When the Boston Celtics were on the road in the 1980s, opposing fans often taunted the players as they got off the team bus. "We're going to kick your rear!" the fans would say.
Most Celtics kept walking, but Larry Bird liked to stop, find the fan doing the talking and ask them: We're going to kick Larry Bird's rear? You personally are part of the team that is going to kick Larry Bird's rear? Or you're going to be sitting in the stands watching and hoping someone else does?
I thought of the Bird story when the fan who called himself the Carolina Prowler got hold of a microphone at Sunday's Bucs-Panthers game and informed Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp, "We guarantee we're going to kick your butt."
News flash to the Prowler, and the fans who mouthed off to Larry Bird, and the out-of-shape bellowing blowhards who never played a down of football in their lives who from the safety of the stands or couch in front of the TV tell professional athletes what we are going to do to them: Please. You aren't going to kick anything except maybe a half-filled cup you've forgotten at your feet when you get up for a bathroom break.
Yes, fans can be a 12th Man and help beat the opponent with deafening noise to disrupt plays and encourage the home team. But put the Carolina Prowler on the field to go against Sapp, Rice, or heck, bring 48-year-old Lee Roy Selmon out of retirement for one play to go against the Prowler, and whose rear is going to get kicked?
Fans, the next time you get the urge to start making promises about how We're Going To Kick Some Rear, remember: There is no I in We.
- John Strickhouser is a Times copy editor/designer.