August 31, 2017

Positivity: Gale Sayers’ Inspiring 1970 Speech Honoring Brian Piccolo

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

True stories like this one from over 45 years ago should fill anyone and everyone in America who is currently engaging in any form of genuinely racist behavior with shame — and I think it happens to be the perfect time to shame them all:

“I Love Brian Piccolo….”

Brian’s Song was loosely based on Chicago Bear’s running back Gale Sayers autobiography and documented Sayer’s relationship with fellow player Brian Piccolo. The film stars Billy Dee Williams as Sayers, and James Caan as Piccolo. Several actual Chicago Bears players also appear on film.

Sayers and Piccolo were fast friends in a time when black and white didn’t mix so well together. It was a racially charged time when even in the National Football League, roommates were usually segregated by color. During most of their time together, Sayers and Piccolo despite both being in the running backs category, were the only mixed roommates on the team. Not even Sayers’ status as a “premiere” running back to Piccolo’s back up could separate the two friends. Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo. Any real Bears fan says it like peanut butter and jelly.

Brian Piccolo was never drafted by the NFL as a player, he was undersized for a running back and as a result Piccolo had to make the Chicago Bears football team as a walk on, then assigned to the practice squad. That meant suiting up, playing just as hard, if not harder, and preparing the team for the upcoming opponent, yet never being able to suit up for game day. So determined was Piccolo, he eventually made his way to a full squad member and although there was never any question that Sayers was the number one running back on the team, Piccolo would eventually be the starting fullback, blocking and picking up ground in short yardage situations.

Piccolo’s work ethic was superb which is why on November 16th, 1969, when Piccolo pulled himself voluntarily from the game, more than a few eyebrows were raised. Upon examination, Piccolo was diagnosed with embryonal cell carcinoma. Surgery would only prolong the inevitable, and Piccolo would pass away six months later at the age of 26, leaving behind a wife and three daughters. He would also leave behind a legacy that would pass down to fans that never watched Piccolo play, thanks in part to Sayers.

Gale Sayers was selected in 1970 as the NFL’s Most Courageous Player, where he would give one of the sporting world’s greatest speeches, telling the crowd that they had chosen the wrong man, and he would only accept it on Brian Piccolo’s behalf (the scene is from the Brian’s Song movie):

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