Andy Rooney, RIP: The Reporter About Nothing

If it seemed at times as though Andy Rooney was old enough to have been—God help us!—the Father of His Country, well, you can be forgiven for that. He seemed at least to have been old enough to have been the father of CBS, if William S. Paley hadn’t already done the job. For a decent amount of time, he may have been America’s favourite grouse. For an indecent amount of time, he may have seemed just like a grouse with an air-tight contract. For once upon a time, he might have been the model for a certain one among the Seven Dwarfs.

He could be funny. He could be infuriating. He could be boring. Sometimes it seemed as though he were being paid too handsomely to be all three. And the lines between them got as thick as his unkempt eyebrows as often as not.

Well, I liked the old bird anyway. Maybe it’s because I envied him. If I shot my big mouth privately the way he did on television, I wouldn’t get suspended with pay (as happened to him a time or two), I’d be run out of town and maybe out of three states and counting. And they wouldn’t bother putting me on a rail.

Mostly, I think I liked him because he wasn’t the only man on this planet to complain about his drawerful of useless keys or his mailbox crammed with spam—oops! in those days we called it junk mail—but he got paid like a football player to kvetch about it.Which reminds me—the old bird thought football was a sacred cow and baseball was the dung. Well, I thought he was full of it. 

Maybe it was because Rooney was his age. I mean, he became 60 Minutes‘ resident grouse at an age when most people were still thinking about retiring and, as did he, had already lived their professional lifetimes. Once upon a time he was a real reporter with a real reporting resume that only began with Stars and Stripes. Only who the hell needed that? When 60 Minutes reached out and touched him, Rooney found his true calling. Anyone can be a real reporter. It takes genius to flap your yap about nothing much on television every Sunday night.

Love or loathe him, love or loathe his views, you had to admire the fact that the old bird was an old bird and didn’t quit until he entered his tenth decade. That gives aid and comfort to guys like me who are knocking on the door of 56 and know the jig would otherwise be up in nine years.

When Mr. Rooney got drydocked over his 2003 remarks that women had no business being sideline reporters for NCAA or NFL game coverage, I couldn’t resist zapping him with the following little satire. Mr. Rooney died Friday night of complications from surgery at 92. I’d like to reprint that satire now in his memory.

Rest in peace, Grumpy . . .

A FEW MINUTES WITH ANDY LOONEY

Ever wonder how I got to be Andy Looney and you didn’t? I’ve been wondering myself, so I figured you were, too.

After all, I can’t write my way out of The Cat in the Hat. I’m as funny now as a fat farm breaking off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar. And I’ve run out of most of my best material ever since they told me I’d better knock it off about the junk mail or I’d be sued by the country’s junkmen.

Well, now I’m in hot water again. It’s funnier than when my soap gets into hot water, but I’m not allowed to make any more shrinking soap jokes, either. The soap opera people don’t like grumpy old men getting smart about the product that made those people necessary.

Uh-oh. I just got this e-mail. Yes, I get e-mail. Even a fossil like me had to surrender to the computer age. Which proves that CBS are hypocrites when it comes to gun control. Not to mention reckless, if they’re trusting me with a computer. Computers are dangerous enough without being in my hands.

Anyway, here’s what the e-mail says: “Dear Mr. Looney: ‘The product that made those people necessary?’ Please stop stealing my material. My paralegal can beat up your lawyer. Sincerely, Yogi Berra.”

OK, Yogi, you win this one. I’ll quit stealing your material if you quit making those insufferable AFLAC commercials. I know Joe Garagiola needs the job, but the duck suit fits him worse than the leisure suit fit me.

I’ll never understand why I suffer halfwit former baseball players gladly. But maybe it’s because they remind me how much I love football. Football is perfect for a simpleton like me. Four quarters. Fifty guys on the field trying to kill each other like suicide bombers. All over something that isn’t even shaped like a real ball. What’s better than that?

And their soap never melts slowly. Come to think of it, their soap never melts. Within a foot of those guys, it disintegrates. Maybe I’ve been too hard on soap all these years, after all. But maybe I’m saying that now because a lot of people want to wash my mouth out with it.

You see, I’ve done it again. I’ve shot my big mouth off and got a lot of people mad at me. I don’t like when people get mad at me. It makes me feel like I’m standing in for a really worthy target—like the people who still pay me six figures to rant my head off about the hotel keys I keep collecting that don’t fit anyplace sensible anymore.

I just don’t get it this time. All I said was that women don’t belong on the football field as sideline reporters. It’s not like I said they don’t belong in the media, for heaven’s sake. But, ok, I should have said men don’t belong on the football field as sideline reporters, either. The reason nobody belongs on the football field as a sideline reporter is that there’s nothing to report in the first place.

Now, if I’d said that in the first place, I’d have saved my credibility. If there’s any reporter who knows when there’s nothing to report, it’s me. And I report nothing better than anybody else in this business.

But cut me a little slack. I’m old enough to be the father of half the countries on earth. The old gray brain just ain’t what it used to be, ever since I came back from covering the War of 1812. And as long as someone needs a reporter who’s as good as I am at reporting nothing, I’ll have a nice paying job.

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