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Talley pays Bills back in kindness

Just when you and I were wondering whether all professional-sports franchise owners and their employee/athletes had become universally and incurably greedy, self-serving, arrogant and oblivious to fans/patrons, along comes Darryl Talley to significantly restore our hope/faith.

After a dozen pro football seasons in Buffalo, as the spiritual heart of a Bills defense that earned four ill-fated opportunities to win Super Bowls, in January the linebacker was told "no thanks" by his team. Talley was not offered a 1995 contract.

He could have been sour.

Instead he said "thanks."

After assessing his NFL options elsewhere, including with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 34-year-old Talley signed with the Atlanta Falcons. But in departing Buffalo, old No.

56 chose to show his class to a city and its people.

Talley took out an expensive ad in the sports section of a Buffalo newspaper. There were no logos. No big-timing. No pitch for a biography. Nothing for sale. Alongside a photograph of a gritty, focused Darryl in a Bills jersey, his ad carried this message:

An open letter to the fans and our friends in Buffalo ...

"In leaving Buffalo, I want to express my sincerest thanks to everyone who has made my 12 years here the most memorable time of my life. I will go away only with fond memories.

"I realize that not all players have the privilege to play for such a successful franchise in such a great city.

"Those four Super Bowls will live on in my memories and in my family's memories forever. I've done things, gone places and met people that most only dream of because I played for the Buffalo Bills.

"It's time to move on, and perhaps the hardest part about leaving is leaving behind friendships that my family and I have made here.

"With that, I'd like to say thank you to our friends; you'll be missed but we will keep in touch. And our neighbors on Curley Drive; where will we ever meet neighbors like you again?

"To the people of Buffalo, thanks for making me feel like one of your own. I hope that Atlanta is as welcoming.

"Finally, to the Buffalo Bills organization and to my teammates, what can I say? You were simply the best.

"On behalf of my family, thanks for the memories. It was my honor.

Darryl Talley."

Talley's advertisement, pointed out to me by Bills fan Bill Myregaard of Palm Harbor, should be framed and hung in every NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball locker room.

There for players, coaches and managers to see every working day. As a reminder of what an athlete's attitude can be, and should be, even in the Snotty Nineties, toward people big and small who have encouraged and supported him.

Tack it up, Sam Wyche.

Post it, Sparky Anderson.

Talk it up, Larry Brown.

No relationship ever is perfect. Darryl heard some boos at Rich Stadium. He got nasty mail when the Bills would lose a Super Bowl. But he refuses, even upon being discarded, to allow a bathtubful of negatives to water down an ocean of positives.

Talley's move with the ad is so rare. I'd like not to say unique, but I'm laboring to come up with a matcher. Help me out. Even among jocks whom we might tend to classify as "good guys," it is difficult to recall such a warm, caring, self-implemented, no-ax-to-grind farewell.

Maybe some adios guys have thought such things, but they almost never go to the trouble to create a vehicle that can effectively get across their non-self-serving message.

They should try harder.

A dying Lou Gehrig set the curve for goodbyes by standing at a Yankee Stadium microphone and saying: "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

Nobody can top that.

But every decade or so, sports is graced by an au revoir

or two that rank only a rung below the Iron Horse for stylishness, humility and compassion. But there are far too few, especially now. Talley sticks out like a rose in a thorn patch.

Have a nice Atlanta.

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