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The first superstar of the sport’s television age, improver if iced tea, and one of the best golfers ever, Arnold Palmer, died at the spry age of 87.

Palmer seemed molded to take sports to the next level: from hobby to national marketing machine.

His humble background and plain-spoken popularity helped change the perception of golf as an elite, upper-class pastime to a more populist sport accessible to middle and working classes.

Apparently, he was also a stunning physical specimen.  Time wrote in1960, “with strength in all the right places: massive shoulders and arms, a waist hardly big enough to hold his trousers up, thick wrists, and leather-hard, outsized hands that can crumple a beer can as though it were tissue paper.” Sounds like Time was having a sleepover where they did each other’s hair and talked about who’s dreamy.  

His timing was perfect too.  His rise came during the post war boom when prosperity [and

palmer

“I do believe I have a case of the vay-pahs.” – Time Magazine, 1960

racism… and sexism] prevailed and the American Dream meant living in the suburbs with your 2.5 kids, your white picket fence, your Donna-Reedesque housewife who knew enough to keep her mouth shut and the roast in the oven, driving your giant Ford to work while getting 1.3 miles per gallon of cheap, plentiful gas, inviting the Johnson’s over for a weenie roast, and you had the leisure time to sit and watch golf on Sundays after you mowed the lawn.  

This unprecedented time of leisure made the perfect moment to become a sports superstar because, well, guys needed to be interested in something.  What, they’re gonna talk to their wives?

Palmer could also play.  I mean, that helped.  Being America’s dream-boy with humble beginnings and leather-hard, outsized hands in post-WWII America isn’t all that propelled him to stardom.  He was a pretty good golfer too.

Palmer went to Wake Forest University, where just for laughs he’d sometimes shoot par while standing on one foot.  Maybe that’s been my problem.  I’ve been using two feet this whole damn time.

Palmer won 62 titles on the PGA Tour.  I mean, Jack Nicklaus won more, but Jack wasn’t the dream-boat that Arnie was.  He didn’t evoke the same homo-eroticism that Arnie did as he gripped his shaft with those leather-hard, outsized hands while looking down at his balls.

Palmer will always be known as one of the greatest golfers ever, but he’s also the guy that turned sports into the major marketing and endorsement machine that it is today.  In the end, his name was attached to a golf-course design outfit, auto dealerships, a golf-equipment company, two golf clubs, an aviation company and a clothing contract with Sears (on their softer side).

Oh, and once he ordered an iced tea mixed with lemonade and the lady at the next table overheard this and ordered what she called an Arnold Palmer.  So there’s that too.

This hit goes to Harmony!  Harmony breaks the triple digit barrier on her first time out!  Well done, rookie!

Happy pooling,

SPMI

PS: Draft night is 11/5 – a mere 39 days away!

Current Standings:

Jami: 190 – (Scott Weiland  – 60, Pat Harrington, Jr. – 20, Umberto Eco – 20, Rob Ford – 60, Erik Bauersfeld – 10, Edward Albee – 20)

Tailgating w/ Jesus: 140 (Dolph Schayes – 20, Meadowlark Lemon – 20, Monte Irvin – 10, Muhammad Ali – 30, Pat Summitt – 40, Buddy Ryan – 20)

Joanne: 130 (Joey Feek – 60, Joe Garagiola – 10, Julius La Rosa – 20, Buckwheat Zydeco – 40)

Lee Kwang-Soo (Giraffe): 130- (Daniel Fleetwood – 70, Abe Vigoda – 10, Nancy Fucking Reagan! – 10!, George Martin – 10, Elie Wiesel – 20, Mike “Mighty Atom, Jr.” Greenstein – 10)

The Girl on Fire: 120 (Wayne Rogers – 20, René Angélil – 30, George Gaynes – 10, James Noble – 10, Doris Roberts – 10, Marni Nixon – 20, Fyvush Finkel – 10, Steven Hill – 10)

Harmony: 100 (Harper Lee – 20, George Kennedy – 10, Frank Sinatra, Jr. – 30, Gene Wilder – 20, Arnold Palmer – 20)

Occupy the Casket: 100 – (Natalie Cole – 40, Vanity – 50, Boutros Boutros-Ghali – 10)

Team Sushi: 80 (Chyna, aka Joanie Laurer – 60, Morley Safer – 20)

Mostly Mike: 60 (Marvin Minsky – 20, Mihaly “Michu” Meszaros – 30, Janet Waldo – 10)

Age of Aquarius: 60 (William Guest – 30, Merle Haggard – 30)

Nathaniel: 50 (Alan Young – 10, Kenny Baker – 20, Glenn Yarbrough – 20)

Mortician’s Daughter: 50 – (Justice Antonin Scalia – 30, Bud Collins – 20)

Gianna: 40 (Robert Stigwood – 20, Lois Duncan – 20)

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