Monday, October 15, 2012

Benny Ricardo...I Hardly Knew Thee

I began following the Detroit Lions in 1980 at the age of eight.

That was the first year that I became aware of individual players aside from Roger Staubach and Lynn Dickey (the Packers were my parents' favorite team), or that there were teams in the NFL other than the Cowboys, Steelers or Packers.

As a kid growing up in mid-Michigan, where I was taught from an early age that "Channel 12 loves you," I was drawn to the prospect of a young and hip locally based team that was off to a surprising 4-0 start to the 1980 season.

And as an 8-year-old, a catchy rap version of Queen's Another One Bites the Dust that the team celebrated their victories to sure didn't hurt either.

Recorded by CB James "Spiderman" Allen, TE David Hill and CB Jimmy Hunter, the Detroit Lions rap version of Another One Bites the Dust was ahead of its time, coming out a full five years before the more popular Super Bowl Shuffle by "various artists" from the Chicago Bears.

The 1980 Lions also sported their vaunted "Silver Rush" defensive line, where Al "Bubba" Baker would still be the NFL record holder for single season sacks with 23, if only sacks were an official statistic in 1978.*

*Because apparently the NFL lacks the capability to go back and review old game film and retroactively record sacks as an official statistic....Fuck you Roger Goodell.

Throw in an electric rookie named Billy Sims, who went on to "karate kick" any defender who was foolish enough to get in his way to the end zone, and I was hooked....For better or for worse.

And in hindsight, it might have been "for worse."

Amazingly, since the time that I became a Lions fan, the team has only had two regular starting kickers. Eddie Murray, who took over for Benny Ricardo to start the 1980 season; and their incumbent kicker, Jason Hanson.

Oh, Benny Ricardo...I hardly knew thee.

Think about that for just a second...Over the past 32 years, the Detroit Lions have only had two fucking kickers! The only exceptions have been very brief injury fill-ins by Rich Karlis (in 1990), Remy Hamilton (in 2005) and Dave Rayner (in 2008 & 2010).

Since Jason Hanson took over the Lions full time kicking duties after inexplicably being drafted in the second round out of Washington State in 1992, he's gone on to set several NFL records including:
-Most field goals over 50 yards for a career;
-Most field goals over 50 yards for a season;
-Most games with one franchise;
-Most seasons with one franchise; and
-Most game winning field goals in overtime.
He's also the third all time NFL leading scorer, and with an 82.3% success rate, he's the 16th most accurate kicker in NFL history.

While his once powerful leg strengh on kickoffs has diminished now that he's reached the age of 42, Hanson still remains an integral part of the Lions team, having served as a team Captain since 2007.

Sure, the Lions could use a kicker with a stronger leg to take advantage of the new NFL rule where kickoffs are spotted at the 35-yard-line.

Sure, a strong legged kick-off man would be a precious commodity given the flaming bag of dog shit that the Lions special teams coverage units have been in 2012.

In fact, the Lions' special teams have been so bad that I can almost hear Toby Caston screaming in disgust from his grave, and I'm pretty sure that Stan Kwan keeps dropping off his resume at the team's facilities in Allen Park on a daily basis.

The Lions could go a different route and consider signing a punter who also has the ability to handle kickoffs...As it's not like the Lions menage a trois of punters over the past three seasons (Nick Harris, Ryan Donahue and Ben Graham) has done anything to make me hate soccer players any less.

Fucking soccer players...

However, what Jason Hanson lacks now in leg strength, he makes up for in dependability.

Case in point, this weekend when he kicked four field goals to help defeat the Eagles 26-23 for the Lions first road victory in Philadelphia since 1986. Ironically, Hanson was only 6 years away from taking over for Eddie Murray at that time.

Not only was Hanson kicking in a hostile environment this weekend, but the Fox broadcast booth of Darryl Johnson and Kenny Albert both noted how he had struggled with the swirling wind at Lincoln Financial Field in his pre-game warm-ups.

How did Hanson respond?

Not only did he make field goals from 46, 34, 19, and 45 yards in front of a hostile crowd, the last two of which with the added pressure of having the outcome of the game on the line, but all of his kicks were dead solid perfect.

Holy Jim Arnold sightings! Jason Hanson has been through a lot as a Lion over these last 22 years, and through no fault of his own...It's almost as if he's like one of the fans.

I know that Barry Sanders may be the most exciting player to watch in NFL history, but it's hard to argue that the skinny kicker that the Lions burned a 2nd Round draft pick on back in 1992 wasn't the best pick that the franchise ever made.

And after 22 record breaking seasons, he may even be the all-time face of the Lions franchise...For better or for worse.

And fuck you Mitch Albom...I stole your bit!