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No athletic supporter of modern players

(Rich Hofmann wrote a column for when Chuck Bednarik died. Here is an excerpt.) BEDNARIK. Even the name sounded tough.


Rich Hofmann wrote a column for when Chuck Bednarik died. Here is an excerpt


BEDNARIK. Even the name sounded tough.

I never saw Chuck Bednarik play, not a minute at either center or linebacker, which might be why I hold the images I have of him with such reverence - because I hold them in my head, not my hands, legends part based on truth and part the manufacture of my imagination. His death Saturday morning at the age of 89 was not a shock. The emotion that results is not sadness, not exactly. Mostly it is just a reminder of what was, and how it will never be that way anymore.

Sports have never been better, and that is pretty much a given. Yet we have forfeited something - the majesty of the mind's-eye, the occasional suspension of disbelief, some of the fun.

Like "Concrete Charlie." Has there ever been a better nickname?

The only time I interviewed him at any length, it was on the phone about 20 years ago, pre-Internet, pre-cellphone. It was at a time when the Dallas Cowboys' Deion Sanders was attempting to play both ways, at least a little bit. I called him a day or 2 after Sanders started to become news. After introducing myself, he said, "Philly, you're late - a guy from Dallas called me yesterday. Emmy, what was that guy's name?"

Thus began a rollicking half-hour that was a three-way conversation with two telephones - me, Chuck, and his beloved wife Emma on the side, filling in the details he couldn't remember.

Put it this way: Chuck possessed neither an appreciation for the modern athlete nor a filter. I might have been able to use half of what he said without getting him in trouble. At one point, he said, "Deion couldn't carry my jock!" Then he said, "They should put that in the headline." Seeing as how I worked for obliging people, they did just that, on the back page, in type so big that it had last been used for "Man Walks on the Moon," or maybe "Japan Surrenders." You know, big.

Put it this way: Chuck was pleased.