Jeff Pearlman

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Who Will Be the 45th President of the United States (updated rankings)

Hi, I'm Jim Gilmore. Please buy me a soda.

Hi, I’m Jim Gilmore. Please buy me a soda.

So every presidential election cycle we here at (translation: me here at like to post our power rankings of who will likely be our next commander in chief.

Hence, on the heels of New Hampshire, here’s what we’ve got …

• 1. Hillary Clinton: Look, unless she’s indicted (a long shot, if we’re all being honest) she’ll be the Democratic nominee. She’ll have tons of money, a popular ex-president husband, a powerful last name and experience (people who say she’s “unqualified” are on crack. She’s a former senator, former Secretary of State, former first lady. Corrupt? The point can be made. Unqualified? No). I also think—should Donald Trump or Ted Cruz be the GOP nominee—you’ll have a fair number of socially liberal Republicans quietly supporting her. Not because she’s liked—but because the other option is scary.

• 2. Donald Trump: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Trump has to be considered the GOP leader. Can he really build a wall and have Mexico pay for it? No. Can he ban Muslims from entering? No. Can he round up the illegals? No. But people love the bluster. Would he beat Hillary in a head to head? I don’t think so—but stranger things have happened.

• 3. Marco Rubio: God, he’s a terrible candidate. Everything people don’t like in politicians. Plastic, wooden, repeats lines 800 times, very little spur of the moment. It’s funny—Republicans warned against an inexperienced senator when Barack Obama ran … and here’s an inexperienced senator. Rubio’s pluses are big (important state, handsome and young, inspiring back story, might draw Hispanic vote), but in many ways he’s the modern Paul Tsongas as a campaigner. Just … yawn.

• 4. Michael Bloomberg: Former New York City mayor is considering a run. He’d draw some Dems, some Republicans. He also has shitloads of money; Bloomberg makes Trump look poor. Now, can he win a general? Not likely. But if something happens to Hillary, or the GOP winds up with Cruz … who knows?

• 5. Bernie Sanders: He won New Hampshire in a landslide, but we all expected that. I like Sanders’ integrity and idealism. But he needs a Hillary indictment to wind up as the Democratic nominee. And that seems unlikely.

• 6. Ted Cruz: Unless you believe America is a Christian nation governed by Christian principles, Cruz seems insane. And while we do have a whole bunch of Jesus lovers, we don’t have enough Jesus lovers for Cruz to play in a general.

• 7. Joe Biden: I know … I know—he’s not in. But, again, if Hillary is indicted, I could see him stepping in as some sort of hero. Super unlikely.

• 8. Jeb Bush: I’ve never seen a guy feel better about a fourth-place finish as Bush did in New Hampshire. He seems like a nice guy who just sucks at this presidential campaigning thing. And nobody thinks his brother was a good commander in chief. That hardly helps.

• 9. John Kasich: My favorite of the Republicans, but everything he had was loaded into New Hampshire. He’s about to get squashed.

• 10. Ellis Valentine: Probably had the strongest outfield throwing arm in modern Major League history.

• 11. Ben Carson: Man, he had a really strong 10 days a bunch of months ago.

• 12. Erik Estrada: Guy was just so cool.

• 13. Jim Gilmore: The greatest political headline of the season, courtesy of USA Today: ABOUT 10 SHOW UP TO JIM GILMORE’S N.H. PRIMARY PARTY

• 14. Chris Christie: Yes, he’s out of the race. But after two days in New Jersey, I’m pretty sure he’ll be back.

• 15. Every member of Menudo: Just because they’re Menudo.

A visit to the dermatologist

My gift bag. What could have been ...

My gift bag. What could have been …

I try and see a dermatologist once every 18 months or so.

Regular body scans are important, because skin cancer sucks. So I go. And, generally, it’s been an OK experience. In New York I visited a series of recommended dermatologists, and they were all fine.

Now, though, we live in California …

Someone suggested a dermatologist. It wasn’t a rave review, but he said the doctor was capable and fine and he had no complaints. So I made an appointment for earlier today. Walked in at 8:45—was immediately offered a series of beverages. A declined. Wasn’t thirsty. Then filled out a bunch of first-time-patient forms, then waited and was shown to a room.

I was first greeted by a woman who looked to be, oh, 20. She wore a white jacket and held a small bag. She thrust it toward me and spoke in a volume worthy of multiple exclamation marks. “We have a welcome gift for new patients!” she said. “It’s a water bottle, because we like to see everyone drinking water, some sun block and some chocolate!”

Um, OK. I took the bag, my heart sinking. A welcome bag? Dude, I just want my checkup.

“So why are you here today?” she asked.

I explained: Wrist wart, body check. She asked a few questions. “OK!” she said. “The doctor will be with you shortly!”

I waited, and waited. A woman in a white lab coat entered. I certainly don’t care about the gender of my physician, but I’m pretty sure the guy I booked this with was a male. “Hi!” she said—equally young, nearly equally loud. “I’m a physician’s assistant, and I hear you have some warts you want removed!”

Um, just one.

“Oh,” she said, glancing at the chart. “Oh, OK. So … why are you here?”

“I always get a body scan …”

“Ohhhh, of course! Take off your shirt!”

I took of my shirt. She scanned, then looked at the wart. “So it’s up to you, but we can cut some things off if you’d like!”

Eh, OK.

“Great! Do you still want to see the doctor?”

I said I did. She exited. I started reading the prominent literature—all about face lifts, Botox, looking younger …

I walked out.

And left the bag.

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Kelly Swanson

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Over the course of two decades in the business, I’ve dealt with an endless conga line of publicists—95 percent of whom stink.

I mean no offense. It’s just that, well, no matter how many times you call, I’m not writing about a foam cheese head, or interviewing Menudo’s former road manager. I don’t want to meet Rex Hudler, or try tuna ice cream or sit in on a conference call with the seven living members of the 1933 New York Yankees.

Sorry. I just don’t.

Kelly Swanson gets it. She’s always gotten it, even since I was a young buck at Sports Illustrated and she was pitching boxing-related stories. Kelly is a journalist’s publicist—meaning: A. She knows her stuff; B. She won’t waste your time with trash. Wanna know if a PR person is trustworthy? Wait for him/her to say, “Look, I know you probably won’t wanna do this, but I have to at least try.” That’s the sort of publicist I dig. That’s Kelly.

For more than 20 years, Kelly has been the biggest publicist in boxing. Her clients are legendary, her fights larger than life. She also happens to be one of the coolest people I know, despite her apparent disinterest in granola and Malik Rose.

One can visit Kelly’s site here, and follow her on the ol’ Twitter here.

Kelly Swanson, to hell with Floyd and Hopkins. You’re the undisputed 245th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Kelly, boxing is one of the most criticized, lambasted sports on the planet. And yet, you’ve devoted much of your career to it. Why? And what do you think people misunderstand about the sport?

KELLY SWANSON: Boxing is an uncomfortable sport to watch if you don’t know or understand it. Most people don’t know how to watch boxing and therefore they don’t see its technical side through the offensive and defensive skills that are displayed during a fight. It’s actually similar to any of the other contact sports, such as football or hockey, when two or more make aggressive contact. From what I am reading these days, I think I would want to be a really good fighter over a football player.

Also, the fighters love to fight. They absolutely love to do it. For most of them, who sauntered in or were sent to their neighborhood boxing gym as young troublemakers, it’s the only way out of what are some terrible circumstances, whether it’s their family situation or their local surroundings with negative influences. I see their passion and their plight and I am OK with trying to help them make their world a better place for themselves and their families. It’s their backstories that make for unbelievable copy. Several fighters’ stories I have pitched have ended up on A1. That’s thrilling to me as a publicist.

J.P.: You work a ton with Floyd Mayweather—a marvelous boxer and the closest thing we have to a villain in pro sports. So … what’s he like as a person? As a guy to work with? Are we missing something when we label him as “bad.” And is he truly trying to orchestrate a certain image, or is he a guy who just can’t help himself.

K.S.: Floyd was an extremely hard-working and dedicated professional athlete who took his craft very seriously and became one of the greatest fighters of all time. As far as working with him, which I did for more than 10 years until he retired this past fall, he has always been respectful and appreciative of my help. I was able to do a job for him that he needed, and in so doing we had a lot of success. He probably executed more than 5,000 interviews over the 10 years we worked together. As a small business, he contributed greatly to the overall success of my company during these years. He was very loyal to me and I to him.

As for who Floyd is as a person, few get to see or know the real one. A lot of fighters are very insular. Floyd lives by himself. When he is alone, or with his closest friends, which is a very small circle by choice, he is reserved and actually pretty quiet.

But having grown up in the public eye and accumulated the wealth he has, I believe it is confusing for him at times. I think because of the nature of the “bad” guy persona crafted as part of his “image,” and his willingness to “show off” his success with bravado and flash, people either love him or hate him. He has taken his share of criticism from a lot of people.

Yes, he has had his own personal failings that are well documented and known to everyone. But he has also paid for those failings and is doing the best he can to not make the same mistakes again; to be a better person all around. You have to respect someone, whether you like him or not, for doing that. It’s the nature of humanity.

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J.P.: You spent many years working with Riddick Bowe, one of the great heavyweights of the past 30 years and one of the saddest boxing sagas of quite some time. Why, just recently the New York Daily News ran the story, “Riddick Bowe, former boxer, says he will Tweet anything for $20.” And it was true. Kelly, what went wrong with Riddick Bowe? And how does it make you feel when you see former clients done in by the sport?

K.S.: It’s very sad what happened to Riddick. He had such a gigantic, fun-loving personality when he was fighting and he was a very happy guy. But he also had personal hardship when his marriage fell apart (his first wife was the mother of his five children). I don’t think he ever recovered from this and instead of relying on the people that helped secure his financial future, he turned his back on them and made some bad decisions to find himself in the situation he is in now.

J.P..: Back in 1991, you got in a heated exchange with a fighter named Elijah Tillery, but I’ve never heard the details. So … what happened? And did you ever make up?

K.S.: Very funny JP, and only because it is you will I answer this question. Riddick fought Elijah Tillery and we were all staying at the same hotel for fight week. Every time I saw this guy, he would say, “Yeah, don’t worry, come Sunday, you’ll be working for me!” So the night of the fight, after Bowe beat him, I went around to his corner (he was still in the ring) and said, “Yeah, Elijah, ha ha ha (or something like that)” and he turned and spit at me. It was disgusting and thankfully it landed on my clothes. But trust me I never let that happen again! Who was I to think I could go toe-to-toe with a real prizefighter, let alone a heavyweight!

J.P.: This might sound simplistic, but why do so many boxers end up broke? I mean, some of these guys make millions upon millions. Is it background? Is it people leeching on? Why?

K.S.: Why do so many athletes end up broke? I don’t think it is just boxing but I do think there is more responsibility in the other sports, the ones that have commissions, team ownership and other resources, to not let this happen on such a regular basis.

Boxing is a sport of the streets and fighters don’t have a great “trust” gauge. So when it comes to their money, they would rather keep it to themselves than work with others to help them with their savings and investments. It’s sad because it never works.

J.P.: So I know you grew up in Buffalo, I know you’re based out of New York City—but why did you become a publicist, and why a boxing publicist? When did you first know this is what you wanted to do?

K.S.: I didn’t know I wanted to be a publicist right away, but I did know fairly young, maybe high school, that I wanted to work in sports. I grew up with three brothers and all we did was play and watch sports, one of which was boxing. When I moved to New York City after college, I started to look for a job in sports and landed a public relations job at a small sports PR firm. It was great and my career took off from there.

I have worked and do work in many other sports besides boxing (you can check our website). But a lot of my business comes from the sport and it is our niche. I am delighted that I have had such a successful career and boxing has been a part of that success. When my agency was chosen to handle the overall publicity for the Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight, in addition to handling Floyd’s individual PR, that was the greatest compliment to our success. It was a tremendous job, which came with an enormous amount of responsibility. We were congratulated for our efforts.

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J.P.: You’re the best publicist I’ve ever dealt with, and it’s not even close. But I wanted your take—what makes a good publicist and what makes a shitty one? Are there obvious differences dividing good vs. awful?

K.S.: Thanks JP. That’s a huge compliment as I am sure you have worked with many good ones. I think the single most important part of being a good publicist is to know and have passion for your clients, whether they’re persons, products or events. Know the intricacies of what makes their stories unique, fresh, new, different, odd, topical, time sensitive and relevant. Also you have to know and study the person you are pitching to. I’ve heard horror stories from my friends in the media about calls they received from publicists asking them to cover something they aren’t even remotely covering (ah, I think you told me that, too). Unfortunately there are too many publicists that are just told to “pitch” because it’s their job and not their passion. That’s when they are shitty.

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

K.S.: Couple of great moments—When Riddick Bowe won the world heavyweight title; this past year working on one of the biggest event in sports history—Mayweather vs Pacquiao.

Lowest—doing a press conference for a coffee table book on Notre Dame and no one showed up. It was my first assignment with this client, the publisher, and I was mortified. This past year when I found out members of the press will create falsehoods just to infuse themselves into a story they have no business being a part of, rather than just to cover it, if in fact they even have a real assignment to cover. Ridiculous.

J.P.: Give me your absolute craziest story from your boxing experiences.

K.S.: Would probably have to be working with Bernard Hopkins when he fought Tito Trinidad. We were in Puerto Rico promoting the fight. During the press conference, which was open to the public, Bernard took the Puerto Rican flag out of Tito’s hands and threw it on the ground. All hell broke lose and we basically had to run for our lives. That was crazy!

J.P.: There was recently a piece in Sports Illustrated on Don King, and how he’s now this sorta sad, washed-up has-been. I’m sure you’ve had plenty of King experiences. Was he as awful as they say? And what would you say is legacy is in the sport?

K.S.: Not that awful and his legacy would have to be that he created the most dynamic boxing promotions and storylines of all time in the history of the sport. Very hard working, and although he isn’t what he used to be, he is around at the tender age of 84 and still working as hard as he can.

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Hagler-Leonard—who do you think won?: Hagler

• Rank in order (favorite to least)—Malik Rose, Jake Locker, Boom Boom Mancini, Yom Kipper, Shamu, Empire State Building, granola, brown rice, Eight Men Out: Boom Boom Mancini, Shamu, Yom Kippur, Empire State Building, bottled water, brown rice, granola, Eight Men Out, Malik Rose, Jake Locker and Boise.

• Five nicest athletes you’ve ever dealt with?: Caron Butler, Felix Trinidad, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Bob Beamon and Sam Shields

• One biggest jerk?: As a publicist can’t kiss and tell! Sorry!

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Nope, but I have the dream all the time. I always wake up!

• One question you ask Bill Frist were he here right now?: As a former heart and lung surgeon, do you eat southern BBQ, ribs in particular?

• We give you one start in a WNBA game—this coming season. You play the entire game. How many points you score?: If I am lucky I hit my favorite shot—the 3-pointer from left side, back of circle. Made it every time in high school.

• I just paid $5 for a coffee drink. This seems ridiculous. In 14 words, tell me why I’m wrong: I just saw 7-Eleven has $.50 small special. Sometimes fancy coffee is worth it, but 7-Eleven has good coffee too.

• Fill in the blank: “When I see Muhammad Ali, I feel …” Love.

Celine Dion calls. She wants to hire you as her personal publicist. Two guaranteed years, $45 million per. But you have to cut off one finger, get a Celine tattoo on your left knee and legally change your name to Pen Case IV. You in?: Which finger?

The Laziness of Super Bowl Coverage

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Back when I was covering baseball at Sports Illustrated, I usually kept one eye on my work and one eye on Tom Verducci, my co-worker and one of the best to ever cover the Majors.

Tom had a trick, only it wasn’t really a trick, but journalistic intelligence. When a big game ended, and the swarm of reporters converged upon the guy who was collectively decided to be The Story, Tom would tiptoe left and right, talking to this guy, that guy. Bullpen catchers, middle reliever. He’d locate the people who made big contributions, but perhaps not the most obvious contributions. Then, inevitably, he’d put forth America’s best coverage. It happened time after time after time. Why? Because Tom Verducci abhorred the obvious and cliched.

Which leads me to tonight’s 50th Super Bowl, a game that put me and my family members to (near) sleep. As it became increasingly apparent the Broncos would win, CBS determined that Peyton Manning, Denver’s quarterback, was THE story. Did he play well? No, he was actually quite mediocre. Was this his first Super Bowl? No? First Super Bowl win? No. Is he retiring? We don’t know—but it seems like he might actually come back. So why Peyton? Well, because he’s the obvious choice. He’s pretty charismatic, he’s accessible and everyone knows him. There’s also the riding-off-into-the-sunset-with-a-championship narrative; one that, admittedly, might not be true.

And, of course, Peyton was the talk of the postgame. By those covering on social media. By the network. By ESPN and Fox Sports 1. It was all Peyton Manning.

But here’s the thing: It’s lazy bullshit. It truly is. Tonight, we witnessed a defensive destruction of the presumed-to-be-invincible Cam Newton. Hell, I picked Carolina to win 35-6, and I wasn’t alone in my lopsided thoughts. Newton was this nuclear superhero; the league MVP and a source of endless chatter. But, with seemingly effortless ease, the Broncos beat him to a pulp. In particular, there was linebacker Von Miller—who was an electromagnetic force from hell. Miller couldn’t be stopped by one blocker, by two blockers. He chased down halfbacks, shadowed Newton, even blanketed a receiver once or twice. He was, hands down, the most exceptional player on the field.

He was also, ahem, the best story. Let’s count the reasons:

• 1. Cam Newton was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 Draft. Miller was No. 2.

• 2. Miller was suspended a few seasons back for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. That’s interesting shit.

• 3. Miller seems to be the NFL’s new Ray Lewis, as far as terrifying linebackers go.

• 4. Despite his accomplishments, nobody knows much about him. He’s fresh, unique, interesting. Glowing smile and charisma out his ears.

Peyton, meanwhile, is Peyton. Corporate, staged. Seems like a nice enough guy but—again—he didn’t even play well.

Interestingly, this reminds me a fair amount of Super Bowl XXXII, when the Broncos upset the Packers in San Diego. Before the game began, everyone decided—should Denver win—the story was John Elway finally capturing a title. But then halfback Terrell Davis ripped up the Packer defense—while suffering through a debilitating migraine. At one point he was in the game, unable to see, serving as a decoy. Plus, the game was in his hometown. It got no better.

But … well, we are who we are. And, generally speaking, we in the media follow the carrot, follow the crowd, write and produce what others write and produce.


Ranking all the Quarterbacks Who Have Started a Super Bowl

David Woodley and Tom Brady both quarterbacked in the Super Bowl. The comparisons end there.

David Woodley and Tom Brady both quarterbacked in the Super Bowl. The comparisons end there.

Because tomorrow is Super Bowl 50 (in case you haven’t heard), I’ve decided to rank every quarterback who’s ever started in the big game. Why? Because it’s the sort of thing that brings me joy, and procrastination is my specialty.

So here you go … the official listing of the best-to-worst signal callers in Super Bowl history.

Argue away …

• 1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots, Super Bowl XXXVI, Super Bowl XXXVIII, Super Bowl XXXIX, Super Bowl XLII, Super Bowl XLVI, Super Bowl XLIX: I understand why people hate him and I understand why people love him. Either way, there’s no arguing his place among legends of the game.

• 2. Johnny Unitas, Baltimore Colts, Super Bowl V: I wonder if his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers ever forgave themselves for cutting him. Eh, probably not.

• 3. Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XVI, Super Bowl XIX, Super Bowl XXIII, Super Bowl XXIV: Take a look at the talent on that first Super Bowl team. It was, at best, minimal on offense. But Montana was the X factor.

• 4. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts, Super Bowl XLI, Super Bowl XLIV; Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XLVIII, Super Bowl 50: I don’t care if the Broncos lose to Carolina by 100—his legacy is secure as one of the all-time, all-time exceptionals.

• 5. John Elway, Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XXI, Super Bowl XXII, Super Bowl XXIV, Super Bowl XXXII, Super Bowl XXXIII: Did everything, did everything very well. Could also hit the fastball as a Yankee prospect.

• 6. Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl IX, Super Bowl X, Super Bowl XIII, Super Bowl XIV: Career numbers dwarfed by others. But if winning matters …

• 7. Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl XXXI, Super Bowl XXXII: He could drive you to drink, but could also drive you to victory. Best arm in league history.

• 8. Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl VI, Super Bowl XII, Super Bowl XIII: A poetic quarterback who did everything well and retired while still in his prime.

• 9. Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins, Super Bowl XIX: A revolutionary quarterback who brought passing up to speed. Had he won a couple of Super Bowls, would be fighting for the top spot.

• 10. Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings, Super Bowl VIII, Super Bowl IX, Super Bowl XI: If the Vikings had this guy today, we’d be talking about the Minnesota-Denver Super Bowl. Joe Namath’s legend hangs over New York, and Tarkenton does the same in Minnesota.

Tarkenton is a solid No. 10.

Tarkenton is a solid No. 10.

• 11. Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XXIX: The most exciting quarterback I’ve ever watched. Period.

• 12. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl XLV: Some would argue he should be 30th, or even 35th. But whenever I see Rodgers I think, “Damn, this dude’s outstanding.” So, hey. My list.

• 13. Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers—Super Bowl I, Super Bowl II: Hard to argue with the man who won the world’s first two Super Bowls.

• 14. Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills, Super Bowl XXV, Super Bowl XXVI, Super Bowl XXVII, Super Bowl XXVIII: Just a fantastic player who was actually at his best with the USFL’s Houston Gamblers.

• 15. Eli Manning, New York Giants, Super Bowl XLII, Super BowlXLVI: Not sure people think of him as elite—but I do. Also have to remember he won two Super Bowls his team was expected to lose.

• 16. Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl XXVII, Super Bowl XXVII, Super Bowl XXX: Just being honest—a part of me has always felt that, with a lesser halfback, wide receiver and offensive line, he’s Drew Bledsoe.

• 17. Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams, Super Bowl XXXIV, Super Bowl XXXVI; Arizona Cardinals, Super Bowl XLIII: Not the greatest quarterback of all time, but the greatest quarterback to have a great narrative of all time.

• 18. Ken Stabler, Oakland Raiders, Super Bowl XI: Don’t even look at the numbers, because they tell you nothing on this one. Stabler was thrilling, unique, funky, spunky, awesome. Hall of Fame voters deserve much scorn for waiting until his death to vote him in. Sad.

• 19. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, Super Bowl XLIV: It’s weird. Philip Rivers has had this tremendous career. but I can’t help but think the Chargers still kick themselves for trading away this future Hall of Famer.

• 20. Steve McNair, Tennessee Titans, Super Bowl XXXIV: Yeah, he had Eddie George. But think about the mediocre wide receivers he played with. Man was a stud.

Though he couldn't pull out a Super Bowl win, McNair looms large at No. 20.

Though he couldn’t pull out a Super Bowl win, McNair looms large at No. 20.

• 21. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl XL, Super Bowl XLIII, Super Bowl XLV: Hard to like, hard to argue against the results. A physical beast.

• 22. Drew Bledsoe, New England Patriots, Super Bowl XXXVI: Overshadowed by Tom Brady, but a helluva career.

• 23. Phil Simms, New York Giants, Super Bowl XXI: We know … we know—you hate him as an announcer. Fine. But in my book he’s a Hall of Famer.

• 24. Joe Namath, New York Jets—Super Bowl III: A great NFL quarterback who changed the game. A vastly overrated quarterback who benefited from geographic hype.

• 25. Len Dawson, Kansas City Chiefs—Super Bowl I, Super Bowl IV: It’s sad that so many of us weren’t around during his heyday. Because Dawson was, by all accounts, otherworldly.

• 26. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles, Super Bowl XXXIX: Yeah, he ralphed on the field. Shit happens. Donovan was a six-time Pro Bowler and one of the elites of his era.

• 27. Ken Anderson, Cincinnati Bengals, Super Bowl XVI: One of the all-time most underrated quarterbacks. Were he playing today, he’d be up there with the elites.

• 28. Bob Griese, Miami Dolphins, Super Bowl VI, Super Bowl VII, Super Bowl VIII: Wore eyeglasses while playing. Hard to be any cooler.

• 29. Joe Theismann, Washington Redskins, Super Bowl XVII, Super Bowl XVIII: Best remembered for the broken leg. Not fair. Played in the NFL’s most brutal division and never flinched.

• 30. Boomer Esiason, Cincinnati Bengals, Super Bowl XXIII: It’s weird how, when guys enter the media, we often fail to remember how good they were. Boomer was friggin’ exceptional.

Boomer Esiason was terrific—even at No. 30 on the list.

Boomer Esiason was terrific—even at No. 30 on the list.

• 31. Billy Kilmer, Washington Redskins, Super Bowl VII: Wouldn’t fit in today’s game. Old-school toughness, grit.

• 32. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XLVIII, XLIX: Too early to judge the fullness of a career. But hard to argue with his run thus far.

• 33. Kerry Collins, New York Giants, Super Bowl XXXV: A really fantastic career; went from nearly drinking himself out of the league to becoming a two-time Pro Bowler.

• 34. Jim Plunkett, Oakland Raiders, Super Bowl XV; Los Angeles Raiders, Super Bowl XVIII: Not a statistical joy to behold. But big games were his turf.

• 35. Craig Morton, Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl V; Denver Broncos, Super Bowl XII: Kind of remembers either as Roger Staubach’s nemesis or the guy who played terribly for Denver in the Super Bowl. But a real strong NFLer.

• 36. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Super Bowl 50: Wouldn’t be shocking if he’s ultimately Top 10 on this sort of list. But it’s too early to tell.

• 37. Rich Gannon, Oakland Raiders, Super Bowl XXXVII: A handful of spectacular years, a bunch of other very good ones. Minimal arm strength, tons of touch and maneuverability.

• 38. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens, Super Bowl XLVII: Back-to-back Blue Hens. Flacco has never been quite what people want. But he’s still awfully good.

• 39. Doug Williams, Washington Redskins, Super Bowl XXII: Even though his greatest career moment came on the biggest stage, I’ll always think of him as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Oklahoma Outlaw.

• 40. Jim McMahon, Chicago Bears, Super Bowl XX: He and Joe Namath have always been vastly overrated. Eternally hurt, often inconsistent, loads of fun.

Even at No. 40, McMahon knows how to have fun.

Even at No. 40, McMahon knows how to have fun.

• 41. Ron Jaworski, Philadelphia Eagles, Super Bowl XV: It’s easy to forget that before he jabbered incessantly on ESPN, Jaws could sling it.

• 42. Jeff Hostetler, New York Giants, Super Bowl XXV: Stepped in for an injured Phil Simms and led the Giants to a fantastic victory over Buffalo. Great? No. Very good? Yes.

• 43. Earl Morrall, Baltimore Colts, Super Bowl III: Just a really fantastic player often hanging in the shadow of Johnny Unitas.

• 44. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XL: Began as Brett Favre’s backup, moved on to Seattle and became a three-time Pro Bowler. Not a bad career.

• 45. Chris Chandler, Atlanta Falcons, Super Bowl XXXIII: A much better player than most remember. Was bounced from the Oilers to make room for Steve McNair, then bounced from Atlanta for Michael Vick.

• 46. Neil O’Donnell, Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Bowl XXX: System quarterback who handed Larry Brown three gifts—two easy interceptions and a fat free agent contract from the Raiders.

• 47. Mark Rypien, Washington Redskins, Super Bowl XXVI: A fantastic golfer, a solid quarterback, a wonderful guy.

• 48. Vince Ferragamo, Los Angeles Rams, Super Bowl XIV: Went on this magical run with the Rams after Pat Haden got hurt. For a moment, he was the Erik Estrada of the NFL—cool, handsome, successful. It didn’t last.

• 49. Daryle Lamonica, Oakland Raiders, Super Bowl II: The original gunslinger could throw the ball a mile. Not much touch, but killer arm.

• 50. Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers, Super Bowl XXXVIII: Better than you’d think, but only OK.

Jake Delhomme is No. 50—but he can always point to playing in the big game.

Jake Delhomme is No. 50—but he can always point to playing in the big game.

• 51. Joe Kapp, Minnesota Vikings—Super Bowl IV: College legend, CFL stud, only a limited NFL run. If you have a minute, this piece on his life today is worth reading—and crushing.

• 52. Brad Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Super Bowl XXXVII: I’m surprised by the impressiveness of his career stats (166 touchdowns, 122 interceptions, 28, 054 yards). Steady.

• 53. Stan Humphries, San Diego Chargers, Super Bowl XXIX: His team got slaughtered by the 49ers, and Humphries did not play well. Which isn’t such a shocker. Just an average guy in a nice circumstance.

• 54. Trent Dilfer, Baltimore Ravens, Super Bowl XXXV: It became so en vogue to note that the Ravens defense carried Dilfer that … eh, screw it. The Ravens defense did carry Dilfer. But he was OK.

• 55. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XLVII: Let’s all be honest—a couple of years ago we presumed he’d wind up near the top of this list. Amazing rise, equally amazing plummet. Not sure what happened.

• 56. Rex Grossman, Chicago Bears, Super Bowl XLI: Not nearly as awful a player as many claimed. Very average player whose career numbers (56 touchdowns, 60 interceptions) don’t dispute that point.

• 57. Tony Eason, New England Patriots, Super Bowl XX: Famously had the shit kicked out of him by the Chicago Bears’ defense, and was quickly benched for Steve Grogan. Who also had the shit kicked out of him.

• 58. David Woodley, Miami Dolphins, Super Bowl XVII: Actually split time at LSU with Steve Ensminger. And here’s the weird part—Ensminger was, by far, the better passer. At 24, Woodley was the youngest quarterback to ever start a Super Bowl. Life ended tragically.

Juvenile Revenge with *67

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So I have a pet peeve, and it involves people talking on their phones, via speaker, in public places. Especially restaurants, coffee shops, etc. It’s just ridiculously rude, agitates me to no end, speaks to the lack of courtesy that exists in modern society. Why do I (we) need to hear your full conversation?

Today, at long last, I found my little slice revenge.

I’m here in Panera. A woman sits in a nearby booth with a young man. She’s screaming into her cell phone—and it’s on speaker. Two people jabbering on about this and that and that and this. Finally, at the end, the speaker guy says, “LET ME WRITE DOWN YOUR NUMBER!”

“OK,” she says, “IT’S 252 …”

Hmm …

I love *67. It’s a powerful tool. Her number is jotted down on a pad. I dial *67, call, watch her answer. Click. Then I do it two more times. “What is going on here?” she says to her companion.

“I don’t know,” he says.

“Maybe it’s your mother.”

“I don’t know.”

Ring. Ring.

“What the?”

Ring. Ring.

“Why is …”

Then I stop.


Living the nightmare

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I don’t know much about coffee, but I do know it makes people poop.

This has been well documented, and—from personal experience—I know it to be true. Because I work out of coffee shops, and because I drink coffee in coffee shops, I’ve pooped quite often in coffee shops. Which isn’t usually a big deal, as long as the seats are clean and soap available.

I write.

I drink.

I poop.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Anyhow, I’m sitting here in Dana Point, at the lovely J.C. Beans, drinking coffee. And, a few minutes ago, I had to poop. So I rose, entered the bathroom, cleaned the toilet, put paper down on the toilet (an absolute must) and sat down to conquer the business at hand. Everything was going perfectly, too. Smooth sailing. Smooth, smooth, smooth sailing …

Then, I heard a jiggling on this door handle …

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 10.59.35 AMA little more jiggling.

A little more.

I started to speak, “One min—”

The door opened. Like, pretty wide open. This guy was standing there, momentarily dumbfounded.

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“I’m in here!” I said.

“Oh … Oh!” he replied, and slammed the door shut.

It was awkward and sorta funny—especially when, from my perch atop the toilet, I heard him and the barista discussing what just transpired, and how they really need to fix the broken bathroom lock. “That happened to me twice,” he said.

I’m lucky number three.

In an odd way, it’s sorta bucket list-ish. My three biggest nightmares have always been:

• 1. Being locked overnight in a shopping mall.

• 2. Overflowing someone’s toilet (I accomplished this four years ago, thanks for former NBA star Spencer Haywood).

• 3. Having a stranger walk in while I’m pooping.

Anyone know a good mall?

Luke Skipper is going to Tulsa!

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Skipper is coming to Tulsa! I repeat: Skipper is coming to Tulsa!

We here at take pride in breaking the biggest sports news on the planet.

So, with this being Signing Day and all, here’s the biggest sports news on the planet: Luke Skipper is going to Tulsa!

The Forney (Texas) High senior faxed his letter to the football staff this morning, meaning the Golden Hurricanes have their next starting quarterback. Or next quarterback. Or, eh, one of seven quarterbacks. Either way, he’s going to Tulsa!! This is a double exclamation point kind of thing, because now the team’s 34 diehard fans (nearly all of whom are over the age of 30) can talk excitedly about the exploits of an 18-year-old boy. Which sounds sorta weird. Probably because it is sorta weird. Were I to, say, talk excitedly about the exploits of a bunch of teen ballet dancers, my life would be accompanied by creepy stares and “Pervert!” Twitter attacks. This, however, is Signing Day—a time-honored American tradition where adult men (and some women) drool over the potential of children to tuck pieces of synthetic meat beneath their arms and sprint at high speeds.

Put different: I hate Signing Day. I thought it gross when it started, I think it’s gross now. While alumni of Georgia and Alabama and Notre Dame and UCLA will experience nipple tingling with the signature of a new prepubescent quarterback, they wouldn’t bat an eye with the arrival of a potential Nobel Prize winner. Hell, let’s actually give this point its due: If the best quarterback in the state of Texas signs with UT today, thousands of people will celebrate as if they won the lottery. If a math club genius with a breakthrough idea on how to solve climate change agrees to attend UT today, it’s either A. Greeted with a sigh; B. Greeted with, “Climate change? Glenn Beck says it ain’t real. Now how ’bout that halfback we got!”; C. Not even reported.

Why? Because we’re a dumb people, distracted by bright lights and shoulder pads over stuff like, oh, intelligence, curiosity, potential (not 40-time potential. Life potential).

Also, there’s this thing that continues to be largely ignored because, well, beer and football and chips are T-shirts are fun! Namely, college football is fucked up. And not just mildly fucked up. F-u-c-k-e-d up.

First, these schools often pluck minority kids out of underfunded, poor-scoring inner-city school systems, place them on a campus sans any sort of legitimate preparation, have them attend practices and meetings that take up 20 … 30 … 40  hours per week, then travel to away games (thereby missing classes). They weren’t ready for college sans football commitment—and now they’re in this world where, truly, they exist to score points and surrender their physicality for the cause of (wait for it … wait for it …) making the university shitloads of money. That’s the gag here: Yes, it’s about winning football games. But not because winning football games is fun. No, winning football games brings fans. Fans bring excitement. Excitement brings tons of applications from high school seniors, brings visitors to the campus stores, brings merchandising deals with Nike and Adidas, brings higher salaries for administrators, brings millions and millions of dollars. These kids are cash cows. Moo.

Second, don’t tell anyone, but playing football is bad for you. Like, really bad for you. Like, destroy-your-soul bad for you. As we learn more and more, it’s increasingly jarring. Football damages bodies, damages minds, has limping gray-haired men saying, “Why did I ever do that?” But, again beer and football and chips are T-shirts are fun! Hey, whatever. Shut up, let the kids play.

Third, the commitment isn’t really a commitment. Well, it is—but almost always for a year. When students sign with a university, they presume it’ll be four years of Tulsa or Delaware or Oklahoma or … whatever. But the vast majority of scholarships inked on Signing Day are one-year deals. If a school tires of you, or is underwhelmed, or finds a better player, it can dump you like yesterday’s garbage. That’s evil.

Fourth, what Signing Day is (what it truly, truly is), is the NCAA and its member schools playing on the egos of young athletes. You’re Jim, 18, senior, girlfriend, football dreams. That moment of holding aloft the Tennessee Vols T-shirt, cameras flashing, is huge. You’re the man. Everyone’s proud. Mom’s crying. Dad’s crying. Big, big moment. So what if, technically, you don’t need to sign the letter? So what if you’re one bad season away from finding yourself pushing burritos at Taco Bell? So what if you’re barely getting by in classes; if you’ve never been away from home; if you don’t have enough money to buy new shoes?

It’s Signing Day, big guy! Smile!

Gum on the exercise machine

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I was using an exercise machine at the 24 Hour Fitness tonight when I noticed a used piece of gum affixed to the monitor. And I thought, “What the hell?”

Truly, what the hell? What kind of person finishes with his gum and sticks it to a machine? It couldn’t have been an accident, or a slipping of the mind. A man or woman literally removed the gum from his/her mouth and thought, “I’m going to place it right here, and when I leave the machine it’ll remain in that spot.”

I can think of about 892 things wrong with this. Here’s my Top 2:

• 1. There’s a janitor, probably making $10 an hour, who has to scrape your gum off the monitor.

• 2. It’s disgusting and rude.

Interestingly, a few weeks ago I was standing at one of the gym’s urinals, taking a piss, when I spotted a dried bugger attached to the wall. Which is one of those things that brings forth a gagging impulse. But as nasty as boogers are, at least they get dry and crusty, then usually fall to the ground. The gum doesn’t fall. It’s there, solid.

Anyhow, I know the odds are long that gum sticker is reading this. But, if you are … ew.

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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