A deputy and Gale Sayers


Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist


Two topics, mostly unrelated but still related by the times we’re living through, are on my mind this week. One is the efforts of a local sheriff’s deputy to keep a man who was sentenced to prison from escaping from the Highland County Common Pleas Courtroom this week.

The deputy was not successful in his attempt, but it was not for a lack of effort. There is video of the escape on The Times-Gazette’s Facebook page. If you have not seen it, you should take a look.

As the deputy was attempting to handcuff the escapee at the back of the second-story courtroom, the escapee bolted for the exit at the other end of the courtroom. The deputy took off after the escapee on the dead run the moment the escapee bolted. As the escapee rounded a banister and started down the stairs, the deputy leapt over the banister in an attempt to nab him, but barely missed.

In the process, the deputy smashed his head into the wall on the opposite side of the stairway, was reportedly knocked unconscious, and broke four ribs as he slid on his back down the stairway. He is probably lucky he was not injuries were not more severe.

But that is the length many law enforcement officers, both locally and nationwide, are willing to go to protect their communities. We wish our local deputy a speedy recovery.

It should be pointed out that both the deputy and the escapee are White. I would like to think that doesn’t make a difference, but in too many cases it has.

Because if anyone believes that Black men and women are not often unjustly targeted by white officers all across the country, well, they are a large part of the problems this country is facing.

That is not to say that all law enforcement officers are bad. I believe the vast majority of them are good, like the one who risked his life this week in a Hillsboro courtroom. Still, it is painfully obvious that too many are racially biased, and something needs to change.

The other topic on my mind is the passing this week of NFL Hall of Famer Gale Sayers. It was surreal when I heard that Sayers died Wednesday, because just last Sunday I watched the 1971 movie “Brian’s Song.” The movie is based on a book by Sayers titled “I Am Third,” meaning the Lord is first, my friends are second, and I am third.

The movie is about the relationship between Sayers, a Black man, and his white roommate Brian Piccolo, who both played halfback. According to the movie, they were the first Black and white players to be roommates on the Chicago Bears football team. Piccolo helped Sayers recover from a severe knee injury, then Sayers helped Piccolo through a battle with cancer that took his life at the age of 26. In that time they formed a fast friendship.

The movie had a deep impact on me as a kid, and I read the book twice.

When I watched the movie this week for the first time in many years, it made me think. It made think about the first time I watched it as a kid. It made think how times have changed. It made me think that at a time when I was more than 10 years old, there was a great racial divide in this country. It made me think that while the divide is not as large as it once was, it appears to be growing.

I knew the divide was wide back then, but being a white kid, and young, and having watched my father play softball on teams with all Black players except for himself, I guess I really never took the time to look at it from the perspective of a Black kid. The movie made me think that maybe I have been guilty of not fully considering things from the other perspective most of my life.

It made me think that maybe I need to try harder.

It also made me think that there is always hope for a better day.

Less than a month before Piccolo died, Sayers won the NFL’s Most Courageous Player Award for coming back from his injury. At the award ceremony, Sayers said the award was his that night, but it would be Piccolo’s the next day. Then he said: “I love Brian Piccolo, and I’d like all of you to love him, too. And tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him.”

Maybe it is love, and a willingness to ask God to help us find love for people of all color, that too many on each side are lacking.

Before you close your eyes tonight, give that some thought.

Jeff Gilliland is the managing editor of The Times-Gazette.He can be reached at 937-402-2522.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2020/09/web1_Gilliland-jeff-2018-2.jpgmug-2.jpgJeff Gilliland Staff columnist