Sadly, Andy Rooney dies at 92, and so officially ends the life of one of CBS Television’s most popular figures, and good men. Many will point to what the Wall Street Journal calls the 60 Minutes commentator’s 1,000 segments “mini-essays” but that’s wrong – they were video blogs. Really Andy Rooney was the first video-blogger, or “vlogger,” and he loved going to the Super Bowl.
Let’s get this out of the way: Andy Rooney’s 60 minutes works were the first video blogs ever. Before the term was coined, Rooney was sitting before a camera and talking about the idiosyncrasies of a ball-point pen, or how messy his desk was, and how he didn’t care. Andy Rooney did all of this each week, and for just two minutes or so, and then he did another one the next week. Always on Sunday.
Sunday was a special day for Rooney, and not just because of 60 Minutes, or church – though I don’t know anything about whatever Church-going habits he may have had. But I do know that Andy Rooney loved the Super Bowl. I know this because that’s where I met him, and ran into him again at the next two Super Bowls after the first one.
My first Super Bowl game was in Atlanta in 2000: Super Bowl XXXIV. The Rams versus the Titans. A great game and a great, but cold, time in Atlanta. The unwritten rule for Super Bowl fun was and is to hang out at the NFL Headquarters Hotel, because everyone who is anyone comes through there. One of those people was on his way to get his NFL credentials and that person was Andy Rooney. Upon recognizing him, and briefly introduced myself and said I enjoyed his work. Little did I know, I would see him again, later that week.
That day was Saturday, and on a very cold night. I’d just returned to Downtown Atlanta with my then new friend Beth Schnitzer and her friend Terry. We all went over to The Ritz Carlton for drinks and dinner, and to thaw out. It was an unexpectedly cold night, so cold that NFL event travel was hampered and flights were massively delayed.
While at the Ritz Carlton, Beth noticed a man sitting in a corner of the Atlanta Grill Restaurant by himself. It was Mr. Rooney. She wanted to meet him, so since I’d already introduced myself earlier that week, I went over and asked if she and Terry could visit with him for a spell. He said “Oh, sure.”
So they went over and stayed with him for a long time. What they talked about was interesting, and gave the two women an interesting view of Andy Rooney. When they came back to the table Beth explained that Andy was talking about the number of interracial black / white couples and if that was normal for Atlanta, or just because it was the Super Bowl. Seriously.
Beth also learned that Mr. Rooney loved jazz, and was sitting in the corner just to listen to the music. It was a pretty interesting scene because as he was doing that, the place was buzzing, and with NFL Legends like Don Shula walking in with the late Dallas Cowboys President and General Manager Tex Schramm (who I also had the pleasure of meeting). But Rooney was off to himself.
After that episode I ran into Mr. Rooney again at the 2003 San Diego Super Bowl, and while in a line to get coffee in the hotel lobby. And then again in 2004 in Houston, and at the NFL Headquarters hotel there, and in the bathroom. That was funny. We remarked how this was starting to become a tradition, us running into each other that way. It got to the point where I was on the lookout for him in Detroit, in 2006 (I skipped the 2005 Jacksonville Super Bowl because my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer), but I didn’t see him.
And after that, through Super Bowls in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, I never saw Mr. Rooney again.
I often wonder why it happened that I’d meet him that way. To this day, I have no answer. I don’t believe things “just happen,” but occur for a reason. Maybe it was a sign that I’d arrived. Or maybe it was a message that I should become a video-blogger.
If that was the case, message received.
Thanks Mr. Rooney. I will miss you and go to the Super Bowl on your behalf.