Jeff Pearlman

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An awful few years for faith

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One could debate for hours over who/what has lost the most during the Trump presidency. Is it the environment, which has been set aside in favor of coal and toxins? Is it the law, which has been set aside for crooks? Is it the national media, which has been played the fool? Is it the federal worker, now home for a month? Is it makers of quality hats, who have to kick back as .30-cent made-poorly-in-China MAGA hats fit over lumpy skulls.

For me, though, the answer is a relatively easy one: It’s the faithful.

If I’ve had one lesson reinforced these past two years, it’s that while faith may well be bullshit, those preaching, “Have faith!” are bullshit. Times 1,000. Or, put differently, why have faith in a loving, caring, whole God if you sell out to the first carnival barker who fucks around on wives, treats POWs like dogshit, lies and steals and cheats?

And, more to the point, why should I—the potential believer—listen to you? Why should I think there’s this amazing God whose lessons should be followed when you, the teacher, do the exact opposite? How can I take you seriously? How can I believe your sincerity? How can I look you in the face, when all you express fails to be enacted … by you.

Hell, let’s talk about the whole Covington Catholic fiasco from the weekend. Whether you believe the kids were most wrong or the Native American was most wrong or the lost tribe of Israel were most wrong—those kids behaved as assholes. They were rude, obnoxious, arrogant, smug … and they attend a Catholic school!?!?! Fuck, they were there for a march against abortion. A. March. Against. Abortion. So you would think—religious schooling, big trip, important gathering—they would be, well, decent and kind and demure. Or you’d at least think the accompanying priest might say, “Remember, you’re here because …”

Right?

Right!?

But no. Because the pious are, often, bullshit. They talk the game, say love Jesus, then do the exact opposite. It’s Jerry Falwell, Jr. and his oath of obedience. It’s Mike Pence and his homophobic garbage. It’s this school—this Catholic school—expecting honor, delivering blather.

I’m tired of it.

The insanity of Tom Brady’s longevity

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The wife and I were married on Jan. 19, 2002. Shortly thereafter, we took a lengthy, terrific honeymoon in Australia. While there, Super Bowl XXXVI was played between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots.

The AFC champions were quarterbacked by a young, relatively unknown kid from California named Tom Brady. The Rams’ roster included two men—wide receiver Ricky Proehl and defensive back Aeneas Williams—who are now in their 50s. Their first round pick that year, Adam Archuleta of Arizona State, hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2007. Their coach, Mike Martz, fell off the NFL radar forever ago.

The Patriots were a bit younger, but their punter—Lee Johnson—turns 58 this year.

Fifty eight.

Brady is the only man from those teams who remains active—and it’s not even close.

Just crazy.

PS: I was just reminded Adam Vinatieri was on the Pats. But, eh, he’s a kicker.

Facebook has informed me it’s Marc Saidel’s birthday

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Happy birthday, Mr. Saidel

One thing I dig about Facebook is the massive quantities of otherwise unknowable information it brings me.

For example, today is Marc Saidel’s birthday!

Back when I was a kid, I attended Hebrew school with Jenna, Mr. Saidel’s daughter. We came up through the ranks of lukewarm Torah study together, learned our Hebrew letters together, sat through weekly two-hour sessions together, suppressing yawns, sharing laughs, wondering whether Carey Jackson would be showing up that week. We attended each other’s Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, pretty sure we showed up at a couple of overlapping parties …

And all the while, there was Mr. Saidel.

He was a v-e-r-y warm man, with a deep voice, a kind smile, gestures that made you think, “I like this guy.” I can’t recall what sort of Hebrew skills he had, or whether he ever taught one of my classes. But he was a positive presence in my boyhood.

And now, thanks to Facebook, I know today is his birthday.

How did we ever survive sans social media?

On Covington Catholic

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So much has been said, written, argued, debated since the initial video featuring a Native American man and a bunch of kids from Covington Catholic High. And I have a few quick thoughts …

A. We live in a world of jumping to immediate conclusions, and I’m not entirely sure why. I do it. You probably do it. They do it. It’s not a conservative issue or a liberal issue. It’s an us issue. We, the people. This incident is a perfect example. I watched this first video, just as you surely did, and came to a full conclusion when fullness wasn’t realistic. That’s truly wrongheaded.

B. I still don’t know entirely who was wrong, right. I mean, clearly the Black Hebrew Israelites—a group I know well from my time in New York—are eternally a bunch of ignorant assholes. But I’m still not fully understanding of what the kids from Covington were trying to do. Or the Native American man. Confusing, bewildering.

C. I know this won’t go over with 24 percent of America, but—for me and many I know—#MAGA hats scream RACIST!, scream HOMOPHOBE!, scream XENOPHOBE! So when I hear the folks from Covington talk about peace, and how they were mere innocents, well … I struggle with this. Like or it not, those hats have turned into identifiers. They really have. They’re identifiers to the wearers, they’re identifiers to the witnesses. It means (again, to me) you’re against foreigners, you’re fall the wall, you’re hostile toward Mexicans. On and on. So all those Convington kids in their #MAGA gear … it’s just hard (in this climate, in this time period) to see the group as mere bystanders. I dunno. Is that unfair? Not sure. But when the kid in the center of the incident releases a statement that says, in part, “I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me — to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence.” … I mean. What is #MAGA if not an ode to a disrespectful man who relishes in conflict?

D. Where the fuck were the chaperones? Seriously—where we these people? The adults? The school can’t allow students to be in that position, or near that position.

E. I hate his shit. Truly, I hate this shit. I hate what social media has done to us, what 24-hour cable news has done to us, what iPhones have done to us. And—by “us”—I am including myself.

We need to stop.

We need to think.

We need to chill.

Alta Dermatology and how to run a medical office

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Dr. Wang: Kicks ass

So I arrived home a bunch of hours ago, checked the mail, found a personalized note. Opened it, thinking it was another DEAR JEFF, YOUR BOOKS SUCK AND TRUMP IS AWESOME AND YOU SHOULD GO TO HELL!!!!!! overly exclamation pointed missives from an angry reader who took the time to find my address.

Nope.

Here’s what it said …

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Carla is an employee at Alta Dermatology, the place where I recently went because of a rash on my leg. The review she’s referring to is a very positive Yelp offering I posted in the aftermath. The reason I praised Alta is because Dr. Victoria Wang runs as smooth a ship as you’ll find—fast service, free candy and coffee, clean, positive. It’s the perfect doctor’s office, especially when you’re old enough (as I am) to have experienced what often feels like ceaseless awful doctor’s offices (dirty, pushy, greedy, wait forever).

But here’s what truly dazzled me: The note! Who the hell writes a thank you note—by hand, no less?!—for a positive Yelp review? That’s insane, in the most lovely and impactful of ways. It screams, “We care about our patients, we value your presence.”

It’s something more physicians (and their practices) should aspire to.

Bricks

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In case you missed this, earlier today Donald Trump’s re-election committee (or whatever it’s called when a bunch of idiots work to put a conman in the world’s highest power position) sent out a letter soliciting donations of $20.20. In return, they say they’ll send bricks to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

Like this one …

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Now, I could use this space to once again slam Donald Trump, Mike Pence, all the once-sane Republicans who have surrendered their party and their mantles to a psychotic madman with a lengthy history of conning people. But, instead, I will address this to the people actually paying $20.20 for a brick.

(Throat clear).

You are so fucking stupid, it actually pains me. Seriously, take an IQ test. Does it clear 70? Seventy five? You find sending a fake brick funny? And I don’t mean this in the “I’m offended because liberal blah blah blah.” No, I mean—this is a stupid joke. It’s a con. A way of making you feel like you’re in on the gag, when, in truth, these wealthy white men are taking your money. So, seriously, Grandma, Grandpa, Pop, Uncle Jed. Shut off the Hannity, stop reading the Washington Examiner. Take a walk. Enjoy the fresh air. Hell, go play Bingo. Have a cup of coffee.

Anything but this.

They’re just playing you.

Jesus.

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The suckiness of humanity in one stretch

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So every Friday morning the son and I have breakfast before he’s dropped off at school.

It’s a fun ritual—we pick a place, sit down for pancakes and eggs while playing cards. He usually kicks my ass in Gin Rummy, but that’s OK. It’s together time, and we talk about robotics (his passion), writing (mine), sports, politics, the world.

I digress.

After leaving the restaurant, we head to his school. There’s always a decent amount of traffic, and at one point—roughly, oh, 300 yards form the drop-off point—one has a choice to make. If he continues straight, he follows a to-a-crawl path of other vehicles, all also depositing their children at school. And if he turns right, he can skip the line via a shortcut that bypasses all the others and places you at the front of the line.

So, again, one can go straight …

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Or turn right and cut.

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Whenever I’m sitting there, tempted to swerve and bolt ahead, I think back to my ninth grade high school trip to Washington, D.C. My class of about 300 kids was having lunch at a Luby’s Cafeteria, and the line was l-o-n-g. I was standing there, hungry and tired, when I spotted a bunch of the “cool” kids stepping in and cutting. I was too big of a cowardly dweeb to say anything, but I was dumbfounded by the wrongness of it all. By the nerve. Why were these assholes any more important than me or John Messina or Jessica Stein or Ed Schmidt. Who were they to do such a thing.

So, in 2019, I never cut. Never.

Not when we’re late.

Not when I have a ton of work.

Never.

But, amazingly, so many people do. Maybe they justify the move, or perhaps they simply don’t care. But they cut, and I’m reminded that humanity routinely disappoints, and that for some it takes work to do the right thing.

Argh.

If you want to feel OK with aging, don’t watch this

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I don’t know how this happened, but on a rainy day in Southern California I found myself inside a coffee shop, watching a video clip of former KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent performing “Lick it Up” with a band called “Four By Fate” on a cruise ship.

Here’s the link.

This is nothing redeeming in this. Vincent isn’t Mick Jagger, still bringing it in his 70s. Vincent isn’t Tony Bennett, smooth, savvy, cool. He isn’t even Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley, the two KISS hucksters headmen milking every last penny out of a lark that should have ended decades ago.

Nope. Vinnie Vincent—KISS guitarist from 1982 through part of 1984—is 66-years-old, probably getting paid, oh, $1,000 to wear the makeup one last time and halfheartedly perform a sorta kinda long-ago hit with a band no one has ever heard of. To watch him there, on the stage, going through the motions in a T-shirt featuring his youthful likeness, is just … awful.

But it’s awful in a can’t-look-away way; in a “Did this really happen?” sorta mode.

I’m only 46, but I’m well aware how this goes. For most of us, aging involves a declining in skills, a rise in wrinkles, mounting forgetfulness, limited relevance. It’s an ugly, downward spiral that only ends when we blink for that final time.

Now imagine doing so in makeup.

On a boat.

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On John Wetteland and holy rollers …

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In case you missed the news, John Wetteland, the former All-Star closer who helped pitch the Yankees to the 1996 World Series title, has been charged in Texas with continual sex abuse of a child under 14. You can read up on it here.

It’s an interesting thing, retired athletes who stood out at holy rollers during their playing careers. As I noted on Twitter a few hours ago, as an athlete performing at the highest level, Wetteland was known for three things:

A. Terrific pitching.

B. Being an asshole to the media.

C. Praising Jesus at all moments.

As a baseball writer during much of Wetteland’s career, I was a happy observer of A, a only-know-because-of-word-of-mouth knower of B and a viewer of C. Wetteland was the guy who strolled through the Yankees clubhouse drinking from a mug that read JESUS LIVES; the guy who told Jack Curry of the New York Times, “I honestly try and walk with Jesus Christ every day”; the guy who quoted scripture at will and blasted Christian rock and wanted absolutely everyone to know that Christ was the way, the way, the only way.

And I have no doubt that, at the time, Wetteland was being sincere. But I also think that, quite often, when someone wants you to know—really, really know—how much they love God, they’re suppressing/hiding something. That they want the religion to conceal a flaw, if not remove that flaw. That they hope screaming JESUS! loud enough, often enough will eradicate the sinister devil that lies within.

I don’t know if John Wetteland was hiding something.

But it appears he’s been found.

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Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
Sweetness Walter Peyton Book
The Bad Guys Won Book
The Rocket that Fell to Earth Book
Boys Will Be Boys Book

Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

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