Jeff Pearlman

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On Dylan Favre

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My new Bleacher Report piece came out today. It’s a profile of Dylan Favre, Brett Favre’s nephew and the backup quarterback at UT-Martin.

Here’s the link.

I’m not one to gush, but, well, I really took to this guy. I’m a fan of redemptive stories, and that’s pretty much Dylan’s life. He was the typical cocky high school quarterback who lived football-football-football, then one day woke up and realized, “Um, there are many things more important …”

Anyhow, I hope y’all read and enjoy.

The Bleacher Report experience has been a blessing for me. They’ve allowed me to dig deep into pieces—word count be damned, travel be damned. It’s all one can ask for.

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Ted Spiker

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Back when I arrived as a freshman at the University of Delaware in 1990, I was told of the legend of Ted Spiker.

Ted had been editor of the student newspaper, The Review, and he was—by all accounts—awesome. Phenomenal writer. Insanely smart. Terrific people skills. Shaped like a pear. Understood the medium. Cared fo—

Wait.

Stop.

I never actually heard that Ted was shaped like a pear. Yet he did—throughout his life. People would mock his shape, bemoan his shape, ridicule his shape. He was a great guy with an awkward physique, and—internally—it sorta haunted him. Or, put different, Ted was one of millions of Americans who looked in the mirror and cringed.

Now, in a very public way, he’s talking about it.

Ted’s fantastic new book, Down Size: 12 Truths for Turning Pants-Splitting Frustration into Pants-Fitting Success, is both humorous and serious; a self-deprecating look at one man’s fight to maintain a healthy lifestyle (as well as a riveting study of the biology and psychology of weight loss). Ted is a well-known fitness-oriented writer whose work includes myriad books, as well as his regular blog for Runner’s World. He is a journalism professor at the University of Florida (for my money, the best journalism professor in the country. I truly mean that), as well as a brilliant tap dancer who studied at the Gregory Hines Institute.

OK, I made that last part up.

One can visit Ted’s website here and follow him on Twitter here.

It’s my pleasure to welcome Ted Spiker, proud Gator Blue Hen, to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Ted, I’m gonna start untraditional. I’ve met many overweight people—severely overweight—who have said something along the lines of, “I was always trying to lose weight, and I finally said to myself, ‘I am who I am, and I’m going to love myself.’” Meaning, I’m obese—and that’s OK. I hate to admit this, but I often think to myself, “You tried, you failed, it didn’t work—so you’re saying what you need to say to protect yourself. But it’s unlikely you feel great weighing 400 pounds.’ Am I being a dick? Too cynical? Is it OK to be obese, if one is OK being obese?

TED SPIKER: I think you nailed exactly what a lot of overweight or obese people do: Protect themselves. We do it with baggy clothes, we do it by staying out of the public and out of photos, we do it by making jokes about ourselves [I’m raising my right hand right now; my left hand has a yogurt-covered pretzel in it]. It’s hard enough to be overweight—and then you have to admit you feel like crap, too? That’s a lot to handle, so we say that we’re OK. But I think you’re right on the big point. Chances are that there aren’t many truly obese people who do love their bodies.

But here’s where the tricky part is: We should be more accepting of flaws, of not being perfect, of realizing that there are ranges of weights and shapes and sizes. And I think that the sweet spot on the grid is being able to make sure your numbers beyond the scale (blood pressure, blood sugar) are good and then accepting the fact that you aren’t going to look like Kate Upton or David Beckham or whoever it is you think has the ideal body. Perfection isn’t the goal. Good health, high energy, and feeling good about your body (flaws and all) is the goal.

For those outliers who are truly happy and really heavy, you asked if it was ok to be obese. I don’t necessarily think we should underestimate how hard it can be for someone to turn a lifestyle around, so it’s hard for me to tsk-tsk anyone and say, shame on you, it’s not OK to be obese. But the reality is that yes, obesity is a burden not just for the individual, but for families, significant others, and the health-care system.

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J.P.: So I’m deep into your book, and fascinated. I’m a big fan of people who mock themselves—and you’re pretty ruthless about your body, body image, etc. How did you develop the comfort level to expose yourself on such a public level? Was it a process? Easy?

T.S.: So you’re probably referring to the parts when a classmate said I had child-bearing hips. And some other spots when people take their shots at my body shape. I guess I’ve always been pretty ha-ha-ha about it—I try to take my work seriously, but not myself. And I also think guys are able to pull off the fat-funny guy routine. Look at Chris Farley or Kevin James or Zach Galifianakis. Fat is like a comedian’s prop—it’s an antagonist and works well into a storyline. And I guess at some point, I just realized that you can beat yourself up about it (which I’ve done) or you can have fun, not take yourself so seriously (if you don’t have serious health issues, which I didn’t or don’t). I still cringe at pictures and I’m not great with my body shape, though I’m a million times better. I just learned that body image is so less important … It’s not as important as what I try to do as a father, in my career, in my personal goals, in everything. It’s one piece, but not the whole piece. And even though body image can influence every other aspect of your life, I think it’s about figuring out how to put it in perspective with everything else. Like really, how does the shape of my hips have anything to do with how I try to teach my kids about sportsmanship?  And if I have a sausage and mushroom pizza every once in a while, does that mean I’m less of a teacher or writer? Would I like to wake up and be the ideal weight with the ideal body-fat percentage and be able to buy a pair of pants that fits right? Uh, yeah. But when you starting sinking your energy into other goals—for me, it was trying to learn to surf and trying to complete an Ironman—you worry less about your khakis and think more about the big picture and all the stuff goes into that.

J.P.: You’ve written books with other people, but never with your name big, bold and solo. I’m wondering what sort of adjustment, as a writer, this took—if any. Did you find the process intimidating? Daunting? Or no biggie?

T.S.: In my other books (I’ve co-authored about a dozen), I was definitely the offensive lineman (and not just because of body type). My job was to block, provide support, and make room for the MVPs. And I loved being part of that process—it was truly a cool process to do a book as a team where everybody is contributing different skill sets. So yeah, when it shifted to the sole-authored book, I did feel more pressure, but also more ownership obviously—that I could tell the story that I wanted: A book that looked at the biology and psychology of weight loss and diets with an equal mix of science and soul. So it’s not a plan or a prescription, and I tried to venture into a sort of hybrid genre—a bit of narrative, a bit of humor, a bit of science, and a bit of how-to. I hope I’m not too heavy-handed, but give readers enough tales and information to help them go in the direction they want to do. And it was really nice to work with a great editor (Caroline Sutton of Hudson Street Press) and a great agent (David Black) who helped me hone and shape and solidify the best way to tell this story.

But there is also more of a sense of pressure. I know you’ve written about the gut-wrenching that comes when you find a mistake. I think I’m going to be okay if people don’t like it or my humor doesn’t fit their style, but I’m going to beat myself up with any stupid mistakes.

But truth is … after a dozen books as that offensive lineman, it’s pretty cool to carry the ball. When I first saw the design of the cover, I loved it—and not because of my name, but because the designers at Hudson Street Press nailed it. Great, fun image—just the right amount of humor, I think.

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J.P.: Why are we, as a country, so fucking fat?

T.S.: Any number of reasons: We don’t walk from point-to-point anymore to go the store or wherever, we sit all day in our jobs, cheese, Scandal and Modern Family and Orange is the New Black and whatever else you like encourages you to stay on the couch when you’re not working, Dairy Queen is effing good, mashed potatoes, being busy makes us tired and tired make us not want to do anything but eat bowls of Doritos, and on and on. Take all that into consideration and making good choices feels like you’re swimming upstream. I can try all I want, but I’m not getting anywhere. It’s not that we don’t know what to do; it’s just that there are so many factors that steer us away from good decision. While I spend two chapters specifically on exercise and nutrition, I really spend most of the book exploring the psychological factors that determine what we do with exercise and nutrition. You know, things like motivation, inspiration, social networks, handling frustration and plateaus, and factors like that.

J.P.: There’s a moment in your book when I literally cringed. You teach journalism at the University of Florida, and a student—in an anonymous evaluation section—wrote, “Wear slacks that aren’t as baggy.” It just struck me as … cruel. Mean. Dickish. I’m wondering how you reacted, mentally. What went through your mind? And did you—as I would have—try to figure out who penned the words?

T.S.: Well, it was a class of more than 200 people, so there was really no way to try to figure out who said it. It stung, but I don’t think it was mean. I think the person was actually trying to help—like, “Dude, I like your class, but tighten up a bit.” Some would argue that appearance should be off-limits, but I was OK with it, because the student was right. My pants selection is an issue—can’t stand tight pants because of my ample gluteus, but if I find pants that will fit up and over that ampleness, they’re too baggy because they droop from my waist. “Why don’t you just get some pants tailored?” one might ask … I’ve started doing that, but for years I never would—because I always thought that if I took the time to tailor pants, that would mean I was satisfied with my size and I should stop pursuing goals. I know, kinda fucked up, but it’s really what I thought—when you yo-yo and never quite reach your goal, you don’t get clothes tailored because it feels like a permanent act, even though logic would dictate otherwise.

J.P.: You’ve worked with Dr. Oz a lot. He wrote the foreword to your book. I’m gonna be 100 percent honest—I’m always skeptical of people like him. Professional experts who then transcend the fame of their chosen profession. Dr. Phil. Dr. Drew. Etc. Tell me why I’m wrong to feel this way. Or right.

T.S.: Full disclosure: I’ve worked with Mehmet for 10 years. He’s my friend and one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with. He has the skills of a surgeon and the mind of a scientist, businessman, artist, and so much more. He’s hard-charging, but he’s also as genuine and passionate about helping people improve their health. He makes people feel good about themselves and he inspires people to do better.

I’m admittedly biased, so take my answer for what it’s worth. When he went through those hearings where politicians were questioning claims about diet claims on his show, it pissed me off, because, I felt like a lot of it was taken out of context. He doesn’t hawk products – anything you see on the internet using his name is some company using his image without his permission because he may have mentioned an ingredient on his show that could have some benefit. Where they wanted to grill him was in how he marketed those ingredients, and all I was thinking was, Wait, politicians are questioning about the marketing of a product? Isn’t that what politicians do during campaign season and in office? Nearly every single media organization and individual markets itself—tweets are marketing, “stay tuned for the puppy who saved a squirrel” is marketing, headlines are marketing. They’re all designed to draw you into the content (and subsequently get your eyeballs there to help finance the costs associated with the product). So is he wrong for marketing his show? No. He said at that hearing that some of his words were perhaps a little strong—and that’s a fine line that all media types straddle. How much is too much of a stretch in the “sell” of content? I don’t think anyone endorses any wrong or dangerous information that would be used to promo a show or anything, but if his show and his message helps people get healthy, ask questions, and come up with solutions they might have not otherwise known about, I can’t see how that’s a bad thing.

J.P.: I ask you, simply, “What’s the best way for me to lose weight?” I’m, oh, 10 pounds over, I probably eat too much, I go to the gym and do the StairMaster four days per week. How can I lose weight most effectively?

T.S.: If you have four days at the gym, I’d do weights two or three days and then high-intensity cardio for one or two days. That would be most efficient—muscle just chews up fat, and you’re not going to get all that bulky doing it (with some exceptions, but more factors have to be involved). But that doesn’t really even matter as much as the food: It all centers around what you eat more than you work out (though they go hand in hand and you get motivated to do each one the better you do the other). So the first step would have to be evaluating your food intake, figuring out where your hiccups are and how you can adjust your eating to have more real foods and nutrients, less processed gunk. Easier said than done, right? The X factor, I think, is taking your efforts from private to public—even if it’s just with one friend or with creating a small Facebook group to hold each other accountable, or doing group workouts once a week—where you just feed off each other’s energy, rather than feeding off the coconut cream pie.

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J.P.: What’s your life path? I mean, I know you attended Delaware, teach at Florida. But why writing? When did you realize, ‘This is for me!’ And when did your career head toward books, and wellness-themed books?

T.S.: I remember a high school English teacher complimented my writing to another student, or so he told me. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but music was a big part of high school—I did all the bands (marching, jazz, concert, orchestra pit) as a drummer/percussionist. But once I started writing and got inspired by my teachers at Delaware—Dennis Jackson, Chuck Stone, Bill Fleischman—I knew I wanted to keep going. I had a great experience at the school paper and learned a ton. There are a lot of similarities between music (especially percussion) and writing, so I do think one informed the other. Then when I got to grad school (Columbia), I got eaten up by the faculty there, and it was good for me. In my first magazine job, I fell in love with the creative aspect of it and telling stories of people, but when I jumped from a small magazine (Delaware Today) to Men’s Health, that’s where I started to focus on health and fitness. I knew that I wanted to teach and write, so I was fortunate enough to get this job at the University of Florida and still write magazine articles, the Big Guy Blog for Runner’s World, and books. And it really is the best of both worlds. I can reach small audiences in the classroom in (I hope) an impactful way to help students develop skills and critical thinking, as well as larger audiences in a different kind of way through my reporting and writing.

J.P.: Here’s my problem: I exercise, then I’m REALLY hungry. I don’t exercise, I’m less hungry. I feel like I actually gain more weight on days I exercise than on days I do shit. Is that logical? And can the argument be made I just shouldn’t exercise?

T.S.: Your problem is that you do that Stairmaster too much. Long cardio always makes me hungry as hell, too, especially swimming. I think adding more weights changes that a bit, but it’s easy to rationalize: “Hey, I worked out, I get sixteen doughnuts!” But the fact is, even if you’re exercising long and hard, you’re not burning nearly as much damage as you can do very quickly with a plate of junk. So I think a good strategy is to have some kind of protein (like some almond milk and protein powder) after a workout, which not only helps repair muscle that gets broken down, but also helps take the edge off so you don’t inhale an entire meat loaf. Coffee really works for me—just having a steady something to sip on helps keeping me from feeling like I need to go crazy.

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J.P.: Much is spoken about the downfall of journalism. When you and I came up, the goal … dream was to work in newspapers, have a byline, etc. You teach at Florida. Do you still advise folks to enter the profession? And what, for most, is the goal?

T.S.: Absolutely. It’s just that the profession has changed. There’s still a much-needed place for news. But it’s only one piece of the storytelling puzzle. There’s longform, there are tweets, there are service stories, there are videos, there are and will continue to be lots of places and genres of stories. It’s just that the model keeps shifting about how it’s published, disseminated, and talked about—and it can sometimes be hard to find the good stuff in the not-so-good stuff. But there will always be a place for people who can be creative, have voice, find original information, and construct a narrative. Sometime it will come in the form of these intricate and 3-D stories that you immerse yourself in, and sometimes they’ll be less than that. But the spectrum of possibilities, to me, is what makes it fun, not to mention an absolute necessity because of our thirst for information, entertainment, and connecting and engaging with other people.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH TED SPIKER:

• Rank in order (favorite to least):  Urban Meyer, Tubby Raymond, Tim Tebow, Bill Vergantino, David Lee, Spencer Dunkley, oranges, Grotto’s Pizza, the Scrounge, South Beach, Rehoboth Beach, Gators, Blue Hens: Gators, Blue Hens, Tubby Raymond, South Beach, Tim Tebow, the Scrounge, Spencer Dunkley, Bill Vergantino, David Lee, Grotto’s Pizza, Rehoboth Beach, oranges, Urban Meyer.

• Five reasons one should make Gainesville his next vacation destination?: Satchel’s pizza, Burritos Bros. guac, Ivey’s coffee blend, being in town for an on-the-line sports event in any of UF’s sports, college town with some unique outdoor landscape (majestic oaks, sun-bathing gators, springs nearby).

• Should Destiny’s Child get back together?: There’s no e´ in team.

• Your wife was once struck by lightning. What happened?: I know nothing of this. But I do know that I spelled lightning as lightening in the college paper. And I have never made that mistake again. [Jeff's note: It turns out she wasn't struck. My mistake. But fun to ask]

• Four pro sports teams that need to change their logos?: 76ers, Browns, Brewers, Edmonton Oilers

• Lowest moment during your marathon run?: Being passed by a juggling runner.

• Would you rather chop off your thumbs or have Madonna’s “This Used to Be My Playground” as your 24/7 life soundtrack for the next two years?: I need my thumbs for my space bar.

• How did you propose to your wife?: Picnic on our second anniversary of us seeing each other. Asked her father right before we left while she was getting her coat or something.

• Your biggest mistake as a college newspaper editor?: Publishing a racially insensitive editorial cartoon. And trying to dunk a tennis ball on a metal Planet of the Apes trash can. Still have the scars.

• One question you would ask Dixie Carter were she here right now?: What qualities make a southern gentleman?

Renee Zellweger and Faces

Who's the woman on the right?

Who’s the woman on the right?

Back when I used to work at Sports Illustrated, a colleague named Jennifer Wulff did an amazing Renee Zellweger impersonation. She’d squish her cheeks real tight and, with her lips as close together as humanly possible, blurt out, “You had me at hello!”

It was hilarious stuff, because Zellweger—talented, gorgeous—had a very squishy face. It wasn’t, by any means, unattractive. She was cute and pretty and sorta adorable. But you just wanted to pinch her cheeks. Here, look …

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 10.44.07 AMAnyhow, that was a long time ago. Jerry Maguire came out in 1996, when Zellweger was 27 and largely unknown. She proceeded to land some sweet acting gigs—Bridget Jones, Cold Mountain, Cinderella Man—and has had a career that, by any measures, would be considered a success.

And yet … Hollywood is a beast to actresses as they age. The parts dry up. The calls stop coming. Whereas once you were Tom Cruise’s love interest or Russell Crowe’s wife, now you’re the aunt with seven lines. You’re a narrator. You’re fighting to land a guest role on Black-ish. It isn’t fair, it isn’t fair, it isn’t fair, and as men like Clint Eastwood and Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves can continue to thrive into their 50s and 60s and 70s, woman such as Zellweger turn obsolete. Just wait. It’ll happen to Jennifer Garner, just as it happened to Renee.

But here’s the worst part: Hollywood fucks with minds. Zellweger was, truly, beautiful. She really was. However, it hurts to see what she’s become. The image that follows was taken a few days ago, at an event in Los Angeles …

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 10.52.27 AMYes, that’s Renee Zellweger. Without the cheeks. Without the quality facial chunkiness (I don’t mean “chunkiness” as fat; I mean it as normal facial shaping). She just looks like every other 40-something Botoxed and plastic-ed fake blonde Hollywood statue, emotionless, indistinguishable, utterly lacking uniqueness.

But I get it. She wants to act. It’s her career. The pressure screams, “Look younger! Look younger!” The surgeons scream, “You’ll look younger! You’ll look younger!” Renee screams, “I’ll look younger! I’ll look younger!”

Sigh.

Ebola!

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I think I might have the Ebola.

I really do.

Lemme explain …

Recently a middle school principal in Mississippi attended a funeral in Zambia.

Zambia is in Africa!

After the funeral, the principal returned to Mississippi!

I was recently in Mississippi!

Crap!

The Ebola!

I hear people say there’s no the Ebola in Zambia. But how do they know for certain? Zambia is in Africa. And Africa isn’t that big of a country, right? So who’s to say a Zambian didn’t drive over to the town where the Ebola is hiding, catch it, and bring it back home? And now, it’s in Mississippi. Where I was.

Recently!

Crap!

They say the Ebola is spread through fluids and stuff. When I was in Mississippi, I brushed my teeth with a toothbrush that touched the sink in my motel. How do I know there’s no the Ebola?

Crap!

So here’s the plan: I went to the supermarket today, wearing my mask (to protect myself, as well as to protect others). I loaded up on canned goods for our bunker. I am actually writing this from my bunker, where I can sustain for at least another 30 days. It’s not so bad—I have a desk, a flashlight, two packs of batteries, a chest filled with canned tuna and a hole for excrement. Will I come out again? Certainly.

But only when Obama is sent back to Kenzania and his stash of confiscated guns are returned to the people. Then, together, we can fight the Ebola.

My feet hurt.

The Triumphant Return of Ski Cap McFuck …

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About a month ago, shortly after we moved out here to California, I wrote of Ski Cap McFuck, the asswipe from my gym.

Well, tonight he returned.

I know … I know—it’s generally not OK to photograph folks at the gym. I get it. I get it. But the world is filled with exceptions, and I call for mine when it comes to Ski Cap McFuck.

In case you don’t recall, you know Ski Cap McFuck—even if you don’t know this Ski Cap McFuck. He’s the guy who struts around the gym, looking in the mirror every eight seconds, arms in permanent flex mode, dressed like some sort of Xena the Warrior Princess-inspired buffoon. Tonight, Ski Cap McFuck bettered himself in the wardrobe department. Along with the executioner-styled hood, he went with the double nipple-exposed shirt. I’m guessing this is because Ski Cap McFuck finds his nipples particularly interesting or, maybe, merely phenomenal. I’m unsure.

The best part of Ski Cap McFuck is that he knows people are watching. Only he probably doesn’t get why. While, oh, maybe two or three stragglers observe because he lifts large weights, I’m pretty sure the majority of us revel in his clueless arrogance. It’s a brilliant show; one that, I’m quite certain, will go on and on and on and on and …

Wossene Bowler

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The woman in the above photograph is named Wossene Bowler.

I took the image, oh, four or five weeks ago, while sitting at a table outside New Awakenings, Wossene’s wonderful coffee shot/restaurant here in Laguna Niguel.

At the time, New Awakenings was my joint. Though I was a California newbie, I worked there four or five times, and absolutely loved it. The drinks were spectacular, the food was dazzling. Wossene was gracious and hospitable, and when I told her I’d likely sit inside for long hours, she replied—half kidding—”You want to sleep here? I’ll give you the keys.”

Anyhow, Wossene and I chatted quite a bit, and her plight is astonishing. She is an Ethiopian immigrant who, long ago, faced a life-or-death fight with leukemia—and somehow won. Since that time, she’s made it her life mission to raise money to open up a cancer hospital in Ethiopia, where such facilities don’t really exist. She realized how lucky she was to be living in the United States, and wanted others to share her fortune. Hence, coffee. Wossene decided her best avenue was to peddle coffee, and donate a huge chunk of the proceeds to the dream of a new medical facility.

So that’s what she did. She opened New Awakenings, made amazing Ethiopian food and coffee, set cash aside, dreamed the big dream … and struggled terribly.

As Wossene told me, coffee shops are hard. Like, really hard. The hours are ceaseless. Most folks only spend a couple of bucks. You’re always digging for new ideas, new promotions; always fearing a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts opening around the corner. She said she was having big problems, and needed a partner or some donors to keep the train moving. “I know this can work,” she said. “I just have to have more backing …”

I told her about my website. About The Quaz. “Maybe you’d like to do it,” I said. “It’s a good platform, and you’re fascinating.”

She excitedly agreed. And, in my heart, I knew it was probably too excitedly. I get a large number of page views here, but the odds of someone reading a Wossene Bowler Quaz and saving her coffee shop? Not particularly strong.

Anyhow, we sat down and did the Q&A. She was wonderful and funny and hopeful and heartbreaking. I snapped a few pictures. “Please have it run as soon as possible,” she said. I insisted I would.

And then … nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

What happened? Life. Book reporting. Kids. This. That. Our interview was about 1 1/2 hours, and when I started transcribing the tape, it was hard to decipher. Wossene’s voice was soft. The background noise was loud. Lots of muffles and slurring. I told myself I’d get back to it. I never got back to it. It weighed on me, then faded. Then I sort of forgot about it. I discovered other coffee shops (I like diversifying). By the ocean. Cool views. No lingering Quaz guilt from the owners.

Two days ago, while walking my dog, a neighbor said, “Did you hear about the Ethiopian coffee shop?”

Uh-oh.

“It’s out of business.”

Crap.

Just went to New Awakenings’ Facebook page. This was the last entry …

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I feel awful. I should feel awful. I let a good woman down. No, a saintly woman down. I got caught up in life, forgetting the real values of life. Helping people. Aiding. Assisting. The whirlwind consumed me, and I failed to plant my feet and remember Wossene Bowler.

I’m finally writing about her, and it’s far too late.

I blew it.

Professionalism? Um … no.

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Pretty interesting story posted on sportsjournalists.com recently.

It seems Tabby Soignier, University of Louisiana-Monroe beat writer for The News Star, was really pissed off while covering a game between the Warhawks and University of Kentucky a couple of days ago. To be specific, Soignier was outraged by the homer-ish behavior of several members of the Kentucky media force. She wrote a piece on Oct. 11 headlined, ULM LOST, BUT THE REAL LOSERS WERE IN THE PRESS BOX. Here’s a snippet:

I assumed the gentleman next to me was a faux pas journalist — you know the type, the “writer” with a free URL who has a fulltime job but still covers the home team on the side because deep down he really is a fan and wants a free pass into the game and to rub elbows with the players and coaches after the game.

After the fifth outburst of laughter once another ULM player went down, my mouth could not refrain any longer and I asked who he worked for. Come to find out, he actually is a full-time journalist in sheep’s clothing and sadly so were the others around him who yelled across the press box to question ULM’s play calling and moaning about why the Warhawks couldn’t have been Kentucky’s homecoming opponent or a 7 p.m. kickoff since it was so easy to write once the butt kicking started.

It should be noted that the Kentucky media relations department was one of the most professional I had worked with, but as far the writer-to-writer communication, I find it my responsibility to greet the opposing beat writer if ULM is playing at home.

I was pretty fascinated by this. It actually flashed me way back to March, 1992, when the University of Delaware hosted Drexel for a chance to reach the NCAA Tournament. I was a student journalist at the time, sitting alongside Dan B. Levine on press row inside the dark, crappy Bob Carpenter Building. Next to us was the sports editor of the Drexel student paper, who clapped and cheered and waved a little flag (yes, a little flag) throughout the game. I wanted to punch that kid—hard. Instead, I probably just told him he was being unprofessional; that there’s no cheering in the pre—well, along press row.

Hence, I can feel Soignier’s pain. I really can. And, having been a sports journalist in the south for several years, I’ve seen how ridiculously territorial many of the good ol’ boy writers can became. Yes, they technically “cover” the teams. But they’re also protectors and cheerleaders. It’s pathetic, acting in such a way on behalf of an 18-year-old kid whose lone credit is throwing a tight spiral. But it is what it is.

Anyhow, I was ready to back Soignier. To feel her pain. Then I spotted the above Tweet—posted by Soignier, an LSU alum. To be clear: You’re a college football writer. Like, you cover the sport. It’s your beat. Your gig. Your profession. And you’re posing for a photo with … the college coach, giving him all sorts of love and affection? “Enjoyed all the wins”? “Most of all to call you a friend”? “#OneOfAKind”?

License to rip other journalists for lacking professionalism: Revoked.

Shit, holes, coffee blues and 212 Pier

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My special little corner.

A couple of weeks ago I put out a request on Twitter for the best late-night coffee shop in Southern California. Someone replied with 212 Pier, a cool-sounding joint in Santa Monica. So, that night, I told the wife, “I’m gonna spend all day tomorrow at this place, 212Pier.”

“But that’s, like, two hours away,” she replied.

“Yeah,” I said, “but it looks great.”

“You go there,” she said, “you’re crazy.”

I almost went. Really, I almost did. But I didn’t. I stayed local, found an amazing spot in Laguna Beach, worked happily, happily, happily for hours while sipping delicious beverages.

This morning I had a meeting in Santa Monica.

I came to 212 Pier.

I am sitting here now.

It is fucking nasty.

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Admittedly, I have high standards for coffee shops. But this place, well, um, ew.

Where to begin?

I’m stationed at a corner table. The walls looks like it last served as an active cell piece in Alcatraz. There are mysterious, disconcerting stains. Probably coffee. Possibly snot. At my feet is an enormous rock. Not sure why. The music, blaring from a small speaker above my head, is playing something called Cepia. I looked the word up, and found this: “Cepia (pronounced “SEP-ee-uh”) is the sound of industry meeting with the vague memories that rest somewhere in the back of everyone’s mind.” I’d add: “And really, really sucks.”

There are randomly scattered tables, most scratched up, stained, wobbly. The chairs are uncomfortable wicker. The shelves are lined with books, which is sorta cool. But I’m not entirely sure why they’re there. Decoration? Sales?

watch where you step

watch where you step

If you judge a place by a bathroom, 212 Pier is a D-. Huge puddle of piss beneath the toilet. Like, Pacific-sized. The coffee is good, but overpriced. It’s a mixed crowd. Young writers. Old people reading Bibles. A couple of dirty folks with dirty Santa beards. I like a place where I don’t have to carry my laptop to the bathroom. This isn’t that spot.

Do I have this right to complain? Not really. I can go elsewhere. I guess, really, I’m going through the coffee shop blues. I miss Mahopac’s Freight House. I miss Swirl in New Rochelle. I miss Sunburst in Manhattan. Those were my joints. My spots.

Now I’m writing at 212 Pier.

Hoping I don’t catch Herpes.

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