Jeff Pearlman

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One photo and a rush of nostalgia

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So a few minutes ago I was digging through a bag I uncovered in our garage, when I came upon the above photograph.

The feelings hit me—hard.

This was taken in the summer of 1995, at a side-of-the-road produce stand somewhere in (I’m pretty sure) Florida. The woman with her back to the camera is Heather, my girlfriend at the time (and, to this day, someone I consider a good friend). The man in the white T-shirt is, well, a man in a white T-shirt. Never met him.

The craziest part is the car. It was a cherry red Geo Metro convertible, purchased, oh, a week earlier after my other vehicle died. A total impulse buy, I got the Geo off the lot, used, for—I believe—$3,000. At 6-foot-2, I was way too tall. Even worse, the thing was junk. The body was plastic-like. The back window was all scratched and of little use. Once you hit 50 mph, the auto started to shake. Brrr-brrr-brrr-brrr. A shit car for a shit 23-year old.

So why did I get it? Well … um … this trip to Florida. As dumb as it sounds in hindsight, I was young and itching to impress Heather. We’d planned for months on taking the drive from Tennessee (where I lived) to the Panhandle, and the idea of doing so in a convertible made me feel like The Man. Hell, what you don’t see in the image is (and I’m not making this up) a bunch of young kids coming up to us and saying, “Wow, mister! Neat car!”

If they only knew.

Not sure if I can put this into words the way it sounds in my head, but there’s something about being a guy in his early 20s, money in his pocket, girlfriend by his side, rolling through the warm breeze with the top down on his red convertible. Was I cool? Ha. No. Was the car cool? Also—ha. No.

But I was young and confident and staring at the world before me.

I hope my kids experience those highs, too.

A weird meal at an excellent place

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So this is my final day in Dallas, and I inadvertently overslept the free continental breakfast at the MGM Elegante. Which is probably for the better, considering two days ago the hotel provided oatmeal, runny eggs and a mosquito in my cranberry juice.

Anyhow, I did the ol’ Yelp search and wound up at the Maple Leaf Diner, a highly-rated joint that has made appearances on multiple Food Network shows. And, to be clear, it was good. Really good. I ordered the pumpkin pancakes, and though they weren’t otherworldly, they were more than tasty. Plus, I wound up sitting alongside Rani Monson, a former journalist with a pretty sweet blog.

Wait. Where was I?

Oh, yeah. The Maple Leaf Diner. So all was swell, save one HUGE issue. Namely, I was located at the bar. And that was fine, except—upon placing my rear atop a chair—it became clear that I (and everyone else seated there) was preposterously low in proportion to the food. I actually went to the car to get some clothing to use as cushions, because eating with any sort of confidence and competence was near impossible.

And as I paid my bill and said farewell to Rani, I wondered aloud, “How is this possible?” How can a killer restaurant with a national reputation and a menu overflowing with goodness fail to realize the only customers who would be comfortable at the bar are named Yao and Shaq?

Weird shit.

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Photo by Rani Monson.

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Syren Rayna

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Anyone who visits this site (and, specifically, The Quaz) knows I have a Q&A thing for journalists, athletes, politicians and … sex workers.

Mostly Sex workers.

Is it because I’m a horny old man? Eh, not really. Is it because they’re overflowing with philosophical views on a world on the edge of crisis? Um, not exactly.

Truth be told, I dig Q&As with sex workers because they tend to be riveting people with out-of-this world back stories and a willingness to open up and explain (deeply) who they are and how they wound up in said profession.

Today, however, that’s not my motivation.

No, today’s guest is here because, well, I’m absolutely riveted by the rise of Stormy Daniels; the the way she emerged from fringe adult entertainer to this ubiquitous presence in our lives. There’s Stormy on 60 Minutes, on SNL, on CNN. She’s anywhere and everywhere and, as a result, her profession is regularly in the news.

Enter: Syren Rayna.

A trained hypnodomme with an apparently flourishing business, Rayna has opinions. Lots of opinions. On why people are so mean on Twitter. On why men send pictures of their penises. On Stormy’s emergence and Ichiro’s Hall of Fame chances.

One can follow Syren Rayna on Twitter here, and visit her website here.

With no delay, here is the 359th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: How do you feel about all the exposure Stormy Daniels has been receiving? What I mean is, it’s the most exposure I can remember seeing for someone who works in the sex industry. Is that good for the profession? Bad? Is she a representative you’re comfortable with? Like?

SYREN RAYNA: I have only been following it a little bit but from what I saw I thought the way she handled the initial attacks was very impressive. She is well put together, intelligent, articulate, and classy. I am sure all of these traits as well as her being a stunner is what provided her the opportunity to show her fortitude and wit. But as we often see in this industry, as soon as the male’s ego is compromised attacks of some form on the female will usually ensue. I don’t think it has an impact on the profession one way or another really. Sex work as far as safety and how creative the workers need to be can be fragile but as an actual profession it is really hard to destroy. It has been around a very long time and as long as a desire for sex exists the profession will as well. It might take different forms but it will persist.

J.P.: So you identify yourself as a “trained hypnodomme.” But I’m not entirely sure what that means—or if others know what it means. So … what does it mean?

S.R.:  It means I spent many hours in a classroom learning how and why hypnosis works. It also represents the fact that I was unhappy with the amount of information presented to me because I was sure there had to be more (also, because I am a information junkie). I spent and extra 20 hours a week for about 6 months researching, reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and attending workshops and seminars to make hypnosis be as natural to be as breathing. You know how you don’t notice your breathing until someone says something about your breathing? Then suddenly you shift from unconscious breathing to conscious breathing. You just did. :) I want(ed) my skills to be that good. I am also nationally certified in hypnosis and certified in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I am always learning.

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J.P.: I had a phone sex domme do this series a few years back, and when I asked her about erotic hypnosis she said—in unambiguous terms—it’s “a gimmick.” She said people enjoy it because they think it’s real. But that, truth be told, you can’t actually control someone via hypnosis. Especially from afar. You say?

S.R.: Ha!! I love this. Before I started this I talked to a phone sex Domme who told me “Hypnosis is easy … you just talk slow”. This is a big topic, so I will apologize now for the diatribe that is about to commence.

Hypnosis is very real. The way it works is often misunderstood. The idea is usually to remove the obstacles that is preventing a person from doing a thing they want to do. Woman wants to lose weight but won’t stop binging on treats at night. Ask her conscious mind why and she might tell you she doesn’t know she just craves it. Ask her subconscious mind why and you might find out that she is actually petrified of needing to deal with a ton of male advancements if she loses the weight that is keeping her safe. Well now you have a place to work. But that is not the arena we are working with.

Mind control using hypnosis is debated across the board. There are two schools of thought. The first being that the subconscious mind is built with safety features that keep you from doing anything that goes against your core beliefs. The second being that you can brainwash anyone into anything. I fall in the middle. There is proof that you can brainwash people into crazy things (look at cults), but the time and energy investment is more than most of us are willing to do.

So, in kink we meet in the middle. A client comes to me and says “I am into ______ and love to be brainwashed to do_______.” I, then, use actual hypnosis to play with the “want to do a certain thing”… even if that thing is to feel out of control. Sometimes the hypnosis is to plant a trigger like “become insanely aroused anytime you see the color red” or it can be used to to break down unwanted shame that we have around out kinks. It is a mix of role playing and legit hypnosis with me depending on the scene and the client.

I have seen very little of other girls work in this field because once you see it you can’t unsee it and I don’t want to impact my style; but I can tell you that just rubbing your tits and calling it hypnosis is probably more role playing than hypnosis (and technically the correct term for that is “fixation,” same as spirals). Furthermore, for the girls who are not trained and just do that….GREAT!! Because social conditioning and expectation plays a huge part in it all. So if their client thinks that works for them, it probably does. Keep doing it.

J.P.: We DMed briefly about the modern world of social media and sex work, and you mentioned the raw meanness of people. So how do you deal? React? Do you respond when people are rude? Cruel? Do you take it personally? Care at all?

S.R.: I am in the process of growing a very thick skin. Most of it I let roll off of me. Sometimes it bugs me because I have a strange need not to let people just get away with things and I can be a tad vindictive when I get angry. I am actively working on correcting this behavior in myself. I also have a support structure that is my lifeline and a total blessing to me. I have a small group of online Dommes who I am very close to. These girls are my family. We share a lot with each other. I have some of them on speed dial. Lol. We support and coach each other through the rough patches … and share sexy photos in the good patches (entendre intended). I am also lucky enough to be safe to be out to my partners and my family. If something hurts I have people who will, usually, tell me that it is not worth my energy. Lol.

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J.P.: You also said men send you penis pictures. I wrote a biography of Brett Favre, the famous quarterback who once dick shot and sent to a female reporter. I wonder—why do you think men do this? 

S.R.: If I had a quarter for every dick pic I have seen I could retire. LOL. This is another topic that branches out a bit. I think there is many things at play.

First, the anonymity of the internet. They don’t see the person as a person. It is a username and a screen. So, who cares? They will just get their kicks and the consent of the other party doesn’t matter to them.

Second, it is the exposure of it. They are attention whores and want to be seen and/or acknowledged. Even if it is to lash out at them for violating you. They are still getting the attention.

Lastly, it is a power trip. They are removing the person who is receiving the photos right to consent. Just like flashing someone in public. Because this has happened so much in many countries (USA, UK, and Canada I believe) it is now possible to file a police report with the information you have and if caught it is a crime punishable under the same measures as flashing as if they were to do it in person.

J.P.: You have a degree in graphic design. You’ve worked myriad jobs in myriad fields that don’t sound overly enrapturing (insurance, medical, transportation, user research). So—how did this happen? This gig?

S.R.: I got bored. Story of all of my gigs is I go from ground floor to running the show in a short period of time. I work very hard at everything I do but when it stops being a challenge or stops making me grow I get bored. So I was working too hard and too much and my partner said, “You would be good at hypnosis, you already are good at manipulation.” I had been interested in behavioral psychology for years and thought this would be a good way to explore that. I was also spending time with some Dommes and getting into the kink world more and more so it made sense to combine the two. Plus, it is much harder to get someone to pay you to make them stop eating their beloved ice cream if they are not a masochist.

 J.P.: There was recently a lengthy Washington Post story about financial domination, and how it’s exploded into a huge industry. But I don’t really get it. Why would someone send you money—for the right to send you money? What am I missing?

S.R.: Oh, the joys of kink. If it is not your kink it is so hard to understand. Financial submissives usually have a couple of driving factors that give them pleasure inside of that kink. Masochism plays a big part. They suffer and go without so that their Domme can have what she wants. They are rewarded by her happiness and they get off on their suffering. There is also a little edge play and fear play that comes in there. They don’t know if she will break them. Will they make bills? Will they have to live on Top Ramen for the rest of the month so she can have pretty things. The suffering is the joy.

Another aspect is more like worship. Think of the pretty girl in high school. The popular cheerleader. Now think of the geeky boy who wants to date her. She laughs at him. But, he is there and wanting so she says, “Buy my lunch” and he does. He gains a bit of attention from this girl who would otherwise be ignoring him. Now a pattern is established. Buy her things=get attention. And, if she knows anything about behavior modification she will randomize his rewards causing the addiction to her to grow.

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J.P.: It seems like much of your business (maybe most) is illusion. You’re selling the ideas of sexiness, of servitude, of lust, of domination. But I’ll take a stab and guess you go to the bathroom, stub your toe, burp and fart and snore. So do you have to “become” someone/something when you’re doing a session? Like, is there a temporary transformation that you go through?

S.R.: I rarely snore. It wakes me up if I do. Lol. I think some of us have to become something every day in any job. The CEO that is a needy, groveling, Syren addict is also not that at work (unless I am teasing him and making it hard to focus). I think the things I become in a session are all parts of me just with the volume turned up. The parts very from session to session.

I had someone once tell me I reminded him of the escorts (not sure if that was their occupation) in Star Trek. They would shift their personality to match the person they were with. Becoming the perfect compliment to that person. If they were with them for too long it would permanently imprint them with those traits. I chose to take that as a compliment.

Some of my guys are in love, some are in lust, some are under my spell and others are intrigued. I pride myself on my adaptation skills but it is all still me. I feed off them and their energy. This is why a good fit is more important to me than anything else.

At the end of the day I am a person, with a life and emotions, struggles, a stubbed toe, motion sickness, and all the other things that come with being human. Something that the online kink community struggles with, in my opinion, is thinking that a Domme or a sub can’t also be a human with needs or else it removes the magic. Here is the secret: the magic is in the relationship you create between each other. The connection. The Domme/sub part is the power exchange. It is the toy you both are sharing.

J.P.: Soup to nuts, how do you construct, compose and execute a recorded sessions? For example–your audio “Resist Me.” How long did it take to write? Where do you write? Where did the idea come from? Where do the word choices come from?

S.R.: Each track is different. If I am inspired I will grab my laptop sit on my bed and pound out a four-page script in about an hour. I research special language patterns I might want to use in that time too. Then If it is not too late I will try to record it right away. Since this usually takes place around 2 am I don’t always have the voice to record at that time. Other times if the track is something I struggle with it can take me weeks to write it. I have one in the back of my mind now that I have been sitting on for a month because I just don’t know how I want to approach it yet.

“Resist Me” was built from a pattern used for polarity responders (people who subconsciously do the opposite of what you say). Many people were saying how they like to put up a fight and be overpowered that I thought it would be possible to take a pattern for people who don’t do it purposefully and use it on people who want to resist. It has been wildly popular and is probably my very favorite track. It was, hands down, the easiest one to write and record as I felt like it really had a it’s own audience.

J.P.: Donald Trump is president, and it feels like our nation is turning to dogshit. I mean, outside of the strictly political, there’s so much anger. And it’s raw. Does this impact your gig at all? Like, does more stress=more customers? Does it ever come up in your job?

S.R.: Actually, the only thing I have seen is some fear with the latest sex trafficking bill that passed. People are afraid it will be misused, abused and will make me and other sex workers just go away. But other than expressing that I have not seen the state of our political environment have an impact on my client base.

Stress, by the way is just a conflict between the way things are and the way you think they should be. I can’t change the way things are so I am left with either staying in a state of stress or changing the way I think about it. I try to choose to be empowered whenever possible.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH SYREN RAYNA:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): French onion soup, winning, pantyhose, Mike Epps, Guns n Roses, Joe Niekro, cold brew coffee, a slice of warm apple pie, Roseanne, church: Cold brew coffee, winning, pantyhose (stockings are better), Mike Epps (“Gotta let that booty breath” – Fighting Temptations), French onion soupRoseanne, church, GnRwarm apple pieJoe Niekro (sorry Joe I am just not a sports fan, though I am sure you are lovely). [JEFF’S NOTE: He died in 2007]

• One question you would ask Jeanie Buss were she here right now?: What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome and how did you manage it?

• Why “Syren Rayna”?: Siren because of the call of the sirens to the sailors. Their voices pulling them in. “Syren” because is a version of siren that I could easily use on all platforms and not worry about it being taken. Rayna is an alternate spelling of a name from a character in a book series that I love by Laurel K. Hamilton. She was a villain who was really well written and quite a horrible creature but her spirit ends up residing in the Protagonist of the story and is the catalyst to her becoming, basically, a succubus. (My dog is also named Nathaniel after a character in the book as well)

• Five things you hate about humanity: Its fragility, greed, that we are losing it to technology, when useless ego gets in the way, selfishness.

• Five things you love about humanity: Our compassion, our passion, our ability to express in artistic ways, our ability to feel and express emotions, and the entire concept of love.

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Nancy Wilson from Heart?: Ommph … probably me. I have this thing where I despise giving up so I tend to push well past my body’s limits and just pay for it later. I sparred for three hours one time because the trainer was trying to push me into fatigue. It never happened. But given a choice I would rather go drinking with her than boxing. Just saying.

• What’s the weirdest request you’ve ever had in your gig?: Weird is hard to define because I don’t like to kink shame. I would rather say that the humor in making someone cluck like a chicken (because that’s what hypnotists do, right?) and then having them become obsessed with it to the point of needing to cluck to orgasm was a unique one.

• What do your folks think of your gig?: My mom is pretty sure the world is out to kill me … but to be fair she feels that way about my trips to the grocery store. Aside from regular check ins where I have to let her know I am not dead she is fine with it. She keeps threatening to join me in this arena. She is a pretty intimidating person for many … she could have a lot of fun. My step-dad is fine with it. He had a couple of questions and a few jokes but it was not really a big thing one way or another to tell my family. I am out to my entire family about what I do and who I am. I refuse to hide or pretend.

• What are three things men generally don’t understand about women and sex?: That it is a mental game more than a physical game. That effort is 9/10ths of the law and when you take shortcuts or just try to get done you send very clear signals that sex with her is a chore (even if that is not your intention). That rejection is not always about you.

• Is Ichiro an automatic Hall of Famer in your eyes?: I don’t really follow baseball, sorry.

Walking with the dead

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So yesterday I spent a few hours at an outdoor mall near Dallas, and as I gathered my stuff and left I noticed a small cemetery off to the rear.

Now, I’m a sucker for ice cream and I’m a sucker for cookies and I’m a sucker for old baseball cards. But I’m truly a sucker for unfamiliar cemeteries, which—to me—serve as these warm-yet-creepy-yet-riveting-yet-endearing mini museums scattered all over the planet.

Anyhow, with some free time I entered via the black gate, strolled past the NO TRESPASSING sign and walked around. This was an odd little piece of land—a bit overgrown, with the majority of deaths having occurred between, oh, 1920 and 1960. It was an incongruous place to walk among the dead. From a stone’s throw away one could overhear the laughter of shoppers, no doubt gripping iPhones and other modern devices while sipping from $6 cups of mocha frappe something. Meanwhile, the dead were dead; frozen in time beneath the gray stones that unremarkably marked their past existences.

In particular, my attention was grabbed by …

This guy …

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The Thomas Family and a crushing history of young death …

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Zelma Presley.

It’s possible I’m missing someone, but I think Zelma, who died in 2016, was the most recent person to be added to the cemetery. Her stone is still clean and fresh. The flowers show someone has visited. The grass has yet to grow over the dirt.

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This got me to thinking. And—because my brain is annoying—Googling. Had Zelma died in the 1960s or 1970s, she’d have been merely another name carved into a stone. Instead, her biography appeared before my eyes. She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother and great-grandmother. She smiled a lot and accepted people who who they were.

She lived. She died. She mattered.

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Anyhow, I strongly recommend the cemetery walk next time you pass one.

The lessons are endless.

A new level of preposterousness

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Back in 1999, I went on a date with the little person who would ultimately become my wife. I’d seen her at a wedding months earlier, but lacked the courage to approach. Ultimately, we were sorta set up, and I walked into a Spanish restaurant called Ole with decent confidence.

I was also wearing a baggy black T-shirt (given to me—used—by my ex-girlfriend’s step father), a houndstooth vest (Marshall’s—$12) and jeans. Afterward, when Catherine griped to her friend of my wardrobe, she was reassured that, “You can always change how a man dresses.”

Ah, words.

Catherine likes telling that story, because the unspoken punchline is I remain a pretty sloppy dresser. I mean, I’m improved (right, Earl?). But I’ll never be sweaters and collared shirts and slacks and …

I digress.

Two days ago I ran the OC Half Marathon alongside my 11-year-old son, Emmett. An event photographer sent off proofs today, hoping participants will order. Here’s one of mine …

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I texted the image to Catherine a while back, and she immediately called to laugh at me. Not with me. At. Which is, obviously, fair. But I can explain. So I will …

• The head wrap: I hadn’t planned on wearing this. In fact, I brought along a red bandana that I usually wrap around my skull to avoid sun burn while simultaneously absorbing sweat. Alas, I forgot to take it from the car. I was, however, sporting a 3/4-sleeved Jack Daniel’s shirt that I bought from Wal-Mart, oh, five years ago. I’d actually planned on tossing the garment into the trash once the race began. Instead, I turned it into this classy looking head piece.

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• The pink arm thing: That’s to hold my iPhone. Throughout the past year I’d been running either without the phone or simply with it in my hand. Then my stupid phone broke and I upgraded to the iPhone 8 Plus. Which is big and annoying. So—the band. And pink because pink is cool.

• The baggy white shorts: Um, yeah. Not terrific. So beneath that circus tent is a normal pair of black running shorts. I wore the white in the morning just to have pockets, and I planned to take them off before the race. Then Emmett handed me his running stuff—gels and little sucking candies. “Don’t you have a pocket?” I said.

“No.”

Fuck.

Try running 13.1 miles in those shorts without looking the fool. I dare you.

• The compression sock thing: It’s neon green. I bought it years ago because I tend to have poor circulation in my legs. But here’s the rub—I haven’t struggled with said issue in a while. So why did I don the green? I … have … no … idea. It’s inane.

• I’m also wearing two different colored socks: This is just pure laziness.

• GSB Sun: The one thing I dig is the shirt. Or, put different, I’m a shirt loyalist. This one I bought in the late 1990s at an Oakland thrift shop. At the time it had sleeves, and dried-up blood by one of the letters. That struck me as sorta cool. I also have no remote idea what, exactly, GSB Sun means. But I’ve now word this as a marathon/half-marathon shirt myriad times.

So … hey.

Isn’t it ironic?

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This morning I shuffled downstairs from my room to the free buffet breakfast promised by my hotel. And, indeed, there was a free buffet breakfast. One that looked pretty solid. Eggs, bacon, biscuits, cereal, oatmeal. If you get what you pay for, the $108 I’m spending per night appears to be money well offered.

Yet just when I was about to take a sip from my cool glass of cranberry juice, I glanced down to see the above scene unfolding.

His name was Bob. He liked jet skiing, the movies of Ron Howard, political documentaries and, apparently, swimming in my cranberry juice. As I watched Bob swirl around, take his final breaths then move on to that giant cranberry field in the sky, I had these thoughts:

• 1. Isn’t it ironic?

• 2. Do I still tip $4, or drop it to $3?

• 3. Can I ever safely drink cranberry juice again at this hotel?

• 4. Should I feel badly for Bob?

No. 4 is the biggie. Because—oddly, strangely, uncomfortably—I actually do hurt for bugs. Hell, ask my wife. In our household I’m often called to get rid of a spider or cricket or fly, and I rarely (if ever) just crush them into paste. No, I’m the weirdo who actually finds a tissue, gently grabs the visitor and sets him loose in the back of the house.

Again, this is super weird. I know.

But as I think of Bob, and the life no longer lived, I hope he knows he made a difference in this enormous world.

He ruined my drink.

You know you’re in Texas when …

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Just checked into my hotel in Dallas.

Right before entering, I was greeted by this …

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And here’s the crazy thing: It’s not the most Texas sighting of the night. That would be the billboards for the 10 different strip clubs. Or the endless off-the-highway fast food joints. Or the cheap gas.

Now, to be clear, I like coming to Texas. I truly do.

But this was a bit strange. Actually asked the front-desk clerk whether the hotel owners are extremely religious. It was right around midnight. She sighed.

“Honestly,” she said, “I just work here.”

Amen.

“I played for the Cowboys.”

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So a weird thing happened this morning.

My son plays flag football for the 49ers. I’m an assistant coach, and while our record is either 1-5 or 1-6, we have tremendous kids who bring the fun. Are we athletically explosive? No. Do we have that one vital dynamic halfback and big-armed quarterback? Eh, also no. But we’re spunky, we’re happy and after the final whistle blows all seems good.

I digress.

There’s a team in our section, the Redskins, that is pretty much unbeatable. They’ve been together for years, they appear in multiple leagues. They have serious coaches who hold multiple practices per week and supply wrist bands with the play calls to every member. A month ago, after we lost to the Redskins by 1,000 (or so), one of their assistant coaches approached with some advice. “Hey, man,” he said, “only run up the middle.”

I actually knew the guy, because a few years earlier his son was Emmett’s teammate. And this time, as he was talking I thought two things:

A. “It’s easy to give advice when your team has six of the best players in the league.”

B. “You’re full of shit.”

Why B? Well, you can read the whole sad saga here. But basically, he’s a guy who says he played college football, then in the NFL—and it’s total bullshit.

So I saw him today. And I actually said (in frustration), “You know, it’s a lot easier when your team is loaded with returning stars, no?”

And he replied, I swear, with this:

“Remember, I played for the Cowboys.”

The posters on a wall

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My son Emmett is 11. His room is small, but it features four posters that make me insanely happy. So, with just these words as my limited lede, here’s the breakdown …

POSTER ONE: EMMETT SMITH

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When the kid was born, we chose the name Emmett. Not because of the football player. I actually don’t have much good to say about the halfback. But, because of my sports experience, I assumed we’d spell his name “Emmitt.” The wife countered with “Emmett.” I didn’t particularly care either way, so we went with the two Es, two Ms, two Ts. Anyhow, Emmett was, oh, 1 when I decided to get him a football poster. But, in the name of being weird, I went Cardinals instead of Cowboys.

Hence, the Arizona Cardinals’ Emmitt Smith hangs on the wall …

POSTER TWO: MARK MILLON

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True story—we were living in New Rochelle, N.Y. seven or eight years ago, and our across-the-street neighbors were these absolutely lovely, fascinating people. It was four senior citizens, three men and one woman. Two of the men were brothers—one of whom was developmentally disabled. The third man was, I believe, the partner of the one brother. But I’m pretty sure the one brother was also married to the woman. It was, eh, untraditional.

Again, though, they were awesome. And when they moved to San Diego they had an estate sale. All this stuff was in the house—a big drum, chairs, tables. And, in a corner, I spotted a rolled-up poster that turned out to be an autographed dandy of Mark Millon, lacrosse star. It was beautifully random, and in the years that followed Mark and I struck up a nice little friendship. All because of the poster.

POSTER THREE: WALTER PAYTON

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Obviously very close to my heart. This photo appears in my book, “Sweetness.” Emmett also owns a Payton jersey, and I spent nights last year reading the biography to him before bed.

The image was taken during Walter’s rookie year, before a game at Candlestick Park. I was pushing for it to be the cover. Alas, I lost that one.

POSTER FOUR: MARK FIDRYCH

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I was probably 11 or 12. Every year my mom dragged me, my dad, my brother to the Stormville Flea Market. I was usually gifted a few dollars to spend on baseball cards. This time, I spotted a guy with old sports posted, rolled up. He was charging 50 cents for the image of The Bird.

Sold.

Thing was taped to my wall for years and years. Then I rolled it up and put it away. About, oh, six years ago one of our neighbors put a framed image out with the trash. I spotted the frame, thought, “Hmm.” Brought it inside, fitted Fidrych.

Everything about this poster is excellent. The hair. The font. The goofy expression. The chin dimple. The tucked glove. The empty stands.

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