When I teach Constitutional Law, I remind my students that Brown v. Board of Education is likely the only absolutely venerated case in the history of constitutional law. In the world of sport, though sport has its heroes, it is hard to identify those who are absolutely venerated inside – and outside – of their sport. But Arnold Palmer was one of them.
Arnold Palmer was a genuine superstar. He was beloved by golf fans, by fellow golfers, by advertising executives, and by an America that admired his combination of grit, charm, intensity, and class. At a time when professional athletes now seem less and less heroic, Arnold Palmer was a hero – revered even decades after his last victory on the PGA Tour and his last major championship win. Who can forget that fateful day in June of 1994, as we gazed in disbelief at that White Ford Bronco on a southern California highway? That was the same day, in his backyard at Oakmont, that Palmer said farewell to the United States Open. In his tearful press conference after his round, Palmer said, “I suppose the most important thing . . . is that it has been as good as it has been to me.” An entire press tent full of reporters then rose to their feet, giving Palmer a standing ovation. When was the last time you saw an entire throng of reporters give a standing ovation to a public figure who was the subject of their reporting? The contrast that day between the two kinds of sporting heroes in the news could not have been more stark.
It is, I suppose, fitting, that on this important day, when we evaluate our Nation’s future, we remember The King. Arnold Palmer was the embodiment of American character, on and off of the golf course. And his legacy is forever enshrined in the hearts of golfers, and in a Nation grateful for him and what he gave it. At age 87, Arnold Palmer has passed away. Requiescat in pace.