Michael Jordan. Baseball. Woody Hayes. Television.

It’s been a quiet month for Bob. Those four oh-so-familiar themes inspired all his columns. And then last week he went on vacation; otherwise we’d have four more columns an–perhaps–another theme. Maybe the Beach Boys. He hasn’t mentioned them for a while.

Bob is presumably still on “this island off the west coast of Florida” he has visited “since Eisenhower was in the White House.” No doubt he spends his days walking alone down a deserted beach, wearing flip-flops and some sort of big muumuu. A triangle of zinc oxide on his nose, eyes shielded by those Spanish wraparound glasses, he stares at the dirty foam clinging to the wet sand and thinks his ghastly thoughts.

Michael Jordan. Baseball. Woody Hayes. Television.

Bob has written on these subjects before of course–many, many times–and we have dutifully commented on them. So today, taking full advantage of our respite from Bob, let’s consider a letter received last week from Penny and Bruce Anderson.

The Anderson’s case demonstrates that there are people who view Bob’s work not as wryly amusing garbage to be held aloft for general amusement and ridicule, but as a painful personal insult.

The Andersons are a pleasant and determined couple whose eight-year-old son, Colin, was killed in 1990 when an out-of-control driver ran him and his teammates down while they played Little League baseball in a Riverside park. Three children died. In their letter, the Andersons write about how hurt they were when Bob Greene ridiculed their lawsuit against Riverside. “He wrote a column criticizing the suit. He did this without talking to us,” they wrote. “He did not have the decency to respond to a letter we wrote him.”

I didn’t see how I could have missed that column. But then I called the Andersons and learned that Bob wrote his column almost three years ago. Their pain has lingered for that long, still fresh, compounding their unfathomable tragedy. And they finally felt compelled to write and expose Bob’s hypocrisy.

As do we.

The column “Parents do honor to a departed son” ran November 24, 1993. In it, Bob praised the parents of Ryan Woack–who didn’t file a lawsuit in the wake of the tragedy, as the Andersons and other families did. Bob presented the lawsuits as something low and greedy. “The inevitable lawsuits were filed,” Bob wrote, mournfully. “That is what happens after tragedies like this; it is the way of the world.”

Had Bob spoken with the Andersons, he might have learned that before the accident, Riverside ignored calls to move the field away from the street. That environmentalists, concerned about a few trees that would have been cut down, fought moving the field. That the local newspaper asked if a child had to be killed before the field was relocated. That the answer was yes, and that the lawsuits, in part, were to draw attention to the village’s shortsightedness and pay for medical bills.

But Bob never called.

–Ed Gold

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Jeff Heller.