Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Buffalo Soldier

I don't think there is any point in being Irish
if you don't know that the world is going
to break your heart eventually....
- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

If you have paid attention to American football on either the collegiate or professional level, then you have likely become acquainted with Jim Kelly.  Kelly is a member of the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame, into which he was inducted following his stellar career as the quarterback for - and the leader of - the Buffalo Bills.  The star-crossed, cursed Buffalo Bills.  Talented enough, incredible as it seems, to win four consecutive AFC Championships and make four straight appearances in the Super Bowl.  Cursed enough to never win a single one of those four games.  Truth be told, only the first one, Super Bowl XXV against the Giants was a close, competitive game.  But for Scott Norwood's "wide right" 47 yard field goal as time expired who knows what might have been for Kelly and his gang. 

And somewhere high above us, the late, great Senator Moynihan nods his head in knowing acquiescence. 

Jim Kelly was the first big-time quarterback for what has turned into a four-plus decade renaissance of University of Miami Hurricane football.  Kelly headed south from Pennsylvania and helped put Howard Schnellenberger's program back on the map.  Of course, the U's first National Title would not arrive until after Kelly had departed for professional football, which in his case was the USFL where he played for several seasons before that league folded up and he shuffled on off to Buffalo to lead the Bills to a sustained period of excellence.

To say that Jim Kelly has been through the wringer away from the game of football would be something akin to exaggerating the definition of the word understatement.  He and his wife Jill had to bury their son, who was born with more health problems than one would wish on a whole island of dictators.  Kelly's own health has been very poor as he has been ravaged by cancer in one incarnation or another. 

The other morning, I spent a few minutes and read the extraordinary piece that Peter King wrote for his "The Monday Morning Quarterback" site.  It was a profile of Kelly and a recap of King's visit with Kelly and Kelly's family, including but not limited to Jill and their two college-age daughters, which visit took place in Kelly's room at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.  The Hall-of-Famer has been admitted there to wage war against his cancer, which has returned to him as that insidious disease often does, which is with a vengeance.  

For your own benefit, take ten minutes and read Peter King's piece.  The link to it is here:  It is extraordinary.  Be warned.  It may very well make you cry.  I sat in my office at 5:30 on Monday morning and read it.  There was more than one point in time when I had to stop and remove my glasses so I could wipe away a tear forming in my eye.  Heart-wrenching stuff to be sure.  But a profile in courage - and not just Kelly's but his whole family's - that if not a "must read" certainly is a "should read".  

And keep a good thought for Kelly and his family.  Proof that sometimes really terrible things happen to really good people.  And proof that sometimes no matter what grief Life throws at a good person, he keeps picking himself up and he keeps right on going.  Kinda, sorta the way old #12 played quarterback.  He got knocked down and kept on keeping on....

....for when you are Kelly Tough, you know no other way.  Never have.  Never will. 


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