By now most of the Bills fan base (and the alums of West Virginia) are well aware of the plight of Buffalo’s adopted son Darryl Talley and his recently admitted struggles with severe pain and depression. The remarkable story written by Buffalo News reporter Tim Graham was one of the most riveting pieces of activist journalism I’ve encountered in many years.
How refreshing is it to read something that deviates from the sardonically laden pieces that inspire to make a person feel angry more than anything else? There’s enough anger in the world. Reading a thoughtful article meant to inspire people for the purpose of making the world a better place? Priceless.
Like many Bills fans, I was overcome with emotion after reading Graham’s article. I watched as a myriad of emotions came flooding over my twitter feed. The more I read, the more I cried. What in the world is going on? And how timely was it for this interview to be published on Thanksgiving morning?
If you’re looking for evidence of the power of kindness, look no further than what happened after Frank Thomas Croisdale initiated a crowdfunding campaign to provide support for the Talley family several hours after the story went viral. In less than two days as I write this, the fund is now about to blow through its target of $100,000. It is a beautiful thing to watch as you refresh your screen to read the comments being made by thousands of fans.
Which brings me to what is becoming a rather breathtaking notion that doing good things in this world has not gone completely underground. It is evidenced quite pointedly in the reaction by Western New Yorkers, West Virginians and NFL fans around the world in response to the plight of the Talley family, and their struggle to get through some of life’s most difficult challenges.
Because much of my adult life was spent working with people far wiser and facing cancer, I learned a lot about what specific things seemed to help people die with dignity and grace. In these situations, it becomes incumbent for professionals to pass on the wisdom acquired along the way. It’s a sort of ‘pay it forward’ opportunity that has a surprisingly positive boomerang effect.
What the wise souls taught me (young and old) is that one should pay attention to events that provide opportunities for changing negative mindsets into positive ones. As someone that grew up before the computer age, it’s simply mind boggling how technology has enabled resources to be so efficiently distributed at a critical time of need.
There is a golden window that has opened for every Bills fan to show this young team why we are a fan base like no other in sports. There’s a good reason why this team is on its way to a sold out season at home, excluding the ‘Snowvember’ to remember game in Detroit. This fan base has been through some of the greatest challenges to its existence in the history of sports.
Players like Darryl Talley know this, and are understandably humbled by the unconditional love so freely given by so many for one of Buffalo’s greatest players in NFL history. This is a prime example about why Bills fans are different from other fan bases. We enthusiastically take care of our own.
That stated, we strive to do more. And we are prone to doubling down when one act of kindness works its magic. The power of love generated from such acts of kindness is like crack for this fan base. This is the exactly what Jill Kelly was referring to when she was interviewed about the struggle for Jim when he was being treated in New York City.
That is why I believe the Talley’s may benefit from coming ‘home’ to heal. If ‘home’ is where the heart is, there is no better place for Darryl and family than the place that revered their presence in Western New York.
We understand that chronic pain can be a significant health issue for people with banged up bodies, and that should also be weighed with the potential emotional benefit of being surrounded by the loving spirit of Western New Yorkers. It’s no small contributor to healing, as Jim Kelly can attest.
I’ve been humbled by the power of love countless times over the years as an oncology nurse. Then came working with people with traumatic brain injury as a graduate student intern. In both roles and settings, I simply stood back in awe time after time when the power of love worked its magic on families going through a cancer experience.
It formed the back bone for my practice as a psychotherapist working with people going through chronic pain or illness. When the pain and suffering gets so bad that a person is sapped of the energy to go on, there are shifts that occur in their bodies. Emotional struggles intensify the physical experience of pain to form a vicious cycle of pain and suffering.
After many years of studying the emotional aspect of pain with my clients, it became apparent that one of the most important ways a person heals physically is to remove the emotional stress that interferes with healing. One consistent finding across decades of experience is the need for those who suffer to find some sort of meaning in their suffering.
This may seem obtuse, but finding meaning and purpose in suffering absolutely facilitates the healing process. A noisy brain cannot heal itself and function at its best. Darryl Talley’s mere presence on the sidelines becomes an instant motivator for players on the field.
We must care for those that played during an era that was unaware of the impending disaster unfolding in the NFL. We must deal responsibly with the consequences of applying blunt force trauma repeatedly as an essential skill for an NFL player to perform their job.
The souls of fans who died without ever knowing whether the Bills would ever win an NFL championship are screaming at me now. They want Bills fans and especially the players on the team today to grab the brass ring being dangled in their faces at this moment in time. Darryl Talley’s story is made even more powerful by living through example to the next generation of players facing physical disability in their future.
If you are looking for a way to dump 15 years worth of accumulated misery out of your mind as a Bills fan, look no further than the gift of love that Darryl Talley created by reaching out instead of suffering in silence. Bills players would do well to look closely at what is happening in their adopted community around them right now.
A player falling on hard times gets an emotional shot in the arm with unconditional love by a fan base where kindness is the oxygen that fills the air. That’s heady stuff, and the timing couldn’t be better with respect to the Thanksgiving holiday.
You can see players starting to become aware of this phenomenon. Mario Williams is a good example. If you follow his twitter feed, you may have read that he recently experienced a near death issue regarding a plane he was recently a passenger on. If you look over the tone of his timeline over the last year, you will find a person that gets how fortunate they are, and is looking to give back.
This is exactly the kind of spark that can emotionally fuel a team to success on the field by making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. It’s already happening all around the Western New York community.
The Pegulas are well aware of this phenomenon, and since owning the Sabres have repeatedly experienced the challenges facing the very special people of this region. We have the opportunity as a community of caring people to show others how love facilitates both physical and emotional healing.
Through our everlasting love of two sports teams we can strive to make the world a better place by being role models for others about the healing benefit of giving. What a great feeling to be part of something that is simply in and of itself, good!
The great Bills teams of the 1990s when Darryl Talley played had that special connection with the Bills fan base. Their empathy was like a shield for the downtrodden residents of one of the most misunderstood places in the country. That connection is the basis for the outpouring of support for the Talley family today.
Darryl Talley reached out. We are responding. Let this be a shining example about why this fan base is truly unique. Hopefully the meaning of that suffering for both Mr. Talley and the fan base will become more clear. It’s time for this team and its players to stand up and do the right thing both on and off the field. Championship fans deserve a championship team.