GREAT DEBATE NOT DEAD YET

Today, a tradition dies.

Since I have been with this newspaper, Super Bowl weekend meant the annual debate between Curt Sylvester, our esteemed, long-time football writer, and me, our esteemed, long-time person he sat next to.

Oh, the fun we had! Me telling Curt his pick was as thin as his hair. Curt calling me “Shorty.” Me telling Curt I saw him in the hotel fish tank. Curt calling me “Shorty.”

We met on this page once a year, just a brief newsprint encounter, kind of like those cowboys in “Brokeback Mountain,” except without any of the stuff in “Brokeback Mountain,” or the West, or sheep, or come to think of it, forget I even said that.

Anyhow, that fine tradition lasted 20 years, and now it’s over, because Curt went off and retired. This totally ruined all my jokes about Curt sleeping on the job. Now sleeping is his job.

And I am here alone.

I thought about giving it up. But then I realized, wait, who needs Curt? I mean, it’s like a play we’ve been doing for 20 years. You think I don’t know his part already?

CURT: Mitch, here we are again, you nitwit.

ME: Curt, I thought you retired!

CURT: I did. You wanna make something of it, Shorty?

ME: So who are you picking, Silver Fox?

CURT: Seattle will win. They have Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck. Besides, everyone is ignoring them – like you at the Playboy party.

ME: How would you know about the Playboy party, Oxygen Mask?

CURT: Shorty!

MITCH: Four eyes!

CURT: Who are you picking?

MITCH: Well, Curt, I guess I’ll take the other team. Pittsburgh has Ben Roethlisberger, the hot hand. And the Steelers’ defense is fast and deceptive – kind of like you when the bill comes for dinner.

CURT: Mitch, you ignorant yak.

MITCH: Yak?

CURT: Well, thanks for resurrecting me. This is the least amount of work I’ve had to do since I filed my last story.

MITCH: Wait. Aren’t you going to rattle off a few good jabs, call me Morrie Jr., tell me I dress like Potsie Weber?

CURT: You know, I should have let you insult yourself earlier. You’re good at it.

MITCH: Can I say something less than insulting?

CURT: What?

MITCH: I miss the real thing.

CURT: Easy, little fella, that “Brokeback” thing was just a movie.

MITCH: Steelers, 24-17.

CURT: Hawks, 30-14.

Don’t miss Sunday, when I debate Oscar Madison.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com.

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