Bears legend Gale Sayers bitter? You Bet

Share

gale-sayers

(Editor’s note: Our condolences to the friends and family of Chet Coppock, on this the most difficult of days. Coppock passed away in a car crash in Georgia yesterday at the age of 70. RIP. To honor his memory, we re-post this guest blog he contributed to our site in 2014)

What follows is Chet Coppock’s blog on “The Entrapment of Gale Sayers.” Chet’s new book, “Laying it on the Line” can be purchased here.

He was and is a football treasure. He will tell you in a matter of fact matter that he required just 18 inches to leave a rival defensive back grasping at air, nothing but air. The Kansas Comet is nearing a milestone. 2015 will mark the 50th anniversary of Gale Sayers’ debut with George Halas and the Chicago Bears.

Sayers first season with Bears wasn’t just majestic it was Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. Playing the NFL’s old 14 game schedule, Gale ran and returned his way to a then-NFL record 22 touchdowns.

You know I could spit out stats and spin yarns for the next two weeks about the football genius of Gale Sayers. I saw every home game the comet played for the Halas men. I could wax poet about his six-td performance against the 49ers on a muddy Cubs Park track, December 12, 1965.

My gosh, 12/12/65. I wonder how many people who attended that game are still alive? I know I am, but after that, basically, let’s just say all bets are off. I’m guessing there are no more than seven or eight thousand fans remaining who bore witness to football performance so stellar, so magnificent that it should have its own commemorative monument at Wrigley Field along with the marble that honors Ernie, Billy, Ronnie and, of course, Harry.

gale-sayers

But, not so fast.

December 12 of ’65 wasn’t Sayers best game in Halas blue and orange. The greatest of Gale’s museum pieces took place three years later, November 3, 1968 when Gale gutted the Green Bay Packers for 205 yards rushing on a classically overcast afternoon at Lambeau Field.

I’ve argued this for years. The six TD’s came against a 49ers club that knew by the second quarter it couldn’t stop Gale with a switch blade. Meanwhile, the 205 yards on the ground versus Green Bay wasn’t about a bedazzling Gale Sayers making people gasp over his cut back ability.

It was about a hardnosed kid in a rivalry game who literally put the Bears on the back of his no. 40 jersey. Sayers hit Ray Nitschke and Ray hit him back with a vengeance. Gale drove a shoulder into Willie Davis or Herb Adderley and the game soon became an early preview of Ali-Frazier in Manilla.

Did you know that Sayers was so blessed with football gifts that he required just 68 games to become the youngest player in pro football history to be inducted in to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Oh? 68 freakin’ games. I’ve seen the Bears waste 70-80 games over the years on defensive tackles and defensive backs only to find out they couldn’t didn’t have the right stuff to play on the NFL level.

Yes, Gale Sayers is a bit bitter. I hear this from people all the time that Gale is unapproachable. Gale is resentful. Don’t buy it. Sayers will never toss a lampshade on his head. Let’s merely say he’s very private – always has been.

gale-sayers

Let me tell you something. Sayers, post career, has every right to feel like he was sold out.

Just how can a running back this gifted spend his entire career with the so called “Monsters of the Midway” and never dress for a single playoff game?
After a ’68 season that closed early due to a knee injury that required surgery, Sayers came back as an inside runner in 1969 and led the league in rushing with 1,032 yards. That was the last hurrah.

That ’69 season began in strange fashion. The Bears opened their six game exhibition slate vs. the Redskins and new coach Vince Lombardi in Washington D.C. The field was a quagmire due to a brief but enormous rain fall an hour before kickoff time.

I attended that game in somewhat unique fashion. I flew on my own dime, on the spur of the moment, Saturday morning, to take in the show. By happenstance, I ran into WGN Sports Editor Jack Rosenberg who asked if I’d mind” spotting” the game for his announce team of Lloyd Petit and Irv Kupcinet.

Naturally, I leaped at the opportunity. What 20 year old kid wouldn’t want the chance? During the pre-game warm up, I recall Lloyd telling me he didn’t expect Gale to carry the ball more than three or four times.
Guess again, Sayers ran the opening kick back about 75 yards into ‘Skins territory.

Forget the run. I’m still waiting to find out who the nut case was who decided that having the best running back in pro football return kicks was an act of wisdom. In ’70 and ’71, Sayers playing on knees of jelly, was a lost soul. He played just four games over two seasons with 36 carries. I recall a limping Sayers trying and failing to find the lost gear with the Bears during a practice session in ’71. Gale knew, he had to know it was game, set and match.

So, in reality, Sayers had essentially a five year career, yet his excellence was such that he was chosen to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team.
But, why didn’t the NFL worked with Gale in an effort to help him secure a position on the league’s executive level. Sayers wanted to be a general manager in the worst way. He was more than willing to pay his dues to prepare for such a post.

The NFL loved Sayers in hip pads but had no issue overlooking Gale Eugene Sayers, would be “football man.”

Good God, a knucklehead named Bobby Walston was in charge of personnel for much of Sayers career with the Bears. Trust me, Gale could have shown up at the Bears old downtown offices at 173 W. Madison St. dead drunk and done a better job of evaluating talent than Walston.

Can we forgive Gale if he has yet to reconcile the fact that the Bears surrounded him with far too many third rate ballplayers during his career? Gale loved George Halas, but is he still bothered that the old man’s parsimonious approach to a changing NFL environment left the Bears as also rans? The Brears were in a 21 year window without a playoff win.

chicago-bears-coach-landon-collins

Can we at least respect Sayers if becomes forlorn thinking about that spirit breaking, mind bending O-line that Walter Payton ran behind during the mid 80’s.
Damn right, we should tell Gale he has a right to bitch when some knucklehead TV commentator aor Bears beat writers actually dares to suggest that because of his return skills Devin Hester was a better Chicago Bear than Gale Sayers.

Sayers was a fucking football player. Hester’s looking for his next pass to drop down in Atlanta.

What would life have been like for Sayers if he’d had the benefit of ESPN, social media, most notably face book?

How much more cash would this highly successful businessman have added to the family trust?

Gale Sayers redefined the word special. The Bears have an obligation to honor his and Dick Butkus’s 50th anniversary seasons in 2015. The year should be dedicated to the golden anniversary of their arrival with the ballclub.

Why? Because it the right thing to do. It matters. It’s that simple.

Powered by

Comments

  1. Steve Orloff says

    Agree with Del 100%…and I was in Wrigley Field for every home game when Mr. Sayers and Mr. Butkus were the only reason to go to a game. On either side of the ball, they gave us truly memorable performances.

    And yes pal, you found some additonal survivors of Gale’s Miracle in the Mud against 49R’s. My brother Mike and I were at the game….but to score from scrimmage on a run and a pass; and return a punt and a kickoff for TD,s against any competition is HOF in any era.

    Hope Mr. McCaskey sees this post, and makes 2015 a year to honor these two great players.

Speak Your Mind