February 07, 2011

Hard Times for William 'Refrigerator' Perry: William "Refrigerator" Perry has fallen on hard times, barely moving his 400-pound body except for trips to the liquor store and struggling with diabetes, high blood pressure, Guillain-Barre Syndrome and mental struggles, according to an ESPN profile. The story and a YouTube video show the phenomenon he became as an NFL rookie in 1985. The first time Perry blocked for Walter Payton, he knocked Green Bay Packers linebacker George Cumby so hard "I thought he killed him," said Bears tackle Jimbo Covert.

posted by rcade to football at 01:23 PM - 37 comments

There's some weird stuff in that video link. O.J.'s one of the Monday Night Football announcers calling Perry's first touchdown, and in a later game, the Packers are forced to quiet their own crowd down during a Bears drive in the red zone.

posted by rcade at 02:21 PM on February 07

the Packers are forced to quiet their own crowd down during a Bears drive in the red zone

I remember when that rule was in effect. The home team could get a penalty for delay of game if the crowd noise was deemed too loud, and it interfered with the play calling of the visiting team.

If there is one thing the "No Fun League" got right, it was ditching that silly "screw-home-field-advantage" rule.

posted by grum@work at 03:53 PM on February 07

At first I thought the story was going to be about how the effects of football injuries left a player disabled. After reading the story though I felt sorry for his family, but not so much for him as it seems he was on top of the world and his problems were all of his own making. He came across as not the target of sympathy but as a lazy fat drunk.

posted by Atheist at 04:50 PM on February 07

Athletes are just people with a certain skill set, and some people have trouble coping with life. Sports can hide that for a while, but when it's over it can no longer hide that fact.

He came across as not the target of sympathy but as a lazy fat drunk.

Before even clicking on this thread I knew you would be here condemning him Atheist. You're that easy to predict. That should tell you something.

Every single thread like this brings you out. You're judgmental almost to the point of my believing you're a troll. Sadly, I believe you you really are that angry. On the bright side, I guess you balance out those that give athletes the benefit of the doubt every single time.

posted by justgary at 07:10 PM on February 07

Did anyone really believe The Fridge would live a long, prosperous life after football?

posted by dyams at 07:13 PM on February 07

Why not? What part of his life or background would suggest he'd meet a sad end?

posted by rcade at 09:39 PM on February 07

Yeah, I had no reason to think he wasn't out lounging by his pool, having weekly barbecue parties with his friends and family.

posted by fabulon7 at 11:03 PM on February 07

Why not? What part of his life or background would suggest he'd meet a sad end?

Playing in the NFL would be a start.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 11:32 PM on February 07

He came across as not the target of sympathy but as a lazy fat drunk.

justgary, what did you read in the article that would dispute that statement? His wife(s), ex-teammates and Ditka seemed to express concern because he was just that. What part of the silver cloud do you see in this? Calling out Atheist without reasons to back up your criticism is weak. If you have a bone to pick with him do it in the locker room which would be more appropriate. If you say he wasn't or isn't "a lazy fat drunk," what proof you bring to the discussion? Alcoholism is a terrible problem for some people but treatment methods are out there for those who want to change. William Perry didn't want help or to change. If he isn't "a fat lazy drunk (who refused help)," what do you call him?

posted by gfinsf at 06:21 AM on February 08

He doesn't seem to, but do other people in America realise that 190 lbs for a man who is 6'2" is still at the upper end of "ideal"?

I think regardless of how anyone ends up being an alcoholic, it's tragic. Laziness (and drunkeness obviously) are symptoms of the disease, not causes. Some people show remarkable will-power and overcome their addiction to alcohol; others are unable to, but I don't think they deserve to be lambasted because of that. We talk about people winning their "fight" against cancer, but we wouldn't dream of lambasting someone who had died from it as "lazy", or condemn the way they'd lived their lives, would we?

Alcoholism isn't cancer, but, like cancer, it's a disease, it's life-limiting, and there can be lifestyle choices involved (as well as genetic predisposition) in whether or not you contract it.

The guy's in a hole; regardless of how he got there - even if he dug it himself - the first thing to do is to help him out of it. Lectures and condemnation only have a role to play in trying to help him not dig or fall down another one.

posted by JJ at 07:00 AM on February 08

"Alcoholism is a terrible problem for some people but treatment methods are out there for those who want to change."

Given the effect of alcoholism and other addictions on brain chemistry, that's a useless statement.

Like justgary, I feared for this thread when I saw the post...I feared that it would degenerate into camps of the sympathetic and camps of the "suck it up" type. Sort of like the discussions you'd hear about addiction, etc in a freshman composition or sociology class. Debate is fine, and I think it's okay to be frustrated with stories like Perry's. But when your position is "You did this to yourself and I would totally handle it better than you," there's not much room for real discussion.

In brief, ad hominem attacks are the worst reaction to the tragedy of addiction.

If the phrase, "De Casibus Virorum Illustrium" means anything to you, you know that Western culture has been trying for a long time to figure out how to understand what happens when good fortune leads to bad fortune.

Reality tv producers, however, have a pretty clear idea how to react. More grist for the mill.

on preview--nicely said, JJ

posted by Uncle Toby at 07:11 AM on February 08

"Alcoholism is a terrible problem for some people but treatment methods are out there for those who want to change."

Given the effect of alcoholism and other addictions on brain chemistry, that's a useless statement.

I would hate to be your friend that asks for help.

posted by gfinsf at 07:38 AM on February 08

Not wanting to change is part of the problem; not wanting to change is another symptom of the condition.

posted by JJ at 07:43 AM on February 08

gfinsf--on the contrary. "Wanting to change" is a part of the answer, but the very nature of alcoholism takes away a lot of its relevance. I was simply trying to point that out. Perhaps I could have turned a better phrase there. Alcoholics are in the grip of something more powerful than the average person's will to change. If someone asks for help, that's a good sign, but I was merely recognizing that while it's necessary, it's clearly not sufficient.

posted by Uncle Toby at 07:50 AM on February 08

Playing in the NFL would be a start.

Plenty of NFL players don't lead tragic lives after their playing days are over. I hope that Perry can get healthy and enjoy the rest of his life. The 1985 Bears were one of the most unforgettable NFL teams of all time.

It is a shame, though, that Perry got a Super Bowl touchdown that could have been Payton's.

He doesn't seem to, but do other people in America realise that 190 lbs for a man who is 6'2" is still at the upper end of "ideal"?

If you're referring to BMI charts, I think they're a bit crazy about normal weights. A 6-foot-4 man is overweight once he passes 199 pounds?

posted by rcade at 09:25 AM on February 08

Uncle Toby:

Debate is fine, and I think it's okay to be frustrated with stories like Perry's. But when your position is "You did this to yourself and I would totally handle it better than you," there's not much room for real discussion.

I couldn't have said it better. The more you know and experience of any problem or situation, the more you can appreciate its complexities, and the less sure you are of any simple analysis or solutions. There's a lot of karma in saying things like "You did this to yourself and I would totally handle it better than you," because every life has pain and suffering and really bad stuff happening. Every life. And the more you harden your attitude into the belief that it's all very simple and that you would handle it so much better than all those weak-willed people out there, the less likely you are to develop the adaptability, humility, compassion and tolerance that you need to see you through the bad times that will inevitably come your way.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:28 AM on February 08

justgary read my post again. I loved the 85 Bears and was a big fan of the team and the Fridge. So when I saw the article I was sad, and I wanted to be sympathetic. After reading the article I see that this guy had every opportunity and blew it. It happens a lot in life, I have blown many an opportunity myself. By the time I got to the end of the article you are right I had no sympathy. His friends, family ( actually two wives ) Mike Ditka, doctors all tried numerous times to help him but for whatever reason he keeps choosing Sloth, Gluttony, Alcohol and evidently self pity.

Well there are predictable camps, some out there will say he has a disease, for which I say the cure is stop drinking, some will say he has the disease of obesity, for which I say stop eating, some will say he has the disease of laziness for which I say get off the couch and do something. Please never put diseases like cancer in the same category because they are not. Cancer is a disease that most who are diagnosed with will go to extraordinary lengths to battle. I'm am certain that if the cure were as simple as stop drinking, very few would die from it. Sometimes a big strong man can be very weak as a person. That is not to say they don't deserve help, but when they continue to spit in the eye of the help, they shouldn't be surprised when the help ends. So maybe the disease William Perry has is the disease of a weak character. A horrible disease for which there is no cure.
Also one of the saddest parts of the article was the fact that one of the greatest human beings in sports, Walter Peyton, died from a disease that he battled with dignity, while the Fridge got to score a Superbowl touchdown. There is a good example of the unfairness of life.

I feel sympathy for all those who cared about him and wanted to help him, but when a person will not help themselves even to spare heartache for their family and friends, those they supposedly care about. I just put the blame where it belongs.

Yes I am very predictable. Just like most people who let you know how they feel. Just as predictable as the criticism I expected from those who tend to see things differently. So I express a personal opinion, feel free to disagree, I can respect your opinion of me and the Fridge's situation.

posted by Atheist at 11:53 AM on February 08

If you're referring to BMI charts, I think they're a bit crazy about normal weights. A 6-foot-4 man is overweight once he passes 199 pounds?

BMI charts are rarely going to be accurate for NFL players (or any athlete for that matter) due to their amount of muscle.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 12:26 PM on February 08

Perry's brother and sister did an incredible amount for him. And, Mike Ditka was also there when he was needed. It's too bad they couldn't turn this into a success story.

posted by bperk at 12:28 PM on February 08

I agree with Atheist here. I have fond memories of watching those games with the Fridge and want so bad to feel for him. But when the story line repeats itself over and over, that sympathy tends to fade or at least shift to those who are doing everything in their power to help him. I can't imagine how it must feel to love someone who just doesn't seem to care if they self destruct.

posted by Ricardo at 01:25 PM on February 08

Why not? What part of his life or background would suggest he'd meet a sad end?

The fact he was so gigantic and overweight, even during his playing days, that I just didn't envision him as someone who would get in better shape once his athletic career ended. I'm assuming he enjoyed food. From the looks of his body, I didn't assume he's start distance running or aerobic conditioning. At the very least I believed he'd get even bigger (if possible) and collapse when his heart and body could no longer handle the load.

So, I guess the part of his life or background that would suggest a possible sad end to me was the part where he was ridiculously, horribly obese, even during what were supposed to be his most active years.

posted by dyams at 01:26 PM on February 08

Perry's story reminds me of my cousin, who inherited his father's and my grandfather's propensity towards alcoholism. He was overweight and self-pitying, he surrounded himself with people who enabled his disease and rejected anyone who hoped he would one day change. He was a hard man to like, a really difficult person to want to talk to, but he was kin. A few years ago, things got really bad for him, he told me he felt like all his bad decisions had swallowed all the good in him, and before accepting any of the help we all were willing to give, he killed himself. I miss him.

When I read about William Perry I worry for his future, and I wish he would realize that a good decision made now is a step out of the mouth of all those bad decisions he made before. He's hurting a lot of people, but at the center, he's hurting himself. People who don't really know what they're talking about can blame him all they want, say he's rejected all this help, point to the many people who care, or say this disease isn't the same as other diseases, or even point out false equivalencies with other players' lives and careers. For their sake, I hope they never learn how wrong they are, their ignorance really is bliss. Stay happy for as long as you can.

posted by Hugh Janus at 01:30 PM on February 08

Perry's brother and sister did an incredible amount for him. And, Mike Ditka was also there when he was needed. It's too bad they couldn't turn this into a success story.

Nobody could. You can't fix other people.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 01:32 PM on February 08

From the looks of his body, I didn't assume he's start distance running or aerobic conditioning.

And yet according to the article, in his younger days he was capable of athletic feats that the stereotypical big heavy guy just can't do:

He could do flips off the pool's diving board, could throw down a 360-degree dunk in basketball and could out-run some of the fleetest members of the football team. During practice one day, coach Eddie Buck said, "I want all my fastest guys to line up for a 100-yard dash.'' A couple of wide receivers, a couple of running backs and a defensive back stepped forward -- soon joined by William.

"What're you doing?'' Buck asked his 295-pound nose tackle.

"You said you wanted your fastest guys, didn't you?'' William said.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 01:34 PM on February 08

Also in the article it stated his weight had dropped to 190 before he ballooned up again to over 400.

"He could do flips off the pool's diving board, could throw down a 360-degree dunk in basketball and could out-run some of the fleetest members of the football team. During practice one day, coach Eddie Buck said, "I want all my fastest guys to line up for a 100-yard dash.'' A couple of wide receivers, a couple of running backs and a defensive back stepped forward -- soon joined by William. "

This suggests that even in his younger days he was a blessed athlete but did not have the discipline to train his body to be the best he could be, instead eating himself to a ridiculous weight. The Bears use to fine him by the pound and even for his health, his family, his career (which was incredibly good to him) he instead opted for obesity, and booze. OK again it just demonstrates he is someone of questionable character.

posted by Atheist at 02:00 PM on February 08

Also in the article it stated his weight had dropped to 190 before he ballooned up again to over 400.

I think that weight loss took place when he was hospitalized for over a month and put on intravenous drugs, etc. Ballooning up as much as he did after losing that weight is never a great situation.

posted by dyams at 02:10 PM on February 08

So, I guess the part of his life or background that would suggest a possible sad end to me was the part where he was ridiculously, horribly obese, even during what were supposed to be his most active years.

Studies have found that NFL players are healthier than men of the same age, despite their weight, because of their high level of exercise.

Perry had a nine-year NFL career. I think you underestimate how physically gifted he was and how much work he put in when he played.

There are many athletes who got big to play and then lost the weight afterwards. Every fat guy in the NFL is not a sad story waiting to be told.

posted by rcade at 02:25 PM on February 08

This suggests that even in his younger days he was a blessed athlete but did not have the discipline to train his body to be the best he could be, instead eating himself to a ridiculous weight.

Not really. All that the quote suggests -- documents, rather -- is that he was a gifted athlete who, at one point in his life, had both the talent and determination to excel in a wide range of athletic skills. It does not suggest that "even in his younger days he was a blessed athlete but did not have the discipline to train his body to be the best he could be". If anything, it demonstrates the opposite.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:36 PM on February 08

Studies have found that NFL players are healthier than men of the same age, despite their weight, because of their high level of exercise.

Perry had a nine-year NFL career. I think you underestimate how physically gifted he was and how much work he put in when he played.

The guy played his last game in 1994. I'm not saying when he was 22 and fresh out of college he couldn't do some very athletic things with his large body. I'd be interested in seeing what his exercise regime has consisted of in the (nearly) 17 years since. I, personally, am getting older and can definitely attest to the fact it doesn't take a whole lot of time for a body to start getting out of shape.

As for how much Perry exercised or worked throughout his NFL career, I definitely wasn't witness to any of that. Lumping him into the same category of guys like, for example, Terrell Owens, who keeps himself in incredible shape late into his career, probably isn't really accurate.

posted by dyams at 03:54 PM on February 08

You're moving the goalposts. Your comment was about what we could have expected of Perry when he left the game, not now.

When he retired, there was no reason to think he wouldn't live a long, prosperous life. Anyone with the physical talent and work ethic to play nine years in the NFL showed himself capable of succeeding in life.

He wasn't just a fat guy. He was a fat guy in the NFL. Big difference. You underestimate what it took for him to win a national championship at Clemson, become a first rounder in the NFL and play nine seasons. He was big, even for players, but suggesting he had no discipline in his career is absurd.

He started 118 games! The physical strength and stamina required to do that is enormous.

posted by rcade at 04:22 PM on February 08

Fine, so your point is since he was a football player he'd live to be 85 or so? Maybe I'm the only human who looked at his body type and thought he may not wind up being healthy as he progressed through his (relatively young) years, but I seriously doubt it. And the idea since he played football in his younger years he'd automatically stay in good shape going on 20 years later doesn't make sense.

posted by dyams at 05:03 PM on February 08

there was no reason to think he wouldn't live a long, prosperous life.

Sorry to derail, but is this true of anyone who plays in the NFL for nine years? Arthritis, hip and knee replacements, brain damage, etc.

I would bet that their life expectancy is considerably shorter than the average male.

posted by cjets at 06:12 PM on February 08

LBB actually it wasn't the anecdotal story about his abilities in his youth alone that suggests he was undisciplined and lazy it was the fact that even while in the NFL, and still in possession of his athletic ability, he was being fined by the pound for not being in shape and coming to practice overweight, even for him, which was affecting his ability to play.

posted by Atheist at 07:01 PM on February 08

That's my point. He was fat, but obviously had some ability. It's documented by many (this particular story included) that he was lazy, overweight, and not at all interested in working out to keep (or get) himself in shape. The fact he would drink two or three cases of beer in a sitting as a young person isn't a great testimonial to future health also. If this was his attitude as a young man playing in the NFL, it isn't a stretch to assume his attitude towards being in shape, eating right, drinking, etc. wouldn't improve once he was out of football.

posted by dyams at 08:57 PM on February 08

It's documented by many (this particular story included) that he was lazy, overweight, and not at all interested in working out to keep (or get) himself in shape.

Given the number of games he started and the number of years he played, do you honestly think he was lazy and out of shape? The anecdotes tell me that he could have been in better shape -- and it limited his career success -- but to suggest he wasn't in strong physical condition is idiotic. He wouldn't have been a starter all those years.

Sorry to derail, but is this true of anyone who plays in the NFL for nine years?

A long, prosperous life relative to other NFL players. If Dyams was arguing that all NFL players can expect health concerns, I'd agree.

I just question the premise that when Perry retired we should have expected this fate for him. The fact he was 30-50 pounds heavier than most NFL players at his position does not mean that his fate was preordained. Tony Mandarich and many other NFL athletes lost their playing weight.

posted by rcade at 08:59 PM on February 08

It's interesting how several commenters have remarked that he appeared self-pitying; I didn't pick up on that at all. If anything, he just seems in complete and total denial of the fallibility of his body, of the punishment he's delivering to his system through alcohol and not taking care of himself properly. He seems avowedly lazy, uninterested in improving his lot, and frankly considering his lot not that bad at all. Then again, the article sure paints a very pointed picture at what he's become.

Altogether very depressing, though I probably wouldn't have been all that surprised if I'd known anything about his career other than his celebrity back when I was 10. This would have been a sad tale no matter who the guy was or what he'd done with his life.

His siblings can't get through to him, his wife can't get through to him, his coach can't get through to him... and he's going to die this way, at this rate. It's not her business anymore and she put up with it for a long time, but you do have to idly wonder if his first wife would hold any sway, or his kids. They don't mention his kids being involved in any of this whatsoever, or maybe I missed it -- perhaps his first wife is protecting them from watching their father commit slow suicide. :/

posted by evixir at 10:29 PM on February 08

Tony Mandarich and many other NFL athletes lost their playing weight.

That's often what happens when they get off the cycle of drugs. Take a look at Bill Romanowski now.

posted by grum@work at 08:54 AM on February 09

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