Mitch Albom got the Red Smith Award from the Associated Press Sports Editors this month. It’s a lifetime achievement award, the sort of thing you get with your gold watch and appointment with the death panel. Mitch, at 52, is probably covering the gray in his hair but nowhere near retirement, but hey! That’s entirely in keeping with his career! By the time Mitch hits what would be retirement age for you or me, we’ll all be watching white smoke pour out of the Vatican chimneys as he’s elected the first Jewish Pope. George Clooney will be working as his houseboy. And so on.
Over time, I’ve reached a sort of peace with Albom — I only get my dander up when he wanders off the sports pages. Which is often. But this isn’t one of those times. Let the APSE give him whatever award they want. I don’t even work for newspapers anymore. They made their bed, and they can lie in it, the feebs.
Then, yesterday, someone sent me this, from Deadspin. Snicker:
…the Happy Meal theology of (Mitch) Albom’s books that would’ve made Jonathan Livingston Seagull want to fly into the nearest wind tower.
I know it’s not just me who hates him. I once batted around the idea of a separate Mitch blog with another Detroit writer, or maybe even pitching a column to the Metro Times, in the grand tradition of Bobwatch, the Chicago Reader’s Bob Greene snarkfest. Among sportswriters, however, I’ve always assumed the dislike of Albom was based far more on jealousy than anything else. The number of sportswriters I honestly respect as writers, period, is pretty low, and I’ll bet the overwhelming secret thought most of Mitch’s colleagues entertain is this: Why didn’t I think of this shit first?
However, Deadspin lays out a pretty good collection of arguments as to why this award is the equivalent of Pia Zadora winning a Golden Globe. Its cornerstone is this Dave Kindred column about why Albom’s 2005 transgression — lavishly covered at the time, I won’t go into it here — ought to have disqualified him for this sort of laurel forever.
Well-argued, but as I said: That’s the APSE’s business. I was more interested in following the other links, especially this one, for which I reserve a comment I know many of you find offensive, but I cannot help myself: Jesus fucking Christ. If I recall correctly, Mitch’s 2005 shenanigans cost this man two weeks’ pay in the final arbitration. I guess not everyone can hold a grudge as long as I can.
Oh, well. Deep breaths. All better now.
Some of you may have noticed these new entries are arriving later in the day than they usually do. I’m sleeping later, plus I’m getting hammered with work from my hyperlocal site. Which is good for me, but may necessitate another schedule rejiggering, because I can’t keep this up.
So let’s skip to the bloggage:
Not quite OID, but close: Little girls set up lemonade stand, which is robbed. (Note to self: GREAT MOVIE SCENE.) In what newspapers love to call “an outpouring,” they’re finding this is probably the best thing to happen to them, ever.
Coozledad, remember when you said you found a worthless eHow article on burning pellets in a wood stove? One of the writers speaks:
“I was like, ‘I hope to God people don’t read my advice on how to make gin at home because they’ll probably poison themselves.’
“Never trust anything you read on eHow.com,” she said, referring to one of Demand Media’s high-traffic websites, on which most of her clips appeared.
Finally, a sweet story for cat lovers. Because you know what a softy I am in my tiny black heart.
Happy Thursday. Where did the damn week go?
LAMary said on July 22, 2010 at 11:03 am
Something to worry about next time you go sailing.
The last line of the lemonade stand story says so much:
“Johnson was charged with possession of marijuana for having a marijuana cigar in his ear as he talked to police.”
Son, time to rethink your situation.
Dorothy said on July 22, 2010 at 11:25 am
I’m done in by the Diego story!! He’s black and white like my Lucy. What a nice story that was, and that girl can write!
Jenine said on July 22, 2010 at 11:30 am
After the cat stories I’ve heard this summer, I’m going to spread the word. Any time I hear about people worried about animals in the crawl spaces of their house I’m going to ask them to have it checked for cats. The Dooce story is weird (with the possible cat imprisonment) but I also read about a feral cat who had a litter under a house and the kittens died after exterminators sealed the entrance and the mother cat couldn’t return to them. So if you employ critter catchers (or whatever cutsie name they use) tell those numbskulls to check for cats while they’re at it.
nancy said on July 22, 2010 at 11:31 am
I sent that to Alan last night, Mary. Big difference: No whales in the Great Lakes. But in a few years, that could be the Asian carp. Sigh.
Jeff Borden said on July 22, 2010 at 11:37 am
The “jealousy” angle toward Mitch Albom is exactly what was used by those who thought Bob Greene was a great columnist. The only reason he was despised by his peers, they argued, was that he was so much better than them. No, the reason he was despised by his peers was that he was usually full of crap. He was the Thomas Kincaid of columnists.
I agree that the fabrication Albom published in 2005 should have been a deal-breaker, but morality and integrity are apparently fungible traits and of no great importance these days. Otherwise, how would a bottom-feeding race-baiter like Andrew Breitbart be allowed to set the agenda for a news cycle?
Speaking of that grotesque organism, perhaps he has finally stepped in it. Even a significant number of right-wing web sites are blasting Breitbart and Fox for airing that heavily edited chunk of tape. And Breitbart looked like a complete asshole in his taped appearances yesterday. I sincerely hope his 15 minutes are up.
Peter said on July 22, 2010 at 11:55 am
Jeff, are you kidding? Breitbart would be a natural being press secretary for She Who or the Nevada senate candidate….
velvet goldmine said on July 22, 2010 at 12:03 pm
I don’t write for ehow anymore because I got invited to higher-paying gigs at Demand, but from reading the freelance writers’ forums on the Demand site and elsewhere, I have noticed the people who say bitter things about ehow or Demand are the ones who constantly get their pieces sent back by their copy editors, either as rewrites or rejections.
They then decide that a) it’s impossible to satisfy the over-exacting Demand editors and b) the whole place is a joke, a piece-of-crap content mill anyway. You would think at some point the writers would figure out that these two concepts are somewhat contradictory, but they don’t. They instead give interviews to journalists who mistakenly blame online content providers for killing newspapers.
Sue said on July 22, 2010 at 12:19 pm
Well, who are they going to give the award to? Have you seen the state of sportswriting these days? Everyone’s a graduate of the Rick Reilly Grab-a-hanky School of Sports Journalism, but they haven’t figured out how to get past the first level and actually, you know, look for some layers.
Anyone read Sports Illustrated? A few months back they ran a story about a family’s dedication to sports without really touching on the fact that the family was… kind of scary about it. You had to pick it up between the lines. Or, accept the face value of the article which was… aww, hardships! Now we’re stronger! Or the analysis of the Tiger Woods meltdown that included catty comments about how he should have grown out of all that ‘always wear red on Sunday’ nonsense. It was like the guys from Project Rungay wandered into a Sports Authority, only without the humor.
I’m not a big enough sports fan to go looking for good writing, but apparently neither is APSE.
nancy said on July 22, 2010 at 12:23 pm
Sue, I had the same thought. Lately I find the Wall Street Journal’s sports coverage the most compelling out there, focused as it is on the business angle. But yes, the endless Albom/Reilly/Mariotti imitators out there sort of redefine tiresome.
Jeff Borden said on July 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm
We are blessed to have some great sportswriters at the Chicago Sun-Times. Rick Telander is just a phenomenal reporter and writer. He recently wrote a nine-part feature on what has happened to his former teammates at Northwestern University from 1968-70, many of whom are dealing with issues resulting from the many head-banging hits they took all those years ago. Rick Morrissey also is a terrific reporter and writer.
These guys are distinguished by actual shoe leather reporting and a level of curiosity about the way things work that is as high as when they were cub reporters. They enjoy sports, but they do not worship them or those who star in them. Both have been particularly hard on the NCAA and the way it uses unpaid “student athletes” to generate billions in revenues.
The Tribune touts itself as Chicago’s best sports section, but I emphatically disagree. The Sun-Times kicks ass.
Bob (Not Greene) said on July 22, 2010 at 1:13 pm
Jeff B., you’re right about the Sun Times sports section compared to the Trib. No comparison. Actually, the Sun Times has better columnists all around, including the best columnist in Chicago, in my opinion, Neil Steinberg.
I read Telander’s series about the football head injuries with both fascination and horror, as I have a 13-year-old son who plays football.
And you can find interesting sports reporting around if you look hard enough. Adrian Wojnarowski’s piece on the how LeBron James left Cleveland for Miami has all kinds of great stuff.
coozledad said on July 22, 2010 at 1:21 pm
There’s a whole lot of good information out there if you need to know how to reupholster a chair or hang a door, but Ehow always reminds me of the Python kid’s show sketch where they tell you how to play a flute (you blow across one end and move your fingers up and down the sides). Distillation and catalytic cracking are definitely too esoteric. Several years ago, I contemplated ordering a set of plans for a steam engine that could be used to drive a generator. “Made entirely from household materials”, the website said. I looked a little farther into it, and found a site hosted by a millenialist engineer who warned “Unless you have an advanced degree in engineering plasma driven engines, attempting to build your own steam engine is a really time-consuming way to commit suicide… high pressure steam can slice through half-inch thick steel.” Then he went on to describe the plans for the engine I’d been looking at. “Someone is going to build this one day, fire it up, and kill people.”
On a sort of related note, one day when my wife and I were preparing to carry some rescue animals into Durham for an adopt-a-thon, some friends of mine showed up on their way to Kerr lake. One of them had just purchased some land there, and they asked if I wanted to go camping with them. It would have been bad enough just camping, but this particular weekend their plan was to blow up a beaver dam on the new property. A friend of a theirs was on his way down from New Jersey with some dynamite he’d “gotten” from the place he worked. I knew of this guy, and wondered what kind of federal charges he would face when the highway patrol picked him up in say, Pennsylvania. I pictured him lying face down in a median while homeland security disassembled his car.
They asked me if I knew anything about beavers, and I refrained from saying “You’ll want to grow a small mustache.” Instead I told them what I’d heard, which I still don’t know for sure is accurate: “They’re territorial, and they’ll mess you up pretty bad if they get hold of you.”
I still haven’t heard whether they got the dynamite.
beb said on July 22, 2010 at 1:24 pm
There’s apparently a picture of the whale surfacing on Americablog:
Personally, I’m still waiting for the Moby Dick jokes.
This quote from the Lemonade story is odd: “Johnson was charged with possession of marijuana for having a marijuana cigar in his ear as he talked to police.”
Really, “in his ear” not behind his ear or stuck in his hair. Who puts a dobie or a cigarette “in” their ear.
Talkingpointsmemo.com has an interesting angle on the Breidbart smear of Sherrod.
She’s part of a class action suit charging racial discrimination in Georgia years ago. Because so many eligable black farmers missed the original cut off for participating the the original suit, the settlement was reopened and a billion dollars has been set aside, but Congress needs to authorize the spending of this money. That bill is currently part of the War suppliment funding bill will be voted on this next week. It looks like Briedbart was trying to smear Sherrod now so that the bill could be cut from the appropriations.
moe99 said on July 22, 2010 at 1:31 pm
Here is a fun site. Interpretation of catalogue pictures:
Then this (courtesy of coozledad):
Dorothy said on July 22, 2010 at 1:58 pm
Those were fun, moe. And the link courtesy of cooz put me in mind of Mad Men. It comes back on this Sunday – yay!!
Jolene said on July 22, 2010 at 1:59 pm
I’m not much of a follower of sports or sportswriting, but my eyes occasionally land on something on the WaPo web site that seems pretty good. At the top of the list is Sally Jenkins, who I began to pay at least occasional attention to when Weingarten identified her in a web chat as one of the best writers at the Post. Also good are Tracee Hamilton, Tom Boswell, Mike Wise. Mike Wilbon is well known, but I haven’t read enough to have an independent opinion. There are other younger people too. Names that have stuck w/ me are Dan Steinberg and Barry Svrluga. But again, this isn’t my bailiwick. Clicking through the sports section now, I see lots of other names that might be good. Given all the cost-cutting, it’s impressive to see how many people are still there writing about sports.
Sherri said on July 22, 2010 at 2:04 pm
I subscribe to Sports Illustrated for the pictures. If there’s a good article in there, it’s a bonus. It happens, but I don’t count on it. It’s hard to find good sportswriting, and getting harder. The New York Times sometimes commits sports journalism, and there are some hidden gems on ESPN.com (Mechelle Voepel, who writes about women’s basketball, is my favorite.)
Deborah said on July 22, 2010 at 2:09 pm
Moe, the Catalog Living site was a hoot. I swear I know a woman who lives like that. She’s an art director for photo shoots for magazines like House Beautiful. We went to a party at her place once and she had all kinds of crap set out just so. It was especially hilarious in the bathroom where she had dramatically draped her husbands robe (which had never been worn) over a small table and carefully placed his slippers (ditto about never having been worn) diagonally across it. Then there were all kinds of accessory props surrounding the display. It was funny and creepy at the same time.
Jean S said on July 22, 2010 at 2:31 pm
Velvet Goldmine, just so you know, Demand pays editors about $3.50 to edit a 200-word piece.
prospero said on July 22, 2010 at 2:32 pm
Red Smith was a notorious racist. Mitch isn’t, he’s just an atrocious writer that worships that inexcusable hack Rick Reilley.
Red Smith called Muhammad Ali by his slave name always, to his grave, I suppose. Like the weasel would step in the ring to dispute the appellation. Look, if a thoughtful, charismatic, extremely good looking greatest boxer in history decides he’s Muslim, if you aren’t a bone racist, you call him whatever HE chooses.
There are sportswriters and there are excrescences that can’t be scraped off the sink without more effort than anybody really wants to exert. I’d say that Mitch used to actually be a decent writer. These days, Bob Ryan is OK, Peter Gammons is very good. Peter King on the NFL is journeyman but so heartfelt, who cares.
Red Smith was an out and out racist jackass that couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag. Muhammad Ali thanks him for his presence.
I’d take a moment to call out Jay Mariotti. Frank Thomas is illustratively the best White Sox player that ever lived. He’s also a borderline Hall-of-Famer. .300 lifetime average, 521 HRs.
But when he was injured this weenie Chicago sportswriter thought he was funny calling the guy “Big Skirt” Please count the multiple ways in which this is offensive, and how this little gelled jerk never played sports.
Jackie McMullen stands out. She played D1 and she is a superb writer.
Dexter said on July 22, 2010 at 2:42 pm
JBo: Nobody give us the inside like Joe Cowley.
Since I can’t get a Freep every day like I did for many years, sometimes I don’t read the online, and I had not even heard about the ’05 Albom flap, but I remember reading the original story. Shit, now I wonder how much of my fave Albom story, the profile he did on Chris Webber (M Fab 5) , was just made-up quotes and grandiosity.
But what the hell, all religion is candy and pie in the sky…Albom’s take on it in his books ain’t no different, and it’s great light reading. I got a lift out of “Five People…”, after all, I wasn’t reading it to achieve great enlightenment. I don’t give a fuck if somebody calls me a sap , I enjoyed the Albom books.
Jolene said on July 22, 2010 at 2:48 pm
Since we’re sharing entertainments, check out this animation of how a sewing machine works, posted by Roger Ebert on Twitter a couple of days ago. Kinda fun.
Sue said on July 22, 2010 at 3:11 pm
Ok, I know I shouldn’t find this funny, but I do, I really do. Here’s John Boehner’s idea of “empathy”:
“I’ve got real empathy for those who are unemployed, as most of you know I’ve got 11 brothers and sisters. I know that three of my brothers lost their jobs, I’m not sure whether they’ve found jobs, yet, so I’ve got a lot of empathy for those caught in this economic downturn.”
That John, what a guy! No idea how his unemployed brothers are doing, but he really feels for them.
velvet goldmine said on July 22, 2010 at 3:36 pm
Jean S. — Worse than that — $3.50 for a 400 word piece. And I’ve always found them to be quite diligent about fact-checking, rejecting suspect references– and needlessly rearranging my flawless prose, so they certainly more than earn each penny.
My husband looked into it, but it’s more sweatshop-like for the editors. I believe they’re expected to edit about 75 pieces a week. Writers have no quotas, other than those set by their creditors.
paddyo' said on July 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm
Ahh, Albom —
This reminds me of the Freep investigation that followed his fabricated tale in 2005, because not long afterward, I got a call myself from one of the paper’s reporters about something Our Boy apparently had lifted from one of my own stories.
I’d call it a minor transgression at worst, but still:
During the Kobe Bryant sex scandal/saga here in Colorado that year, I had phoned a noted Denver trial lawyer to get comment on the impending settlement between the basketball star and the woman who accused him of rape. The lawyer colorfully said, “In Kobe Bryant terms, the check will be small” but that in his accuser’s terms “the check will be gigantic. Kobe just bought her a home.”
A couple of days after my story ran, the entire quote showed up in Mitch’s column, as if he’d interviewed the lawyer himself — no attribution/credit to my paper.
Anyway, as I said, merely a small thing. But the Freep’s folks in-house were combing through everything Mitch had written. And even Howie Kurtz mentioned my little brush with Mitchness in one of his media notes columns that spring.
Maybe the AP Sports Editors don’t read Kurtz, or the Freep, or anything else . . .
Scout said on July 22, 2010 at 4:18 pm
I loved the cat story. I immediately sent it to my friend who has a long haired tuxedo cat named Diego.
John C. said on July 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm
I see that Mitch joined Dick Schaap as a Red Smith winner, which puts me in mind of a great Dick Schaap line. (Perhaps not original to him. But that’s where I heard it.)
“Sincerity,” Schaap said. “If you can fake that, you’re all set.”
I won’t insult the man by speculating that he’s a Mitch mentor. But still.
Jeff Borden said on July 22, 2010 at 4:47 pm
You’re absolutely correct about Jay Mariotti. He rarely showed his face in the dugout, the sidelines or courtside. He had only one setting –shrill– and he misused words in the worst possible way. His favorite word was hideous. . .which is a helluva strong word that out to be used when discussing pedophilia or Muscular Sclerosis. Maybe Joe Thiesman’s injury was hideous, but by and large, this is not a word to be flung around loosely.
Additionally, the creep let the Sun-Times send him to Beijing for the Olympics, then quit shortly upon his return. He bet big on becoming some kind of Internet oracle, but I haven’t heard his name since he left the S-T.
nancy said on July 22, 2010 at 5:21 pm
Paddy, that’s the kind of transgression that a journalist notices immediately, but which led Freep readers to scratch their heads over what the big deal was. A reporter for the other paper in Fort Wayne was fired for this very thing — taking an interview with the AP and pasting the quotes into his own story. He didn’t actually say, “Pete Rose told me,” or “I asked,” or anything like that, but there was no attribution or acknowledgement of the AP’s input at all. And Mitch did that ALL the time — left games in the third inning, then got quotes from the TV interviews, etc. As I recall, they also found several instances of him polishing quotes from elsewhere — improving syntax, dropping an awkward phrase here and there.
He could have skated on the whole 2005 incident if he’d just changed a verb tense or three — “said they were planning to go,” etc. But no. His prose must flow as he command it flow.
That really, really bugs me. After the Goeglein business here, the one comment from elsewhere that pissed me off was from some bowtied turd named Roger Kimball, who said that since good ideas deserved to be passed around, there was no real harm in what Timmy did. It would be funnier coming from someone who didn’t consider himself an intelleckshul.
Dexter said on July 22, 2010 at 5:39 pm
Paddyo’—man, that’s heavy stuff. It’s inexcusable and an insult to your trade.
I don’t understand why some of these writers don’t buy into your trade’s codes of ethics, written or just understood.
Dexter said on July 22, 2010 at 5:47 pm
There’s some great TV ahead tonight, bicycle racing.
Versus will show the day’s action from France at 8:00 PM, and it’s some real good stuff…I watched the international broadcast this morning with Phil Liggett and Bob Sherwen commentating. It’s the west-to-east crossing of the Col du Tourmalet, in the fog-like clouds, mist, and crowds edging out into the roadway…it’s the final ascent in the Pyrennes, the race ends Sunday…and if you can’t watch, here’s a link to see the highlights of today’s action.
paddyo' said on July 22, 2010 at 5:55 pm
Thanks, Dex’, for reminding me that these aren’t just little transgressions. Most of us in the newspaper biz (and I, like many, am no longer in it now) cranked out stories day by day and, frankly, didn’t have much time (and have less now) to hold the thieves to account, except in the really big, super-egregious cases like the NYT’s Jason Blair and USAT’s Jack Kelley, et al.
But I think Nancy answered your I-don’t-understand-why question best: “His prose must flow as he command it flow.” You could say that about any and every plagiarizer, great and small . . .
Jeff Borden said on July 22, 2010 at 6:05 pm
Ah, Christ. How hard is it for a toad like Albom to credit the originator of the story? I guess when you live in the cosseted, protected place that is Mitchland, you needn’t worry about such niceties. An editor will have your back.
beb said on July 22, 2010 at 6:48 pm
The thing is that if Albom credited every one he stole from it would look like he didn’t do any reporting at all. Can’t have that, can we.
prospero said on July 22, 2010 at 7:01 pm
Jolene. Roger Ebert is really smart. If he likes a movie, I’ll probably like it too. He never condescends. He’s just the smart guy that’s your friend that knows about movies.
He werote the single funniest movie in the history of movies, He obviously gets this whole thing. Roger Ebert is the Ray Davies of movies criticcis
prospero said on July 22, 2010 at 7:14 pm
Isn’t it fascinating how Dick Schaap’s kid mimics his voice andtone anddoes ambush journalism?
Isn’t it amazing how Lindsey Lohan is getting special treatment? I think it’s fairly obvious it was special treatment when she got put in jail. Meanwhile, Chelsea Clinton can’t get married without vultures. A world we’d rather do without.
Dexter said on July 22, 2010 at 8:51 pm
Smart ass kid Luke Russert asks dumb question to Charlie Rangel and gets comeuppance…or does he, or do I have it all wrong?
Dexter said on July 22, 2010 at 8:57 pm
coozledaddio: They gots goats in The D, too!
Jakash said on July 22, 2010 at 10:18 pm
Any among you who might care about this probably already know, but I’ll mention it, anyway. Bob (Not Greene) says above: “the Sun Times has better columnists all around, including the best columnist in Chicago, in my opinion, Neil Steinberg.” That certainly seems a fair analysis to me. Nancy referred to “the grand tradition of Bobwatch, the Chicago Reader’s Bob Greene snarkfest” in her post. Bobwatch was written by Steinberg.
prospero said on July 22, 2010 at 11:53 pm
These assholes do not know shame. What they know without a doubt is that voters are morons.
What’s Rangel supposed to have done that isn’t normal House behavior? Vitter’s still serving, right? Oh wait, Charley’s a black guy. And Vitter? There may have been goats involved.
It might not be race. Rangel annoys shit out of incumbents, Vitter goes along to get along to move smoothly into escort time. Much more acceptable
Jolene said on July 23, 2010 at 10:17 am
I don’t think race is much of an issue w/ Rangel. According to all the reports I’ve read, he is loved by his colleagues–black and white, Dem and Repub. Moreover, he is a close associate of Nancy Pelosi. They would rather do anything than expel him, but his financial violations are, apparently, egregious. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is forced to resign.
Vitter is just a creep. The congressman who is running against him, Charlie Melancon, seems to be a decent guy. Unfortunately, he’s charismatically challenged, and it’s hard to sell yourself as an answer to much of anything when you are essentially powerless to solve the major problems facing your state.
coozledad said on July 23, 2010 at 10:34 am
The only reason Politico exists is to legitimize rightwing shit throwers. This is what Ben Smith waited his whole life and annointed himself with Mazola for. But with all their overt ass-nuzzling, they’re a perfect mirror of DC:
harrison said on July 23, 2010 at 10:41 am
A few comments and replies to some of your previous posts. Better late than never.
Jeff Borden — Rick Telander wrote a book back in the late 1980s called
The Hundred-Yard Lie. It’s about how college football was corrupted — taken over by college administrators in the later 1800s after football clubs were making tons of money and they wanted it for themselves.
Jolene — Sally Jenkins is the daughter of Dan Jenkins, famed Sports Illustrated writer on pro football and golf, so she has the background. He also wrote a very funny novel entitled Semi-Tough, which I’d recommend you read it you like light comic novels.
Mariotti and Breibart and alike — blowhards, gasbags, worthless excuses of humanity, etc.