In 1967, when the Chicago Bears teammates Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo became roommates, NFL players of different colors shared accommodation during the trip for the first time, which seemed unsuitable.
Sayers, who was 24 at the time, was already a well-known person. He was a gentle-spoken black man. He would only speak out when discussing social justice issues. Piccolo is a peer, white, a veteran talker and a clown. When he was evacuated and climbed from the taxi team to the game day roster, he competed with Sayers for backcourt time .
But the lasting friendship formed between the two became the theme of “Brian̵
“It really surprised me,” Joy Piccolo O’Connell said in an interview at his Wisconsin home. “That was 50 years ago.”
In 1968, when Piccolo unselfishly supported Sayers’ attempts to return from the first of several knee injuries and eventually shortened his career, the relationship between the two grew closer. Sayers was the same when Piccolo was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer the following year.
Piccolo lost his battle with this disease in 1970 (less than a month after he won the Alliance’s George S. Harrah’s Courage Award with Sayers and became the focus of the film).
Sayers said at the awards dinner: “He has the heart of a giant. This rare courage allows him to lie to himself and his opponent-cancer.” Actor Billy Dee Williams replayed in the ABC movie This scene.
“His attitude makes me proud to have a friend who spells the word’courage’ 24 hours a day, every day. You compliment me by giving me this award, but I tell you that I accept the award from Brian Piccolo. Tonight It’s mine, this is Brian Piccolo’s tomorrow. …I love Brian Piccolo, and I hope everyone loves him too. Sayers concluded: “When you kneel down tonight, ask God to love him. “
Williams said on Twitter Wednesday: “I am heartbroken for losing my dear friend Gale Sayers. It is a real honor to portray the gale in “Brian’s Song” and it is also me. One of the nightfalls of his career. He is an extraordinary man with the most kind heart.”
In 1967, hotel room allocation work was usually carried out by location, and running was the only place in the Bears team where players of different colors could be gathered together. But Ed McCaskey, the general manager of the Harrah family member who ran the club at the time, gave him his blessing for this move-for good reason.
As a senior in Wake Forest, Piccolo walked to the sideline of Terrapins in a game against Maryland in 1963 and brought Maryland to catch up with Darryl Hill (the only black player in the league at the time). The front of the student area. Then he put his arm Hill on Hill’s shoulder to silence the crowd.
But the remarried Joy Piccolo O’Connell believes that the biggest obstacle to the friendship between Piccolo and Sayers is related to personality rather than color.
She said: “Brian likes to get along with people, likes to talk, can’t give enough public speeches, and Gail is so quiet.”
Indeed, Sayers said in an interview in 2001 that Piccolo was always joking, which made him flinch from the beginning. Similarly, Piccolo told the biographer Jeannie Morris that he thought Sayers was “arrogant…I didn’t see him speaking to the soul during the whole week we were together.”
From that difficult beginning, Sayers and Piccolo forged a strong bond that was strong enough to withstand injuries and diseases, and resisted the lazy assumption that men of different backgrounds of different colors do not care about each other like brothers. .
Piccolo O’Connell said: “They screened the movie that night, and we will check with the (Piccolo) Foundation…
She concluded: “But it’s amazing, how does the story go on.”
Associated Press writer Don Babwin in Chicago contributed to this report.