Let’s begin with the 13th Century definition of “folly.” Back then it was a “mental weakness, a foolish behavior or unwise conduct,” coming from the 12th C. Old French “folie” meaning “madness or stupidity.” It later evolved into, “An example of foolishness whether by design or accident.” If you are in need of an example, check your American history when U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward signed a treaty with Russia in 1867 purchasing then Alaska for $7 million. Despite the bargain price of roughly two cents an acre, the Alaskan purchase was ridiculed in Congress and in the press as “Seward’s folly.” If you look at how our nation has benefited from “Seward’s Folly,” however, you will know the term “folly” is not always precise.
When most of us think of follies, however, we are mostly reminded of specific sports mishaps like Minnesota Vikings NFL Hall of Famer James Lawrence Marshall’s ill-fated fumble recovery and run to the wrong end zone. Mr. Marshall played defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings (1961–1979). He owned NFL career records for most consecutive starts (270) and games played (282), played in six Pro Bowls from 1968 to 1973 and recovered 30 fumbles, also an NFL record. He was a member of the Vikings’ famous “Purple People Eaters” (which consisted of Marshall (DE), Alan Page (DT), Gary Larsen (DT), and Carl Eller (DE), and was the final player from Minnesota’s initial expansion team of 1961 to retire. The Vikings credit Marshall with 127 career quarterback sacks, second most in Viking history behind Eller and is one of 11 players to have played in all four Vikings Super Bowl appearances in the 1970s (ever).
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