I’m sure terrified all offensive players in the NFL for almost 15 years and said, “Forty’s big,” and lifted his shot of wild cherry. I tinked his glass with my shot and we downed our shots, and repeated the process with the anisette. Then he took off my cap and handed it to me. I told him he looked good in it and could borrow it if he wanted to, as I was content with my earflap cap, but he said, ”No, I can’t because those guys over there and the guys in the locker room’ll destroy it. But thanks.”

“I understand completely, Ted,” I said. “Thanks for the shots.”

He wished me a happy birthday and returned to his teammates who, on the second round, sent me down a beer and a shot, and I pulled the earflaps tight and raised the shot and downed it while Lita tried to get Sipka to cut me off.


A week or so later,  Lita—a New Yorker and person without peer as a thrift store scavenger finding treasures—and I were in Santa Monica visiting old-world clothing stores. In one of these stores she discovered, among a batch of headwear, a ball cap with the exact elongated bill as my yellow one, only in black, with silver letters on the crown that read MADDEST HATTER. Silver and black were the Raider colors and I quickly purchased it and brought it to the bar and placed it in one of the cupboards.

By this time, Ted had found an old, very used limousine and hired a rumpled, usually out-of-work handyman local to serve as his chauffeur who parked it across the street from Brennan’s at the more upscale Pancho’s while Ted did his drinking in both bars. On an early Monday evening, this limo pulled up across the street and Ted got out, accompanied by a pretty lady, and started to go into Pancho’s. I bellowed out his name from my station behind the bar. He turned and spotted me through the open doorway and I motioned him over. He came across the street with his gal and when he arrived at the bar I placed the black cap before him.

“For you, Ted,” I said.

He looked at the cap. He picked it up. He looked at me. He read the crown. He looked at his lady. He looked at me. He seemed unable to find words. Then: “You actually thought enough of me to buy me this great hat?”

“I saw it, and it said Ted Hendricks all over it,” I explained.

He tried it on. A perfect fit. He looked at his lady. She nodded her approval, smiling. He looked at me. “Thank you,” he said, pulling out some bills. “I’d like to pay you…”

“It’s on me, Ted. Us hat guys, we stick together.”

His lady caught my eye and issued me an understanding look that was somehow confidential. Ted said, “You still have that yellow hat around?”

I wore a variety of headwear at work on weekend band nights because all of us bartenders were clown acts and borderline comedians and chameleons, part of the scene at a very hot bar. So I retrieved the cap and put it on and Ted said, “Let’s slap bills.” I leaned forward and Ted leaned down and we slapped bills, renewing our perfect rhythm as we bobbed heads up and down while the crowd looked on. Then Ted placed a big bill on the bar and said, “Two wild cherry brandies and two anisettes.”

I poured out four shots. We tinked glasses twice and downed them all and then Ted very quickly turned and headed across the street toward Pancho’s, leaving the big bill. His very classy and pretty lady looked at me and said, “You have no idea how moved he is that you thought enough of him to buy him that beautiful hat. He loves it.”

I watched big Ted, known as “Kick ‘em in the head Ted,” and “The Mad Stork,” which he hated, enter Pancho’s, future Hall of Famer, rated as one of the two or three greatest outside linebackers in the history of the NFL, a man so notoriously hostile on the gridiron that he’d become a living legend.

“I thought he might cry,” I said.

“He’s that way,” she said, and walked across the street to meet him. §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog, Wilbur. For more of his work, visit his website, dellfranklin.com, where this article first appeared.