Gale Sayers died today, sadly from dementia caused by football. He was a great football player and I’m a football fan but he played before my time. I knew of him as one of the first famous football players, the way baseball fans know of Babe Ruth. But he’s relevant to us because Gay was named after him! At least, that’s what we have believed for the last 15 years. We were wrong.
All her life, Gay had believed that she was named after “an Irish guy named Galen who survived cancer” because her mom read about the guy and was inspired by the story of beating cancer. “Galen” made sense because Gay’s full name is “Gay Lynn”, so her mom cleverly changed it to two words. But Gay never knew who this Irish guy was.
Several years ago, she was curious to find out and asked her mom. Long story short, we figured out that the story her mom read about was Brian’s Song, a movie based on Gale Sayers’ autobiography I Am Third which includes his relationship wtih his teammate, Brian Piccolo, who did get cancer but unfortunately didn’t survive it. Somehow, Gay’s mom confused the two people and named her daughter after Gale Sayers, which is pretty cool! That’s what we have believed since 2005. But it gets more clear…
In the book, Gale Sayers told the story of how he and his wife could not get pregnant for three years, started to adopt a girl, then became pregnant before the adoption process was complete. Gay was also adopted, so this makes much more sense that her mom would relate to the story! They named their daughter Gale Lynne. So she probably wasn’t named after Brian Piccolo or Gale Sayers after all, but Gale Sayers’ first daughter!
I love how Gale Sayers really stuck to his G name scheme as Gay is very proud of her initials ‘GG’. He later had sons named “Gaylon”, “Gary” and “Guy”. Incidentally, Gay is often called “Gary” (but never “Guy”, mysteriously) by people who can’t accept that someone is named “Gay”.
Another fact that makes us feel that we are very close to the true story of Gay’s name: Brian Piccolo’s wife is named Joy, which is the name Gay’s mom always said she’d pick if she had another daughter.
As for me, I was named after a friend of my brother’s at the time I was born because it started with a T and my parents wanted all three of their kids to be Ts. At least that’s what I have believed my entire life…