gale sayersThe story I had always told of my name is wrong: I had thought my mom adapted the Scottish name “Gaelen” into “Gay Lynn” after discovering the name while browsing magazines at the dentist’s office. I had always imagined it was some swashbuckling swordsman, Gaelen, a dragon-slayer perhaps, whose story was told in some glamour magazine. I imagined a real hero’s tale, accompanied by some type of captivating historical illustration. His lyrical name repeated over and over in the story, echoing even in the last line of story…

A couple of years ago the topic came up at dinner with my mom and Troy. Turns out, Gaelen was a football player whom my mom remembered as dying young from cancer, in a Reader’s Digest story she flipped through at the beauty parlor.

I decided to look up my namesake on the internet recently and there were no Gaelens in the NFL. After a little research by both mom and me, it turns out I’m named for Gale Sayers! Gale’s autobiography, “I Am Third,” came out right around when I was born and was subsequently turned into the movie “Brian’s Song”. It was his roommate Brian Piccolo who died of cancer. Gale is still alive and a successful business man in Chicago, coincidentally in computer software.

Is it strange to know you are named after a football player? Yes, especially if you a a girl. At least I was named after a Hall of Famer, whom Mike Ditka said is the best player he’s ever seen, and who still holds the record for the most TDs in a game (6 v. the 49ers). I just wish I would have known it when I saw “Brian’s Song” in 8th grade.

Mom said she liked the name because she thought it would work well if the adoption agency came through with either a boy or a girl. Troy’s not sure if he is remembering this wrong, but he remembers seeing Gale Sayers as a walk-on in a “Brady Bunch” episode where he explained that kids made fun of his name, because it was a girl’s name. So I guess that is something else Gale Sayers and I have in common, though I suspect that a boy Gale Gilmore or Gay Gilmore would have been teased more than a girl Gay Gilmore, but for completely different reasons. That said, I think boy Gale Gilmore could have better leveraged being named for Gale Sayers.

Are you named for someone?