Jeff Pearlman

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Hey, Lakers. You’re a marquee franchise. Hire the right coach.

Hammon (left) and Van Exel: What are we waiting for?

Hammon (left) and Van Exel: What are we waiting for?

In case you’ve either been living on Pluto or beneath 100 foam pillows, you’re well aware of all the nonsense surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers, whose search to replace Luke Walton as head coach has been an exercise in public humiliation.

First, Walton was going to stay. Then he was canned. Then he was snatched up a day later by Sacramento. Then it was going to be Monty Williams. Then it was going to be Tyronn Lue. Then Kurt Rambis had a major say. Then his wife Linda had a major say, too. Then Jason Kidd’s name came up—only Jason Kidd is a terrible coach. Then Mike Woodson’s name came up—because Mike Woodson’s name always comes up. Then Frank Vogel’s name came up—because, eh, um, yeah. I’m not sure.

All the while, the two best candidates—the two perfect candidates—for a marquee franchise that lives off of making splashes (as well as wise decisions) are sitting here, waiting for a call.

Or, to be blunt: Hey, Lakers—either hire Beck Hammon or hire Nick Van Exel.

Dammit.

Hammon, as you likely know, just wrapped her fifth season as Greg Popovich’s assistant in San Antonio. By all accounts, she’s bright, relatable, intense, savvy. She knows what it is to bust ass to rise from the ashes to stardom (an undrafted rookie out of Colorado State, Hammon wound up a six-time WNBA All-Star and one of its Top 15 players of all time). Popovich praises her at all costs. Players praise her at all costs.

No, there’s never been a woman head coach in the NBA. But the Lakers—land of Magic and Kareem; of Shaq and Kobe; of LeBron and, um, Rajon Rondo—have never been a team to shy away from risk. Jeanie Buss, the owner and managing partner, has spent much of her life defying odds and stereotypes in a male-oriented business. If anyone should be itching to give Hammon the chance she deserves, well, it’s the Lakers.

As for Van Exel—he spent 14 years in the NBA, including 1993-98 as the Lakers point guard. He began his coaching career back in 2009 at Texas Southern, and since then has been with three NBA franchises (he’s on the Memphis staff since 2016) and led the Texas Legends of the developmental league. I recently sat down with Del Harris, who coaches Nick with the Lakers. Back in the day, the two sparred nonstop. Nick took no shit, Del talked too much. It was ugly. But when I asked Del about Nick as a coach, he couldn’t stop praising him. “He knows so much about the game,” Harris said. “There’s nothing he hasn’t seen.”

Van Exel would bring a unique perspective. He was a star who can relate with stars. He was a grinder who can relate with grinders. He played a long time, and knows what it takes to last.

Most important, in this case—he’s a Laker. A legit Laker.

And he, and Becky Hammon, are waiting for the call.

Make it.

It’s not fake just because you don’t like it

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So I was wrapping up the semester today at Chapman University, the school where I teach a class and advise the student newspaper. A student alerted me to the following Tweet, set into the universe by a member of the school’s Young Republicans …

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And I felt genuinely sad.

I’m cool with people disagreeing on politics. I’m cool with people wanting smaller government, wanting bigger government, liking Obama, hating Obama, liking Trump, hating Trump.

What I am not cool with, however, is seeing young people mimic the #Fakenews line; seeing young people apply the adjective “fake” to something that isn’t fake, but merely a piece/perspective they disagree with.

Case in point—Diana Byad referring to this piece as “fake news.” First, this can’t be “fake” because it’s an opinion. It’s what a student thinks. How she perceives something. An opinion isn’t fake, unless someone is lying about their opinion.

Second, this was a guest piece submitted to the student paper. So “destroy the Panther with facts” makes no sense, because the writer doesn’t even work for the paper. So, um, what?

Most important, #fakenews shouldn’t be a thing. Not by the left, not by the right. It has been brought to us by a man who hung fake Time magazine covers in his golf clubs; who spent 4 1/2 years insisting the sitting president of the United States was a Kenyan-born Muslim; who lied repeatedly about his financial history; who lied about Mexico paying for a wall; who lied about a Boy Scouts leader calling him to apologize; who lied about inaugural figures.

So, let’s not do this.

Let’s operate with open minds and intellect.

Please.

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Steve Bennett

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Steve Bennett is relentless.

I know this firsthand, because every few months he reaches out to ask if I’ll appear on his podcast, The Sports-Casters. If I ignore him, he reaches out again. And again. And again. And again. He’s the Terminator robot of sports podcasts hosts, which is to say sooner or later, he will track you down and you will do his show.

And be better for it.

See, what Steve lacks in name recognition and corporate backing, he makes up for in passion. The guy simply loves sports and (more impressive, from my vantage point) loves sports journalism. Yes, his Drew Brees knowledge is strong. But ask him about Jeff Passan and Jon Wertheim; Jane Leavy and Richard Deitsch. He’s all about covering, and breaking down coverage, and understanding the difference between good coverage and great coverage and phenomenal coverage. He wants to know how authors think; how beat writers cover. He’ll actually read every page of a book, then read again.

That’s what makes time spent on his show so worthwhile. The authenticity is real. No bullshit. No false praise. Too much Pearl Jam, but … hey. No one’s perfect.

There’s also the backstory. Steve isn’t just a guy who digs sports media. No, he’s a guy who digs sports media and has suffered through some absolutely awful health problems. The show clearly keeps him going; provides something to look forward to.

I’m babbling. One can listen to the Sports-Casters here and also here, and follow Steve on Twitter here.

Steve Bennett, stop asking. You’re finally the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Steve, I’d say you’ve wanted to do one of these Quaz Q&As more than anyone in the series history. Why? It’s just some mediocre interview series on a mediocre website.

STEVEN BENNETT: First, thanks so much for having me. I am fired up. I have always wanted to do this for a few reasons. First, my podcast is set up to promote the guests and put their work over. I am always promoting others. It’s nice once in a while to get a little promotion for the work that I do. Second, I have so much respect for you. I’ve always read the Quaz and wondered what Jeff Pearlman would want to ask me. You do over 300 interviews per book and are always looking for a hook with each interview. What would the hook be with me? There is a danger to that being that I might not have a hook. I could be a total dud. Shit, I hope I’m not a dud.

J.P.: So you are the host of The Sports-Casters, a podcast that features you regularly interviewing many of the biggest names in sports journalism. How did this thing come to be? What was the impetus?

S.B.: Near the end of 2010 it was clear that my career was over because of my health and I was going to have to go on SSDI. I was going to be home full time for at least a little while. I needed something to keep busy. I started working as a busboy when I was 14 and had been moving nonstop every since. Suddenly, everything stopped. So I needed something.

Over Christmas that year I read a book called Death to the BCS by Jeff Passan, Dan Wetzel and Josh Peter. I finished with a ton of questions and thought this could be a podcast. I’ll read books and ask the author (or authors) questions. I looked up the publisher online and sent them a pitch for an interview. Jeff Passan agreed to appear on a podcast that didn’t exist yet. I didn’t really expect to hear back but since I did I had to put my money where my mouth was. I created the show, interviewed Jeff, and posted the first episode in about a week. The first show debuted the day after the BCS championship game between Auburn and Oregon. It was sort of ironic that the podcast was born out of my reading of Death to the BCS and it debuted the day after a BCS Championship game. Cam Newton had a great week but I’m not sure he was as excited as I was. It was a dream come true to publish that first episode even if my mother was the only person who heard it.

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J.P.: I’m gonna say something, and I hope it doesn’t hurt your feelings: So, while I have done your show a ton of times, and I enjoy the experience—I don’t 100% get it. It’s very long, it’s very winding. You jump from Pearl Jam to Mike Piazza to bad eggs. It’s fun and quirky, but unfocused and sorta zig zaggy. Is that by design? Like, what are you attempting to be?

S.B.: The Sports-Casters is never the same twice. It can be long and random like you describe but it can also be very focused. It’s always by design. I never just turn the mic on and talk. I always have a plan. If I call you to be on during the promotion of a book we are going to have a much more focused interview than if I book you to be on just to shoot the shit. When you are promoting, I’ve read the book and I have questions. I want to get the book over and sell copies. If 200 people listen, I want 185 to buy the book (I’m assuming the other 15 already have it). It’s important to me to help the authors get their projects over and sell copies. I work hard to ask good questions and sell the book.

The other times are different. I want to create a situation where Jeff and Steve meet up for chicken wings and a beer and the microphones are on but neither of them know it. We are just hanging out and chatting about whatever might come up. People love this. I get so many emails from listeners saying that they love the randomness and the laid back approach. Jeff Pearlman is the favorite guest of many of my listeners and it isn’t because of the book promotion. It’s that other thing. The hangs. Jeff Passan and I usually take this approach when he is on. He told me the show has a Wayne’s World quality to it. I’ll take that. This is supposed to be fun. You mentioned the podcast being long. I hate short podcasts. What is the rush? The format offers no time constraints. I like to take advantage of that. The interviews can be long but its never for the sake of it. If you listen to local sports radio and they have Joe Buck on they might do 8-20 minutes and they get out to go to commercial. If I have Joe Buck on (I have several times now) we talk for 30-60 minutes and I have the chance to get details from Joe that WSR 620 didn’t have time for. Also, I do one show a week. It usually has 2 guests, an intro, a book club segment, and the ultra personal one last thing where I open up to the audience about something from my personal life. This usually takes 90-120 minutes depending on how long the interviews are. That it for the week. Maybe 2 weeks. They do 5 episodes a week of Around the Horn. That’s 150 minutes of the Around the Horn. So is it really that long? The listener has complete control. I have heard from one of my listeners who says he listens to the intro and the first interview and then the next day listens to the rest. It breaks up real easy. I never worry about the length. I’m in no rush.

Steve (center) with with Anthony Day and Greg Day Jr.

Steve (center) with with Anthony Day and Greg Day Jr.

J.P.: So you suffer from major bowel issues. You DMed me recently: “March 23rd hits and I go to the ER thinking I’m having a flare.  Turns out it’s a blockage and on April 3 I had my 3 bowel reconstruction since 2004.” So when did this all begin? How bad is it? How does it/has it impacted your life?

S.B.: In December, 2003 I was going in my last year of college at SUNY Fredonia. I woke up, went to class and got a bit to eat at the student center. It was Monday at 1 o’clock and I was done for the week. I remember walking into my apartment and telling my roommate I was going to play Madden and nap all week but I had a stomach ache so I was going to start with a nap. I woke up an hour later and I knew something was seriously wrong.

I went to the ER and they decided I needed to get my appendix out. The surgeon was gone for the day so the ER doctor ordered me a ton of pain meds and said the surgeon would take it out in the morning. I woke up to the surgeon screaming about emergency appendectomies and demanding to know why he wasn’t called. By the time they got me in the OR and got the thing out it had ruptured and I had a mess. Two huge infections had me hospitalized right until I begged to go home for Christmas. I went home with a bag that was meant to drain the infection. Once they studied the remains of the appendix they found gangrene and Crohn’s Disease. In February of 2004 I had my first bowel reconstruction surgery. In 2006 they removed my diseased gall bladder. In 2009 I had Nissen fundoplication surgery because I was aspirating toxins into my system and got three pneumonias in a short period of time. In 2011 my Crohn’s really started to flare. By 2013 I had my second bowel reconstruction. They took out 17CM of my colon. I was in the hospital from January 28 until March 14. I was home for four days and woke up in a puddle of discharge. I had a massive infection. I was back in the hospital. I never really recovered from that surgery. Like you said, I just had my third reconstruction. The surgeon thought I needed about 2-3 hours of surgery and it was closer to 9. I got an ileostomy to help it heal and have to have it for two months. That means I’ll be back under the knife in June to have the ileostomy reversal.

I know that’s a mouth full but I’ve always sort of taken it in stride. I’ve kept my sense of humor. I’ve spent a lot of time in the hospital but every single time I’ve walked out of the front door at the end of it. There are kids with cancer, my own grandmother died of Alzheimer’s, and everyone I turn on the news there is a story of someone who passed on in a way I hadn’t even thought of. My point is, who am I to complain?

The impact on my life is obviously the physical part but also the impact on my family. That has been the hardest this time around. I have an almost 3 year old daughter now and she doesn’t understand why daddy wasn’t home. She got some separation anxiety. I really struggled with this. I felt so bad. I cried at nights in the hospital not because of the pain in my abdomen but because my daughter was sad. The good news is that kids are resilient. Paula is glad dad is home and we are calling her Paula the Mini-Nurse because she loves to take care of Dad. We turned it into a positive.

J.P.: I won’t name names, but I recently had a journalist say to me, “Who the fuck is Steve Bennett, and how does he get such great guests?” You’re here—let’s hear the answer …

S.B.: That is funny. The short answer is that I asked them. Obviously it’s not that simple and it takes a ton of hustle and persistence and patience. When I started in 2011 I was asking people to come on my podcast and they didn’t know what a podcast is. I remember when I first booked Peter King he asked me flat out, “What is a podcast?” He had no idea. Now he has his own podcast that probably out downloads mine by 300 percent but he’s Peter King.

In the beginning it was just ask everyone. Then ask them again and again. I was a bit of a pest back then. Now, I’ve built up a reputation. I never took a cheap shot or tried to railroad anyone for my own gain. I’m always prepared. It’s always about the guest and what they are promoting. My podcast was named one of the best by Sports Illustrated in 2014 and The Athletic in 2018. Richard Deitsch and I went viral in 2013 with our best moment in pictures thread. So I have a reputation that I can draw off of now. I have a great relationship with ESPN PR and that helps me book their people. Sports Illustrated long ago gave me the green light to book any of their writers and I have promoted books for almost every publishing house in the United States.

That doesn’t make it easy. The hardest part is that I almost never get a respectful decline. It’s always yes or radio silence. It blows me away to this day that people would just flat out ignore my polite request but it’s a good reminder of who I am. I am the guy that your unnamed journalist has never fucking heard of. I have to keep hustling.

Little Steve with his grandmothers and, far right, mother.

Little Steve with his grandmothers and, far right, mother.

 J.P.: You were REALLY early on the podcast thing. Really early. So what caused you to start? What did/do you like about the medium? And has the explosion of podcasting made it harder? Easier?

S.B.: I was early to the podcast game strictly out of circumstance. I was grounded to my house because of my health and I could do a podcast without leaving the house. I’ve always been a huge fan of sports radio and being the next Jim Rome or Chris Russo was always a dream of mine. So I took my shot and created The Sports-Casters.

The thing I like the most about the medium is the freedom of it all. There is no time restraints. I can get a guest on the line and we can just go until we are done. I don’t have to worry about a commercial break or the end of the show.

The explosion had made it harder because the battle for guests is more competitive and the battle for listeners is even harder. The explosion has helped in that people have learned how and where to get podcasts and listening to them has become more of a habit for people. That’s been huge. I don’t have to explain what a podcast is anymore. You do get that eye roll when you say you have a podcast. It’s that of course you do look. Who doesn’t have a podcast???

J.P.: What makes a great guest v. a shitty guest?

S.B.: The best guests are the ones that come on the show and treat it like being on Howard Stern’s couch. They aren’t on a small independent podcast wasting the next hour of their life talking to some jabroni from Buffalo. They are engaged and fun and they see the value of doing the show. Like I said before if you are promoting a book and I can sell 20 of them that’s pretty good. Who wouldn’t want to sell 20 books after a 30 minute interview?

The worst guests are the ones who make it clear pretty quickly that they don’t want to be bothered. I’m often not sure why they agreed to do it. They eat, they do the dishes, they pump gas. I have about 30% of their attention and they just want to get it over with. These guests clearly feel like they are too good for The Sports-Casters. Maybe they are.

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J.P.: You were recently on Richard Deitsch’s podcast, which was big for you. You were psyched, as far as exposure for the show. But here’s my question: Why does it matter? Being serious—you have a fun pod, you enjoy doing it. Why does it matter how many people listen? Isn’t the joy in the doing?

S.B.: The Sports-Casters is a labor of love and will always be about having fun first. If I’m not having fun doing it, I won’t be doing it for much longer. If I’m being honest, I think I do really good work. I believe the content is good. I want more people to hear it. I’ve been doing this show since 2011 and I’ve almost never promoted it. I’ve asked very few favors. I decided at some point that if I’m going to keep doing this why not work to get it in front of more people?

The other thing about that Deitsch podcast is that the format of the episode was my idea. I pitched it to Richard and he thought it was a great idea and he booked it. I was really excited that he liked my idea and that it became a podcast that people downloaded and listened to. That was almost as cool as being a guest on the show.

J.P.: Obviously we hear a ton about #Fakenews these days. You’re hard and heavy into sports media coverage. So, in this realm/genre, how are we doing? Do you think the Internet (Twitter, etc) has improved things? Made the product worse? Both? Neither?

S.B: I think the Sports Media is a fantastic space filled with tons of talented writers and front facing talent on television. There is so much great content to consume that I could never get to all of it. I read 25-40 books a year. I spent 2-3 hours a day reading articles in magazines, newspapers and websites like The Athletic or The Ringer. I don’t like the fake debate shows on television. I skip that. There is plenty of great content that I don’t see a reason to waste time with anything I don’t care for.

The internet has improved things for the simple reason that it has made so much more content accessible. I can read the newspaper they are selling at the corner store near your house in So. Cal. The internet has also created a need for more content and that has provided more opportunities for content providers. In the last month I’ve probably read articles from 50 different writers who all come from different backgrounds. That’s pretty cool.

J.P.: I tell my journalism students there’s no excuse for not having a podcast. It’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s the future, and the future is now. Tell me why I’m wrong. Or right.

S.B: You are totally right. What’s the downside? Even if not a single person listens you still win from the experiences gained by doing the podcast. I have learned how to interview, produce and edit audio, produce content, and operate a microphone all because I have a podcast.

Most of your students probably only need to buy a microphone and they will have everything they need to do a podcast. They might not even need that. Go for it. You might be the next superstar of the genre or you might be the next Steve Bennett. It’s a win/win either way.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH STEVE BENNETT:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Seth Davis, Chuck Muncie, Twisted Sister, Nolan Cromwell, Buffalo Sabres, Chris Cornell, the Avengers movies, four feet of snow, palm trees, runny eggs: Chris Cornell, Buffalo Sabres, Twisted Sister, 4 feet of snow, Chuck Muncie, runny eggs, Nolan Cromwell, the Avengers movies, palm trees, Seth Davis.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? What do you recall?: Luckily, I have not. I’ve probably only flown 20 times or so and unfortunately I don’t even have one good story. Bust.

• If someone said to your face, “You’re a fucking whore and I hope you die,” would you most likely laugh, walk away or punch the guy?: I would walk away. I’m not very tough, Jeff.  I’ve been weakened by years of bowel surgeries. I need to pick my battles and I probably won’t pick a battle with a crazy random dude calling me a whore.

• What happens when we die?: Light out. That’s it.

• How’d you meet your wife?: The Sabres were playing in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars. Game 1 of the series was in Dallas so the Sabres had a viewing party at the arena in Buffalo. It was a couple of bucks to get in and the money went to charity. In between the first and second period my buddy and I took a walk and were looking for a better spot than the one we had in the first period. We spited an empty row that just so happened to have three girls who looked like great hockey fans sitting behind it. My wife was one of those girls. We went out for coffee to celebrate the Sabres win that night. I can’t believe that was almost 20 years ago.

• Three least-favorite Pearl Jam songs?: Gremmie out of Control, Stupid Mop, Sweet Lew

• One question you would ask Noam Bramson were he here right now?: Why isn’t Dyngus Day a bigger thing in the United States?

• Trump v Biden—who are you voting for?: I probably wouldn’t vote for either of them. Like in 2016, I would probably write in another Republican. Trump isn’t my taste and he isn’t winning in New York anyway. Biden isn’t bad as far as Democrats go but the party in general is drifting far too left for me. I would likely punt again.

• Celine Dion calls—she’ll pay you $100 mill to spend the next year away from your family, living in her Las Vegas mansion. But you can only wear diapers and you spend your days mowing her lawn while listening to her music on a boom box resting atop your shoulder, which is coated in marshmallow and her phlegm. You in?: I love my family too much. I couldn’t leave my wife and daughter for a year for any amount of money. I just left them for almost a month when I was in the hospital and it hurt more than the surgery. Also, I despise cutting the grass. We hire someone.

• Five all-time favorite writers: Roald Dahl, Jane Leavy, SL Price, Jeff Pearlman, Jim Kelley

The chickens fly the coop

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For the past month, we had two chickens living with us.

They’re pictured above. Gwendolyn is on the left, Spitzy is on the right. They’re gone now, back to the store that—four weeks ago—provided us with nine eggs to bring home and hatch. It was a birthday present to our son Emmett—you watch the chickens come to life, you raise them beneath a heat lamp in a bin, you enjoy them, then you return them and they’re (the store swears) given to someone who wants to raise—not eat—chickens.

I was down with the idea, and for the first 2 1/2 weeks the two chicks who hatched sorta existed, but not in any real way. The wife took the lead in cleaning their bin, refilling the water, etc. So, basically, I’d say, “Hi chickens” when I entered, “Goodbye chickens” when I left, and little more. They were here, in the way a chirping lamp might be here. Present, but blah.

Then, somewhat recently, the wife and Emmett had to go to New York for a Bar Mitzvah, and the daughter and I were left to care for the chickens. Which can be interpreted to: I was left to care for the chickens.

And … well, dammit. I fucking fell in love with them. While my two relatives were off doing the Jewish thing, Gwendolyn (named by Casey) began to fly. You’d put her down, she’d lean in, start flapping her wings, then—up, up, up, up. Sptizy is a bit smaller, so her efforts were sorta sad. Flap, flap, up—hard down. Until she departed, I’d been listening to the wife chat with the chickens, finding it preposterous and most odd. “Hello, Spitzy! Who’s a good chicken?”

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Um, what?

But then, eh … ah … mmm … I was talking to the chickens. “What up, birds?” and “You feel like flying, Gwendolyn?” It was offputting, but the chickens felt sympathetic and attentive. In fact, it’s more than that. Last week a very good friend of mine passed, and I was—genuinely—crushed. I honestly think I put a lot of that pain into the chickens. They were eager and bright and optimistic. I needed that. I needed the chickens.

Anyhow, this morning was a sad one, because the chickens needed to depart. We discussed keeping them, but: A. We have coyotes all over the place; B. Chickens shit a lot; C. There’s a 70 percent chance Gwendolyn is a male, which would mean 6 am wakeup calls for the Pearlmans and all the neighbors. So, the wife loaded them into the car, and I bid a fond—yet crushing—farewell.

KFC will never look quite the same.

(But it sure is yummy)

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Allowances

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Read a pretty fascinating story today in People Magazine about former Cowboys linebacker Jeff Rohrer, who came out of the closet some time ago and now lives with his husband, his ex-wife and their two kids.

It’s, to be polite, a quirky saga. Here’s the link.

Anyhow, I was curious what people thought about the story, and found myself diving into this unfortunate thread on Twitter …

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And what I’d like to know from Chris Aubert and his conservative friends is this: Did you not vote for a man who cheated on his wife with a porn star just 10 days after she delivered his child—then paid her off? Did he not then pay off a Playboy model he also slept with? And did he not then brag of grabbing women by the pussy?

I, too, find the Rohrer story sorta odd—not because he’s gay, but because he’s 23 years older than his husband and the two of them are living with his ex-wife. But if we’re going to judge and mock and ridicule and presume, let’s at least be consistent about our so-called moral stance, no?

As I’ve noted 1,000 times before, I’m tired of the pro-military among us standing behind a man who just two months ago lied to the troops about a 10% raise that doesn’t exist; who mocked a POW, who had five draft deferments. I’m tired of the Christians among us standing behind a habitual cheater who mocks the needy, ignores the helpless, belittles everyone in site.

Wanna dump on someone? Fine.

But cut the hypocrisy.

The day I nearly died after needing to pee

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ZZ in recovery

ZZ Lundburg is a senior Creative Writing major at Chapman University—as well as one of my favorite students. She was nearly killed after trying to pee off the back of a boat, and wrote this essay for the site. You can follow her on Twitter here.

If the worst day of my life had been worthy of a news story the headline would have read, “College Girl Gets Run Over by Duffy in Newport Beach After Drinking Too Many Mimosas and Needing to Piss.” And everyone probably would’ve thought—this chick is an idiot. And someone’s aunt Susan would’ve reposted it on Facebook saying, “I hope this is a warning to all the college age kids who drink!!!!! Too many accidents can happen!!!” And my mom would’ve cried. And then she would have sued everyone and made it worse.

There are all these rules everyone follows when something bad happens, all these phrases we say to make it better. See scar. Ask about scar. Say you’re so sorry. Ask if it still hurts. Tell me that I’m lucky. But if we’re being honest, then one question everyone really wants to know is how did that happen?

It was August 25—the Saturday before the first day of my last year of college. About eight friends of mine, mostly my new roommates who I was friends with, but not quite close to yet. I was nervous that I wasn’t going to fit in the dynamic. I changed into dress after dress, until my new roommate offered me one of hers. It was sunny, it was pretty, the water, the sailboats, all of it. We were celebrating someone’s birthday with the classic cheap champagne and orange juice combo, I don’t remember who for. We turned the boat off and someone’s boyfriend did a backflip into the water. Some other girls had to pee and I followed them to the back of the boat and into the water. I remember feeling bad about getting the dress wet.

And then someone got scared and someone thought we were going to hit a dock and someone was playing music too loud and someone turned on the motor and someone got cut and that someone just happened to be me. The first cut was clean, fast. Straight down my inner calf on my right leg. I felt it happen, but I don’t remember the pain. Just lifting my leg up and seeing yellow fat and blue veins and red muscles and white bone. All of it blurry under the waves, but there like an anatomy textbook.

“I’m cut,” I said. “Guys, I got cut.”

My friend Emily looked down at me, wide-eyed, and reached out a tiny hand. She’s 5-foot-2, blonde, little in the most endearing way and absolutely could not, no way pull my body out of the water. But I held on and the motor was off and I was so close to being out of the water and on the boat and away from this creeping buzzing that was running up my leg. And then it was just noise and water and white. And I was back under and I could feel myself being pulled backward again towards this terrible spinning fucking thing that I knew was going to end my life and my dress was caught and all I had was this hand, Emily’s hand. I was screaming, “Please, please turn it off! Please!”

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It gets blurry from there. I felt the motor dig into my back three times. I ripped my dress off of my body. The motor stopped. And I laid there in the water for a moment. Wondering if I just sank if none of it would be real, if I could just stay there and make it all go away. And plus, I was mostly naked, which felt like salt in the already saltwater-filled wound. This quiet choice where I could just go. Leave. But then I was on the back of the boat with hands all over me, holding my leg together, covering me up with T-shirts, yelling about pressure and parents and steering back to shore. And Emily’s tiny hands on my back, looking like she might puke. Then I cried. And I felt stupid and bad that this had happened to me, that this had happened to all of us.

That my mother had to get that phone call. That maybe I was going to die and ruin everyone’s damn day.

When I went in for a long-overdue checkup six months later, a nurse told me that one of her friends had been working that day that I get brought in. According to her, I was a big deal in that Newport medical community, though I’m not sure what that quite means. But the Coast Guard told my shaking friends as they towed that bloody Duffy back to the dock that when they get calls like that, they assume someone is already dead. I got lucky. Or maybe I didn’t. But probably, I did. The propeller sliced right in between my bone and some important muscle that I can’t remember the name of (I’m guessing soleus but anyone is welcome to fact check me). I could’ve lost my foot, could’ve broken my leg, could’ve nicked an artery, sliced into an organ, hell, cut off my head.

But, really, it didn’t end up being about what could have happened. Or about how dumb I felt or felt people thought I was. It didn’t end up being about the pain, or the bleeding, or the ugly ass scars that wind around my body. It wasn’t about the moment, the blood, the pain. Or the Coast Guard, or the hot EMT who walked my bleeding body to the ambulance. But are you allowed to hit on a guy after he’s seen your bone? Am I allowed to be angry? And say I’m really mad that the motor got turned on and that no one listened to me? Am I allowed to disagree with everyone about God saving me? Am I allowed to cry six months later because my back reminds me that I can be a bit of a shithead? Am I allowed to not be okay? I don’t know those answers yet.

I learned a lot of things, the obvious one that those of us who are lucky learn about invincibility. And friendship through the sluggish ugliness of healing, changing bandages and checking yellowed puckered stitch skin. I know my body better now, how it feels to really hurt and ache and bruise.

And as much as it was hard, I don’t really wish it hadn’t happened. It’s a story. A story that makes me cry sometimes and makes me laugh most times. It brings me closer to people, it’s something to talk about. And just before that day got crazy and chaotic, all I was thinking about was how damn pretty it was outside and how cheap champagne honestly tastes just like the real thing.

And how good it feels to pee.

Where did Arya come from?: A review of “Game of Thrones” from someone who doesn’t watch “Game of Thrones”

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Neither Ben nor I have any fucking idea who these people are.

Like Jeff Pearlman, Ben Mehic doesn’t give two shits about Game of Thrones. He wrote this review of the show from a perspective of someone who’s never watched it.You can follow Ben on Twitter here and read his amazing profile of Chris Douglas-Roberts here.

SPOILER ALERT: If you’re not among the 17 million people who saw episode 3, season 8 of “Game of Thrones,” you probably shouldn’t read this.

Where did Arya come from?

I have not a clue – which was true for the entire duration of episode three, and not just that particular part of the episode which has since become a sensational meme.

My girlfriend, Amanda, sat on the edge of her seat – clutching the blanket, covering her mouth, and occasionally whispering a name that’s missing a letter in it, which I discovered is a common theme throughout “Game of Thrones” (“Bran” – you’re “Brian” without an “I” and “Gregor” – you, too, are missing a “y”).

I’m the last Mohican, if such a thing exists. I’m not even sure if I used that reference correctly – because I haven’t watched the movie, much like I’ve never watched “Titanic,” “The Sopranos,” or really, any of your favorite films or TV shows.

Prior to last Sunday, I never watched an episode of “Game of Thrones” from start to finish. And yes, I still carry a six-pound Android in my pocket.

But after seeing the massive anticipation online, listening to Amanda’s theories about what’s to come, and experiencing a bit of F.O.M.O, I caved.

With Nova, our dog, curled up in my lap and a dark chocolate Reese’s bar in my hand, I was ready to join the millions in watching their favorite characters – none of whom I have any sort of emotional attachment to, which makes this experience that much more strange – get slaughtered in what was supposed to be an hour and 20 minutes of endless violence.

Except, I couldn’t see any of it.

Amanda, who’d been completely silent, asked me if something was wrong with our TV. It was that dark.

If you looked closely enough, you could kind of see what resembled a stampede of stabbings – and judging from Amanda’s non-reaction, not a single important character had met their demise.

Eventually, the semi-important deaths came.

The friend-zoned fella they call “Jorah” – who should totally be “Jonah” – died without ever even getting Daenerys’ number. The poor guy gave up his life without hesitation and she couldn’t even give him a courtesy brunch date.

Oh, Joooorah,” Amanda whispered after he collapsed. That sort of reaction is kind of all his character was worth, I suppose.

I don’t remember exactly what happened after his death, but I know that the character’s departure from the show was sandwiched in-between an intense collision of the nerdiest worlds.

There were zombies, dragons (including a bearded guy on a dragon), evil dragons attacking the tamed dragons (even though you can’t really tame a dragon – it’s only a matter of time before Jon Snow suffers the same fate as Roy from “Siegfried and Roy”), and a really scary frozen guy who kind-of, sort-of resembles the wicked characters from “Starwars” (another movie I’ve never watched but will happily criticize).

I’m 23-years old and I remember when kids who were into “Dungeons and Dragons” got made fun of. Apparently, they were way ahead of their time. Had “Game of Thrones” been released, say, even in the early 2000s, I’m not sure it would be as popular as it is today.

That, more than anything, made me appreciate how gigantic the show has become. It’s transcended “nerdy” – it’s become a weekly Superbowl for the nerds, a reason to get together with family (and awkwardly watch the incestual scenes together).

“Game of Thrones” is “Harry Potter,” “Walking Dead,” and every piece of erotica literature sitting inside your mother’s bookshelf rolled into one. And for transparency purposes – I, again, have yet to experience any of those three …

From an entertainment standpoint, “Game of Thrones” is everything one can ask for. It has something for everyone – the classic, handsome hero who yells at dragons instead of actually doing something substantive to change the course of the episode, the kick-ass female lead and the lovable pup (but seriously – someone check on Ghost).

That, though, isn’t always a good thing. It’s a double-edged sword …

Lauded for its complexity, the writers turned to low-hanging fruit to cap off what could’ve been an emotionally devastating piece of art.

The good guys don’t always have to win – and if there’s one thing “Game of Thrones” is known for, it’s ending a life or two (or a couple thousand). The “important” deaths may soon come, but after such a chaotic episode, the main characters remained intact – ready to continue battling and miraculously escaping death.

We’ve seen the David and Goliath story repeated countless times since, well, David and Goliath. Maybe the writers are too ahead of the books and were running out of steam – but you mean to tell me that there really wasn’t another way to end the evil, seemingly-untouchable Night King besides the classic one-hit, Mike Tyson-esque knockout?

Ironically, by ending the Night King with one poke to the thigh – although Arya does deserve credit for successfully completing Michael Jordan’s hand-switch move – the writers of “Game of Thrones” pulled what could’ve been one of the most shocking punches in television history.

And really – where did Arya come from?

My Saturday morning run

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Like many writers in their 40s, I don’t have an amazing social life.

I’ve got my wife, I’ve got my kids, I’ve got my friends, I’ve got nights working out at the gym, I have walks with the dog and chats on the phone and a whole bunch of DMs to myriad people. But, as I sit here in 2019, I don’t have a ton of hangout-esque things. It’s sorta the nature of my age, the nature of relocating to a new place (New York to SoCal), the nature of being a suburban dad, the nature of being a writer who works for himself.

But I do have Saturday mornings.

And they are awesome.

I learned of the games about 2 1/2 years ago, from the father of one of my daughter’s friends. He told me there was a weekly pickup run on the courts near the Starbucks. That the ages ranged from high school to some guys in their 60s, that the skill level went from mediocre to Division III bencher. So I went, and loved it.

And returned, and loved it.

And returned, and loved it.

And returned, and loved it.

I’ve probably played, oh, 60 times by now, and it brings me tremendous bliss. First, I simply love the rhythms of pickup. The sound of ball bouncing off court. The sneakers squeaking. People yelling, “I got him! I got him!” and “D! D!” Second, basketball is my favorite sport. Truly, my favorite sport. It’s an insanely terrific workout. It’s entertaining as fuck. It’s a challenge, and a challenge I can—at this level, at this age—hang with. And, truth be told, there’s not that big of a difference between Jeff Pearlman: Basketball Player at 25 and Jeff Pearlman: Basketball Player at 47. My back tightens a bit. I’m not quite as good a leaper (not that I was ever much of a leaper). But what I did then I do now—rebound, block shots, play tough defense on the opposing big man. I’ve made this point before, and I believe it: The dropoff for, oh, Shaq from 25 to 47 is enormous, because he was at the absolute highest point allowable. But folks like me were never there. I’m a hack. A good hack. But a hack nonetheless. Hacks at 25 and hacks at 47 are one and the same.

I think what I treasure most is the sense of community. I’d say, on average, 18 guys (and one woman) play, and you get to know them. Yes, their moves and on-court tendencies. But, really, you get to know who they are; what their lives feel like. It’s a lovely and diverse crew. Racially. Age-wise. Geographic. Mark is married to a retired flight attendant, and they travel all over for free. Russ was studying to be a priest, then stopped and now teaches high school religion. Bishop is a professional drummer. John is a college student. X will be attending the senior prom tonight. One dude sells pot for a living. Another makes sunglasses. There’s one guy I absolutely can’t stand (he likes to say, “That guy’s a Democrat!” as an insult), but otherwise they’re all cool. Plus, very few fouls are called. Rare are the arguments that go beyond 10 seconds. When someone gets hurt, the concern is real. When someone hits an insane shot, players on the other team will drop a compliment.

I’m not the best player, I’m not the worst.

I’m probably the most grateful.

PS: I recently was trying to guesstimate how many pickup games I’ve played in my life. It’s gotta be well over 1,000—and worth every second.

Great news for Joe Biden (and others)

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I have awesome news for Joe Biden: Anything negative from his past doesn’t matter.

Anita Hill? Not an issue.

Getting too touchy with women? No problem.

Votes that, looking back, were ill-advised? Hey, shit happens.

I point this out because, as time has passed, I’ve noticed that a particular defense mechanism is routinely employed by supporters of Donald Trump when you evoke, oh, the “grab ’em by the pussy” comment, or the lie about helping with the Ground Zero recovery, or his repeated “Barack Obama was a Kenyan-born Muslim” line, or his mocking of a POW, or his lies about inaugural size and a Boy Scouts jamboree, or his fictitious past as a scrappy kid who started with nothing.

The defense: None of that is important, because I like what he’s doing now.

Seriously, it’s all the rage.

So … great. The past doesn’t matter. It’s what you do now, and only what you do now.

Let’s remember that.

Let’s remember.

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