Death indeed is a door through which all of us must pass.
Wednesday night, Ken Stabler walked through it. And many wept in such disparate places as Oakland, Calif.; Houston, Texas, New Orleans, La., Tuscaloosa, Ala., and throughout the entire Bama Nation.
Stabler, an NFL legend with roots in humble Foley, Ala., will be remembered as an enigma. He had trouble following the rules, but his own instincts and the friends who surrounded him helped Stabler stay on track.
During his NFL years, Stabler earned a lot of money. But he wasn’t rich, because he knew what money was for — to spend.
He partied ceaselessly, squandering big bucks lavishly on having a good time. But he also gave chunks of bucks to charity.
Alcohol was his enemy, but his soul was full of spirit.
He had his weaknesses. But they were outweighed by his strengths.
Stabler could walk into an auditorium filled with people to make a guest appearance, and he would look neither left nor right as he ambled down the center aisle, shake nary a hand coming in or going out. In between, on stage, he’d charm the socks off everybody there. And he never refused a request for an autograph — never took a dime for his signature.
Among those who knew him, few were ambivalent about Stabler. You either loved the guy, or you despised him. Count me among the former group. If Stabler was good enough for folks such as the late Paul “Bear” Bryant, the late Oail A. “Bum” Phillips, John Madden and Nick Saban, he was good enough for me.
One thing is for certain: The Snake was as colorful off the field as he was tenacious and competitive on it. Perhaps now, in the wake of his death, Stabler will be honored with entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That is, after all, where legends live.