The year was 1991. Journalist and ex-Marine Terry Anderson had just been freed after nearly seven years of captivity in Lebanon. Seven years is a long time. Luckily, a columnist named Mark Whicker was around to put it in perspective.
Today, you know Whicker as the author of the "2 girls 1 cup" of sports columns. Back then, as now, he was writing for The Orange County Register, and back then, as now, he was using sports to convey a sense of the long and traumatizing captivity of a newly liberated hostage:
How long was it? When Anderson was captured, Wally Joyner was in Triple-A. Michael Jordan was finishing his rookie year. Ted Tollner and USC were Rose Bowl champs. Doug Flutie was the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Jennifer Capriati was 9. And Cal State Fullerton was coming off an 11-1 football season.
Wow! That long?
On the other hand, Jack Morris had pitched his team to the most recent World Series victory, and the Clippers were missing the playoffs. So it was only yesterday.
Congratulations, Terry. You've left the subterranean Lebanese dungeon!
The column comes to us via Whicker's interview with Poynter's Mallary Jean Tenore. She writes:
Whicker said he didn't get any feedback on the Anderson column, which was published long before the paper started posting stories online. (He e-mailed the passage to me.) He doubts this week's column would have gotten as much attention were it not for the "speed and the enormity of the Internet."
"I'm a little saddened by the tone of some of the responses because I think it says a lot about what's out there in computer-land," Whicker said. "I've had some e-mailers say, 'Why don't you write about 9/11 while you're at it?' Another person said, 'Why don't you write about the Holocaust next?' I think that's a really obscene thing to say."
Whicker added, "I don't think I'll be writing about kidnapping victims anytime soon." Aww, no more sports-and-captivity columns? Now that's deprivation.