- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 4, 2003

Bruce Smith, Dead Man Rushing, is wheezing to the finish line with a walker.

He is on pace to claim Reggie White’s sack record one of these decades, assuming no one else overtakes White by then.

Smith is down to four games and the hope that a quarterback trips over his shoelaces and falls in front of him. Charity does not always stop with the United Way in the NFL. There is the Brett Favre way.

Kerry Collins, the one-time Otis Campbell of the Panthers, is perhaps the best alternative, more so if he goes on a bender to block the wrath of the mourners at the Jimmy Hoffa Burial Grounds.

Smith’s pursuit of White has become the fingernails being dragged against the blank chalkboard of a season.

Putting your hand over your ears is advised, especially since Smith refuses to put his hand over his mouth.

In what easily was his best move of the season, Smith sprinted to the arms of the owner after the team’s collapse in Miami.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Smith said, many me-first words after the fact.

His loss complements all the other losses, loss of face among them.

Smith is hardly the Smith of old, just old, the fact revealed both on film and birth certificate.

He decided to “take a stand and be a little selfish” in October.

Being “a little selfish” is a little redundant with Smith. The ‘I’ in Smith is obvious enough.

Smith is the last of the owner’s Fantasy League holdovers from 2000. Give him that. Deion Sanders, the most celebrated fantasy of them all, has gone fishing on the owner’s dime.

Smith has evolved into a grumpy old man, as men past their prime often do. There is no Ann-Margret around to chase, just White, the minister and part-time social scientist.

The owner is believed to have a financial interest in Smith’s halting march.

Record-related merchandise is said to be ready to hit the marketplace, just in time for the shopping season, if timing matters at this point.

The joy has been squeezed from the undertaking, Smith’s joy as well as the team’s.

If the record changes ownership, relief is apt to be the first reaction of the masses, good riddance the second.

It could be left to Donovan McNabb to reprise the Favre way and fall down in Smith’s presence in the last game of the season. The record would merit an asterisk at that point, if not a commemorative black armband featuring the official logo of the team. It could be yours, just guessing, for $9.95.

There are undoubtedly more tedious activities than watching Smith totter to the ground.

Watching leaves blow across the bleak landscape is equally dull.

There is no shame in the aging process. The shame comes to those who refuse to calibrate the age-related shortcomings in the demand. You can’t fix two tired legs with plastic surgery.

Smith has come to have a black cloud over him this season, which is no easy achievement for one who played so well for so long. Fair or not, he has created the impression that his is a one-man mission, the team incidental to it, along with the beleaguered coach, Steve Spurrier.

Instead of enjoying the 16-game procession, in what amounts to an honorary Oscar, Smith is in the throes of a second childhood. Counting snaps on the field is his pacifier. He might have learned a thing or three about grace from a previous teammate, Darrell Green, who accepted his reinvention near the end of his playing career.

There is something about the sack that brings out the boor in men, if not the soft shoe.

Mark Gastineau used to make like one of the Rockettes after a sack, kicking his legs high into the air before succumbing to a series of body-altering spasms.

Coy Bacon, unwilling to deny his inner ham, always felt this overwhelming sense of exhilaration following a sack, down 30 points or not.

Smith, in being “a little selfish,” is dancing with fools, plus a historically incomplete picture.

The NFL did not acknowledge the sack until 1982, which means this so-called record comes with footnotes, good guesses and apologies.

In this context, Smith’s obsession is as small as he is.


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