Jeff Pearlman

  • Twitter Icon
  • Twitter Icon
  • Twitter Icon

The passing of my literary hero …

Lynn Cain ...

Lynn Cain …

A few days ago, while standing on the University of Southern California campus, I was approached by a man in a yellow shirt. He wore sunglasses and had a shaved head, and he was there to lead me to the room where I’d be on a panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. His name-tag read, LYNN CAIN.

Lynn Cain … Lynn Cain … Lynn Cain … Lynn Cain … wait a second! “Lynn Cain!” I said. “You used to be a running back for the Atlanta Falcons!”

He smiled widely, happy that someone remembered his relatively brief NFL career. We spoke at length about his time at USC, about his time with the Falcons and Rams, about this and that and that and this and highs and lows.

And it all happened because of the 1981 Complete Handbook of Pro Football.

That’s how I remembered Cain—as a black-and-white photo from a book I studied as if it contained the answers to all of life’s problems. From, oh, age 9 until my 21st or 22nd birthday, I absorbed the annual Handbooks whenever they came out—one for baseball season, one for football season, one for basketball season. This was way before the Internet; way before 1,045 TV channels brought us information on every team, every player, every uniform. The Handbooks took me to Tampa Bay to meet Ricky Bell; to Yankee Stadium to learn about Steve Kemp; to Charlotte to hang with David Wingate. They offered overviews of every team, with capsules of a dozen or so players per squad.

Although different freelancers did the writing, every Handbook was edited by Zander Hollander, a man who made little Jeffie Pearlman dream of ultimately writing sports. The books were informative and smart and cutting, featuring one liners that always had me laughing aloud (Yinka Dare: Translation—He who can’t play). I would call the local bookstores repeatedly, asking, “Is the new Handbook out? Is it in stock?” When news of the arrival was confirmed, I’d rush out, $6 in hand. Then, I’d scurry back home, plop down on my bed and read them—over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.05.04 AMThose books are the reason I can tell you where 95 percent of 1980s NFL and NBA players attended college; the reason I know of Alan Ogg and Sylvester Gray and Greg Butler. I didn’t read them. I absorbed them.

Today, sadly, I learned of Hollander’s passing. He was 91, and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for some time. If you have a second, check out his obituary from the New York Times.

Zander Hollander didn’t merely make me interested in sports.

He made me want it to become a career.

RIP.

 

Ego

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 8.21.38 PMSo last night I attended a party at the central branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. It was in honor (for lack of a better phrase) of the participants in this weekend’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

The shindig is called a “book drop,” because every attendee is asked to bring some books, then take some books. I assumed we were supposed to bring our own books, so I signed two copies of Showtime and shoved them in a bag.

Upon arriving at the library and looking upon the pile of books, I noticed (quickly) that lots of the books were old. Cookbooks from 30 years ago. A computer guide from 2002. Many were good. Hell, many were great. But few—if any—were spankin’-new releases. Hence, mine sparkled. They sat atop a pile, all purple and gold and glistening. I figured the pair of Showtimes would be gone in a snap. Hell, the thing’s selling like crazy out here. So, naturally, they’d be swooped up and …

Um …

Eh …

Ah …

Because I knew no one at the party (and because I have an ego), I checked in on the books semi-regularly. And, well, fuck. They just sat there. The old cookbooks went. The yellowed novels went. Peter Criss’ autobiography, The Poisonwood Bible, Summer of 42 … gone, gone, gone.

Not Showtime.

My books remained stagnant, taunting me like an old girlfriend with a boob job. I could hear the damn things laughing at me—”You think you’re hot shit? You think you matter? Look at us, man. We’re pathetic. And so are you. Pathetic.”

After an hour or so, I left. For all I know, the two books remain in the pile, being pecked at by rodents and ravens.

Just another reminder that, day’s end, we’re all shit.

Why I Almost Never Do Book Signings

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 6.19.21 PMThis weekend I’m appearing at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on the USC campus. I’ll be on a panel, then signing books. I’m excited, because I love talking writing and being around other authors.

I’m pessimistic, because I hate—hate—signing events.

I know … I know: You’re an author who hates signings? What the hell is wrong with you?

Answer: I’m an author, but I’m not a celebrity author. I’ve had a blessed career, but not a blessed career that brings a line of 200 people to my events. If I’m having an absolutely, positively, 100-percent amazing day, I might (might) get 50 people to attend. But everything has to go right: Hot book, signing in my home town, lots of friends and family members coming. Otherwise, there’s a big risk I’ll go through another Fort Hood ’08-type disaster. Which, in my family, has become the stuff of legend.

Six years ago, when my Cowboys biography was out and selling well, HarperCollins arranged an event at Fort Hood—the nation’s largest military base. I was pretty psyched: the local newspaper interviewed me the day before, and I had this vision of a room filled with soldiers, talking NFL and Cowboys and such. Cool.

Eh … no.

I arrive. I’m met by some military guy who says, “We don’t get many celebrities around here!” He leads me to the base’s equivalent of Wal-Mart. Huge store, clothing and toys and such. We get to a front area where, oh, 200 copies of my book are stacked behind a table. “Sit here,” he told me. Then—the announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, Jeff Pearlman is here signing his new book … Jeff Pearlman is here …”

I sat for, I believe, four hours.

I sold (and signed) four books.

At one point, i ducked beneath the table and called the wife. “This is the most embarrassing situation ever,” I told her. “I’m mortified.”

On the bright side, I got a free mug, a T-shirt and a story I’ve now told 1,001 times.

On the down side, I’ve been scarred. Signings scare me. No, terrify me. In the ensuing years I’ve done a couple at the Mahopac Public Library, my hometown joint. I generally enjoy the experience, because it’s childhood pals inside a building that helped mold my career. And yet, even in the comfort of home, I’ve had people say, “Jeff! Loooong time, no see! How’s the family? Do me a favor and sign a book to me …”

Um …

Eh …

Ah …

Glub.

 

One way to report

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 12.48.54 AMIn the aftermath of my recent Bleacher Report recollection of the John Rocker story of 1999, the long-retired pitcher cited some of the different people in sports who I’ve apparently wronged or done in. He mentioned David Wells. He mentioned Mike Ditka. He mentioned Will Clark. And, of course, he mentioned himself.

I’m not mad at John for this. My story made him look like the toolbag that he is, and he limply battled back. Fair enough.

But it raises an interesting point about journalism, and the perception of journalism in 2014.

Rocker is right. Wells, Ditka and Will Clark were all—at one time or another—mad at me. Hell, I suppose they might still be mad at me, though I’d suspect they probably don’t remember who I am. The thing is, when you’re a journalist people are sorta supposed to be mad at you. That’s because, when you report the hell out of something, and write with truth and conviction and a lack of bias, it can sting and bruise. But that doesn’t mean you’re wrong. In fact, it often means you’re right.

So let’s look at the three cases. Because they’re all kind of fascinating to me …

• David Wells: In 2000, Sports Illustrated assigned me to write a piece of Wells, who at the time was pitching wonderfully for the Toronto Blue Jays. I approached Wells in the clubhouse one day, and he told me he wouldn’t grant a one-on-one interview. It was nothing personal, he insisted. Just a beef over some past incident with SI. So I hung around for group interviews (he was fine with that), spoke with teammates and coaches, etc … etc. The thing that struck me—that really struck me—was how Wells was so insanely athletic while also being so insanely fat. He wasn’t merely big or wide. He was borderline obese. Hence, my story came out with this lede (which Wells absolutely detested):

David wells is fat. Not phat. Fat. He is not a work in progress, not a lug trying to shed some pounds, not a Weight Watchers washout. Over the past 13 years, since Wells broke in as a reliever with the Toronto Blue Jays, players and trainers and managers and general managers and owners have spent time—too much time—trying to convince themselves and the rest of the world that Wells was a fat guy in search of a skinny body. Nothing could be further from the truth. Wells is a fat guy who is content being fat, and if he is in search of anything, it is a beer: Coors Light, in a bottle, please. Everything about Wells is fat. The three likenesses of family members tattooed on his upper body are fat. The dark-brown goatee that could comfortably house a family of six robins is fat. His fingers and toes, his ears and nose, his forehead and chin(s) are fat. Even his voice sounds fat, the words spewing forth in a husky tone, with a fleshiness to them.

Now, did I go too far? No. Features are about descriptive writing, and bringing images to life. Plus, what followed was a complete and total appreciation of Wells being able to accomplish so much with, ahem, so much. It was, to me, a natural focus of a David Wells piece—huge guy, huge results. Wells, however, was furious. He also later admitted he hadn’t actually read the story. So … hey.

• Mike Ditka: After Sports Illustrated ran an excerpt from Sweetness in 2011, Ditka was asked by a Chicago reporter what he’d say to me were I there. The passage, after all, dealt specifically with Walter Payton’s depression and infidelity. Ditka then spit on the ground—Pfft! Jarring stuff. Ditka also called the book “pathetic” and “despicable.” He said I was motivated by money and that my reporting couldn’t be trusted. Ditka also, ahem, hadn’t read the book. Knew nothing about the book. Later acknowledged that he shouldn’t have said what he did. In fact, when the book finally came out, and people were able to read through all 490-something pages, there was an acknowledgment that, damn, this guy reported the hell out of Walter Payton’s life; that the book was gripping and emotional and very, very fair. Nobody called the book tabloid-ish, or exploitative. It was a chronicling of a life. A thorough chronicling. Ditka had simply responded to the 1/1,000th of the book that he was privy to.

• Will Clark: As I’ve now written about several times, Clark tore into me after the Rocker piece ran—and I tore back years later with a Deadspin piece titled (perfectly) WILL CLARK IS A CACKLING DOUCHE. For my money, Clark was the worst of the worst—a mean, angry, ignorant man who was eyed warily by African-American teammates. He hated me because I dared write the Rocker story.

•••

The point here, truly, isn’t to evoke Rocker. It’s to explain how, when things are reported well, and you’re not trying to make friends (or, for that matter, enemies) of the athletes, people will inevitably have bruised feelings. That’s why, years later, Rocker continues to tell one white lie after another about how, truthfully, we were engaged in these societal debates about politics and immigration. Because he’s bruised. And embarrassed. And a bit vulnerable.

But one having those feelings doesn’t damn the writer.

It often validates him.

The best interviewer on TV

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 8.27.37 PMConfession: I’ve never been an enormous Howard Stern fan.

It’s not like I have a great reason. I’m not a huge radio guy. He seems a bit irksome. I’ve never been big into the, “You have great tits” sort of banter. Blah, blah. Again, no great reason. Just never jumped on the train.

Over the past week, however, I’ve come to (for me) a shocking conclusion: Howard Stern is the best on-air interviewer I’ve ever heard (or seen). I mean this with 100-percent sincerity. He destroys everyone on Real Sports and 60 Minutes—and they’re all quite good. I love Michael Kay’s word on CenterStage, but he tosses many softballs and sometimes lacks in follow-ups. I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Oprah’s interviewing stylings (too much about herself), though she’s a 10-time All-Star compared to Mike (Interrupt Everyone) Francesa, who is, truly, one of the two worst interviewers I’ve ever had the displeasure of hearing (the other being Piers Morgan). Come to think of it, the Bad List is significantly easier to fill than the great list. For every Maggie Gray (as underrated as they come), there are 1,000 Sean Hannitys and Lawrence O’Donnells—loud, obnoxious dolts who use the interview as a method to make clear their own personal viewpoints.

I digress.

While sitting at my laptop one recent day, I YouTubed “Howard Stern” and interviews—then started listening to his hour-long sitdown with Jason Bateman. Which was, well, fucking awesome. Funny. Insightful. Educational.

Then, I turned on his Q&A with Jay-Z from a couple of years ago … which was even better. I mean, Stern’s questions are fantastic. Hell, listen …

What are the keys? First and foremost, research. Stern actually took the time to read the hip-hop star’s book, which means who knows whereof he speaks and isn’t merely going off of talking points supplied by a publicist. Second (and probably equally important), he listens. Really, truly listens. If Jay-Z (or Bateman. Or anyone) tells Stern something unique and cool and noteworthy, Stern stays with it. Stays on it. Zooms in. He doesn’t allow good information to pass by, merely because he has other questions that need to be addressed. Third, he’s empathetic. Bateman and Jay-Z are from different worlds, with different backgrounds, different problems, different issues. Yet Stern—even in his own unique mannerism—doesn’t demean, or mock. He acknowledges their words. Probes. Digs.

Just terrific.

I know this is nothing new, and Stern loyalists will read my post and say, “Um, duh?” But I get the idea that his reputation as a goof (for lack of a better word) takes away from an appreciation of his interviewing skills.

Which are significant.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 11.08.25 AM

Michelle Beadle

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 11.08.25 AMHere’s how you know when someone in the spotlight is cool …

When I initially e-mailed this week’s Quaz questions to today’s guest, I misspelled her last name as “Beedle.” Her response: “First of all, it’s BEADLE, bitch.”

Translation: I’m a big Michelle Beedle fan, and an even bigger Michelle Beadle fan. The SportsNation co-host doesn’t think herself a goddess of television; doesn’t revel in the attention and the fanfare; doesn’t equate being on the tube with, well, any real-world importance. She’s blunt, straightforward and extremely good at her job. She also happens to love Dikembe Mutombo, dislike Rick Perry and embrace all things WWE.

Michelle Beed … eh, Beadle. Welcome to the Quaz, bitch …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Michelle, so you seem cool enough and grounded enough that I can ask this without having a knife thrown in my eyeball. I’ve known many people who work in sports TV, and while they tend to try and play off recognition and fame as a major perk of the job, I sorta get the impression—for many of you—the ego boosts of fame and recognition are addictive and seductive. Airport recognition. Autograph requests. Etc. Am I right? Wrong?

MICHELLE BEADLE: Wait … people in this business have egos? I think most everyone enjoys a little recognition from time to time. It’s a bizarre thing to be in a restaurant with friends  and have it happen. But for the most part any glimpse into that type of an existence has been positive for me. You won’t catch me doing the whole publicist, TMZ route anytime soon, but a nice ‘howdoyado’ goes a long way.

J.P.: When I have a book come out, and I do media for that three-week span, I love it. I love the TV, the radio. By the end, however, I’m ready to return to my cave and stop talking. I’m tired of hearing my own voice, tired of the makeup, the banter, the, “Real quick before we take a commercial break …” thing. What is it about TV that you love? That keeps you going? Is there something I’m missing?

M.B.: For me TV was the last thing I should have been doing. I wasn’t an extrovert. Not a ham. To be honest, I’m not overly social at all. On TV, I get to talk about things that I enjoy, with people I find interesting, and when it’s live, it provides a nice buzz to an otherwise quiet life. TV came relatively easy once I learned to be comfortable. And the money doesn’t hurt.

J.P.: I’m always fascinated in life paths, and you see to have a pretty winding and remarkable one. Born in Italy, raised in Texas, focused upon practicing law. Michelle, how the heck did you get into TV? What was your path?

M.B.: I grew up wanting to go to Harvard Law School and save the world. I thought I could be a politician and truly make a difference. I spent my first several college years in Austin at UT, worked at the Capitol, all while pursuing this ‘law’ dream. Meanwhile, I slowly acquired an addiction to Jerry Springer (pre-fake-fighting) and afternoons at Barton Springs. This lifestyle was not conducive to attending my classes. So my grades start to plummet just as I’m realizing the political road was not for me.

With an abysmal GPA, I left Austin and took off. Spent time in various cities, “living the dream.” Or as my parents called it: wasting time. When I finally made my way back to Boerne (where my parents live), it became clear I needed a plan. Through my dad, I got a meeting with an executive of the team who put me in touch with the broadcasting maestro, and voila! Actually, not quite that easy. I called many times and was annoyingly persistent. One day I was allowed to shoot a segment on how to care for one’s pet for the team’s locally broadcast children’s show. I was beyond horrible, uncomfortable and awkward. I got one more shot. My cameraman that day, Eddie Ray Rodriguez, said “forget the camera’s there.’ Simple yet effective advice. And that was it. The bug bit. And I’ve been chasing the little red light ever since.

J.P.: I just read this on your Wikipedia page, and was immediately fascinated (Beadle was one of the last people out of 142 to audition for SportsNation. ESPN called her back and asked her to write about what she would do to make the show better.Thinking it was a joke, she wrote “a sarcastic list of 10 stupid things,” which helped her land the job.). A. Is it even true? B. Can you explain—in greater detail—what happened?

M.B.: The audition for SportsNation came at a time when I’d been on a few, and was very prepared to hear ‘no’ again. My chemistry with Colin Cowherd was immediate and easy but not the whole thing. I met with a number of suits, and one of them ‘assigned’ me the list of 10 things I’d do to improve the show. Now I’m thinking, ‘How do I improve a show that doesn’t exist?’ My list was ten strong but extremely sarcastic. I remember including my brilliant idea of ‘adding more purple to the set.’ Luckily the list was intercepted by Jamie Horowitz and Kevin Wildes before it reached its destination, and we, together, came up with real magic. Or at least enough magic to get me the gig.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 11.10.19 AM

J.P.: In 2012 you left ESPN for NBC and immediately seemed to regret the decision and loathe NBC. You were very open about your unhappiness. What caused it? How long did it take you to realize, “Glub—bad move,” and did you seriously consider leaving the business?

M.B.: I’ve spoken a little bit about the last two years. They weren’t great. I enjoyed my time at Access Hollywood. Loved my work family in New York. And I got to do some interviews that will always be cool to look back on: Michelle Obama at the White House, the Anchorman crew,  the people who make the things that entertain me. But on the sports side, it was a simple case of just a really bad fit. I came in with the highest of hopes: the Olympics, Triple Crown, my own show. I left with a greater appreciation for people I’d worked with in my past and a lot of life lessons learned. But yeah, I was considering quitting the whole TV thing and going to a nonexistent plan.

J.P.: You’ve done a shitload of red carpet work for award shows. I say this with no disrespect—but it strikes me as sorta vapid work. What are you wearing? You look gorgeous. Blah, blah. Tell me why I’m wrong. Or right. Or neither.

M.B.: I hate red carpets. I. HATE. RED. CARPETS.  I did a few while at Access Hollywood. But I tried to have as much fun as possible. Covering the Country Music Awards in Nashville, I asked as many non-fashion questions as possible. I’m with you … people fake laughing at unfunny jokes while kissing celebrity booty is not entertaining.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 11.09.03 AMJ.P.: A while ago I wrote a blog post that was pretty critical of Erin Andrews. My point wasn’t to bash Andrews, but sports TV—which seems to rarely place women in the booths, and always seems to hire perky, pretty, tall blondes and plant them along the sidelines while feeding them bullshit questions. In short, I think it demeans qualified, talented, sports knowledgeable women. You agree? Disagree?

M.B.: It’s not rocket science that TV likes to put attractive people in front of the camera. And obviously, women have been, far and away, a recipient of this process. And yes, it’s annoying when you see that put someone in a position that they should probably otherwise not have. But let’s be honest, across the board, in any industry, we’ve all witnessed folks who might not be perfectly qualified. We get a tougher time in this business because as females the spotlight is hot. We are expected to fail, to not do the work. I’m proud of the new crop of women who have made a helluva showing: Allie LaForce, Kristin Ledlow. They have massive knowledge and presence, and for the Neanderthals who can’t hear them speaking, they just happen to both be gorgeous.

J.P.: If one YouTubes and Googles Michelle Beadle, he/she finds a lot of shit about your breasts, your legs, your outfits. How do you deal with this stuff?

M.B.: No. 1: Never Google yourself. Ever. I’ve given my parent the same instructions. A few years ago I learned the hard way that any jerk can say what  they want and it can get you. The Aaron Rodgers crap that hit the internet was a flat-out blatant lie, yet I, to this day, find morons who tweet about it like it was fact. I’ve never Googled myself since. Nothing good comes of it. And if there’s a positive story out there, it will find you.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 11.11.10 AMJ.P.: You’re a big fan of professional wrestling—which strikes me as both weird and weird. Where did this come from? How often do you attend events? And you do realize it’s predetermined, yes?

M.B.: PREDETERMINED?!?!?!?!?! I won’t even engage in that silliness. I got into wrestling in my 20’s. Was working in a restaurant in San Antonio and all my fellow servers were fans. It became standard practice to watch RAW on the reg. I never grew up watching or being around soap operas. I always equate wrestling to my soaps. I love the storylines, the athleticism. And for those of us who have had to speak into a microphone in front of a large group of people, some of those guys are amazing with the promo skills . Do I consider myself a nerd for loving it? Yup. I’ve been lucky enough to form a relationship with the WWE over the last several years, and as a result been to many events. Front Row. Sweating  and sometimes I bring my own signs.

J.P.: You have a natural, refreshing presence on TV. I’m not just saying that. You come off as someone it’d be cool to hang with. Is that at all practiced? Perfected? Did you have to ever loosen up, change your approach? In short, where did that come from?

M.B.: I believe this to be a major compliment. So first of all, thank you. I don’t think about it all. This may actually be a problem. But going all the way back to that cameraman who gave me the “be yourself” advice, I’ve never worried about cameras or me. I know that when I watch television, the people who I feel most satisfied watching are those that genuinely come across as humans. Not prompter-reading robots. I mean look, I’m discussing tattoos and tweets, this should be fun. It’s sports.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 11.10.49 AMQUAZ EXPRESS WITH MICHELLE BEADLE:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): J.R. Richard, potato latkes, Rick Perry, Dave Briggs, Tommy Dreamer, Raymond Felton, Laura Branigan, The Best Damn Sports Show Period, earmuffs, The Rainbow Connection, Oreos, John Steinbeck: Earmuffs (I suffer poor circulation), Rainbow Connection (should have been first if not for that damn circulation and New York City winters), Laura Branigan (she got me), John Steinbeck (I can read), J. R Richard (amazing story), The Best Damn Sports Show (liked it early on), Tommy Dreamer, Raymond Felton (I like basketball), potato latkes (mmmmmmm—carbs),  Rick Perry (don’t even think I’m getting political on this), Oreos (I’m not a sweet tooth).

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I believe I’m going to die every time I get on a plane. 50-50 chance, right? My tears upon takeoff are real. And I’m a big proponent of Xanax to try and squash some of the anxiety. My friends do not enjoy flying with me. And I completely understand. Have I mentioned I hate flying?

• Nicest athlete you’ve ever dealt with?: Dikembe Mutumbo. Easy. Willing to do anything and laughs the whole way through.

• How many licks does it take to get to the bottom of a Tootsie Pop?: Four bites plus paper taste.

• Nicknames kids came up for you having to do with “Beadle”?: Beadlejuice, Beadlemania, Beadster, I call myself Beadsy, Sphincter McGillicutty

• Five best sportscasters of your lifetime: In no particular order— Dan and Keith as one; Scott Van Pelt; Jim Ross; Rob Lowe; Bob Ley; 6th man award: Doris Burke.

• Six guys walk into a bar …: and my pants stay on.

• Celine Dion calls. She wants you to spend a year MCing her new Las Vegas show, “Celine Eats Pork Then Vomits Everywhere While Singing George Michael’s Freedom.” Bright side: You’ll earn $54.7 million for the year. Negative side: You have to change your name to Ed Ott and, nightly, clean up the vomit. You in?: This is a ridiculous question. 54.7 million??? I’ve done far worse for much less. I’ll even analyze her diet for her nightly

• You’re from Texas. I sorta hate Texas. Give my five reasons I’m wrong: Fresh tortillas, Coach Bud Kilmer, The McConaissance, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shiner Bock.

• My neighbor recently took one of my books without asking, then requested I autograph it. What’s the proper response?: Send a bill to his house or sleep with his wife. Seems fair. One or the other.

Heaven is For Real (Dear God, nooooo)

In case you’ve missed it, a new movie is coming out that will inevitably make millions of dollars and have Sean Hannity quite happy. It’s called, “Heaven is For Real,” and tells the “true” story of a little boy who died, visited heaven, then came back to life and told his folks everything that happened. Jesus, naturally, was there, as were a bunch of glowing, happy people.

Best of all, according to the above trailer, Great Grandpa was in heaven. Which got me thinking about my own inevitable death and, perhaps, inevitable visit to heaven, where Grandma and Grandpa and all my relatives apparently await. Which sounds great—for about six minutes.

Here’s how it goes:

Scene: Jeff gets hit by a bus. Everyone’s grossed out, but he’s OK. He floats to heaven on a cloud, and is overtaken by love and happiness …

Jeff: “Wow! I’m here! I’m in heaven! This is terrific! Wait … Grandma Marta … is, is, is … that you?”

Grandma Marta: “Yes, Jeffrey. Come give me a hug.”

Jeff: “Grandma, it’s amazing to see you. You’ve been dead since 1999 …”

Grandma Marta: “I’m here. In heaven. And now we’ll be together for eternity.”

Jeff: “Wow.”

Grandma Marta: “Would you like some apple cake? I just baked it.”

Jeff: “No thanks, Grandma. I’m not really hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Don’t be silly. Sit down. Eat.”

Jeff: “Really, I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Please, eat something.”

Jeff: “It’s OK. I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Don’t be silly. Sit down. Eat.”

Jeff: “Really, I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Please, eat something.”

Jeff: “It’s OK. I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Don’t be silly. Sit down. Eat.”

Jeff: “Really, I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Please, eat something.”

Jeff: “It’s OK. I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Don’t be silly. Sit down. Eat.”

Jeff: “Really, I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Please, eat something.”

Jeff: “It’s OK. I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Don’t be silly. Sit down. Eat.”

Jeff: “Really, I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Please, eat something.”

Jeff: “It’s OK. I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Don’t be silly. Sit down. Eat.”

Jeff: “Really, I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Please, eat something.”

Jeff: “It’s OK. I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Don’t be silly. Sit down. Eat.”

Jeff: “Really, I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Please, eat something.”

Jeff: “It’s OK. I’m not hungry.”

Grandma Marta: “Don’t be silly. Sit down. Eat.”

Jeff: “Fuck. What time is it?”

Walk Right In …

RIP: Chuck Stone.

RIP: Chuck Stone.

Back in the spring of 1990, I was a University of Delaware freshman who desperately wanted to be a journalist.

At the time, one was required to take E:301—Introduction to Journalism—before he/she could work for The Review, the student newspaper. So I enrolled in the course, 18-years old and convinced I knew all I needed to in order to become one of the all-time great writers in the history of the entire universe.

Then I met Chuck Stone.

He was an African-American man with brilliant white hair and a bow-tie. He had a soft voice, but his words carried remarkable weight. In that first class, I sat alongside people like Laura Fasbach and Jason Garber and listened to Chuck sing us a tune, “Walk on In.” I don’t recall the words, only the point: A reporter needs to walk right into a story. No hesitation, no sideways angles. Direct, immediate, powerful, in.

Over the course of the semester, we all came to love Chuck. Initially, all we knew was that he was really smart, and wrote columns for the Philadelphia Daily News. However, as the weeks progressed, it became clear that we were being instructed by a legend. Chuck was one of American’s truly great and pioneering African-American journalists. He had been the White House correspondent at the Washington Afro-American, an editor at the Chicago Defender and the Daily News’ first black columnist. He was one of the founders of the National Association of Black Journalists, and served as the organization’s first president in 1975. He also happened to have been an assistant to Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., the former U.S. Representative.

Most important, the man was inspiring. Like, really, really, really inspiring. He made you want to be a journalist, because it felt like a higher calling, filled with drama and excitement and a chance to bring forth real change. He told one story after another from his career—highs, lows, glee, heartbreak.

My best memory of Chuck Stone comes from the end of my freshman year. I’d been working to complete a story for the student newspaper on why Delaware and Delaware State never played one another in sports (the schools were 45 minutes apart, both Division I in all sports except football. Both were I-AA in that). Ultimately, the piece appeared on the top of Page 1A of The Review—and weeks later the colleges scheduled meetings in myriad sports. Chuck was prouder than proud. In a radio interview toward the end of the year, he was asked about teaching, and cited the article. “That’s my student who did that!” he said. “My student!”

Chuck Stone died today. He was 89, and had been sick for quite some time.

He was my teacher.

My teacher.

Crap at my front door

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 10.02.41 PMCame home tonight after a long day in the city. My kids walked to the front door, and one of them said, “Dad, there are bags of dog poop here.”

I thought it was a joke. But, no—there were, indeed, four bags of dog poop.

Um …

I asked the wife whether she had any idea who could have done this. She shrugged. “Sue?” I didn’t think so. Sue lives down the street. She’s our neighbor and friend. She has a huge dog named Buckner. But I could think of no motivation for her to drop excrement on our property. Then I started thinking about it. A few days ago, some people who lived nearby began walking their dogs for the first time in, seemingly, ever (they keep them in the yard). About three days back, I found a huge pile of steaming shit in front of our neighbor’s driveway. I cleaned it up angrily … certain the new walkers lazily left it there.

Tonight, I developed a theory: Someone on the block thinks our dog Norma is shitting on their yard—and that we’re not cleaning it up. In other words, they blame us for the crap, and the bags were payback. Or warnings. (I briefly also thought, “John Rocker?”—then realized the trip from Macon to here was pretty far). Anyhow, I desperately wanted to solve this, and went up and down the block, asking folks what they knew. I even came up with a conclusion: It had to be this one couple way down the street. They just smelled suspicious.

Anyhow, the wife kept thinking it was Sue She texted her, didn’t hear back … didn’t hear back … didn’t hear back—finally heard back. She asked the wife whether—in the aftermath of the Kentucky-Wisconsin game—I’d left a note on her car mocking the Badgers (her alma mater). I insisted I did not. To which Sue responded, “I thought you did—so I left Buckner’s poop as payback.”

Which leads to the new mystery: Who wrote the note?

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