This morning, former Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley passed away at the early age of 55. Paralyzed by Oakland Raider Jack Tatum, Stingley was one of my father’s favorite players ever. My dad vividly remembers watching that preseason game, which took place before I was even born. He describes watching the pass sail high and Stingley jump to make a meaningless reception. He remembers, as if it were slow motion, Tatum flying in to make the hit. From that day on, a new fire was lit in the Oakland-New England rivalry and my dad has hated Tatum and the Oakland Raiders ever since.
Stingley handled his injury with class and grace despite never receiving as much as an apology from the man who paralyzed him and later boasted about being called “The Assassin.”
No matter what teams I’m watching play, I hold my breath and cover my eyes whenever any player is motionlessly laying on the ground. I don’t pray much but those are times when my only thoughts are watching the player stand, wave to the crowd and walk to the bench. Darryl Stingley’s injury makes you really think about the harsh brutality of football and how even powerful football players are incredibly fragile.