There’s the Rest of Us, Then There’s Joe Thomas

When I was 12, I wanted to play organized football but mom said no.

Biggest mistake she could’ve made.

If she had really wanted me not to play, she should’ve signed me up for a team that day.  She should’ve driven me to my first double-session-practice herself.  At that time of my life, I was a wimp.  A total puss.  A skinny, weak, lazy pre-teen who had no idea how much work it takes to play real tackle football.  How much sweat and barf and lactic acid is required to even make the team.  Or what it feels like to get hit with full pads at full speed by kids twice my size.

I would have quit in a week just like I did soccer.  And guitar.  And the scouts.

But by refusing to let me play, my mother allowed me to entertain the fantasy that my soft hands could have made me the next Ozzie Newsome or Reggie Rucker if only I’d been allowed to play by my cruel mommy.  A fantasy I rode all the way through high school and into adulthood.

Then there’s Joe Thomas.

Football was invented for guys like Joe Thomas – a 6’ 6”, 312 pound Cleveland Browns offensive beast who never missed a game, a play series, or even a snap from his first start in the NFL in 2007 up until yesterday.  He’s football’s Cal Ripken Jr. if ol’ Cal had been popping and tackling runners instead of just throwing them out.

10,363 consecutive snaps.

If you’re not big on football, it’s an incredible feat.  No other player in the history of the game has even come close to matching it. For the last ten and a half years, every single time the Brown’s quarterback said ‘Hut’ Joe Thomas was playing in the game.  Hitting, getting hit, staying healthy the whole time.  In a sport filled with injury time-outs and career ending hits, this iron man was bulletproof for 166 games in a row.

Then yesterday against the Titans, consecutive game #167, that all ended. (Link to Story)

It happened on the type of play he says he’s made a million times before, where he gives the guy he’s blocking an extra little push to keep him out of the play.  Something just snapped in his triceps and the invincible Goliath finally went down.

Afterwards Joe said, “It’s a violent game and those types of streaks are going to come to an end.  It was not an infinity streak.”

He’s correct.  Tackle football is a violent game, which is why my mother didn’t want me to play it in the first place.  Like many loving, intelligent parents, she looked at her son’s slight stature, considered his bright future, and decided it might go easier for him with working knees and an undamaged brain.  And this was in 1977, before all the injury studies were done on players who started getting tackled too young. (Link to Article)

And seven whole years before Joe Thomas was even born.

Sure, you could argue that the Browns have sucked ever since he was drafted.  With him in the game, the team’s lost 119 times out of 167 for just 48 total wins in ten and a half brutal seasons.  That’s about 4 ½ wins a year, sports fans, and if you’re not a Cleveland fan you have to wonder how a player that good couldn’t help the team find just a few more wins.  Of course, if you ARE a Cleveland fan, you know that having 21 different starting quarterbacks in that same amount of time is probably a bigger factor than the guy who made the pro bowl every single season he’s been in the NFL.

Most probably.

When a guy like me watches a guy like Joe Thomas play football, it forces me to see the truth about myself.  My mother was right, organized tackle football was not for me.  Turns out suburb-street three-on-three tag football was actually more my sport, where my soft hands made me the next Ozzie Newsome and Reggie Rucker between the parked cars and sewer caps of my neighborhood.

For thousands and thousands of consecutive snaps, I might add.

  • Mike Lukas


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