You know what bugs us? People who are happy Andy Rooney is retiring.
Those people know who they are. On their blogs they call him “Cranky McCrankster.” Witty. They’re aghast that he said in an essay he didn’t know who Lady Gaga is. So what – knowledge of pop culture doesn’t equal wisdom. If it did, Snooki would rule the world.
Yes, maybe he’s been phoning it in for a few years. And using a land-line phone at that. A few years ago, he traveled to the New York auto show and reported his finding that cars are big business in America.
“We own a total of 200 million vehicles. If all our cars and trucks were on the highway, bumper to bumper, at the same time – well, none of us would be surprised,” he said.
We’re still sad that Mr. Rooney will leave “60 Minutes” as a regular contributor following this Sunday’s broadcast. Here is our reasoning:
His replacement will be worse. What do you think CBS will do with that ending segment? You can bet it won’t be a running commentary on the relevance of Greek tragedy to the modern world. Probably there will be shouting, since that’s what they do on cable news these days. Two weeks, and you’ll be nostalgic for Rooney’s plan to bottle water from a CBS drinking fountain and sell it to his co-workers.
He's a bridge between generations. Not too many people of Rooney’s age are still in the public eye, and that’s too bad. Many have a lot to offer. Remember when ice came from the iceman? We don’t either, but Rooney does, and he’ll tell you, and maybe the kids will learn something. People today mourn the loss of Oldsmobile and Pontiacs. Rooney’s memory of expired autos includes Hupmobiles. Did you even know there was a Hupmobile company? You do now.
He was a giant. Experience doesn’t make you great. Being great makes you great. Rooney was a giant in the field. Remember: The “60 Minutes” gig is his final act, his gradual road into retirement. Before then, he was a pioneer of broadcasting. He wrote and produced long essays with Harry Reasoner. He was a close friend of and writer for Arthur Godfrey, when Mr. Godfrey and his variety show were the biggest thing on radio and TV.
Most of all, he was one of the legendary correspondents of World War II, writing for Stars and Stripes from the front. He was a friend of Ernie Pyle, one of the first reporters to see the liberation of a concentration camp, as well as the entry of Allied forces into Paris.
Flying in a US bomber in 1943, Rooney described the feeling of being part of an attacking aerial armada:
“Like a pickup football team on a Saturday morning, we grew in strength as we flew, until all England seemed to be covered with bombers.”
We’ll close with this: We used to work with a contemporary of Rooney, a guy named Richard Strout, who’d been in the business long enough to have an opinion about Calvin Coolidge. He covered D-Day from the deck of a US destroyer and always talked about how when the sun came up, it seemed the whole English Channel was filled with ships toward France.
We pay homage to Mr. Strout every year by quoting him. One of our favorite lines is, “Summer pressed down on Washington like a wet hot thumb.”
That’s another year done. And thanks for the writing, Mr. Rooney.