Jeff Pearlman

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It took a hurricane to show you I’m an American

Peter Bailey

Peter Bailey

Peter Bailey is an author and a St. Thomas native. Here, in a jeffpearlman.com guest post, he expresses his anger of the mainland dismissiveness over his home. You can follow Peter here.

It took Irma, a hurricane that blew with the vengeance of a woman scorned to make the rest of America realize we in the US Virgin Islands are actually Americans.

The ongoing joke here on St. Thomas is that Irma was upset at her boyfriend Harvey and went looking for him. We do have a plethora of beautiful women here that would make even Hugh Hefner’s head spin so the idea isn’t that far fetched.

Of course, the devastation that’s now decimated my native home is no laughing matter, but as a people residing in the Caribbean’s tiniest cosmopolitan oasis of opportunity we’ve always found a way to turn our cries into smiles.

I’m just heartbroken it took such devastation for the world and, most importantly our countrymen to the north, to take notice.

Living on the US mainland all this time I kept having to explain time and time again that I’m a US citizen. My first year in college at the University of Delaware a state trooper called for back up when he saw my US Virgin Islands license after a routine traffic stop:

“St. Thomas? Where the hell is that? You Caribbean immigrants are always invading our beloved country with drugs corrupting our youth,” he scoffed.

I emphatically repeated: “I’m a US citizen”.

Well not quite.

I was elated when I voted for President Obama back in 2008, the first time I ever voted for an American President. Although we are U.S. citizens, we Virgin Islanders have to become a resident of the state we live in to be able to vote for President. Since I reside in Miami, my vote counted as a Floridian and not a Virgin Islander.

However, my vote counted as a New Yorker not a Virgin Islander. I’ve described this dilemma to friends as the United States being a cheating husband and the Virgin Islands his mistress he sees now and again, shelling out a few dollars for a good time.

Our loyalty to this abusive matrimony has made for an uneasy relationship with our Caribbean neighbors who see us as having no true identity, but who also grudgingly envy our US citizenship, however second-class.

We’re basically a glorified colony of the United States, a country that celebrates its crusade against tyranny far and wide.

According to a landmark decision rendered from the famed Insular Cases inhabitants of unincorporated territories may have limited to no constitutional rights.

Regardless of our important role to American security – purchased from Denmark in 1917 to protect the US mainland from any European incursions – our second class status and the ignorance that reinforces it isn’t exclusive to that unruly cop who pulled me over many moons ago.

It also permeates mainstream media.

Like the media coverage of hurricane Marilyn that took the first part of my roof – Irma just took the second half – mainstream media all but ignored us before Irma wreaked historic havoc upon us.

Myself and my family sat their dumbfounded flicking between network news channels. It was as if we didn’t exist.

In the fleeting moments when the US Virgin Islands was mentioned reporters painted a scene ripped from an episode of Gilligan’s Island:

“American tourists on the US territory are being cautioned to hunker down”.

Hmmmm.

I guess the estimated 100,000 Virgin Islanders who reside between St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John and Water Island are “other” or “locals” as we’re called with a tinge of condescension.

Now seeing those same tourists and US mainland transplants having to navigate this catastrophe depending on us “locals” for their survival and how we’ve been more than happy to help is a sight to see.

Our governor Kenneth Mapp met the deluge of complaints by basically telling visitors stop whining telling them:

“If you’re not prepared to go through these challenges in a realistic way, with realistic expectations, I am strongly urging you to take one of the flights or one of the mercy cruises, and go to the mainland for a few months and come back,” he said.

It’s because there’s been some benefit of being disconnected from our American counterparts to the north. The sense of entitlement and bigotry that rips at the fabric of our country isn’t given life here. We see human first and color a distant last, myself being introduced to racism upon my arrival to the US mainland.

In Irma’s aftermath one white American transplant Mary Anne Steele sitting comfortably on her boat over on St. John lamented in People magazine about the “the overwhelming smell of death in the air” instead of offering aid to those who now need so much of it.

She’s since been chastised by local Virgin Islanders of all races.

Now that we Virgin Islanders have beenforced onto the national psyche Mary and other fellow Americans stand to benefit from the lessons in humanity we’re sure to offer.

My Athletic Debut

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My athletic debut came when I was 8 and a member of the Jenny Oil little league baseball team. I wore No. 11, started at catcher; my best friend, Gary Miller, was my teammate.

My The Athletic debut came a few minutes ago, when the new subscription-based sports mega-site ran my first column—concerning former NFL players and their mixed feelings for fantasy football. I’ll be writing a piece every other week.

Will The Athletic work? I have noooooo idea. I hope so. I think so. Maybe. Probably. I know website ad revenue is a relatively nonexistent ideal, and a banner ad across the top of SI.com or ESPN.com draws, like, one click per 100,000 views. So a new model is needed. Is required.

And here we are.

It’s weird, writing for a site that most people can’t yet access. Folks see the top of your story, then need to ask/decide, “Is this guy worth it?”

So, is this guy worth it?

(Say yes, please)

On Jemele Hill, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and true lies

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Let’s forget, for a moment, that Donald Trump spent five years insisting Barack Obama was a Kenyan-born Muslim who surely didn’t have the grades to get into Harvard.

Let’s forget, for a moment, that Donald Trump bragged of groping women.

Let’s forget, for a moment, that Donald Trump called for the death penalty for the Central Park Five; that he pretended not to know the identity of David Duke; that he created a fake university to bilk students of their money.

Let’s forget about all that. Just for now.

In case you missed this, about an hour ago Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, suggested that ESPN’s Jemele Hill should be fired for a series of Tweets that suggested—in fairly blunt terms—that the president of the United States is a white supremacist. Sanders said, directly, the “outrageous comments” were a “fireable offense by ESPN.”

OK.

Let’s talk about this. Or, specifically, let’s talk about the Boy Scouts of America.

A bunch of weeks ago, Donald Trump addressed the Scouts’ annual jamboree, and gave a speech that was, by all measures, ridiculous and inappropriate. He faced a ton of criticism afterward, but then told the Wall Street Journal that the head of the Scouts reached out to praise his speech as “the greatest speech that was ever made to them.”

That’s a direct quote from Donald Trump to the Journal.

Only, ahem, it never happened.

No one from the Scouts called Trump.

The head of the Scouts certainly did not call.

It was a lie. A fabrication. A complete invention of something that did not occur.

That’s a fireable offense.

What Jemele Tweeted?

Mere uncomfortable truth.

Ted Cruz (or someone who handles Ted Cruz’s Tweets) loves porn

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So a few minutes ago I’m on Twitter when I see Ted Cruz is trending.

Which was surprising, because, well, why would Ted Cruz trend at 10 pm in Los Angeles? So I clicked on the #tedcruz hashtag and saw this …

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OK. Easy enough.

As instructed, I visited Ted Cruz’s Twitter profile …

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I went to his LIKES …

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I looked at the first LIKED video …

Um …

Eh …

Um …

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It was hard-core porn.

Here’s the crazy thing. The video has now been up for a good while. Cruz has surged to the top of Twitter trending—with a bullet. Surely someone who works in his office is now aware of this. Surely someone is being woken up with, “SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!” Surely Ted Cruz is freaking out.

But it’s still there.

Still there.

Still there.

And the Twitter comments are priceless …

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Wait.

Wait.

It’s 10:28—about an hour after he started trending.

The LIKE has been removed.

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Wayne Franklin

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One of the things that always fascinates me about pro sports is how 99 percent of the participants play, play, play, play—then vanish.

Think about it. Sure, guys like Mike Piazza and Emmitt Smith and Patrick Ewing will always have famous names and faces that carry them through lifetimes of autograph shows and free meals. But the vast majority enjoy their time in the sun before disappearing into the world at large. They exist among us, as teachers and mechanics and dentists and college coaches.

There.

But not really there.

Today’s Quaz, former Major League pitcher Wayne Franklin, was there. From 2000-06, he performed for five Major League teams, winning a career-high 10 games with the 2003 Milwaukee Brewers. Neither Pedro Martinez nor John Van Benschoten, he was a workmanlike starter/reliever whose left arm offered a certain level of protected longevity.

In today’s 326th Quaz, Wayne explains his respect for Barry Bonds, his dismissiveness toward Alex Rodriguez and his love for the state of Delaware. One can follow him on Twitter here and read his blog here.

Wayne Franklin, you’re the new Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Wayne, whenever I’ve covered jerkish Major League players, I always think, “Why are you so surly? So mean? Such an ass? Because this will be the greatest time in your life—and one day you’ll look back and realize you spent the time being a tool.” Wayne, am I right about this? Do you look at your life and think, “It’ll never be better than my time in the Majors?” Or, does life actually get better post-retirement? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

WAYNE FRANKLIN: Do I miss it? Yes, of course. Do I dwell on it? No. I don’t ever try to be “better than my time in the Majors.” There’s nothing to which I can compare this; so, I just focus on my family (which also has no comparables), because this is where everything began, and it is where everything ends. To me, life is about people. So I now teach baseball—the correct way—to all eager minds I can, which is very rewarding to me.

J.P.: You played two years at Cecil Community College, two at UMBC, then you were selected in the 36th round of the 1996 amateur draft by the Dodgers, and signed four days later. I read somewhere that you were thrilled (Your quote: “All I dreamt about when I was a kid playing baseball was that some day I’d like to be playing for the Dodgers”)—even though 36th round doesn’t seem so thrilling. So why the euphoria? And how did you find out you were drafted? Where were you?

W.F.: First, that is a misquote. From the day I began watching baseball I was a Yankees’ fan(atic). I still am, although I watch baseball in an entirely different way, now. Second, where I was drafted did not concern me, which I can honestly say I’ve proven. Plus, it was something over which I had no control. Here’s a lesson about baseball: There is much to be said about “knowing thy self.” The only thing I was wondering, come draft day, was who would draft me (Mariners or Dodgers), and at what position. In college I was a pitcher and first baseman, and at the time I was a much better hitter than I was a pitcher. The day I was drafted I was in my parents’ back yard, working on some hitting drills. Ironically.

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J.P.: Don’t take offense to this—but why weren’t you great? I mean, you’re great compared to 99.9 percent of us. But you’re not going down as Dwight Gooden, as Pedro Martinez, as Sandy Koufax or Jim Palmer or Bob Gibson. And my question is, specifically, what’s the difference between those guys and the rest of the guys? What do they have that you didn’t?

W.F.: This is a great question. Philosophically, you can only define greatness by comparing things, which your question actually does. Statistically, I was not one of the “greats” of Major League history. However, there are many variables, and this would take a while to discuss. I’ll just simplify by saying that it all comes down to execution of pitches.

J.P.: I know you were born in 1974 in Delaware, I know you were drafted by the Dodgers. But what was your path from the womb to baseball? Like, how did it happen for you? Where did the passion and love come from? And do you still have it?

W.F.: My passion for baseball began (and this is no bullshit) the very day I learned how to play catch. My passion was real, and it felt very innate. Maybe this innateness is where all passion dwells. If so, I recommend that everyone look for anything innate; very blissful. Growing up in Maryland, the winters were long and tough, probably because of my impatient anticipation of baseball season. What fueled me more than anything else were cynics. Anyone who has ever played at the highest level of any sport can probably empathize with me wholeheartedly.

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J.P.: Getting old sucks. I hate it. But I was never an top-level athlete, performing at the top of the top professional rank. What is aging like for you? Is it frustrating, no longer able to do the things your once did?

W.F.: Old? Man, 43 is the new 25. I’ve never stopped staying in pretty good shape. I don’t kick my own ass as much as I used to, though. Like I said, I’m still around the game all the time. And, trust me, I can still pitch. Also, my wife is a really good athlete (she used to kick my ass in golf all the time). So she’s my partner, and she keeps me accountable so that I don’t become some potbellied old man.

J.P.: You were teammates with Barry Bonds in San Francisco in 2004. I wrote a book on Bonds, found him to be a pretty remarkably not nice guy. What do you recall of playing with Barry? What was he like for you as a teammate?

W.F.: I came to know Barry as a teammate first. From that perspective, he was great. I thought he had a great capacity for empathizing with teammates. He just never had much patience or pleasure in dealing with the media. To me, Barry’s greatness came from his ability to leave irrationality (or, emotion) at home, and he never took it onto a ball field.

J.P.: You bounced to some interesting spots toward the end of your playing career—the York Revolution, the Uni-President Lions in Taiwan, the Chico Outlaws. When you’re with those teams, is the goal to keep playing because you love playing, or to keep playing because you want another Major League taste? And when did you know—like, know know—it was over?

W.F.: At the end of my career, I played in York because it was a chance to let my baseball come full circle, because my family could easily travel from Maryland, whenever they wanted, to watch me play. I went to Taiwan because it was another chance to experience baseball within an entirely different culture. I knew it was time to walk away from the game when teams weren’t calling—early and often. I knew that if I had to begin making contact with them. it was a bad sign.

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J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

W.F.: Greatest Moment: August 18, 2003 (this is a long story—and one I’ve written about; if you’re ever intrigued enough, let me know, and I can send it to you)

Lowest Moment: The day I rode off into the sunset.

J.P.: In 2005 you appeared in 13 games for the New York Yankees. That team featured guys like Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Cano, ARod, Jeter, Matsui, Bernie, Giambi, Sheffield—a Who’s Who of modern-era Yankee legends. You’d been around a bit at that point—is it still at all awe inspiring playing for that team, with those guys? Is it merely another paycheck? And what do you remember from New York?

W.F.: Playing with the Yankees was literally my dream come true. I loved all of those guy—truly—except for A-Rod, whose personality really did not resemble any other on that squad. It almost seemed as if he was intimidated by the pinstripes and playing on that stage. I didn’t care for him, because I felt he was more about his image, and he had nothing that was old-school about him.

J.P.: How important are catchers? Being serious—you threw to some greats, some forgettables. How meaningful are they for a pitcher’s success? Is it at all overrated? And who’s the best you played with, as far as helping a pitcher along?

W.F.: Having a great catcher is very underrated. For example: When a catcher is very good at calling a game, he and the pitcher get into a great game-flow, which is difficult for other teams to slow down. Once a catcher develops this reputation, pitchers trust him, and in turn, trust their own pitches even more (conviction is one of those great intangibles a pitcher needs).

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH WAYNE FRANKLIN:

• Five reasons one should make Wilmington, Delaware his/her next vacation destination: Wilmington Blue Rocks; the River Walk; tax-free shopping; Italian food; quick train ride to New York City (which is then easy to come back to a big hotel room in Wilmington, and not have to pay sales tax on it)

• The world needs to know—what was it like playing with Glendon Rusch?: Glendon “Tits” Rusch is the funniest guy who ever played Major League Baseball

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Jeffrey Hammonds, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cleveland, Kid ‘n Play, Facebook, Starbucks, Izod, Max Luckhurst, Tubby Raymond, Hershey Park, World of Coke, Woodstock: Tubby, World of Coke, Jeffrey Hammonds, Izod, Cleveland, Hershey Park, Starbucks, Buffy, Kid ‘n Play, Facebook, Woodstock

• We have you start one game, right now, for a Division III baseball team. What’s your line?: You could bet the farm on me. I’m putting up a lot—if not all—zeroes.

• You’re both from Delaware—how good was Delino DeShields? And did you ever talk Delaware with him?: I do know that he and Marquis Grissom were the first teammates (Montreal) to ever finish first and second in stolen bases.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash?: Can’t say that I have.

• Climate change—myth or real?: Myth (at this point). I believe that weather is cyclical.

• Five hitters who gave you the hardest time?: Sean Casey, Jeff Bagwell, Todd Helton, Manny Ramirez, Adrian Beltre

• Three memories from your first date?: Movie (Three O’clock High); miniature golf (at Vince’s Batting Cages, Chestnut Hill); goodnight kiss.

• Celine Dion calls. She offers you $25 million to move to Las Vegas and teach her to pitch. You work one year, every day, but have to change your name to Jack Dawson and also live on a diet of cabbage and M&Ms. You in?: Without hesitation—yes. I’m a silver-lining type of guy. I use the cabbage to make sauerkraut, which is great for digestion. The M&M’s are there for me to keep my sanity about the cabbage. Celine better be ready to get her ass on that mound and work, too.

9.11 arrives again

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Whenever Sept. 11 arrives on the calendar, I find myself unhappy.

It comes with the date, and the memories, and being a New Yorker who has his own experiences from that day and time. It comes from having a friend who lost his son. It comes from being there to smell the rubble and read all the flyers and witness (and feel) the pain.

Mostly, I think, it comes from the ongoing aftermath.

In the days and weeks following the attacks, George W. Bush, our president at the time, rightly said that we could not allow 9.11 to change who we were as a people; to change what we are as a nation. Yet here we sit, 16 years later, entirely changed.

In large part because of Sept. 11, 2001, we are a country that looks at Muslims as we would terrorists.

Because of Sept. 11, 2001, we are a country seriously considering whether to build a wall on our Southern border to keep us safe.

Because of Sept. 11, 2001, we are a country that has a ban on people entering from certain nations.

Because of Sept. 11, 2001, we are a country that went from embracing diversity to looking suspiciously at diversity.

To be clear, this is not a political post. I’m not talking about Donald Trump, or Democrats v. Republicans v. independents. This isn’t Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John McCain. This is about us, and the remnants of an awful day that forever altered the way this beautiful nation approaches the world and approaches ourselves. We became (understandably) scared that day, and we remain an oft-trembling, oft-concerned peoples. It’s no one’s fault; I’m not pointing fingers. Perhaps it’s the unavoidable consequence of having so many die in such a manner.

But as I sit here, now as much Californian as New Yorker, I look back with sadness at the people we lost, and the way we lost ourselves.

Rick Scott’s empty prayers

“People ask me what they can do. The first thing I tell them is pray. Pray for the people in Florida.”

Rick Scott is Florida’s governor.

Earlier today he appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, and was asked specifically about Hurricane Irma. A few minutes into the Q&A session, he uttered the above words.

This infuriates me.

I-n-f-u-r-i-a-t-e-s me.

Pray? Fine. If that works for you, and offers inner-peace, hey, wonderful. But in his six years in office, Scott has not merely been indifferent to the science of climate change, he actually scorns it—repeatedly. This, from the Washington Post …

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Even now, with parts of his state about to wind up beneath water, Scott ignores the science. And ignores the science. And ignores the science.

Pray? OK.

Pray he wakes up and sees what’s happening.

That guy

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Played pickup hoops this morning at the nearby courts, where the Saturday runs have rejuvenated my spirit.

I love the rhythm of hoops.

I love the banter of hoops.

I love the sweat trickling down my forehead. I love the sound of ball into concrete. I love travel calls. I love layups. I love 13-13, next bucket wins.

I don’t love that guy.

If you’ve played pickup for any duration, you know that guy. He might be the one who shows up wearing an NBA jersey. Or he might be the one who talks nonstop shit. Or he might be the one who thinks he’s LeBron but plays like Yinka.

In this case, that guy arrived wearing XXXL stitched UCLA shorts and one of those Los Angeles Lakers T-shirts where the players are sketched as cartoons. A bunch of his fingers were taped, he was a good 80 pounds overweight and he was probably, oh, 5-foot-9.

And.

He.

Would.

Not.

Shut.

Up.

He coached the best players and the worst players. He told us why we missed and why the other guy made. He explained proper defensive stances and how footing makes or breaks a successful career. At one point, after missing yet another six footer, he talked about his days playing college ball. Which clearly meant either:

A. His intramural days playing college ball.

B. His imaginary days playing college ball.

C. His days playing Sega college ball.

The game went on and on and on and on, and his banter provided nonstop soundtrack material. Finally, when the final shot went through the twine, I grabbed my bag and headed for the car.

“You got one more in you?” that guy said

“Nah,” I replied. “I’m good.”

Jennifer Lawrence and hurricanes

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So earlier today Jennifer Lawrence, the Academy Award-winning actress, suggested in an interview that there was a relation between the massive hurricanes of late and Donald Trump’s presidency. Actually, that’s not really what she said. ‘You know,” she told a reporter, “you’re watching these hurricanes now, and it’s really hard especially while promoting this movie, not to feel mother nature’s rage and wrath.”

Anyhow, this set off Trump’s army of lemming backers, who exist on Twitter with their little frog and American flag icons strictly to protect their grand leader.

They will protest Jennifer Lawrence’s films!

They will bash her on social media!

They will stand up to the Hollywood elite!

They will …

Eh, yeah.

So here’s the thing: If you read the coverage of this, it’s all (on the right) about Lawrence connecting the hurricanes to Trump. When you see the clip, however, what she’s clearly saying is that our refusal to address climate change (including the election of a science denier) is resulting in the wrath of weather. Which is 100-percent true.

But these fools and idiots—their master says climate change doesn’t exist, and therefore it doesn’t exist. Even as the waters rise, even as the glaciers melt, even as our population rises and our food sources dwindle, even as drought attacks the planet.

It doesn’t exist.

Master tells us so.

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