(from the back of Sauer’s 1970 Topps card)
“Football is an ambiguous sport, depending both on grace and violence. It both glorifies and destroys bodies. At the time, I could not reconcile the apparent inconsistency.” If you’re thinking that sounds a little like Ricky Williams, well, you wouldn’t wrong, but instead, those words come from former New York Jets WR and 1969 Super Bowl standout George Sauer, who shuffled off this mortal coil earlier this week. As the New York Times’ Frank Litsky reminds us, Sauer eventually outgrew the gridiron lifestyle and wasn’t shy about saying so.
“When you get to the college and professional levels, the coaches still treat you as an adolescent,” he said in an interview in 1971 with the Institute for the Study of Sport and Society. “They know damn well that you were never given a chance to become responsible or self-disciplined. Even in the pros, you were told when to go to bed, when to turn your lights off, when to wake up, when to eat and what to eat. You even have to live and eat together like you were in a boys’ camp.”
Ten years later, he remained just as disillusioned. In an interview with The New York Times, he called professional football “a grotesque business” designed to “mold you into someone easy to manipulate.”
After leaving football, Sauer furthered an interest in writing, turning out novels, poetry and book reviews.
“He didn’t want to be anything but a poet and a writer,” John Dockery, a former Jets teammate and roommate during road games, recalled in a 2008 interview, “but he was given skills he didn’t want. He wanted something else. He walked away from the money, from everything, because it was too painful for him.”