Lynn Cain and Billy Sims

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Two days ago I asked Emmett, my 9-year-old son, a question: What sports jersey would you buy, were money and availability no object?

“That’s hard,” he said.

A Pause.

“Probably either Billy Sims or Lynn Cain.”

I have succeeded as a dad.

In case you don’t know, Billy Sims was Barry Sanders before Barry Sanders. He was the Detroit Lions halfback from 1980 (when he was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft) until 1984, when a knee injury ended his career. He wore No. 20, and was probably best known for the coolest high leg kick anyone has ever exercised. Whenever Sims scored a touchdown, he would do some variation of this.

Although Sims’ career was short, he was significantly more famous than Cain—which makes Cain’s jersey candidacy all the cooler. Cain spent seven years in the league, six with Atlanta. He never ran for 1,000 years, never made All-Pro or the Pro Bowl. He was a relatively average backup halfback, but had three things going his way that swayed Emmett’s vote:

• 1. One of the best Afros of all time (these cards do it little justice).

• 2. He wore No. 21 (kinda unique) when the Falcons had awesome red unis.

• 3. His name is Lynn Cain. Which is purely fantastic.

It’s a funny thing, being a dad. When you’re preparing, you have these cliched ideas about what’ll be great. Watching your kid player sports, or dance, or sing. Hearing a teacher tell you how brilliant your child is. Snuggling beneath a blanket in front of a fire place. Watching him/her sleep. And, indeed, all are terrific.

For me, though, one of the true joys has been sitting on a couch with Emmett, watching 1980s NFL highlight videos. From the triumphant music to the funkadelic uniforms to the narration, it’s one of the boy’s absolute favorite things.

Which leads to Billy Sims, Lynn Cain and the impossible jerseys.

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