Playing with fire and getting burned

June 18, 2013

The backhoes are being fired up again around the Motor City.

For what must be at least the 700th time since former Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa disappeared from the parking lot of a Detroit restaurant July 30, 1975, investigators were poking around the city’s outskirts Monday and Tuesday after receiving a tip on where Hoffa’s remains might be found. Nothing has been unearthed, at least as of this writing, and the fact that the tipster is trying to peddle a manuscript on Hoffa’s disappearance should be enough to make anyone a little wary that the Hoffa mystery will finally be solved.

One comment from an investigator stood out for us, though. Before the digging got under way, he remarked that if Hoffa’s bones were finally found it would bring “closure” – that touchy-feely, shopworn term – to Hoffa’s family, which includes James P. Hoffa, the current Teamsters president, and Barbara Ann Crancer, a circuit court judge in Missouri.

Almost 38 years after his disappearance and almost 31 years after being declared legally dead, one would have assumed that his family had attained “closure” years ago. And though Hoffa’s kidnappers and, presumably, murderers, should be punished if they are ever apprehended – a highly unlikely prospect at this stage – we should be careful about shedding too many tears for Hoffa.

During his tenure as the Teamsters leader, Hoffa was convicted of fraud for allowing the union’s pension fund to be used in loans to organized crime figures, and also racked up a conviction for attempting to bribe a member of a grand jury. Legend has it he was on his way to a meeting with a couple of organized crime figures when he vanished.

Hoffa’s disappearance and apparent death was surely a wrenching event for his family, friends and followers within the Teamsters, but he was hardly an innocent. A well-used idiom seems applicable in this case: If you play with fire, you get burned.



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