Bob Hayes didn't get a chance to give an emotional speech in Canton over the weekend when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Death has a way of forcing you out of speaking engagements, after all. If he had given a speech, he likely would have touched on his problems with substance abuse and used the podium as a spot to atone for those and any other sins.
In other words, he would have pulled a Michael Irvin. Irvin's speech in 2007 was a powerful, soul-baring production that did a lot to rehabilitate the image of a man that many respected for his on-field talent but few respected for his off-field activities. He didn't apologize and he wasn't defiant, he was just raw and it worked. It worked so well that Irvin landed a spot on Real Clear Sports' list of the top 10 sports speeches of all time, just below Jim Valvano's "Never Give Up," and Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth."
If you didn't see it, or just want a reminder here's a snippet.
It will always be hard to think of Irvin and not think of all the stories of drugs, hookers and locker room stabbings. Thanks to this speech (and, of course, his on-field talent) it will be hard to think of just those stories, however.