Friends, family and acquaintances are asking me the same thing, from a six-foot distance: ‘‘What in the world can you write about with the coronavirus having shut down sports?’’
It’s an excellent question. There are no games being played, no coaches being fired and fewer dumb decisions being made than normal. It’s a columnist’s nightmare — or it can lead to one, at least.
I woke up in the middle of a bad dream early Monday. I was at Yankee Stadium, deadline was 45 minutes away and I hadn’t written a word about whatever it was I was supposed to be writing about, which was a complete mystery to me. I looked up in panic, and there was fellow Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander putting the final flourish on a masterpiece, one hand on the keyboard, the other in the air, as though he were holding the final note on a guitar solo. His colored pens were lined up neatly, and his face was a picture of self-satisfied accomplishment. Such organizational skills! Such devotion to his craft! Such thoughtfulness for the editors at the office waiting for his column!
And me? A deadbeat. A ne’er-do-well. A man about to deliver a page of blank space to readers of this newspaper.
My terror clearly comes from our current state of nothingness.
In a column March 15, with the NBA shutting down and the reality of COVID-19 hitting us full force, I saw a future for the Chicago sports fan that included a lot of 1985 Bears retrospectives offered by the media. I wasn’t far off. When in doubt, when in isolation, fall back on the Bears, Michael Jordan or the Bears. And so we are.
I asked readers for column ideas because the future I feared included the very real possibility I’d be forced to write a three-part series on speed-walking. Here are some of your suggestions. I hope they will help me sleep during the next few months:
As you write for a living, what about serializing that novel I suspect you’ve been working on? ‘‘Twilight’’ has already had vampires playing baseball, so you can’t go that route. Sex sells, so how about Stormy Daniels being awarded billions in a lawsuit against a trillionaire, and she buys a basketball team? ‘‘Slam Junk’’ would be an apt title. — Paul
Dammit, Paul! Now my novel is out there for anyone to steal!
I’ve got a 7-year-old phenom grandson out here in New Lenox you can interview! Three-sport stud. — Chuck
If he shows up an hour late for the interview or says, ‘‘Let’s make this quick, I’ve got a conference call with my agents,’’ I’m done.
During the football season, I suggested addressing under what conditions it may or may not make sense for a bald man to wear a visor. You could interview experts on whether an exceptionally warm or cold brainpan could affect decision-making. Also the implications of sunburning. It would be an admirable achievement if you get a whole column out of that. — Jeph
Ah, yes, coach Matt Nagy’s habit of wearing a visor atop his domed stadium of a head. I tweeted about it during the Bears-Packers game Dec. 15 in Green Bay: ‘‘Nagy is wearing a visor with the wind chill at 0. He looks and probably feels like a Popsicle.’’ This isn’t just ‘‘a whole column’’ under today’s circumstances, Jeph. This is a 10-part exploration with graphs, charts and reader contests!
You could do a Where Are They Now on all the players from the ’85 Bears. Feature one player each day. That would cover a lot of columns. — Kelly
I think we did that last year. And the year before. And the . . . . You’re right, that would indeed fill a lot of columns. Coming Wednesday: Maury Buford, When Punters Were Punters.
How could the Hawks let Bobby Hull go?!! — Gene
I get this question every 40 years or so. And yet . . .
If you think the Bears should make a move, who would be the best quarterbacks on the market to replace Mitch Trubisky? But who knows . . . maybe he’ll have a better season this year! — Elliott
Elliott wrote this before the Bears traded for Nick Foles. But to answer his question, Tom Brady or Teddy Bridgewater were the right answer. Elliott’s wait-till-next-year hope for Trubisky is one Bears general manager Ryan Pace holds in his heart. In fact, I have a strong suspicion that ‘‘Elliott’’ is actually ‘‘Ryan’’ in real life. That means Elliott’s next news conference will be in a year.
Anything about Cutler. Anything about Pace. — Karen
I miss everything about Jay Cutler. The smirks. The sneers. The column fodder. Come back, Jay! But I know that’s not going to happen. Karen is right, though: There’s always Pace. Where there’s Pace, there’s Trubisky. And where there’s Trubisky, there are enough columns to outlast a nuclear winter.
Where in the world did Gar Forman come from? I defy any ordinary sports fan to list one accomplishment of his or one job he held before becoming what he is or isn’t with the Bulls. — Nick
The GM came from the mind of Joe Cowley, the Sun-Times’ Bulls beat writer, in much the same way that the McCaskeys, the family that owns the Bears, came from my mind. For sportswriters, they are the gifts that just keep giving. I Googled ‘‘Fire Gar’’ and got 145 million hits in .49 seconds. People care. In the same vein, I figure there are enough future columns about the McCaskeys to outlast a nuclear winter and an Ice Age. Column Nos. 1, 15, 47 and 92: Dear Virginia, please sell the team!