Sunday, July 19, 2009

Who Doesn't Get It?

I woke up early this morning, flipped on ESPN and caught the tail end of "The Sports Reporters." I enjoy the show--despite it often coming off as preachy--but something Mitch Albom said caught my attention. During his final monologue, Albom discussed the death of Walter Cronkite. In doing so, Albom stated that young people "Don't see what the big deal is" about the legendary newsman.

Now, at 29 I'm not quite sure I can still consider myself--or speak for--'young people', but that didn't stop me from finding Albom's remarks incredibly condescending. I'm sure if you asked Albom what his kids thought about Cronkite, he would say they had tremendous reverence and respect for the man. So the 'young people' Albom is talking about are not his kids, they're yours or even perhaps you.

First of all, I think young people have as much respect for Cronkite--who came to prominence decades before people my age were even born--as you can have for someone whom you did not personally witness at the peak of their career. Naturally there will be something of a disconnect, likely the same way Albom's parents didn't see what the big deal was about Elvis or Woodstock. I have tremendous respect for Cronkite, but he declared his retirement in 1980, when I was exactly one year old, and he began anchoring the CBS evening news in 1962, 17 years before I was born. The vast majority of my knowledge about Cronkite comes from reading about him after the fact, yet I absolutely do know why he is a 'big deal'. And if you take a cursory glance over at his mentions on Twitter, a great many people from my generation revere the man's career and his influence.

Second, I guarantee Albom's statement was not made after polling hundreds of young people (and what age does the term 'young people' encompass? 18? 25? 38? 6? I picture Albom as the judge from 'My Cousin Vinny' asking, "What is a yout?"). It was made from of a feeling of superiority that he understands the significance of Cronkite's life whereas all these stupid little kids--what with their Xboxes and their Beyonces and their YouTubes--do not. Here's the thing: if people who grew up with Cronkite and understand his significance take the time to explain his legacy to those who did not witness it, odds are they would respect the man. Now, I respect what Albom has done in terms of philanthropy and I happen to think he's a pretty good sportswriter. But if these young people Albom refers to don't see what the big deal is, it is not their fault but the fault of those in Albom's generation who failed to teach them.

The bottom line is this: young people look up to those who speak to them, not at them. And by making such a silly, contrived, out-of-touch statement, I dare say that Albom is the one who doesn't get it.

1 Comments:

Blogger JoeW said...

You are so right, Jason. I have a 16-year-old daughter, and I work with high-school students (and younger kids) as a writing mentor, and I find "young people" today to be a whole lot more connected to the world than, for example, I was back when. To set standards like Albom does is absurd, like saying I can't possible appreciate American music because I wasn't around when Sinatra was in his prime. Absurd.

12:42 PM  

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