June 19, 2008
I truly don't mean this with any disrespect, but in the mid-70s, Conrad Dobler was about the ugliest man, woman, or beast walking the planet. He made Cliff Harris look like Tom Brady. And it was fitting, because Dobler played an extremely ugly (yet effective) game.
His hair was long and greasy in an 'in-denial-about-going-bald' sort of way, he had narrow, beady eyes, big sideburns, and a mustache that was threatening to take over his entire face.
I struggled to classify Joe Namath's mustache as "handlebar" or "fu-manchu," but I have no such problem with Dobler. That thing doesn't get a classification. It's just hair that happened to grow on a guy's face in various lengths and directions, and to hell with you if you don't like it.
The Dobler mustache was an unruly work of perhaps accidental art that goes beyond our standard system of categorizing. It's like trying to assign a genre to Jimi Hendrix's famous version of the national anthem. You can't do it. And if you could, why would you want to?
Dobler can't be mentioned without mentioning two things: 1) He was the dirtiest player in the history of the NFL (he once bit a guy, very much on purpose), and 2) He's in really bad shape now, and truly one of the victims of the NFL's shameful policy regarding taking care of former players. A doctor once told him that he was "90% disabled," and the NFL's retirement board has turned him down for benefits 12 times.
These days, Dobler's just your average mean-looking old guy. He's not an ugly man (well, except for his knees), s that look he had in the '70s took some serious effort to cultivate. And the effort involved with the mustache was just the patience to let it blossom, and the discipline not to shave it off, no matter how much defensive linemen blood got caked up in it.
To this day, it remains the most valuable asset in the history of the Cardinals franchise.
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