Gay NFL player’s memoir scores with salacious tales about a fumbled past
“Out of Bounds: Coming Out of Sexual Abuse, Addiction and My Life of Lies in the NFL Closet,” by Roy Simmons with Damon DiMarco in collaboration with David Fisher and Jimmy Hester. (Carroll & Graf, 2005) , 288 pp., $25.
No matter how talented he might have been on the field, Roy Simmons will be remembered as the second NFL player to come out of the closet (in 1992). In 2003, Simmons disclosed his HIV-positive status. In “Out of Bounds,” his compelling and harrowing autobiography, Simmons comes clean about the toll that living a lie has taken on his life.
Those expecting a book full of game plays, football statistics and edited highlights are in for a shock. When such elements inevitably are part of “Out of Bounds,” they take a back seat to the often-lurid details of Simmons’ many addictions and the consequences of his actions. He’s not shy about his sexual exploits with men, or the stuff he saw (or participated in) in gay bathhouses in the ’70s and ’80s. Nor does he hold back his language, liberally using “f” bombs and the “s” word.
Simmons unflinchingly chronicles his descent into crack addiction, poverty and self-prostitution, as well as his efforts at sobriety and his frequent relapses. He’s brutally frank and sincere in expressing sorrow for causing so much pain to his family, friends and lovers and for squandering his football talents.
“How on earth could I have thrown all that away for some bottles of liquor, a few one-night stands and some goddamn brown dust that you have to buy in secret on street corners?” he writes.
Simmons also relates how he grew up dirt poor in Savannah, Ga., raised by his strict grandmother while his mother worked out of state to support her family. His dad wasn’t part of the family, but could usually be found in one of the local dives.
When Simmons was 11, a neighbor’s husband raped him and essentially got away with the crime because, back in 1967, such things were not discussed. He acknowledges that this “was probably the beginning of my lifelong tendency to keep secrets,” such as his sexual orientation, his multiple sex partners of both genders and the extent of his addictions.
The chapters on Simmons’ NFL days with the Giants and Redskins chronicle the parties, orgies, drug binges and worse. Although he played in Super Bowl XVIII, he and his teammates were so wasted from partying the night before that “we got our asses waxed.”
Nor does he shy away from detailing some of his ex-teammates’ excessive behavior: “In the NFL, you can be a wife-beater, you can do drugs, get piss-ass drunk and wreck your car, sleep with as many groupies as you want behind your wife’s back, and destroy private property whenever you went on a rampage,” he writes. “But never under any circumstances whatsoever could you announce that you were gay.”
This double standard, among other factors, caused Simmons to take a year off from pro football, a move that may have saved his sanity but essentially cost him his career.
A good deal of the fascination in reading “Out of Bounds” is of the horrified, Thank-God-it-wasn’t-me variety. The book abounds with such incidents, starting with Simmons selling the contents of his apartment and most of his roommate’s possessions to finance his latest crack binge. While Simmons seems remorseful for such deeds, there’s an odd, underlying sense of boastfulness about it all.
But there is a foundation of hope beneath Simmons’ tragedy, as well as fierce condemnation of the anti-gay attitudes attitudes that allowed a neighbor to get away with raping a young boy, which caused him to grow into a damaged celebrity who was good at throwing a pigskin but even better at throwing his fortune away on crack and booze. Simmons doesn’t comfort readers with a happy ending. He admits that a relapse is easy, but hopes his revelations will keep temptation at bay, or persuade others to seek treatment for their addictions.