Jeff Pearlman

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Monthly Archives: September 2009

You! (Yes, you)—get a life.

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They come out this time of year.

Men. Men older than 30. Men who should know better.

They tiptoe from their beds in the middle of night, head downstairs to the computer, hope no one hears as they gently click. Were they downloading Asian porn or analyzing stocks or looking for a good divorce lawyer, we’d understand. Were they scanning MTV.com for The Hills we’d understand. Were they downloading Mandy Moore’s latest CD, we’d understand. Were they joining the Lindsay Lohan Fan Club, we’d understand.

Alas, they are here to do the unforgivable.

The ludicrous.

The inane.

They are here to check on their fantasy football team.

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To start with, I think fantasy football is stupid. I know 90 percent of the people reading this blog have fantasy football teams, therefore making this post a sub-good idea. But, truthfully, I don’t care. In fact, I’m here to help. It’s a beautiful day outside. The sun is shining. The grass is green.jesus-football Go take your kids to the zoo! Go with the wife to a movie and dinner! Go play on the beach! Visit the local pool! Or pool hall! But please, dear God, stop checking Fred Taylor’s statistics.

For Christ’s sake, get a grip. You don’t even like Fred Taylor. Or the Patriots. But here you are, ignoring the world to check his stats and feed your growing obsession.

It’s so lame.

But not the lamest.

No, the lamest are those men (and women) who cover the NFL for a living, yet still maintain a fantasy football team.
Yes, you. You know who you are—sitting in the press box, pretending to be analyzing Chad Pennington’s three-step drop but really checking your computer to see whether Lee Evans broke loose against Denver. Damn you, man. Damn you. Not only is this sort of a conflict of interest, but it’s really, really, really pathetic. Does a doctor come home from work and play with his stethoscope? Does a lawyer use his free time to file briefs? Isn’t 50 hours per week of football enough … without delving into fantasy?

Ugh!

Meet the Pathetics, eh, Mets …

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Having grown up on the tough streets of Mahopac, N.Y., I’ve been witness to some of the worst Mets seasons in human history. Truth be told, I never thought anything would come close to the ’92 disaster, when the organization spent enormous wads of dough on players like Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman, Eddie Murray and Bret Saberhagen, then finished 72-90 and last in the NL East. (For a great read, I highly recommend The Worst Team That Money Could Buy, by John Harper and Bob Klapisch) Those Metropolitans were a truly horrific collection of characters—dismissive, arrogant, indifferent, cruel. Just the absolute worst.

Or so I thought.

Although these 2009 Mets are not nearly as bad, humanity-wise, as the edition from 17 years ago, the season has been an even greater disaster. First, there were the expectations: A sparkling new stadium, chock full o’ bells and whistles; A refurbished bullpen featuring not one (Francisco Rodriguez) but two (J.J. Putz) closers; the continued development of two of the best young ballplayers around—David Wright and Jose Reyes; A healthy Carlos Delgado at first; an in-his-prime Carlos Beltran in center; a stupendous young hitter, Daniel Murphy, bursting onto the scene. The list goes on and on and on—these Mets were supposed to rule the world, and even Sports Illustrated predicted a return to the Fall Classic.

Pfft.

Yes, there have been injuries. Lots and lots and lots of injuries. But the problems run significantly deeper. First, the ballpark is terrible. Not aesthetically. But in 2009, with a power-loaded lineup, you don’t build a stadium with dimensions befitting the ’85 Cardinals. Second, Omar Minaya, the GM, spent so much time thinking about the bullpen that he forgot about a little thing called, well, depth. Sure, the Mets boasted an All-Star-packed lineup. But what if the elderly Delgado got hurt? What if Ryan Church failed to produce? What if Reyes, injury prone throughout his career, went down yet again? Behind the stars, New York boasted … mush. Fernando Tatis. Angel Pagan. OK players—but limited.

Worst of all, the Mets have—from day one—lacked spark. Perhaps it’s the hangover of blowing one too many down-the-stretch leads. But this has been a listless, dull team from April through today—one never befitting of a new stadium or a rabid fan base. They’re a yawn a minute, and it’s insanely mind-numbing to observe.

So, what to do?

My suggestions:

A. New general manager: I like Omar. Always enjoyed covering him. But he’s done a terrible job with a bevy of resources. Willie Randolph was let go because it seemed he’d never be able to dig out from past failures. Now, the same applies to Omar.

B. New manager: Jerry Manuel—very, very nice man; very, very ordinary skipper. This is an odd job. A team tires of its fiery leader, it hires a cool dude. Cool dude gets old, a fiery leader is needed again. In other words, where’s Bobby Valentine when we need him?

C. Trade either Wright or Reyes: I know … I know—terrible idea. But desperate times call for desperate measures. The chemistry is clearly off here. An infusion is needed.

D. For Christ’s sake, move in the fences.

Death to the Tooth Fairy?

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I know a guy who stands strongly against any and all fictional characters. He doesn’t see any value in his two young kids following Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. He doesn’t want them chasing myths because, inevitably, one day they’ll be deflated to learn the truth.

I strongly disagree.

A few minutes ago, I wrapped up a letter to my 6-year-old daughter from Sunna. That’s the name I’ve given the Tooth Fairy—the name she signs at the bottom of every letter, post-tooth loss. Thus far, Casey has lost six teeth, meaning she’s getting to know Sunna very well. She looks forward to the notes, and goes to bed wondering aloud what she’ll get under her pillow in the morning. (This time, it’s $5 and a small box of candy.)

I can certainly be a downer; a wet blanket; a death-obsessed grim reaper. But I believe strongly in the power of the fictional character. Sure, they’re complete bulls###, and the human’s ability to relate with the inanimate and invented is, to understate, peculiar. But I want my kids to be kids; to float with excitement and wonder and thrills. I want them to think Peter Pan (my favorite character) exists—at least while they still can.

There’s plenty of time to be old and dumpy.

I know.

George W. Bush—OK with me

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If I’ve ever written a nice thing about George W. Bush, well—no. I haven’t. Never.

Today, that changes. Unlike his veep, the former president has shown great restraint—and class—in not ripping the current administration. It’s behavior very becoming of a former president, and behavior neither Jimmy Carter nor Bill Clinton never extended their predecessors. I can’t imagine what it was like to be Bush during the election, as well as now: Slammed, slammed, slammed, slammed, slammed. He was a punching bag. Still is a punching bag. Yet he’s displayed remarkable class and decency, and it should be noted.

To be honest, I never thought George W. Bush to be a horrible man. A horrible president? Yes. But his greatest sin, I’d argue, was what many thought to be his greatest strength—his judgment of others. Bush selected lousy cabinet members, then listened to them, even as their thoughts and ideas were shown to be greatly flawed. In hindsight, I wish he would have selected, oh, a Kay Bailey Hutchison or John McCain as VP. Maybe things would have turned out different.

Not perfect or ideal. But, at least, different.

Oy.

Gamma Rays!

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Crap.

Brought my daughter Casey to school today. She’s starting first grade. I am very afraid, because they have televisions in the school! Televisions that can shoot socialistic gamma rays into her brain! I hear the televisions were created by communist scientists in Kenya! I hear they want to turn my daughter into a Kenyan communist! Today I have been told our communist socialistic dictator Obevila spoke to our children—my children—and told them to kill The Man.

I am scared.

Damn gamma rays!

Damn!

This week’s debate: Peter Cetera vs. John Secada

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I can list the handful of writers who have truly inspired me throughout my career in journalism. Steve Buckley. Rick Telander. Steve Rushin. Dick Schaap. Dave Anderson. Mike Freeman. A couple of others. None, however, have had the impact of Greg Orlando, my former co-worker at the University of Delaware student newspaper and one of the best scribes I’ve ever seen.

Greg has worked for a handful of publications, primarily dealing with video games. He conducted the funniest Jason Giambi interview of all time (Question (feeling Giambi’s uniform): Is this thing velvet?), and once wrote an essay, “The Answer Man,” that continues to blow me away. Most important, he’s a good friend, and he’s agreed to contribute to jeffpearlman.com by taking one side in our weekly debate session. Today’s topic (selected by Jeff): Peter Cetera vs. John Secada

GREG: Peter Cetera is a man who will fight for your honor. Not yours, specifically, mind: You are rather drab and unimportant and Peter Cetera will have nothing to do with drab and unimportant people.

Chicago collapsed when Peter Cetera left. Note that we are not talking about the band, but rather the city. Such was the man’s influence. Chicago the band keeps limping along without its right fist, heart, brains, soul, and spleen Peter Cetera. If you go see Chicago in concert, you cannot help but notice the band members do not ever look up from the floor. No member of Chicago has made eye contact with a fan, member of the media, or family member since 1994.

Many men leave bands in order to begin a life of obscurity and destitution. Peter Cetera left Chicago to sit on a huge pile of money that he himself earned by crooning such hits as 25 or (Six-to-Four), which is a song about the time. If you ever had the gall to sing about the time, they would beat you with sticks.

To Peter Cetera’s credit, the man has penned and sung such tender ballads as “Glory of Love” and “If You Leave Me Now.” You may think him wimpy for doing this, but really his true intention was that you get some. And by some it is meant a lot. If you haven’t received any, the fault is certainly not Peter Cetera’s. Although it is possible for Peter Cetera to form a silk purse from a sow’s ear or recreate the Taj Mahal with mud and straw, you should not expect such an effort as the man simply cannot be bothered.

My esteemed opposition Jeffrey would suggest John Secada is the better musician/singer/human/what-have–you. This may not be the case, as I have never heard of John Secada, and am too lazy to confirm or deny his existence. John Secada, indeed.

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JEFF: I cannot tell a lie—John Secada sucks. His two hits, Just Another Day and If You Go, both suck. His background work for Gloria Estefan sucked because, frankly, Gloria Estefan sucks very, very, very badly. At his best, Secada is a hack. At his worst, he’s an unbearable hack. To say I loathe his music is to delve into great understatement. He is acid to my ears.

And yet, no matter how ghastly John Secada’s music might be (and, to be clear, it’s historically ghastly), nobody is worse than Peter Cetera. Nobody. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. You see, dear friends, Peter Cetera is Satan. Unlike John Secada, once upon a time Peter Cetera was The Man. For 19 years, he was the lead singer of Chicago, an ass-kicking, trumpet-blowing soulful group of guys who could really bring it. Sure, not all their songs were top-notch. But there was this. And this. And Chicago 17—a vastly underrated album loaded with good stuff.

So what happens? In 1985, Peter Cetera leaves Chicago to go solo—and his testicles shrivel up and die. Literally, I’ve seen them up close. They look like a pair of moldy dates, locked inside a sauna for three months, then run over by a truck. The man abandons every shred of soul and oomph to do—egad—a love song with Amy Grant. He puts forth an all-time wretched ballad from the most wretched of films—the Karate Kid II. He even brought down Cher with this head-banger. Once, it was conceivable for Cetera to have gone down in history with men like Huey Lewis and Jeffrey Osborne as flawed-yet-respected singers from an iffy era. But now, thanks to his catastrophic sell-out of manhood, Peter Cetera is in a league of his own.

The league of people I can actually beat up.

UFOs vs. God

The universe is infinite. At least, best we know, it’s infinite. That means it goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on …

In this country, those who believe in an all-powerful God who can see within your heart and mind; who reads your intentions and has a plan for everything—well, they’re considered 100-percent normal and sane.

In this country, those who believe in life on other planets and UFOs are nuts.

For the record, I have no problem with a belief in God. In fact, I have no reason to think some sort of creator didn’t/doesn’t exist. I’m not 100 percent sure about the after-life, either. I’ve got my ideas, but I can’t say I know, for a fact, what happens. Nobody can. Even the most zealous among us.

What I can say, with some certainty, is that odds lean heavily in favor of UFOs over God. First, there have been sightings. Modern sightings. Perhaps all the sighters (so to speak) are nuts. But they do exist, and have wild and wacky stories to tell. Second, the endlessness of the universe suggests other intelligent life forms. To think we’re alone and chosen is to suggest a certain specialness that I’m unwilling to touch. Who’s to say that, gazllions or miles from here, a family of four Beeyopes (a word I invented right here, in Cosi) aren’t watching their own version of Friends on their very own Tghdsha (invented word No. 2) while sipping from large cups of Desja (No. 3)?

I’m not saying aliens exist. I’m not saying aliens don’t exist.

I’m just saying.

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Al Davis: The End

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For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, two days ago the New England Patriots sent Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders for a 2011 first-round draft choice.

You have read that correctly.

In exchange for a pick that—based upon Oakland’s staggering ineptitude and lack of depth—could be the No. 1 spot in the draft, New England surrendered a 30-year-old defensive end in the final season of his contract.

You have, again, read that correctly.

My brain wants to ask, “Are the Raiders completely insane?”—but, really, why utter the obvious. This already goes down as one of the most lopsided trades I’ve ever seen, right there with Herschel Walker to the Vikings and Lou Brock to the Cardinals. Right now, all the Raiders have is hope—hope that young players pan out; hope that the drafts are deep; hope that, well, things get better. The best way to squash that hope? Trade your first-round draft pick for a 30-year-old defensive end who can walk at the end of the year.

Seriously, it’s time for Roger Goodell to think about stepping in and doing something here. It wouldn’t be unprecedented. In 1976, Major League Baseball’s Bowie Kuhn told Oakland it could not sell Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox and Vida Blue to the Yankees. Based on the ineptitude of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien in the early 1980s, the NBA passed a rule prohibiting teams from trading away first-round draft picks in consecutive years. (This rule is known as the “Ted Stepien Rule.”)

Has Al Davis reached this level? Undeniably yes. The Seymour trade. The signing and release of Jeff Garcia. The drafting of Darrius Heyward-Bey and Michael Mitchell. The hiring and firing of coaches.

The Oakland Raiders, once the franchise of the NFL, are officially pathetic.

Sad.

Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
Sweetness Walter Peyton Book
The Bad Guys Won Book
The Rocket that Fell to Earth Book
Boys Will Be Boys Book

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