Remembering Tim Marcum
December 5th is a sad day for me every year, and this morning, Facebook once again reminded me of the passing of the great Tim Marcum. Today marks five years since the demise of the best coach in AFL history, and it only felt appropriate for me to come out of my retirement to heap some praise on what has inevitably become one of the forgotten heroes of the Arena Football League.
Inevitably, Marcum is up there with the Big Man looking down on us, drink in hand, cursing up a storm (no pun intended) at what has become of the league that he helped build, then dominated.
The fact that no team that Marcum ever coached in this great league exists anymore will certainly have him spitting obscenities, especially since 75% of the active league wasn't around during his lifetime. When the Tampa Bay Storm shuttered before the start of the 2018 season, it had to be a dagger to Marcum's heart.
I can hear Timmy now...
"It's only been five (expletive) years for crissakes! The hell have you dumbasses been doing down there since I've been gone?"
OK, so that's not exactly what I hear Marcum saying in my head, but this is a G-rated website, and I already crossed the line enough.
I digress. My desire to pen my first published article since retiring from the sports writing biz in January had nothing to do with the state of the sport of arena football and everything to do with remembering my favorite interviewee of all-time.
If you're a fan of the AFL and don't know Tim Marcum's name, here's a brief history lesson for you. He won 211 times as a head coach in this league, including seven championships. Easily the most on both accounts in AFL history. Inexplicably, Marcum only won Coach of the Year honors twice, but you could have justified him winning that award a dozen times.
If you've paid any attention to the NFL over the course of the last five seasons, you know the name Jay Gruden. The coach of the Washington Redskins would probably be wearing some suit at a corporate job right now if not for Marcum. Gruden quarterbacked the Storm to five championships under Marcum's guidance. That was the catalyst for getting Gruden head coaching jobs with the old Predators (and yes, it still hurts to say "old Predators"), the Florida Tuskers and now, the Redskins.
You also might have heard of Kurt Warner's name somewhere along the way. No, Marcum didn't coach Warner directly, but without Marcum doing everything he could to prop this league up when it was perhaps in the midst of death in the early-1990s, we never would have heard the story of the bag boy from Iowa turned Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Or Matt Nagy. An AFL backup quarterback (who eventually started in an ArenaBowl in 2007) turned offensive assistant in the NFL to now being the head coach of the Chicago Bears. Nagy never would have been discovered without Marcum plodding this league forward.
Even the big guy running the Hall of Fame, C. David Baker, never would have been in a position to get an executive job in football if not for his time as commissioner of the AFL.
But it was really Marcum's personally that made him stand out so much. He was the best interviewee ever, full of quotes that were profound, antagonistic, or just flat out funny as hell. He didn't give one single damn whether what he was saying was politically correct or not. If it was in his brain, it ended up being recorded by one of the members of the media. And 100 times out of 100, Marcum was right with what he said, even if it made you blush a little bit.
Marcum knew how to get the most out of everyone around him in any situation, whether it was in the locker room with his players, on the field working over a ref, at a press conference with the media, sitting behind the bar chastising the bartender about how weak his drink was, or sitting at a blackjack table trying to coax that six out of the dealer when he was dealt a 15.
We should all have the same passion for something the way Marcum loved this quirky 50-yard game of football. Though you'd never know it by watching his antics on the field, Marcum never took life too seriously. In the end, he knew that football was meant to be fun for one and all, and he truly embodied the whole spirit the AFL has since lost of being the "fan-friendliest league in the world." Now, the fans are secondary to profits and losses, as demonstrated by the fact that two teams with the best attendance figures in AFL history leaving the league in a span of two years when they both still had a legion of 10,000+ fans that would show up to the arena almost every night.
But I'm not bitter that there isn't arena football in Florida anymore...
I digress again.
Nobody ever served the AFL better, and nobody will ever do it better in the future than Tim Marcum.
Just as in WWE, Vince McMahon and the powers that be in wrestling figured out years ago that fans need characters to root for and characters to boo the hell out of. Marcum was the consummate heel, a man who you loved to hate.
Think Kurt Angle. Even though WWE has gone back and forth 12,000 times as to whether Angle is a heel or a face, the fans still chant "You suck!" when his entrance song fills the stadium.
That was Tim Marcum. The loveable antagonist.
It's sad that the flickering flames that are our candles in life all burn out at some point. Rare is the name that lives on forever, and Marcum's won't be an exception to that rule. But whenever it is that they give the final obituary for the AFL, the man who should be thanked first and foremost is the great Tim Marcum.
I can surely speak for all of us who knew Marcum when I say that he's sorely missed, and even if the AFL comes back and thrives in the future, it will never be quite the same because Timmy isn't a part of it.
Rest in peace, Coach.