Today it seems Red Wings fans lose the talents of Nick Lidstrom. Hockey "experts" can debate where he ranks all time, but it clearly is somewhere in the top 10 for all players and top 3 for defensemen. So now we receive the quasi-official good bye article from none other than Mitch. I suppose he's earned the right, but it drives me ape shit every time he is appointed chronicler of sport, especially in Detroit. Ernie and Sparky die...here's Mitch. McCarty kicks the shit out of Claude....here's Mitch. Cabby waves a scotch bottle..here's Mitch. He's hardly even a sports writer given his emphasis on where he himself fits in today's society. Where the hell is Joe Falls (the guy who wrote the first book with Bo)?
OT - Lidstrom / Albom
Mitch Albom has turned into self-parody as of late, but he has had NYT Bestsellers that aren't sports books, and he has won tons of sportswriting awards. Stories like this that involve tweaking the heartstrings a little bit are right in his wheelhouse.
Besides, would you rather see Mark Bleeping Snyder do the article? Didn't think so.
I actually think this is the perfect spot for Albom to write. He is a really good writer, and while he doesn't cover the day to day of sports very well he captures the whole of something like Lidstrom's career perfectly. Albom has perspective, and he can capture something human in just about any worthy story. He couldn't do a UFR for anything, but he is certainly worthy to eulogize a life or a career.
Didn't think when I woke up today "I'm going to have to defend Mitch Albom a little", but there you go.
First and foremost, it's sad to see Lidstrom retire, but probably a good time for him to do so. Lidstrom's ability to heal is affected by his age, and he's accomplished about all there is to accomplish in hockey. I always had tremendous respect for his ability on the ice - he's the consummate "heady" player. A lot of defense is played between the ears, and I've never seen any hockey player better in that regard.
I absolutely agree that Albom is a blight on the Detroit sport pages and the national airwaves. He has no credibility (IMO) as a journalist, and I came to this conclusion long before his pre-packaged MSU story came to light. Also annoying is (as the OP hints) the tendency of Freep editors to decide that they'd like Mitch to "explain" an event to us. But the worst is the simple fact that Albom is not very good at writing. He's like the Successories poster of sports writing.
I avoid his writing and TV appearances wherever I can. Sometimes, though, the Freep (which I've also avoided in the past few years) hides the fact that he's got the by-line, so you end up inadvertently clicking on an Albom story. That triggers a Pavlovian click of the "Back" button.
Unfortunately, this website has been dormant for a few years, but it's well worth checking out if you have disdain for Albom: http://mitchalbomisaterriblewriter.blogspot.com/ .
Wow, a whole website that obsessively tracks Mitch Albom. Some people need hobbies.
Maybe he found one.
I understand where you're coming from, but of all the other Detroit sportswriters, I prefer him. Can you imagine Drew Sharp writing this?
Alright, folks. Shut off the "Mitch Albom sucks!" mindset and just read it. Excellent read.
Parting is such Swede sorrow.
I thought it was actually in there more than it appears now, but I can't tell, since the article has been edited. (Originally it was before the conference and said "sources have told the Free Press..."...yeah, because Freep sources are soooo good). I would have liked it more if even if he had written it beforehand they waited to publish it till AFTER the press conference. But probably couldn't get it in those Thursday editions then.
For topics like this, Mitch Albom is a good fit. I thought it was a good article.
Stevie Y is right, you have to watch closely in order to actually appreciate just how good Lidstrom is. I found Doug Weight's comments that he would have had more points had he not played against Lidstrom so much hilarious because it is absolutely true.
Also, that 2002 Wings squad was great, but I don't know about the most talent ever assembled!? The 87-88 Oilers is hard to argue with.
I readily admit I learned a lot of my writing style from Mitch. He is also the money behind that Adopt-a-Shelter program I run every December and his involvement is what drives so many volunteers to show up, while his connections have allowed us to do some amazing things for the kids, like meeting Brandon Inge, or the Lions' mascot showing up.
I've met Mitch over 100 times and he doesn't know my name. He's arrogant, embarrassed by his height, hides his cauliflower ears in his hair, and lets it show a little too much how much he desires everyones' adoration. His writing, as he's gotten older, has followed suit. It used to be he added some sugar to his sportswriting, which I thought made his columns taste a lot better than the spiciness that most of his contemporaries tried to add. Over time he added more and more until the whole thing was wholly saccharine. As other projects became more important he began mailing it in with the columns, until the point where he was pretending to have attended events he hadn't. His work today is better at pulling at the heartstrings of Jewish mothers than conveying the essence of sports fandom.
All of this I forgive because it was never ill-intentioned, and because the net result of what he has done has been so much to the good. There's a reason that Detroit sports bloggers dominate this new market, that there's a down-hominess to Bless You Boys, Abel to Yzerman, The Only Colors, The Lions in Winter, and yes, MGoBlog, that, e.g., the great Yankees or Lakers blogs lack. It's because we all grew up reading Mitch and copying parts of his style. He was a gateway into seeing players as people and fandom as a celebration of our guys' accomplishments, at a time when most fanbases were learning it was theirs to demand, not support. He was the genesis in my mind at least of this idea that sports greatness is transcendent greatness, that athletes allow us to experience their triumphs and failures, and that watching Barry Sanders cut, Steve Yzerman set up a rush, Elvis Grbac pick apart a defense, or Chris Webber go up to the net is a special event. Mitch taught us positivist writing. I could think of nobody better to wrap up the career of the most perfect player in Red Wings history.
that Mitch's presence in Detroit has been a net positive. I haven't met him, but I did see him speak once and his talk was an unbelievably smug word for word reitteration of work of his that I'd already read......I just can't seem to get past the smug part and the "mail it in" part you describe. It clouds my reading of his work to the extent that I dislike all of it....especially when he is the guy writing about events that deserve greatness (Lidstrom's retirement, Ernie's passing....).
IMO Hemingway is a great writer by any measure. Yet many (frequently women) find his work unbearable...Similar dyamic, I suppose, to my issues with Mitch.
I don't think he was ever really in it. He wrote about it, but his loves were music, prose, books...not sports. He always had a bit of a lack of understanding of competition, and what drove an athlete. Early on he was there, and didn't fall into lazy writing traps that he himself created for a generation of writers. But when other opportunities presented themselves, he made no effort to "stick with what brung ya" and just gave it the most terse attention. A lot of his most recent columns are just "grumpy old men" columns "back in my day...." stuff. It happens a bit to everyone, but when young, hip, anti-establishment is your, and your generation's, thing, it comes off as kind of sad.
My biggest beef with Albom is his willingness to speak from ignorance. Describing events he didn't attend is an obvious example. Writing on tax policy and other non-sports topics is a second example, and his apparent hubris underlies both examples.
If there's a story that he should be covering, it's this, but still he fails due to the same problem--hubris. To me, a good writer gets out of the way of the story. Reading a good book, you think about the characters, not the writing style. With an Albom article, I keep getting stuck in Albom's over-stuffed rhetoric and "look at me" style of writing.
Not that he's asking me, and he has loyal followers who would shout me down, but I wouldn't mind if he took his royalty checks and retired. Leave it to a new generation with a bit more hunger and humility to chronical the sweat and triumph of sport.
but he co-wrote "Bo" with Bo in 1990.
edit: you can buy the paperback on Amazon for $599.99 "new," or used for .01. Seriously!
Which came out in 1973. But Bo is a great book. But I think anyone can take Bo's stories and make a great book. It's happened multiple times.
And for the record, where Joe Falls is is dead. Reason he's not writing many columns anymore.