by Joey Davis
It was one of the most vicious tackles I have seen in a football game. In 1978, An Oakland Raider named Jack Tatum, viciously 'clotheslined' New England Patriots wide receiver, Darryl Stingley.
A 'clothesline' tackle is where a defender aims directly at the head of the player with the ball and hits him with such force that the ball carrier's feet fly out in front of him as if he had just run into a clothesline. Having been 'clotheslined' before, I know how much this hurts. It feels as if someone has tried to decapitate you. As you can probably guess, this kind of tackle is extremely dangerous. However, in 1978, this maneuver was not against the rules. Legal?..yes. Dirty?...you betcha'.
I remember watching as Darryl Stingley lay helpless on the field. He never moved. He was carried off in an ambulance and suffered paralysis from the chest down. He has been bound to a wheelchair everyday since that fateful autumn afternoon in '78.
The New England Patriots organization, in a very classy move, created a front office position for Stingley, where he still works to this day. The National Football League Player's Association, the player's union in the NFL, placed Stingley in the retirement bracket called the "catastrophic injury" bracket. This is the highest paid pension bracket awarded by the NFLP A. Stingley now receives $156,000 per year.
After the incident, Tatum was nicknamed "the Silent Assassin." He warned all other receivers in the league that he would do the same thing to them if they came into his area. He had no remorse, and besides that, no class!
However, from the "what goes around, comes around department..." In January of 1997, this same Jack Tatum petitioned the National Football League Player's Association for a change in his retirement status. He has asked to be placed in the 'catastrophic injury' bracket. His reason for requesting to be placed in this category? He pointed to the mental anguish he has suffered from having to live with the Darryl Stingley incident for the past nineteen years. Could his conscience be bothering him after all? Did he decide to develop a conscience for 156 grand a year? I can't answer either of these questions.
However, I do know one thing. . . we certainly reap what we sow. I was taught to live by the golden rule, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Today's society is being taught, "do unto others and run! . . . Maybe nobody will catch you!" The moral of this story is that there are some things you cannot run from. The conscience that God gave you is one of them!
March 16, 1997
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