The Quest to be the Next Lewis Grizzard

lgWay back yonder in my early formative years I happened upon a column by Lewis Grizzard that made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants.

Grizzard wrote about life with humor and insight. More often than note Grizzard’s themes would involve college football and its fans.

Consider this excerpt the article “Us versus Them, Gridiron Style” from 1993:

“I once risked my life because of college football.

In late August of 1985, I found myself in a hospital in London with a deadly infection of the artificial aortic valve in my heart. The British doctor said it would probably be necessary for me to remain there for six weeks’ treatment.

Georgia was to open its 1985 football season on Labor Day night against Alabama in Athens. I slipped out of the hospital, caught a cab to Gatwick Airport and flew back to Atlanta.

When asked later why I would risk my life in such a manner, I said, I wasn’t about to stay in no foreign country during college football season.”

Grizzard did more than capture the heart and soul of college football fans; he did more than entertain; he inspired me to pursue journalism as a career.

I wanted to be the next Lewis Grizzard. Unfortunately, after four years in college, I realized a lack of talent might derail my dream of being a columnist.

Or so I was told.

Midway through my senior year in college, the head of our journalism department set me down and encouraged me to consider another career.

“You’re a horrible reporter,” he said.

He was right. I never fit the mold of the typical journalist. I was fond of highlighting the esoteric “truthiness” of a story. My dramatic embellishments clashed with his old school “just the facts” approach. He was the New York Times, I was the Weekly World News.

More often than not my submissions were either tossed aside or so heavily edited (and censored) that the only thing I recognized was my name in the by-line.

I was called to his office on a weekly basis so that he could poop all over my latest story. “Why do you persist in submitting this treacle?”,  he would ask?

I wanted to say “that one man’s treacle is another man’s truth” but I never did. Instead, I explained my preference to write about the people (associated with whatever issue) and their eccentricities rather than recap a litany of facts. My explanation was not well received. He seemed offended that I was more concerned with “why” than “what”.

We agreed to disagree and my column was killed.  My dream of being the next Lewis Grizzard was over.

Until now.

A few weeks ago a friend encouraged me to write. He pointed out that I didn’t need to work for a newspaper to be the next Lewis Grizzard. “Start a blog,” he said.

At first, I resisted. Newspapers are dead or dying. The internet has given everyone a bullhorn and a platform to spew their opinion to the world. Why add my noise to the discordant chorus when I wasn’t sure if I had anything of value to add.

I dismissed the idea, but then I thought of Lewis Grizzard and how he made me laugh. I thought of how he used humor and the eccentricities of those around him as a gentle parable on the human condition and decided why not give it a shot.

Lewis Grizzard is dead. He can’t remind us that our differences are trivial compared to what we have in common, but maybe I can.

We need those daily reminders of our humanity, even if it comes only in small doses.

I’m going to try anyway.

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