Tom Wolfe, who died two days ago, was a great squash parent. While his son Tommy played junior squash and then at Trinity, graduating in 2007, Wolfe was perfect in the gallery: impeccably dressed, of course, but also calm, courteous, never yelling. It was Tommy’s thing not his. Wolfe blended into the crowd in that inexplicable way he always did. The ultimate bystander.
In 2003 Wolfe blurbed my first book, Squash: A History of the Game—”maestros of tight rails and feathery drop shots.”
A few years later, Paul Assaiante and I were struggling with the shape of an inchoate book on mentoring young people. Assaiante left the manuscript with Wolfe after visiting him in the Hamptons. A few days later Wolfe was on the phone, calling literary agents, willing the book into existence. Wolfe wrote that he “devoured it in job lots.” That is my kind of reader.
Wolfe wrote the foreword for the book, Run to the Roar, when it came out in 2010. In it he praised, in his unique, rollicking way, the fact that squash had luckily proved to be terrible for television: “The absence of the TV eye has largely spared squash from TV sports’ three STDiseased, shanks-akimbo harlots: Cheating, Gambling and Greed.”
This was before SquashTV existed. With the SquashTV’s continued penetration of television markets around the world and online and the Supreme Court decision this week about gambling, will Wolfe’s fears soon be realized?
One final note: Tom and his wife Sheila threw an amazing launch party for the book a couple of weeks after it came out. It was held in their drawing room of their Upper East Side apartment, just next to his writing room with a circular desk. There were editors from Sports Illustrated and the Times, writers, publicists, squash influencers, Trinity administrators.
At the party Wolfe was in a white suit, dressed to the nines as always; Assaiante wore a Union Boat Club sweatshirt and sweatpants. Assaiante told the crowd a funny story about the first time he met Wolfe in New York: he happened to be in coat-and-tie and Wolfe, coming back from working out, was in sweats.
Both told each other the same thing as they shook hands: this will never happen again.