Obit Hits and Errors
Quick. Think of one of the biggest and best things you’ve ever done.
Now, think of one of the biggest mistakes you’ve ever made?
Of the two, which one do you think is more likely to wind up in the first sentence of your eventual obituary? For your family’s sake I hope it’s the former rather than the latter. But it probably will come down to how good your good was compared to how bad your bad was, at least as recalled by a journalist likely on deadline. Or maybe an editor will combine the two.
A tease on CNN’s website on Monday (May 27) read, “Bill Buckner, All-Star slugger best known for his ’86 World Series error, is dead at 69.” With the first sentence of the story itself announcing:
“Bill Buckner, an elite hitter for 22 seasons whose All-Star career was overshadowed by an infamous fielding error in the 1986 World Series, has died, according to Major League Baseball.” The cause was Lewy Body Dementia.
For good guys, of whom Buckner was one, my preference has always been to delay saying anything unpleasant until at least the second paragraph, as it’s more respectful. Though having said that, and as someone who used to write obits, I recognize that’s easier said than written, as copyeditors are rarely far away.
Still, it’s often an insulting shame, so I’m pleased the story has Buckner noting the long run of nastiness the media put him and his family through and how he learned to forgive it.
Having said that, and as someone whose baseball career was neither as long or distinguished as Buckner’s I personally have no objection if my eventual cable obituary reads:
“Mitch Pearlstein, whose high school coach once said his best pitch was a strike, died unexpectedly last weekend in a seizure of joy after the Twins’ record reached 20 games over 500.”