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Friday, January 26, 2001
Updated: September 13, 6:27 PM ET

Jim Brown's in town


By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

TAMPA, Fla. -- At first light, Jim Brown's plane landed in Central Florida.

Jim Brown
Jim Brown averaged a whopping 5.2 yards per carry in his NFL career.
You all know Jim, the John Henry of football players, the Man's Man, the running back who played for Artie Modell the last time the Cleveland Browns nee Baltimore Ravens won the NFL title, back in the early '60s, 1964-65. Jim Brown, who could change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, who never ran out of bounds and ended up with a yards per carry average of 5.2 yards in nine NFL seasons.

And the wisest NFL defenders of back in the day knew they'd been lucky to hold him to 5.2 yards a shot.

His average would've been much higher if he hadn't scored so many one- and two-yard touchdowns.

Jim Brown is coming to town. Vroom, Brown, Vroom-Vroom, Brown. People coming from miles around. Vroom, Brown, Vroom-Vroom, Brown. Get you tickets so you can see him coming soon to the Coliseum.

That's a little rhyme we used to sing when we were boys who decided to play football because that was the game Jim Brown played and everybody in their secret heart of hearts wanted to be as good as Jim Brown.

Only nobody was. Best that ever was. Best that ever will be. Can't say that very often. About anybody.

But you can still say that about Jim Brown. Barry Sanders' daddy always said it.

Told him, "Barry, you're good. You're as good as I ever seen play. And you're my own flesh-and-blood ... but you ain't no Jim Brown."

The great Paul Warfield was once one hell of a halfback at Ohio State. He was moved to wide receiver with the Browns, and became one of the greatest wide receivers the game has ever known. Why? Jim Brown.

It took the late, great Walter Payton some six extra seasons to break Brown's all-time rushing record.

It took bona fide Emmitt Smith and marvelous Marcus Allen playing two extra games (16, as opposed to 14 or 12 games per season) for a combined seven more seasons to score more rushing TDs than Jim Brown.

But nobody's touching 5.2 yards per carry over nine years. Not Marshall Faulk. Not even ESPN.com's Page 2 Wrecking Crew. Five-point-two per.That's like DiMag's 56-game hitting streak conducted while the pitchers and infielders and catchers were all in pads and taking kill shots at him.

Frankly, this Super Bowl XXXV is in great need of Viagra. Or Jim Brown. Imagine if Jim Brown, the best player in the history of football, was playing today, and was a running back for the New York Giants, and he was about to square off against the Baltimore Ravens and the ferocious linebacker Ray Lewis, who, it is said, is currently the best player in football. Would that bump up the number of this Super Bowl, or what?

One thing about it: I know Jim Brown, and Eddie George, good as you are, you ain't no Jim Brown.

Jim Brown
Television captured the power and grace of Jim Brown.
Jim Brown was in town to give a talk to the Baltimore Ravens today, in hopes of perhaps inspiring them to greater heights against the New York Giants on Sunday. He may have special words for Jonathan Ogden, the mammoth offensive tackle of the Ravens, and Jamal Lewis, the Ravens' rookie running back, who is built along the lines of Jim Brown, only he is not quite as nimble, not quite as strong, not quite as magical with the rock as Jim was. But then, that just makes Jamal Lewis human, like the rest of the football players.

Still, Jamal Lewis running behind Jonathan Ogden equals about half of Jim Brown.

That might just be enough to get the job done on Sunday.

Accompanying Jim Brown on his Tampa rounds is filmmaker Spike Lee.

Spike is shooting a full-length feature documentary about Jim Brown for HBO.

Jim Brown's life after football would be enough to fill up one documentary, and his life in football would be enough for another one. One doc for up until Jim turned 30, one doc for afterward. Two docs in one.

No need in naming all the particulars here; Jim at Syracuse, Jim in the Cotton Bowl, Jim vs. Sam Huff, Jim as God, Jim in "The Dirty Dozen," Jim in "100 Rifles" with Raquel Welch, Jim in blaxploitation movies, Jim liking PYTs, pretty young things, Jim saying if he wants a peach, he wants a peach when it's ripe, Jim quieting the Crips and Bloods, Jim, an Amer-I-Can if ever there was one, Jim, the steel-driving man ...

Spike might be able to get something out of it. There might be something there.

Vroom, Brown, Vroom-Vroom, Brown ...

Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."