Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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Sweaty 19-Year-Olds, Unicorns and Manti Te’o’s Girlfriend

Interview with columnist Neal Rubin, March’s National Writers Series host

Patrick Sullivan - February 11th, 2013  

Detroit News columnist Neal Rubin will be in Traverse City, March 5, to host the next National Writers Series event, an evening with Buzz Bissinger, a bestselling author whose book, “Friday Night Lights” was turned into a movie and an NBC television series. Although Bissinger takes the spotlight next month, we wanted to shine it on Rubin and find out more about this great columnist from the Detroit News.

Northern Express: How did you come to be the host of the Buzz Bissinger event? Have you run into him previously in your reporting career?

Neal Rubin: I have not met him. I’m pretty sure I know people who know him and I’m going to be consulting with them on things that might help move the conversation along. (NWS founder) Doug Stanton and I have talked for a couple of years about getting me to Traverse City to moderate one of these, which I’ve been hugely excited about.

Buzz Bissinger, he’s a terrific writer and somebody I’ve read at least since “Friday Night Lights.” I’m enthused about being part of the program. Frankly, I’m also just pretty geeked about getting to meet him.

NE: You are a columnist for the Detroit News and you write the nationally syndicated

comic strip, Gil Thorp. Which one of those jobs do you enjoy more?

Rubin: I love the column. I love it every day. There are days with Gil Thorp when I get home and it’s another deadline, where I kind of wish I could get Gil into a fiery car wreck and be done with him. At the same time, it’s huge fun to create this Gil Thorp world. It’s certainly as close to being Zeus as I’m ever going to get. So there are times where it’s huge fun but there are other times where I think, why did I agree to do this?

NE: You’ve had a long and storied newspaper career. Are you a news guy or a sports guy at heart?

Rubin: Really I’m in between. I’m a features guy. I’m certainly at this point more of a news guy than a sports guy. You get to a point where you can’t ask any more sweaty 19-year-olds how it feels to win the big game. While I still enjoy sports, I certainly read that section, I left it behind a long time ago.

When I got into newspapers, sports was the one place in the paper where you could really have fun with words. The news sections were very serious and the features sections, in a lot of cases, were still photos of ladies having lunch. So sports had the most interesting pallet. Now we’re telling stories in a lot of different ways and you can bring color and insight and personality to a lot of different sorts of writing.

NE: Your column in the Detroit News is described as “seemingly humorous.” How do you strike a balance between humor and seriousness when you handle subject matter that is both sad and absurd, like the debacle of what’s happened between the city of Detroit and the state over the future of Belle Isle?

Rubin: It’s sort of case by case, but overall I try to keep at least a light-hearted tone. Now there are some subjects so deadly serious that you have to approach them that way. It would be disrespectful not to. But otherwise, if you look closely you can find absurdity in almost any situation. I certainly find it in myself often enough. In fact, I’m writing a followup for tomorrow on the Belle Isle situation and it talks about unicorns. The city council’s outlook on this is so farfetched they must think that’s what they’re going to have bounding across the lawns. Happy unicorns being hand-fed sugar plums by Manti Te’o’s girlfriend.

NE: Your bio at the Detroit News website lists as your career distinction, “Banned by the World Wrestling Foundation.” Please tell me about that.

Rubin: That goes back to 1987, when they held Wrestlemania 3 at the Pontiac Silverdome. I was a feature writer then here in Detroit. We didn’t care about it as a sporting event, but as a lifestyle event. If you’re going to get 93,000 people packed into a stadium, at up to a hundred dollars a ticket, to watch this thing, then, hey, now we’re interested. And it was just sort of the first wave of Hulk-mania with Hulk Hogan.

I got curious. Basically, I knew his momma didn’t name him Hulk and he wasn’t born weighing 300 pounds. So I called the publicist for what was then the World Wrestling Federation, and said, ‘I just want to find out who he was before he was Hulk Hogan,’ and the publicist got very snotty and said, ‘You can’t talk to him at all. Hulk is Hulk and no one else.’ Can you think of a more certain way to activate a reporter’s ‘bite me’ mechanism?

So I just started digging into it and this was pre-Internet. I found a reference in a Candaian magazine that gave his real name and another reference that said he was from Tampa, Florida. So I called the Tampa Tribune and got ahold of the librarian there, and she told me where he went to high school, so I called the high school and got his old guidance counselor on the phone. Anyway, I tracked him all the way back to his old little league coach. It was very benign; he was a good guy all this time. But I wrote this big profile and the World Wrestling Federation was furious and they called the editor and they said, ‘If Neal Rubin comes to Wrestlemania, we’re revoking all your credentials.’ Which was no big loss since I wasn’t planning to be there in the first place.

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