George F. Will in 2014 (Gage Skidmore) The columnist, at 80, motors along, at his familiar clip. A dazzling writer and political thinker.
Editor’s Note: The following is an expanded version of an essay published in the current issue of National Review.
Last May, George F. Will published a column that was learned, sparkling, and wise. In other words, typical. It was also shocking. Why? Because, in it, Will disclosed that he had just turned 80. “To be 80 years old in this republic,” he wrote, “is to have lived through almost exactly one-third of its life.”
He closed his column by saying, “To live a long life braided with the life of a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to an imperishable proposition is simply delightful.”
Yeah, yeah, nice about the braiding and all that, but — 80? George Will is 80? How is that possible? He looks the same as he always did, more or less. He writes and talks the same too: with verve, precision, and élan. He is not autumnal (except when the occasion calls for it). He motors along, timelessly.
He began writing columns for National Review and the Washington Post in 1973. Nixon was beginning his second term (which would be a short one). Will won the Pulitzer prize for commentary just about as soon as you can — in 1977. Jimmy Carter was in his first year as president.
In October of ’77, the Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World Series. Billy Martin managed the Yankees, Tommy Lasorda the Dodgers. Catfish Hunter was on the Yankees’ pitching staff, Don Sutton on the Dodgers’. One of the umpires was Nestor Chylak. Providing color commentary in the booth was Howard Cosell.
All of this is meaningful, and orienting, to baseball people. George Will is such a person — and how. All politics and no play makes Jack a dull boy. William F. Buckley Jr. had sailing and music; Will has baseball. He does not have much use for football. That game, he says, combines two of the worst elements of
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