Grant Wahl’s brother Eric reveals he divorced the same day the football reporter died

Within a few years I was watching Celine’s father die on a stretcher, my mother die, my mother-in-law die, my father die; Last month I had to put my 19 year old cat to sleep. Last Friday I agreed to a divorce from the love of my life and later that day my brother passed away.

“I felt, felt, erased. Grant was my confidante, my champion, my friend, my defender, my brother and only sibling. Grant knew things that happened to me growing up gay in KS. We had a thorough education in injustice from our educator-parents. Grant studied political science.

“I taught at the KCMO summer school in 1995 so I could afford to fly to Buenos Aires to accompany Grant while he was working on his thesis on the relationship between football and elections.

“He had his laptop stolen; it wouldn’t be the last time. I went to Ankara to teach and then to Princeton to do Grant’s degree. He wanted to show me everything; he still talked like an astonished child. I was full of admiration for him.

“He had secured an internship at the Miami Herald and our grandma got him this tiny car which he loaded up and drove from KS to FL, he had his laptop stolen again in Miami; this time they also took his old copies of the New Yorker, which he found almost amusing.

“When Grant signed with SI (Sports Illustrated), I had never heard him so overwhelmed with excitement. Grant has wanted to write for SI since elementary school, even writing a letter to the magazine and then saying something like, “My name is Grant Wahl, and I want to write for you.” He got a response along the lines of, “that’s cute and thank you,” but the fact that he received an answer stuck with him.

“It had an impact. From our perspective, you just can’t imagine what that gesture meant to him. And Grant endeavored to act in like manner whenever he could, from SI & after. I think sometimes it was easy for people from more comfortable backgrounds to take Grant’s seriousness for a nook or a ruse until they inevitably discovered that they were getting real Grant.

“That’s not to say he never got excited. If you’ve ever been one of Grant’s editors, you know that among other things he was an avid defender of his own word choices and ideas for stories. And if Grant thought he was right about something, “he was right.” Unless he wasn’t, in which case it would be his. Unless he still expected to be right all along, which he probably was.

“Grant didn’t come out of the box in a worldly way. Growing up he was the pickiest eater you’ve ever seen. Not only did he dislike peanut butter and jelly, he didn’t want jelly or butter, and he let mom cut off the crust. I think what would get him into it was wanting to impress girls.

“Growing up in our tiny mission ranch house, we had a steady diet of watching baseball, football, basketball, tennis, golf, and the Olympics on television, but also, given the times, Battle of the Network Stars and Wide World of Sport. Howard Cosell, Diana Nyad, Phyllis George, Donna de Varona.

“And locally, our beloved KC institutions, Len Dawson and Karen Kornacki. Dear Karen Kornacki, Our mother made sure we understood the importance of women being better represented in the sports media.

“Our mother, a KC-American born in Independence, started out as a gym teacher and became a counselor. She met our father at Washington High School in KCK, where father taught US government, sociology and citizenship for 29 years. Mom chose to stay at home to raise us, which was a financial emergency even then.

“Grant and I didn’t know we were relatively poor. We were surrounded by love, family, neighbors and Mom and Dad’s fellow teachers – families from India, Mexico, the Philippines and beyond. We ate Ketchup & Bologna Sandwiches, Chef Boyardee Box Pizzas and 7-Up was Medicine. When we got a Commodore 64 computer years later, our first game was based on the Olympics and we spent hours representing different countries in dot matrix ski jumping, hurdling, running and speed skating.

“By the time we failed the ERA, we were already well acquainted with feminist goals and endeavors thanks to our parents. Mom regularly shared every new issue of Ms. Magazine with us, and we sat with her as she explained the “No Comment” section on the back cover, which displayed sexist ads.

“We watched what little women’s sports television was available at the time, mostly golf and tennis. I think Grant saw our parents cheering on our TV at sporting events early on, & then our relatives & neighbors too & the euphoria captivated him.

“Our grandfather Smith had friends within the Royals organization, Al Zeke in particular, and when we were able to get tickets the roar of the crowd was unlike anything Grant had ever experienced.

“Growing up, Grant saw my discomfort in my youth and in my early 20s when I came to terms with being gay. He was aware of the harassment and physical abuse I had experienced and the psychological impact it had on me. He listened, he loved, he supported without question. And I felt so happy.

“He cheered me on through grad school at ESU and the University of Idaho. I hosted Thanksgiving for all of us at my apartment in Moscow for a year. He and I had regular conversations about everything in our lives and thoughts. We cried together and laughed together well into the week he left us. And it was dr. Celine Gounder’s entry into Grant’s life and ours that made the biggest difference, the biggest enrichment. Grant & Celine complemented each other in a dynamic way and our families became a kind of tightly fused organism.

“Grant & Celine are the best of us. Grant’s sudden departure from our lives will leave an enduring void, but I know our families will find the right ways to continue to honor his work, dedication and faith so that there may be a legacy that can help others.

“We see your good wishes and kind words. We have read your own touching stories. We’re thankful. We also see the cruel comments. All I can say is that we are only humans doing our best to grieve under circumstances that lead us astray…

“Grant knew my anxiety issues were a big reason I never wanted to be in the public spotlight, and this past week has been a media education for me. I’m sorry I didn’t do better. Thank you to Grant’s friends and colleagues who have reached out. Thanks to the USMNT player who got in touch. Grant Wahl’s brother Eric reveals he divorced the same day the football reporter died

Maureen Mackey

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