Earlier tonight The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper and my first place of employment out of college, held a party for David Climer, the retiring sports columnist.
Because I’m some 3,000 miles away, I missed it.
And I’m bummed.
I don’t think David, who spent 38 years at the newspaper, knows the impact he had on my career. So allow me to share …
As has been well documented here, I was a little asswipe for most of my time in Nashville. I thought I was great (I wasn’t). I thought I knew everything (I didn’t). I thought editing was a waste of time, and that my copy was above the marks and dinks of desk people (it wasn’t). In short, based upon a couple of solid years editing my college newspaper, I believed I was a superstar. When, in fact, the real superstar of The Tennessean was sitting a few desks away, conversing in a soft southern accent, politely laughing at my gumption and arrogance.
David Climer could have smacked me across the head, screaming, “Stop being a jackass!” Nobody would have blamed him. Instead, he provided the most powerful gift imaginable: An example of character, professionalism, decency. He was a brilliant writer, without needing to tell everyone he was a brilliant writer. He was a fabulous interviewer, but never bragged about it. Sources trusted David Climer, because, well, he was trustworthy. Decent. Empathetic. You knew he wasn’t going to misquote you, or hype up a small little nothing in the name of creating headlines.
At the time, I thought great writing was all about BOOM! and POP! and HOLYWOWOW! I rarely spared an adjective, never let an awful analogy (“He’s a bigger bust than Mount Rushmore!”) pass me by. But David Climer’s stuff was just … pure. You wouldn’t read it the first time and say, “Well that was amazing.” But then you’d take a second glance, realize how much you learned in a mere 600 words, and reconsider. Yes, that actually was amazing.
It’s a cliche (one David would surely frown upon), but columnists of his ilk are, truly, a dying breed. Storytellers have taken a backseat to screamers and ranters. You need to have a take, and drive it home at 500 mph. You need to hate someone. Or call on someone to be fired. Or blame. Or accuse.
There’s not much room for class any longer. Which is a shame.
Because David Climer is all class.