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Old 11-28-2011, 11:18 PM
 
Location: Up above the world so high!
45,269 posts, read 88,507,295 times
Reputation: 39856

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Those here under a certain age may not recall or remember it, but there was a time in our country not so long ago when folks of different races just didn't mix socially.

One of the first ways some of those invisible walls came down was through professional sports like the NFL teams.

Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers were the first white and black men to live together as roommates in the NFL when they played for the Chicago Bears.

It was a relationship that impacted them both in deeply personal ways.

If you don't know the story of these two football players you might enjoy learning more about them

'Brian's Song' still strikes chords | JournalNow.com
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Old 11-29-2011, 12:19 AM
 
16,521 posts, read 20,964,213 times
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I remember that movie, Brian Piccolo, Gale Sayers, and that era quite well.

Brian Piccolo was a classic overachiever. Despite a great career at Wake Forest, he didn't make much of an impact in the 1966 draft. And as long as he was going to be a Chicago Bear, he was going to ride the bench as Gale Sayers was the #1 man in that backfield.

Sayers was more than just a #1 running back on a Bears team that in 1963 won the NFL Championship. He was called "The Kansas Comet" for a reason. He was a phenom that I don't believe the NFL (certainly myself) had ever seen before and I have seen a lot; Joe Perry, Lenny Moore, Ollie Matson, Hugh McIlhenny, and others. I would only put Jim Brown ahead of them of the top running backs of that era. Gale was drafted #1 in the 1965 NFL draft, and Dick Butkus was drafted #2. He was an amazing player and the ultimate triple threat as he excelled at not only running and receiving but also was a great kick returner as well.

Two things are at play here IMO regarding the Sayers/Piccolo story.

George Halas was one of the original huge figures in the early history of pro football. His biggest rivalry in the 1960's was the Green Bay Packers in general and head coach Vince Lombardi in particular. When Vince Lombardi was named head coach and general manager of Green bay in 1959 there was only one black player on that squad. When he left after winning SB-II in the 1967 season Green Bay had fourteen blacks. Lombardi was color blind. He was interested in the best players and got them through trades and through the draft. More importantly though, Lombardi knew about discrimination. He had said repeatedly through different interviews that he felt he wasn't given a chance to be a head coach because he was an Italian. Green bay in 1958 won one game. In 1959 Lombardi pulled them to 7-5 his first season. And the rest of Lombardi's story is history.

George Halas noticed this. He also noticed something going on in the American Football league that few people knew about because at that time the AFL had little press from huge media. (Sports Illustrated, Sport Magazine, etc.) Sid Gilman was the head coach of the AFL's San Diego Chargers and also a huge figure in the early days of the American Football League. Gilman, like Lombardi, was color blind regarding talent. And like Lombardi, he knew about discrimination from his own experience. Sid Gilman was Jewish. A lot of people didn't know this till years after the fact, but in training camp Gilman would assign roommates regarding position. A black running back would room with a white running back, etc., etc. By the early 1960's San Diego had at least 10 black players on the squad. Gilman most likely didn't give the decision a huge amount of thought. He was first and foremost about winning. It was only six years previous that he was head coach of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams. Gilman's Chargers were in 5 out of the first 6 AFL Championship games, and like Chicago, won their championship the same year Chicago did, in 1963. Like I said earlier, Gilman was first and foremost about winning.

Racial relations in the National Football League might not have been as tenuous as Major League baseball was in the era of Jackie Robinson, but there was discriminatory practices and a lot of "Jim Crow" thinking. FACT: Before Lombardi came along, it was a sure bet that NFL clubs generally carried an even number of blacks on a team (4, 6, 8, etc.) and not an odd number (3, 5, 7, etc.) The prevailing opinion being that blacks should just room with blacks. FACT: As far as head coaches and g.m's were concerned, it was almost unthinkable for a black to be a quarterback or a middle linebacker because you were a team leader. on offense or defense, and as far as they were concerned that issue would be a problem. FACT: The NFL clubs who refused to carry blacks on their squad generally were the clubs with the worst records. And you didn't get any "worse" than the Washington Redskins. In fact, the Kennedy administration was so appalled by Redskin owner's George Preston Marshall's attitude that if they didn't draft a black athlete in the next upcoming NFL draft (1962) they were going to be kicked out of RFK Stadium. Those are just a few things the black athlete faced in those days.

Will continue this post in the morning.

Last edited by DOUBLE H; 11-29-2011 at 12:43 AM..
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Old 11-29-2011, 05:48 AM
 
Location: Two Rivers, Wisconsin
11,722 posts, read 11,541,988 times
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Excellent post, factual and some people might not give it much thought. Living in the midwest, being in my 60's, I lived that era at an impressionable age.

My dad (major sports fan) was a huge Satchel Paige fan (baseball, I know) but he made me aware of the fact black athletes were treated differently. I used to watch boxing, baseball, football with my dad at a very young age.
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Old 11-29-2011, 06:08 AM
 
Location: The "Rock"
2,551 posts, read 2,412,488 times
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Cool stuff... Love hearing stories and insight from people who experienced it. Mega Kudos!!!
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Old 11-29-2011, 07:05 AM
 
Location: Up above the world so high!
45,269 posts, read 88,507,295 times
Reputation: 39856
Quote:
Originally Posted by susancruzs View Post
Excellent post, factual and some people might not give it much thought. Living in the midwest, being in my 60's, I lived that era at an impressionable age.

My dad (major sports fan) was a huge Satchel Paige fan (baseball, I know) but he made me aware of the fact black athletes were treated differently. I used to watch boxing, baseball, football with my dad at a very young age.
I'm a little younger than you , but my father did the same for me!

I still remember watching "Brian's Song" when it came on tv and the touching speech Gale Sayers made after Brian died.

No question Gale Sayers was a fantastic athlete, he was the youngest player to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Speech from "Brian's Song" - YouTube
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Old 11-29-2011, 08:00 AM
 
16,521 posts, read 20,964,213 times
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"Brians Song" was a great movie. It touched on a lot of things in Piccolo's and Sayers relationship. One of the humorous ones was rookie camp where on "Rookie Night", Piccolo, played by James Caan, got up in front of all the veteran players, and sang the Wake Forest college fight song. Piccolo was extroverted while Sayers was introverted. As critical as I am of ESPN on this forum, I am a fan of their "Sports Century" series. The one on Brian Piccolo was one of the best they ever done. It tells an interesting story of a guy who had a solid college career but was not drafted at all that year and the chances of him making it in professional football was dismal (he signed with Chicago as a free agent in 1965, the same year Sayers came to Chicago.) His wife, Joy, remarked in the bio that Brian told her after draft day, "The scouts said I wasn't fast enough and that I wasn't big enough. I thought all I had to be was good enough."

After having as good a three seasons a running back could have, Sayers suffered a bad knee injury in the 1968 season and sadly was never the same player. There are some humorous spots in the movie regarding Gale's rehab with Piccolo giving one line insults to Sayers and Sayers responding in kind. In the interview with Brian's wife, she would say Brian would "cut up" all the time with Sayers and all the players on the squad as well.

In my opinion "Brian's Song" kick started both James Caan's and Billy Dee Williams careers as I was not familiar with either of them previously. Caan is going strong four decades later, and Williams will always be remembered in the monstrously successful Star Wars movies. Thirty years after this made for tv movie was released, a remake was done. I'm not a huge fan of this stuff, but kudos to the people involved in the making of this movie. I have the dvd, it's worth getting as well as the original.

Last edited by DOUBLE H; 11-29-2011 at 10:17 AM..
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Old 12-12-2011, 02:36 PM
 
Location: USA
19,700 posts, read 14,682,379 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lovesMountains View Post
Those here under a certain age may not recall or remember it, but there was a time in our country not so long ago when folks of different races just didn't mix socially.

One of the first ways some of those invisible walls came down was through professional sports like the NFL teams.

Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers were the first white and black men to live together as roommates in the NFL when they played for the Chicago Bears.

It was a relationship that impacted them both in deeply personal ways.

If you don't know the story of these two football players you might enjoy learning more about them

'Brian's Song' still strikes chords | JournalNow.com
Havent watched the movie but I think I will now! As far as different races mixing or not, we are reminded here quite often there are many areas of the country where it is still a taboo.
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Old 12-13-2011, 12:34 PM
 
32,532 posts, read 30,641,416 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LS Jaun View Post
Havent watched the movie but I think I will now! As far as different races mixing or not, we are reminded here quite often there are many areas of the country where it is still a taboo.
Have a hankie ready.
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