Football lists usually leave me feeling a bit cringey.
I don’t like being asked to rank players of different eras because of our collective historical ignorance and quite frankly my own. Even if we take a look at statistics or happen upon film of the player, it’s hard to compare.
I don’t like being asked my opinion on these matters because slighting someone who deserves praise is inevitable. The Bears 100 list was an excruciating exercise for all involved. Watching the reveal of the list was difficult. As hard as Don Pierson and Dan Pompei tried to be measured and fair in their assessments, worthy players were left out.
Our own Alex Brown felt obliged to defend his life’s work. Watching him go through that, quite honestly felt icky. For the record, A.B. ranks in the top 5 all-time in Bears history in sacks. The fact that he isn’t on the list is a shame, but I digress.
As football continues to celebrate its 100-year anniversary, I’ve been intrigued at the way the NFL Network has devised their ranking system and put together their “All-Time Team” of 100.
Now comes the part in the column where you can ignore almost every bit that comes before this sentence: I’m really happy that Devin Hester is on this list. It literally made me smile that his inclusion on the team was without any real debate.
Hester came along in my third full year covering the Bears beat. He was this quiet, shy kid who let his play do the talking. Watching him that first year was mesmerizing. In the ‘06 season he had five return touchdowns (three punts, two on kickoffs).
The most famous, until the Super Bowl, was his role in the Monday Night comeback against Arizona. What we were all watching was impossible. It’s a game that will live on in not just Bears history, but NFL history because the team somehow overcame Rex Grossman’s six, yes SIX, turnovers to win a game.
It was a win that prompted one of the most famous post-game rants in 100 years of the NFL.
Hester’s return in the Arizona game and his return to kick off Super Bowl 41 are both iconic moments. What I remember most about Hester is a bit more abstract.
I imagine that any Bears fan of a certain age can relate, but when the steel drums of Soulja Boy’s: “Crank That” start, it was an event. Hester adopted that song as his kickoff theme and the energy that would overtake Soldier Field before each kickoff was intoxicating. It was a call to arms for the 61,500 fans packed into the stadium.
There was Hester in the end zone-unaffected, dancing, waiting for a chance to make a play. You had to take notice because there was the opportunity to see something special, something you’d never seen before.
On top of hating lists, I hate Hall of Fame debates, but allow me to contradict myself once more. Hester’s inclusion on the All-Time Team list will go a long way towards his induction into Canton.
He shouldn’t have to beg or wait for his gold jacket. Everyone knows what they saw and what they saw was the greatest returner in the history of this league. This list affirms that.
The Hall of Fame is a museum, right? Well, how can a football museum keep out the Basquiat of returns?
Oh and A.B. should be on that Bears top 100 list. If we’re keepin’ it 100.