Mitch Albom's very favorite pose--as a sportswriter of repute* for a major paper** in one of America's premier cities***, and author of such books as The First Five People You Meet in Heaven and A Project Chick under his pen name, Nikki Turner--remains that of chiding rabbi. He does this by insisting that sports has to be something other than spectacle, and does so by tsk-tsking you into taking one of three stances reliably found in any Mitch Albom column.
Sports have gone too far. Wow, our priorities really are out of line. Spank, hug.
This thing in sports is reflective of this societal thing. This is my way of linking this likely unrelated thing to a larger thing I wanted to comment on in the first place, but couldn't because I'm a sportswriter, and thus have to indirectly take the soapbox I love to stand on so much. (Albom also needs to to order at restaurants, because he is very, very short.) Point, spank, hug.
Sports can still inspire. Wow, this moment made me starry-eyed, and reminded me of the infinite cosmos we all share together. FUCK YOU STOP HUGGING ME YOU TINY BOUFFANT'D MIDGET.
Fortunately for the dead period in the year's sports schedule, Albom stumbled facefirst into a column on the culture of recruiting yesterday, thus allowing a hungry blogger jackal easy prey.
And if this column were a wildebeest, it would not merely be the old one at the back of the pack, but would instead be the bleating young obese baby of the herd with a broken ankle bleating loudly while wearing a series of blinking LEDs spelling out "EASY PREY YUMZ" in the endless dark of the savanna.
It is wrong and harmful and we should all be ashamed of ourselves and I guess I'm going to keep writing it until I'm the last person in this business saying it. This glorifying of high school recruits has got to stop.
Why can't anyone else see? Is Mitch Albom the last person on the planet to see this? He'll keep fighting for you, though, even though you can't appreciate it, you cretin: turning off the faucet in between wetting the toothpaste and rinsing his mouth out, using his turn signals, nursing a thousand little grudges against humanity that he'll turn into private virtue. We shouldn't pay attention to this. Not at all. Even if it is interesting, because...um...
Last week was Signing Day for college football, which used to be a date known only to coaches. Today, it is cause for endless TV coverage, mountains of newsprint and an Internet gone wild.
The Internets. The damn internets. PREVIEW: Later in this column, Mitch Albom will make a point so stupid and pointless you'd swear he'd crapped the line out in 12 point sans-serif from his sainted asshole. It involves the internet, the source of all evil and the executioner of the industry paying Albom to write columns consisting of one sentence paragraphs and overmoralized bullshit substituting for logic.
What's changed? Nothing and everything.
The nothing part is that a high school kid picks a college.
The everything is everything else.
Believe it or not, this is not that stupid statement. There's dumber. Really, you might want to stop reading here. Everyone here will only lose brain cells for seeing what you're about to see. Liability claims do not apply from this point on; like huffing gas from a brown paper bag, a moment's levity at Albom's expense will only leave you minus IQ points and plus a massive headache.
Skip some useless framing, and...
Never mind that many of these top 100 kids won't even be factors four years from now. Never mind that there is no such thing as a sure thing in college football.
That doesn't stop the glamorizing, analyzing, interviewing and, of course, the ranking of which school did the best, orchestrated by tout services and magazines that created this whole false fury in the first place.
Recruiting rankings do matter, if you're inclined to look at the numbers instead of using the moment self-aggrandize your growing list of beefs against the universe into the fabric of an anti-Rivals/Scout column. You didn't mow your lawn, and Mitch noticed, but he'll let it slide. Really, no, it's fine (scribbling down on mental tally of times you have slighted him by forcing him to finger-wag silently....)
A few examples of what this hype machine produced last week:
A linebacker from Hawaii named Manti Te'o made his announcement to much fanfare. He chose Notre Dame. The reason?
"Their recruiting coordinator, Brian Polian, flew here every week from South Bend," T'eo told the Honolulu Advertiser, "and that just shows me his determination and dedication."
Really? It shows me Notre Dame has enough money to send a man commuting to Hawaii week after week at a time when many families can't afford to pay tuition. How about taking that airfare and giving it instead to a need-based scholarship? What's that? But then you won't have Te'o making tackles next fall?
Rhetorical Foul: Improperly exchanged units of moral virtue. That's football money, and it goes to the business of Notre Dame football. Every adult in the room assumes this is almost entirely separate from Notre Dame the fine academic institution. Every Mitch Albom assumes this could all be worked out if only the Pope and Batman met Charlie Weis at his door, and then asked politely for that television money to go to poor, jaunty orphans with tattered suspenders who spend their days selling Grit door-to-door in between performing charming musical numbers.
Notre Dame gives out plenty of needs-based scholarships, and fuck you for telling someone what to do with their money in the first place. This assumption that the concerns are somehow fungible---HOW CAN YOU EAT WHEN CHILDREN ARE STARVING IN DARFUR--is without value. You should spit it out like a dog lets a grape fall from its jowls.
Well, the kid is a Mormon and says he may leave after his freshman year to go on a mission.
I wonder if airlines do refunds.
Because they couldn't work out a mission. Nope. Impossible. Not like BYU does it all the time, or that this has been a centerpiece of any and all reporting on the Te'o recruitment, and that his mission plans were a problem for none of the schools pursuing him. That would entail reading these, and knowing what you were talking about, and those are really, really hard to do when you have to get an encyclopedia to just sit on the chair at the reference desk properly and use the scary, mean computer to look these things up.
Height jokes aside, though, this filthy, reprobate world saved its harshest blow for the one--count it, ONE--time Albom actually went to an announcement.
Only once in my career did I attend a recruiting announcement. It was for Robert (Tractor) Traylor, a prep basketball star in Detroit who did the TV/entourage thing, chose the University of Michigan, and later became part of a recruiting scandal that led to his coach's firing and the school's NCAA probation.
I lasted five minutes at his event, left, went to the school library, and found a kid going to the same university on an academic scholarship, all alone, doing homework.
NURRRRRRRRRRDDDDZ. Why, the stink of the earthly greed of the affair caused me to pull the chrysanthemum from his lapel, and use it as a sort of primitive gas-mask! Albom would have no problem lauding the studying kid's eventual acceptance into law school or business school, and would then cheer their entry into the workforce, and would then write about how greedy they were because straw men are easier targets than real ones, because real targets can dodge the fat, blimp-slow rhetorical ammo contained in a Mitch Albom column.
It's like playing Grand Theft Auto: Retirement City when you attempt to set parts of an Albom column on fire: slow, hapless notions moving with the assistance of golf carts or larks, all defenseless as you set them ablaze with a flamethrower propped in the window of a speeding Lamborghini.
The 12 point sans serif bowel movement we promised, though? Regard, please:
The editors and writers in our business should, in my view, do the same thing. Walk away. Ignore this hype. Report the details and that's it. Who cares if the Internet burns with this stuff? The Internet burns with porn -- we don't print that.
Who cares if these tout services and magazines sell a lot of copies? Are we here to mirror another business' panderings? If so, why don't we have centerfolds every day? Or is that next?
If the British media is any indication, the American media is twenty years behind in adopting that innovation, actually. Fortunately, you can preach while your younger, less pampered colleagues have to reinvent the business as it burns down around their ears, just as you can take the culture of recruiting--one that has arguably gotten cleaner and more transparent with the attentions of the internet--and assume it's bad because the agenda was set not by chiding dictatorial eye of the columnist, but from hilljacks with modems wondering what kind of livestock next year's class was bringing in.
Recruiting lives on gambling on talent, and clearly that's the issue: gambling is good dirty fun, and good dirty fun annoys frill-collared Puritans like Mitch Albom. It also annoys him because he gets kicked out of casinos, even after he shows security his ID and screams "Don't you recognize me from The Sports Reporters!", because they assume he is a 12 year old with progeria.
*Writes one sentence paragraphs for exorbitant sums of money.
**The dying husk of the Detroit Free-Press
***"I'LL BUY THAT FOR A DOLLAR" Screaming abandoned buildings dead guy frozen Detroit hellscape.