- David Fleming, ESPN The Magazine
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It's been over a week now and just like the rest of us, Bucs corner Brian Kelly still can't, uh, shake the image from his mind. Before entering the Falcons game in Week 3 as a goal-line tight end for the Bucs, pear-shaped defensive tackle Warren Sapp ran over to his buddies on defense and told them to watch for something "hot" if he managed to get his hands on the ball in the end zone -- which is like a moon landing for the faceless behemoths who normally toil in the trenches.
So Kelly and his teammates climbed up on the Bucs bench and had a look. Big mistake. Sapp's touchdown dance was supposed to be an homage to Beyonce who, apparently, has put on a few hundred pounds and started working a jackhammer. It looked like a 300-pound temper tantrum.
"I looked up and all I saw was a giant butt bouncing in the air," says Kelly. "That jiggle man, I just can't get it out of my head. These big guys, they just don't touch the football very often-and it shows."
But oh what a show. In today's buttoned-down, No Fun League, is there anything better than watching Fat Guys with the Football?
It's unexpected. It's unorthodox. And in a sport that is becoming more of a business and less of a game every day, it's a rare moment of pure, unfiltered, jump-off-the-couch-pick-up-the-dog-and-pretend-you're-running-along-with-the-fat-guy-on-the-screen joy. It's football's answer to a hole in one or a grand slam.
If you love irony as I do -- like pop up computer ads for services that get rid of pop up computer ads -- then the best part of FGWTF is watching players who spend most of their careers scraping, clawing and eye-gouging each other over inches of real estate, trying to run in the clear for 50 yards. It's (quite literally) gasp-for-air funny.
"It's a dream, because every defensive lineman wants to be a running back or wide receiver and have their names yelled out on ESPN," says Carolina defensive end Al Wallace who returned a pick 53 yards against the Bucs in Week 2. "When we get our hands on the ball, the weird stride, the lumbering run, dancing like a crazy person at the end and then running straight for the oxygen tank, it's pure comedy. Big guys with the football? What's better entertainment than that?"
Nothing. And we all have our favs. In Chicago it was Keith Traylor chugging down the sidelines, looking like he was a marathon runner waiting for someone on the bench to hand him a Fribble, before trying to lateral the rock to Ted Washington. Didn't the Seahawks' giant DT Cortez Kennedy actually hurdle someone while running back a Ryan Leaf interception? How many times have you read 'DT' and 'hurdle someone' in the same sentence? Sapp, who has joked about renegotiating his stalled contract talks as a tight end (which he played in high school), is worried after a lifetime spent haunting quarterbacks that his touchdown catch is what they'll show on his kiosk in Canton.
There's a good chance he's right. The ultimate FGWTF, William Perry, only touched the ball a handful of times -- remember how it looked like a bite-sized Snickers in his giant paws? -- and The Fridge has been living off those plays for the last 18 years. Why? Because nothing reminds us more of our own school-yard football games of 'Kill the Guy with the Ball' than watching FGWTF.
Like in Buffalo, where earthquake scientists are still picking up after-shock tremors from Week 1 when 330-pound defensive tackle Sam Adams picked off Tom Brady and, moving slower than campaign finance reform, huffed the ball 37 yards for a touchdown. If you watch the replay closely, at one point you can actually see Adams getting passed by a glacier.
"Give him some credit, Big Sam made it all the way to the end zone," says Panther defensive tackle Brentson Buckner. "It took him a day and a half, but he got there."
Buckner, wearing a vintage Mean Joe Greene jersey and a diamond-studded belt buckle that reads: CHOSEN, ran one back 46 yards when he was with Pittsburgh. And on Sunday, after beating the Falcons to go 3-0, he seemed to get winded just talking about it. After all, most defensive lineman hate quarterbacks who take seven-step drops instead of five because of the extra two steps they have to travel.
"First you peak over your shoulder because this is the one time offensive linemen get a chance to fire away on you," says Buck. "Then you think, 'My god is the end zone ever gonna get here?' Then it's 'Don't get caught, don't get caught, the guys will kill me in the film room on Monday if I get caught.'"
That's what Wallace, who at 275 pounds is just barely eligible to be a FGWTF, had to face after being dragged down at the 7 by the Bucs Michael Pittman. Against Tampa Bay, Wallace ran an inside stunt during a tight end screen and when Brad Johnson didn't see him Wallace snatched the ball out of the air with one hand.
I'll let him take it from there ...
"First, it was shock. I had to yell at myself, 'RUN STUPID.' I had to push Buck outta the way, then I took off running like a wild man. I played wide receiver in high school but it's been 10 years since I ran with the ball. So now I'm going ... I'm going and going and I'm thinking, 'Hey, I might make it.' But I knew I had a limited tank of gas. I was like a racecar on the last lap running out of gas one turn from the checkered flag. I see Pittman coming up like a bolt of lightning. I try to stiff-arm him but he gets me."
How far did you get? I ask.
"53 yards," he says. "But it felt more like 53 miles."
In today's NFL, is there anything better than watching Fat Guys with the Football? Don't think so.