The former pro footballer’s life story is full of raw vitality that too often found auto-combustive expression—before, during and after his days in the NFL.
As long as he can remember, Simmons declares, he’s had big appetites. As a kid, he could run and play sports all day long, eat through the table and enjoy sex with both boys and girls. By the time he was a star lineman at Georgia Tech (he would go on to play for the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins), he applied the same verve to booze and drugs. He was circumspect about his sexuality (“if you play things cool and don’t rub people’s faces in your shit, they’ll let you get away with just about anything”), but never honest about it: “Roz didn’t care about Sheila and Sheila didn’t know about Roz . . . nobody but nobody knew about Joe, so that was perfect.” The threads of Simmons’s life were woven from strands of deceit and self-delusion. He became addicted to crack, lost his professional football job and everything unraveled. Spending hundreds of dollars on drugs each day was one thing when he was making more than $100,000 a year, something else when he was pulling down $11 an hour as a youth supervisor. Simmons recounts his experiences, which include sexual abuse in his youth, with shuddering candor. He abandoned his child, was in and out of jail for petty crimes committed to support his drug habit and may even have killed a crack dealer who pulled a knife on him: “Maybe the guy walked away from the whole thing…I don’t know.” You can almost hear the sigh as he writes, “You try and you try,” reflecting on the intense grind of sobriety and relapse, over and again.
Blisteringly honest portrait of a man fencing with his self-destructive instincts.