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November 2009

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Like I Was Sayin'…

Written by , Posted in Reviews

This one is by Mike Royko, is titled “Like I was Sayin’…”, and features his likeness on the cover, decked out in Superman garb complete with red cape and boots. I was in a Chicago branch library and it jumped out at me as one I hadn’t read yet, at least not lately. It is a compilation of 100 of his newspaper columns, originally published between 1966 and 1984.

The first conclusion I arrived at while reading this book is that Mike Royko is a helluva good writer. As the Albuquerque Journal is quoted on the inside front jacket cover:

– “Newspaper columnists fall into five general categories. Those categories, in ascending order, are: 1) Bad. 2) Good. 3) Very Good. 4) Outstanding. 5) Mike Royko. And that, as they say, is that. Royko is the best; nobody comes close to Royko; God made only one Royko and that’s too bad.”

The second conclusion I arrived at while enjoying Mr. Royko’s Chicago-centric view of the world is how proud I am to share his Native Chicagoan’s outlook. As Tom Waits once observed: this “allows us a perspective that’s unique”.

Although few of the topics covered in these columns are appropriate for discussion on a sports blog such as this, as couple of them are.

The column originally published on April 5, 1979 concerns opening days at Wrigley Field. With regard to the 1969 season Mr. Royko reminisces:

– “We all remember what happened that season. It was the best Cub team in thirty years. No 4-Fs. No strange mutants. For the first time in three decades, the players were better athletes than the grounds crew.
“It didn’t help. When the crunch came, the Cubs swallowed their tongues, and New York, in its greed, had another championship. Since that season I have made a point of seeing the movie “Fail Safe” every time it is on TV because the movie ends with New York being nuked.”

The January 25, 1980 column concerns the military draft (ie., “Selective Service”). Mr. Royko, speaking for us all, proclaims:

– “If this country has to start the military draft again, I hope that this time we do it right.
“Please, no more professional athletes and sons of politicians being magically jumped to the top of the list for stay-home service in the reserves.
“There was nothing as ludicrous during the Vietnam War as the sight of magnificent physical specimens throwing seventy-five-yard passes while being cheered by people whose own spindly legged sons were slogging through rice paddies.”

– “First of all, a draft should be run as a hundred-percent lottery system…. The lottery should also apply to to the reserves. Let luck decide who will be a weekend warrior. That way a punch-press operator will have as much a chance to sit it out at home as a star quarterback or the sons of a Chicago mayor.”

– “Before anyone writes me any outraged letters, let me say that I’d rather not see the draft restored. I have two sons who will have to register.
“I just want it run fairly.
“If it is done my way, we might some day see Hamilton Jordan, John Travolta, Bob Dylan, and almost the entire Cub team in military uniforms.”

And regarding our currently downtrodden Chicago Bears, Mr. Royko presciently observed in a column published twenty six years ago today, (November 17, 1983):

– “…I’ve never seen any point in sitting in a movie theater or in front of my TV set for two or three hours just to wind up depressed when the hero lies crumpled in the dust or the heroine coughs her fragile life away.
“That’s why I never watch Bears games anymore. The average Bears fan doesn’t realize it, but he’s reducing his life expectancy by the stress and depression brought on by watching these weekly tragedies.”

The Washington Post referred to Mike Royko as “a national treasure”. I’d go along with that.

We miss you, Mike.

  • Mike Royko was the best. A personal hero of mine. I’ll also add that if you wish to see how the Chicago machine used to run under papa Daley, “Boss” is a must-read. No Chicagoan should go through life without reading it.

  • BuckeyeCub

    Why did my English teacher make me research Ernest Hemingway in high school!? We were doing writers with Illinois ties, I wanted to do Royko, he said no.

  • CubbieDude

    Hey BuckeyeCub,

    Your English teacher probably didn’t have the Mike Royko Cliffnotes. At any rate, he can’t stop you now.

  • CubbieDude

    Aisle 424,

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    By the way, one of my favorite seats at Wrigley is in the first row of the upper deck.

  • BuckeyeCub

    No, he was a well educated man. Plus Royko was on the list of writers to chose from. And he used to work at the Chicago Tribune

  • Cubbiedude, I’m in the 7th row, but I like it because it is the first row that is protected from rain (assuming wind isn’t blowing in too hard). I love it.

  • BuckeyeCub

    Why did my English teacher make me research Ernest Hemingway in high school!? We were doing writers with Illinois ties, I wanted to do Royko, he said no.