What Andy Rooney Taught Me

Andy Rooney, the “60 Minutes” commentator known to generations for his wry, humorous and contentious television essays – a unique genre he is credited with inventing. CBS News © 2011 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I’m not sure what words to use when describing Andy Rooney. As the quote above says, he was contentious, no doubt about it. For me, he was more than just a grumpy old man telling it like it is. He was a keen observer. He didn’t let himself get locked into a single topic. His writing spoke to my love of variety in my own writing topics.

I have a book of his writing. It’s a thick book, one of those collections, and it is almost three inches thick. I have to admire the wide range of topics in the collection. I especially admire his ability to take almost any subject and dissect it.

Each Sunday, Rooney delivered one of his “60 Minutes” essays from behind a desk that he, an expert woodworker, hewed himself. The topics ranged from the contents of that desk’s drawer to whether God existed. He often weighed in on major news topics. In an early “60 Minutes” essay that won him the third of his four Emmy Awards, his compromise to the grain embargo against the Soviet Union was to sell them cereal. “Are they going to take us seriously as an enemy if they think we eat Cap’n Crunch for breakfast?” deadpanned Rooney.

Mainly, his essays struck a chord in viewers by pointing out life’s unspoken truths or more often complaining about its subtle lies, earning him the “curmudgeon” status he wore like a uniform. “I obviously have a knack for getting on paper what a lot of people have thought and didn’t realize they thought,” Rooney told the Associated Press in 1998. In typical themes, Rooney questioned labels on packages, products that didn’t seem to work and why people didn’t talk in elevators.

© 2011 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

There was a time when I was down on my style of writing. I felt that there was something wrong with me because I loved variety. I have always envisioned life as a huge banquet table filled with a wonderful variety of food. To me choosing one topic for my writing would be as insane as enjoying only one bite from that banquet table.

Thanks to Andy Rooney and his prolific writing I now enjoy “guilt-free-variety” in my writing and in my life.

Here’s wishing that you do too.

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