March 26, 2012

SWEET SORROW:

We'll never see another Bert Sugar: Iconic writer always had a cigar in mouth, a fedora on head and a joke on his lips (Wallace Matthews, 3/26/12, ESPNNewYork.com)

He was a brilliant guy, with a law degree from the University of Michigan, and as he loved to remind everyone, that was the last bar he ever passed. Instead of making a living as a lawyer, he chose to become a professional character, an expert on things most people either no longer think are important or, even worse, never knew about to begin with.

And he may well have been the last of a breed, that typically New York wiseguy who possessed one priceless and seemingly vanishing skill: The ability to tell a story at a bar. There was a time when this was an essential talent for anyone drawing a paycheck as a journalist, because at heart, we're all supposed to be storytellers.

But what the new breed lacks, despite having its noses buried in an array of electronic devices and a full slate of "platforms" upon which to express the most trivial thoughts, is the ability to communicate on a one-to-one, eye-to-eye, interpersonal level.

These days, there's a plethora of "social media" and a dearth of real socializing.

And socializing was what Bert Sugar -- no one but his publishers used his middle name, "Randolph" -- was all about.

He was most closely identified with boxing, a subject he wrote nearly 100 books about, but he had a voracious interest in a variety of subjects, from baseball to vaudeville acts to thoroughbred racing to the comparative merits of Groucho Marx vis-a-vis W.C. Fields.

He could sing all the words to "Lydia the Tattooed Lady," trace the lineage of every heavyweight champion back to John L. Sullivan, and explain how Houdini did his famous Water Torture Escape.

Clearly, this was not his world anymore.

But when it was, the world was a better place when Bert Sugar was around.


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Posted by at March 26, 2012 2:54 PM
  

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