Jeff Pearlman

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Boy and dog

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My son Emmett and I took Norma to Laguna Beach today. It was her first-ever trip to the ocean, and exceeded all expectations.

This might sound dumb, but there’s something beautiful in the simplicity of boy with dog, playing a game of fetch …

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Key We(s)t.

Photo on 12-26-14 at 2.20 PM

So earlier this afternoon … actually, just about an hour ago, the wife, son and I had lunch at the nearby Mongolian restaurant.

It’s a lovely place with excellent, healthy food. You place the ingredients in a wood bowl, bring them toward a stove and watch as two men cook it up. Yum. And affordable.

Once again, I digress. Emmett and I filled our bowls, then I excused myself to go to the bathroom. Emmett said he had to go, too, so together we walked into a small one-person bathroom. There was a single toilet and one of those long wall urinals. Sorta like this …

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Anyhow, Emmett peed first. Then, when he was done, I peed. I was wearing a gray-and-black sweatshirt I’d bought at Target about a year ago. It’s OK, but the pockets tend to be a bit loose. If you have something in them … say, your car keys, they are prone to …

PLOP!

My car keys fell into the urinal. The bottom. I immediately yelled, “Oh, no!” then stared at them for a second before reaching down. The urinal wasn’t overly wet, because everything drained out. But as I grabbed them, I did notice a small yellow droplet dangling. Actually, taunting.

“Ew,” I said.

“Ew.”

“Ew.”

“Ew.”

I washed them off with a soft warm water, then wet some toilet paper and washed them again. I asked Emmett whether he thought we should tell the wife, who was about to eat her lunch. “That’s probably not a good idea,” the son said.

He was right, so we returned without saying a word.

Meaning she’s learning about this whole thing right … about …

Now.

Christmas in California

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If you’re reading this, you probably know I’m a Jew.

Which means I don’t celebrate Christmas.

Ever.

Christmas to me has always been Chinese food and movies. Why, yesterday we hit up two films—the somewhat excellent “Big Eyes” and the somewhat putrid “Into the Woods.” Which was fine and dandy and cool and excellent.

And yet …

I missed the cold on Christmas. I really did. Which is so weird, because I don’t celebrate Christmas and I don’t like the cold. But there’s something … off about palm trees and Christmas. They just don’t go together, and I’ve never experienced a holiday season that feels less like a holiday season than this one. Again, I probably shouldn’t mind. I don’t believe the virgin Mary had a son. But as the years have passed, and I morphed from resentful Jew in a Christian town to Jew in a pretty Jewish town to, well, my present incarnation of an indifferent guy on the West Coast, I find myself longing the snowfall and glistening trees and stiff wind. Not permanently, mind you, but for a couple of days.

The truth is (and I rarely admit this), I genuinely love Christmas. It’s a beautiful holiday that—even when it misses the mark and focuses more on commercialism than Christ—seems to bring families together over eggnog and fireplaces. Yeah, it’s not my holiday. But it’s something I enjoy observing.

Just not as much when it’s 75 degrees and sunny.

Shuffling along …

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I don’t know Ickey Woods, the former Cincinnati Bengals running back, but somehow we’re Facebook friends.

Earlier tonight, while combing through my feed, I came across the above photo—Woods signing some autographs at a mall in Ohio. And, being 100-percent honest, I felt bad for him. There’s something about the retired athlete, stripped of his abilities and stature and physique, that can be heartbreaking. To have been something special, and to then spend the remaining decades trying to keep that specialness alive, well, it’s often not pretty. And we, the people, feed off of that. I’m not sure why, but perhaps it’s a Revenge of the Nerds sort of thing. Most of us never played in the NFL or NBA, so we take a sadistic pleasure in watching folks who once did slip to our level. Ickey Woods isn’t wearing a helmet any longer, or running over would-be tacklers, or shuffling into the end zone. Nope. He’s just an old-ish dude with a pot belly, and watching him sit behind a folding table inside a mall ain’t pretty.

And yet … fuck me. And fuck you, too. Truth be told, Ickey Woods is raising money for this foundation, which is named after his late son, who died at age 16 from a severe asthma attack. He’s using his celebrity to do something righteous and decent and courageous. He’s turning heartbreak into hope, which is awfully powerful.

Furthermore, who am I—or you—to rip retired athletes for using past success for present stability? These guys had their bodies destroyed, their minds battered. They played for our cheers, for our enjoyment. So if someone wants to sign autographs at the local CVS, or use their name to sell meat products, hey, more power to them.

More power to Ickey.

 

Proposal on a beach

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I tend to be cynical.

It’s a flaw, and—like herpes and rectal drip—it’s not something easily controlled or contained. Too often in life, I see something and immediately develop criticisms. As a journalist, I suppose this has done me well. I don’t tend to accept things at face value.

On the other hand, it can be an ugly way to think.

Earlier this evening, I was walking with some friends along the beach behind Hotel del Coronado off of San Diego. It’s an absolutely majestic place, with gorgeous sunsets and landscapes. To call it “magnificent” is to woefully understate.

Anyhow, we came across a table in the sand, with two chairs, a couple of glasses, a guitar player and a bunch of signs offering such platitudes as YOU MAKE ME A BETTER PERSON and I’VE NEVER LOVED ANYONE AS I LOVE YOU. It was immediately clear someone was about to propose, and a crowd of, oh, 100 people gathered around. My first thought: Cheesy.

Yeah, cheesy. And cliched. The rose pedals on the ground. The signs. The public proposal in front of strangers. C’mon, man. Just … c’mon.

But then, well, it happened. The couple arrived. The man got down on one knee after opening up a box with the ring. They hugged, he looked at all of us and exclaimed, “She said YES!” Everyone clapped, everyone cheered, a few people wiped tears from their eyes. It was beautiful—cheesiness be damned. Simply beautiful.

And it also caused me to ask myself why, oh why, am I so pessimistic? Why the cynicism and negativity? Why can’t I just be happy for someone, without looking toward the dark side?

The answer: I don’t know.

But perhaps watching a proposal by the sunset changed my ways.

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Holiday Cards

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Tis the season for holiday cards. Which makes tis the season of great entertainment.

I love holiday cards, more than I love holidays. And, damn, I love holidays. But holiday cards are awesome. They’re telling. They’re revealing. They’re fun. They’re curious. Granted, they’re not as personal as they once were—I vaguely recall people actually picking up a pen and (gasp!) writing messages inside the cards. But that’s OK, because now we get pictures of kids. Smiling. Hugging. Laughing. Dancing.

Hey!

But here’s the issue: When does a family stop the cards? Back when my kids were tiny, the holiday cards looked great. One can’t go wrong with a baby and a 3-year-old blonde girl in a princess dress. But the years pass, and pass, and pass. Now my son is 8, my daughter 11. They don’t look like Munchkins, they look like … people. And while people can be cute, they’re not as cute as Munchkins. Not even close.

We receive some cards that features teenagers. And teenagers aren’t attractive. They’re gawky and uncomfortable, and lord knows they have no desire to pose for a photo. So should the tradition continue? Should the cards still be sent?

I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know: Holiday cards are meaningless on the surface, yet reaffirming below the skin. They say, even subtly, “I care” or, at least, “I care enough to spend 50 cents on getting you this card.” They remind us of the people in our lives, and that relationships matter.

For me, the favorite card is always the one I receive from Warren Thompson, a man I haven’t seen in nearly 20 years.

Warren is the widower of Lynn Thompson, a wonderful women who allowed me to profile her way back in 1995—when she was dying of cancer. At the time I was 23 and painfully immature. I was working as a features writer for The Tennessean, young and dumb and unwilling to take advice from everyone. The local alternative weekly, The Nashville Scene, rightly wrote “If there’s one cow-pie in the field, The Tennessean’s Jeff Pearlman will manage to step in it.” I screwed up and screwed up and screwed up, and had my bosses wondering whether I’d ever figure things out.

Then, one day, my editor asked whether I’d like to write a piece about a sick woman and her loving husband and their garden. Which I did. Lynn Thompson was marvelous. Wonderful. Strong. Courageous. I knew nothing about life, and she explained it best she could. Dying, she told me, wasn’t as scary as you’d think—it was more the idea of all the events she’d miss. Her children growing up, getting married, having kids. She regretted her inevitable absence and, I think, felt burdened by how it would impact her daughter, Kate, and sons Nick and Brendan. Warren, meanwhile, was the husband I aspired to one day be. When his wife was at her lowest, he was there, caring, supporting, reassuring. He promised to maintain her garden, which led to the headline atop my piece: Lynn’s Garden.

Lynn passed shortly after the story ran, and for the ensuing two decades Warren has religiously kept me on the ol’ holiday card list. What I love are the family shots—his kids with spouses; his kids with grandkids; his family expanding. That Lynn isn’t here to enjoy those things still breaks my heart. It’s not fair, and never will be fair. But I have little doubt that, in her heart, this is what she wanted—happiness and joy for her loved ones.

So, while I’m prone to mock certain holiday cards, the goodness far outweighs anything else.

Merry Kwanza.

Newport Beach Fashion Week: The Scam of Scams

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.11.56 PM* Note: After this post ran, Steve Jefferson sent an apologetic e-mail and offered to return all monies. He said it all was an honest mistake, not a deliberate attempt to rip off.

So a bunch of weeks ago, I stumbled upon this Groupon, which was sent to my e-mail …

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I was, at the time, thinking about my daughter’s Chanukah gifts. The wife and I are fans of experiences, and this seemed like a pretty cool one for an 11-year-old girl who enjoys fashion. Hence, I called my mom and told her it’d make a nice present for Casey.

“Are you sure she’d like that?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “It sounds like the sort of experience she’d really enjoy.”

Mom made the purchase, and Casey was psyched. Tonight, my daughter and my wife drove up to attend Newport Beach Fashion Week. It was held in, eh, Irvine—perhaps the first tip something was amiss (Irvine is White Plains to Newport Beach’s South Beach). It was held inside the, eh, Airport Hilton—perhaps the second tip something was amiss. But, hey, maybe that was nothing. Geography is often overrated.

The event was called for 6 o’clock. The wife and daughter entered the hotel at 5:45, eager to see the fashion show. They approached the hotel front desk and asked for the whereabouts of the fashion show.

“Oh,” said the man. “The Miss Huntington Beach? It’s in the Crystal Ballroom.”

For a moment, the wife thought she could have been at the wrong location. But she walked to the Crystal Ballroom and spotted a folding table in front of the entrance way. A sloppily written sign read: $20 PER TICKET. This was quite perplexing, considering the Groupon cost $55 for two people, and the listed retail value was $120.

The wife turned toward a woman stationed at the table and said, “I have a Groupon. Is this the right place?” She nodded and took the Groupon and handed over two tickets, each one marked $20. The wife and daughter entered the ballroom—which was mysteriously empty for an event scheduled to begin in 10 minutes. The wife didn’t want to upset the daughter, so she excused herself for a moment and returned to the table. “Why did I buy a Groupon for $55 for two people when the tickets here cost $20 each?” she asked. For those not in the know, the Groupon is supposed to be a discount. That’s the whole reason people use Groupons.

“I don’t really know,” the woman replied. “I’m just a volunteer.”

The wife stood there, processing what was happening. She spotted an event program and asked for one. After initial reluctance, the woman handed it over—”but it’s missing some pages,” she added. The wife scanned through the four-page pamphlet and noticed the event wasn’t scheduled to kick off until 7. She looked back at the Groupon, which listed the event as running from 6 pm until 10:30 pm. However, realizing the woman at the table was useless, she returned to our daughter.

After sitting for approximately 30 minutes, the wife returned outside the ballroom and requested the person in charge. She wound up speaking to a man named Steve Jefferson. He eventually handed her this business card.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 9.16.59 PMSteve is the editor in chief of Exotic Fashion, a magazine that apparently exists. I say “apparently” because nobody seems to know of its existence on this planet. However, the Groupon lists the Fashion Week’s sponsor as “Exotic Fashion Magazine.” The wife looked at Steve and said, “I don’t understand why my mother-in-law was charged $55 for a Groupon when the event costs $40 at the door.”

Steve explained that the tickets at the door were for the Ms. Huntington Beach 2016 Pageant. Which was confusing for myriad reasons:

A. Um, who said anything about a pageant?

B. 2016?

The wife was baffled. “But with those tickets you also get to see the fashion show, right?”

He said, “Yes.”

“So explain to me,” the wife countered, “how my Groupon is different …”

Steve said, “Oh, well, there were also earlier events.”

“But,” said the wife, “the Groupon was for tonight from 6 until 10.”

A woman nearby said, “Oh, did you get the magazine?”

No, she had not.

The wife was immediately handed two copies of the same issue of “Exotic Fashion Magazine”—published in Spring 2013. I want to repeat that point: She was given two 1 1/2-year-old issues of a magazine. Which, oddly, lacks page numbers, advertisements (save for a small handful), and articles. At best, it’s a piece of shit. At worst, it’s fishy.

“This isn’t even a recent magazine?” the wife said. “Right?”

“Yes,” Steve said.

“What do you want?” Steve said. “Do you want your money back?”

“Yes,” said the wife. “I would.”

“How much do you want back?” he said.

“Fifty five,” she replied.

“Are you gonna stay for the show?” he said.

The wife didn’t want to yank the daughter out of the room. “My mother-in-law paid $55, at the door it costs $40. I’ll take $15,” she said.

Steve handed her a $20 bill.

The wife returned to her seat alongside my daughter inside the ballroom. Now, just to make clear, the whole point of the Groupon was a fashion show as part of fashion week. But, instead, this was a pageant—something we would never have taken our daughter to.

Seven o’clock finally arrived and the event began with a tiny fashion show featuring pageant contestants in gym clothes and bathing suits. That lasted for, at most, 10 minutes. Then the Ms. Huntington Beach 2016 pageant began. The wife didn’t get it—how could a pageant/fashion show that cost $40 have a $120 value, as the Groupon said? For the ensuing 1 hour, 15 minutes, the two sat through a pageant that the wife calls, “Almost a spoof. It was this stereotypical nonsense.” There were 101 elements that reeked of bullshit. None of the contestants wore identifying numbers or name tags, yet the pageant director knew them all by name.

The wife waited for the daughter to have enough—which she did by 8:15. As they left the ballroom, the wife spotted Steve Jefferson, the editor in chief of the phantom fashion magazine last published 1 1/2 years ago. At this point, I would like to note that the wife doesn’t tolerate bullshit. She looked at Steve and said, “This is a scam. I know it’s a scam and you know it’s a scam.”

“It’s not a scam,” said Steve—whose YouTube page for the magazine hasn’t been updated in two years. “I can tell nothing is going to make you happy.”

“It would make me happy,” the wife said, “for you to admit what you did.”

She added, “Do you know how Groupon works?”

“No,” Steve replied. He told her he was at the event merely representing his phantom fashion magazine last published 1 1/2 years ago. And he was not the one to organize the Groupon. However, then he said Groupon had initially approached the magazine—which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The wife and daughter left—frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, two copies of a phantom fashion magazine last published 1 1/2 years ago in hand.

When they arrived home, we started looking into the pageant, the Groupon and the phantom fashion magazine last published 1 1/2 years ago. Here are some weird things:

• For a guy who runs a supposedly legitimate fashion magazine, is it not a wee-bit odd that Steve’s e-mail address is sjexoticmag@gmail.com?

This is the event’s promotional video. It has been viewed 54 times, and the scenes depicted have literally zero to do with the actual event.

• On the homepage of the Newport Beach Fashion Week website, there’s a featured image from the Project Runway runway—the impression being that the event will be at least somewhat similar.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 10.52.01 PM• Maybe the weirdest thing is this. While trying to figure this all out, we stumbled upon this oddball video featuring Mikalah Gordon, a former somewhat memorable American Idol contestant. And Gordon won the Miss Huntington Beach Pageant last year. Only there was no mention of her—anywhere.

Wait. So here’s the kicker. We’re Googling around, trying to get a handle on this nonsense, when the wife finds this wording on one of the pageant’s websites:

-1Translation: “Newport Beach Fashion Week” (quotes intended) isn’t really a fashion week at all. It’s snazzy bullshit wording, backed by a snazzy bullshit magazine, intended to fool people with an interest in fashion into attending some two-bit contrived pageant.

So why not sell a Groupon and get as many fools as possible to pony up?

It beats working for a living.

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Aaron Crump

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Back when I was editor of the student newspaper at the University of Delaware, the staff chose to rename the features section. At the time, it was called—lamely—Part 2. So we decided upon five ideas, and held a vote. The winner: Serendipity.

Since that time, I’ve loved the word. In case you don’t know, it refers to a joyful accidental discovery; an uncovering of something unexpected.

Which leads to this week’s 186th Quaz Q&A.

A few weeks ago, while trying to track down former Loyola Marymount guard Bo Kimble, I Googled around the Internet, seeking out any clues to his whereabouts. Somehow, in the course of the search, I stumbled upon the words, “Hank Gathers’ son” and stopped cold. Hank Gathers’ son? Hank Gathers’ son? WTF? For those who don’t recall (or who weren’t born at the time), back in 1990 Gathers was a star forward at Loyola Marymount who collapsed on the court and died. It was enormous news; an awful tragedy that has stuck with me for nearly 25 years.

Anyhow, as is often the case, my digging took a left turn, and before long I was Facebook messaging with Aaron Crump, the son of Hank Gathers.

Take a seat, have a Pepsi and meet the son of a college basketball icon.

Aaron Crump, welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Aaron, I grew up watching your dad. I remember him well at Loyola Marymount, remember his death (painfully) well—but I don’t think I ever knew Hank Gathers had a son until a few days ago. So, first, I know you work in sales, but can you tell me who you are. When you were born? Who’s your mother? What do you do? And what was it like growing up without your father?:

AARON CRUMP: It’s an honor to be Quazed. My name is Aaron Crump; son of the late, great Hank Gathers. My mother’s name is Marva Crump.

I was born on May 15, 1983 (my mother tells me she took me to the parade on Broad Street when the Sixers won the title), which makes me 31 years of age.

Earlier this year, I started a non-profit organization fittingly named The Hank Gathers Legacy Group. I partnered with one of my best friends who runs a non-profit of his own. Together, our goal is geared towards mentoring youth through not only the game of basketball, but thought-provoking discussion and community events as well. Being as though I’ve never been able to properly honor my father in the manner I feel he deserves, what better way to preserve his legacy than trying to instill what he embodied (hard work; dedication, heart, drive, focus) into the youth of today?

As for what it was like growing up without my father, well, it’s a very complex question to answer, simply because I didn’t have time with him as a conscious adult like most people. I knew of him as my dad, and from what everyone told me he was a great basketball player. But whenever I was with him I had fun and felt loved and protected. I guess, to answer your question, it was tough. The toughest thing was not having more time to compile some more good memories.

With Jeff Fryer and Bo Kimble, former Loyola Marymount teammates of Hank Gathers.

With Jeff Fryer and Bo Kimble, former Loyola Marymount teammates of Hank Gathers.

J.P.: There’s something … haunting, I think (for lack of a better word) about learning about you. Maybe that sounds weird, but it’s almost like learning a piece of someone you admired so much still exists, after you presume it’s gone. I wonder what it’s been like, for you, knowing you have this famous father, but not knowing your famous father. Is that strange? Fulfilling? Heartbreaking?

A.C.: You’ve been writing professionally for a very long time sir, and you couldn’t find a better word than ‘haunting’? Lol.

Dude, you make me sound like a ghost or an ancient artifact from basketball’s forgotten history. It’s not weird now, but it sure used to be. I look at it in almost the same way when meeting someone my father touched, only from a different perspective. I am gaining pieces of him that I never had. I was so young when he passed. When I come across people who still remember him as a great person or ballplayer, or how it made them feel when he died … I welcome those interactions now because he lives in those memories.

Even his death stirred love and compassion, which—to me—have to be two of the greatest emotions we have. If you can impact at least one person your whole life in that manner (if only your child), how can you not have done your job as a human being? That’s beyond awesome in my opinion. I didn’t always view things that way but now that I’m older and a bit more mature, I’m able to embrace it all and take the good from it. To know that you and others admired him, makes me proud to be his son.

I used to struggle a lot with not knowing my dad personally like some of the people who were close to him. How rough it was to hear stories about him when I was younger, well, that’s for another time, maybe. But I used to feel as if everyone knew him better than I did. That was, I believe, mainly out of immaturity and a sense of jealousy.

As of right now though, I don’t feel that way. You asked what it was like to have a famous father and not know him. It’s true that I didn’t get the opportunity to know him the way that some people did, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know him. I like to think that I am good father, partner and person … all things I believed him to be. These things weren’t taught; they come naturally. I know myself, so in essence, I know my father because I am partly what my father was. That inspires me to be what people knew him to be. He was an excellent role model and set me up to be a successful human being. Nobody can say for sure why we’re here on this earth, but I refuse to believe that his mission was solely to be great at the game of basketball. To me, it was just a medium for a greater purpose.

That in and of itself is fulfilling.

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J.P.: I’m pretty sure every sports fan from my era has watched the video of your father’s very public death. Have you? How many times? What was that like for you? And, in hindsight, do you blame anyone? Do you think things could have been done to prevent it?:

A.C.: I remember vividly the night he passed.

My grandmother woke me up out of my sleep and proceeded to tell me that he had passed away. I went downstairs with her to my mother who was staring at the TV, crying. It felt as if everyone was looking to me for a reaction.So I gave them one.

I cried.

The weird thing is, I only cried because I knew that was what everyone else was doing and so it seemed appropriate. I was extremely saddened, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a moment to grieve. Everyone else was so devastated that it kind of paralyzed me. I understood what death meant as a 6-year old, meaning I would’t be able to hang-out with him anymore. But I never felt as if he left me. To this day, I don’t feel as if my dad is gone.

True, he’s not here. But I don’t feel abandoned by Big Hank. I never have.

As for the video, I’ve seen it. Going back to the night he passed, I saw it then. I saw it once more a few days later and then maybe a couple of months ago when looking at one of his highlights on YouTube. I mean … I feel the same way now as I did then. I don’t want to actually see anyone pass away (violently or not), let alone my father. I don’t think anyone does.

I don’t blame anyone for his death. It was his time. I’ve always felt like that as well. Could there have been some preventative measures taken? Maybe. Sure. But none of us can say with confidence that whatever was to be done would have saved him. Again, I believe it was his time.

J.P.: What’s your basketball experience? Did you play high school? College? Are you any good? Do you have your dad’s height?

A.C.: I don’t have much of a basketball résumé. I played my junior and senior years at Cheltenham High School and was pretty good. I attended the Community College of Philadelphia after high school, but I’ve never played on a collegiate level. I still play, and I am absolutely better than the average basketball player (depending on who’s average), but I’m not a professional. My first cousin on my father’s side, however, is named D.J. Rivera. He plays professionally overseas for Al-Riyadi in Amman, Jordan. My other first cousin, Jordan Gathers, plays Division I at St. Bonaventure here in the states (he’s also very good).

I’m proud to say that they carry on the basketball player aspect of my father’s legacy. They’re much better than I am, but if any average Joe reads this and thinks he or she can take me out there on that court, they’ll be in for a rough evening.

I hope.

J.P.: What’s been your relationship with your dad’s former teammates at Loyola Marymount? Do you know them? Speak with them? What have they told you about your dad?

A.C.: I have pretty good relationships with Chris Knight and Jeff Fryer, both of whom played with my dad in college. I was a part of a piece Yahoo Sports did on the team this past March and they were extremely warm and shared some stories about Hank. They’re stories I don’t want to share here, but they brought me great joy. I also speak to Bo Kimble on occasion, but most of those guys haven’t seen me since I was a tike.

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With daughter Dasia.

J.P.: What’s your life path, birth to now? Where’d you go to school? Where were you raised? When did you first know about your dad? What do you want to do for a career?

A.C.: My life path is a story in an of itself. I was born and raised in North Philadelphia, where I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through the third grade. After my dad passed, my immediate family and I moved to Cheltenham, Pa., where I stayed and studied up until high school. The beginning of fourth grade was when I began to understand that lots of people knew of my father.

J.P.: When you have a father who died from heart disease, how does that impact you? Are you worried? Do you go for many checkups? Are you in good health?

A.C.: Around the time I was late into elementary school, there were lots of test that were run on me to determine if I’d be susceptible to the same type of heart disease that he had. I remember having to wear a heart monitor for several days straight at one point. I turned out to be OK and over time, I haven’t had any trouble. Again, I was too young when all of this happened to fully understand the circumstances surrounding my father’s death. Ultimately, I would like to not only raise awareness of the importance of heart screenings and preventative measures, but also to raise awareness of the man everyone knew as Hank Gathers.

J.P.: What sort of NBA player do you think Hank Gathers would have been?

A.C.: If my father were in the NBA now, it’s ridiculously hard to say what sort of player he would have been. He was a hard worker and I know he would have gotten progressively better.

I’d say he’d look like Blake Griffin in terms of athleticism; he’d have Hakeem the Dream’s handle (yeah, I said it), Karl Malone’s strength and power, along with his mid-range jumper; and a heart that can only be forged in North Philadelphia (no disrespect to any other part of the world).

Crump, (third from left) never lit up UCLA or Michigan, but he's had his moments in the Philadelphia Men's Basketball League.

Crump, (third from left) never lit up UCLA or Michigan, but he’s had his moments in the Philadelphia Men’s Basketball League. Which is more than most of us can say.

J.P.: With the passing of time, do you at all worry about people forgetting about your father? And what can you do/do you do to keep that from happening?

A.C.: At times yes, but not like you may think.

From what I’ve heard, anyone who knew my pop would be fighting an uphill battle to forget him. I feel the need to educate the younger generation that may not know of him; or know of him but nothing outside of him being a good basketball player who passed away at a young age. In my eyes, his story should be celebrated because kids need that hope. Especially those in the neighborhood where we grew up.

I don’t mean that in the sense that they can become a famous 6-foot-8 beast on the basketball court (which is certainly OK), but that if you know who you are and know who and what you want to be, and you’re willing to work hard and dedicate yourself … you can be successful in whatever you choose to do, too. Those are facts. My dad is proof.

I gravitate towards children, and I think it’s extremely important that they realize their potential. That may seem cliché or corny, but once I started to embrace parenthood, I began to realize that it’s not about me any longer. I feel I may be able to best make an impact through reaching them. That’s my goal or dream occupation, and I’m working toward being able to do that full-time in some capacity. As far as honoring my father’s legacy, I am actually working with my uncle, Charles Gathers, to produce a documentary on the re-introduction of Hank Gathers. It’s pretty cool, considering he has a background in film and he’s my dad’s brother.

I’m also working on a book chronicling my journey.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH AARON CRUMP:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Tom Brady, Las Vegas, Bo Kimble, Vanilla Coca-Cola, Ron Gant, Hall & Oates, Ferraris, Sebastian Vettel, Bran Flakes, Mookie Wilson: I’m gonna go with Tom Brady, Las Vegas, Bo Kimble, Ferraris, Ron Gant, Hall & Oates, Mookie Wilson, Bran Flakes, Vanilla Coke.

• Three memories from the birth of your daughter?: 1) Me waiting for the cry when she arrived. 2) Her quieting down once she heard my voice. 3) Pulling an all-nighter in the rocking chair with her in my arms that first night in the hospital. I must have pressed the button for the nurse at least 20 times.

• What’s your all-time least favorite name for a boy?: Theophillis (No disrespect to Theophillis London. I like your music.)

• Five greatest movies of all time?: Wow. In no particular order, I’m gonna go with The Matrix (all of them), Star Wars (all of them), Harlem Nights, Avatar and The Wiz.

• Three reasons one should make Philadelphia his/her next vacation destination?: The Art Museum. The Eagles play here. We have the only real  cheesesteaks available to the world (It may say “cheesesteak” on the menu … but it’s not really a cheesesteak. I’m telling you guys. False-advertising is what is really)

• What’s the favorite of your tattoos: I have about 13 tattoos, but the one that has the most significance and meaning is the one I have of the Eye of Horus.

• What are two things you want your daughter to experience in her lifetime?: I want her to experience the feeling of unconditional love for someone outside of her immediate family. And I want her to experience the brief disappointment that comes with failure—followed by success.

• What do you think about Huey Lewis’ role in We Are The World?: I think he’s outdone even himself with that one. Lol

• Climate Change—hoax or huge problem?: I believe it’s neither.

“Why is it so bad being dead? I like sleeping.”

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I was driving with my kids a few days ago, and my daughter, 11, told me she definitely didn’t believe in heaven or hell.

My son, who’s 8, said he agreed.

I felt guilty about this for a moment, because I’m quite sure they’ve picked up on my heavenly father skepticism and whatnot. Which means, I suppose, that they believe when a person dies, he is dead. In fact, my son added, “Why is it so bad being dead? I like sleeping.”

Again, I felt momentarily guilty. Because death can be grim and harsh and painful. You existed for a brief spell, then you never exist again. Sorta sucks, especially if you have future plans to see Grandma and Tupac and Teddy Roosevelt and Thurman Munson on a cloud.

But then, as I drove, I thought about it. Is truth so terrible? And why is death so bad? Why is it wrong for my kids to appreciate the preciousness and fleeting nature of life? Why is it wrong to reinforce the idea of making moments last, because they won’t last forever? Somehow, we’ve come to believe that there’s something important about believing in an eternity of existence. But I don’t get it. With eternity, why does the moment matter? If I’m gonna see Mom and Dad again when we’re all dead, do I need to Skype with them now? Do I have to attend my son’s Little League game instead of lying solo on the couch watching Legally Blonde II? What for? I’m eternal.

I’m babbling, but the point is the point. I don’t mind my kids knowing they won’t exist, because with that knowledge comes a power many in their lives will lack.

The power to live urgently.

Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
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The Bad Guys Won Book
The Rocket that Fell to Earth Book
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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life