Former NFL star and delightful comedic giant, Charles "Bubba" Smith was found dead in his Los Angeles home yesterday, apparently from natural causes. Smith was 66-years old. Originally drafted by the Baltimore Colts with the first pick of the draft in 1967, Smith also played for the Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers. However, it was with the Colts in 1971 that the All-Pro and Pro-Bowl defensive end won his only Super Bowl title.
As a child of the late 80s and early 90s, I can't really pretend to be an expert on Smith's collegiate and professional football careers, other than what I've read in other news articles and on Wikipedia. Like most people my age (somewhere between 21 and 35) I remember Smith best from one thing - Police Academy. As Moses Hightower, Smith was one of the hilarious characters alongside Steve Guttenberg's Carey Mahoney, making a mockery of big city police and providing cheap jokes in a franchise that unfortunately began beating a dead horse when Guttenberg was replaced by Matt McCoy for Assignment: Miami Beach. But I digress.
Thanks to the merriment and convenience of YouTube, new generations have also been able to appreciate Smith's first foray into acting, in a series of hilarious Miller Lite commercials that featured other big sports names like John Madden and Billy Martin, as well as comedic legend Rodney Dangerfield. But if you ask me, Smith's acting career wasn't defined by Hightower, as much as it was created by the character. His true defining moment came on my favorite TV show of all-time, and you can see that clip, and a few others after the jump.
Watching this video, I can't help but laugh. But it's not because Smith is shamelessly shilling for some exercise video. After all, this is 1985. It's not like athletes pretending like Sketchers Shape-Ups are some kind of magical fat loss devices. Smith was just a big dude, and he looked like you could stick an ice cream cone on his head and he would just laugh.
A hilarious callback scene made funnier by the way the punk catches the ball and hits the wall.
Whereas most athletes are too proud - or arrogant - to play the fool, Smith was happy to. He was a comedian, while being both funny and endearing. Ultimately, he paved the way for larger athletic jokesters like Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal.
Harvey Shine Presents... was a short form TV series (think YouTube video before the Internet) that poked fun at Hollywood back in the early 90s. I don't know much about it, other than Clint Eastwood was involved, so that's good company for Smith.
Smith's turn as "Spare Tire" Dixon on Married With Children made for one of the greatest scenes in the show's - if not television - history. And I'm not typically one for hyperbole. That clip is 20 years old and it still makes me laugh hard. Smith was truly in a class of his own.