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Sleep well, Gentle Giant
March 12, 2010 7:07 AM   Subscribe

Merlin Olsen, NFL legend and TV star (Little House on the Prairie; Father Murphy), has passed away at 69 from mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer. As I knew him more from TV than from football, to me he will always be the gentle giant.

From AP News:

Merlin Olsen, a Hall of Fame defensive lineman with the Los Angeles Rams who was a charter member of the team's famed Fearsome Foursome, then made a remarkably smooth transition into careers in broadcasting and acting, has died. He was 69.

[ ...]

Olsen played 15 seasons in the NFL from 1962 to 1976, all with the Rams. He was the league's most valuable player in 1974 and appeared 14 times in the Pro Bowl. After retiring as a player, he spent another 15 seasons in broadcast booths as an analyst for NBC and CBS and acted in such television shows as "Little House on the Prairie" and "Father Murphy."

With the Rams, Olsen helped popularize the star power of defensive linemen sacking the quarterback. The Fearsome Foursome of Olsen, David "Deacon" Jones, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy, a rare bright spot on mediocre teams from 1963 to 1966, used size, speed and skill to terrorize offenses.

"He was ferocious and fearless on the football field and then the other probably more important aspect of his personality was he was a true gentleman," said fellow Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood, his teammate with the Rams in Los Angeles. "We all know what a wonderful, tremendous football player he was, but he was so much more than that."
posted by bwg (29 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by eriko at 7:11 AM on March 12, 2010


"The gentle giant" is how I remember him too.

And it struck me, after my wife broke the news to me yesterday, that if someone told me they had some juicy, discreditable gossip about, say, Michael Landon, I would have been curious to hear it. But if was about Merlin Olsen, I would probably prefer not to know.

A high tribute, that.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:14 AM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


And he was a lousy butler.
posted by SansPoint at 7:16 AM on March 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


I knew him as the FTD spokesman....RIP.
posted by brent at 7:17 AM on March 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


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posted by AceRock at 7:20 AM on March 12, 2010


As I knew him more from TV than from football, to me he will always be the gentle giant

The standard D-line first move back in those days was a blow to the head of the offensive lineman in front of you.

But yes, it is remarkable that he deliberately cultivated an image of gentleness and restraint. Such a strange career.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:23 AM on March 12, 2010


As the father of a 4th grade boy who's not a natural athlete, I love knowing that Merlin Olsen's ninth grade coach advised him to drop sports altogether because of his awkwardness. That Fearsome Foursome was a group of characters, but in a good way. Rosey Grier with the knitting (and his takedown of Sirhan Sirhan at the RFK assasination), Deacon Jones the R&B singer and cameo actor, and the other guy.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:27 AM on March 12, 2010


The standard D-line first move back in those days was a blow to the head of the offensive lineman in front of you.

A move Deacon Jones is credited with, just to be clear.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:28 AM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


He sued his media employers, claiming that his asbestos exposure and resultant mesothelioma was due to his show business activities.

I am wondering whether, living in Utah, he grew up near an asbestos mine. Or if his dad was a pipe fitter, or something, and brought asbestos dust home on his clothes. Also schools he would have gone to may or may not have had a lot of poorly managed asbestos (soundproofing, pipe insulation, etc.).

Could have been soundproofing in broadcast booths and sound stages.

A horrible thing to die of, but also an interesting detective story to ponder.

the other guy.

Lamar Lundy, btw.
posted by Danf at 7:52 AM on March 12, 2010


Rosey Grier with the knitting (and his takedown of Sirhan Sirhan at the RFK assasination)

I never watched football, but I did see this at a triple feature one night at the drive-in when it came out.
posted by pracowity at 7:56 AM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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although for some reason I thought he died back in the late '80s.
posted by stormpooper at 8:16 AM on March 12, 2010


He had fourteen pro bowl appearances. 14! It was a different game back then when a defensive lineman could survive the game without injury for that long.

R.I.P. Merlin. To hell with FTD and Father Murphy, on the gridiron you were the epitome of a stud.
posted by Ber at 8:24 AM on March 12, 2010


I too am curious about where his asbestos exposure may have occurred.
Steve McQueen and Paul Gleason also died of mesothelioma...



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posted by supermedusa at 8:40 AM on March 12, 2010


RIP.

(Mesothelioma is a canonical example of a high value keyword for advertising: lawyers pay as much as $100 for targeted clicks. So kaching kaching, Metafilter.)
posted by Nelson at 8:42 AM on March 12, 2010


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posted by jquinby at 8:48 AM on March 12, 2010


I was saddened to learn of the passing of Merlin Olson. He was not just an NFL football player, but more of a role model of being a good person. We need more individuals of his caliber in today's society and these individuals who quietly go about setting good examples need to be brought to society's attention. He contributed much to the world.
posted by wildwade at 8:54 AM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I will always see him as Marty Balsam's bumbling, soup-ladling henchman from the MST3K classic Mitchell.

R.I.P. Merlin.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:17 AM on March 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Looks like somebody could use an FTD Tickler Bouquet.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:26 AM on March 12, 2010


oh no... certain of my family members are junkies for all things Little House. So sad to tell them this.
posted by kimdog at 9:27 AM on March 12, 2010


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posted by bove at 9:34 AM on March 12, 2010


(Mesothelioma is a canonical example of a high value keyword for advertising: lawyers pay as much as $100 for targeted clicks. So kaching kaching, Metafilter.)

No clicks for me. My knowledge comes from all the asbestos training that I have had. But, yeah. Lawyers love that word.
posted by Danf at 9:34 AM on March 12, 2010


:(

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posted by zarq at 9:55 AM on March 12, 2010


One of the ranches Landon used for filming Little House was near Simi Valley and the old Rocketdyne plant. Landon himself died of pancreatic cancer, and several members of the production crew also developed various types of cancers in the years after Little House shut down. The actor who played Doc Baker died of esophageal cancer, and Miss Beadle (the teacher) is a breast cancer survivor.Victor French died of lung cancer, but he was a heavy smoker.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:11 AM on March 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


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posted by nevercalm at 10:29 AM on March 12, 2010


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posted by jlkr at 1:13 PM on March 12, 2010


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posted by mikelieman at 2:17 PM on March 12, 2010


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posted by Smart Dalek at 3:17 PM on March 12, 2010


I knew him as the FTD spokesman....RIP.

As an FTD florist, whenever we had to call FTD headquarters, it was his soothing voice you heard as you navigated the phone system.

And, oddly enough, we had an FTD rep in the store yesterday (we just replaced our entire FTD computer system and upgraded) and I'm the one that broke the news to him.

We both figured maybe they needed to change the voice recording....
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:23 PM on March 12, 2010


Oh, and

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posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:23 PM on March 12, 2010


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