by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments


Let’s see if I rmlr..remeb..remember Oops…V$&Tlzj

…wait a sec.

“First press ‘log on’ button.”


Well now. Back to work. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. They also say college gets you a good job. So they are on drugs, I guess.

But I will say this: sitting on the sidelines all summer has made me a much smarter sports columnist.

I have been right about everything.

Why, take for example, this whole Lomas Brown contract story. When Lomas threatened to miss the Lions’ opener, I was inclined, like most journalists, to grab my typewriter, bang out an angry column about spoiled athletes and penny-pinching executives and the tragedy of a nice fellow turned no-show over money.

But since I was on leave, and, therefore, extremely busy sleeping most of the day, I said nothing.

And Lomas returned.

And I was right — for having said nothing.

Same thing happened with the Tigers. When they jumped ahead of everyone early in the summer, I was inclined to grab my pen and write “Isn’t this great? They’re going to shock the world!” Of course, I’ve forgotten how to use a pen, since it doesn’t have a “log on” button. And besides, the Tigers then went down the toilet, so I was glad I didn’t write that first one, ’cause what I really felt like writing was, “Aha! Just as we predicted! The Tigers are awful. We should cover them with a blanket and pretend they’re a futon!”

Some writers wrote that.

I was too busy, looking for my pillow.

And then the Tigers got hot.

And I was right — for having said nothing.

Today, if I had to write anything about the Tigers, it would almost certainly be one word. This is the word: “Huh?”

See how smart I’ve gotten?

And so succinct!

Of course, it took a whole summer of terribly grueling sitting-in-a-chair to become this intelligent. And I was lucky. In our ratings grabbing, radio talk-show society, few of us have the time to sit around and say nothing. We’re too busy telling someone to shut up.

By locking myself away in a little room — ostensibly to write a book — I reached the higher plane of sports journalism, where you look at things through wiser eyes, think deeper thoughts, and finally, after many, many beverages, come to the ultimate conclusion: “Well, gee, I dunno . . .”

I now see the wisdom of this response.

I could have used it all summer.

Take, for example, the day before Greg Norman won the British Open. My boss, bless his frantic soul, would have cornered me and said, “Now’s the perfect time to write that ‘GREG WILL CHOKE AGAIN!’ column.”

“Well, gee, I dunno . . .” I’d have said.

And the next day, Norman won.

So I was right.

A month later, here comes Norman, at the PGA, and he’s on top of the leader board. And you can hear my boss, his teeth chattering in excitement — he likes golf, what can I tell you? — “Now’s the perfect time to write that
‘NORMAN NEVER CHOKES ANYMORE’ column! The perfect time!”

“Um, well, I dunno . . .”

And Norman chokes.

And I’m right again.

This is really something. I mean, it’s a whole new discovery. Just sit back, and say nothing. I am thinking about teaching journalism class in this subject, and calling it, “The Wisdom of Stalling.”

Just to show you how this works, let’s stop for a moment, here on Labor Day weekend, to look back at a few things that got us really worked up over the summer. For example:

The Lions’ quarterback situation. Correct me if I’m wrong here. Wayne Fontes began the summer saying Rodney Peete was the No. 1 quarterback. And he ended the summer saying Rodney Peete was the No. 1 quarterback. And in between about 23,752 pages of commentary were written over who should be the No. 1 quarterback and people drove off the road calling talk shows on their car phones to argue over what is Wayne Fontes doing and blah, blah, blah, and really, let’s be honest here, the only question worth asking was this: Why are we paying attention to anything Wayne Fontes says?

End of discussion.

So the point is, it is possible to slap out a column the minute something happens, and take your chances on being right. Or wait a few days and write a much smarter one. Or wait a few weeks and be truly brilliant.

I am thinking of going beyond that. After sitting out all summer, and doing all that hard core sleeping, I am thinking of becoming a new voice of reason. I am thinking of thinking, for long periods of time.

I am thinking of asking my boss for another leave of absence.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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