Saturday, November 5, 2011

What I Learned from Andy Rooney

AP file photo, 2009

Oh, Andy Rooney.  You have just died, and while it is natural to die, it seems fitting, somehow, that you died one month after retiring at age 92. I still feel bad that you died (almost as if you died because you lost your purpose). The fact that you lived and worked so long doesn't make your ending that much easier for your family or your most devoted fans.

I understand your desire to keep going until the end. I understand that writers never retire (or want to retire). I understand your mission--telling the truth--and I share it. It's a writer thing.

I am not sure how much you changed the world, Andy. I hate to say that I thought your writing was highly over-rated. At times, you could even come across as a jerk (but the curmudgeon act might have been just that). I thought at times you were brilliant and other times you were boring.

For the last decade or so, whenever I caught 60 Minutes, I'd think, "He's still there?" and "Why?" Now, I feel mean for thinking that, but I had honestly stopped seeing the point of your broadcast essays.

What I admire is the way you kept working and building up a body of words, some of them remarkable, some of them not. I admire the way you didn't even need to finish college and yet had a long, illustrious career in network news (for which I am sure you were paid lavishly) and several homes. 

The world has changed: my generation saw your shining example of an easy, decades-long, highly-remunerated career and most of us will not be able to have any of it. At least you knew you were, as you put it, "lucky."

I do know you had hard times. As every writer is (now and then), you were attacked for having and daring to share opinions. You were even--gasp!--suspended without pay for things people thought you said (but I doubt you did).

From the AP article linked above ," [Rooney] said he probably hadn't said anything on "60 Minutes" that most of his viewers didn't already know or hadn't thought. "That's what a writer does," he said. "A writer's job is to tell the truth."

People are ridiculous. You knew that. I know it. People will freak out on a writer who dares to admit to an opinion--and I'm not talking about mean writers, such as the ones seen in the right-wing papers. They know who they are. They are simply out to cause division and trouble; they like the negative attention.

You, though, you just told it like it is, and people can't even deal with that. They'd rather someone rip apart the character of another than expound, as you did, on minutiae, such as what's silly or poorly made.

Rest in peace, Andy. Despite my occasional lack of appreciation, your example taught me much.


  1. Yes, but he seemed the type who lived for his work, and that is a good model. So many people work at things that don't really matter to them and only do it for the money. There has to be more passion to one's purpose...or so I hope.