Posted by Erik Wemple
The Miami Dolphins’ Mercury Morris was a great running back. He played on the undefeated 1972 Dolphins squad. He racked up 5.14 yards per carry.
But his ascent to the ranks of the divine would have to wait decades beyond his retirement—until the Washington Post profiled him.
Saturday’s piece by Postie Les Carpenter kicked off in classic jock-sniffing fashion: “He always found comfort in the lonely fight.” This lonely fight consists of Morris’ attempt to get the National Football League to pony up for benefits that he feels are being unjustly denied to him. As the story points out, football left the 60-year-old “with a spine that had to be fused together with pieces of a dead man’s bone.” So Morris has become one of those icons of feature journalism—the kitchen-table barrister.
Carpenter would have done fine to detail Morris’ legal fight, the suffering he’s endured because of his spinal injuries, and so on. Instead, we get stuff like this:
- “Those who know him well say he might be the most intelligent person they know.”
- “Morris moves about the house with the energy of a man two-thirds his age…”
- “Morris talks fast, words spilling like roaring rapids, harder and softer, rising up and down in bursts that can last for 10 minutes or more.”
Hell, the Post even throws in the old Herschel Walker thing: “He rarely sleeps, burning off energy by working out for two hours at 10 o’clock every night.”
And then there’s this whole “impossible fight” thing. Carpenter recounts how Morris in the ’80s caught a 20-year prison term for cocaine trafficking. Morris and his lawyer fought the conviction and got it overturned. He eventually walked.
[T]o talk about his conviction without the full accompaniment of his life experiences is to strip him of his intelligence, the hours spent pursuing his benefits and everything else he has accomplished the last 20 years. He will not stand for this.
‘It’s simply not relevant,’ he said, icily.
Yet it is very relevant, for it proves he has won the impossible fight before. That he sat there alone, facing a system rigged against him, only this time he was able to prevail.
Yeah, right. The story here is not that Morris relishes the impossible fight. It’s that this guy doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot going on. His glory days are done, he doesn’t appear to have a day job, and, hey, why not hassle the greedy NFL if you’ve got nothing better to do? As the story makes clear, he had enough time to compose a very bad rap about why his Dolphins should be recognized as the best Super Bowl champions in history:
“When you finally see the light and the truth is a must
There’s not another team inside this perfect circle but us
Since we ran the table on ‘em it ain’t been the same
You wanna go undefeated you got to win every game
I know you wonder.”