Recently the Associate Press Sports Editors organization bestowed upon Mitch Albom the Red Smith Award. The honor, named after the legendary New York sports writer, celebrates a career of achievement and faith to the principles that journalists are supposed to adhere to.
I’m no fan of Albom; I find him just slightly more tolerable than the completely insufferable Mike Lupica. Thus, I have taken great delight in the series of takedowns of Albom printed in the wake of the announcement.
They began mildly, with Dave Kindred’s classy take on IU’s National Sports Journalism Center site.
Note to journalism students: at some level we’re all in this for the ego, or we’d be doing dentistry in Darfur. Albom’s level of ego involvement might be best measured by the “Official Mitch Albom Website” at Mitchalbom.com. It lists eight categories of Mitch Albom-centric availabilities: “Books. Journalism & Sports. Film & TV. Radio & Music. Theater. Service. Discussion. Bio.”
Then Deadspin weighed in and, as you would expect, the criticism went to a whole other level.
All the coverage of Albom’s award merely genuflected at his feet — he sells lots of books in airports, after all! — and no one wanted to mention the fairly germane fact that the guy fondling his rosary beads over the state of sportswriting is the same person who once wrote a column in which he MADE SHIT UP.
That one made me laugh and pump my fist and nod my head. Albom is an ass.
Then Whitlock opened up a text file and finished the job. He also took the newspaper industry to task for spending more time pampering the hacks like Albom than figuring out how to leverage technology to save a dying format.
Feel-good narrative fiction bullshit was Albom’s money-maker long before he published Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
At a time when it’s embarrassingly obvious we should’ve adopted new content approaches 15 years ago, APSE, by defiantly recognizing Albom, is stating “we did nothing wrong.”
I’m sure a lot of you read Tuesdays With Morrie or some of Albom’s other books and enjoyed them. That’s fine. I chose not to for various reasons, the biggest being I’ve long thought Albom was an arrogant prick who made himself bigger than the stories he was covering. That impression was confirmed in grad school after hearing stories from a classmate who had worked with Albom.
There are lots of great sports writers out there. It would have been easy to find one more deserving of the industry’s highest honor than Mitch Albom.