A few hours ago Donald Trump Tweeted the following:
There is nothing normal about this, and there is nothing sane about this, and there is nothing righteous about this. There is nothing good about this, there is nothing smart about this, there is nothing encouraging about this.
If you’re a Trump supporter, and you’re a fan of tough talk—this is not tough talk. Several years ago, I told my nephew he should never break up with a girlfriend via text, because it’s the stuff of cowards. This is the stuff of cowards. It’s small fingers on a small phone typing big words.
There is nothing normal about this.
I have kids. You have kids. I don’t want a nuclear war commenced by two small-penised mental midgets trying to show how tough they are. I don’t want a nuclear war commenced by a senile fuck who drinks a dozen Diet Cokes per day, never exercises (save for golf) and thinks climate change is a hoax. I don’t want a nuclear war commenced by a man who doesn’t read; by a man who has to be babysat by advisers.
There is nothing normal about this.
Earlier today Donald Trump took credit for American air safety—even though it’s been safe for decades. He again ridiculed and mocked Barack Obama. He promised his own awards for dishonest media—even as he lied about inauguration crowd, Mexico paying for a wall, a Boy Scouts troop leader’s call, the benefits of the tax bill, his protections of DACA and gays and minorities.
There is nothing normal about this.
We were remember these days either as the time when Donald Trump took us to war, or when Donald Trump nearly took us to war. We will remember these days as the time when our nation—a grand experiment—fell victim to a narcissistic conman with a sway over millions of lemmings.
So this is totally random, but it’s 10:01 pm and I’m sitting in the Floridian, a 24-hour Ft. Lauderdale diner.
A few moments ago I retreated to the men’s room to take a piss. As soon as I entered I was reminded that the Floridian—a place I’ve frequented dozens of times—boasts what must go down as one of the world’s lamest attempts at music memorabilia.
Hanging in the bathroom are a series of framed “gold records.” The Beatles. Babs Streisand. Julio Iglesias. Dean Martin. And they all share a couple of characteristics in common:
• Crappy wood frames.
• Poorly photocopied album covers.
• “Gold records” that are neither made of gold nor records. In fact, I’m pretty sure they’re half records, tucked behind the photocopied jacket in order to appear whole.
As you can see above, the paper is the kind you buy at Staples—$6.99 for 500 sheets. It’s warped and discolored and unworthy of Beatlemania.
Sitting in a coffee shop in South Florida, wrapping up a lengthy piece that’s been driving me to drink.
Words aren’t coming.
I made the mistake of reading Trump’s Twitter line.
It’s raining and cold.
I slept four hours.
But then this dog sat down on the couch next to me. A little girl was eating a muffin, giggling with her father. I’m drinking a terrific beverage, and ate a cinnamon scone. The White Stripes are playing.
Just wrapped “The Presidents Club” by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, which goes down as the best book I read in 2017.
Now, I should note that, in my line of work I read plenty of books that exist on my shelf out of task obligation, not choice. Meaning, if I’m writing about, say, the USFL, most of my reading will concern the league, its participants, its rulers. So when the opportunity arrives to read something 100-percent by choice, well, it better be good.
“The Presidents Club” was good.
Really, really good.
The book is an exploration of the relationships between presidents and ex-presidents, dating back to Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman. It’s a unique deep dive into the way—pre-#MAGA conman—the holders of the officer were able to see beyond politics and greed in an effort to better the nation. Or, put different: As much as (post-election) Jimmy Carter loathed Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush loathed Bill Clinton, no one was eagerly willing to undermine a predecessor in the name of political gain. In fact, it was just the opposite. Hell, on Clinton’s first day on the job, he found this note from Bush …
The idea behind the book is that former presidents are the only people who fully understand current presidents, and that predecessors often turn into valuable advisers to the men in office. Lyndon Johnson, for example, milked Dwight Eisenhower’s military knowledge. Richard Nixon wanted Johnson to help deal with congress. Clinton (of all people) regularly called Nixon for foreign policy wisdom. The chain went on and on and on—those holding power looking toward those who held power.
The sad part of it all: Trump has ruined it. All of it. Not only does he show little respect for Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and the two Bushes—he openly mocks, derides and ridicules their patriotism and their records. Throughout my reading I kept thinking, “When Bush Sr. dies, will the sitting president even be invited to the funeral?”
I’m guessing yes—but without a speaking slot.
Compare that to the events of Jan 2, 2007, when Gerald Ford’s funeral was held at the Capitol Rotunda. Back in 1976, Ford ran against Jimmy Carter in one of modern history’s most heated elections. In the aftermath, the two men had little to do with one another. Ford took Carter’s criticisms personally. Carter held little respect for the guy who pardoned Nixon. They were, in every sense, enemies.
Then, in 1981, the men (both ex-presidents) traveled together to Anwar Sadat’s funeral in Egypt. According to “The Presidents Club,” commander in chiefs No. 38 and 39 forged a genuine kinship via lengthy chatter, and went on to appear at dozens of events as not merely former commander in chiefs, but close pals.
So those of you who visit this site might remember that, roughly two months ago, my father in law died.
His name was Rodney Cole, and he was a good man who loved nature, photography and nature photography. He’d ride around his South Florida community in a golf cart, pursuing birds and alligators and all sorts of animals through his lens. What started as a hobby turned passion, and Rodney was extremely good at it.
Anyhow, a few hours ago we bid our final farewell to Rodney Cole. We (his widow, Rodney’s daughter, his son-in-law, his grandchildren, my sister in law, my wife and my kids (also his grandchildren)) went to one of his favorite spots and placed his ashes—contained in a biodegradable urn—in the water. Then we watched and listened. To the birds. To the wind. To trees swaying in the warm Florida breeze. It was a truly wonderful experience; one that (for me) had little to do with spirituality or religion and everything to do with a last moment alongside someone in what was, perhaps, his favorite spot in the world.
I’ve never fully grasped death, and I’m not certain I ever will.
But as 2017 comes to a close, I will fondly remember its lingering hours as the time I stood beside the water with genuinely lovely people and wished the moment could last just a bit longer.
On this day every year, I am required to tell my favorite New Year’s Eve story of all time.
So I will.
In the winter of 1996 I was a 24-year-old writer, home in New York for the holidays. My friend Dan worked for a major corporation in the city, and he told me one of his co-workers was having the New Year’s Eve party to end New Year’s Eve parties. “It’s gonna be incredible,” Dan said. “Guy is loaded.” So we decided to go—Dan, me, our longtime friend Paul, Mike Lewis, and Kyle, Dan’s roommate. Dan actually had to secure passes from the host, whose apartment was a stone’s throw from the Times Square ball drop.
On the night of Dec. 31, we all met at Dan’s apartment, then walked to Times Square. We handed a couple of police officers our passes, and they let us through a barricade. The apartment building where the guy lived was gigantic, as well as beautiful. A lobby with plush carpets, expensive paintings, piped-in classical music, etc. We took the elevator to the penthouse, and were greeted warmly by the host. “You guys are the first ones here,” he said. “But make yourselves at home.”
We did. The bar was loaded, the food was spectacular. We ate and chatted, drank and chatted. The goals were pretty clear—have fun, get drunk, hopefully meet some women, hook up, so on and so on.
Then, gradually, guests began to arrive.
Two more men.
Paul looked at me, real funny-like. “Jeff,” he said, “this is a gay New Year’s party.”
Indeed, it was.
I’ll never forget it. My friends were well-dressed, which was the norm at the party. I was wearing a University of Tennessee football jersey, which was not the norm (One cannot have a more prominent NOT GAY! neon sign than a Tennessee football jersey). Some guy kissed Paul, and at one point Mike looked around and said, “You know what—”I’m gonna mingle!”
It wasn’t awkward, but fun. Joyful. Memorable. As the clock counted down to midnight, I stood on the guy’s balcony, bottle of bubbly in hand, surrounded by, oh, 150 gay men. When 1996 arrived, everyone started yelling and cheering, then making out. One big simultaneous make-out.
So, against all odds and logic, I’ve been named the guest editor of the next edition of the Best American Sports Writing.
Like most people who have been around, I’ve won writing awards here and there. This, however, is something entirely different. I grew up religiously reading the Best American Sports Writing series. It was, along with Zander Hollander’s annuals, my yearly bible; a chance to study, probe, understand the nation’s top scribes doing something I couldn’t at an extremely high level. I would anxiously await the announcement of the new editor—would it be David Halberstam or Rick Reilly? David Maraniss or Richard Ben Cramer? Frank Deford or Dan Jenkins? I mean, you’re talking about a murder’s row of legend. One tremendous scribe after another.
Now, I am 100 percent aware I’m not of that caliber. But, when the offer came, I actually squealed. Literally, I turned to the wife and let out an embarrassing little eek. Why? Because, even if I’m no Deford, I’ve busted my ass in this game for a long time. So stuff like this, well, it means a great deal.
The fantastic Glenn Stout has headed the Best American Sports Writing effort for a long time, as he does now. For submission guidelines, visit here. Also, I’m wiiiiiiiide open on this. If you’ve read something in 2017 that really moved you, or caught your attention, hey, lemme know. I’m at email@example.com and @jeffpearlman on Twitter.
So we went to a carnival at a nearby country club yesterday. There was a face painter, a balloon artist, a huge slide, some bouncy castles, tons of food and a petting zoo.
Inside the petting zoo was the above 3-month-old pig.
I asked the guy in charge about the animals. He said they live in a no-kill, no-harm farm environment where love rules the day and they’re all cared for with great compassion. Then I wondered, specifically, about the pig. For some reason the little guy caught my fancy. He seemed particularly curious and friendly. I’d spent precious few life hours around pigs, so this one really intrigued me.
“How big will the pig get?” I asked.
Oh, about 300 pounds.
Yeah. That’s why they’re hard to keep.
Yeah. They’re hard to manage when they grow full size.
“Does that mean he winds up bacon?”
Maybe. Maybe not. Depends.
His tone suggested “maybe” outweighed “maybe not.” And for some annoying reason, this devastated me. I don’t know why. I mean, thousands upon thousands of pigs ultimately become processed meat. But even now, a day removed, little guy remains in my thoughts.
And will hopefully not, one day, wind up on my kids’ plates.
I know that sounds dumb and somewhat obvious, but it’s true. As a guy who was called “Pearl-girl” throughout his youth, I’d pay good money for the simple pleasure of an “Alexa Datt”-esque identity.
The other thing Alexa Datt owns is charisma. Tons and tons of charisma. The host of “12:25 Live with Alexa,” which streams daily on MLB.com, Facebook Live and Sports on Earth, is that rare combination of likable and informed. You watch her and see a person who knows her Major League shit, but doesn’t come off as unnecessarily serious or bubbly. She just has that … something that works.
Alexa also happens to be fascinating for myriad different reasons. She worked on America’s Most Wanted. She was the Mets’ in-stadium MC. She’s married to Peter Rosenberg. She prefers Cookie Monster to My Little Pony.
JEFF PEARLMAN:So Alexa, I Google you to do a little background research and one of the first links I find is an axs.com article headlined, MEET ALEXA DATT ROSENBERG, THE NEW GORGEOUS NEW YORK METS INSIDER HOST. And I can honestly say I’ve never heard a male in this business ever described as “gorgeous” or “hot” or “sexy.” And I wonder whether this sorta thing pissed you off, if you’re resigned to it, if it doesn’t bother you at all…
ALEXA DATT: Haha. I was actually flattered and my family was pretty entertained. I’ve said hi to Eric Holden, the author of that article, a few times at Mets games and we’ve Tweeted back and forth. I would have taken issue with the article if the whole thing was about my looks because that’s not what I want to be known for. But Eric did his research and even gave my humble beginnings as a high school basketball sideline reporter a shout out in the article. I don’t like to take myself—or a lot of what’s on the Internet—too seriously, and if I felt like it was offensive I would have told the author.
By the way, I can tell you a bunch of male broadcasters who are “gorgeous” or “sexy.” Ask Chris Carlin—he knows what I’m talking about.
J.P.:So you’re the host of “12:25 Live with Alexa,” which streams strictly online via Facebook Live. And it’s weird, in that not all that long ago this would have led to shrugs, quizzical glances, etc. So I wonder: A. How did you land the gig? B. Were you at all, I dunno, put off by the idea of an online show? C. Is it any different than hosting a TV program?
• A.D.: Put off by an online show? This isn’t me and a webcam in my bedroom! Ha. Maybe 10 years ago people would be put off by online shows, but this is 2017. Online content is the new norm.
Our show, “12:25 Live with Alexa,” streams daily on MLB.com, Facebook Live and Sports on Earth. MLB.com is one of the biggest sports sites with a huge audience so I was excited about the opportunity. A lot of what I’ve done in my career has been online and it’s a great platform because the audience has a direct interaction with you. It lets you know your content is resonating with people, whether positive or negative, and that instant feedback is a really cool part of the job. You have more freedom with online content, too. Viewers are OK with guests joining the show via video chat and that opens up the guest list possibilities and the endless directions you can go. We’re similar to a TV show in our look and setup, just quicker paced with more content and a heavier focus on social media.
J.P.:I’m really embarrassed to admit I didn’t know this, but admit I will: You’re married to Peter Rosenberg of Hot 97/ESPN fame. Um, that’s awesome. How’d it happen? Meet? First date? All that stuff.
A.D.: Haha. No, that’s a good thing! I’ve gotten to where I am in this business not because of who I’m married to or who my parents are (though they’re amazing people!) and I take a lot of pride in that. Of course I also take a lot of pride in his success, I’m #proudwife all the way. But I’m happy to know not everyone thinks of us as attached at the hip all the time because sometimes it seems that way.
Peter and I met at University of Maryland (go Terps!) after he graduated and was DJing at a local venue (Lupos) and I was a sophomore. I requested Nelly’s “Ride with Me” (don’t @ me, it’s a great party song) and we hit it off from there. After seven long and awesome years of ons and offs, and ups and downs, we realized we couldn’t live without each other and got married on the beach in Bayville in September, 2012. It’s funny being Mrs. Rosenberg because we’re both in the industry so people will see me and call out “Rosenberg’s Wife!” which is sweet and awkward at the same time. I love that people recognize his accomplishments, but at the same time I want to yell back “The name’s Alexa!” I usually smile and keep it moving. Sometimes my friends or co-workers will yell it for me, with a smile.
J.P.:From 2014-2017 you worked for the Mets as the in-stadium host/reporter. We live in California and attend a fair number of Dodgers games, and I always sorta feel pangs of sympathy for those in your old shoes. I mean, the Dodgers could be 17 games out, it’s September, the score is 200-3, Cubs, and the in-stadium host has to be peppy, up, enthusiastic. So, well, what was the gig like?
A.D.: It was the most fun I’ve ever had at a job. I got to be on the field during the World Series, and in the stands interviewing diehard Mets fans who waited their whole lives for those games. I remember my favorite fan, Gloria, a 90-year-old Mets season ticket holder, who sat in an aisle seat in the good section and I would go visit her every game. She never missed her Mets and baseball was her passion. It’s mine, too. I loved talking baseball with Gloria. Those relationships are what made the job special. Getting paid to watch baseball at the ballpark on a nightly basis is pretty special, too. How could you not be happy? If the team is struggling it’s definitely harder, searching for fans to talk to, waiting out extra innings on a chilly September night, but it’s still baseball, and you’re lucky enough to witness it all. I had the best crew of people I worked with, too, from the control room and my fellow hosts to the party patrol and the ballpark ushers, everyone was one big family. The entire experience was really special.
J.P.:You spent two years as a production assistant at America’s Most Wanted. That. Is. So. Random. What was the job like? What stands out? Fun or awful? Or both?
• A.D.: Peter’s good friend Tom Morris hooked me up with this and it was my first real gig in broadcasting. It was an interesting and eye-opening experience. I got to meet John Walsh, the host of the show whose mission was to put every child predator behind bars. He was just as you would expect him to be—friendly, intense and very dedicated to his goals. I helped out on-set at the reenactments, where they acted out an unsolved crime, just like a movie shoot, in hopes of catching the criminal once the show aired. There was a bell in the newsroom that they rung every time a criminal was caught. It was a bizarre feeling because I admired the writers, hosts, and editors for using their journalism degree for something good, but the intensity wasn’t for me. I always knew I wanted to work in sports.
• J.P.:How do you keep your interest during a 162-game season? I mean, I get 16 NFL games. I even get 82 NBA games. But one hundred and sixty two. Jesus. Are you still interested in, oh, Reds-Brewers? Do you really find Mike Trout and Bryce Harper interesting? Can you maintain the upbeat spirit from February thru October?
• A.D.: I love baseball because there is action on a nightly basis. You don’t have to talk about one game for a week before you get to see the teams play again. Starting pitching changes every night and we still don’t know how the human arm works. Hitting a ball with a bat is the hardest thing to do in sports. Players’ hitting streaks, grand slams, no-hitters, dazzling catches and bat flips … two outs, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded. Who’s up at the plate? Oh THAT guy? He’s got no chance, until he drives in the game-winner. The emotional swings are the most fun. Nothing is better than that.
I like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout for their pure baseball skills and also because they came into the league a year apart so they will forever be compared to each other and that’s always fun. One’s more serious, one is more bizzare. One is a better hitter, one a better fielder. But who makes their team better overall? Where do they end up in five years? Which one will be in the Hall of Fame? These are the questions I love debating and that makes the season fly by.
A.D.: I look up to Jemele a lot and when I met her she was genuine and supportive. I haven’t worked in the same atmosphere as her, though (i.e. hosting a successful national TV show), so even though I know it exists and know women who have dealt with it, I’ve been very fortunate to experience the opposite. I’ve been embraced and welcomed from the second I stepped foot in New York as a production assistant looking for an on-air gig. Michelle Yu at SNY helped me connect with my first on-air job, Katie Nolan is super cool, so is Michelle Beadle. I used to print scripts for Meredith Marakovits and now I run into her at games where she always treats me like an equal. Lauren Shehadi is available if I ever need to reach out, Sam Ryan walked me though an audition, and Tina Cervasio has always been supportive and warm. Brittany Ghiroli and Alyson Footer are two of my favorite people: helpful, smart, inclusive. I sound like I’m name dropping because I am. I think it’s important to shout out women who have been there for me. You come across haters in this business but the helpful and supportive women far outweigh the ones who aren’t. Younger women coming up should know there is a huge supportive community if they ever need it and to reach out to women they admire for advice anytime, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.
J.P.:Alex Rodriguez is a broadcaster. Mark McGwire is a hitting coach. Barry Bonds was a hitting coach. How do you feel about guys who used PED holding jobs in baseball? And what do you think about PED guys entering the Hall?
A.D.: I grew up watching baseball in the 1990s and 2000s. And I grew up watching Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire and Alex Rodriguez. I want to be able to take my (future) kids to Cooperstown one day and tell them about the season I watched Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs and how exciting that was for me. That was a huge part of my childhood and to exclude it is to leave out a part of baseball history that made me fall in love with the game. It’s the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds is one of the most famous players we know. He should be in the Hall. But I understand the argument for keeping them out. These guys were forgiven for their mistakes and are still allowed to be a part of the game in some capacity, which is great. Sometimes you can’t have it all.
J.P.:You did work for 120 Sports, so this might offend. But when it first came out I thought 120 Sports was onto something potentially big. And, just being honest, I think I was wrong. I never see it, never hear much about it. Not sure why, but it’s simply not on my radar. So … am I off? Is there genius of idea I’m missing?
A.D.: I co-hosted the 120 Sports morning show called “Morning Run” for a little less than a year in New York with a true professional and amazing human being, Michael Kim. The show dissolved and 120 Sports became Stadium and moved its New York operations back to its home base of Chicago. I think their concept of 24-hour sports editorial coverage is fresh and a great idea but it might be a little ahead of its time. I could see this being a bigger concept in the future. It’s worth checking out, they do good work and their coverage, which includes social media and sports opinions, is a great way to connect with their audience.
J.P.:I’ve never asked this before, but I think it’s a good one to address. You’re a young, attractive woman working in a tough field for young, attractive women. I’m sure you’ve had athletes say inappropriate things, or stare inappropriately, or whatever. And I ask, for other (and future) women in your shoes: What’s the best way to handle the situations?
A.D.: I’ve had players ask me out, pass me notes, slide into my DMs. I think most of them are either bored or are trying to get their latest mixtape to my husband I’ve only felt uncomfortable once and the best things to do in those cases is to tell someone you trust. If you feel uncomfortable, that’s all that matters. Not what was said or who said it, just that it happened and it crossed a line. Find someone in the business you trust, an authority figure like your boss or your mentor, and talk it through with them. I did and it helped a lot. A lot of times it can open a dialogue and everyone learns from the situation. But 99.9 percent of the athletes I know are protective like older brothers to me and would never put me in an uncomfortable situation. There is a trust built that I value and is an integral part of my job. Most of the inappropriate things said to me come from trolls online and I’m still figuring out how to deal with them. I’m ignoring them mostly but when I’m having a bad day and someone calls me “stupid” or “another dumb blonde host” or says “why does she look like that if she wants to be taken seriously” with children in their Twitter bios I want to start furiously typing a response. I don’t. I leave it alone and I end up just feeling bad for their kids.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH ALEXA DATT:
• “Datt” seems to lend itself to 1,001 childhood nicknames. What were some of yours: Datt girl, the Datt cave (what the kids called our basement), The Dattmobile (family car), What’s up with Datt (the SNL skit), Who Datt? (My brother’s bball team nickname), Datt’s What She Said (the name of my podcast)
• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No thankfully! But Geoff Schwartz told me on my podcast that he once stunk up an airplane bathroom so bad that everyone glared at him the whole flight and people mention it about once every six months on Twitter. That’s as close as I’ve been. You’re welcome, Geoff.
• The world needs to know: What was it like being in the presence of Erik Goeddel?: Haha—he’s a nice guy from the little interaction I’ve had with him but never got the chance to know him really well. Heard all good things and his nickname is Goopy so he has to be a good guy.
• How did Peter propose to you?: On the Brooklyn Bridge at 11 am after tricking me into walking across it for a party at Grimaldi’s that didn’t exist. We had a party of two at Grimaldi’s after I said yes.
• Where would you have attended college had it not been Maryland?: Maybe Syracuse. I wanted to go to the best journalism school in the country but I was too scared I wouldn’t get into Newhouse so I never applied. (How’s that for a confession? Sorry, Dad)
• • Why is ballpark-attending humanity so enamored by the free T-shirt-shot-thru-a-cannon?: Because people love free things shot directly at their face at 65 mph. It’s a time-honored tradition and only those who have been lucky enough to nab a t-shirt will ever truly understand it. I hope to be a part of it someday.
• Three things you always carry with you?: Cell phone, sugarfree gum, my dog Bear (he’s not in my purse, he’s 30 pounds, but we basically go everywhere together)
• What the hell ever happened to Chuck Cuningham? Guy was living with his folks, brother and sister—then vanished: I had to look this up because I had no idea what you were talking about. I want to take it literally and believe he took his basketball upstairs to his room to play the most epic game of slam ball ever and never came back down.
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.