Ali. Summitt. Palmer. Sager. McKnight & Smith. The sports world lost a lot of big names this year, many before their time. One famous name who recently passed away that you probably did not hear about, however, was former tennis star Gardnar Mulloy, who died November 14, just shy of his 103rd birthday. One of the last remaining Americans of note who came of age during the Great Depression and whose adulthood was forged by battle in World War II, Mulloy was an exemplar of NBC anchor/author Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation”. Here I consider what the modern sports fan might learn from considering a life that seems Paleozoic by today’s “me first” standards, where getting the big contract appears to be all that matters anymore.
Mulloy died near the end of a year of extremism, hype, fear, and debased discourse in the world of sports, just as in essentially every other realm of life. Even if you lived in a cave all year where the only media you had access to was ESPN, this was probably a year in which the only truly good news was the Cubs’ meteoric World Series run. You’ve probably tired of controversies about shoddy refereeing in all sports, DeMarcus Cousins’s latest run-in, the “is Kevin Durant a villain for going to Golden State” intrigue, and pretty much anything related to Ryan Lochte or Hope Solo. Mulloy stands out in the wreckage of 2016, by contrast, as a quietly unexamined life.