Around 10:00 pm last night I noticed that Tim Graham tweeted a link to his column titled “Broke and Broken” with a picture of Darryl Talley, the heart and soul of the 90’s Buffalo Bills’ teams that I was raised to worship. My heart sunk.
With each paragraph that I read, my heart began to hurt a little bit more. Darryl Talley embodied what it meant to be a Buffalonian. He was a tough, ferocious and hard-working player that gave everything he had to the Buffalo Bills’ organization and the fans.
“There’s nothing in this world that I’ve seen or heard that will replace the void of playing in front of those fans,” Darryl explained.
We all know the horrifying tales of players like Junior Seau, who took his own life after dealing with traumatic brain injuries from playing football, but unfortunately, these stories have merely become words across a ticker on ESPN.
The National Football League is a multi-billion dollar corporation that is fueled by the blood, sweat and tears of people like Darryl Talley and it’s appalling to see how teams cast them away once they’ve been deemed useless.
To Buffalonians, the Bills are genuinely family. We know the names of their wives, share and comment on photos of their families and truly care about their well-being off the field. It’s a quality unique to any other fanbase that I’ve seen. Darryl Talley is one of us.
For Talley, a man who grew to his status by embodying the true “tough guy” culture of the NFL, to open up about serious personal emotional problems is commendable. But now think of how many other former players are suffering from the same issues, but pride has kept them from asking for help.
The NFL is in the process of reaching a concussion settlement that will compensate former players diagnosed with CTE and other traumatic brain injuries that stemmed from football, but the process has been shamefully dragged on as NFL attorneys bicker over a monetary value. A little over a year ago, a judge trashed a 65-year settlement that would pay $675 million, because she didn’t think it would be enough money. It’s not.
There are 1,692 players in the NFL each year, meaning that over 60,000 players have been on an NFL football field in the last 40 years. The NFL essentially thinks that $9,949.88 is sufficient to cover those men.
The NFL football league is having the worst public relations issues as it’s ever had, with issues including homicide, domestic abuse, child abuse, bullying, drug abuse and player safety have begun to creep into mainstream media.
It’s on us fans and supporters of the National Football League to act with the same passion as Talley did in order to make our voices heard by the league’s owners. They need to be made aware that the fans and players are what drive the countless dollars into their pockets. With disdain for the “shield” at an all-time high, the best possible thing owners could do to make a statement would be to show genuine compassion for the people that helped grow the league into what it is today.
The new rules promoting player safety are a great step, but they don’t do much for people like Darryl Talley, who’s contemplated suicide after giving his life to the game of football. Reading Talley’s account of his issues really opened my eyes to a serious problem within the NFL and fans are the ones that can truly make a difference here. We need to not only support the Talley’s, but we need to challenge the owners to do something to make a difference. Our childhood heroes have been humanized, and they’re now suffering from dementia and killing themselves, while the NFL bickers about touchdown celebrations and media requirements.
Buffalo Bills fans are the best fans in the league and hopefully our support for the Talley family can encourage other fanbases to make their voices heard as well.