“You flatter me by giving me this award, but I tell you here and now that I accept it for Brian Piccolo. Brian Piccolo is the man of courage who should receive the George S. Halas Award. It is mine tonight, it is Brian Piccolo’s tomorrow.. . . I love Brian Piccolo and I’d like all of you to love him too. Tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him.”
Gayle Sayers (Football Hall of Fame player)
Gayle Sayers was a remarkable football player. To see him run with a football was poetry in motion. Yet, for all of that athletic talent, his greatest fame was that of being a wonderful human being. The man he praised in the above speech was a lesser athlete, Brian Piccolo, his Chicago Bears teammate. Brian Piccolo too was a wonderful human being. He also was dying of cancer.
I was in high school when these two were playing for the Bears. For some reason, I always liked Brian Piccolo, who played football at a “non-football school”, Wake Forest University. I guess I always liked underdogs, and Brian Piccolo was certainly that. Brian Piccolo had a huge heart and great desire, if not great talent. He also had a history of making sure that his Black teammates and even his Black foes on other teams who came South to play were treated with dignity and respect. In those days, Black athletes often suffered cruel indignities when they traveled in the southern United States.
Brian Piccolo was a White man, yet he knew that treating people of all races and color with dignity was the right thing to do, even if it cost him something. He ended up being a roommate of Gayle Sayers, and these two men, one White, one Black, became fast friends. This would not at all be remarkable today, but in the mid 1960’s, that was newsworthy, and even provocative.
If you are not familiar with the story, watch the classic movie, Brian’s Song. Prepare to cry. However, the point of this story is not a maudlin, sappy story from ancient history. The behavior of these two men was heroic and inspiring. They lived out, quite literally, the Christian life. They loved one another and it cost them something to do that.
Love always costs something. There cannot be love without sacrifice- Jesus was the prime example of that. Remember these men who inspired us a generation ago.
Their story still teaches us.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for people like Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccolo. They have taught us well, Amen