A small tribute to Crazylegs
It’s tough to leave much of a mark in this life, I’ve decided. One of our hometown heroes is Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch, a member of the NFL and College Football halls of fame who retired from the Los Angeles Rams in 1957 and served as athletic director for the University of Wisconsin from 1969 to 1987.
I’m not going to go through all of Elroy Hirsch’s storied accomplishments because it’s easy enough to find them, for anyone who is interested. His high school football coach was still coaching winning teams when I was a kid and I can remember meeting Hirsch a time or two while he was Badgers athletic director. In a lot of ways, he always seemed bigger than life. But the thing is, nobody is bigger than death.
Hirsch is buried within walking distance of my home. I’ve been to a lot of graves in a lot of different places. Some of them have been fairly ornate, such as those of Lincoln or Napoleon. Some are tasteful and not over the top, such as the Kennedy gravesite in Arlington or even Elvis Presley’s (in comparison to some other aspects of his life.) Some are really understated, like Jim Morrison of the Doors. The actual Jack Dawson who perished on the Titanic has a really small headstone in Halifax and there’s just a “J” for his first name, (but of course, that was before the movie with the fictional character that assumed his name played by Leonardo Di Caprio.) Then there are the anonymous stacks of bones in catacombs or people who have their ashes scattered to the four winds.
Personally, I don’t think any of it matters much, but it always struck me that for all of the accolades and fame that followed him through his life as a famous athlete, Elroy Hirsch’s final resting place is really very modest. Still, some thoughtful person dressed it up a little this year. It was the 30th year of the annual Crazylegs run in Madison this spring. It’s a really big deal, with more than 20,000 participants. And one of those people brought back the commemorative medallion that he or she received and hung it on its namesake’s headstone as a quiet little tribute. The neck ribbon has faded over the months and it’s hard to say how many or few people have noticed it since it was carefully placed there by its recipient, but I thought it was kind of a nice gesture.