One of the advantages football has over the other sports, in terms of fan appeal, is that there are 53 guys on the roster, with another 8 on the Practice Squad, and 19 others who trot into town for Training Camp and trot right out again when they are cut. Eighty guys with bones that you can gnaw on, versus say baseball, which has only 25 with another 15 that can be either on the DL or in the minors. Hockey has 22 and basketball is a joke with only 15. Plus a lot of guys who play football are perilously close to being clinical psychos, making them much more fascinating to follow.
Looking over our roster, I’m focusing the bleary old ogler on identifying which member of the team is probably the closest to sprouting hair on the back of his hand on any given night there’s a full moon. In the past, we’ve had your Hacksaw Reynolds type maniac, and we’ve had the Charles Haley severely strange model, and of course the Bill Romanowski steroidal rage wall banger. The 49ers will never be able to compare to the 70’s Raiders lunatic asylum, which probably will never again be equaled by any franchise, even the Bengals. But let’s give it a go with our current crew of fine upstanding warriors. Is there a loose nut in the building?
Alex Boone certainly roared in from the college scene with all the ingredients necessary to become a full fledged hide-the-women-and-children type of guy. But he seems to have been tamed by the love whip of our HC. Pity. Vernon Davis also had the equipment to take a walk on the dark side, but he also has been channeled into the straight and narrow.
I always thought Isaac Sopoagna could have really been a stone age gorilla, a true rabid mauler, but the flame never jumped the fire line in his character any more than it did on the playing field. A two time semi-bustola in the I coulda been a monsta department. Maybe it’s a Samoan thing. Too mild to be wild.
Oline guys have the size to be threatening, but they rarely are. About the best you get from this cerebral section is the occasional leg biter or thumb-in-the-eye gouger, like Harvey Dahl or the infamous Conrad Dobler. This behavior is more sneaky and dirty than crazy.
Wide receivers and cornerbacks can certainly be egomaniacs and dysfunctional compadres, but they also do not tend to be frayed at the cranial edges. Their skills are more balletic than ballistic.
So, the fellow we’re looking for is going to be a linebacker or a defensive lineman. The violence positions. All three of our hall of fame coo coos listed above were linebackers, although Haley was technically referred to as an elephant, a hybrid linebacker/defensive end. And linebackers throughout NFL history have provided most of the outstanding loose wires we have come to know and love. Jack Ham, Sam Huff, Dick Butkus, one might even toss our current HC, Mike Singletary, into the mix for madman eyes alone. I’m sure readers have their own favorites to nominate for inclusion here. The good old days, before the money got obscenely lucrative, provide a wealth of borderline Blutos to choose from.
The 49ers, though, were lulled into gentlemanly brutality by Bryant Young. This mild mannered warrior was THEE team leader and set the tone for the defense for thirteen years. Sopoagna idolized him, and perhaps that’s what diluted Soap’s inner wacko during his formative years. It would take an import from another civilization to restore a sense of wild thing to the defense.
And that guy is Justin Smith. Our selection as the 49ers reigning edgy dude. I’m not saying he’s a hall of fame drooler, or even close to that, but he’s the best we’ve got. For now.