The 1971 movie “Brian’s Song” is the story of Pittsfield’s Brian Piccolo
Brian Piccolo was born in Pittsfield in 1943. The heartwarming and heartbreaking story of this Berkshire native was immortalized in the 1971 movie “Brian’s Song.” The movie chronicles Piccolo's close friendship with the Bears’ standout starting running back Gale Sayers. The movie highlights the friendship between two players in competition for the same position. The story breaks down racial barriers between white and black and how true bonds and acts of courage develop during the most difficult and tragic times. According to Wikipedia, the movie is based on Gale Sayers’ autobiography. In the movie, Piccolo was played by actor James Cann and Gayle Sayers was played by actor Billy Dee Williams. The movie is available through Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes.
As a 10-year-old watching this movie for the first time I broke down in tears and have every time since. I always knew the movie Brian's Song was a real-life story, but discovering Brian Piccolo was born in Pittsfield the story became that much more real.
Brian was born on October 31, 1943, to Irene and Joseph Piccolo. The family moved from Pittsfield to Fort Lauderdale a few years after Brian’s birth in 1946. According to Wikipedia, the Piccolo family moved to Florida because of Brian’s brother’s health issues.
Although also a baseball standout Piccolo played football at Wake Forest. He was never selected in the NFL draft but was signed by the Chicago Bears as a free agent in 1965 according to Wikipedia. He played four seasons at running back for the Bears from 1966 to 1969 before passing away from embryonal cell carcinoma in 1970 at the young age of 26. The Bears retired Piccolos #41 in 2018. During his career, Piccolo played a total of 51 games, ran for 927 yards, and scored four touchdowns according to the pro-football-reference website.
With the Super Bowl on Sunday, it is easy to get caught up in all the hype and fanfare. Let's not forget that each player has a story, a life outside of the boundaries of the gridiron. We hear about all the indiscretions of pro players but there are so many more players doing outstanding things for others, charities, and the communities in which they came from. The movie Brian’s Song is a true grit reality that will move you into tears but also reinforces life is more than just football or what we do for a living. It’s about the people that we let into our inner circle. Those that show us acts of kindness, love and give us hope to carry on. As you pass the nachos this Sunday let's also spread some love.