It wasn't a great day in sports. First, the tragic loss this morning with the death of Jose Fernandez, the 24-year-old star pitcher for the Miami Marlins, from a boating accident. He was hugely talented and very well-liked, with a significant future, after repeatedly risking his life to defect from Cuba, finally reaching the United States in 2008 after four attempts.
And now tonight comes word of the passing of Arnold Palmer, about as big a legend in all of sports as anyone. As timing would have it, I am right now reading a book on golf, A Good Walk Ruined by John Feinstein, and just this morning I read a long passage he had on Palmer. The short version is that Palmer's legend was not just on being a great golfer or charismatic on television, but that he was so well-loved in the clubhouse among other golfers. That he always made clear he owed golf much more than it owed him -- and it owed him a lot. He always wanted to be seen as "one of the guys," no matter how much a legend he was. And he was seen as one of the guys -- and a legend. Feinstein notes that Palmer's father was a club golf pro, the kind of person who has to be available to all the club's members and be gracious to them all and listen and pay attention to them. And that Palmer's attitude as a pro had that same demeanor. Always friends, always having time for other pros. Always gracious with the young, beginning players, thanking them for taking the time to come talk to him.
Here's a short, six-minute documentary on the impact Arnold Palmer had on golf and its growth on television.
And a fond farewell to him and Jose Fernandez. The comparisons are different, but the loss both deep.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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