Curtis Martin Sets The New Bar For Hall Of Fame Induction Speeches
I had a father who I love him dearly and he's passed and gone on, but he was my guy before he died. But when I was 5 years old, I remember watching him torture my mother, I mean, literally. I don't necessarily have notes, so I'm going to bare my soul and just bear with me.
But I remember watching him torture you. He had my mother locked in the bathroom. Had her sitting on the edge of the tub, and he turned on all the hot water and stopped the tub up so that the hot water would eventually flow on her legs. He dared her to move. As the hot water flowed up and started going on her legs and going on her feet and she would flinch a little bit, he would rush into the bathroom, take her hair and burn it with a lighter.
He would come back out, watch her some more, she'd move again, and he would go in there with a cigarette and put cigarette burns all over her legs which she still bares to this day. I've seen him beat her up like she was a man. I've seen him throw her down the steps. I've witnessed this woman go to they got a bet on whether I'm going to cry or not. So I'm going to hold it in.
By the time Martin was five years old, his father had left home (which, given his mortally abusive tendencies, was probably a blessing), forcing Martin's mother to raise him by herself. Along the way, Rochella Dixon had help from her mom and her sister, but both eventually were swallowed up by the murderous violence of their neighborhood. The one constant in Curtis Martin's life was and still is his mother; he made that abundantly and, at times, tear-jerkingly clear during what amounted to practically a verbal Mother's Day card...
For me, crazy was kind of like what my dad was. So in my mind, as a 9-year-old, my mother told me the only thing that got her through that was I came up to her and grabbed her hand and said, "Mom, are you going crazy?" And she looked down at me and said, "No. Why do you ask me that?" And I just said, "Well, that's good because if you go crazy, nobody's going to be here to take care of me." I'm so grateful to my mother. That is the strongest individual that I've ever known, and I appreciate her so much.
Along those maternal lines, I learned that Martin feels his greatest accomplishment has nothing to do with yards, touchdowns, or carries. Forgiving those who've wronged us is one of the most difficult things to do; convincing others to forgive those who have wronged them can be damn near impossible. Through the scars of all the cigarette burns on his mother's legs and her bruises, mental and physical, from the years of abuse, Martin was able to guide his mother into forgiving, and eventually caring for, his late father....
At the end of the day, I've achieved a lot of things, and I've done a lot of wonderful things in life that I'm so grateful for. But I tell you my greatest achievement in my life was helping my mother and nurturing my mother from the bitter, angry, beaten, hurt person that she was, nurturing her to be a healthy to have a healthy mindset, and to forgive my father for everything that he did to her. That's my greatest accomplishment. By the time he died, she was cooking him food every day and taking it to him. And she is so happy right now, and I'm so grateful for her.
I learned that the on-field accomplishments and experiences that to me most defined Curtis Martin prior to Saturday night, ultimately are byproducts of what truly defined him -- a will to serve others, an insatiable work ethic, and a gratitude to those who helped him, and at times saved him along the way.
In the end, after the ceremonies were all over, I got to thinking about these Hall of Fame speeches. I pondered what makes for a compelling speech, and lamented why more speeches couldn't be like Curtis Martin's. But the fact of the matter is that some inductees (hell, most inductees) are just predisposed to delivering a mundane induction speech because they lack the life experiences, and more importantly, the uncanny ability to process and articulate those events like Curtis Martin.
Very few can speak from the heart like Martin did Saturday, with no notes, just a brain full of memories and a heart bearing numerous jagged psychological scars, scars that have galvanized Martin when they could have consumed him.
Ultimately, I came away from Saturday night wishing I'd known Curtis Martin's story while he was still playing, to the point that I truly regretted not rooting for him during his playing career. As a football fan, my outlook toward Curtis Martin was, strangely enough, a lot like Curtis Martin's outlook on the game of football itself in that I had never really been a Curtis Martin fan.
Oddly enough, my realization about my Curtis Martin fandom occurred the same weekend as Curtis Martin's realization about his football fandom...
Let me say this: This weekend, and I'll tell you this, and this is God's honest truth, I came up here. I had a chance to spend time with the older guys and the guys who have been inducted. I had a chance to listen to their experience. On Friday morning, we went and listened to Ralph Wilson speak. Just the passion that he had for this game, being one of the founders, one of the founding fathers of this game, there was something that rubbed off on me, and literally yesterday I felt like it was my first day as a fan of the game of football.
Literally, Saturday, I felt like it was my first day as a fan of Curtis Martin.
Pretty cool feeling.
And a damn good speech.
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