Arguing with a writer over what he should have written sort of defines “pointless.” That’s one reason I hold the speech-he-should-have-given column trope in low regard. And when we’re talking about Mitch Albom? That’s like Wendy barking at the mailman. The mail will arrive tomorrow. Sorry, Wendy.
But I have to say, this column — which, as bad Mitch columns go, is far from the worst — left me a little fish-mouthed for a while. The gist: Mitch is taking some time off in the midst of the biggest local sports story of the year to tend his charity in Haiti, where he and some of his volunteers watched game two of the American League Championship Series via laptop.
I think of what a talented writer, a Jon Carroll or Pete Dexter or Steve Lopez, could do with that material. It’s rich with possibilities — the contrast between grinding poverty and the luxurious details of American baseball; the tiny-planet angle, the weirdness of the game being beamed down into this dark spot on the map, under the eternal, indifferent stars; or maybe Mitch, well-established as a hater of computers and the internet, might admit to some second thoughts about his prejudices. Hell, give me enough time and I could think of a dozen more approaches that might turn this unusual occurrence into something people once looked to columnists to provide, a simple moment that illuminates an eternal truth, or just a good story, well-told.
Or, y’know, whatever.
But no. First comes self-promotion:
Many will remember where they were for the game. I will never forget. We had taken a crew of 23 volunteers — plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc. — to aid in the reconstruction of the Have Faith Haiti Mission, run by a charity I helped start…
Next comes log-rolling:
Normally, we give up on the outside world. We have made these trips before (seven of them, thanks to Roger Penske and Pentastar Aviation, who donate the use of a plane).
Then comes more than a dozen paragraphs of the Hey, Didya See That Game school of sportswriting, where Mitch relates the key events in a contest already 48 hours old, then records his friends’ insightful responses: “Yes!” “Scherzer has this.” “It’s Detroit’s night.” Every so often, it’s like he rouses himself enough to remember yeah, right, the dateline on this sucker is Port-au-Prince and offers a detail:
I noticed a small lizard dart across the wall.
But there’s drama, oh yes there is, as when the laptop crashes at a key moment, but comes back in time to record David Ortiz’ grand slam, after which Mitch reveals the sort of sports acumen that justifies his salary — I knew it was over — and calls it a night.
Ladies and gentlemen, remember to tip your waitresses. The mailman has been driven from the door yet again.
On to the bloggage, then:
Ta-Nehisi Coates on the confederate flag-wavers in front of the White House Sunday:
It is the wisdom of the crowd that matters. The wisdom that marked Sunday’s crowd was the idea that the president “bows down to Allah” and needs to “put the Qu’ran down.” The wisdom that marked Sunday’s crowd was the notion that Obama was not the president of “the people” but the president of “his people.” The wisdom of Sunday’s crowd held that the police, doing their job, looked “like something out of Kenya.” It’s not so much that a man would fly a Confederate flag, as Jeff Goldberg notes, in front of the home of a black family. It’s that a crowd would allow him the comfort of doing it.
Rielle Hunter is sorry. So very, very sorry. And coincidentally (I’m sure), she has a new book out this week.
Wednesday dawns, the week advances, and we’re all 24 hours older.