I'm named after football legend Gale Sayers

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?

3 thoughts on “I'm named after football legend Gale Sayers”

  1. Being named for Gale Sayers is way better than being named after your then-8-year-old brother’s friend, who I assume, is less famous than Gale Sayers.

  2. OK, my “real name” is William Brian, but because Mom did not want to call me billy or worse, (in her eyes) Willy, and Dad did not want to call a baby Brian, there was a lot of discussion over my nickname. So .. for all these 60 some years, the family call me Biff, which was the name of the next door neighbor’s tom cat.

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