Sunday, December 6, 2009

When the Flea Wiped Out the Giant

When my 16-year old son was small, he was – for all intents and purposes – a flea. That kid could bounce from one side of the room to the other in a nanosecond – and he never stopped bouncing. A bundle of energy in a 2-year old’s body – he was the type of kid that could drive a mom to drinking.

We would go up to the local mall during the winter months, as it had an indoor playground – which was ideal to let a 2-year old flea burn off excess energy. There was a pet shop at the mall – and if the “flea” was on his best behavior – we would stop in to the pet shop and play with the puppies and kittens.

It was during one such visit to the pet shop that my son almost ended the career of one of the greatest Kansas City Chiefs players this town has ever seen.

The player? His name was Derrick Thomas – and he was a linebacker. A very good linebacker – good enough that he went to 9 Pro Bowls during his career.

Derrick happened to be in the same pet shop – being a huge Chiefs fan, I had recognized him right away…and little did he know that my beloved “flea” had just bounced – and landed – right behind him. Derrick backed up – and tripped – over my son. He didn’t just trip – he went down. Hard. On the ground.

Horrific visions flashed through my head of the horrible headlines that would ensue: “Worst Mother Ever Allows Incorrigible Son to Ruin Career of Greatest Football Player that Ever Lived in a Pet Shop” – or other such headlines. Along similar lines. I just knew that Mr. Thomas was probably hurt – broken his arm or something – and that he would be livid. After all – I saw how he played on the football field.

Luckily for me – and for my son – and for the fans of Kansas City – Mr. Thomas wasn’t hurt as he slowly picked himself up off the floor. I profusely apologized and he gave me a gentle smile, and said “That’s okay, ma’am. Boys will be boys. It’s okay.”

And so it was – our brush with fame.

Derrick Thomas was in a horrific car accident a few years later – in January 2000 – which resulted in being paralyzed from the chest down. He died from a blood clot about a month later – on February 8, 2000. This city mourned the loss of Mr. Thomas.

In January 2009, Derrick was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame – an honor well deserved. He was a gentle giant in real life – but a terror on the football field. Especially if you were a quarterback – he’d eat you for breakfast.

Today, Kansas City will be holding a ceremony in his honor during the football game today – they will be retiring his number 58 jersey. I proudly own 3 KC jerseys – Tony Gonzalez, Marcus Allen – and Derrick Thomas, of course.

I wrote about him today to just let people hear his story. He was a great man – and a great player. And also to remind people that life is short and can take a sudden turn at any minute – so enjoy the moments.



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