I didn't read the News
today. Oh, boy.
Nor tomorrow and tomorrow.
What comes to mind is poetry, how absurd. Lines that were committed to memory for a college grade back when the written word had value, a B-minus as I recall.
Stop all the clocks, shut off the telephone . . . let the mourners come.
The best newspaper is dead and for no good reason, save the spine to fight on, a battle lost to lessers and to a marketplace diverted by ease. The world today can be held in the palm of the hand, with all the news and sounds and motion a tap away.
These are familiar agonies that grip the newspaper industry across the land and may yet do in the survivor here, victory not a conclusion as much as an amnesty.
Sports is a small part of it all, the writing of it, the reporting of it, the celebrating of it, the censuring of it. The sports page is the proxy for harder reality, where the wars are only mock and success and failure matter only as long as it takes to turn off the scoreboard. Or turn the page.
The scores will stand, heroes will come and fools will go without this newspaper to note any of it.
It is impossible now not to think of endings, of those I witnessed and wrote, others who faced the finish, most with tears, even the hardest of men. I recall that little knuckle of a shortstop, Larry Bowa, weeping in a scruffy laundry room hastily set up for his departure from the Cubs.
They all cry at the summing up.
My most vivid memory is the last fight of Muhammad Ali, in Freeport, The Bahamas, a shadow lurching and gasping in the ring, and then finally slumped in his makeshift dressing area, a cinderblock men's room reeking of urine, facing the finish, a weeping young John Travolta at Ali's knee.
Martina Navratilova, exiting Centre Court for the final time, stopped to pull up a piece of sod. Jack Nicklaus posing on the footbridge on the 18th hole at St. Andrews, stubbornly dressed in a sweater vest in fashion when he was.
Joe Louis, the great Brown Bomber, became a prop to various promoters, and I cannot see old films of him in his prime without recalling the last time I saw him, poking around a post-press conference dining room looking for left over coffee in discarded cups still warm enough to drink.
Just this week I saw a picture of the last scrap of Shea Stadium, what looked like a walking ramp standing stark against the sky. An awful place, Shea, one of the most uncomfortable, inhospitable places I ever covered a game, football, baseball and even soccer.
And still the sadness came when thinking of all the memories made there. It is much too easy to walk into Invesco Field, past the parking lot where Mile High used to sit. As if it was never there.
Beginnings are not as easy to know as endings, nor do they stick as long. I saw it in Chris Evert, then 14 years old, knocking balls on a clay court in the town where I first worked for a newspaper.
Michael Jordan was it from the start and remained it until his final shot in Utah that won his sixth championship. The perfect finish, the most perfect ever, except Jordan could not leave it there.
I understand that. If this were a perfect column, the final and best of any I've ever written, I would still want to write another. And another.
If this newspaper had another day, another edition, it would want more. It most certainly deserves more.