Aw, shucks. Now that Chris Webber has called another last-minute time-out — to cut a deal with prosecutors over felony charges — there goes my chance to be a star witness. Not that I think of myself that way.
But Webber’s lawyer did.
That lawyer, Steve Fishman, told anyone who would listen that I had important information that would prove his client’s innocence. He drew up a subpoena. He went to court to get me to testify.
He even accused me of hiding from responsibility, as if saving his client’s butt was a civic duty.
All the while, even as Mr. Fishman insulted me, I kept quiet because there was a bigger issue at hand: the right of journalists not to be forced to testify, a principle that cuts at the very core of reporter-source confidentiality.
However, now that Webber and Fishman have copped a plea, I don’t want to cheat the people of my very “critical” piece of the pie. So I present to you now what you might have heard in court between Fishman and me.
Mitch Albom, state your name.
Mitch Albom, like you just said.
Mr. Albom, in the time you knew Chris Webber while he was at Michigan, did you ever see him with $280,000?
Aha! This proves he didn’t have it!
What about girls?
I beg your pardon?
Girls. I never saw him with girls, either. But I know now that he had them. Parties. I never went with him to parties, but I know that he attended them. Family dinners. I never saw him at a family dinner, but I know that he enjoyed them.
What are you saying?
I’m saying that just because I didn’t see something doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. I didn’t live with the guy, you know.
But you wrote the book “Fab Five.”
Yes, I did.
And in it you said that you and Chris were together once when he didn’t have enough money for a full meal.
You said he once borrowed $5 for gas.
This proves he took no money from Ed Martin!
Or he left it at home that day.
YOUR HONOR! STRIKE THAT FROM THE RECORD! Mr. Albom, didn’t you write about Ed Martin in your book?
Yes, briefly. I wrote that he was an auto worker in Detroit who followed high school basketball players and often gave their families gifts from the back of his car, like cakes and liquor and such.
What did he give the players?
You’d have to ask your client that.
I beg your pardon?
Well, every time I asked Chris about Ed Martin, he sort of laughed and said,
“Aw, what do you want to know about him for?” I never got a straight answer.
Aha! This proves he took no money!
Or that he didn’t want to tell me.
YOUR HONOR! STRIKE THAT FROM THE RECORD! Mr. Albom, do you want to be held in contempt?
Nah. You have that area covered.
Mr. Albom, did you not once write that if Chris Webber had received $280,000 in college, he must have done a great job of hiding it?
AHA! And what does this prove?
That if he had $280,000 in college he must have done a great job of hiding it?
AHA! YOU SEE! AND . . . uh . . . and . . .
Why are you sweating?
Quiet! I’ll ask the questions here. Now then, don’t you think that if Chris Webber took $280,000 between his high school years and the time he left Michigan that you would have seen it?
Well, let’s say he took small amounts here and there as a high schooler or college player. You know, 100 bucks for this, 500 for that. Who would notice? And then, sophomore year, once he decided he wasn’t coming back to U-M but before he was drafted into the NBA, he took a huge chunk because both he and Martin figured he’d soon have enough money to pay it back. That would still fit the time line, wouldn’t it?
SILENCE! I’m asking the questions here!
On the other hand, maybe he didn’t take a penny. Really. I don’t know. You’d have to ask Ed Martin — except he’s dead.
I don’t care for the tone of your answers, Mr. Albom.
OK. Can I go then?
Not so fast! What do you have against my client?
Come now. It’s clear you don’t like him.
That would be impossible. I’d have to know him to not like him.
But you do know him.
No, I knew him. I knew him as a student. I knew him as a teen. I do not know him as an insanely rich NBA star who dates super models, barks at reporters, pretends he’s got beefs with police, acts as if he grew up in a tenement in the ghetto and insists that he never did one wrong thing in his life. That Chris Webber I don’t know.
You’re excused. Get out of here.
Can I have $5 for gas?
Come on. You’ve got money at home.
YOUR HONOR! STRIKE THAT!
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).