My Kingdom for a CurmudgeonErik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
On Wednesdays, rather than rehashing a news story, I reprint one of my old columns. I've got 15 years' worth of the damn things, so there's no point in letting them sit moldering in a box in my garage. At least not the good ones. This one is from August 2006. If you have enjoyed my Karl the Curmudgeon columns, this is his introductory column.
Regular readers of former Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko will remember Slats Grobnik, a curmudgeonly character who espoused less-than-popular views on certain controversial issues. These views were somewhat, but not too far, out in left or right field, depending on which side Grobnik supported. He gave voice to the viewpoints you secretly agreed with, but knew better than to espouse in polite company.
Like non-smokers who secretly believe militant anti-smokers are taking things a bit too far. Democrats who think the Teachers' Union is whiny. Republicans who think Big Oil is greedy. Barry Bonds haters who still watch every pitch so they can see history being made.
Speaking of sports, sports writer and pencil mustache aficionado Frank Deford has his own sports curmudgeon called – what else? – The Sports Curmudgeon. This curmudgeon will growl and gnash his teeth about his less-than-popular views about the sports world that would otherwise generate a lot of hate mail if Frank wrote about these opinions himself.
Dave Barry may have his Astute Readers. Bruce Cameron may have his Eight Simple Rules. Robert Novak may have his anonymous White House sources who reveal confidential information that endanger the lives of other Americans. But none of them have a curmudgeon.
Unfortunately, neither do I. And I need one.
I recently began searching for my own curmudgeon, someone to growl their own opinions on everything wrong with the world today. So I placed an ad in my local paper.
"Wanted: Grizzled, opinionated loudmouth to express his views on controversial topics. No idea too outrageous. Free beer. Must supply own cigars."
I held the interviews in a local tavern so I could watch the curmudgeons in their natural habitat.
I started with the first candidate. "Is darts a sport, or just a game?"
"Just a GAME?" he bellowed in a strong Irish accent. "JUST a game?! Listen sonny, I'll take you over me bleedin' knee if you ever say darts is 'just' a game again! When I was yer age, I was killin' bears wit nuttin' more than a tin pot and a handful of darts."
Hmmm, a definite Maybe.
The next one: "Who's the worst of the last four presidents?"
"They're all terrible! We haven't had a good president since Grover Cleveland!"
True, but I was vigorously opposed to Cleveland's stance on the Pullman Strike of 1894, so this guy went into the No pile.
A third: "What comes to mind when I say Microsoft?"
"Freemasons! They're poisoning our water with fluoride to control our minds!"
Another Maybe. What about the next candidate?
"What do you think of Barry Bonds?"
"Anyone who's ever seen the guy play knows he's on the juice. If those morons running baseball truly cared about the sport more than the revenues, they would have booted him years ago. But they made their bed, so now they can lie in it."
Hmmm, looks promising. Let's try a follow-up question.
"So you think Bonds is hitting all those dingers because he's on steroids?"
"Nah, it's the hand signals I send him through my TV."
After several more hours of Nos and Maybes, I was ready to give up. Not one definite Yes in the bunch. I leaned back and closed my eyes, and considered the possibilities of hiring a Whippersnapper instead. I looked up again when I heard a chair scoot and a mug plunk down on the table.
The guy looked vaguely like Santa Claus with a full white beard, a fisherman's cap on his head, and a blue work shirt. Sort of Hemingway-esque.
"You look beat, Kid," he growled. "What's the matter?"
"I thought this would be a whole lot easier."
"Interviews. I'm trying to find a mature, experienced opinion leader who's willing to share his thoughts on current events."
"Oh, you mean a Curmudgeon."
I sat up. "Exactly."
"Heck, Kid, you're nearly old enough to be a Curmudgeon yourself."
"Watch it, old man, I'm half your age."
He cackled into his beer. "You're alright, Kid. You're alright."
I decided anyone who called me Kid couldn't be half bad. I explained what I was looking for and what I needed him to do.
"And you'll provide the beer?"
"Yep. You interested?"
"It's a deal."
"Great," I said, signaling for another round. "What do you think of the whole Brad Pitt - Angelina Jolie baby thing?"
"Someone needs to spay and neuter them both before they procreate again!"
This was going to be the start of a beautiful relationship.
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