Wed, Oct 12, 2011 01:37 PM
I don't know if you watched the legendary Andy Rooney's farewell
segment on the October 2 edition of "60 Minutes," but in case you
missed the 92-year-old essayist's touching retirement speech, I've
taken the time to transcribe the final words. It's the culmination
of 62 years with CBS and 1,069 commentaries. In the waning moments
of his career, Rooney graciously showed his appreciation to all the
fans who watched him over the years, laughed with him, and
complimented him in person, and he signed off with the following
words of affection: "If you do see me in a restaurant, please just
let me eat my dinner."
Fade to black, end of career. That's it. Let me eat my dinner,
people. And get off my lawn while you're at it. Can we talk about
how great that is?
As a newspaper columnist, I view Andy Rooney as a sort of spiritual
godfather. For decades, he did exactly what all of us do now: he
complained pointlessly about inconsequential stuff in that awful "I
don't actually know what's going on here or how it should be fixed,
but I'm an ordinary American and my opinion deserves to be heard"
mode of writing that we commentators employ in order to gain the
allegiance of other pissed-off, uncomprehending citizens. An
inveterate complainer, Rooney was constitutionally incapable of
offering any insight into anything, but he was a master at
articulating what everybody else in his demographic already
thought. If CBS had given his job to any other wild-eyebrowed,
incurably crabby grandfather in America, "60 Minutes" would have
closed no differently at all; we would have listened to the same
rants about technology, contemporary music and politics.
I recently reviewed a few of Rooney's segments on YouTube. The
first one was about sleep: Rooney likes to sleep for seven hours a
night, thinks he could manage eight, is annoyed by people (like
babies, I guess) who sleep for nine or more - it's too much! The
next one was about the USPS's proposed reduction in service: Rooney
doesn't like the idea one bit, because getting hand-written letters
is nice, and e-mail stinks! Next up, Rooney thinks it's a crying
shame that newspapers are going out of business, because he has
fond memories of delivering papers for $1.35 a week during his
boyhood in Albany, NY. Finally: what's the deal with modern art?
It's ugly, and I don't get it!
Rooney doesn't have anything to say about why, exactly, modern art
is bad, or how newspapers might regain readers, or how the postal
service could stop losing money without closing branches. He's
just, you know, annoyed.
I don't think Andy Rooney was all bad - sometimes, his heavy-handed
"Average Joe" act gave way to a more genuine humility, and he had a
sense of humor (not a good one, but he deserves credit for it all
the same, I guess.) For a Methuselah,* his politics weren't so bad,
notwithstanding some doddering, foolish remarks about gays and
In his last appearance, Rooney gratefully acknowledged, "I've done
a lot of complaining here, but of all the things I've complained
about, I can't complain about my life" - which of course is untrue.
In one memorable essay, he whined that CBS gives him too much
vacation time, the segment was called "My Lucky Life," but it's
cool if (to some degree) he recognizes how fortunate he is to have
become wealthy and famous by doing something that pretty much
anyone could have done just as well as he.
For all his centuries of life, he is, in some sense, a very modern
kind of celebrity: famous not for being talented but for being
untalented - and, therefore, "relatable," like Carson Daly or the
cast of "The Real World." His opinions were predictable and
meaningless enough to blunt their anger; he never surprised you or
made you think - he just validated your own idle, irritated
thoughts by putting them on TV.
Rooney would probably decide to hate Facebook and Twitter if he
knew how to use them, but really he was made for the Internet,
where self-indulgent complaining about everyday life, lazy
confusion ("I don't get why . . ."), and forced observational humor
("Have you ever noticed [insert really obvious thing]?") reign
supreme. Basically, his whole career was one long Tweet.
Perhaps, like Jordan, he'll unretire a couple times before he
leaves for good. Sure, he's old and old-fashioned, but I think his
time is now.
* Methuselah: used to describe an extremely old man. From the Old
Testament, a patriarch supposed to have lived 969 years (Genesis
5:21--27) who epitomizes longevity.