Who's Mr. Irrelevant? Who Cares? Safety Michael Green, drafted last by the Bears, may make the NFL--or may not

July 23, 2000

It was one of those existential moments perhaps only Jean-Paul
Sartre could have savored properly. Michael Green was on the
horn with his college sweetheart, Shayla Hunter, ruminating on
his relevance. The Northwestern State (Louisiana) free safety
had just been picked 254th and dead last in the 2000 NFL draft
by the Chicago Bears. That dubious distinction entitled Green to
be the guest of honor at the 25th annual celebration of
Irrelevant Week, pro football's last hurrah and tribute to the
truly trivial. "Getting named Mr. Irrelevant sounds like a bad
thing," Hunter told Green. "Like you don't matter. Like you're a
nobody."

"I may be a nobody," Green replied, "but somebody just called and
offered us a free trip to Southern California."

"That's relevant," Hunter said. "When do we leave?"

Which is how Green and Hunter wound up in Newport Beach the third
week in June for a half-madcap carnival of banquets, parties and
inconsequential sporting events. In the great Irrelevant
tradition, Green arrived at Pavilions 2 and 3 of the Newport
Dunes Resort for the opening ceremony of Irrelevant Week XXV atop
a fiberglass whale pushed by a powerboat. Previous inductees have
come by limo, crop duster, helicopter, rocket launcher and
bicycle-built-for-two.

Nine nonlegendary honorees of the past, all destined for football
mortality, were flown out, too. Not among them (and thereby
confirming their irrelevance) were Mr. Irrelevant XXIII (Cam
Quayle, a tight end from Weber State), who got waylaid at a
dental school convention in the Himalayas, and Mr. Irrelevant III
(Bill Kenney, a quarterback from Northern Colorado who shared
that year's honors), who left word that he'd be arriving Sunday,
the day after the festivities ended.

Most Mr. Irrelevants have quickly faded into Mr. Oblivion--only
seven have lasted through their NFL maiden seasons. The most
irrelevant was Lee Washburn, a Montana State guard who in 1978
didn't even bother going to the Dallas Cowboys' training camp.
"Washburn told us he couldn't attend this year's silver
anniversary," reports event founder Paul Salata. "I told him it
didn't matter. It's Irrelevant Week. We don't give a damn if he
makes it or not."

Happily, or unhappily, the least irrelevant Mr. Irrelevant did
show up: Marty Moore, a linebacker from Kentucky and six-year NFL
veteran. Not content to be the only Mr. Irrelevant to start his
first NFL game, Mr. I XIX played for the New England Patriots in
Super Bowl XXXI. "That was a slap in the face of irrelevancy,"
said Salata, the 73-year-old retired sewer contractor who cooked
up this paean to pointlessness. (The NFL, which helps sponsor the
event, lets Salata announce the final draft pick each year.)

The first final pick to be Irrelevant, Dayton wideout Kelvin
Kirk, missed his plane to the celebration. That might have
stopped a lesser man (if there were a lesser man), but not
Salata, who enlisted an imposter to take Kirk's place in the
parade in Newport Beach. "I don't know if those old Mr.
Irrelevant parades qualify as parades," says Tyrone McGriff, a
guard from Florida A&M, the 333rd pick in the 1980 draft. "They'd
have TV cameras, but there would be nothing to film. Nobody was
cheering on the street, nobody watched, nobody cared."

Being the last man standing has benefits. "It opens lots of
doors," said Moore--in former West Point quarterback Ron McAda's
case, car doors. "My customers know I'm Mr. Something, they just
don't know what," says Mr. Irrelevant XXII, who sells used cars
in Mesquite, Texas. "I've been called Mr. Irascible, Mr.
Irresponsible, Mr. Irrational. Once, a pretty girl came up to me
and asked, 'You're Mr. Irresistible, aren't you?' I said,
'That's for you to say.'"

Mr. Irrelevants come to expect such impertinence. At a midweek
testimonial Green was roasted by Salata ("Mike was a 3.8
student--that's total credits, not grade point average") and
toasted by the unnecessary (agent Leigh Steinberg) and the
insignificant (onetime Stanford trombonist Gary Tyrrell, trampled
in 1982 on Cal's game-winning, five-lateral kickoff return
through the Cardinal band on the last play).

After hearing unflattering proclamations from the City of Newport
Beach and the County of Orange, Green was presented with caps,
T-shirts, jerseys, a last will and testament, a three-day
survival kit, a personalized blessing from the Sisters of the
Sacred Heart and, perhaps least important, the Lowsman Trophy, a
bronze statuette of a player fumbling.

The 6-foot, 176-pound Green is a smashmouth safety who excelled
at hit (he broke up 14 passes and had 99 tackles in 1999) and run
(he clocked 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash) with 4-7
Northwestern State. "I've dreamed of playing in the NFL," said
Green. "Now I have to make the dream reality."

Reality unfolds on July 21, when Chicago's training camp opens.
"Mike was the best athlete left on the board," says Mark Hatley,
the Bears' head of player personnel. "For a long strider and a
high cutter, he's got good hips and feet. I don't know Mike's
chances with the Bears yet, but he'll play in the league."

Green's odds look to be a lot shorter than those of Matt Elliott,
a center out of Michigan who was a 12th-rounder in 1992 and
played four seasons with Washington and Carolina. (The number of
rounds has since shrunk to seven.) "Give 100 percent 100 percent
of the time," Old No. 336 advised New No. 254. "Coaches
appreciate that."

Elliott didn't seem to appreciate the fact that the irrelevant
irreverence of Irrelevant Week is succumbing to (dread word)
relevance. In the old days, for example, the Beercan Regatta was
untimed, with no starting or finish line. These days it's an
actual race.

The golf tournament used to be a worst-ball competition in which
ineptitude was rewarded handsomely. Players tackled the course
armed only with putters, and they used frozen meatballs, not golf
balls. This year the tournament became a sober two-ball scramble.
"That stinks," groused Elliott. "The whole idea is supposed to be
that your score is irrelevant."

Salata shrugs off the criticism. Besides, he has even less
consequential things on his mind, namely a new honor he calls Mr.
Out of Luck. "I'm going to ask the last-place Cleveland Browns
who they would have drafted in the eighth round," Salata says.
"That way I can celebrate the first player not drafted by the
NFL."

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Green was the toast of Newport Beach--sort of--at the 25th anniversary of Irrelevant Week.

Reality unfolds on July 21 when Chicago's training camp opens.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)