This is a new semi-weekly column from Leitch. It has words, and pictures. It's called Ten Humans Of The Week. It might or might not work. But here it is.
In Stephen King's "On Writing" — the only real book about writing I've actually found helpful, which is probably why I'm more a typist than a writer — he describes three types of writers. At the bottom are the bad ones, or, as King puts it, "found on the staff of your local newspaper, on the racks at your local bookstore, and at poetry readings on Open Mike Night." In the middle are most of us, including himself. He says his basic premise is that "if you're a bad writer, no one can help you become a good one, or even a competent one. If you're good and want to be great ... fuhgeddaboudit." The idea is that you can become better, but you can't become a genius.
Which, considering how he describes the great ones, is a relief. "They are geniuses, divine accidents, gifted in a way which is beyond our ability to understand, let alone attain. Shit, most geniuses aren't able to understand themselves, and many of them live miserable lives, realizing (at least on some level) that they are nothing but fortunate freaks, the intellectual version of runway models who just happen to be born with the right cheekbones and with breasts which fit the image of an age."
I just finished reading the New Yorker's epic profile of David Foster Wallace, and I will say this: I have never been happier to reside in the Blissful Mediocre. DFW was so good that it wasn't enough to say something no one had said before; he forced himself to try to invent an entirely new way of saying it. That's the type of thing that will drive a man mad. It's hard enough to even make sense, let alone try to change the fashion in which humans communicate, avoid saying something any other person has ever said and the way they said it. Christ. It makes my brain bleed just thinking about it. David Foster Wallace was the guy fromPi, only with words instead of numbers. (Though he was into numbers too.)
There are many, many times I'm pleased not to be very smart. Reading that story was definitely one of them. Thank God I'm a hack!
Jim Bowden. I'm proud to report than I saw Jim Bowden's last game as Washington Nationals general manager, and considering Corey Patterson was batting cleanup, I'd say I had a rather representative sample. I'll still miss the guy. You have to love a man who so lacks self-awareness and is so non-self-conscious that he gleefully rode a Segway around training camp. This Washington Post story sums up most of his genius, but for my money, you can't beat his and his girlfriend's dual DUI and domestic abuse arrests a couple of years ago. The world of baseball is a little more boring without him, and a lot safer.
Maurice Clarett. Even though it has apparently been around a while, Maurice Clarett's blog was new to me and probably most of you. I've been pretty blown away by it, and found it so fascinating that I went back to see just how mean I was to Clarett on this site back when he was in the news. I was relieved to note that I wasn't too bad, mainly because it was clear from the get-go that this was a case of mental illness more than it was one of pure malice. (Though this PhotoShop wasn't very nice.) It's worth noting that the guy writes better than most Wordpress bloggers I've seen. I'm glad he's getting some help; I'd forgotten about this old YouTube video from the Draft Combine. The man never did play again after the National Championship Game. Now he's fighting the real enemy: Blog commenters. Those people ARE ANIMALS!
Jay Cutler. Forgive me if I have a difficult time mustering up much sympathy for Jay Cutler. So far, all that has been confirmed is that someone called the Broncos to ask if Cutler would be available in trade. They may have said yes, they may have said no, but that's pretty far from We Are Trying To Trade Jay Cutler. (Now, of course, our friends at PFT are linking him to the Vikings. By the way, I'd love to see Philip Rivers play for the Vikings someday, just to see how Drew would handle it.) And it looks like Cutler's the one who wanted to be traded anyway. The media in Denver's gonna be all over him, right? Let's see what the main columnist over there has to say: "When somebody calls about Jay, Kid Mac or the X-Man should hang up. And the face of your franchise should not be treated like ground beef." I don't think I understood a single world of that paragraph. Is it a talk radio media column? Kid Mac! The X-Man!
Barney Frank. Our one openly gay Congressman is opening up the back door (ahem!) to legal online gambling, as long as it's taxed by the government, because if the government taxes something, that makes it totally OK! I personally would love the Cabinet office of Line Setting. May I nominate William Bennett for Secretary? (UPDATE: Sorry, Rep. Polis!)
Rex Grossman. Obviously, it's impossible to blame the Bears or their fans for doing backflips to see Sexy Rexy finally leaving town. But there's legitimate sadness too in recognizing that the Bears will now be just another boring team with a boring quarterback running boring plays. (No offense, Kyle, of course.) I can't put it better than Spencer Hall: "You probably like your airline pilots and heart surgeons sober, too, you pack of tiptoeing nervous nellies. Hate on, safety freaks. Rex is leaving town, and he's doing it on a flaming train full of bikini-clad hotties with the devil's breath at his back, and he's not using the brakes until he hits something full of money and victory." In a perfect world, Rex would quarterback every Arena League team.
Matthew Leach. Like anyone who grew up thinking writing for a newspaper would be the most double-plus neato way to make a living, I was saddened by the closing of the Rocky Mountain News this week. (I read Dave Cullen's upcoming Columbine, which documents how much the RMN owned the Post in coverage of the tragedy.) The next journalism model — what a reality show that would be, by the way — hasn't been figured out yet, and, sadly for RMN, it didn't get here in time. I do know what the next model of sports beat reporting is, though, and it's best personified by Leach (the St. Louis Cardinals beat reporter for STLCardinals.com) and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Throughout spring training, they've been filing regular stories throughout each game — readers could check out quotes from Chris Carpenter's first spring start by the fourth inning — and both Leach and Goold have active Twitter pages with updates, musings and responses to followers. If you are watching a Cardinals game on TV (or even in the stadium), you can ask one of the top two beat reporters covering the team a question and get a response, specific to you (but for the world to see), during the game. Isn't this how a team should be covered? Remember when journalists used to be impossible to contact? Accountability, interaction and constant news. Heck, not even Mitch Albom would be against this, right? (Other team's reporters are doing this too, of course, but I don't update their feeds every 15 minutes.) Leach and Goold are showing off a new way of covering baseball, and I hope everyone remembers how great they were when they're inevitably laid off and sold into Chinese labor camps, like the rest of us, in 16 months.
Andy Rooney. As I've mentioned before, I own every book Andy Rooney has ever written and pretty much just adore the guy. I've forgiven that awful baseball column, the sleeping through the Super Bowl, even, yes, the infamous Kurt Cobain commentary. ("His jeans clearly weren't ripped from doing any real work! Like during the Depression!") I've always though the man had the right to talk about whatever he wanted at the end of "60 Minutes" — which, because I'm also 94 years old, I still watch every week — because, every once in a while, he'd fire off something great, and eternal. Or at least in my mind. But man, after this week's segment, I have to, finally, say that maybe it's time for Andy to go. Listen, we've all had that moment when, the day before something is due, we've panicked and thrown something together halfass at the last minute. (Like, for example, this column.) But Rooney's commentary this week was ... well, it was literally just a bunch of words strung together, seemingly at random. What was the point of this one again? Time is passing? There are months? Sometimes it's cold and sometimes it isn't? I know it's easy to laugh at him, but it just makes me sad. Next time he sets up for another segment in his office, someone should just not tell him the cameras not running. This causes me no joy. And yes: I'm aware the rest of you have thought this for about 20 years.
Curt Schilling. Johnny 38 Pitches has openly asked the Cubs to court him, which makes sense, because national reporters will need someone to pop in and be the go-to questions-about-The-"Curse" guy. Lou Piniella is too busy, Ryan Theriot is too boring and Carlos Marmol is too Latino. If I were a Cubs fan, I'd be awfully excited about my chances. Nobody's better at Futurespotting a global media opportunity than Curt Schilling. If he wants to play for you, it means you're about to get a ton of airtime.
Ichiro Suzuki. So I finally reached the Mariners chapter of Baseball Prospectus 2009, and man, are they ever down on Ichiro. Understandably, of course: He's a single hitter with little power, aging wheels and a walk phobia. But good old PECOTA actually has him batting .292 this year! With three homers and 20 stolen bases! Sheesh, those are Cesar Izturis numbers! That can't be right, can it? I don't think I'm ready to be old enough to live in a world where Ichiro is batting under .300. I wonder what his interpreter has to say about this.
Norm Van Lier. I never had an NBA team growing up, but because I went to the University of Illinois during the Bulls' dynasty, I watched a lot of their games during a formative (read: stoned) time. My favorite part of every televised game was Norm Van Lier, who died Thursday. (David Aldridge has a great tribute.) He wasn't the smoothest analyst, or the most self-aware, but he was also Norm, cranky, brittle and waiting for you to stop talking so he could start, (Here's a good example.) Norm Van Lier never quite seemed aware he was on television, which is the foundation of many a great television personality. (You really should have seen this guy the day after Scottie Pippen's refusal to re-enter the game during the 1994 playoffs.) The Sun-Times said his funeral was attended by Congressmen and homeless men. That sounds about right. He was the Bulls' Harry Caray, except more lucid, more interesting and more angry. We'll all miss him.