Jeff Pearlman

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Author Archives: Jeff Pearlman

I want a tattoo

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I want a tattoo.

I like the artistry.

I like the symbolism.

I think having an arm sleeve of ink is insanely cool.

I think honoring past relatives is touching.

I want THUG LIFE across my chest and 914 on my forearm. I want a photo of my dog and another one of my kids as babies. I can tattoo my wife on my back and my brother on my stomach. I used to hate tattoos, but I’ve really, truly, truly come to embrace them. Plus, I’m a stay-at-home writer in his mid-40s. The age of trying to impress that stodgy first or second employer is pretty much over. It’s my skin, and I can do whatever the hell I want with it.

That said, I have a near-chronic fear of needles.

So this will never happen.

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Samm Hodges

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Samm Hodges is a modern Hollywood story, in that modern Hollywood blows and eats its own and doesn’t know a good thing when it fucking sees it.

Sorry for the negativity.

Two years ago, the TV program he created, “Downward Dog,” kicked ass. It premiered at Sundance (a first for a network prigram), and was listed as one of the best shows of 2017 by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Collider, AV Club and Vox. Then, after eight episodes, ABC decided the show needed to be cancelled. Because, somewhere, the soulless number crunchers decided that, according to the portfolio ratio of the accounting figures pertaining to the abstract estimates of …

God, show business sucks.

To be blunt, Hodges is a genius. Check out his website to see all the amazing commercials and shows that have emerged from his brain.

Then read the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Samm, you were the creator of “Downward Dog,” a show that aired on ABC last season, received great reviews, lasted six of planned eight episodes then was canceled. And my takeaway is—Hollywood fucking sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks, sucks. Am I exaggerating the point?

SAMM HODGES: Well, yes and no. For me, coming from advertising, Hollywood has been a step up for sure. We have a union!

And with Downward Dog, all eight originally ordered did air as designed, and we got a season two order from ABC, but things fell apart on the studio side—which I’m still a little confused about… so in that way, yes it sucks.

But then again, anyone who ever has a show on television is super lucky, even if it’s brief.

J.P.: Being serious—the show was funny, original, terrific. But also expensive. And that appears to be what doomed it. But that also seems simplistic. So what happened?

S.H.: Thank you!

It was always a long shot. When we sold to ABC, they were interested in doing more ‘Netflix style’ content. This is back in 2015, when ‘Netflix style’ meant ‘grounded, high-quality.’

In the end, Michael Killen and I (he’s the co-creator) made what we set out to make, and, with a talking dog show, as our first fore into television, we’re happy to have made a single season we’re proud of, given the alternatives.

I mean, we were the first network comedy to debut at Sundance! I regret nothing.

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J.P.: OK, so I’m reading your bio and this sentence leaps from the page—” He dropped out of Bible college in 2007 and just hasn’t been able to find the time to go back.” Um … please explain.

S.H.: I once was lost, by now I’m found. Except backwards?

I came from a super religious home and was ‘on fire for Jesus’ in 2003… but then over time, I started to realize that life was more complicated than the narratives I’d grown up with would suggest.

J.P.: I’ve had my books optioned for film, oh, a dozen times. And nothing has ever happened. You faced tons of rejection on “Downward Dog” before it saw the light. How did you not lose your shit? Lose hope? I’m actually being serious, because it’s been a struggle for me.

S.H.: You know, the success was harder, in the moment, than the rejection, just because of the amount of pressure. We really were thrown into the fire, and I had some really tough moments

I guess the rejection was almost more expected.

But I wasn’t on the end you are. Books that are optioned often sit on the shelf for decades and there’s zero rush. At least in my case, I can actively take steps to produce the things I’m writing.

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J.P.: You directed a visually stunning commercial for Red Bull called “Flight.” This fascinates me. Like, where did the concept come from? How much of commercial work is your vision v. theirs? And even though it’s a sales pitch, can a commercial give you true satisfaction? Or is it about the dough?

S.H.: Commercials are, for me, experiments. I still do them, and if you don’t need them to artistically fulfill you, they’re great. It’s amazing practice – a trial run for set and managing expectations and growing in communication skills… all stuff that’s invaluable.

And each commercial is different, so you get to explore new visual style, camera tricks, new actors, etc.

J.P.: How did this happen for you? Like, why film and TV? Was there a lightbulb moment in your life? A sliver in time that sent you in this direction?

S.H.: I got lucky! Also worked really hard.

Look, most people in Hollywood come from money/Ivy League colleges. That’s not my story. But my manager is a guy who came from a similar background as me, and I think that helped him connect to my story and work. But the truth is, if he hadn’t walked into the office where I was working and saw the things I was making, I wouldn’t be doing the projects I’m working on today.

J.P.: You’re very political on Twitter—which I love. But I wonder, as a guy trying to establish himself, if there’s a risk of turning people off? Potential employers? Viewers? Is that something to consider? Does it not matter?

S.H.: Ha, well I’m trying to be way more positive this year. I’m a naturally opinionated person, but I’m not always proud of my relationship with social media, and it’s something I’m very much evaluating. Less in terms of turning off employers or viewers, more in terms of my own personal mental health and whether or not I’m contributing to the already incredibly acerbic “conversation” happening online.

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J.P.: What’s your writing process? You have an idea. You wanna do something with it. What happens next?

S.H.: Uhhh … depends. Sketch out some ideas, day dream on it. Then call my agent or manager or a producer I really like and try to pitch it to them, see if it sticks. Then, if it gets a laugh or peaks some interest, go write something, draw something, render something – depends … just take if forward and see if my interest flags. I think a good idea is like a blood trail – it’s leading you somewhere. Sometimes it gets lost, then a year later, you find it again.

Sometimes I just go start shooting something and then regret it later.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

S.H.: Greatest moment of my career was live tweeting Downward Dog with fans, hearing from them, getting fan art in the mail, just seeing how it impacted people’s lives. Lowest point was during the pilot process for the same show, when it all looked like it was falling apart and it was all my fault and I felt very unfunny and everything was terrible.

J.P.: What’s your coolest moment with fame? Coolest person you met? Or biggest person you met? Or being recognized? Give us something …

S.H.: You know, something really cool was getting to cast Nichelle Nichols in Downward Dog. She played Uhura in the original Star Trek, and was for many people, the first woman of color they ever saw on TV. Truly a living legend, and it was an incredible honor to get to work with her.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH SAMM HODGES:

• What sort of impact has the two Ms in Samm had on your life?: I am googleable (:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Andy Van Slyke, Allison Tolman, Kyrsten Sinema‏, Nikita Kucherov, Wesley Snipes, Barenaked Ladies, Chuck D, ugly slippers, Sharpies, Adrian Grenier: I don’t have opinions about most of these people, but I love Allison and Barenaked Ladies. There’s no reason for slippers to be ugly, and sharpies make a nice sound on paper, so they can’t be all bad.

• Five reasons one should make Pittsburgh his/her next vacation destination?: 1. The neighborhoods. Its such a historic city, and you’ll feel like a time traveler. Get lost, end up at a polish grocer or a fish fry in a catholic church basement.; 2. Cheep beer. Best dives in the country. Some of these dives have (probably illegal) beers for less than a buck. Yuengling!; 3. The Mattress Factory! One of the coolest art museums in the country and just blocks from my old house. Yayoi Kusama before she was famous!; 4. Everyone knows everyone. If you’re there for a week, you’ll already be running into someone you know and feel like a local; 5. Paige Dairy Mart. Yelp that shit.

• Most likely for Donald Trump—two more years, six more years, impeachment, prison?: Two more years, then indictment, conviction, and pardon. Womp womp.

• Who are the five greatest dog actors of your lifetime?: Haha see, I’m not really a dog movie guy! Dogs are great! They all win!

• What’s the movie scene that makes you cry?: Malcom X makes me cry every goddamn time I watch it.

Also when Beth dies in Little Women.

And I can’t even finish Beasts of The Southern Wild.

• Tell me three things about one of your cousins: I only have 5 cousins! But Kate was a voice actor in A Bug’s Life, has a twin sister, and left LA to move back to Santa Barbara so I’ll never forgive her.

• In exactly 18 words, make a case for TGI Friday’s: I’ve been here twice and you know exactly what you’re getting, even if you have never been there.

• If you’re Jack, and you’re in the water freezing, why not at least try jumping onto the door and lying next to Rose?: Because Jack knows that Rose has a lot of emotional baggage to work out, and their lives will end in inevitable bickering about whether or not to have children, which makes the water seem not quite so bad really.

• The Mets haveadded Robinson Cano. How will that impact your family?: I have no idea  what this means!

Olivia Jade is having a bad day. And I’m comfortable with that.

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Born on third, bunted into college.

I hate to do this to a kid.

Truly, I do.

Kids are kids. They struggle. They make terrible mistakes. Once, when I was a student at the University of Delaware, I created an April Fool’s issue for the student newspaper and superimposed our quarterback’s head atop a shortstatured person’s body. That was v-e-r-y bad judgment, committed because—again—I was a kid, and I was young, and I was dumb.

So, again, I hate to do this to a kid, because I remember what it was to be one.

However, I’m pretty sure I was never … this. I was never a kid who would have been comfortable with my parents buying my way into a college I otherwise could not qualify to attend. I was never a kid who wouldn’t have realized that—in cheating the system—I was taking the spot of someone else who actually deserved to be there. I was never a kid who needed to get into a certain college—ethics, decency be damned. I was never a kid whose family had $500,000 available to make an under-the-table payment to a fixer.

In case you’ve been asleep, I’m referring to Olivia Giannulli, daughter of Mossimo Giannulli and the actress Lori Loughlin. And, according to ABC News, the two parents agreed to “pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team—despite the fact that they did not participate in crew—thereby facilitating their admission to USC.”

This, from Jezebl’s Ashley Reese:

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Now, there are a million places to go with this. So I’ll start here: Fuck this kid and fuck this family. Seriously, I feel like punching a fucking wall. You people are wealthy. You’re loaded. You’re in the one percent’s one percent. Hell, your damn kid told her followers in a video last year: “I don’t know how much of school I’m gonna attend. But I’m gonna go in and talk to my deans and everyone, and hope that I can try and balance it all. But I do want the experience of like game days, partying … I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”

I.

Need.

To.

Punch.

A.

Wall.

Right.

Now.

I should probably note that young Olivia is a social media “influencer”—a term that translates to, “No redeeming talents, but pretty/perky/popular enough to get free shit from companies, then have lemming followers go out and purchase said free shit, thereby assuring you increased volumes of free shit.” She has more than one million Instagram followers and more than two million YouTube followers, and regularly posts nonsense like this …

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I would actually like to take a moment to note:

A. No college student should be allowed to have a dorm room that looks like that.

B. Turns out Olivia wasn’t actually a college student, per se, so ignore Point A.

C. This is a shot of my college dorm room, circa 1994.

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D. Those are my roommates—Scott (left) and Paul. If you look on the table, you’ll see a bagel that sat there (quite literally) for seven or eight weeks. The Gatorade jug was filled with sand and served as a weight. The carpet smelled of vomit and butt. The couch smelled only of butt. It’s what college is supposed to look like.

E. But, again, Olivia isn’t a college student. Mommy and Daddy bought her way in.

•••

The wife and I spoke at length about this today, and she wrote this on-point post. I would like to tell you I’m horrified, because I am. I would also like to tell you I’m shocked—but I’m not. There’s a reality in the United States, and it’s this: Being white and having money gets you all sorts of shit, and being white and having money and being famous gets you even more shit. It’s a fact, and the reason why I laugh—audibly, but not happily—when I hear whites complaining about the unfairness of Affirmative Action.

Lastly, I don’t actually get it. You’re Mossimo Giannulli and Lori Loughlin. You’ve raised your kid to be this (apparently) wealthy, spoiled, famous millennial poster child (not in a good way, to be clear). Don’t you want to give her some understanding of accountability? Even just a little? Fuck, before Lori Loughlin was an actress on Full House, she was a kid in Hauppauge, Long Island. Her father was a foreman for the New York Telephone Company. She attended public high school. Doesn’t any of that exist? Even a morsel?

Furthermore, what would be soooooooo awful if Olivia, say, spends a year at Saddleback Community College to see if she even wants to attend school? Would that bring so much shame to your B-list family? Is that simply unbearable?

Because right now, somewhere in America, there’s a hard-working kid whose dream of attending Southern Cal was steamrolled.

Because some rich assholes forked over half a mill.

PS: Apparently Olivia turned off the comments section on her social media feeds. This seems wise. But someone still slipped this in. Perfectly stated …

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Ruby

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Sitting in my local Dunkin’ Donuts. Woman comes to the counter to take my order. Her name tag reads RUBY.

I love the name Ruby. Plus, she looks pretty tired and miserable. “Ruby,” I say. “Great name.”

“Thank you,” she mumbles.

“You like your name?” I say. “It’s great.”

“No,” she says. “Hate it.”

“Why?” I ask.

“There’s a song ‘Ruby.’ There’s the restaurant. I don’t like it.”

She gives me my drink, and I quickly note that, back in the day, the youngest daughter on “The Cosby Show” was Ruby.

Ruby shrugs at me, says, “I don’t know what that is.”

She’s too young.

Plus, I remember in hindsight, the kid’s name was actually Rudy.

Every day should be Quinton McCracken Day

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I learned earlier today that the Tampa Bay Rays will be bringing back their vintage uniforms for a bunch of games this season.

This made me think back to my early days covering the Majors for Sports Illustrated.

Which made me think of Quinton McCracken.

If you’ve never heard of Quinton McCracken, well, shame on you. Because Quinton McCracken may well be the most pleasurable name in the history of the human tongue. Seriously, take a second, stop reaching and just say it aloud—Quinton McCracken. Q-u-i-n-t-o-n M-c-C-r-a-c-k-e-n. See? Fantastic, right?

I’ve always had a soft spot for McCracken, first because his name is Quinton McCracken. Second, because his name is Quinton McCracken. Third, because he was the best player on the expansion Rays. Fourth, because he was the rare Major Leaguer to have played baseball at Duke. Fifth, because at the time I name dropped my friend and colleague, Seth Davis, on Quinton and it worked. Sixth, because he was an exceedingly nice guy to deal with, and had zero airs about him.

McCracken is back working for the Rays, which is cool because now a whole new generation of Tampa baseball fans (all six of them) will be required to say Quinton McCracken.

A blessed day it is.

“I will always tell you the truth.”

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One of the best things Jimmy Carter did when he ran for the United States Presidency in 1975-76 is promise people he would speak truthfully. During a debate with then-President Gerald Ford, he literally said, “I will always tell you the truth.”

It wasn’t hard to believe. Both Carter and Ford were known as decent, honest men—political leanings be damned.

That was more than 40 years ago, but—when considering Donald Trump—it feels like 400 years ago.

In case you missed this, during a private event the other day Trump bashed the #FakeNews Media for lying about the president referring to Tim Cook of Apple as “Tim Apple.” He supposedly went on and on about it; yet another angry, irrational rant that …

Made no sense.

There is, quite literally, video of Trump referring to Cook as “Tim Apple.” And the funny thing is—who gives a shit? We all made blunders, mistakes, slip-ups. Trump could have owned this simply by making a joke. You know, “Well, Apple is so ubiquitous you pretty much are Tim Apple.” Haha, heehee, he wins points for being human.

But no—that’s not Donald Trump. When one is a habitual liar, he lies about everything. Small, big, significant, insignificant. The question is—how long will people allow themselves to be lied to? When do you hear the falsehoods and think, “If he’s lying to him and her and her and him and them and them and them, he’s lying to me, too”? I mean, it’s weird, right? He talks of loving the media, but skipping the draft five times, mocked a POW for being captured, mocked a Gold Star Family. He rips fake news, yet had fake Time covers hanging in his country clubs. He hugs the flag, yet contributed $0.00 to 9.11 causes and lied about the 44th president being a Kenyan-born Muslim.

At some point, a liar is just a liar.

And you stop believing him.

Death of a USFL center

Davis, left, with President Gerald Ford

Davis, left, as an undergrad at Nebraska with President Gerald Ford

Tom Davis died a few days ago, and the world didn’t flinch.

Davis was a former Nebraska center who played three seasons with the Denver Gold of the USFL. Save this obit by Steven M. Sipple in the Lincoln Journal Star, I heard nothing of his passing. Which isn’t surprising—Davis, like the vast majority of professional football players, lived largely in the shadows. You’ll always have your Antonio Browns and Eli Mannings. But there are 50 other guys for every one shining star. The come, they play, they leave, they fold back into society. Especially if they’re named “Tom Davis.”

When I heard of the passing, I opened up my Tom Davis interview file from research for “Football for a Buck,” my USFL chronicling from last year. I remembered Davis was not in wonderful health when we spoke and, indeed, he died of causes related to dementia. Scanning through the transcript, two things stood out.

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• 1. When I asked Davis for his most memorable USFL moment, he offered these three gems …

A. “I cashed my weekly check and it bounced. And I went into the GM and said, ‘You have exactly 12 hours to give me a certified check or I go to the newspaper and have this printed, that your check to a player bounced.’  He said, ‘We changed banks, we’ve had a little trouble,’ but he gave me a certified check. That was weird.”

B. “The last game I ever played in professional football was against Memphis and Reggie White. And he just beat the shit out of me. He beat me like a red-headed stepchild. Oh, man—he just beat me to shit. I think he had three unassisted tackles, five assisted tackles, two sacks. He just killed me. It was the last game I ever played, and it was against Reggie. It wasn’t pretty.”

C. “The weirdest USFL moment for me was we were on out own two-yard line. I set up the huddle in the end zone, and I look up into the end zone seats and there’s a guy pissing his pants. He’s sitting spread out in a chair, and you can see the darkness coming down his legs. Jesus Christ, this guy is pissing his pants. That’s pretty stupid.”

• 2. Davis was the only player in Gold history to appear in all 54 regular season games. He told me a sports writer once called to tell him such, and his response was, “Really, who the fuck cares?”

Tom Davis wanted to organize a Gold reunion. He thought it’d be fun.

Alas, it never came to be.

RIP

Davis (52) is in the third row from top

Davis (52) is in the third row from top

No one has ever been this cool

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So the above photograph hangs in my office. I believe (yikes) I sorta, eh, swiped it from the Sports Illustrated library years ago. It was taken Nov. 4, 1981, and features my favorite boyhood ballplayer, Ken Griffey, Sr., on the day he was introduced as a New York Yankee.

In my eyes, no one has ever again reached this level of coolness.

Hell, look at Griffey. The hat sitting atop a puffed-up Afro. The shirt, buttoned open to just such a level. The gold chain. The dark shirt with the beige jacket. The body language—”Yeah, I’m rich and playing for the Yankees. What do you do?” The logo. The casual expression. The microphones, anxious to pick up his words.

Yes, Griffey will go on to have the worst season of his career—hitting .277 with just 10 stolen bases for a dysfunctional Yankee club. But … who cares? I wanted to be Ken Griffey, Sr., and I proceeded to buy all of his baseball cards, form a mini-fan club and scream out his name alongside my grandparents during blissful spring training visits back when the organization was in Ft. Lauderdale.

More than two decades later, I was in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse when a writer, the great Hal McCoy, introduced me to Griffey.

I’ve asked questions of presidents and movie stars and Hall of Famers from all sorts of sports.

Never, however, have I been speechless.

Save for that moment, with Ken Griffey, Sr.

The coolest dude ever.

Don’t pose for photographs with jaguars

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One thing I like about this blog is the blessed opportunity to share life lessons with readers. A lot of people charge big bucks for this type of information, but I’m not that genre of human. I’ve walked the planet for 46 years, and I want to contribute ideas to societal betterment.

So, in God’s cherished name, here’s one: Don’t pose for photographs with the jaguars.

Seriously, it’s not that hard. They’re behind walls and barriers for a reason. They have sharp claws, sharp teeth … AND THEY WILL KILL YOU, THEN EAT YOU (Perhaps not in that order). So, seriously, leave them alone. Your selfie isn’t that important. And, if I’ve failed to mention this, THEY WILL KILL YOU, THEN EAT YOU (Perhaps not in that order). So stay away. Far away. Don’t view the wall as a minor inconvenience, standing between you and an important piece of documented history. No, view the wall as a wall, there to make sure you don’t get dead. Because, in case you didn’t hear this about jaguars, THEY WILL KILL YOU, THEN EAT YOU (Perhaps not in that order).

I don’t take pleasure in the misery of others. I actually feel sorta bad for the woman who scaled the wall at the Wildlife World Zoo in Arizona. First, because she was hurt. But second, because social media all but guarantees we will learn her name, and for the rest of her life she’ll be known as that idiot who wanted to take a selfie with a jaguar. That’s pretty inescapable material, and it’s not undeserved.

But, on the bright side, she’s not dead.

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