I was one of those dinosaur kids. I grew up completely, hopelessly enamored by dinosaurs. I found them endlessly fascinating. As a preschooler I strived to learn about and memorize as many prehistoric creatures as possible. I could tell you which eras and periods in which various dinosaurs lived, what their bony structures told us about their ways of life, where their fossils were first discovered, how they walked, what they ate. In my young childhood days long before the Internet, I satisfied my interest in paleontology through books, flash cards, and models. I carried dinosaur books and drawings everywhere I went. The librarians at Whitewater, Wisconsin’s public library all knew my name and knew my favorite place to camp out while I drank in as much dino-knowledge as my young brain could handle. My fervor for the topic even earned me and my tattered book of drawings an article in Whitewater’s newspaper when I was four:
Anyway, everyone I encountered as a young child asked me the same question: “What’s your favorite dinosaur?” That was an easy question to answer. Of course it was Ankylosaurus.
(This, by the way, is my all-time favorite depiction of Ankylosaurus, taken from my all-time favorite dinosaur book.)
Strange and turtle-like in appearance, Ankylosaurus sported much more than just a hard-shell carapace to protect itself from predators. If you examine its body further, you will notice several additional features that surely served it well: hard lateral spikes, a series of protective horns on the crest of its head, and–the pièce de résistance–a hard, bony club at the end of its tail, great for whacking the legs of would-be aggressors that ventured a little too close. Seriously, imagine yourself as a Tyrannosaurus Rex trying to get a piece of this guy. Good luck.
I’m sure I was asked somewhere along the way by curious adults, “Why do you like Ankylosaurus so much?” I doubt I would have been able to give a cogent reply to this more challenging question as a young child. But as an adult, I think I now know the answer: Ankylosaurus was a giant, living, walking, breathing defensive weapon.
In our modern world we’re constantly assailed by all sorts of crazy stuff: an overwhelming mountain of information, people, advertisements, opportunities, and threats, coming at us like a slow-moving, never-stopping avalanche as we move through life. Though I am probably the worst possible person to assess my own personality, I know I identify easily with the idea of hunkering down and going into shield mode, on behalf of myself and my family. I’m more of a protector than a predator. I suppose, then, that it’s natural that I identified with the Ankylosaurus more than I did the T-Rex as a young child.
So–and I recognize this may be the weirdest segue in the history of blogdom–I found last week’s Seattle Seahawks Superbowl win over the Denver Broncos particularly gratifying, and not just because I’m a proud Seattle resident and Seahawks fan. After hearing for two solid weeks various commentators and pundits crowing about Payton Manning and Denver’s offensive records this season, there was a clear sense of satisfaction in watching all of that not matter as the Seahawks dismantled the Broncos with its smothering, overwhelming defense.
Seattle’s domination was so complete, in fact, that it had ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless eating crow and paying respect where it was due:
Sometimes a formidable offense just doesn’t matter. The fact that the phrase “defense wins championships” is a cliché doesn’t matter either. It’s a cliché because it’s true. Just ask Ankylosaurus, who isn’t too ancient to provide us all a little lesson for these crazy modern times.