The Night I Freaked Out Alex Karras

September 11th, 2006

The year was 1976 and I showed up early to Metropolitan Stadium to cover a Vikings-Steelers Monday Night affair. I had been there since half noon, sitting in the dugout, drinking with head grounds keeper Charlie Jean. I generally liked drinking with Charlie, but I had befriended him as I had bellied up with grounds keepers all across the country for one simple reason: to get a sense of the life of the field on that particular game day. It was an old gambling trick, and if your an old sportswriter like me, you have the means to find out if the field is breathing fire or not. Groundskeepers are a bookies worst nightmare. Charlie Jean was one of my favorite grounds keepers and he had the Wild Turkey at the ready all the time. Around four I had to leave Charlie to his duties and I started wandering around the Met. I headed into the press box to take a nap. Sitting alone in the press box was former Detroit Lion, supposed actor and Monday Night Football announcer Alex Karras, thinking about what not to say that night during the telecast.

Karras was wearing an oversized suede jacket with white fur trim along with some sort of large brimmed western cap. I remember walking into the room and saying,

“Howdy, pard’ner.” Karras froze, shooting me a nonplussed look.

He turned back and kinda half smiled at me and gave me every indication he was going to say something. I shuffled toward him making my hands into a pair of fake guns waiting at my hip to be drawn. I kept walking; he kept turning his head to the right, while keeping his eyes on me. I made it all the way to him without him saying a word and I was as confused as he was. I think he might have been looking over my shoulder for security or something as his fake half smile turned into a wooden kimono. I drew my guns with a fifth of Wild Turkey in my hand, and pointed it right at his mouth. He finally spoke, albeit two words.

He said “What . . . um?”

I said, “Hey Karras, are you going to sit there like a leaded horse on the backstretch or are you going to grab this Wild Turkey by the neck and ring it?”

“Who are you?”

“Forgive me, I’m a little crocked, but something has been bugging me.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m the freaking Martian Scoop Miller and if you don’t listen to me right now I see a very bleak future for you.”

I had his attention and I held it by taking a sip of Wild Turkey than passing it to him. We each took a few big tugs. He was looking at me strange; contemplating the odds of me being a Martian. He kept looking into my eyes, searching for clues to something he would never know, but should, but couldn’t. I raised the bottle of Wild Turkey into the air and poured some into my mouth. Turkey splattered on my chin but mostly in my mouth. I looked at him with an anticipatory look on my face, as if he were talking to me with his thoughts. I think he might have uttered another "what . . . um."

“Alex Karras, this is the Martian Scoop Miller sent here from Mars to tell you that if you don’t start talking during the Monday Night Football telecasts, you will lose your job. Period. Done. Finished. Empty Bottle. What? Empty Bottle Karras, would you look at that?”

I softly set the empty bottle on the press table next to the ex-linebacker. The bottle was swaying, trying to keep its balance but eventually fell over. Karras appeared a little freaked out so I walked up to him, put my hand on his shoulder, and pointed at a little red dot in the sky.

“See that, Karras, that’s Mars.”

I left the room.

I waited a minute and peeked back in and Karras was staring at Mars. He didn’t speak very much that night and for the rest of the season. The next season Karras was replaced by card Dandy Don Meredith.

This story came to mind as I watched aged Dallas Cowboy Drew Bledsoe stink up the joint in Jacksonville on Sunday. Young whippersnapper Tony Romo is waiting in the wings and if Bledsoe doesn't look to Mars for inspiration and start talking, he's going to be out of a job. Sue me.

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