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Thursday, September 4, 2008

GU 63

The GU 63 on the field and on the uniforms for Gene Upshaw in tonight's opener between the Giants and the Redskins speaks to the justified respect the former NFLPA leader felt from both players and owners. The game would not be what it is tonight - a juggarnaut in American sport - were it not for his ability to find the common ground between the workers and their bosses. He endured the leadership of Pete Rozelle, Paul Taliagbue and Roger Goodell. Obviously Upshaw's legacy is, in part, affected by his hostility to the idea of compensating retired players whose debilitating handicaps are a direct result of football's violence. Tagliabue said that Upshaw thought about the larger picture of the game rather than the smaller issues. Rival offensive lineman Joe Delamielleure had another view, that the players were the game, unconditionally. His muted comments on Upshaw's death reflected a more critical view of Upshaw's legacy:

"The reality of life for all the guys who played in the NFL, including Gene, is that we have a short life span. It's just the way it is," he said. "I have sympathy for his family. I have sympathy for his wife and children. I didn't know Gene personally. I just knew him professionally."

Delamielleure is so fixated on his righteous point that he doesn't even bother to distinguish that Upshaw died of a long bout with cancer. Upshaw once said off the record that Delamielleure's activism on the issue of retired players' compensation made him want to break the former Bills' guard's neck. Delamielleure had the last word.

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