Mike Royko is on vacation. In the meantime, we are reprinting some of his favorite columns. This column was first published Sept. 20, 1966.
My favorite modern folk hero is the fan who runs on the field during the big game. He is even more wonderful than the dog that runs on the field during the big game.
Sometimes he just lopes around the bases, sliding into home plate. Sometimes he tries to hug Mickey Mantle. Sometimes he tries to punch a referee.
The cops always drag him away and the TV announcer makes some smart crack like: "Well, that's the end of his game, ha ha."
But nobody ever asks these wonderful free spirits who they are or why they must do it.
Last Friday, a skinny youth ran on the field during the tense final minutes of the Bears-Rams game in Los Angeles.
While more than 50,000 fans cheered and 8 million people watched on TV, the youth sped down the field, his head held high, the wind in his face.
Then Mike Ditka stepped from the huddle and slammed him. The fans booed Ditka, but that was wrong. Ditka has been trained since high school to knock down anything that moves.
The young man flew in the air. He was limp when he landed and shaky when the police led him away.
More people saw that kid knocked down than saw all of Joe Louis' fights.
When the game is forgotten, that kid will be remembered.
This is a nation of people who are always asking each other questions. Where were you till 3 a.m.? Why did you go through a red light? How will you vote in November? Did you like your mother when you were 3? What's up?
But nobody bothered to ask the young man who he was or why he did this daring thing: They just kicked him out of the stadium.
Well, let it be known that he is Felix Carbajal, 19, of Lomita, Calif. He is of Mexican ancestry and he is a laborer in a chemical factory.
He was sleeping when I called, having worked the Sunday night shift. His father said he didn't know about what his son had done.
"I didn't even know he played football," Felix senior said.
Felix's mother said: "I guess it was something he felt he had to do. Wait, I'll wake him up."
Felix, I'm a reporter. Why did you do it?
"Somebody had to. Somebody does it nearly every game. So I figured I would do it. Me and my pal, Mike. He has relatives in Chicago and he was hoping they would see him."
What happened to Mike?
"I dunno, I guess he just sat there."
How did it feel?
"At first it felt weird. I thought: 'Gee, what am I doing?' Then when those thousands of people started cheering me, it felt pretty good.
"I was moving along pretty good. I thought I'd go all the way from one end zone to another. Those cops weren't even gaining on me.
"When I went by the Ram huddle, the players turned and looked at me and some of them smiled. I guess they were happy because they were winning.
"Just as I was getting to the Bears' huddle, one of the cops threw a nightstick. That's when I made my mistake. I turned my head to look at the nightstick and Ditka hit me with a blind-side block."
Did he punch you?
"No. If he had punched me, he would have killed me. I'm only 145 pounds. He just bumped me with his shoulder in my face."
Did it hurt?
"Yes. My nose still hurts. And my head. But he didn't knock me out. Just down."
Ditka says he is sorry.
"I'm not mad at him. I guess it was something he had to do. Just like me running."
Do you regret it?
"It was a good experience."
Will you do it again?
"I don't know. I'll have to give it some thought. Would you do me a favor?"
"If you write something, would you send me a copy of the paper? I'm a glory hound at heart."