McNutt: Norma Hunt, the NFL's first lady, passed away
49 years ago, at an airport in Dusseldorf, Germany, a group of eight us (the combined families of Lamar Hunt and Bill McNutt), lined up at the hallway stairs. We each hoisted a placard that read, "Big D Dusseldorf Willkommens Hendrich, Sherrod, Robertson, Lundquist to World Cup 74.” These were the most prominent Texas sports journalists of during the latter half of the twentieth century.
When news of Norma Hunt's death broke this week, it brought back memories of that scene. She planned this one-of-a-kind reception with the zeal and efficiency of her former Richardson, Texas, schoolteacher. Norma and her husband Lamar Hunt, as well as my parents Josephine and Bill McNutt, entertained these fortunate individuals in Germany for the 1974 World Cup in order to promote soccer in America and their professional team, the Dallas Tornado.
Norman Lynn Knobel Hunt was the widow of Lamar Hunt, the founder of the American Football League, the Kansas City Chiefs, the North American Soccer League, and many other sports-related businesses, including the Bronco Bowl entertainment complex in Dallas with 72 bowling lanes!
The McNutt family had the pleasure of attending over 100 sporting events with Norma and Lamar, including Superbowls, World Cup Soccer matches, High School, College, and NFL football games, and even a basketball game at Collins Junior High in Corsicana, Texas. Norma was the only woman to attend all 57 Superbowls, and numerous World Cup Soccer matches.
Norma had visited Corsicana numerous times and knew numerous. She was teaching at Richardson High School when she picked up a side hustle selling season tickets for the Dallas Texans. Lamar, a recently divorced man, was smitten by her and awarded her a year of postgraduate study in Dublin, Ireland. He traveled to the Emerald Island to court her and loved her kind and vivacious manner.
Norma and Lamar Stram married in January 1964 and honeymooned in Innsbruck, Austria, during the Winter Olympics. Norma purchased her 6-year-old stepdaughter Sharron Hunt a Wham-O Super Ball that could bounce over a house for Christmas in 1965. Mr. Hunt referred to the new championship game between the American Football League and the National Football League as the "Superbowl" at the merger press conference in June 1965. For many years, there was a plaque at the Pro Football Hall of Fame that stated "Sharron Hunts Super Ball" and was given to her by Norma.
Norma supported Lamar in his business dealings, including a minority investment in the Collin Street Bakery and a founding investment in the Chicago Bulls. They loved to vacation at the Palette ranch in Mitize, Wyoming, where they collected western landscapes of Thomas Moran, which served as the label for her "Perfect Season" wine.
We always made predictions the night before numerous World Cup finals and often signed the menu of the restaurant where we ate. She correctly predicted Italy's victory against West Germany the night before the 1982 championships in Madrid. Before the 1998 World Cup Final between her favorite national football team Brazil and France, she predicted Brazil to win, but Brazil was upset by France.
When the 2002 World Cup rolled around, she declared it her final World Cup and sent her husband Lamar go on his own to Japan and Korea. However, her grandchildren convinced her to attend some of the World Cup matches in Brazil in 2014.
Lamar and Norma purchased a palatial Dallas home on Gaywood, purchased from King Jame Ling. The formal French Gardens gave Lamar plenty of topiary hedges and trees to trim while Norma entertained guests such as Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and tennis players Rod Laver and Ken Roswell. Lamar's son Dan learned hard work from all that time in the gardens with his Dad.
Mrs. Hunt, as a history major, was a keen researcher and swift study. I brought Walt Ehlers to the Chiefs game in 2004 to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day. Mrs. Hunt knew everything about the Medal of Honor and helped Mr. Hunt write the remarks made by the announcer as the World War II combat infantryman walked to mid-field. Mr. Hunt said it was the loudest ovation he had ever heard at Arrowhead Stadium for a non-participant.
Norma Hunt was a dedicated grandmother to her 16 grandchildren. She was like a mother to generations of Chiefs players and was called "the young mother” by Coach Hank Stram. She attended induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio, and attended funerals of players like Jerry Mays, Arron Brown, and Buck Buchanan. Her Christian faith, genuineness, thoughtfulness, and humor helped her to rise above her frailty.
“The first lady of professional football has gone, and replacing her will be difficult to those of us who had the honor of knowing Mrs. Norman Hunt.”