Jeff Pearlman

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A horrible moment

NFL Historical Imagery

God, I feel so incredibly terrible.

A few moments ago I dialed a phone number I have for Rick Kane, the former Detroit Lions running back who played in the NFL from 1977 through 1985. I wanted to speak to him for my book project.

“Hello …” the woman said.

“Yes, I was trying to reach Rick Kane.”

“What?”

“I’m trying to reach Rick Kane, the former running back for the Lions …”

A lengthy pause.

“That’s my husband … (Tears, followed by a tone of angry disbelief) he died Christmas day.”

I didn’t know what to say. “I’m so sorry,” I uttered. “M’am, I had no …”

Click.

Had I taken eight seconds to look at his Wikipedia page beforehand, I would have known.

Awful.

All-time awful.

  • I did the same thing a couple of years ago trying to reach Cotton Fitzsimmons. His widowed wife answered. I felt terrible, still do. But to make matters worse, once her disbelief subsided, she turned angry. Two days later, I got a call from a media relations person with the Suns, who promptly bitched me out for five minutes. I already couldn’t have felt any worse, but I deserved it.

  • Hi Jeff,
    Long time reader, first time commenter. I must say Jeff that it is just a situation that arises when it comes to the type of writing you do. You are one of the lone writers at Sports Illustrated who takes on the tougher less known subjects and that what makes your work remarkable. Being a second year journalism student who is an aspiring sports writer, with a dream job at Sports Illustrated somewhere down the line, your one of two writers at SI that I make sure I read all of their work. (Other being Peter King) But I love your writing for a different reason then Peter’s. Although he has a great handling of the inner workings of the NFL, it is your writing that either puts life into perspective (ie. Tennessee/Kiffin story) or one that brings out emotion (ie. story of NFL player who wishes he never played the game). It was your work that I kept on thinking about when I had the unfortunate responsibility of writing about a 21 year old girl whose life was cut short in a car accident. I was lucky enough to have the privilege of meeting this girl once and the fact that we had a few friends in common, just made writing this story more difficult. But I knew that her story needed to be written. The reason that I’m commenting on this story was the fact that it just made me think about Sash. Having been a sports writer for the Calgary Journal for the past five months, I had yet to write a story with any sort of emotion. But when I was doing interviews for this story, I was having her forty year old coach in tears by the end of it, with her teammates not being able to stop crying. It wasn’t just them who were having such a difficult time during these interviews. My knees could not stop shaking, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t put two words together. I was completely speechless. While I’m sure that you have had plenty of experience with the tougher interviews, I’m wondering if it ever gets any easier?

    Here is also the link to the story as well:
    http://www.calgaryjournalonline.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=905:mount-royal-copes-with-loss-of-student-athlete-and-friend&catid=39:sports&Itemid=69

    Thanks and keep up the great work

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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