Monday, September 25, 2006

The Lower One Is to the Ground

Of the handful of magazines to which I subscribe, Sports Illustrated is least likely to be instantly devoured the moment I discover it in the mailbox. But I do eventually get around to it, if only because back in the day when the subscription had my father’s name on it, SI was one of my inspirations as a writer. Before he became a sometimes syrupy columnist, Rick Reilly was one of the funniest, punchiest feature writers around, who stretched phrases and metaphors to contortions that left me in turns dazzled by his skill and depressed at my own shortcomings. The great Frank DeFord (shoes currently being filled by Gary Smith) taught me everything I needed to know about the deprivations of apartheid in a single unforgettable profile of South African distance runner Sydney Maree.

So I like to check in every once in a while to see what the fellas are up to and also to maintain my reputation as a “cool” wife who has more than a passing knowledge of and interest in sports. We were sitting around the other night watching a Notre Dame football game when I ripped off a reference to D’Juan and Hiawatha Francisco. I banked enough credit with that comment to cash in at least a dozen foreign film viewings.

Given its position in the front of the mag, Steve Rushin’s column is usually a first stop, meriting a quick glance at its subject matter before I move on to “Scorecard.” Like Reilly, Rushin has a sappy streak, but he can also be wickedly insightful and funny. In the column in question, I would argue that he was neither.

Boo hoo, went Rushin, tall people have it really rough. I must confess, that at 5’1”, I had no sympathy for the 6’5” author. I don’t doubt that some aspects of being vertically gifted are challenging, but I would say that life is less of a picnic the lower one is to the ground. And I told him so. More accurately, I emailed him so.

On any given day, I compose at least one letter to the editor or toss off a snappy diatribe to a politician, media personality or postal employee. These gems are written in my head; seldom do I actually commit pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. But the issue of height, and particularly the relative suckiness of tall vs. short, has irked me for years, nay, nearly my entire life. So I unleashed on Mr. Rushin.

A couple of days later, I got a response. I was afraid to open the email, in retrospect thinking perhaps I had been a bit harsh and hasty in my critique. I was worried my name would appear in print as some sort of nut case, who would then be eviscerated on sports talk radio programs across the country as “the bitch who couldn’t take a joke.”

I needn’t have worried. It was an automated reply.

Thank you for writing. I haven't yet read your letter -- I barely know how to work my computer, but I will read it. Until then, thanks for reading. And, again, thanks for writing.
Steve Rushin

So now I have another bone to pick with Steve “Best” Rushin. Had he blown me off with an, “I’m so swamped, I can’t possibly answer all my mail,” I would have understood. But the technophobe defense—puh-lease—I am so tired of people, but writers especially, thinking this is acceptable or the slightest bit charming. I’ll make concessions for old-timers, who prefer to crank their prose out longhand or on their Underwood typewriter (it is always an Underwood), but the Internet isn’t new anymore and sending email is less complicated than a universal remote. Does Rushin tool around in a horse and buggy?

My parents are in their early 60’s. They have high-speed Internet, a digital camera, and have figured out how to converse via Skype. They are, quite frankly, more tech savvy than at least one of their children. Rushin is 40 and has his email address printed at the end of his column. “I can barely work my computer” is just lame. Unless, of course, it’s a side effect of being tall.


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