Friday, August 24, 2012

In A Better Place, Steve Van Buren Is Running Someone Over

Power, Speed, Win
Van Buren was the first Eagle voted to the Hall of Fame, and no, I am not old enough to have seen him play. He's also dead today, of pneumonia, at age 91, otherwise known as an age that no current football player is likely to achieve.

How good was he? I think he could have played today, despite being a 6'-1" 200-pound power back. Van Buren was a generational break of power and speed, with 77 TDs in 8 years. When he left, he was the NFL's all-time leader in rushing; he quit after an injury that the docs of the team were not able to deal with. Besides, this was the time before real money, when the stars of your local football team were likely to be digging by the side of the road in the off-season.

For the Eagles, Van Buren was the reason why they won championships. As the do-everything back that could not be stopped, he set records, remains in the consensus top 10 of the franchise's history, and is no worse than the second-best RB in the franchise's 75+ year history. (I've gone through this before: it's him, Wilbert Montgomery and Brian Westbrook, and as much as I love Wilbert, he was fumble-prone.) So it's either him or BDub, and I'll take the latter just because I have to think the speed and difficulty of the game have gone up that much in the past 50+ years.

What I really liked about Van Buren was the utter old-school nature of him. When his records were broken, he didn't seem to care very much. When reporters would find him, he didn't bitch about the money that the young guys made, or how players in his age were better, or any of that nonsense. Instead, he just hung out, secure in his place and history, content to be the infrequently honored emeritus and choice of the cognoscenti.

We will not see his like again, in many ways. And if you believe in a higher plane, or reincarnation, or something beyond this mortal coil... I think Van Buren gets to spend his eternity deciding whether or not to run past or over some foolish defender, then doing both. Dude was just that good.

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