Such a freakish October we’ve been having so far. Summerlike temperatures, absolutely perfect weather, and the Lions are 5-0. This is what you might call a textbook lesson in “things that will not last, but should be enjoyed while they do.” Normally I do groundwork for the week ahead on Sunday evenings; instead I had dinner with the Hare Krishnas. I should be at work inside all day today, but odds are, I’m going to get a long bike ride in there somehow. And sooner or later the Lions will lose, but for now? I join my fellow Detroiters in celebrating their winning streak.
I generally confine my criticism of Mitch Albom to his weekly forays into the non-sporting world, mainly because I don’t read his sports columns, mainly because I don’t read sports coverage, period. I had a brief period of reading it, when I was on the copy desk in Fort Wayne, and handled the early-closing pages, i.e., business and sports. My takeaway was that I’d been wrong to feel any sympathy whatsoever for sportswriters who objected to the traditional newsroom moniker for their corner — the Toy Department. For every Frank DeFord or…who’s that funny guy at ESPN? Bill Simmons? Yeah. For every sportswriter like them, with talent and wit and insight, there were two score hacks who earned a living presenting high-school football rivalries as the latter-day equivalent of the Peloponnesian War. Sometimes a very good living. Having edited my share of his columns, I can tell you the downfall of Stephen A. Smith from his sinecure at the Philadelphia Inquirer was one of the very few times in recent memory I thought newspaper management got it right. (EDIT: OK, I was too harsh here. There are many fine sportswriters, and even the hacks work pretty hard, traveling constantly, not seeing their families for days on end. My hat is doffed to their brother- and sisterhood, but there are still plenty of lousy ones.)
So I check in on Mitch’s sports output rarely, but hey, the Lions’ unlikely streak is a bonafide talker outside of sports, so what the heck, and whaddaya know:
Change. On a sports night of epic proportions — playoff baseball team in action, undefeated football team on national TV — it was the Lions who provided the exclamation point, staying perfect by taking down the rival Bears, 24-13, the way they’ve taken down a lot of teams this year, emerging at halftime, righting the sails, sinking the battleship.
“Change” is Albom Trick No. 34, the Dramatic Repetition of Faux-Profundity, right before he swerves off Metaphor Highway and into the Ditch of Hackitude. Of course it was a sports night of “epic proportions,” because like fights of the century, they happen every few months or so. (Note to Mitch’s editors: Epic, in this usage, generally means long. If the Tigers had been playing at home, it’s a word that would have applied to the post-game traffic jams. Then they provide an exclamation point by righting their sails (and as a sailor, I have no idea what that even means) and sinking the battleship. OK, whatever. I bet they all gave 110 percent along the way, too.
No, but this:
From the jump, the human amplifiers in Ford Field were dialed to the point of explosion. The whole first quarter had the feeling of a building on fire. The stands were 5,000 volts of nervous energy. Players soared and crashed furiously. Yellow flags flew so fast you thought they were being thrown by Kevin Bacon at the riotous end of “Animal House.” Stay calm! All is well!
And we move on to exploding amplifiers, burning buildings, 5,000 volts, flying penalty flags, Kevin Bacon (six degrees!) and “Animal House.”
I have sympathy for these guys, I really do. Pity the modern sportswriter, tasked with reporting news everyone already knows — the Lions won in front of a crazy-excited hometown crowd on the first “Monday Night Football” to visit their venue in 37 years. (Wait a minute. Mitch says it’s the first MNF to play in “our city limits” in that time. Surely they made it to the Pontiac Silverdome sometime in that time.) You have to do one of two things — find an angle or story within that no one else is reporting, or convey the man-that-was-a-game feeling of bros at the water cooler the next morning. But he doesn’t have the ease of a Simmons (or the space), and he’s not the craftsman DeFord is, but he’s too much of a superstar to take a risk. He’s used to them holding Page One for him, or a room that falls silent when he enters. He’s Mitch, and we’re not. And so we get this. Well, he was on deadline.
You know what? Today would be a great day to Occupy something. There’s a local protest scheduled, but not until Friday. When it will be raining.
Occupy Detroit — it’s sort of a joke, isn’t it?
Speaking of occupying Detroit, I see today is Elmore Leonard’s 86th birthday. Best wishes to a true Detroit gem, and OMG, it just occurred to me that he won’t live forever, and when he goes, Mitch Albom will write something about him.
Have a happy Tuesday, all. I’m off to ride my bike.