We returned to work yesterday after a week-long, much-needed holiday break. Already it is clear that one among us did not return from the recess the same man he was when we left. That man is Michael J. Mooney.
Before the holiday, Michael J. was just an unassuming, hirsute, pale, shortish lad with a fiancÃ©e whose beauty made everyone who met the couple wonder exactly what in the hell is going on with that. Yesterday, Michael J. returned to work and we all noticed that change. He is still hairy and short. He didn’t get a tan. But now the man has more swagger than Nick Van Exel in his prime. That’s taking a kind view of the transformation. I have heard others in the office at lunch, while waiting for the meals to warm in the microwave, refer to Michael J. as a megalomaniac.
Here is what I think happened. First, on December 28, Texas Monthly’s Michael Hall gave Michael J. a big, sloppy kiss for a piece that Michael J. wrote for GQ. Hall began his paean with this line: “Every year I read a story that just kills me — partly because it’s so good but mostly because I didn’t get to write it.” You can imagine the effect this likely had on Michael J. He’s sitting there, reading that, thinking, “My words are so powerful that they killed someone.”
Two days later, on December 30, Longreads gave Michael J. some props by pointing people to his profile in our humble publication of First Baptist’s Robert Jeffress. A man clinging to his last shreds of humility, this development was not good.
But then came the praise that surely broke Michael J.’s grip forever. The following day, December 31, Deadspin listed Michael J.’s profile of Ron Washington among the 10 best stories of the the entire year.
Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess. But I can share this with you: we just concluded our weekly editorial meeting. Michael J. arrived late; sat at the head of the table, where he ignored us while yammering on his phone for the first half of the meeting (ending the call by saying, “You tell them I want the Four Seasons or no deal”); and then, when asked how his current assignment was progressing, told us that he’d yet to conduct a single interview but not to worry because whenever he turns it in, it’ll be “pure gold.”
And I just glanced over my shoulder at his desk. He’s got an intern in his lap, and he’s explaining why Skip Hollandsworth didn’t deserve his National Magazine Award.