Ron Santo’s latest rejection by baseball’s Veterans Committee reminded me of how much I admired Rick Morrissey’s recent column anticipating Santo’s disappointment. “In a strange, very selfish way,” Morrissey wrote in the Tribune on February 21, “we might all be a little better off if Santo doesn’t make the Hall of Fame next week. I know that sounds horrible. But for many of us, it’s not such a bad thing to witness again how a good man responds to defeat.” Morrissey’s homage to Santo’s courage and resiliency wasn’t simply elegant, it was intelligent — the work of a writer who’d found a subtler, more original way of thinking about a familiar topic.
I had a similar reaction a couple days later to John Kass’s last column on Mayor Daley before Daley’s reelection. Kass can write about Daley in his sleep, but this wry tribute to our LaSalle Street Putin was thought through. “The comic antics at the Cook County Board, with the media punching bag named President Todd Stroger, reinforced City Hall’s subliminal message: Without Daley, all is lost,” wrote Kass, putting into his own words an idea I’ll give you in mine: in a city of warlords, many of whom, like Stroger, inherited power by permission of their clans, Daley runs as the warlord who guards the city against the clans. As Kass noted about what he called Daley’s “ruthless” reign, that’s how the people, the real-estate interests, and the media like it. Certainly the warlords do.
And then there was the column by Cathleen Falsani in the Sun-Times February 23. It began on a note I normally find obnoxious—the reporter insincerely asserting his or her own timidity in order to underscore the bravado of someone else. But in this case Falsani told us “I’m a coward” as a prelude to writing about a coward, someone whose psychology Falsani wanted to tease out: Sister Blanche, the “nervous poodle of a woman” in Dialogues of the Carmelites who, like the other Carmelites, loses her head at the end of the opera. Sister Blanche returns to the convent “just in time to be beheaded,” and Falsani wondered why. Maybe she was terrified “of breaking a vow,” maybe it was “her fear of life” if she were left behind, alone. The idea that Sister Blanche suddenly found her courage at the last minute is the trite possibility I admire Falsani for not even considering.
On other fronts . . . In Tuesday’s Sun-Times Richard Roeper wrote about meeting Al Gore at the Oscars. Roeper asked Gore if he might have won in 2000 if he’d been as engaging on the campaign trail as he is in An Inconvenient Truth. “To his credit,” wrote Roeper, “Gore doesn’t duck the question or deny its validity, but says he couldn’t linger on the past and had to focus on the here and now.” That’s not ducking? Roeper may have more to learn about the awesome magic trick where a politician fills a notebook right before your eyes but when you look inside it’s empty.