Albom, Mitch 1958- (Mitch David Albom)
Albom, Mitch 1958- (Mitch David Albom)
Born May 23, 1958, in Passaic, NJ; son of Ira (a corporate executive) and Rhoda (an interior designer) Albom; married Janine Sabino (a singer), 1995. Education: Brandeis University, B.A., 1979; Columbia University, M.J., 1981, M.B.A., 1982.
Journalist and author. Queens Tribune, Flushing, NY, editor, 1981-82; contributing writer for Sport, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Geo, 1982-83; Fort Lauderdale News and Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, FL, sports columnist, 1983-85; Detroit Free Press, Detroit, MI, sports columnist, 1985—; WLLZ-radio, Farmington Hills, MI, sports director, beginning 1985, co-host of Sunday Sports Albom, 1988-99; WDIV-TV, Detroit, broadcaster and commentator, beginning 1987; Monday Sports Albom (originally Sunday Sports Albom; syndicated weekly sports talk show), host, 1999—. The Mitch Albom Show (nationally syndicated sports talk show), host, beginning c. 1995; Sports Reporters, ESPN, panelist. Composed song for television movie Christmas in Connecticut, 1992. Dream Team (charity), founder, 1989; A Time to Help (volunteer organization), founder, 1998. Member of board of directors, Caring Athletes Team for Children's and Henry Ford Hospitals, Forgotten Harvest, and Michigan Hospice.
Baseball Writers of America, Football Writers of America, Tennis Writers of America.
Award for best sports news story in the United States, 1985; named number-one Michigan sports columnist, Associated Press (AP) and United Press International (UPI), 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1988; named number-one U.S. sports columnist, AP Sports Editors, 1987-98; named number-one Michigan sports columnist, National Association of Sportswriters and Broadcasters, 1988 and 1989; National Headliners Award as number-two outstanding writer, 1989; awards for best feature, AP Sports Editors, including 1993; named National Hospice Organization Man of the Year, 1999; numerous other awards.
The Live Albom: The Best of Detroit Free Press Sports Columnist Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 1988.
(With Bo Schembechler) Bo: The Bo Schembechler Story, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Live Albom II, foreword by Ernie Harwell, Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 1990.
Live Albom III: Gone to the Dogs, Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 1992.
Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk, the American Dream, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Live Albom IV, foreword by Dave Barry, Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 1995.
Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1997.
(With David J. Wolpe) Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times, Riverhead (New York, NY), 2000.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven (novel), Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.
For One More Day, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.
Duck Hunter Shoots Angel, premiered at the Purple Rose Theater, Chelsea, MI, 2004.
And the Winner Is, premiered at the Purple Rose Theater, Chelsea, MI, 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Gentlemen's Quarterly, Sports Illustrated, New York Times, and Sport; contributor to MSNBC.com. Author of a blog.
Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson was adapted as an Emmy Award-winning television movie, aired by American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. (ABC), 1999, and as a play produced in New York, NY, 2002. Albom adapted his book The Five People You Meet in Heaven for a television movie produced by Hallmark Entertainment, aired by ABC, 2004. Bo: The Bo Schembechler Story and Tuesdays with Morrie were adapted as audiobooks.
Mitch Albom, a journalist for the Detroit Free Press, has earned national attention and awards for penning sports columns distinguished by insight, humor, and empathy. Many of his columns have been collected in books that include The Live Albom: The Best of Detroit Free Press Sports Columnist Mitch Albom, Live Albom II, Live Albom III: Gone to the Dogs, and Live Albom IV. Disdaining the questionable ethical conduct, drug problems, and overinflated egos often found in the sports world, Albom highlights instances of athletic courage and determination while providing fact-based commentary on a team's performance.
After stints in New York and Florida, Albom arrived in Detroit, Michigan, in 1985 as a staff member of the Detroit Free Press. Introducing himself to his new audience in his first column, he explained that readers could expect "some opinion, some heart, some frankness. Some laughs. Some out of the ordinary." Albom also made a good first impression with area sports fans by rejecting the negative stereotype—a crime-ridden and dying city—that Detroit held for the nation. "Some people apparently look at a new job in Detroit as something to be endured or tolerated," he told his audience, going on to say: "I, for one, am thrilled to be here. For sports, they don't make towns any better than this one."
One of Albom's most distinguished traits as a columnist has been his sympathy with disappointed fans when local professional teams struggle unsuccessfully for championships. He commiserated with area readers in 1988 when Detroit's basketball team, the Pistons, battled to the National Basketball Association (NBA) finals and pushed Los Angeles to a full seven-game series, only to lose the last game by three points. He reasoned in one column, included in The Live Albom: "They went further than any Pistons team before them. They came onto the stage as brutes and left with an entire nation's respect—for their courage, for their determination, for their talent…. They took on all comers…. They could beat any team in the league. They just couldn't beat them all." A year earlier, when the underdog Red Wings reached the National Hockey League (NHL) semifinals but lost, Albom reported how, on the long flight home, the players dealt with this defeat. Upon learning that a devoted fan had flown to Edmonton to watch the game, Detroit players chipped in to reimburse him for his ticket. They also joined in on a chorus of that fan's favorite cheer. Witnessing this, Albom wrote: "Amazing. Here were these bruising, scarred, often toothless men, on the night of a season-ending loss, singing a high school cheer. Simply because it made an old guy happy. Many people will remember goals and saves and slap shots from this season. I hope I never forget that cheer."
With columns such as these, Albom earned a loyal following and a reputation as a blue-collar sports fan. His success in print carried over to other media, including radio and television. He joined the staff of rock station WLLZ in 1985, initially serving as sports director. In 1988 he and co-host Mike Stone began a weekly program, The Sunday Sports Albom. Guests included both local and national sports figures and the program's format allowed calls by listeners. His stellar guest list was evidence of the comfortable rapport Albom shared with many area athletes and coaches. This accord extended beyond interviews; in 1987 he was even a good luck charm for Detroit's Red Wings. As he explained in a column reprinted in The Live Albom: "I am not sure when my car and the fortunes of the Red Wings actually became intertwined. I do know [coach] Jacques Demers and I have now driven to five playoff games together and Detroit has won all five, and now even Demers, who is not superstitious, is asking me what time we're leaving."
Albom's relationship with former University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler led to a collaboration on Schembechler's autobiography, Bo: The Bo Schembechler Story. Respected as a top college coach for his Big-Ten championships and frequent bowl appearances, Schembechler reputedly had a quick temper and churlish personality. In Bo Albom presents Schembechler as a sincere family man whose surly demeanor was a deliberate act and who inspired love and respect from his football players. Albom credits Schembechler with turning the Michigan football program around. Albom notes a greater accomplishment, however: Schembechler ran a program free from rules violations and saw his athletes graduate. A New York Times Book Review contributor concluded that while Bo does not offer much new information about Schembechler, the work strengthened Schembechler's position as a role model for college athletes.
While Albom soon reigned as the darling of the Detroit sports scene, he also became involved with his share of controversy. He raised the ire of a Detroit Tigers pitcher with a column, and eleven months later had a bucket of ice water dumped over his head in the Tigers' clubhouse because the pitcher blamed his disintegrating effectiveness on Albom's commentary. Albom also broke the 1988 story of the after-curfew bar visits of several Red Wings players, reporting that, when confronted with the news, the coach "looked as if he was going to cry." Albom added that this black mark on the team's accomplishments was "not the story I wanted to write. Not the one you wanted to read." In these instances, a prediction Albom made in his first column came true: "I try to be honest…. This is not always a pretty job. Sometimes you have to write that the good guys lost, or that somebody's favorite baseball hero in the whole world just checked into the rehab clinic. Still, sports are the only show in town where no matter how many times you go back, you never know the ending. That's special."
Albom expanded his writing beyond the realm of sports with his 1997 publication Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson. The book, which was the top-selling nonfiction title of 1998, sprang from Albom's weekly visits with his former professor, Morrie Schwartz. While a student at Brandeis University, Albom was strongly influenced by the unconventional Schwartz, who urged his students to disdain high-paying careers and follow their hearts instead. Upon graduating, Albom promised to keep in touch with his teacher, but he neither called nor visited Schwartz for the next sixteen years. Watching television one night, he saw Schwartz on the ABC television program Nightline. The professor had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. A hasty trip to Massachusetts to see his old mentor led to a weekly meeting over the next fourteen weeks until Schwarz's died. Albom was struck by the realization that although he was young, healthy, and wildly successful, his old, dying teacher was a much happier, more peaceful person. He began to write a book based on their conversations, in part to help defray Schwartz's medical expenses.
Tuesdays with Morrie is "a slender but emotionally weighty account of Albom's final seminar with Schwartz," in the words of People contributor William Plummer. Albom relates the way in which, without even realizing it, he had slowly abandoned his youthful ideals to become cynical, spiritually shallow, and materialistic. Working around the clock to maintain his career left him little time for reflection. Schwartz helped his former student to refocus his life and in chapters that focus on fear, aging, greed, family, forgiveness, and other topics, "the reader hears Morrie advise Mitch to slow down and savor the moment … to give up striving for bigger toys and, above all, to invest himself in love," explained Plummer. "Familiar pronouncements, of course, but what makes them fresh is Morrie's eloquence, his lack of self-pity … and his transcendent humor, even in the face of death."
"One gets whiffs of Jesus, the Buddha, Epicurus, Montaigne and Erik Erikson" from Schwartz's discourses, related Alain de Botton in the New York Times Book Review. Yet de Botton objected that the "true and sometimes touching pieces of advice" dispensed by Schwartz "don't add up to a very wise book. Though Albom insists that Schwartz's words have transformed him, it's hard to see why…. Because Albom fails to achieve any real insight into his own … life, it's difficult for the reader to trust in his spiritual transformation." In contrast, a Publishers Weekly reviewer maintained: "Far from being awash in sentiment, the dying man retains a firm grasp on reality," and called Tuesdays with Morrie "an emotionally rich book and a deeply affecting memorial to a wise mentor." In a review for the Columbia Journalism Review, Dante Chinni commented that Tuesdays with Morrie "made Albom something akin to the Kahlil Gibran of disease and spirituality, quoted all over the Internet as a source of inspiration." The book did open doors for the sports journalist, who became a sought-after speaker and was even asked by fellow columnist Dave Barry to join a literary rock band called the Rock Bottom Remainders, which includes Stephen King, Barry, and Amy Tan on its roster.
Albom followed Tuesdays with Morrie with his first novel, 2003's The Five People You Meet in Heaven. As he told a Publishers Weekly contributor, the novel is based on stories his Uncle Eddie told him as a child. In the novel, Eddie is a grizzled old man, a war veteran who works as a maintenance man at a fairground. Both he and the people who employ him think little of his worth as a person, and it is not until Eddie dies saving the life of a little girl that the value of his life becomes clear. In heaven, Eddie meets five people who help him gain understanding about life's meaning. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented: "One by one, these mostly unexpected characters remind him that we all live in a vast web of interconnection with other lives; that all our stories overlap; that acts of sacrifice seemingly small or fruitless do affect others; and that loyalty and love matter to a degree we can never fathom." Similarly, Hagen Baye, writing on the Mostly Fiction Web site, observed: "From each of the five persons the late Eddie encounters in turn, he learns something different about himself, the significance his life and about life itself. He is awakened to his own worth and the value of his life." Baye further termed the novel "touching …, without being sappy or overly sentimental." Less positive was the assessment of Curled Up with a Good Book Web site reviewer Lori West, who thought "the individual stories work too hard to elicit … intense emotions." Similar criticism came from Book contributor Don McLeese, who complained: "Eddie's story mainly serves as an excuse for a string of quasi-platitudes, warmed-over wisdom." Harriet Klausner, however, writing on AllReaders.com, observed: "This is a strong modern day parable that reminds readers that everyone counts." And Booklist contributor Brad Hooper also had praise for the same work, concluding: "A sweet book that makes you smile but is not gooey with overwrought sentiment."
Albom turned playwright for a duo of comedies first produced in Michigan, but later touring to wider audiences. His 2004 Duck Hunter Shoots Angel is the tale of two brothers from Alabama who think they have shot down an angel instead of a duck. Reviewing the play in Daily Variety, Chris Jones was less than enthusiastic, terming it a "a cheerfully dumb, sentimental, crude and emotionally manipulative comedy." Jones did, however, go on to note that "there's lots of funny slapstick." Albom's 2005 play, And the Winner Is, is the "story of a self-obsessed actor who dies the night before the Oscars—and his first ever nomination—but bargains with the heavenly forces to return to earth to find out if he wins," as Albom described it on his Home Page.
Albom delivered his third book dealing with death in his 2006 novel, For One More Day. Here, a has-been athlete decides to kill himself, but only injured, he finds himself magically transported to his boyhood home where his mother has returned to life for one more day to present him with some basic truths about himself. Entertainment Weekly critic Jennifer Reese found the novel wanting, terming it a "schmaltzy novel … [that] ladles out more cloying sentiment." Speaking with Gregory Kirschling of Entertainment Weekly, Albom responded to such critics who complain that his work is too sentimental: "Since when did sentimental become a bad thing? … Critics have a problem with sentimentality. Readers do not. I write for readers."
Albom continues to write on difficult moral questions—among them euthanasia, medical marijuana, and questions of personal responsibility and law suits—in his newspaper columns and to talk about them on his syndicated radio programs. As Chinni noted in the Columbia Journalism Review: "Albom is not a typical sportswriter or a typical anything, for that matter…. Tuesdays with Morrie … put him in a league of his own." Albom described his role to Chinni: "Communicator…. That's all…. I'm talking about a lot of things that I'm writing about and I'm writing about a lot of things that I think about. For me it's sort of one job with a lot of tentacles."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Albom, Mitch, The Live Albom: The Best of Detroit Free Press Sports Columnist Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 1988, pp. 12, 208, 218.
Albom, Mitch, Live Albom II, Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 1990, pp. 33, 35, 44.
America, December 15, 2003, Patricia A. Kossmann, review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, p. 2.
American Theatre, July 1, 2004, "Chelsea, Mich: Publish or Perish," p. 12.
Back Stage West, September 16, 2004, "Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie at Laguna Playhouse," p. 12.
Book, September 1, 2003, Don McLeese, review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, p. 73.
Booklist, September 1, 2003, Brad Hooper, review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, p. 5.
Books, December, 1998, review of Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson, p. 22.
Bookseller, March 17, 2006, Harriet Dennys, "Heavenly Bodies: Some Highdown Prison Readers Felt That Mitch Albom's Book Was ‘a Good Idea Wasted’—but Others Praised Its Simplicity," p. 26.
Bookwatch, February, 1998, review of Tuesdays with Morrie, p. 11.
Catholic New Times, May 23, 2004, Patrick Murphy, review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, p. 18.
Columbia Journalism Review, September, 2001, Dante Chinni, review of Tuesdays with Morrie, p. 18.
Daily Variety, December 2, 2004, "Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven," p. 20, and Chris Jones, "Duck Hunter Shoots Angel," p. 24; August 8, 2006, "Starbucks Perks up ‘Day,’" p. 1.
Entertainment Weekly, October 6, 2006, Gregory Kirschling, "Mitch Makes a Pitch," p. 42; October 13, 2006, Jennifer Reese, review of For One More Day, p. 136.
Hollywood Reporter, November 7, 2005, "Albom Set for Koppel Finale on ‘Nightline,’" p. 1.
Image, winter, 1998, review of Tuesdays with Morrie, p. 395.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1997, review of Tuesdays with Morrie, p. 993.
Kliatt, May, 1998, review of Tuesdays with Morrie, p. 56.
Lancet, October 17, 1998, Faith McLellan, "A Teacher to the Last," p. 1318.
Library Journal, September 15, 2003, Mary K. Bird-Guilliams, review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, p. 89.
Modern Healthcare, March 6, 2006, Charles S. Lauer, review of "Giving of Yourself; a Look Back at a ‘Coach’ Who Left Us with a Legacy of Wisdom on How to Live," p. 22.
Nation's Restaurant News, November 20, 2006, "A Touching Book Reminds Us to Take Time to Feed Our Souls with Our Love for Others," p. 36.
New York Times Book Review, November 19, 1989, Charles Salzberg, review of Bo: The Bo Schembechler Story, p. 44; November 23, 1997, Alain de Botton, review of Tuesdays with Morrie, p. 20.
People, January 12, 1998, William Plummer, "Memento Morrie: Morrie Schwartz, While Dying, Teaches Writer Mitch Albom the Secrets of Living," p. 141.
Publishers Weekly, June 30, 1997, review of Tuesdays with Morrie, p. 60; October 9, 2000, Daisy Maryles and Dick Donahue, "Three Years+ with Morrie," p. 22; July 28, 2003, review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, p. 18; August 18, 2003, Tracy Cochran, "Everyone Matters" (interview); October 6, 2003, "A Heavenly Landing," p. 15.
Quest, March-April, 1998, review of Tuesdays with Morrie, p. 42.
Sports Illustrated, May 15, 1995, "Record Albom," p. 22; December 20, 1999, "Morrie Glory: His Bestseller Now a Hit TV Movie, Sportswriter Mitch Albom Continues His Crossover Act," p. 28.
Time, October 13, 2003, "Words of Paradise: Is There Life after Morrie? Mitch Albom Finds out in a Sad, Sweet First Novel Set in the Great Hereafter," p. 82; October 2, 2006, "Life and Death," p. 18.
TV Guide, December 4, 1999, "These Days with Morrie," p. 39.
Wall Street Journal, March 14, 1988, Bradley A. Stertz, "It's Probably Not Too Smart for Us to Publicize This Kind of Revenge," p. 29.
AllReaders.com,http://www.allreaders.com/ (August 18, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
Authorsontheweb.com,http://www.authorsontheweb.com/ (August 18, 2007), "Mitch Albom."
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (August 18, 2007), Lori West, review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (August 18, 2007), "Mitch Albom."
Mitch Albom Home Page,http://www.albom.com (August 18, 2007).
Mitch Albom Show Online,http://www.mitchalbomradio.com/ (August 18, 2007).
Mostly Fiction,http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (January 25, 2004), Hagen Baye, review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven.