Jeff Fitzgerald, Genius By

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Still, I try not to get too bogged down with facts; this is a humor column, not Wikipedia.
2019, among other things, marks the 100th anniversary of the infamous Chicago Black Sox scandal, wherein the White Sox deliberately threw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds for the benefit of gamblers and six or seven of the players (depending on who you ask). As a longtime student of the affair, I believe that Shoeless "Joe" Jackson did not take the gamblers' money and did nothing to negatively affect the outcome of the Series yet was banned anyway. Third baseman Buck Weaver, it is agreed, did not take part in the scandal but was banned from the game along with the rest of the malefactors for knowing about the fix and keeping his damned mouth shut which was just plain good sense in Chicago then as now.

I have long been a part of a lobby to have both Jackson and Weaver posthumously reinstated to baseball so that Shoeless Joe can take his rightful place among the immortals in Cooperstown and Buck can have the stain removed from his good name. To that end, I have written every commissioner of Major League Baseball since Peter Ueberroth on behalf of the two players. Finally, in 2015, newly appointed commissioner Rob Manfred replied personally to my letter, albeit not to my satisfaction. The upside of the letter was that he would be willing to consider the case if a formal petition for reinstatement were to be filed. Jackson and Weaver remain in a sort of perpetual limbo (not that kind, the other kind).

All of which has absolutely nothing at all to do with Our Music.

Amid all the other things of which 2019 marks the anniversary, there is the not-inconsiderable fact that it marks eighteen years of Your Own Personal Genius at All About Jazz. Eighteen years. As a man of many and varied interests, and possibly Adult ADD, there is very little in my life to which I've been willing to devote that kind of time. I only have 14 years of formal schooling. I played the euphonium and trombone seriously for a mere six years. My marriage to the Former Mrs. Genius lasted a scant four years (it just seemed longer). As big a part as wrestling has played in my life (the high school kind, not the WWE kind), I just did it for three years. And though Mars Hill University feels like a physical part of me, I was only there for one year. On the other hand, it took me the first twenty-five years of my life to develop my peculiar writing style and, as has been mentioned in this column before, I have been both a guitarist and a partisan of the Atlanta Braves for over thirty years. I've been a partisan of the Carolina Panthers since they came into the league in 1995. I started cooking when I was five. I've been crushing on songstress Lisa Loeb since 1994. I began collecting CDs in 1986, and DVDs in 1998. My car is a 2001 Mercedes Benz C320 that still runs like a top even with 190,000 miles on her. I wish I were in as good a shape; but then, I'm a 1967 model.

It was the spring of 2001. I approached Commodore Ricci with the idea for a Jazz humor column, something that heretofore had only been considered in the fevered dreams of the most out-there of Jazz fans. Ricci, for his part, said that he had been looking for the 'Dave Barry of Jazz.' What he found was the man who would become the Dean of American Jazz Humorists®, compiling a body of work that stands as a testament to just how far one man is willing to go for a gag. Steeped in the work of the great humorists of a bygone era—Ring Lardner, Robert Benchley and Will Cuppy chief among them—and fervently adhering to Benchley's dictum that "Sheer madness is the highest brow of humor," it could be stated in Jazz terms that Mike went looking for Julian "Cannonball" Adderley and found Ornette Coleman. If I flatter myself with that comparison, please keep in mind that it's my damned column and I do what I want.

Moving forward.

I could, were I a lesser writer, fill the rest of this piece with a chronological overview of the nearly 100 articles I have contributed during my tenure. I could offer a treatise on my feelings about Jazz, writing in general, and writing humor specifically. I could lament how the world has changed since 2001, particularly since September 11. But none of that is my job. My job is to write funny things about Our Music in an effort to save it from the deadly sin of taking itself too seriously, a task itself that I take as seriously as anything that's dear to me (Jazz, Barbecue, baseball, and the lion's share of actress Tatiana Maslany). Which is to say, I'm pretty damned serious about being silly. But not too serious, because that's kind of the point.


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