Didn't see a FanPost with this, so I guess I'll be the one to kick it off.
I DVR'd this last night and got around to watching it (it kept me up until 1, but it was worth it) and I could not have been more happier, sadder, full of joy, sorrow and a plethora of other emotions.
To those that don't know and to those that do, Barry Sanders was my sole inspiration for becoming a Lions fan. I was born in '87 (25 years old now for those that don't like math), Barry retired in 99, so I was fortunate to be able to watch him from ages 8-12.
That was all it took. I was captivated, mesmerized, awestruck. Words were futile in describing his movements, anything short of "extraordinary" was an understatement. Sanders was exemplary, a shining beacon of what an NFL caliber running back could be, a beacon of poise, strength and athletic prowess.
I was really looking forward to "A Football Life", to see how it played out. To see what he said, what others said, because while I was old enough to remember, there's a feeling you get when you know something but hearing others reiterate it make it all that more special.
I was not disappointed in the slightest. It was AMAZING. For those that haven't seen it, see it, it will bring a tear to your eye. I know it did to mine. The film did not provide adequate justice to him, though it was 13 years ago so I can surmise as to that being the reason. Every person (rightfully so) gave Barry glowing praise, astonishing praise. Team mates, coaches, opposing players - no one had a bad thing to say. He wasn't ruthless, he wasn't a jackass (looking at you Tidus), he didn't have off field issues. He was it, THE man, THE reason fans filled the silverdome, the reasons fans still cheer the loudest when he walks across Ford Field for an appearance.
One of the things that really resonated with me was what his team mate, Kevin Glover said of Barry when he would score.
"He would walk up, and toss or hand the ball to the ref. I don't know how he knew it, but he always knew where the ref was located. He did that every time, it was nothing to him. Like he's been there before"
If that doesn't encapsulate humility, I don't know what does. Throughout this program I was smiling and grinning only because I was fortunate to see some of his majestic runs, in fact, I was at the very last game of his career (Baltimore Ravens).
While it was an amazing insight on Barry, and his highlight years, this program also filled me with sadness. How such a young bright man with an amazing future only to be extinguished due to poor performance of his team. It made me sad that he was less than 1500 yards from Peyton, and that alone was not enough to keep him going.
Another quote I remember that relates to this "When you look at the best running backs of all time, and now ya you see Emmit Smith up there, and Peyton second and Barry third. Well, when you see Emmit's name up there, there should be a little ^ next to it, because, well, Barry didn't want it. Emmit knows if he he kept playing, he would have got it. I know it, the NFL knows it, and Emmit knows it."
To transition to today for a quick moment, this is what I fear for our current star, CJ. I don't think he has enough time to be fully jaded by a culture of losing, but it is a legitimate fear. No one though Barry would leave us, it was inconceivable. He was our star, our driving force, and he left. It created a void in our hearts, our spirits. I still watched the Lions after that but it was never the same, until we got CJ / Stafford (moreso CJ, but ya). they have given new life to our organization, a reason to believe. I am fearful that this culture of losing will not fully shake and that some players will let it get to them over time. I hope it doesn't happen, but this special on Barry really hit home on how honestly, while the personnel may have changed - important games we need to win have not.
I don't know what to call this, a rant maybe? Perhaps a dissection, I'm not sure. I just wanted to write about this episode of A Football Life because it really touched me, and I wanted to share that with you all.
I know this year is pretty much a wash, here's to looking up to bigger and brighter things. While Barry may have left the field of play, he hasn't left our hearts.