Heartbreaking Long Read About Addiction: The Search for Jackie Wallace
This is one of the heaviest articles I’ve ever read about addiction. Photojournalist Ted Jackson of The Times-Picayune lays out a harrowing up and down roller coaster of the life of a former star NFL player over a period of almost three decades.
I couldn’t have been more startled if he had been an alligator. His bed was overlaid with cardboard and tucked into a cleft of piers and brush. He was covered in a sheet of thick, clear plastic. His head rested on a wadded yellow jacket, also wrapped in plastic. Alongside the bed lay two discarded automotive floor mats, a five-gallon bucket for bathing, a pair of neatly-arranged sneakers, a clean set of clothes, a jug of water and a carefully folded copy of The Times-Picayune. He slept in the fetal position in only his briefs and undershirt.
I climbed the pier with my camera and made a few frames of the scene, then climbed down and woke him. He wasn’t startled in the least. I guess when you sleep under bridges, you learn to expect the unexpected.
He sat up slowly and cleared his head. I asked him if he knew anything about the homeless camp — if he knew what happened to the men.
“Yeah,” he said. “Teens driving by started shooting their guns at them, so they decided there had to be a safer place to live. Why do you ask?”
We talked for a minute or two, about my editor’s idea and journalism in general. After a brief pause, he said, “You ought to do a story about me.”
I’ve heard this line many times before, and many more since.
“And why would I want to do that?” I said.
“Because,” he said, “I’ve played in three Super Bowls.”