Jeff Pearlman

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Rodney

Rodney

I’ve written several times the past few days about my late father in law, Rodney Cole.

Here’s my last thought …

In honor of Rodney, my mother in law has started a scholarship. It’s the Rodney Cole Memorial Scholarship for Deserving Photographers, and it’s very appropriate. Rodney was a passionate wildlife photographer who devoted much of the past two decades to capturing birds in flight, lions on the prowl, alligators floating through water.

Anyhow, here’s what I’ll do. Donate $50 or more, then send proof to anngold22@gmail.com, and I’ll send you a signed copy of Gunslinger.

The official details:

The Rodney Cole Memorial Scholarship for Deserving Photographers

Palm Beach Photography Center

415 Clematis Street

West Palm Beach, Florida 33401

Thanks.

Steven Rogers—blurry like a mofo

Blurry like a mofo

Blurry like a mofo

Steven Rogers is a former member of the United States Air Force who, after working as a police officer for many years, became a professional nut job.

By “professional nut job,” I mean he’s both professional and a nut job. Despite his lengthy military background, for example, he said nothing when Donald Trump mocked a POW, mocked a Gold Star Family, admitted he had five military deferments, lied about his phone call to the widow of a fallen soldier. Hell, he identifies himself as a former campaign “advisor” to Trump. Strangely, he also uses a really blurry photograph on the homepage of his shit website.

Regardless, somehow or another Rogers has 138,000 Twitter followers—the vast majority of whom, I’m quite certain, think we need to make American great again by banning Muslims, building walls and giving everyone a semiautomatic weapon. And tonight, because Rogers is Rogers, he Tweeted this:

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The points I love:

A man walked into a church and killed 26 people—with a military style rife. But this has nothing to do with guns. Because, truly, if you use your imagination while simultaneously popping a whole bunch of shrooms, the gun could have been a panda. Or a banana. Or a panda holding a banana. And, under these panda-and-banana circumstances, the tragedy had nothing to do with guns.

• “The Lt Gov of Texas & I articulated what we believe the problem is.” Um, asshole—who the fuck are you? You hold no position. You don’t work for the government. You don’t work for the NRA. You’re a nobody with a bunch of Twitter followers. So while folks might find a lieutenant governor’s stance interesting, you are a Wal-Mart greeter, a local CPA, a dentist, a Little League coach, a computer programer. In other words, you are insignificant to this issue. You don’t matter.

• “This is not the time for liberals to advance their agenda.” Assfuck, the agenda is safety. Period. I have two kids. I would prefer someone not walk into their schools and start shooting. Now, you might thing there’s an approach to this that might differ from my belief. But that doesn’t mean the agenda (safety) is something to be mocked.

• “Have you any decency!” This is the best. Why? Because hours after the New York gun attack, there was Rogers … calling for Donald Trump’s travel ban. Hypocrisy, meet Steve.

• As a side note, I love this gem on Rogers’ 1991-is-calling-and-it-wants-its-material-back website …

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Saying farewell

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In a sense, a funeral is an opportunity to say farewell. And even though the person you’re saying farewell to can’t hear the sentiment, it’s (for many—myself included) a necessary process for accepting death, embracing (sort of) death, moving forward with life.

All religions handle this differently, but I’ve always been a fan of the methods applied by reform Judaism. First, we never have an open casket. Which is terrific, because who wants to see a dead body? I prefer to remember someone as they were, alive and vibrant. All the makeup in the world can’t bring that to a corpse. Second, we don’t delve into heaven, afterlife, etc. It’s not about where the person is going, but where he/she has been. What he/she has done. Who she/he has touched. Third, we eat like motherfuckers. We eat and eat and eat and eat and eat. Then we eat some more. And, when all the food is gone … well, it’s never gone. So we eat some more.

If you’re a recent reader of this site, you might know my father in law, Rodney Cole, passed a few days ago at age 81. So today was his funeral, and it hit all the marks. No open casket. Talk on where he’d been. Lotsa lotsa lotsa food.

But, even with those norms, it was … different. Rodney had this striking silver hair, and throughout the day I kept thinking I saw him. It would be a moment’s time, then I’d realize it was someone else with similar coloring. I also heard his voice over and over. Rodney was British, so his accent was unique here in South Florida. But on multiple occasions I genuinely felt as if he were speaking in the background to someone. Then, alas, I’d look to see … no one. And I remembered: Rodney is gone.

I think, ultimately, that’s the most jarring part of this ritual. A person is gone. Forever. He lived. Then—poof—he’s gone. He does not exist. His stuff remains. Photos remain. Recordings remain. But he does not. He doesn’t feel, taste, touch, smell. All the mannerisms that made him him have stopped being mannerisms.

I hate that. I mean, I really hate that. Which means the best I can do is remember, and tell stories, and explain the life of a good man who no longer walks the earth.

That’s how, in a small way, we keep the dead alive.

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What to say at a funeral?

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Am attending my father in law’s funeral in a few hours. About to take a shower, then get dressed.

Funerals are heartbreaking.

They’re crushing.

They’re sad.

It’s farewell to a life. That’s the worst, whether that life was in its infancy or nearing 100. I’m always down when it comes to thinking of the completion of existence.

With funerals, however, my mood is often accompanied by confusion. I mean, what does one say at a funeral? What words make a difference? What can you utter that brings comfort, warmth, contentment?

Answer: Nothing.

My mother in law and wife met with the rabbi the other day. He said something pretty wise that’s been repeated in these parts the past two days. Namely, no matter what someone says to you when you’re grieving, imagine the words WE MEAN WELL across their forehead in bright lettering.

Because, ultimately, we do mean well.

We’re just uncomfortable.

On Rodney Cole

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My father in law was a kisser.

I mean this literally. When you came for a visit, he kissed you on the cheek. It was an unusual thing for me, having been brought up in an American household where men didn’t kiss other men. And, initially, if Rodney moved in I’d instinctively shudder and pull back a bit. Then, one encounter, he stopped kissing. He merely extended his hand for a shake.

I was confused. And, oddly, a bit disappointed.

“Rodney didn’t kiss me,” I said to the wife. “I wonder if he’s mad or something …”

Word got back to Rodney. He laughed. The next time I visited, I was kissed.

Then kissed again on the nest visit.

And the next visit.

And the next visit.

It’s just a little anecdote, but one of a gazillion running through my head tonight as I try to grapple with the heartbreaking loss of a genuinely decent and kind man. Rodney Cole died today, leaving behind his wife Laura (my mother in law) and a large supply of loved ones.

To understate—it’s crushing.

As we travel through this thing called life, we come across all sorts of people. In a way, it’s our unspoken collection. We gather friends and enemies, loved ones and liked ones, teammates and opponents. Most come and go, a handful stick. We’ll comb the pages of old scrapbooks and set eyes upon folks we hadn’t thought of in decades. We struggle to recall names, nicknames, IDs. Faces merge. Backgrounds merge. Was she Mary or Marge? Was he from Detroit or Delaware? That guy was really tall, right? Or was he really wide?

In my life, Rodney Cole was one of a kind. He stood out. He jumped off the page. Rodney was a British man who somehow combined this proper, firm upbringing with All-American boyishness. He hated when my kids fidgeted at the table, yet would eagerly seek out straw wrappers, roll them into balls and flick them at your face. Rodney made sure my daughter and son ate their vegetables, but was a sucker for a box of chocolates. Or the frozen treats on the top shelf of his freezer (many of which, ahem, I snuck at night when he was asleep).

My daughter Casey and son Emmett have no biological ties to Rodney—yet he was their grandfather without condition or hesitation. When we visited Laura and Rodney at their home, he made certain to take them on lengthy golf cart rides; around the roads, over the greens, to the clubhouse. A talented wildlife photographer who spent endless days seeking out the rare bird, Rodney delighted in showing them his photos, then printing out the ones they wanted for their bedroom walls. Why tonight, as I tucked Emmett in, we both set our eyes upon a bald eagle gliding across a pale blue sky—photo credit: Rodney Cole.

I’m actually fortunate enough to have two wonderful father in laws—Richard, my wife’s dad; and Rodney, her step-dad. When I proposed to Catherine in 2001, Rodney presented me with his boyhood tallit as a gift. On the morning of my wedding, he took me for my last shave as a single man (and, funnily, my first shave—period). Our son’s Hebrew name is for Rodney’s father. It is no hyperbole to say, as I write this, I can hear Rodney’s chuckle in my head; can hear his dignified British accent; can picture him walking toward us as we enter the front door.

A final thought: Last month our son turned 11, and one day a big package arrived from Florida. Inside were two model cars—ones Rodney built decades ago. They had forever been sitting on display in his office, and Emmett always admired them. As his health worsened over the past year, I’m guessing Rodney thought more and more about mortality and, perhaps, legacy. So he mailed my boy the cars, then eagerly watched via FaceTime as Emmett drove one up and down our street.

It was the last time I would see Rodney Cole, and the boyish laughter coming from the phone was that of a man who took pleasure in one of his final acts.

Of a man who was happy.

I’m sorry, but God doesn’t care about Deshaun Watson’s torn ACL

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According to a solid 50 athletes who post on Twitter, God is with Deshaun Watson, the Houston Texans’ quarterback whose torn ACL is keeping out the rest of the season.

There was this …

And this …

And this …

And this …

And tons of other related sentiments. Now, to be clear, I am not bashing the athletes, or even the idea behind the athletes. Watson seems like a wonderful guy, and I can’t imagine anyone (Texan or foe) wishing for his pain. But I’ve never fully understood this idea that God has a plan for each and every one of us. I mean, if God had a plan for Deshaun Watson to recover from his ACL, did he have a plan for the people murdered in New York City yesterday? If God had a plan for Deshaun Watson to recover from his ACL, did he have a plan for passengers on the Titanic? Employees in the World Trade Center? Children born with HIV? With crack addiction? With missing limbs and disfigurements?

Truth be told, whenever I hear of athletes or actors or singers praising all the blessings of God, I always think, “Easy for you to say.” I mean it. It’s easy for Wayne Gallman II, who makes $800,000 to live in New York City and play a game for a living, to say, “Glory be to God!” Were I Wayne Gallman II, I’d probably think God is glorious, too. I’m living large. I’m famous. I’m getting paid, I’m young and handsome and cool.

But does God care about a torn ACL?

Come on …

What the world needs

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So I’m sitting inside Dunkin’ Donuts, drinking a large half-coffee, half-hot chocolate. Tiffany, the manager here, is a ball of blissful perkiness. And I just said to her, “How many donuts do you have in a week?”

She smiled. “One.”

“That’s all?” I asked.

“If donuts were healthy,” she replied, “I’d be eating them all day long …”

And that’s when it hit me.

Fuck climate change.

Fuck poverty.

Fuck infrastructure.

We need to make donuts healthy.

Just imagine the joy. The love. The bliss. “I’ll take six—dozen!”

Yes, yes you will.

Were donuts healthy, I’d eat nothing else. Flavor be damned, I’d gorge and gorge and gorge and gorge. And fritters! What about the fritters? I’d be stuffing my face with apple fritters, blueberry fritters, fritters made from chocolate and fritters made from caramel. Fritters, fritters, fritters!

Alas, donuts are lard.

Damn.

Tipping pitches, blowing interviews

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In the grand scheme of the world’s affairs, where the planet is melting and a president is working hard to set aside decency and law, this is not a big thing.

I repeat: This is not a big thing.

However, I work in media. So sometimes, when I’m watching a game or a show or whatever, stuff can jump off the screen and into my head. Like, for example, this clip …

It took place about an hour after the Astros won the World Series and, if you pay close attention, it’s pretty clear Carlos Beltran is willing to explain how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish tipped off his pitches in tonight’s game. Hell, everyone in the booth seems aware it happened, and Alex Rodriguez (a legit broadcasting talent and Beltran’s former teammate) inquires about the situation.

Again, this isn’t Russian election hacking. But within the confines of the World Series, it’s a pretty big angle. So Beltran begins to reply in earnest … and the other ballplayers crack up. Like, they just start laughing. Then ARod starts laughing. Then Beltran (a seemingly decent man) seems to think to himself, “Oh, they’re not serious. I don’t have to really answer this.” Which blows—because he was about to.

This is why the Fox Sports formula of 100 athletes crammed in a booth is so awful. Yes, it’s cool seeing familiar faces in one spot. And I like the idea of a Red Sox star (Ortiz) and a Yankees star (Rodriguez) sitting side by side; like the veteran ex-Met (Keith Hernandez) and the veteran ex-White Sox slugger (Frank Thomas) being seen. But, truth be told, collectively they offer very little. Or, put different, my career Major League average is .000 in no at-bats, but I’d damn well be asking Beltran—with seriousness—whether Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches.

And I’d get an answer.

My son was a bush

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As I write this, my son and daughter are trading Halloween candy.

It’s a ritual in these parts at the end of every Oct. 31, and it’s something I’ll very much miss as my children start to age out of this fantastic holiday.

But as much as I dig the swap meet, what I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really love is that, this year, Emmett dressed as a bush.

Why? Because he wanted to be a bush. That’s it. He thought it’d be a cool costume. So about a week ago we went to Home Depot., purchased a big plastic pot (cracked in the bottom, so snagged at half price) and some chicken wire. Then a friendly neighborhood gardener said he’d set aside some cuttings—which he did.

Today, after arriving home from school, Emmett created his bush. I was skeptical, but  piece by piece by piece it took shape. Then, as we walked through a neighborhood—the payoff.

Are you … a bush?

Holy cow!

Wow!

A plant?

It was fantastic.

And original.

That’s the best part. The weird thinking of a kid I helped created.

Showtime 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