Category Archives: Current Events

A Quiet Ride to the Office

By Lloyd Graff

Observations made while driving to work this morning. 

The roads are less traveled. This is an observation by Lloyd Graff in an Acura, not Robert Frost. The four-lane highway angling near my home is virtually empty at the stop sign where I enter. It is 10:45 in the morning. It is my new normal since COVID-19, since I shut the doors temporarily in April of 2020. It felt like half the country was on a ventilator then. 

I got used to working from home and realized I did not really add much value by being at the company at 9 a.m. At 76, my body thanked me, too.


The parking lot at the local commuter station is maybe 20% filled. Two years ago, you could not find a spot to park if you arrived at 10 a.m. The commuters were primarily women, mostly middle-aged (whatever that means today), and African American, as Chicago’s south suburbs are mostly black.

Where are they now? Working at home? Some of them, I imagine. Others have moved, decided that office work is not their thing anymore, or taken jobs in the suburbs. Much of Downtown Chicago is seedy, particularly at night, and older people are afraid to go there.

Empty Train Station Parking Lot

Not all of the train passengers were women, however. I have a friend who had a successful personal injury legal practice downtown. It faded during the pandemic. He chose not to invest in advertising, so he couldn’t compete against the lawyers with billboards or TV advertising during the Cubs and Sox games. One less car in the parking lot.

The banks and big financial firms have automated and farmed out work. Fewer train riders are needed. Zoom dominates for those still working.


I keep driving on my 14-minute trip. Gas stations have fewer patrons. Fewer cars on the road, fewer folks buying gas at $3.52 a gallon for 87 octane. But I do see Amazon Vehicles, UPS, FedEx, and ComEd trucks.

I take a detour to Bergstien’s Deli, which sells homemade chicken matzo ball soup. I’ve ordered it ahead of time.

They bring it to my car. I bought a quart for myself and a quart for Noah. Mine will last two days. He’ll eat his in one sitting. The deli opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m. They only sell takeout. This is how they’ve survived during the COVID-19 restaurant purge.

As I continue driving, there are for rent and for sale signs at every retail and commercial building. 

Several fast food franchises are busy. Most are drive-thru. Starbucks in the area does not serve inside anymore. Dunkin Donuts only serves a smattering of indoor patrons. The only independent coffee shop in the area closed recently. Will people ever sit down to schmooze over a cup of coffee again? Certainly not if we have to wear masks when we enter.


Getting close to the factory. Near some of Chicago’s Interstates, I-57 and I-80, and brand new enormous monolithic buildings. Seven of them, almost 3 million square feet, have emerged from the earth in the last two years. Amazon occupies two of them. The others appear vacant. Massive concrete rectangles, many of them occupying ground that was supposed to be a discount mall. Big money is buried in these empty temples. Obviously the 2.5% money thinks they will soon have tenants. 

I’ve called the rental agents that represent the cement. They say “deals are pending.” There are no cars yet. 

Who will work there? My friend the lawyer? No way. The commuters who are now on Zoom or taking care of their kids or parents? Maybe a few of them. Will it be robots? Not yet. Meanwhile, that’s a lot of empty space a stone’s throw from the Interstates. 

I turn into my industrial park. Wendy’s has a line. The big Frito-Lay warehouse is bustling. Some vacancies, but the landlords say “deals are pending.” 

My matzo ball soup is still warm.

Question: What changes have you noticed in your neighborhood or on your drive to work?

Share this post

That “Thankful to be an American” Thing

By Lloyd Graff

I lingered in the tourist bus while everybody else filed into the structure. Then I walked down the steps and began to deliberately strip off my layers of clothing. Warm coat, sweater, white shirt, under shirt. It was dark out, snow flurrying.

I wanted to shiver before I went into the building. I looked around the fenced-in area and saw the small homes had Christmas lights. Lublin, Poland, was outside of the building. Peaceful. Then I put my shirt back on and walked into Majdanek Concentration Camp to inspect its gas chambers. It was 1999.


Every day I take a few seconds to give thanks to God, my grandparents, and I don’t know who, for being born in America. It’s Thanksgiving on Thursday, but for me every day is a day of thanks to be an American.

I do not dwell on the Holocaust everyday, but it has made its imprint on me, and I know that the Nazis did not just exterminate Jews in Majdanek. They pushed Roma, and Poles, and others they weren’t fond of into the gas chambers and ovens, too.

I was born free in America at the end of World War II. My parents were born here. Their parents were not. Somehow they got here on crowded boats, came to Chicago because they knew people or had family who had come before them. Most were young, in their teens or even younger.

A lot of them married cousins. Many were arranged marriages and worked out badly, but divorce was a foreign idea. They had big families, and almost everyone lost a sibling very young.

I had the benefit of coming from survivors. I’ve had it easy. You could be poor in America and dig your way out. Education was available if you were bright or energetic. There was a GI Bill, and of course, it helped if you were white.

But this America that I have known has had all kinds of opportunities for everybody who grabs them.

I am grateful for so many things as I prepare for Thanksgiving. Just being alive, knowing that so many things I’ve endured, like Vietnam or a heart attack, could have killed me or left me despondent.

I’m grateful to have had a 50-year love affair with my wife, remarkable children and grandchildren who like to be with me. 

But that “being an American” thing is sure a big one. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Question: Does America still want the huddled masses? Should we?

Share this post

Always a Player

By Lloyd Graff

It’s the feeling that enables me to fall asleep. 

The kinesthetic memory of the dimpled leather, the seams spaced across the leather ball, feeling it roll up my fingertips toward the rim. And then the swish–the perfect swish, no rattling iron, 15 feet of perfection. 

It’s my meditation, the meditation of a kid who spent hour after hour developing his shot, my unique defining shot, similar to a million kids’ free throw motions, yet imprinted with my singular DNA. 

Winter, spring, summer, fall, it’s always basketball season when you have it in your blood like I do. I’ve been reminded of the hypnotic attraction of the game while watching Swagger, the series currently playing on Apple TV, co-produced by Kevin Durant, the NBA star.

I was a nice player back in the day. Sweet shot, good size for a white boy, with sloppy hands and slow feet. A high school player who could score, but not much else. 

But how I adored the game. And I still do, even if just to hallucinate and dream about the swishes and the perfect angle off the backboard.

I watch the game on TV. I am into the NBA again because the Chicago Bulls have put together an entertaining team after years of dullness. A general manager who understands how to win in the league, a coach who has the respect of the players, and a group of guys who just love playing the game, not just collecting a big salary and pulling in shoe money, have changed the team.

The NBA has players from all over the world–Senegal, Finland, Poland, Greece, Serbia–but especially from the ghettos of America. Yet they can play together, make real teams that are always changing, and on good nights truly mesh in a beautiful way. 

Like no other professional sports league, the NBA is influenced by the families of its players. Swagger tells a story of a domineering mother who pushes her son to dream and believe he’s going to make it to the top. She demands that he do the extra push-ups. She finds the ideal coach for him, not necessarily the one with the best connections. 

When I watch the Chicago Bulls play, I see their new point guard, Lonzo Ball, whose father dreamed big for him and his two brothers. Lonzo and his brother LaMelo are in the NBA currently, and their brother LiAngelo is in the G League. He has less natural talent than his brothers, but will ultimately make it to the NBA because his father will almost will him there.

I also love to watch the NBA because it defies the stereotypes of Woke America. The League is dominated by black players, yet many of the coaches are white and the favorite for MVP this year is Luka Dončić, a white player from Slovenia playing for Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks. If he doesn’t win, Steph Curry probably will. Steph’s father played in the League and his brother Seth is a solid player for Philly.

When you watch the new Chicago Bulls, you see one player who some nights doesn’t score points, yet has made them into a top team. I think he is a reflection of the hard-working gritty American that makes this country special. He is Alex Caruso from College Station, Texas, who hung around his hometown to go to Texas A&M. 

When Caruso was in Los Angeles Sunday night, his former teammates on the Lakers, including LeBron James, embraced him and the LA fans cheered for him. He did not score that night, but his defense and tenacity led Chicago to victory. Caruso is a “baller.” He has swagger. He plays with passion and joy. 

When I imagine the feel of the basketball rising from my fingertips in bed at night, Alex Caruso is the kind of player I wish I could have been. The game still puts a smile on my face.

Questions: Who is the greatest basketball player of all time?

Who is your favorite basketball player of all time?

Share this post

American Failure

By Lloyd Graff

It is hard to run an airline, much less make any money doing it. On the other hand, it is hard to be as inept as American Airlines and still manage to be in business. 

My wife Risa and I had a firsthand view of American’s chaos over these past couple of days, trying to get home from a family get-together in Charlotte, North Carolina. We had flown down from Chicago on Thursday, our first visit in two years because of COVID-19. That trip went smoothly despite my vision and hearing issues, which make every plane trip a challenge. We employed a professional driver, Khalid Finley, who we have used many times for airport and medical adventures. It eliminates the parking expenses and other woes that make tough trips even more difficult. It also meant that a mishap that changed our itinerary from O’Hare to Midway would not mean an orphaned vehicle parked at O’Hare.

The not-unexpected cancellations occurred Sunday morning, about five hours before our plane home was scheduled to leave Charlotte. With no warning, we received an email announcing our flight was canceled. No reschedule. No explanation except “weather problems.” The airline did not say it was canceling more than 1,000 flights all over the country because of a few thunderstorms over Dallas on Saturday night.

One of the many aggravating things about American Airlines is that they are dreadfully understaffed and morale is low, which makes it hard for them to hire. They are also struggling with vaccination mandates, which enough employees rejected to make what has been long-term understaffing into a gigantic mess waiting to happen. Thunderstorms over American’s primary hub, Dallas, were the straw that broke the camel’s back, and management immediately went into retreat and cover-up mode.

American has taken in billions of dollars in taxpayer money in the last two years to stay afloat. All of the major airlines have taken money, but only American, one of the largest, seems so precarious.

My wife Risa and I didn’t care about American’s miseries.  We just wanted to get home as close to when we planned to as possible, with little trauma.

Forget about reaching a person at American by phone. That is a big part of their chaos. Everything is on a computer. We got the kind of computerized solutions you would expect. Fly to Washington, switch your plane which might not arrive, and hope to arrive in Chicago by midnight on Monday. Or fly to Kansas City and wait for a connection that might arrive Tuesday if you are lucky.

I suggested we try Southwest Airlines, which still has the great virtue of reachable, friendly, knowledgeable human beings working for them who are not in India or the Philippines. 

Southwest has reduced its schedule to Charlotte, which is why we ended up on American in the first place, but they still have a robust schedule out of Raleigh-Durham Airport. They had two seats left on Monday morning at 6:45 a.m., nonstop to Chicago. We took them, not knowing how we’d get to Raleigh, but knowing we would figure it out.

We considered renting a car but Amtrak had a 3-hour express train from Charlotte to Raleigh, leaving at 3 p.m. for $30 a person, senior fare special, and we thought that was the ticket. An Uber to a reasonable and nice Hilton Garden Hotel within 3 minutes from the airport made it ideal. 

Lloyd Graff takes an Amtrak train to Raleigh

All went smoothly. We arrived in Chicago at 8:00 a.m., and Khalid adjusted his schedule to pick us up at Midway. 

One glitch gives a good picture of the difference between American and Southwest. Risa’s brother used the computer to book our Southwest flight, and he booked Risa’s reservation under her maiden name, Levine. Risa changed it by calling Southwest Airlines, waiting a little while, during which we finished packing, and then explained the mistake to a pleasant, efficient woman who changed the reservation. 

The immense value of a human being, well-trained and used to solving problems, should never be forgotten.

Question: Do you have a travel horror story?

Share this post

For the Love of Refereeing

By Lloyd Graff

I have always been baffled why anyone becomes a referee or an umpire. Is it a passion for power or authority? Is it a love of the game and a desire to be around it when you are not talented enough to play it?

I heard some of the answers while listening to People I (Mostly) Admire, a podcast hosted by University of Chicago economics professor Steven Levitt who co-wrote Freakonomics. In a recent episode, Levitt interviewed Marc Davis, one of the most respected NBA referees. 

Davis, now 53 years old, played college basketball at the Naval Academy and Howard University. He was trying to find his way after leaving College, realizing he wasn’t good enough to play pro ball. He was substitute teaching at a Catholic high school in Chicago and heard about a grade school league needing a substitute ref for a game. The pay sounded fair, $35 for a 45-minute kids game. He loved basketball and figured his playing skills would make reffing an easy gig. He collected his pea whistle and striped shirt and absolutely loved it.

Grammar school games led to high school games and summer leagues, as well as a desire to be a respected ref who is constantly improving. Mastering the rule book, understanding the proper positioning necessary for accurate calls, and making the contacts that made him the official who coaches wanted in their league, gave him the confidence to believe he could be an NBA referee after just three years of blowing the whistle.

Davis had the temerity to pick up the phone in his mid-twenties and fax and call David Stern, head of the NBA, as well as Matt Winick, who managed NBA officials. With such little experience, they didn’t hire him, but his chutzpah and unbridled passion won him an introduction to the head of referee training for the CBA, the NBA’s minor league at the time. Eventually, he worked enough games to become a CBA ref and earn his chance at the NBA.

Today he is one of the NBA’s most respected referees. He is constantly on the road during the eight-month season and he has traveled the world doing clinics.

NBA Referee, Marc Davis

I was particularly interested in his story after the controversy with the recent American League Baseball Championship Series, when Laz Diaz, umpiring at home plate, missed 23 ball and strike calls, according to ESPN’s post-game analysis. He had to call 300 pitches in that long game, but he missed one against J.D. Martinez of Boston that Red Sox fans lamented cost the team the game. Immediately, fans started calling for robot umpires, particularly for balls and strikes.

I could see this coming in baseball. They are already experimenting with robots in the minor leagues. I think it is coming because 100 miles per hour fastballs, sweeping breaking pitches that brush a tiny fraction of an inch of the strike zone, and skilled catchers who “frame” the pitches, a technique of disguising the actual location of the pitches, make perfect umpiring virtually impossible. 

Referees and umpires know that no matter how skilled they are, how flawless their positioning, how impeccable their command of the rule book, they will be criticized. Yet they come back year after year. They deal with the endless travel, and they tolerate the heckling of the fans.

Marc Davis, the NBA ref, absolutely loves it. He is part of the sport he adores. He gets to be with LeBron James and Joel Embiid and the rest of the NBA stars each night and keep order. He kibbutzes with them and calls fouls they cannot believe. 

Davis learned from his father, a Chicago cop who spent his career patrolling the Robert Taylor homes, that when you have final say in a matter, always let the other person have the last word, even after calling a technical foul or a clear traveling violation. 

After listening to Davis, I could begin to understand why he runs three miles each night, keeping order among the giants. He just cannot watch enough basketball games.

Questions: Do you want robot referees in the future?

What’s the worst sports call you ever saw?

Share this post

I See Opportunity

By Lloyd Graff

If you consume the newspapers and watch and listen to the daily media torrent, you would think Americans are living in bubbling misery. 

The existential threat of climate change, the border crisis, the catastrophic shortage of workers. I’m sure you could add a few more. 

But for me, admittedly privileged by being white, affluent, educated, and a Cubs fan, the United States of America continues to be an amazing place to live that manages to shift and sway whatever comes its way, despite the politicians and charlatans who thrive on the perception of an engulfing tar pit.

What do I see that they do not, or do not want to admit? 

I see opportunity. Almost every day, I receive an email inquiry from someone who has a small business or an idea, a backer, or a partner who believes in her. They want to buy a machine, or convince someone to help them. They often speak with a foreign accent. They have watched somebody else do it, or they may have already failed but still believe in themselves. 

The people I see are not usually well educated in the way that is normally described in the media, but they do know how to make something that other people will buy. They watch Shark Tank on TV, or they have a friend who sells stuff on eBay or Etsy. They know how to use social media and think they can make it work for them. They do not think their planet is going to burn up or the air will poison them, at least for the next 100 years they will live. 

They don’t seem to be phased by the immigration crisis, often because they are immigrants or their parents were. They understand why folks are wading across the Rio Grande River or sending their children alone on buses and trucks and squalid containers through Mexico to cross into America to take their chances. These people pouring across the border have a dream that life will be somehow better because they know people in Miami or LA or Topeka who are putting together a life for themselves. Maybe they use forged papers and a new name, but at least it’s a chance. They know it is better than the squalor in Cuba or Pakistan or Afghanistan or Myanmar. Wouldn’t you do it if you had no future as a woman under the Taliban?

America is a huge country. People still help each other, and the government affords opportunities to get help. Still, America desperately needs workers. Or, have you missed all of the help wanted signs for Amazon offering $17 per hour, plus college tuition and health insurance thrown in?

Why do we have this labor shortage as the COVID epidemic is fading?

Baby Boomers are retiring. Women have dropped out of the workforce because they are doing childcare or parents care. Legal immigration is a trickle because of COVID restrictions on travel and a federal bureaucracy which isn’t functioning. Of the 55,000 FY-2021 Diversity Visas which are supposed to be issued every year to people around the globe (the US annual visa lottery), only 14,000 were processed at the end of September. Perhaps illegal immigrants coming north could help fill the worker shortage.

You would think America is a mess from reading the New York Times or listening to the Fox News nightly fear-mongers. I doubt it is. 

Topeka, Kansas, and the state of West Virginia are offering $10,000 bonuses for people to move there. Does that sound like a country falling apart?

Question: Should the US increase future immigration?

Share this post

Play It Again, Tom

By Lloyd Graff

Tom Brady and I share something more important than being University of Michigan grads. We both want to keep doing what we do for as long as we believe we are good at it. 

I watched Brady Sunday night, playing his former team, the New England Patriots. I was mesmerized by him. I wasn’t betting on either team, but I watched every play as it drizzled on the players’ helmets at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

The game was as even as it could be, with Tampa Bay losing by two points, then taking the lead on a field goal by a point, and winning when the last second New England field goal doinked helplessly on the right upright, on the last play of the game.

At 44 years old, Brady came back to New England for the first time since leaving. He played well, not like he did a decade ago, but he won like he almost always does. 

I thought of Brady Monday afternoon as I pulled out a couple of perfectly preserved Screw Machine World and Today’s Machining World magazines from our archives. I found a Graff-Pinkert Times too, while I was poking around. 

I read a little of the Swarf in each publication. Damn, it was really good stuff, despite being 15 to 20 years old. There was joy in those pages, and knowledge, too. I know I’m bragging, of course. 

Am I a Tom Brady? Of course not. But as I read, I saw a creativity, a uniqueness, and a passion to connect with the readers. 

I don’t have a big audience, but I know people do read my stuff. Some have been reading it for 25 years and still seem to care, even when they think I’m an idiot. 

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

I share that with Brady, too. He doesn’t always win. He throws interceptions and occasionally gets smeared by a 280-pound lineman, but he sucks it up and comes back the next week, ready to throw the 50-yard pass. 

If I’m lucky, two out of three of my columns resonate with readers. I like most of what I write because I love language and I cherish ideas that are often a little unconventional. But I especially love personal stories that have that little something that punctures the shield of boredom or indifference that we have all developed as aging humans. If I can relate a good story, I have won. If I bounce off the shield of indifference–well, I get to come back next week.

Tom Brady, keep bending over center and hitting the receiver who is open for a half second, 12 yards down the field. I love your passion for the game at 44, Brady. It’s a message to me, a word warrior with a similar love for my game. Tom, I’m going to just keep getting up every time I take a hit and come out for the next game.

Keep winning the close ones.

Question: Is Tom Brady the greatest of all time?

Share this post

Goodbye to the Soul of the Team

By Lloyd Graff

I vowed not to write so often about baseball and the Cubs, but this is about Anthony Rizzo, the soul of the Cubs team that won the 2016 World Series, being traded last week to the New York Yankees for the last 60 games of the 2021 season. 

The Cubs received two Minor Leaguers, decent prospects from the lower Minors, for a young man who symbolizes the magic of the game. Anthony Rizzo graduated from Parkland High School in Fort Lauderdale. After 17 students were killed in a shooting there, he went back to console the student body. 

Anthony Rizzo is a very good ball player, but his value to the Cubs and the Major Leagues is who he is as a person. Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 18 years old, one year out of high school, while playing in the Boston Red Sox minor league system. He underwent six months of grueling chemotherapy in 2008 before he received the great news that he was in remission. He was traded to the San Diego Padres in 2010 and then traded a year later to the Chicago Cubs.

In Chicago, his ebullient personality became a symbol of the team when they were awful, then rebuilding, then blossoming into a contender in 2014 and 2015. He caught the final out in the 2016 World Series in Cleveland.

Rizzo established a family foundation for pediatric cancer in 2012, which was a rare philanthropic deed for a 21-year-old cancer survivor, but even more important was that he became a volunteer at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. 

His family’s foundation also donated $3.5 million to Lurie in 2017.

Anthony Rizzo, former Chicago Cubs first baseman

He was not a PR hound looking for exposure to enhance his image. Rizzo really spent time with the kids struggling with cancer. His smile lit up the floors, just like it did at first base when he would kibbutz with the opposing players, umpires, and coaches. Whoever he could connect with.

Anthony Rizzo was so much more than home runs, picking up throws in the dirt, fearlessly rushing home plate to snatch a sacrifice bunt, or leading the league in getting hit by the pitcher while at bat. Anthony Rizzo was the most charismatic player in the game and a cancer survivor.

He signed a long-term contract with the Cubs soon after making his debut with the team. It was his insurance policy against another bout of cancer, but it also tied him up with the team for a long tenure because he was an underpaid star when he started hitting 30 homers a year.

As a fan, I love watching Anthony Rizzo because he loves playing the game like I love watching him play it.

Very few ballplayers generate pure joy, game after game, like Rizzo. And the Cubs traded him for a bag of balls for the last 60 games of the season. 

My daughter texted me that she was in mourning. She had come in from San Francisco to see a World Series game in 2016. We were planning on going to a game in two weeks when she would be back for a family vacation. She said now she doesn’t want to go with Rizzo gone. 

A player like Anthony Rizzo makes baseball more than just a game.

Question: What past sports trade made you sick?

Share this post

The 2020 Olympics are Yesterday

By Lloyd Graff

I am a real sports enthusiast. Basketball, track, swimming, lacrosse. Bring it on. 

Yet I didn’t even know the Olympic Games were starting this Friday night. I couldn’t care less. 

Why is an avid fan, lover of sport, somebody who still reads the sports pages in the newspaper, so oblivious to the 12 million hours of Olympic TV coverage over the next 16 days? 

Because it is corporate, bureaucratized, and packaged. It is a Nike blur. It isn’t the games that started on a shoestring in 1896. It isn’t even the political games of 1972, when 11 Israeli athletes were murdered in Germany. It isn’t the indefatigable Bob Costas, living on NoDoz as he somehow stayed on top of 50 Sports and 500 events.

Now it’s NBC and its 30 affiliate networks, including Fubu TV, Peacock and the Golf Channel. And who cares if the US plays Iran in basketball at midnight this Saturday. Even the mullahs will forget to watch.

The one thing we MUST remember about these games is who is wearing what footwear. It no longer really matters if the United States or Russia or China wins more gold medals. The only important issue is Nike versus Adidas in all of its permutations.

This is why I am so upset that the American Ninja Warrior semi-finals from the Tacoma Dome were shelved for a week to make room for Ivory Coast vs Germany Olympic soccer.

American Ninja Warrior is what the Olympics used to be. The athletes are real people, genuine amateurs. They have been practicing in local gyms and on improvised home designed and built equipment. They have no sponsors, most of them don’t even wear shoes when attempting to navigate the obstacles, and the seasoned competitors often fail to get past the first round. The participants root for one another. Many of them have other careers. Their personal stories are filled with trauma and tragedy, which makes us want to follow them year after year.

It is packaged television, and the obstacles are contrived to send the most Warriors into the water, but many of the obstacles are designed by devotees of the show.

Neither Nike or Adidas is a sponsor. Contestants sometimes have green hair and carry a few extra pounds. Women compete head-on with men. Gender is not an issue like in women’s weightlifting at the Olympics. 

American Ninja Warrior is apolitical. COVID-19 is not an issue. 

Fubu TV and Peacock can play backstroke all night for two weeks. Give me reruns of American Ninja Warrior. The 2020 Olympics start Friday night, but they are yesterday to me.

Question: What event do you care about at the Olympics?

Share this post

Stuck in the Mitt

By Lloyd Graff

My plan was to write about the machining world. “Nuts and bolts tonight, dad,” Noah nudged me before I left work. “Leave the baseball,” was how he ended the sentence. 

When I got home, I read a little of the Wall Street Journal looking for inspiration. I accidentally fell into a column by Bob Greene, who once wrote brilliantly for the Chicago Tribune. The article was about giving a Rawlings baseball glove to a friend to connect him with his youth and cheer him up. It was a beautiful piece, and I immediately wanted to share it with friends and family. 

I was curious about what happened to Bob Greene, whose work is rarely seen these days. I Googled him and found a long article about the rise and fall of the brilliant Bob Green, my contemporary and a much better writer than I ever could hope to be. 

Greene has evidently had a tough personal life after reaching the top of journalism and writing several acclaimed books. His wife died, he has been accused of being a womanizer, and he is in pain about some of his most acclaimed pieces. An article he wrote after 11 Israelis were killed at the 1972 Olympics is still on many people’s refrigerators. It was a classic piece of personal journalism, the kind I often attempt to emulate. Yet Greene says he wishes he never wrote it.

Greene often writes seemingly heartfelt, sentimental articles, yet later talks about them with cynicism. He writes from his gut, then rejects them as he descends into anger and despair. 

Who is the Bob Greene I love to read? After reading this long article about the man whose writing stands out as something to be cherished and shared, I knew I should share it with others who I knew would also adore it.

I understand the Bob Greene question. Is he being honest in his work? Is he writing from the heart or just to make it publishable? Is Bob Greene an amazing writer or a phony–both? Can somebody be a jerk one day and a saint the next? Do I really care whether Bob Green is a miserable human being if he can write with such humanity that he can move me to tears?

After all, I don’t really know who Bob Greene is as a person. Maybe he has come out of a dark period in his life and he really is the person who gifted the Rawlings baseball glove, and then he bought one for himself. He writes that the glove is being shaped now with neatsfoot oil. 

We all go through tough periods in our lives and doubt our own sincerity. Bob Greene, I love your writing. I have loved it for 40 years. I’m going to buy a friend a mitt, too. Thank you so much for your 500 wonderful words.

Question: Do you care if someone is a jerk if they do great work?

Share this post