By David Fleming
Page 2

EDITOR'S NOTE: Our own David Fleming recently attended a special taping of "Inside the Actor's Studio" starring a particular underappreciated NFL player. Luckily, he brought a tape recorder with him. The following is a transcript of the show.

When one speaks of the modern-day winged-feet descendants of Hermes who rush the football across the hallowed grounds and professional ranks of the NFL -- the most supreme, sublime sporting league in the history of humankind -- one must pause, breathlessly, and whilst hugging one's quivering self for support, whisper with extreme reverence the names of such superhuman gladiators as Brown, Payton and Sanders.

Tonight, please join me, James Lipton, on "Inside the Actor's Studio" as we add a new name to that most revered list.

Few know this giant among men, this genius amongst rubes, this truly great Alexander. He is the Seattle Seahawks' all-time leading rusher. He is a two-time Pro Bowl running back. And he currently leads the NFL's No. 1 offense with 1,114 yards and 17 touchdowns.

But he is so much more than that. Oh, so much more. He is indomitable. He is tangential. He is royalty in a ribald sport. And he runs the football as if God himself were his pulling guard, and his feet were filled with such stunning power and grace that he found himself continually trampling on the Almighty's flowing, massive golden robes … ah-ah-ah-ah-aaaaaaah:

Ladies and gentlemen … Shaun Alexander. (Applause)

"Uh, thanks."

Deeeeelightful.

What an absolutely erudite, yet economic, choice of words. Now Shaun, I can barely see you from behind this giant four-foot stack of blue index cards, but by chance have you happened to notice what special shade of blue my cards happen to be this week? Oh dear me, of course you noticed! As the Cardinals' feeble tacklers can attest from the sixth day of November, when you burst past them as if directed by Ang Lee for 88 of the most magnificent and moving yards in the history of peregrination, it was obvious you have stupendous peripheral vision.

Shaun Alexander
AP
Shaun Alexander is having another sensational season, with little fanfare.

"The cards look blue, I guess. Yeah, kinda blue."

YES! Exactly. Bravo. Bra-vo. Seahawk blue. Innnnndeed.

"Hey listen, I'm not really an actor or anything, I just … my agent thought this show might help me get a little more publicity or something."

Shaun Alexander, your candor, wit and humility twist my insides like a knotted-up garden hose and force tears from my eyes as if I had just slammed the trunk of my car down onto my own genitals. Not an actor? Nonsense. Were you not acting when you did your burp-and-rock-the-baby TD celebration? Oh yes, I have been amongst the privileged few who have seen your breathtaking performances on "Seahawks All-Access," on Seattle's KONG6 and on "The 700 Club." And these flawless works of art were nothing short of coruscating. If you are not an actor, then dare I say neither are Newman, De Niro or Streisand; and if that were true, then this world we inhabit would scarcely be worth living in.

"Who did Newman play for?"

Ah. Ah. Ah. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

And, like Newman, do you not feel the scorn of critics? The pitifully obtuse little men who laugh at the Seahawks, their uniforms and their penchant for stage fright in big games? Do you not feel each prick of the pen when the ignorant rubes say you were not swift enough, young enough or tough enough to, say, convert on third-and-1 against the Rams last season?

"Well, yeah. I mean, I'm on my way to 2,000 yards maybe, and if the playoffs started right now we'd be the No. 1 seed in the NFC. So, yeah, that does kinda hurt."

The question remains, though, hovering like a delicate hummingbird above a dish of sweet nectar: Does it hurt like it did at Boone High in Florence, Kentucky, sitting on the bench and watching Jason Colemire play instead of you? Or does it hurt like it did when your brother Duran played drums for the Notre Dame marching band and you had to settle on a marketing degree from Alabama? Is the hurt similar to the pain inflicted by your offseason speed coach? Or is the hurt you feel more like a knife being stabbed into your back, plunged like the metaphorical saber you referred to after coming up a yard short of the 2004 NFL rushing title?

"Dang, dude, you did your research."

James Lipton
AP
Take a close look ... is this James Lipton, or Will Ferrell?

Yes I did. Over the course of six weeks I devoted every waking hour of my life to studying yours. And this research tells me you rushed for 266 yards against the Raiders in 2001, and scored an NFL record five first-half TDs against the Vikings. Research tells me you sometimes use the stadium Jumbotron to look for would-be tacklers behind you on long scampers through the defensive backfield. And it is this very research that makes me want to track down all the ancestors of Alexander the Great and every last citizen of Macedon, so that I might slap them all across the face for inferring that there could be an Alexander greater than you, my dear Shaun.

Forgive them, for they do not realize you are the first player in NFL history to score 15 touchdowns in five consecutive seasons, or that you could be on your way to breaking Paul Hornung's 45-year-old NFL single-season scoring record of 176 points. Forgive the boorish, brain-dead masses who worship at the T.O. trough, for they do not know that you nearly died at halftime in Arizona.

"I barfed. That's all."

They do not know that because of your exceptional mind you have begun to call your own plays.

"No, I did that once and we lost a yard."

Deeeeelightful.

What you are too modest to say is that in the exact same situation JIM BROWN HIMSELF WOULD HAVE LOST EXACTLY 29 YARDS. Oh, how you toy with me as if I were one of the thousands of linebackers you have offered nothing but air-kisses to on your way to the end zone, and ultimately, Canton. May I rub your gilded feet?

"Say what?"

And for daring to perfect your craft while inhabiting the Pacific Northwest, land of Largent and Zorn and Krieg, you have been denied exposure, popularity and, above all, a fair and decent living wage in the form of a long-term contract equal to what a supreme artist like Nicolas Cage made for his life-changing epic, "Captain Corelli's Mandolin."

"Yeah, I guess so."

Do you weep, Shaun, as I do for your lack of exposure?

"Not really. I'm cool with it."

I do too. I weep until my side cramps. And then I weep some more.

And so it is my hope -- no, my silent prayer written in calligraphy, rolled tightly into a bottle, secured with a cork, preferably, or a stick of Wrigley's chewing gum, and cast upon the whims and waters of the tide -- that by answering my final questions tonight, the world will be a better place for knowing and appreciating Shaun Alexander.

Tell me, would you please, what is your favorite word?

"Heaven. That's my daughter's name. And also because I'm guessing it doesn't rain there or smell like Starbucks."

What is your least favorite word?

"Franchised."

What turns you on?

"Playing the Cardinals and 49ers four times every year."

Shaun Alexander
AP
Maybe, finally, Alexander will receive the attention and accolades he deserves.

What turns you off?

"I guess that would be football after New Year's."

What sound do you love?

"Hearing people say the names of my linemen, since they get less pub and credit than I do."

What sound do you hate?

"I have a brother who was a drum major. Take a wild guess."

What is your favorite curse word?

"I have three. Quarterback sneak. Turf toe. Curtis Martin."

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?

"I've studied both marketing and advertising. Ironic, isn't it?"

What profession would you like not to participate in?

"Coaching. Andy Reid looks like he has a 6-3, 223-pound sports hernia."

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

"In your next life everything will be the same, only Seattle will be on the East Coast."

Marvelous. Ladies and gentlemen, before you tonight is genius. Pure genius. Simply incandescently scintillating. Bravo, Shaun Alexander. Bravo. The rest of the world may go on ignoring your work, but from this moment forward, in my mind and in the vastly inferior minds of everyone else here at "Inside the Actor's Studio," you will always be the Barbra Streisand of NFL running backs.

David Fleming is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. His book, "Noah's Rainbow," a father's emotional journey from the death of his son to the birth of his daughter, can be preordered through Baywood Publishing. Contact him at Dave.Fleming@espn3.com




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