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Awesome Men Throughout History: Rosey Grier

Thanks to the Grand Prix screwing up Baltimore traffic patterns all weekend, I’m stuck in my apartment over Labor Day weekend with nothing better to do than celebrate my birthday and tumble out another Awesome Men Throughout History column. I realize that working on Labor Day could be seen as an insult to everyone who died in the Pullman Strike, but then again, moving the holiday from May to September to avoid stirring up more pro-union sentiment was already pretty insulting. I think I’m safe compared to that.

Rosey Grier

Besides, football season starts soon, and athletes are a natural choice for columns like these. The best ones are, to paraphrase David Foster Wallace, examples of physical genius who do with their bodies what the brightest of us do with their minds.

Too often, though, athletes become lost in their own success, not to mention a locker room culture where being an asshole is almost a virtue. That’s why men like Rosie Grier, the focus of this week’s column, are so important.

Grier’s man points are impossible to dispute. He was one of the best defensive linemen in the history of football, first on Penn State’s football team, then the New York Giants, who got an NFL Championship in 1956 and multiple Eastern Conference Championships with him aboard.

Grier moved to the Los Angeles Rams in 1963, and was a vital part of their “Fearsome Foursome” defense, which was to other teams’ offensive lines what the Vikings were to medieval Northumbria.

After his football career ended in 1967, he worked as a bodyguard for Robert Kennedy, and was one of  the men who subdued Kennedy’s assassin, Sirhan Sirhan (Grier had been unable to prevent the shooting, something he has always regretted, because he was guarding Robert’s wife Ethel at the time). Although Grier broke Sirhan’s arm, he didn’t allow a gathering mob to kill the man. “There was a guy angrily twisting the killer’s legs and other angry faces coming towards him, as though they were going to tear him to pieces,” Grier remembered. “I fought them off. I would not allow more violence.”

All told, there’s no argument that Grier was a man by any modern American definition of the term. What makes him an awesome man is his love of needlepoint and macrame, which he was public about during the 1970s, even writing a book about it. It would take some pretty heavy stones to admit that sort of hobby now, let alone during an era when, Peter Frampton’s kimono notwithstanding, machismo was taken very seriously. The fact that an athlete of his caliber would embrace such a stereotypically girly activity and not let anyone make him feel ashamed of it is worth acknowledging.

Granted, Grier was 6’5” and 280 pounds – if he wanted to put on a tutu and dance ballet, I really doubt anyone would have tried to stop him – but that almost makes what he did more effective. Anyone who comes out of that uber-jock football culture with his humility intact should be celebrated for it, and any man who disregards external pressures to follow his heart is the exact definition of an awesome man.

But just in case that’s too mushy for some of you, here’s a montage of Grier and the rest of the Fearsome Foursome beating the mortal dogshit out of people.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.

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