The Fire of London took place on September 2nd, 1666 and lasted until September 5th of the same year. This fire totally destroyed the city within the ancient roman walls, but luckily didn't go much further. It was started by the Muffin Man. The Muffin Man? Yeah. The Muffin Man who lives on "Pudding"? Lane. Do you know the Muffin Man? His name was Thomas Farriner, and he was actually a baker. The fire broke out at his shop just after midnight on that September night. Over 70,000 homes, 80 churches, and one Cathedral were destroyed in the wake of this fire. Some by the fire it's self and others by the demolition of buildings for firebreaks that they used in those days to combat huge fires. Winds that evening forged the fire into a great firestorm that was almost unstoppable. Out of fear, the locals promptly lynched nearby immigrants. Really. They did. The use of gunpowder to blow up buildings in order to create fire breaks, and the dying winds, helped to contain the fire and allow it to be beaten. Had there been no garrison in the Tower of London that night, or had the winds continued to rage, it's likely all of London would have been destroyed. The main difference though was one man. Charles II. The Mayor of London was useless at best and it was Charles II's taking over the fire fighting efforts that eventually helped to defeat this conflagration. The difference of one man.
How much difference can one person make when they come from a town that has around 4,000 people though? Maybe a lot. But what if that town is in Ohio during the Great Depression? We're talking about London, Ohio which is the seat of Madison County and we're talking about a different sort of fire. It was founded in 1810 by Patrick McLene and no one is proof positive why they named it London. Could have been because a lot of the residents were from Great Britian, or it could have been due to the London Company which surveyed the land at the time. Not that it matters why, but I'm purposely exposing you football fans to inconsequential history in order to hurt your heads. Yes, I'm the devil. Let's continue... Especially if you're out of tylenol or whatever headache remedy you prefer. London wasn't exactly the most popular town to live in at that time and only had around 300 people by 1840. They only had a single newspaper office in 1846. But by the late 1800's, early 1900's it's population was around 4,000 people and they were a center for livestock auctions. PAY ATTENTION! I will have a single question pop quiz at the end of this article, and those whom fail will be made to become Bengals fans. I can do it too; I'm very heavily connected. I truely love being me. So... One day two Ohio people had sexual relations late one winter. I add that in order to increase the sweating and nausea you're currently feeling with that mental picture of to Ohioans having intercourse. Why? Hello... I'm the devil. As a result, this Ohio coupling created a single individual that was born on September 9th, 1937. A bouncing baby boy.
As with most Great Lakes regions, This boy went on to play football from about the time he could walk. He had a very good college level performance and stellar NFL career. He was drafted by the Browns in the fifth round of the 1959 draft, and he was quickly cut because Cleveland isn't exactly a smart team. So as a Rookie Free Agent he was signed by the Detroit Lions for whom he played 14 amazing seasons. He played 171 consecutive games once, and even had a career high 62 interceptions as a Cornerback. In the late 1960's he was selected to the Pro Bowl 3 years in a row. Immediately upon retirement he was hired as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and stayed with them through 1975. He then was an assistant for the Green Bay Packers for the next 4 years. After that he was with Cincinatti until 1992. During that time he helped the team win two Super Bowl appearances and several division titles. It's also where he dreamed up the Fire Zone Defense that he brought with him in 1992 when he became the Steelers' Defensive Coordinator. Cincinatti however, never recovered from his loss. We're of course talking about Dick LeBeau. You probably already knew that, but as I told you, I am intent on hurting your brains with inane history lessons. Hope you've been paying attention... Pop quiz at the end you know... This fire, though, was one he started for the greater good of our most American sport.
Dick LeBeau's Fire Zone Defense, or Zone Defense as it's also called, helped create the name our fans often call it out of love, Blitzburgh. While usually a 3-4 setup, this defense uses many altering formations that help to confuse and disorient the quarterback and offensive lines of our opponents. It may even be a better overall defense than the original Steel Curtain from Noll's day. I suppose that's debatable, but it's without a doubt an effective defense. Year after year, Pittsburgh's defenses are consistantly stingy in the rushing and passing yards they allow. There's no doubt in my mind that were our offense to be just as effective, our beloved Steelers would be another Super Bowl Dynasty as it once was. Coach LeBeau dreamed this defense up on an airplane one day within just a few hours of flight time. Alone that would have been amazing, but consider that this same defense is used by most High Schools and a few colleges today and you quickly begin to see the impact it has had on the game. Some NFL teams have incorporated bits of it into their own defenses with good results, even though most of them were 4-3 setups. LeBeau will be guaranteed a spot in the Hall of Fame when his time comes. He should probably have already been there just based on his play with the Lions. But, I have little contention that he'll be passed over for that illustrious induction when he leaves coaching finally.
In 1997, Dick LeBeau left the Steelers to become the Defensive Coordinator and eventual Head Coach of the Cincinatti Bengals where he stayed on for 5 seasons before returning once again to Pittsburgh in 2004 to resume his rightful place as the team's Defensive Coordinator. I know he wasn't very successful as a Head Coach and all, but I'm still a bit shocked that he wasn't even considered for the Head Coaching position after Cowher retired, at least to my knowledge. And it was the Bengals he coached for afterall, what did they want from him? In the end I'm just glad Tomlin was smart enough to keep the defense as it was and keep Dick too. I'm not too sure I would have supported him very long as a coach had he fired him in order to bring in his own guy. Most new Head Coaches like to change out the coordinators. I don't think even Tomlin could pass on taking over a team that came stocked with a defensive genius. I'm sure Tomlin hasn't felt disappointed either since this season alone the Steelers Defense rates number one overall and number one in pass defense and number two in run defense. And one game could make that run defense stat roll into the top spot.
Coach LeBeau didn't just bring us one of the best zone defenses in the history of the game either. He also brought to the team a set of principles that are arguably the finest examples of personal carriage a man can project. Every player looks to him like their father, (or maybe grandfather since he's 71 years old), and not one player would dare incur his wrath with unsportsman like conduct more than once. Some of you fans probably recall him jack slapping a player for rubbing salt into the wounds of an already trounced team a couple years back when the player intercepted the ball and goose stepped towards the enzone with the ball held out in front of him while pandering to the cameras? I think I cheered just as hard for that as I did any play in the game. It was a good lesson for players, fans and coaches around the league. It's who this man is, and I for one think he should be made a saint after his death.
Dick LeBeau has changed the game of football and made a difference throughout the Country in this game with his Fire Zone Defense, and he came from some small town that has less than 9,000 people to this very day. And from Ohio no less. Wow. Go figure. A fire started from a man from London, (Ohio), and encouraged to spread. The difference of one man yet again.
Now for that Pop quiz...
Whom are you routing for this Sunday against San Diego?
If you read the article carefully, you should easily get this question right.