Once upon a time, there was a sportswriter named Mitch. He wrote a story. Not a great one, truth be told. But pretty good. The story was about former Michigan State players Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson, sitting in the stands at the Final Four, cheering on their alma mater, decked out in school clothing; it was about nostalgia and school spirit and growing up and growing old and missing dorm pizzas and somehow going home again, or something like that. It was wholly unobjectionable middlebrow claptrap, maybe even heartwarming. It also was complete bull.
Cleaves and Richardson did not sit in the stands. They did not enter the building. There was no cheering. Mitch made it up, because it sounded nice, like a comforting fable from one of his books, or maybe Parade magazine, and when his hoax was discovered, he was banished to the badlands of sports journalism in deserving disgrace, forced to live out his days and Friday nights squinting at high school football scores in extra-small agate type.
Actually, I made that up … the last part, anyway. Fact is, Mitch Albom was neither banished nor disgraced for violating the cardinal rule of his profession: thou shalt not make s--t up. To the contrary, he was feted with the highest honor in sports journalism, the 2010 Red Smith Award, and his best-selling books filled with comforting fables continued to be best-sellers. The moral of the story? There is no moral. There is no story, really. There’s just some stuff that happened, and then some other stuff, the long arc of the universe bending toward nothing in particular.