- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
As classic matchups go, nothing the Philadelphia Eagles have faced on the playing field this season could surpass the diverting little encounter that took place in their training room at Veterans Stadium the other day. There, stretched out on one of the massage tables with the Eagles' wounded, was no less a specimen of celebrity beefcake than John Travolta, undergoing treatment for a sprained ankle he had suffered while filming a new movie in the city. And there, standing before the actor like the aspiring costars of David and Goliath Meet the Sweathog, were Jim Solano, a 5'5" player's agent sporting the requisite pinkie ring, and one of his clients, a 6'8" giant wearing nothing but a small towel and a very large smile.
Pointing at his towering companion like an attorney for the defense, Solano demanded of Travolta, "Can you identify this famous man?" Travolta obviously couldn't and, slipping into the play-it-dumb character of Vinnie Barbarino, he pleaded, "Hey, wow, c'mon, you guys, what is this? Some sort of a setup?"
No, merely a bet devised by the grinning giant—otherwise known as Harold Carmichael, wide receiver—to prove that his recognition level barely extends beyond Penn Square, much less to Hollywood and Vine. As it happened, Travolta fared no better when Eagle Coach Dick Vermeil passed by and, casting a suspicious eye at the No. 1 heartthrob of teeny-boppers everywhere, asked an aide, "Who's that strange man talking to Carmichael?"
If there is any moral to this quaint interlude in the life and violent times of Harold Carmichael, he says it is this: in the fame game, setting Eagle and NFL records, playing in three Pro Bowls and being the tallest and, at an estimated $220,000 a year plus $70,000 in bonuses, reportedly the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL, isn't enough.
Just as Travolta needs a showcase like Saturday Night Fever, Carmichael contends that "a receiver needs to play in the Super Bowl before people will sit up and take notice." He should know: though he has averaged 45 receptions and seven touchdowns a season for nearly a decade, though he has caught at least one pass in a record 126 straight games, and though he has scored more TDs than either Lynn Swann or Drew Pearson over the past six seasons, they are far more celebrated, he says, "because I've never played in a Super Bowl and they have. That's it. Once you do that, millions see you on TV and read about you. The Eagles in the past were just another struggling team. That's a big part of it."
The Eagles of the present, who are 11-3 this season and tied with Dallas for first place in the NFC East, are another matter. So is the local recognition factor. At least now when Carmichael moves around town he doesn't have to suffer the little slights his imposing presence used to invite.
Passerby: "Don't tell me. You're a pro basketball player. Dr. J of the 76ers, right?"
Carmichael: "No, I'm a jockey."
There was a time in his 10-year NFL career—one in which he has had five head coaches, 32 assistant coaches and six starting quarterbacks while catching 453 passes for 6,882 yards and 66 touchdowns—when Carmichael welcomed the anonymity, when the labels of "hotdog" and "butterfingers" so plagued him he was ready to flee town. "I was always trying to hide then," he says, "which is not easy when you're 6'8"."
But now there is no hiding. There is only Carmichael's guiding credo: "Play it one game at a time."