Tag Archives: Kansas City Chiefs

The Life Ryan O’Callaghan: A Sad (But Uplifting) Story About A Former NFL Player Coming Out

Ryan O'Callaghan #75 of the Kansas City Chiefs in action against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 14, 2010 in Denver Colorado.

For a brief moment, picture a typical gay man. Depending on when you grew up, where you came from, and what sort of media you consumed, you probably have a certain image in your head. I suspect that image looks nothing like Ryan O’Callaghan.

Unless you’re a world class NFL football nerd, chances are you haven’t heard that name before. However, after learning about his story, I hope he’s someone who has changed your perception of what it means to be LGBTQ. That’s because Ryan O’Callaghan’s story is a sad, downright heartbreaking story on many levels, but one that has a happy, uplifting ending.

We need more stories like that, especially during Pride Month. We need them now more than ever.

To appreciate what Ryan O’Callaghan went through, it’s necessary to appreciate how hard it can be to live life as a closeted gay man. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a story from decades ago. Ryan O’Callaghan was born in 1983. He’s pretty much the same age as I am. He was born at a time when things were steadily improving for the LGBTQ community.

However, that wasn’t much solace for him. He grew up in a very conservative part of California. After realizing he was gay, he had no idea how he was going to live that life in such an environment. That led him to hide his sexuality. At one point, he even made plans to kill himself.

It’s hard to imagine how agonizing it must be, having to hide a part of who you are from everyone around you. Forget, for a moment, how you feel about homosexuality in general. Imagine trying to hide a big part of who you are from everyone and being terrified of the truth coming out. Could we really manage keeping a secret like that?

I know I couldn’t. I question the honesty of anyone who claims they can. For Ryan O’Callaghan, it was too much. He really didn’t believe he could live a full life as an openly gay man. The best he could do was hide his secret as long as he could. That was where football came in.

This goes back to that picture I conjured earlier. Ryan O’Callaghan is 6 foot 7 inches tall. During his playing days through college and the NFL, he weight in between 250 and 330 pounds. He was an offensive lineman. He looked and played the part. In essence, he was the last person anyone expected to be gay and that’s how he liked it.

Through high school, college, and the NFL, he let football be his mask. It’s supposed to be the manliest sport in the world. Even after Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to play in the NFL in 2014, there’s still this perception that the men who play football fit a certain ideal and that ideal doesn’t involve being gay.

That’s not to say there haven’t been gay players in the NFL. In fact, there have been quite a few. One of the best tight ends in NFL history, Jerry Smith, played his entire 13 year career in the NFL as a closeted gay man. There’s a good chance there are active players in the NFL right now who are gay, but in the closet.

Be that as it may, it offered no comfort to Ryan O’Callaghan. Football was still his mask, but he loved playing it enough to keep going. It also helped that he was very good at it. He was so good that he managed to get a college scholarship with the California Golden Bears. He went onto play well enough to get drafted by the New England Patriots in 2006.

That’s a level of success very few football players ever reach, regardless of position. The fact that Ryan was able to go that far is a testament to both his skill and his talent for the game. Doing it all while in the closet just makes it all the more harrowing.

However, that success didn’t change his plans. Ryan still believed he could not live life as an openly gay man. Once his playing days were over, he still planned to take his own life. At one point, he even wrote a suicide letter, bought guns, and built a cabin. That’s how close he came to ending it all.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending.

Before he took that fatal step, he got help from a clinical psychologist. She helped him out of that dark place. Eventually, he was able to come out, revealing his secret to the general manager who had drafted him. It’s hard to overstate how big that moment must have been for him.

I certainly can’t do it justice. I’ve only touched on some of the details surrounding Ryan O’Callaghan’s story. For a more a more complete picture, check out his book, My Life On The Line. Also, I highly recommend that everyone read this story done by Outsports. It covers Ryan’s struggles in far greater depth.

I should offer a bit of a trigger warning, though. Some of the details are difficult to take in, but it’s worth noting that this story has a happy ending. Here’s a brief snippet.

Outsports: Former Patriots and Chiefs tackle Ryan O’Callaghan comes out as gay

Very early on in the process he felt it was mandatory to share his truth with Pioli, the man who had brought him from New England and helped keep his career — and his life — moving forward.

Just after the 2011 season, O’Callaghan visited Pioli in his office.

The day before he had called his general manager, who had become a good friend, to ask him for a meeting. Pioli had known about O’Callaghan’s drug abuse, and the gravity in his player’s voice over the phone told him that something dire was on his mind.

“He had built this up like he was coming in to tell me that maybe he had done something truly terrible,” Pioli remembered.

O’Callaghan trudged into Pioli’s office the next day. After a hug and some small talk, O’Callaghan turned serious. He told Pioli he had been visiting with Wilson and had gotten “clean.” It was good news to Pioli.

“I’ve got something else I’ve got to tell you,” O’Callaghan said. At this point he was fighting back tears. Pioli’s mind raced, wondering if his player had harmed or killed someone.

“I’m gay,” O’Callaghan said.

His private announcement was met with immediate support from the GM. Then:

“So what’s the problem you wanted to talk me about?” Pioli asked.

O’Callaghan looked at him, bewildered, 27 years of fear, anxiety and self-loathing meeting Pioli’s stare.

“Scott,” O’Callaghan said, “I’m… gay.”

Pioli acknowledged that and asked again if O’Callaghan had done something wrong.

“People like me are supposed to react a certain way, I guess,” Pioli told Outsports. “I wasn’t minimizing what he was telling me, but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. He built this up and built this up to the point where he said he was nearly suicidal. What Ryan didn’t know is how many gay people I’ve had in my life.”

O’Callaghan also didn’t know that, according to Pioli, he wasn’t the first gay NFL player whom his GM had counseled.

The two men talked more and Pioli assured O’Callaghan that their conversation changed nothing, he was still there to support him, and they were still friends. O’Callaghan was shocked by the reaction. Pioli handled it pitch-perfectly, as though he had known all along. So O’Callaghan asked if his boss had, in fact, known.

“Ryan, how would I have known?” Pioli responded.

“Do you really think I like coffee that much?” O’Callaghan asked.

Pioli had no idea what his player was talking about.

O’Callaghan had, since his time in New England, headed to the training room after every practice to consume copious amounts of coffee, a convenient excuse to avoid being in the showers with the rest of his teammates.

Pioli got emotional at the thought of one of his players having to go to those lengths to keep some distance from his teammates. The mental toll this had all taken on O’Callaghan had come into focus.

As they rose to say goodbye, Pioli came around from behind his desk and opened his arms to embrace O’Callaghan. They had hugged countless times before, after games, after the offseason, even just moments ago when O’Callaghan walked into his office.

This time O’Callaghan stuck out his hand to shake.

“What’s with the handshake?” Pioli asked.

“I just told you I’m gay,” O’Callaghan replied sheepishly.

Pioli was having none of it and grabbed O’Callaghan.

“Dude, it’s OK,” Pioli said. Then, in his signature sense of humor, “Just don’t grab my butt.”

That broke the tension and O’Callaghan burst into laughter. The humor was a sign to him that Pioli wasn’t going to change. They could get along just as they always had.

“Don’t worry,” O’Callaghan replied, “You’re not my type.”

I sincerely hope this story resonates with others for all the right reasons. Whether you’re openly LGBTQ, in the closet, or just know people who are struggling with their sexuality, I hope the story of Ryan O’Callaghan offers insight and perspective.

Yes, we’ve made progress as a society. Life for the LGBTQ community is better now than it has been in the past. We still have room for improvement, as Ryan’s story perfectly illustrates. If you or anyone you know is struggling, I hope this story helps you in some way.

Also, if you need help or are at all feeling suicidal, please check out the resources of the Trevor Project. Thank you an have a Happy Pride Month.

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My Top 5 Most Anticipated Games For The 2021 NFL Season

NFL delays deciding on expanding regular season until 2021 | Yardbarker

For lifelong football fans like me, this is often a bittersweet time of year. The most eventful parts of the NFL offseason have come and gone. Both free agency and the NFL Draft are behind us. All 32 teams in the NFL are very different compared to what they were when the 2020 season ended. For many fans, especially of those whose teams had major overhauls, it’s an exciting time.

As of now, every team is 0-0.

Every team has the potential to go from worst to first.

Every player has the potential to become the best at their position.

At this point, most people know what they’re team is going to look like when the season starts. Now, we also know who, when, and where they’ll play because the NFL just released the full 2021 schedule. It all starts on September 9, 2021 with the Cowboys facing the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. Even if you’re not a fan of those particular teams, that’ll be a glorious day if you’re just a football fan in general.

Given how crazy last year was with games being delayed and no fans being in the stands, I am ready for a full season that isn’t utterly chaotic because of a once-in-a-century pandemic. I can’t wait to see the day when full stadiums of cheering fans are a regular thing again. It’s something I hope players and fans alike never take for granted.

While that wait is going to be long from here on out, the release of the schedule already has me excited. So, to help pass the time while I wait for kickoff, here’s a brief list of the games from 2021 that I’m most excited about. Please note that this is just my list. Yours may differ considerably, depending on your favorite/most hated team. If you think there’s another game worthy of such hype, please mention it in the comments.


#5: Jaguars @ Texans in Week 1

Jaguars news: Trevor Lawrence thanks Clemson as he looks ahead to NFL

This is likely more of a curiosity than anything else. It’s the debut of the all new, fully rebuilt Jaguars and their new number one overall pick, Trevor Lawrence. Some call him Football Jesus. Some think he’s a once-in-a-generation quarterback who will take the Jaguars to a whole new level. We may not know how true that is with this game, but I’ll certainly be curious to see what he and Urban Meyer can do.

Plus, Tim Tebow could be back. That can only make this game more exciting.


#4: Steelers @ Chiefs in Week 16

Chiefs vs. Steelers recap: Kansas City moves to 2-0 with emotional road win

These are two perennial playoff teams with high-flying offenses. They both have Hall of Fame quarterbacks and Hall of Fame coaches who have won Super Bowls. This is one of those match-ups where you know you’re getting the best and at this point in the season, this match-up could very well determine which team has the top seed in the playoffs and which team will have to travel on their path to another Super Bowl.

Then again, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers didn’t mind traveling last year on the road to their championship, so there’s that.


#3: Packers @ Chiefs in Week 9

Packers vs. Chiefs: Three questions with Arrowhead Addict

I know. It’s another Chiefs game. No, I’m not playing favorites. I’ve just been watching football long enough to know that Patrick Mahomes makes any game worth watching. However, add future Hall of Famer Aaron Rogers to the mix and this could be must-see TV. Now, it’s not yet clear what’ll happen between the Packers and Rogers. I’ve been following the trade rumors along with anyone else. I don’t think there’s enough there to think someone different will be under center by the time this game is played. Hopefully, it’s still the match-up we all hope it will be.

Plus, this should’ve been the Super Bowl last year. It really should’ve.


#2: Ravens @ Steelers in Week 13

Steelers vs. Ravens: A decade by decade breakdown of one of the NFL's  greatest rivalries - CBSSports.com

I don’t think I need to say much to justify this. It’s Ravens versus Steelers. They’re not just division rivals. They’re two of the hardest hitting teams in the AFC. Both are regularly in the playoff hunt, especially by mid-season. Both have top tier quarterbacks and quality defenses. It’s usually at this point in the season where one team separates themselves from another and it’s usually in a match-up like this when we see these teams at their best.

If you’re a fan of old school had-nose football, this is your game.


#1: Buccaneers @ Patriots in Week 4

Tom Brady's 2 TD passes, Ryan Succop's 4 field goals lift Buccaneers over  Giants

It’s Tom Brady’s first time playing in Foxboro for a team that’s not the Patriots. Need I say more? Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to every play and his greatness brought six Super Bowl titles to New England. Him leaving was a big deal. Him coming back as a Buccaneer after winning them the Super Bowl will an even bigger deal. This is one of those games that’ll have a lot of drama to it. It’ll feel like a playoff game and it’ll only be Week 4.

For that reason, this will likely be the most anticipated game of the season for many, myself included.


I’ll say it again. I am so ready for some football. I know I’ll have to wait a few more months for it to arrive, but I’ll be ready when the time comes. The wait will be agonizing and these five games are just a small slice of a much larger, more delicious cake that is the NFL season, but it’ll be worth it.

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Post-Super Bowl LV Aftermath And Thoughts

It’s over.

The 2020 NFL season is over.

Super Bowl LV is over and while the outcome was lacking in drama, it was still not surprising.

Again, Tom Brady led a team to a Super Bowl.

For the seventh time in his career, Tom Brady is a Super Bowl champion.

At this point, there’s no way around it. Tom Brady is the greatest. They call him the GOAT, the Greatest of All Time. It’s not just a cute acronym. It’s the truth. The man has won seven Super Bowls. That’s nearly double that of any other quarterback of any era. He’s also played in ten. Out of a 21 year career, that means he’s been to a Super Bowl almost every other year.

If you’re not an American football fan, just know that’s insane. That’s unheard of. In a game that’s supposed to be the ultimate team sport in which one player cannot win a game alone, it might as well be superhuman. It’s one thing to do this with one team over the course of two decades, but Brady had to raise the bar yet again by going to another team and winning them a Super Bowl in his first year.

Again, that’s insane.

That’s unheard of.

That was thought to be impossible, given the nature of the NFL.

That still didn’t stop Brady. He still went to a new team and, despite not even winning the division, he went onto win the Super Bowl. There are Hall of Fame players who are considered the greatest of their time who never even played in a Super Bowl. Barry Sanders, Bernie Kosar, Calvin Johnson, and Philip Rivers are all considered great, but Brady has played in 10 more Super Bowl than they ever did.

At this point, there is no debate. There is no context or second-guessing. Tom Brady is the greatest football player of all time. After this lastest Super Bowl, I would even go a step further.

Tom Brady is officially better than Michael Jordan.

Trust me, I don’t say those words lightly. Michael Jordan was so dominant when he played in the NBA. His six championship and the way he went about winning them are what put him a cut above the rest, even among players today. LeBron James is trying to catch him, but even if he goes onto win six championship, he won’t be better than Tom Brady.

Patrick Mahomes is still great. He still won a Super Bowl last year and he still put up great numbers. Nobody can take that away from him. However, even if he goes onto win seven Super Bowls throughout his career, he’ll never be greater than Tom Brady, if only because he lost to Brady when it counted.

You can hate Brady all you want for winning so much and being so dominant. You can even hate how lopsided the Super Bowl was this year. You still can’t deny the cold, hard truth.

Tom Brady has shattered what few doubts remained. He is the greatest of all time when it comes to football. I’m confident in saying that there will never be anyone as great as him, for as long as this game is played.

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Two Monday Night Football Games: Something Awesome From Something Awful In 2020

It’s been a weird year for sports and for horrific reasons. Let’s not overlook that. This year has been horrific in general for reasons I hope I don’t have to belabor. However, it is possible for good things to come out of awful circumstances. That doesn’t make the circumstances any less awful, but a good thing is still a good thing.

For me, a lifelong football fan who builds his Sunday afternoons and Monday nights around watching football, it’s been plenty weird. Watching NFL games in front of empty stadiums has taken some getting used to. All that fake crowd noise isn’t the least bit convincing.

That said, I’ll gladly take this kind of football over no football. At the same time, news about positive COVID-19 tests among NFL teams has me genuinely concerned. It already caused one game to get delayed. It threatened to delay another one. It was scary.

Then, through this horrible thing, something awesome emerged. The marquee matchup between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs was postponed to Monday Night. That meant we had what amounted to a double-header last night, starting at 7:00 p.m. EST and going past midnight.

I think I speak for many of my fellow football fans when I say I loved this. I loved it in ways I cannot put into words without the aid of alcohol or spiked coffee.

Yes, I’m tired this morning from staying up so late.

Yes, it’s something that emerged from a bad situation.

Yes, it’s still awesome.

Two Monday Night Football games? A double-header that makes Monday’s less awful and Monday night’s more eventful? Yes, please! This is an objectively wonderful thing and I say let’s have more of it.

Sundays are great and because of NFL RedZone, football fans can plug themselves into every game for hours at a time. It’s wonderful and has made football such an engaging, day-long experience.

However, there are times in the season when there are as many as 9 or 10 games going at once at 1:00 p.m. in my time zone. Even with RedZone, it’s hard to keep up with. Some of those games deserve to be prime time games. Some of those teams would benefit from a little prime time exposure. I say this is the perfect way to do it.

Monday Night Football is already a ratings bonanza for everyone involved, regardless of how awful this year has been. Adding another game to that mix can only help add to the boon. I hope last night was a proving ground of sorts. There is room for two games on Monday night.

To the NFL, please use this as a sign. Turn this objectively terrible situation into something awesome. Football fans will thank you for years to come.

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Jack’s World: My Picks And Predictions For The 2020 NFL Season

Every year, just before the NFL season kicks off, I write out my predictions and picks for the season. Being a lifelong football fan, it’s one of my favorite times of the year. This year, being what it is, has added some new complications. Be that as it may, I’m still going to try. This time, though, I’m going to offer my picks through my YouTube channel, Jack’s World.

If you like this new format and would like me to make more videos like it, please let me know in the comments. Enjoy!

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A Message To Those Who Whined About The Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show

I promise I won’t keep obsessing over the Super Bowl and how great it was this year, even though it was an objectively amazing game. I originally intended to take a break from sports references for a while, if only to prepare myself for baseball season.

However, those plans went out the window when I saw the equally amazing Super Bowl halftime show featuring Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. To say it was stunning would’ve been an insult. I’ll go on record as saying it’s the greatest Super Bowl halftime show of all time. I don’t see how it will be topped in the near future.

That said, I knew before it was over that it was going to piss some people off. I didn’t even need to check my Twitter feed to know who those people were. I could already sense the collective gasps of a certain segment of people who identify too much with Helen Lovejoy.

We know who these people are. Some of them identify with a particular religion. Some identify with a particular ideology. It doesn’t always come from one point in the spectrum, but it always comes from the extremes. It’s annoying, frustrating, idiotic, asinine, selfish, and just plain stupid. I put it on the same level as those behind those awful car insurance commercials that I despise.

To these people, there’s no arguing with them. They see two beautiful women dancing, singing, and energizing a crowd and they don’t see fun. They see something dangerous, subversive, and perverse. To them, such a thing shouldn’t even exist. It’s not just offensive. It’s dangerous and could corrupt the minds, bodies, and souls of children and adults alike.

To those same people, I have a message.

Grow up or get out.

If that sounds too harsh, I’m sorry. I don’t know of a nicer way to say it.

If you’re the kind of religious zealot who see women doing anything other than obeying her husband, birthing children, and keeping her mouth shut, then you’re in the wrong part of the world.

If you’re the kind of dogmatic, moral values preaching conservative who think women and music that wouldn’t be allowed in a 1950s sitcom is a subversive plot, then your attitudes are 10 steps behind that of most children.

If you’re the kind of regressive, perpetually angry liberal who think any depiction of beautiful women in the media is akin gross objectification that deserves the same condemnation of human trafficking, you need to drag yourself out of the dystopian fantasy land you’ve been living in.

I’ve no sympathy for these people. Whether they’re priest, mullahs, liberals, conservatives, rabbis, feminists, misogynists, or college students with too much free time on their hands, they deserve nothing but scorn. This was an incredible show full of beauty, spectacle, and wonder. It brought joy and astonishment to many. If you can’t enjoy that because your politics or theology won’t let you, then that’s your problem.

There are parts of this world in which you don’t have to confront such joy. There are entire countries where women are subjugated and censored by law. There are remote islands, villages, and lands on which you can’t even access spectacles like this. Go there and create your own joyless world in which women can’t be beautiful, men can’t admire it, and music can’t be played.

The alternative is to just grow up and except that entertainment exists. It’s beautiful, sexy, and powerful sometimes. If you can’t be a mature adult about it, then you have problems beyond your inability to appreciate a great show.

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Super Bowl LIV Recovery Day (And Celebration)

First off, what a game!

I had to say that, especially after the snoozer we had last year. I’m not a huge fan of either team, but I’m a big fan of great, exciting football and Super Bowl LIV delivered. It was a close, exciting game for all four quarters. It showcased two teams that definitely deserved to be there. They both played hard. They both showed why they’re the best. In the end, the better team won.

To the Kansas City Chiefs, you earned this. They played their best game on the game’s biggest stage. Their coach, Andy Reid, finally exorcised some long-simmering demons about his lack of Super Bowl success. Their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, showed why he’s one of the NFL’s best rising stars. The entire team played like champions and now they are champions.

To the San Francisco 49ers, you put up a hell of a fight. Like the Chiefs, they proved they deserved to be there. Their punishing rushing attack and the steady hand of quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, made them one of the most dominant teams throughout the regular season and the playoffs. They beat some of the best teams in the league this past season, but in the end, they couldn’t beat the best.

I’ll be using this day to recover from both the excitement of the game and all the junk food I ate while watching it. To fans of the Chiefs, it’s a day to celebrate. Go on. You’ve earned it.

 

The NFL season is officially over now. While a part of me is sad, I still had a great time this season. It was fun to watch from start to finish. Once again, football made every Sunday feel special. I’ll miss it for the next seven months. Until then, I hope the XFL can fill the void.

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Happy Super Bowl LIV Eve!

It’s almost here. The holiest of days for football fans is finally here. I can already taste the cold beer, buffalo wings, and overpriced dip. In less than 24 hours, I’ll actually be tasting it. As a lifelong football fan, a sports fan, and a general fan of anything entertaining on a Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ve been building my Sundays around football for months. Now, I get to do it one more time, at least until the XFL gets started. It’s the biggest game of the year, both in terms of importance and in terms of prime time ratings. There’s a reason why people pay millions for commercial time during the Super Bowl. I’m just one of those reasons.

In the spirit of preparing/celebrating this holiest of sporting events, I’d like to briefly share my Super Bowl plans. I don’t throw a party or stage some elaborate event. I did that in college and it got tedious at some point. Now, ever since I’ve been living on my own, I’ve developed my own Super Bowl ritual. It’s evolved over the years, but I feel like I’ve refined it to perfection.

It goes like this.

The day before the Super Bowl, I buy two big bags of chicken wings, two cases of beer, a giant bag of chips, two jugs of dip, and several bottles of buffalo wing sauce.

On the morning of the Super Bowl, I eat a light breakfast that consists of black coffee, oatmeal, and a couple eggs. I don’t eat anything else for the rest of the day.

Then, approximately four hours before kickoff, I work out and I work out extra hard. That includes a four mile run and weight lifting. I then shower and change into my most comfortable clothes.

An hour before kickoff, I start cooking my wings. I time it just right so that I’m tossing them in the sauce as the national anthem is playing.

During the coin toss, I get a cold beer ready, prepare a plate of wings, and lay out a bag of chips.

At the moment of kickoff, I open the beer, eat my first wing, and start watching the game.

Yes, I know it’s not the most elaborate setup for a Super Bowl viewing experience. For me, it maximizes my enjoyment of the game. While last year’s game wasn’t that exciting, I still had fun and my approach to the game definitely helped. This year, I’m hoping for something better.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers. However, I’ve become a big fan of Patrick Mahomes for reasons most NFL fans are well aware of. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m rooting for the Chiefs, but he’s proven his greatness thus far. Nothing would vindicate it more than a Super Bowl championship for a team that hasn’t even played in one since the Nixon Administration.

To the rest of the ardent football fans out there, I hope you share my excitement. I also hope the game caps off the season on the highest of notes. The Super Bowl is a culmination of a journey that few teams get to complete. It’s America’s most popular sport for a reason. When a team wins, it’s a hell of an accomplishment.

I’ll probably have a lot more to say about the game once it’s finished. Until then, my excitement will only build. In the meantime, please enjoy these spectacular highlights from the 2019/2020 NFL season.

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