A letter arrived not too long ago from Operation Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia. It was written by a soldier named Tim Campbell, who is from here, but over there. This is part of the letter:
” . . . Moving on, I would like to address Mitch Albom. Being an avid football fan, I was most upset by being sent here this time of year. What? No television? No newspaper? No ESPN! . . .
“Well, Mr. Albom, you are my only link. I’ve heard the Lions lost to Tampa. HOW? I’ve also heard that a certain Irish team has been squeaking out victories against the Big 10 powerhouses. HOW? . . .
“Please. You are my only hope. Let me know what the heck is going on, and I’ll buy you a hot dog and a beer at the Super Bowl.”
Well, Tim. Seeing as I would do pretty much anything for a hot dog, here goes:
The world of sports was a strange and wonderful place when you left it. But now it has changed. Now it is truly weird. How else would you describe an autumn in which Michigan was ranked as the No. 1 football team in the country, Bill Laimbeer was the cover boy for Sports Illustrated, George Steinbrenner hosted “Saturday Night Live” and George Foreman — who, I believe, rents an apartment at Burger King — is now considered a more worthy heavyweight championship foe than Mike Tyson?
Oh. Did you hear about the five naked football players and the female sports writer?
This is the kind of stuff you’ve been missing, Tim, and I want to catch you and your fellow soldiers up on everything.
Try not to laugh, OK? Sweep, yes. By Oakland, no
Let’s begin with baseball. You must have heard that Oakland, the defending world champions, the greatest hitting team on the planet, the top pitchers in the universe, you must have heard they were playing the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series, right? Tim. Buddy. You didn’t bet on this thing, did you? If you did, skip the next paragraph.
Cincinnati won. In four straight.
Like I said, pretty weird.
Let me tell you about the heavyweight championship of the world. It changed hands. Buster Douglas carried it into the ring, along with a bag of French fries. Evander Holyfield carried it out. Buster wore a sign taped to his chin that said “Hit me.” One punch. Down he went. The last thing he said was “extra cheese, please.” I hope they don’t use Buster in any of your training films.
Did I tell you that Bill Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas are into plastics? Yup. Laimbeer now wears a plastic mask to protect a fractured cheekbone. Isiah wears plastic goggles to protect a torn tear duct. The Pistons played their season opener the other night; it was like watching an episode of “The Lone Ranger.”
By the way, they won.
Some things never change. Thank God. Lions, too, are still the same
Let’s see. You say you’re a football fan. Well, I can tell you how the Lions beat the Minnesota Vikings, and you’ll probably be impressed, since, when you left, the Vikings were still considered football players.
Yes, the Lions lost to Tampa Bay. Not once. Twice. But they did beat the New Orleans Saints. Of course, when you left, the Saints were still considered football players.
You’ll be happy to know that Bo Jackson is back in a football uniform, having just completed baseball season, the Olympic bobsled trials, the World Chess Championship and the lariat toss. Joe Montana hasn’t lost a game yet this season. Lawrence Taylor was just accused by Howard Cosell of keeping vials of drug-free urine around in case he got tested again. Taylor, not Cosell.
So as you see, things are pretty normal.
College sports remain a great mystery. Notre Dame was ranked No. 1 in the country until it lost to unranked Stanford. Michigan then took over as No. 1 and said “Omigosh, we’re No 1! What do we do now?” And U-M lost, the next week, to Michigan State.
Today, Virginia is No. 1, mostly because the pollsters can’t think of anyone else.
And that pretty much brings you up to date, except for Jack Morris wanting more money and Atlanta getting the Olympics and this kid Sergei Fedorov, the best import since Godiva chocolate. But that’s another column.
Tim, we’ve received a lot of letters like yours. They all want to know what’s going on. They also usually end as yours did: “Please tell my family and friends hello and I love them.”
Consider it done. Stay strong. Godspeed. And remember, when the World Series gets over there?
Bet on the Reds.
Mitch Albom will sign copies of his new book, “Live Albom II,” at 7:15 p.m. Monday at Book People in West Bloomfield and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Book Stall on the Main in Northville.