So they tell me Bubba Smith is gone at 66, and again I'm reminded that even legend has an expiration date. And that the concept of mortality, when you're 13 years old, is not so easily accessible.
When I was 13 years old, and (except for my buddy Dave down the street) the world's biggest Baltimore Colts' fan, Bubba was a mythic figure, loftier than a high-rise, capable of taking on a Sherman tank hand-to-hand and fighting it to a draw. On the eve of Super Bowl III, our innocence still intact, Dave and I drew posters depicting what grisly indignities Bubba was going to visit upon poor Joe Namath. Joe, if memory serves, was roughly ant-sized; Bubba could have doubled for the USS Nimitz.
Twenty-four hours later, it was Namath who was the Colossus, and I had discovered that, contrary to popular belief, Life Is Not Fair. And now it's all these years later, and I'm amazed to discover that Bubba, while a robust 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, was far from being the Colossus of my memory. In today's NFL, there are outside linebackers as big.
And, of course, he wasn't immortal. And that, all these years later, I still refuse to believe.