Friday, May 22, 2009

That thing I say about baseball

A very kind note arrived today from Andy Knobel, a veteran sports copy editor who wound up under my purported authority for the past two years. Andy is very generous about me as an editor and a manager, and he leaves me feeling guilty.

The thing is, I loathe sports. (This has not been my best-kept secret.) I was a nearsighted, bookish child, bullied by non-bookish types who were, invariably, enthusiastic about sports and dim in the classroom. I have remained determinedly ignorant into my sixth decade about the basic rules of baseball, basketball, and football, to say nothing of the multitude of teams and players. I skipped my graduation exercises at Michigan State, in part to keep my record clean of never having set foot inside Spartan Stadium, and in six years in Syracuse I steered clear of Archbold Stadium as well. Were I there now, I would be keeping my distance from the repulsive Carrier Dome, which squats above the city.

That thing I say about baseball (it’s a verb), I also say about basketball, football, hockey, soccer, tennis, yachting, and all other forms of sport, known and potential. I would sooner be waterboarded than watch the Olympics. (I tolerate croquet a little, because my son’s alma mater humiliates the Naval Academy in a match every spring.) I am immune to Orioles madness and Ravens fever. The main consolation of my having been sacked by The Baltimore Sun is that I no longer have to dutifully go through the sports pages each morning.

This, if course, is nothing against Andy Knobel, for whom I have the deepest respect. I respect him for his detailed knowledge of the subject, as I would respect a scholar of Sumerian or any other arcane subject of which I am ignorant. And I admire his passion for accuracy and his unflagging determination to make things right. If I had any gift as a manager, it was the sense to let Andy do what needed to be done without my uninformed meddling.

I’m proud that one of my former students, Peter Blair, is a sports copy editor at The New York Times. He, too, knows his onions.

I wish them well. I wish all sports copy editors well in their struggle to provide fresh and accurate information to readers who crave it. I just don’t have that craving — never had it, never wanted it, and am delighted to be free of it.