Jeff Pearlman

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Author Archives: Jeff Pearlman

Emmett turns 13

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It’s my son Emmett’s 13th birthday today, and what I love most is that Casey, his 16-year-old sister, baked him a strawberry shortcake.

She gave myriad reasons: She likes baking. She likes eating. She was done with homework. But I know—and she knows—the No. 1 reason she baked Emmett a cake is because she loves him, and because they’re traveling through life together, and because they share a genuinely powerful bond, and because Emmett would never let any harm come Casey’s way, and Casey would never let any harm come Emmett’s way.

As soon as the clock hit midnight, the wife and I found ourselves parents of two teenagers. Which may well sound awful, but it’s anything but. My kids are tremendous company. They’re spirited and fun and eager and open-minded and chatty and willing to talk about most subjects.

At 13, Emmett (as Casey has done, too) feels more and more like a sidekick, less and less like a little boy I need to entertain. We play basketball together three or four nights per week—full-court games of one on one that leave us both sweaty and happy. Emmett is in his second-straight year of wearing a jersey to school every single day (The one above is a Vince Ferragano CFL dud), and his pleasure brings me pleasure. He’s a snuggler with his mother; a cooking sidekick with his mother; an excellent student who knows tons about robotics and putting things together. Later this week we will be (for the sixth-straight year) hosting the fund-raising haunted house at the local elementary school, and Emmett can’t wait. Yeah, it’s fun scaring kids. But the best part is doing it together—setting up, writing a script, somehow making it all work out.

Emmett isn’t overly competitive. He doesn’t need to be the best. He is 0% bully. He doesn’t mock kids and rarely speaks ill of others. He tells us quite often that he appreciates living in a low-pressure household. He’s the best hugger I’ve ever seen. He tries every food imaginable. He dreams of going to Africa.

I’m so lucky.

Trumpi Vanilli

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The year is 1989. The month is August.

You’re about two weeks removed from perhaps the most embarrassing moment in music history. On July 21, 1989, during a live performance at the Lake Compounce theme park in Bristol, Connecticut, the pop duo Milli Vanilli is caught lip syncing. There is no denying what happened—while (not) singing their hit, “Girl You Know it’s True,” the words and music keep repeating. And repeating. And repeating. Here’s the clip.

So, again, now it’s August. And while the vast majority of people have kicked Milli Vanilli to the curb; have thrown away their records and torn up their posters—you refuse. You are steadfast in your belief that—proof me damned—the two members of Milli Vanilla are singing. You saw their lips move. You know, deep down, they’re artists.

You believe.

So you turn out for the next gig, a sucker in a largely empty arena.

A sucker there for the show.

•••

Tonight, Donald Trump spoke in Minneapolis.

The best fucking oatmeal

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So over the past 1 1/2 months I’ve had a strange life twist.

Every Monday I wake up at (egad) 4:40, climb out of bed, get dressed and drive up to Santa Monica, where I’m working as a writer for “Fair Game,” the Kristine Leahy Show.

It’s a long story how this all transpired, but in short: I wanted to try writing for a different medium, I had appeared as a guest on the program, it seemed like a fun/quirky idea, thus far I love it, etc … etc.

Anyhow, even though I don’t arrive until 9:30, leaving at 5 allows me to avoid sitting in 2 1/2 hours of traffic. So I get here early, pull to the side of a road, nap in my car for 30 minutes or so, then rise and eat the absolute greatest fucking oatmeal that’s ever existed on the face of the earth.

I’m not exaggerating.

It’s served at a tiny cafe called LoCal Coffee and Market, a charming joint with very little seating, a bathroom key attached to a mug, fantastic music, delicious drinks and—again—oatmeal created via another level of culinary consciousness. I’m not entirely sure of all the ingredients, but it includes multiple fruits, milk and this granola that oozes flavor. I actually just joked to the two baristas that, should my job end, I’ll still make the 5 am drive, gobble my oatmeal and head back home.

Which isn’t that big of a stretch.

So good.

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Batshit crazy

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Watch this.

Just watch.

Tell me the president of the United States is well.

Tell me he’s well.

And while we’re on the subject—he’s mad at Adam Schiff. Furious. Because he “made things up.” And “making things up” is treasonous. Like making up a scenario where you were at Ground Zero helping search for survivors. Like making up a scenario where the head of the Boy Scouts called you to praise your speech to a jamboree. Like making up a scenario where you have people on the ground with “proof” the 44th president is a Kenyan-born Muslim. Like making up a military pay raise to troops standing before you. Like making up inaugural attendance figures. Like making up voter fraud in states you failed to win.

Watch this.

And tell me this man is well.

Also, to be clear, this dates back. As you know by now, I wrote a book about the United States Football League—the 1983-85 NFL rival that Trump killed. During that span he lied to the other USFL owners about meetings with TV executives, about league finances, about a meeting with the NFL commissioner. He lied under oath during the USFL v. NFL trial.

He lies.

And lies.

And lies.

And he’s crazy as fuck.

I was going to buy a house from Mary Goulet …

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I was going to buy a house from Mary Goulet.

Granted, I’m not moving to San Diego. Or even planning a move to San Diego. But—for the sake of this blog post—I was going to buy a house from Mary Goulet, realtor and possessor of your dream home. It seemed like a good idea. No, a GREAT idea!

Then I found her Twitter feed

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And as much as I desperately want to buy a home from Mary Goulet, I can’t possibly do it.

Why? Because how could anyone trust her judgement? I’m being serious. The previous owner of the home tells her there are five bathrooms. She counts three. “No, there are five,” the seller says.

“OK,” she replies. “There are five.”

She’s concerned about a neighborhood. “I hear there’s been a lot of crime here,” she says to the local Chamber of Commerce head.

“No,” he replies, “it’s great here.”

“OK,” she says. “I guess it’s great here.”

Mary is the personification of #MAGA—a lemming believer in a man who has lied and lied and lied. A lemming participant in the #FAKENEWS propaganda spread who has (I’m guessing) never asked why Donald Trump hung fake Time Magazine covers inside his country clubs; why he created a fictional publicist to present his side; why he continued to hire undocumented immigrants well after damning undocumented immigrants.

She certainly never asked how Mr. #Fakenews has repeatedly lied about his role in 9.11. Has never asked why he continues to take credit for nonexistent patriotic acts in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack.

Why?

Because that would take thought.

A house-sized amount of thought.

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Walking the sideline

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My son Emmett’s flag football season starts today.

He’s 12 and a member of the Raiders. In the past he’s played quarterback, but—if we’re being honest—he’s a little too much Henry Burris, a bit too little Lamar Jackson. Meaning, this year, he’s the center.

I digress.

Yesterday was the team’s third practice, and yesterday also marked the third time one of the dads paced the sidelines, instructing his son from 20 yards away. In the old days, this sorta thing would ultimately prompt me to mutter something loud enough for the guy to hear. But I’ve calmed a bit with age, and now I merely weep for the poor child who needs to endure this on a weekly basis.

I do wonder, however: Why?

Why would a parent behave this way?

Why would a parent think he’s adding something to his kid’s experience?

Why would a parent think a volunteer head coach wants these types of contributions?

Why would anything think flag football—flag fucking football?!—justifies this level of interest and intrusion?

I’m 47, and my kids are 16 and 12. I’m (praise Jesus) coming toward the end of their youth sports careers—land of moms and dads with radar guns; land of moms and dads barking from behind home plate; land of moms and dads browbeating their kids for giving up on a loose ball.

It’s a plague.

Fifty NBA centers better than Al Horford

Gilmore: Best Afro ever.

Gilmore: Best Afro ever.

So in case you missed this, yesterday morning Bleacher Report posted a ranking of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. It was an awful list compiled by a well-intended young man who, I truly believe, never watched a game dated pre-2000.

What got me most, though, was the HONORABLE MENTIONS section, which included such men as Jimmy Butler, Jeff Hornacek, Kyle Lowry and … Al Horford.

I mean, what the fuck? A. The list was brutal. B. Al Horford? Seriously? I noted on Twitter that Horford wouldn’t be on my list of the NBA’s 50 all-time greatest centers, and someone called me on the statement.

So, for kicks, here is my non-Al Horford-included 50 Greatest Centers in NBA History. No charge …

• 1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The greatest basketball player of all time, in my opinion. Legend in high school, legend in college, legend in the NBA.

• 2. Bill Russell: Guy is only 6-foot-10, but eras change and he owned the late-1950s through much of the 1960s. Eleven NBA titles, the greatest defensive center to ever live.

• 3. Wilt Chamberlain: The guy was a seven-time NBA scoring champion whose battles with Russell are the stuff of legend. Selfish, moody, lotta lotta lotta erections. But a gifted low-post god.

• 4. Hakeem Olajuwon: The Bleacher list had David Robinson ahead of the Dream. The Bleacher list is in my trash with some old cheese and a sock with a bunch o’ holes in it. Two-time NBA champ on a team with not all that much talent. Twelve-time All-Star. Moves unlike any other.

• 5. Shaquille O’Neal: Just a dominant, Wilt-like presence who arrived in Los Angeles and—as promised—produced three titles. Then went to Miami and won a fourth.

• 6. Tim Duncan: I think of Duncan as a power forward. You think of Duncan as a center. We’ll say center—because when David Robinson left he slid over and owned the league. Just a smooth, unassuming, breathtaking court owner.

• 7. Moses Malone: The guy was so ridiculously good, and the way people overlook his dominance kills me. Won in Houston, went to Philly and won in Philly. As physically strong as anyone who ever played the position.

• 8. David Robinson: Here’s an interesting way to look at Robinson’s greatness. One year before his arrival out of Navy, the Spurs went 21-61. With The Admiral, they added 35 victories. Yes, he was that good.

• 9. George Mikan: This is weird territory, because were Mikan and Patrick Ewing to play an imaginary in-their-prime game, Ewing probably wins 20-3. Fuck, Mikan probably loses to Luc Longley. But for his era, he was an elite post presence who changed the game.

• 10. Patrick Ewing: He never won a title, and people skewer him for that. Maybe rightly so. But without Ewing, the Knicks were a sad-sack operation. With him, they were a decade-long contender.

Ewing.

Ewing.

• 11. Dolph Schayes: See Mikan, George.

• 12. Bob McAdoo: It’s weird—people my age remember him as a reserve with the Lakers, and that’s a bit unfair. In his prime with Buffalo, McAdoo was an all-everything center who led the league in scoring three-straight seasons.

• 13. Alonzo Mourning: Bleacher Report placed both Zo and Horford on its Honorable Mention list. Which is like noting both salt and nasal drip are fine condiments.

• 14. Artis Gilmore: The one thing I hear over and over about Gilmore—he was immovable in the post. Just a clamp that couldn’t be dislodged. Another guy whose career goes painfully overlooked.

• 15. Walt Bellamy: To go all Pulp Fiction on this list, Bellamy was a bad-ass motherfucker. The 1963 Rookie of the Year averaged 20.1 points and 13.7 rebounds per game over the course of his career.

• 16. Dikembe Mutombo: I was never a huge Dikembe fan. But facts are facts, and he’s probably right behind Russell as the greatest defensive big man in NBA history.

• 17. Bill Walton: Walton’s UCLA career is legendary. His NBA career was, sadly, injury plagued. But when he was great, he was spectacularly great.

• 18. Robert Parish: Yes, the 1980s Celtics are Larry Bird and the 1980s Celtics are Kevin McHale. But to have watched that team is to appreciate the efficiency and hustle of their steadfast center.

• 19. Nate Thurmond: One of five players to average at least 15 rebounds per game over the course of a career. Think about that.

• 20. Wes Unseld: It’s unfortunate if—like me—you remember him first and foremost as a mediocre GM. Because the Bullets longtime center was a five-time All-Star whose confrontations with Kareem were always riveting.

Sampson, left, and The Dream

Sampson, left, and The Dream

• 21. Dwight Howard: Dwight Howard? Dwight Howard!? How can you be serious and list Dwight Howard among the best centers of all-time? Um, because from 2006-2014 he was doing things guys like Al Horford couldn’t imagine. Too often we envision guys as they are toward the end. Howard, in his prime, was fabulous.

• 22. Jack Sikma: It’s always befuddling how forgettable Sikma, considering he had Big Bird’s hair and played for some tremendous Sonics teams. Opposing players will tell you: Sikman was a star.

• 23. Dan Issel: Another guy who goes forgotten, but shouldn’t. In 10 years with Denver he averaged just shy of a double-double, with 22.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

• 24. Pau Gasol: It’s weird, but I don’t give Gasol the credit he deserves. Not sure why. Memphis years? Second fiddle to Kobe? Whatever the case—not fair to a six-time All-Star.

• 25. Bob Lanier: An eight-time All-Star who, over 14 NBA seasons, averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Also had the biggest feet anyone has ever seen (Size 22).

• 26. Neil Johnston: Yeah, he was only 6-foot-8. And, yeah, he probably doesn’t make a bench in 2019. But from 1951-59, Johnston was a six-time All-Star who averaged 19.4 points and 11.3 rebounds.

• 27. Dave Cowens: Legendary Celtic stud was an eight-time All-Star who averaged 17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game. Al Horford couldn’t sniff his shoes.

• 28. Willis Reed: Yeah, he limped onto the court to save the day. But his overall body of work, during a ridiculous era for big men: Worship-worthy.

• 29. Bill Laimbeer: The Darth Vader of the NBA was shockingly, shockingly good.

• 30. DeMarcus Cousins: Here’s the truth—I hate everything about Cousins as an NBA player. Truly, I do. Selfish, moody, dumb. But has he been a superior player to Horford? Until last year, yes. And the numbers don’t lie.

• 31. Vlade Divac: Ignore what I said earlier—sometimes stats do lie. Vlade’s numbers aren’t eye-popping, but he added 100 different positives to every team he played for. The Kings were Chris Webber and Mike Bibby. But, truly, they were little without Divac.

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• 32. Yao Ming

• 33. Brad Daugherty

• 34. Ralph Sampson

• 35. Karl-Anthony Towns

• 36. Johnny Kerr

• 37. Zydrunas Ilgauskas

• 38. Arnie Risen

• 39. Marc Gasol

• 40. Clyde Lovellette

• 41. Wayne Embry

• 42. Rik Smits

• 43. Joel Embiid

• 44. Chris Bosh

• 45. Ed Macauley

• 46. Larry Foust

• 47. Jeff Ruland

• 48. My Uncle Marty

• 49. Al Horford

•••

OK, I’ll give the guy 49. But only because Bill Cartwright’s Knick run wasn’t as grand as I remembered …

The chug heard around the world

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The best moment of any interview in the history of all interviews took place earlier today, when NBC’s Chuck Todd interviewed Republican Senator John Kennedy

… and took a chug from his coffee cup.

You probably need to watch the whole thing to understand, but as Kennedy—yet another Republican Trump lackey trying to somehow defend the conman president from the indefensible—blathered on and on and on about the media and innocence and Joe Biden and Ukrainian blah blah blah, Todd picked up his blue mug and took a big ol’ sip.

Honestly, it was a motherfucking sip for all of us in the working media. All of us who have heard #Fakenews. All of us who have had to endure the insults and slurs of a largely honorable workforce. All of us who had to sit and watch as far-right bloggers and conspiracy artists were invited to the Rose Garden. All of us who entered the field to uncover truth.

All of us.

Chuck Todd’s gulp said, “I’m exhausted. Of the lies and the deceit. Of the mindlessness. Of the viciousness. I’m tired of sitting here as some ignorant fuck who couldn’t pass seventh grade American history carried water for a man who couldn’t pass fourth grade American history.”

Drink on, bruh.

Drink on.

John Cardillo: Selective Patriot

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Sometimes certain people in this world catch your attention. And later, when someone asks, “What the fuck—are you obsessed?” the honest answer is a sound, “Yes. Yes, I am.”

So I’ll say it. This week, I am obsessed with a man named John Cardillo.

I wish I were obsessed in a good way. I wish I could look at him and think, “Boy, that’s a virtuous guy” or even, “Wow, what a handsome rascal.” I wish my obsession involved intellect, savvy, smarts, kindness. I wish I was looking at John Cardillo and listing all the things I could do to make sure my daughter and son wind up just … like … him.

Alas, my obsession is something different. It’s an obsession over the looming question: How the fuck does someone become … this?

In case you’ve never heard of John Cardillo, he’s a TV guy for Newsmax, a conservative outlet that can be watched in myriad forms. And while Newsmax isn’t my taste (I swore off all cable news about two years ago—one of the great decisions of my lifetime), I harbor no beef with people (left or right) making a living in media. If John Cardillo wants to spout off conservative ideals, hey, more power to him. Plus, he’s actually a pretty charismatic on-screen presence. I understand why people watch (lord knows it’s more interesting than The View).

But here’s what gets me. And gets me. And gets me. John Cardillo is not only a New Yorker—he’s a former member of the NYPD. A police officer. A cop. And even with all the controversies involving law enforcement in America: 2019, I genuinely admire and respect police officers. It’s a beast of a job, you put your life on the line, you exist to protect and defend. If nothing else, it’s about 10 million times more noble and decent than writing sports books. So, again, nothing but props for the NYPD.

But if you’re from New York, and you served in law enforcement in my city, you don’t merely know the horror of Sept. 11. You feel it. You own it. The tragedy was our tragedy. The people lost were our people. Two thousand, nine hundred and seventy seven innocents perished that day. Twenty three New York City police officers died, and a whopping 241 have lost their lives since from 9.11-caused illnesses. I’ve written at length about my 9.11 experience, and the tragedy/horror/awfulness doesn’t compare—even come close to compare—to what others went through. It’s the worst of the worst of the worst.

So, please, someone explain John Cardillo.

In considering this blog post, I did a quick Newspapers.com search, and found an interesting July 30, 2016 column from Michelle Malkin that featured a heavy dose of John Cardillo …

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While I’m no fan of Malkin, and I could certainly do without the extraneous swipes at Barack Obama, you read this and admire the basic concept. “Blue Light Friday”—the idea of honoring fallen officers. The idea of remembering police who died in the line of duty. It’s a sound concept, and I support it, and it seems that John Cardillo wants to do right. I mean, the quotes are angry and the messaging clunky. But he wants to.

So here’s what I don’t get: Donald Trump is president, and John Cardillo loves him. L-o-v-e-s him. Parrots him. Speaks like him. Tweets like him. All but kneels before him in a President McClure-before-Zod sorta way. And while (I suppose) from a policy standpoint that’s fine, it’s … it’s … SO FUCKING HYPOCRITICAL I WANT TO PULL MY (LITTLE-TO-NO) HAIR OUT.

John Cardillo hated how Barack Obama dishonored police officers. Fine. I disagree, but I hear the take. Yet here we have, in Donald Trump, a man who has repeatedly (and by “repeatedly,” I mean r-e-p-e-a-t-e-d-l-y) lied about 9.11 and his actions on that day.

This is not debatable. This is not left v. right. This is not open to interpretation. This is fact. On a day when nearly 3,000 New Yorkers died, Donald Trump has created a story (stories, really) of what he did.

In a speech not all that long ago, Donald Trump told a crowd that, in the days after the 9.11 terrorist attacks, he was at Ground Zero, helping search for survivors. Really, here’s the link. To quote Trump: “Everyone who helped clear the rubble—and I was there, and I watched, and I helped a little bit. But I wanna tell you—those people were amazing. Clearing the rubbing, trying to find additional lives. You didn’t know what was gonna come down on all of us.”

This is, factually, untrue. Save for conducting an interview near the site, Trump wasn’t at Ground Zero in the days after 9.11. He certainly wasn’t helping dig through the rubble. In another clip, right after the nightmare, Trump said he had hundreds of people helping with the relief effort—also untrue. Like, a lie. He also said this to an NBC reporter …

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Again—not true. In typical Trump speak, it was all very vague and lacking in specifics. Years later Richard Alles, a retired deputy chief with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), confirmed that Trump had no one helping out; that it was utter nonsense.

On Sept. 11, Donald Trump went on TV and bragged of now having Manhattan’s tallest building. Here’s the link—it’s unambiguous. Shortly thereafter, he went on Howard Stern’s show and pledged a $10,000 donation to the Twin Towers Find. He gave $0.00 (The lemmings will counter—”What! He donated $100,000, you libtard!” Which is sorta kinda true/not really true—immediately before the New York State primary in 2016, Trump made a $100,000 donation from his foundation to the 9.11 Museum. He has never given his own money.)

It’s all a lie.

All of it.

•••

But here’s what’s funny: I don’t care if people of John Cardillo’s ilk like Donald Trump. It’s a free country, and if you want to scream #FAKENEWS! alongside a man who created fake Time Magazine covers in his country clubs, who invented a publicist by disguising his voice … hey, go for it. If you want to stand alongside a man who lied about a military pay raise to the faces of soldiers and asked that disabled vets be removed from the stretch of street in front of Trump Tower … hey, go for it. If you think it’s awesome that the same guy whose businesses employed undocumented immigrants (until very recently) hammers the usage of undocumented immigrants … mazel. A fake university that bilked people of their money? Shit happens. Lying under oath at the USFL trial? Meh. Fucking a porn star 10 days after the birth of a child? Whoop-dee-doo-damn. Inventing a telephone call from the Boy Scouts of America? Child’s play.

If Donald Trump represents your viewpoints, if you like his mojo—own it. Be it. Stand by it.

But if you’re also going to stand up for police officers and firefighters; if you’re going to wave the flag and ooze patriotism and speak for the glory and honor of the United States of America, I’d argue that defending a man who (on the subject of our greatest tragedy, a day when your brothers died) has repeatedly, unabashedly created stories to up his Q rating isn’t merely pathetic.

It’s fucking shameful.

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