Jeff Pearlman

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11

In 1 1/2 hours, I’ll have been officially married to my wife for 11 years.

I’ve never understood time, and I don’t understand it now. Eleven years? Not even sure how that’s possible. It continues to baffle me, how days can feel like years, and years can feel like days. Eleven … eleven … eleven. Sheesh. In 11 years I’ll be 52. In another 11, I’ll be 63.  Then 74. Then 85. Then 96. Then … OK. Enough.

The year was 1999. I was at Jon Wertheim’s wedding. He was marrying Ellie, a woman I didn’t know at the time (but now a dear friend). I was, truth be told, a fringe guest; Jon’s Sports Illustrated pal going back a couple of years. Had a couple of guests needed to be cut, surely I would have been home.

It was a fun wedding, as I recall. Good band, tasty food. I was sitting at a table with, among others, Grant Wahl and Hank Hersch, two SI colleagues. Speeches were made. First, Jon’s brother Gerald—the best man. Then this little woman in a violet-ish dress. She had short, brown hair. Looked sorta nervous. I was standing next to Grant as she spoke about Ellie and friendship. I recall none of her words. Just her beauty. She was like a little angel, nervous but glowing. Grant said something like, “She’s cute, huh?” and I agreed. Of course, I also lacked the guts to approach. I was a fringe guest. A Nobody. She was the maid of honor.

Maybe three weeks later, after Jon and Ellie returned from their honeymoon, I asked about the maid of honor. “That’s Ellie’s best friend, Catherine,” Jon said.

“Can you get me her number?” I asked.

“Lemme see.”

It took four months. She was dating this guy, or that guy, or something. The first time I called, I showed off my smoothness by noting, “Catherine—that’s not a Jewish name.”

She didn’t like that.

Still, she gave me a shot. Our first date was at a Manhattan restaurant, Ole. It was a rainy night, and I was late. I walked in, and she was sitting there, as lovely as I remembered. “I’m soooo sorry,” I said—and I was, indeed, sorry … looking. I was wearing an orange-and-black checkered vest (Marshall’s, $10) and a faded black T-shirt that had once belonged to my ex-girlfriend’s dad. We had a nice time, and at the end I said, “I’d like to walk you home but, don’t worry, I won’t come up.”

“Who said I was inviting you up?” she replied.

I liked this one.

Our second date was awful. It’s gone down in Pearlman lore as “The Booger Date,” because—for six or so hours together—I had a hardened, crusty booger attached to the tip of my nose. Horrified, Catherine said nothing. We also argued a lot—about smoking, I think, or politics. Stuff. Toward the end, Catherine was feeling quite down. Another shit date, another shit guy. Then, the magic happened. I walked her home and pulled out (old school!) a mix tape. Why? Not sure. Probably because I liked her, and thought she was gorgeous and … well, why not? Thing had a little LaBelle, a little Sam Cooke, a little Hall & Oates. She later told me she listened to it and laughed—in a good way.

I like to think, all these years later, she’s still laughing.

  • Rich Ludwig

    Jeff,
    That’s a pretty cool story. Sounds as though you’ve a couple more ’11 yr ann’ys’ in store. Wonder if she still has the mixed tape? Bet she does…somewhere. Congrats!

    Rich

  • Sebastian Moraga

    Happy anniversary, Jeff and Mrs. Pearlman!

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life