Thu, 28 Sep 2023

The Grand Lady of Sports

08 Jun 2023, 17:11 GMT+10

Kansas City Chiefs Official Team Website | Chiefs.comRemembering Norma HuntBob Moore

Norma Hunt was one of a small company of persons in whom there is no inconsistency to be explained, no enigma to be solved. What she seemed, she was - a gracious, refined lady of intelligence and wit.

Her husband was arguably the greatest sportsman of the last half-century, and she was much a partner in his passion for the sports he championed. Yet, you never imagined that she was importuning you on his behalf; she was a devoted wife, content to bask in his limelight, even though behind the scenes she was a sounding board for many of his ideas and as avid a fan for his beloved Chiefs as anyone who ever lived.

She was there at the founding of the American Football League, the Dallas Texans who became the Kansas City Chiefs, numerous professional soccer enterprises and the world's first truly professionally run tennis tour.

Her death severs one of the last remaining links between what professional football once was and how it became the nation's preeminent sport.

A graduate of North Texas State with a degree in secondary education, she had taken classes with the future Dallas Texans and Kansas City Chiefs running back Abner Haynes, the AFL's first MVP. In high school, she had been part of the Richardson High drill team and it was there that she developed a love for sports and, as author Michael MacCambridge identified in his biography of Lamar Hunt, "the way it served as a social glue for people of different ages and backgrounds.

"Women liked her," MacCambridge wrote, "men were drawn to her, and she became adept at putting people at ease, often while talking about sports."

Lamar had met her when she joined a number of women who went about selling tickets for his Dallas Texans games. He quickly noticed her because of her personality. She wasn't self-conscious around him because of his position and wealth. And she knew sports, especially football, and knew its strategies and was a quick study.

"I never met a game I didn't like," she said once.

They married on January 22, 1964 in Richardson, Texas and honeymooned at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Talk about being present at historic moments, as it was there that she and Lamar received news of New York Jets' owner Sonny Werblin's negotiated contract with NBC-TV to broadcast the AFL. The deal would guarantee that the fledgling league would have a future.

Hearing news of the contract, Pittsburgh Steelers' owner Art Rooney is reported to have said: "They don't have to call us Mr. anymore."

Throughout all of Lamar's sports ventures, Norma was there at his side, traveling to endless World Cup soccer games, college football and basketball games, Chicago Bulls' games (Hunt was a minority owner), tennis tournaments, the Indianapolis 500, and of course wherever the Chiefs were playing. The distance and the sport in play made no difference. When the two had dated, they had attended as many as five sporting events over a single weekend. She is the only woman to have attended every single Super Bowl game in history.

She was a presence during finals week of Lamar's World Championship Tennis championship in Dallas, at one time called the sport's "fifth Grand Slam." She mixed well with international media who covered tennis and could converse on a level that surprised them.

But it was in her personal relationships that conjure up the most vivid memories of Norma. She touched the lives of not only countless sports people she met, but also those of fans and their families. She met every person, every player, stadium worker, public official, and fan with a smile no matter what their station in life might have been. She sought to make everyone comfortable in her presence. With her friends, she had singular and remarkable relations. She was always thoughtful, sensitive and interested - but never intrusive. Their pleasure, somehow, became her pleasure, their disappointment, suddenly hers. Their victories were a reason for her to celebrate, and their concerns engaged her patient and sympathetic ear. Acts of kindness extended to her, large or small, were received enthusiastically and gratefully. In short, she reduced life to the essentials.

If she was disappointed with something or someone, you never heard it expressed in angry words. Those who may look at her through the glamour of her position as an NFL owner's wife will be disappointed. Her life was simple for the un-escapable reason that she was a gracious lady. She enriched the lives of her family, her friends and everyone she came in contact with. She also helped shape, proudly for the better, the world of sport as we know it.

Ave atque vale.

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