When I moved back to Atlanta, in 2016, I found myself in a dark wood—specifically, Wesley Woods, the psychiatric hospital at Emory University. Insomnia. Suicidal ideation. At 2 a.m. on Sept. 3, I was buzzed into the dimly lit second floor as a Congolese nurse with bright beads at the end of her braids guided me to Room 15.

“Breakfast is at 7:30. The doctor will see you shortly. All is in God’s hands.”

I was six days away from 40. My wife, Alice, and our two daughters were asleep at my parents’ home, but I wasn’t thinking of them. That night I recalled the 1989 Atlanta Falcons. Deion Sanders, No. 21. Bill Fralic, 79. Tim Green, 99. We lost nail-biters; we blew leads and got blown out. To fall in love with those Falcons, as I did at age 13, was to find love below rock bottom. No NFL franchise had ever suffered the deaths of three active players in such proximity: Between October ’88 and December ’89, David Croudip, Ralph Norwood and Brad Beckman all perished.