To my mind, Jimmy Cannon was the greatest sports writer who ever lived. He died more than 40 years ago. He made it to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
I read his columns in the New York Post avidly and religiously. When he wasn't writing about sports, he was musing, offering his personal, mostly one or two liner opinions, about anything that hit his off-the-charts observant eye. Most had little to do with sports.
He called the columns "Nobody Asked Me But...." They were often acerbic, outspoken, opinionated, hilarious, judgmental and, to today's readers, joyously, bravely, and courageously politically incorrect. I loved them.
Cannon and I had a lot in common. He started out as a copy boy at the New York Daily News at the age of 17, and I started out at the same paper at 19. We were both poor kids from the streets of New York. He was from Greenwich Village and I'm from Brownsville, Brooklyn. Same mentality. Same environment. New Yawkers are New Yawkers.
As a soldier in World War II, Jimmy worked on the Stars and Stripes, and as a soldier in the Korean War, I was the Washington correspondent for Armed Forces Press Service.
The Daily News in his day, and despite the two-decade span between us, was still a nest of no holds barred Irishmen of the heavy drinking class, like Jimmy. I was a Jewish kid whose drinking skills were certified at a couple of Manhattan bars owned by my uncles. I had perfected the art of downing straight shots of Scotch with beer chasers at 16.
For some mysterious reason I happened to fit in nicely with those rough edged, hard drinking, wonderfully loquacious Irishmen who ran the New York Daily News. Hell, I truly believed that the Irish were one of the lost tribes of Israel. My shift at the New York Daily News was noon to midnight and we bar hopped until the 4:00 A.M. curfew.
When we needed more booze time, we repaired to the Fulton Fish Market, where liquor was served illegally to the early fish-mongering crowd between upended bar stools. I reveled in my role of camp follower, loved my Irish buddies, and the fantasy of being a Broadway kind of guy, like Jimmy; we spoke the same language.
In my early twenties, I was a reporter and columnist for a big weekly on Long Island called The Queens Post, where I then became editor. My column was called Pepper on the Side. It was hardly in the Daily News class, but in my mind it serves as yet another Jimmy connection.
We had a lot more in common. He thought great boxer Joe Louis was an American saint. So did I. He was my number one boyhood hero and still is. Later in life, I spent a weekend with Joe and another great fighter, Rocky Graziano, who loved Joe as much as I did. For me, it was a dream come true.
Joe Louis offered me the most memorable one word quote I ever heard. He had reached the heights as the greatest Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world, an international hero who was brought down by bad marriages and the IRS, which left him broke and sick in the end. His last years were a downward spiral. His one word of wisdom was "even." He said he would like that one word on his tombstone. "I'm even," he told me. I wanted to cry.
Jimmy was also a buddy of Hemingway, another one of my heroes. Hemingway read and liked Jimmy's writing and I understood why. They were both my kind of guys.
The point of all this nostalgic musing is that I'm going to try my hand at random observations a la "Nobody Asked Me But...." I wouldn't use that same line. No way. That's Cannon's through eternity.
How about, "Not That Anyone Gives a Damn, But...." That last "But" ties me to Jimmy. I don't think he'd mind.
"Not That Anyone Gives a Damn, But..."
• The New York Times has morphed far leftward to proclaim itself the little guys' best friend, but its principal ads are targeted to the upper 1%.
• All those black dots on city sidewalks are dried out chewing gum. Who pays for the eventual cleanup?
• The greatest miracle of modern times is removing the daily garbage from big cities.
• Why don't teenagers stop texting as they cross busy streets?
• Who regulates vitamin safety, and who validates their value?
• How come schools have done away with civics classes?
• When I was a kid I hated rice pudding. How come I like it now?
• Pornography in my day was looking at topless native women in the National Geographic.
• As a class, lawyers are the worst offenders in writing clear English.
• How come all branded romantic fiction closes with a happy ending?
• Cure for global warming: Stop all the hot air coming out of Washington.
• The plot line of Breaking Bad was an orgy of dysfunction, and a moral nightmare. Still, the acting was great. I recently met Bryan Cranston backstage at "All the Way." It won a Tony, as did he, for Best Actor. He deserved it.
• Harry Truman never exploited his ex-Presidency for money. He was one of our greatest Presidents. Never went to college.
• Stupidest comment by world leaders, including our own: "Israel has the right to self defense." So does everyone on the planet. Must they have permission from others to protect their people?
• My wife and I attended every Presidential Inauguration from second Eisenhower to first Reagan. At the Kennedy Inauguration we sat in the next box to the entire Kennedy family. Their pride was a sight to behold.