Not long ago I read Roy Simmons was found dead in his Bronx apartment.  He was in his late 50s.  I read that Simmons was a gay NFL player, one of the very few.  Actually, pretty much openly gay.  The news reports had a link to his autobiography.

I am not a football fan.  I don't even know the rules, or most of the team names.  But this story sounded interesting, so I bought it on kindle.

The subtitle is "Coming out of Sexual Abuse, Addiction, and my LIfe of Lies in the NFL CLoset."

After a teaser, describing when he hit bottom - one of many times he hit bottom - with cocaine addiction, Simmons begins his story with having been raped as a boy.  He gives the year as 1967, was born in 1956, so was about 11 yrs old.  After the first rape episode, the perpetrator (Travis) avoided Simmons, and he expressed feeling rejected.  Later, he developed an ongoing relationship with Travis, with recurrent episodes.  He states at one point, maybe he viewed Travis as his "Daddy".   This was in Savanna Georgia.

Much later, when Simmons was a grown man, he met Travis again, had a sexual encounter with him that he viewed as "revenge", but also notes that Travis enjoyed that episode.

It's a hard book to read.  Simmons' description of his coming of age seems innocent enough.  He describes himself, not as "gay", but as "going with the flow" which for him was to be attracted to men and women in equal measure.  After finishing the book, I didn't want to claim Simmons as a gay man - he used and abused everyone he was close to, repeatedly - but I've thought more about his story and can see conflicted empathy towards him.  If we are going to use labels, he clearly falls under the "bisexual" label, by definition, having had love relationships, and sexual relationships, extensively with people of both sexes, and never expressing a preference of one over the other.  Of the big loves of his life, one was a man, and a couple were women.  He dedicates his book to the women.

By his description, Simmons had a meteoric career in the NFL.  Before, during, and after, he was sexually and emotionally involved with both sexes.  He was prolific in his sexual encounters, and less attentive in actual relationships.  I can see that with raging hormones, and who knows - he doesn't say - if he took testosterone or androgen steroids, that would exacerbate sexual aggression and sex drive in general.  As an athlete, it's not unheard of.  He had a childhood sweetheart, who ultimately became the mother of his daughter.  But throughout his relationship with her, was on the downlow with both female and male partners.   He did not complete college, having been uninterested in academics,  and was drafted into the  NFL.  

In the NFL, Simmons was a partier to the point of self destruction.  He didn't last long.  I get the impression,  NFL careers are almost never long, and drug use and prolific sexual exploration are common in pro sports.  Again, I am not a sports fan, so I could be wrong.  If they are drug testing these days, that would rule out the drugs, at least in season.

Afterwards, Simmons descended in a vortex of self destruction.   He lost everything to cocaine addiction.  He lost almost all family and friends.  He was the definition of deadbeat dad, rarely giving money to help raise his daughter, and portrays her mother unsympathetically,  but taking pride in his daughter, who didn't get to know him, when she graduated from school.

Simmons became a thief and criminal, lied to everyone he came into contact with, abused, manipulated, charmed, coerced, played on his friend and family's emotions and trust,  to get drugs.  People who loved him put him through drug treatment  programs.  Somewhere in the process he became HIV positive.  On the internet, he is described as the only NFL player ever to be HIV positive.  However, it appears that was long after his NFL career was over.  I imagine he is also the only NFL player to prostitute himself, giving $15 blowjobs in alleys and porn theaters, to buy cocaine.  

Ultimately, Simmons went in and out of treatment programs, mainly with the support of a gay friend.  He also became a drug treatment counselor, even though his drug addiction continued.  Near the end of life, he found Jesus, gave up sex, appeared on the 700 club, and wrote this book.

In the end, the book is a confession.  He lays it all out in graphic, not-safe-for-work language.  It's grueling, reading the litany of the abuses he committed, one after another, after another, after another, after another.   He makes a list of the people who is apologizes to, repeatedly saying he's sorry.  That may be part of his treatment, or it may be genuine.

For a while after reading the book, I thought, this was a self-absorbed, narcissistic, self abusive, self destructive man, who relentlessly abused and near-ruined almost everyone he touched.  After a few days, I mellowed.  I have known others who experienced sexual abuse as children, mostly adult women.  Many seem wounded, manipulative, substance dependent, and self-destructive even into middle age and elderly years.  It's something that no one can truly know if they have not been through it.  My own childhood and adolescence were not free of abuse, but I was not sexually molested, so I can't say I've been there.  On Simmon's early years, going back to Travis for repeated episodes, I can look at myself and say, in the same place, I might have done the same thing.   And as for addiction, I deal with  addicts frequently.  The have a disease.  It harms everyone they come into contact with.  Simmons is a classic case.

For what it's worth, cocaine is a clear risk for heart attack.  Remote and recent use.  It's possible that he fell back into addiction at the end of life.  It would fit his pattern.  Without an autopsy result, we will never know.  I imagine cocaine contributed to, if not as the actual immediate cause, of Simmons death.

In the end, life is a lot about inborn temperament and abilities, upbringing, influences good and bad, random luck, random tragedies.  Simmons' story reads like almost like a Greek tragedy, having been given amazing inborn talent and beset with amazing flaws, from the outset.  Almost no one would care, if he didn't have that NFL connection. Looking at his photos, I see what looks like a lovable bear kind of man, sensitive, with a sweet smile.  Of course, photos don't reveal what's inside.  I don't know that I can recommend his book, but I learned a few things that increase my empathy and tolerance for lives that I can't - fortunately - live myself.   Reading Simmons' book is a bit of an ordeal.  I continue to ponder, so I must be glad I read it.  

As for family members who might read Simmons' book - I feel really bad for them.

Tags: Cocaine, LGBT, NFL, Sports, bisexual, book review, drug abuse, rape, sexual abuse

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