Jeff Pearlman

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Category Archives: QUAZ


Rob Tannenbaum


A couple of weeks ago I was doing my thing on Twitter when I stumbled upon Ron Tannenbaum’s amazing, in-depth destruction of Donald Trump’s bullshit foundation. It was absolutely brilliant journalism dialed down to 140-character increments, and it’s an exhibition of why Rob has long been one of the best around.

Unfortunately, Rob is also one of the best around … who was allegedly fired from Rolling Stone for mocking a member of Maroon 5. Which is weird and quirky and funky, but adds to this amazing Quaz.

One can follow Rob on Twitter here, and read his stuff, well, everywhere.

Rob Tannenbaum, you are the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Rob, you recently had an absolutely riveting Twitter stream, where you went into great detail on Donald Trump’s (and, really, the Trump Foundation’s) “charitable” donations—and the apparent bullshit behind them. You’re not a political reporter, and you’re not a financial expert. So what inspired this—and what shocked you?

ROB TANNENBAUM: I know at least a little bit about how foundations work, because I’m on the board of one, and I’d read a huge amount of innuendo about the Clinton Foundation, most of it about conflicts which, to be honest, seemed unavoidable to me for a wealthy and famous person running a massive charitable foundation. I’d filed a story in the middle of the afternoon, and I had a few hours until my four year old son came back from a playdate, so when I saw yet another tweet about Hillary, I started to wonder about the Trump Foundation, which had, to that point, been ignored by journalists.

Every foundation has to file an annual 990-PF — it’s like a tax return, and it lists all contributions for the year, plus income and assets, among other things. The first thing that shocked me was the size: the Trump Foundation has assets of about $1.3 million, which is no bigger than the foundation where I work. For a self-professed billionaire, that’s a tiny and ungenerous foundation. (By comparison, the Clinton Foundation recently had assets of about $247 million.)

As I looked through Trump Foundation’s 990s, I started live-tweeting it, more or less. I had no idea how much dubious behavior I’d quickly find. I won’t recreate the whole tweetstorm (the first one is here, if anyone wants to see it), or fully A/B the Clinton and Trump foundations, but no one who examines both and has an open mind could ever think they’re comparable; the Clintons run a genuine foundation, and Trump runs a foundation that mainly benefits himself and a few cronies.

David Farenthold at the Washington Post has been investigating the Trump Foundation, and he’s outlined its illegal activities, which I won’t duplicate. But from my perspective as a foundation director (and as a human being), what Trump does with his foundation is vile, and contradicts the essence of charity. Most foundations use their wealth to help the needy. The Trump foundation uses other people’s money to help the wealthy. A man who steals from a charity would steal from anyone.

J.P.: You seem genuinely frustrated with the way the media is covering Donald Trump thus far. Why? And what should the press be doing differently?

R.T.: Someone will write a fascinating and depressing book about how the media covered this election. But here are a few key factors. 

Hillary Clinton has been in the public eye since 1978, when her husband was elected governor of Arkansas. She’s the most investigated politician in U.S. history, and she’s repeatedly been exonerated. Trump, on the other hand, has been taken seriously by reporters only in the last few months. He’s been famous for a long time, but the media thought he was an amusing and harmless buffoon (despite evidence to the contrary — most notably, his public demand that New York impose the death penalty on five black and Hispanic teenagers who’d been accused, falsely, it turned out), of raping a white female investment banker). When Trump declared he was running for president in the summer of 2015, reporters didn’t think he’d get very far, so they didn’t vet his history and ideas the way they vetted Cruz or Romney. In the last few weeks, that’s changed, and a few newspapers have even adjusted their coverage by using the word “lie” to describe Trump’s claims, rather than neutral and dishonest euphemisms like “equivocation.”

The Right Wing has been yelling MEDIA BIAS for years, which makes journalists reluctant to write or say anything that might seem biased. They’ve successfully cowed much of the media, and both dictated and limited the scope of coverage — meanwhile, Fox News, the most flagrantly biased of any media, operates under the cloak of “balanced and fair.” The Right Wing is masterful at disinformation campaigns like this, creating a fog about ideas like “bias” or even “racism.” (Shout out to the “you’re the real racist” tweeters and commenters, who equated “racism” with “talking about race.” Yeah, no, actually, you’re the real racists. You don’t get to change the meaning of “racism.”) Also, Peter Thiel contributed to a chilling of aggressive coverage when he sued Gawker and caused it to shut down. In addition, most editors are cautious people who fear controversy and corrections (and, these days, being fired), so they insist that reporters work while handcuffed — they have to moderate or dilute their knowledge and observations. I like Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, but her tweets have so much more punch than the pieces she files for the New York Times.

There’s a lot more, but it only gets more depressing. I need a nap and a few butter cookies.


J.P.: You Tweeted something that cracked me up: “A few years ago, I pissed off One Direction fans. They were more reasonable and had better spelling than Trump fans.” A. Why did you piss off 1D fans? And what sort of shit have you been getting from the idiots?

R.T.: I pissed off One Direction fans because I gave them a lukewarm review in Rolling Stone. A few of them tracked me down on Twitter — I give them credit; it showed initiative — and told me I was “jelly.” Which, shit, I am! Those dudes are handsome, rich, and getting laid like mad. I’m a journalist.

Trump supporters never actually address the issue I’ve raised — and to be fair, foundation law is an arcane topic most people aren’t able to discuss — so there’s lots of stuff about Benghazi, or the Clinton Foundation, or they call her Killary. A few times, I’ve been called a fag, which is one of the few words they can spell correctly. I’d like to settle the 2016 presidential race by holding a spelling bee between Clinton supporters and Trump supporters. Winners get the White House. Losers have to repeat sixth grade.

J.P.: I have a theory. It’s not original, but it’s sorta divisive. Namely, the coverage of this election has sucked because the majority of experienced political journalists have been laid off and replaced by 22-year-olds afraid to ask real questions and ignorant of the tricks of the reporting trade. Thoughts?

R.T.: This was originally part of my answer to your second question. As you know, Jeff, the media is in severe financial distress, and Trump has benefited from that, too. Newsrooms has been gutted, via ongoing waves of staff reductions. Often, the first people fired are middle-aged reporters, who by virtue of their experience, know how to report and doggedly investigate something. Increasingly, publications are turning to 26 year old reporters, who are cheaper to hire. Nothing against 26 year old reporters — I was one once — but they’re not as experienced or savvy, and because they’re often asked to write six blog posts a day, they don’t have the time to thoroughly investigate Trump’s finances.

Like most large institutions, newspapers and magazines move slowly, especially when it’s time to adapt, and I worry that these adjustments have come too late. The press should have been calling out Trump’s lies, dishonesty, and conflicts of interest since he declared for president.

J.P.: You’re the author of, “I Want My MTV,” a highly regarded book about the music video revolution of the 1980s. And I wonder—was the music video a good thing for music, or the beginning of the end? What I mean is, did it bring forth such an emphasis on appearance and mojo that lyrics, content, skill no longer matter so much?

R.T.: You mean, did music videos ruin the golden age of rock n’ roll, the eras of the Monkees and Herman’s Hermits, Tony Orlando and REO Speedwagon?

I know, I know: that was snarky. I hate the bromide that the ‘60s was rock’s unparalleled golden age, and the ‘80s was disco and pop trash. Without rehashing the case against rockism, it’s a stupid theory.

Since rock n’ roll began, lyrics, content, and skill have been optional. That’s true in every decade. And it’s a myth that MTV boosted the popularity only of suave dudes and foxy babes. Phil Collins, Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, Heart — none of them fit the mold of sexualized rock stars. On top of which, I’m pro-sexualization. The MTV-liked-only-sexy-stars argument, in addition to being incorrect, always seemed prudish to me.

For me, it’s never been either/or. I love Madonna, and I love Jimi Hendrix. Hell, I love Britney Spears, and I love La Monte Young. And you know who else made music videos? The Beatles. Made quite a few of them, and also posed for thousands of photos, as did Bob Dylan.


J.P.: You Tweeted a bit about Donald Trump’s appearance on Jimmy Fallon, but I’d like to get your take on this. There are many who say, “He’s an entertainer, not a political reporter.” And others who say, “You just gleefully rubbed the head of a racist xenophobic fascist.” What says you? Do entertainers/comedians have a responsibility?

A comedian’s sole responsibility is to be funny, which is why some rape jokes and some Holocaust jokes have legitimacy. A funny comedian can joke about anything! But Jimmy Fallon isn’t funny.

I’m not the first person to say that ever since 2000 — when Jon Stewart and the Daily Show began to focus witheringly on the election recount — comedians have supplanted reporters as effective political commentators. Maybe discussions of complex political and economic issues land harder when they’re disguised as satire; either way, Samantha Bee will have more of an effect on the election than Ross Douthat.

But it’s also clear that comedians have been political since long before 2000. I don’t mean the obvious antecedents — Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, George Carlin — but also Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny, my man Mel Brooks, and Charlie Chaplin, who was doing Jon Stewart almost 100 years ago when he portrayed a World War I grunt in Shoulder Arms.

Journalists like to say they comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Comedians like to say they speak truth to power. Both are very similar ideas. When presented the chance, Fallon comforted the comfortable. I was disappointed. For what it’s worth, Stephen Colbert sided with Fallon.

J.P.: You were a Rolling Stone staffer. You are no longer a Rolling Stone staffer. What happened? 

R.T.: Short version: Jann Wenner fired me. About two years ago, I did a Q&A with Adam Levine, in which I asked him to apologize for “Moves Like Jagger.” (He did.) I’d been warned that Levine is “a guy Jann cares about,” and was told I should ask him some serious questions about his music and his acting career. I guess I didn’t; after Jann read the interview, he complained to my editors that he “didn’t learn anything” from it. So they fired me, six months into a one-year contract they offered because — wait for it! — they loved my Q&As.

There’s a longer version of it, but even my wife won’t sit still for the whole thing.

J.P.: What’s your journalistic path? As in, how did this happen? Why? When did you first get the bug?

R.T.: I don’t recommend my path to anyone. I didn’t take journalism classes. I didn’t write for a school paper. I didn’t get a job as an intern and then work my way up. I never wanted to be a writer. Some days, I still don’t.

I majored in English and wanted to waste some time before I inevitably went to law school, so I put my facility in writing term papers to good use, and wrote articles for the (now-defunct) Providence Eagle, at $20 an article — until they stopped paying me, and I had to take them to small claims court. That was a valuable early lesson in maintaining a lawyer’s diligence even if you have a career in the arts.

From there, I wrote for the Eagle’s crosstown competitor, the NewPaper, for $25 an article. A 25 percent raise! Then a few regional New England publications, then Musician magazine, and I started writing for Rolling Stone when I was 23. It worked out pretty well, for an accident.

The only part of the story I think applies to other people is that I started my career in Providence, where the rent was low. If I’d moved to Manhattan, I’d have worked as an assistant somewhere, and would’ve had a long tutelage before I had much of a chance to write. Low overhead is an ideal way to begin a career in the arts, and that might be impossible now if you begin your career in New York or Los Angeles.

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

R.T.: I’m lousy at best and worst questions — best album, worst interview, favorite live band, worst breakfast cereal — probably because I have a patchy memory and am indecisive as well.

Early in my career, I interviewed John Cage and Brian Eno together, in the same room. They’d never met before, and they never met again. I pitched the idea, an editor said yes, and to my shock, Cage and I were traveling in the same week to London, where Eno lived. It was probably a one in 500 shot, in terms of scheduling. I’ve had a lot of other great experiences, been sent to great places, and talked to great people, but simultaneously interviewing two musicians I revere was uniquely great.

I also have a sideline in comedy ghostwriting. Most of my work is anonymous, which means I can’t take credit for it, but I did contribute enough to John Leguizamo’s one-man Broadway show “Sexaholix” that he gave me a small credit <>. It was nominated for a Tony, and lost, but shit — it was nominated for a Tony! I helped do that!

The lowest moment, hmm. “Answering this survey” would be the obvious answer, but it’s a cheap joke. Unless you laughed.

In March 2009, Blender magazine folded — that hurt, and still does, to be honest. I’d worked there since 2002, just after it started, and it quickly caused waves by being funny, fearless, and comprehensive, which other music magazines weren’t. Advertising Age named it “Launch of the Year,” and in 2005, the Chicago Tribune named us the best magazine in America. Not the best music magazine, but the best magazine — i.e., better than the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, Gourmet, Texas Monthly, etc. Blender was characterized as dumb by people who were themselves not very smart, but smart people understood what we were doing, including Bob Christgau, who in his 2009 eulogy for the magazine called it “bright and original,” as well as “intelligent and irreverent and lots of laughs.” (He also noted that the reviews section I ran “was vastly more sharp and varied” than the ones at the competing magazines. If I were more humble, I wouldn’t mention this.)

Blender was a great magazine brought down by the financial crisis, which is the worst possible way to lose.

J.P.: I feel like every journalist has a money story; something truly insane that happened in the course of a career. Rob, what’s your money story?

R.T.: No exaggeration: I’ve been thinking about this for five days and don’t have an answer. (Update: seven days.) (Still later: eleven days.)

I know I have stories I’ve dined out on — like when Jay Z insisted we go to a Nets game in his Bentley before our interview, and we made a bet he eventually lost, then sent me $1,000 cash in a Def Jam envelope to pay off — but I think they’re more oral stories than written stories. So let’s go with this, which is pertinent because of the recent New York Times reporting on Donald Trump’s avowed “locker-room talk.”

When I was in my 20s, I freelanced for the New York Post. In my defense, I was broke and the Post was not yet fully a propaganda bugle for the worst impulses of the right wing. One of my assignments was to review a Joan Jett concert, which I did. In the course of the show, she played a bunch of covers, one of which was the Rolling Stones’ “Starfucker.”

Writing the review, I was puzzled about how to proceed: I didn’t know the Post’s copy policy on FUCK. At some publications, they allow f___ or f*** or f@#$, and at others, you can’t even hint at it. The Post had never sent me a style sheet, so I decided I’d write out “Starfucker” and let their copy department apply the house policy.

The next day, I picked up a copy of the Post, read my review, and there it was, an F-word, printed in full. Wow, I thought to myself, the Post prints the word fuck. How progressive of them!

But they don’t, as I quickly learned when my assignment editor called. “You are in big trouble,” she said. I explained why I’d used the word, and asked her why no one had changed it prior to publication. “We’re looking into that,” she said.

A while later, she called back and told me I was no longer in trouble. When they looked into it, they discovered that after I filed the review, no one — no editor, no copy editor, probably not even an intern — had read it. They’d printed it exactly as I wrote it, without so much as looking at it.

That’s the story of how I became, I think but don’t know for sure, the first writer to get the word fuck into a daily newspaper. The Post later fired me, but it was for something else entirely.



• Rob, I’m sitting at a coffee shop and this guy at another table is yelling to his friends, and he won’t shut the fuck up. Can I throw large objects at his skull?: Sure, but lace your shoes first.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Daryl Hall, John Oates, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Anne Lennox, Dave Stewart, Matthew Nelson, Gunnar Nelson, Huey Lewis, The News, Fernando Valenzuela, Steve Yeager, chocolate chip muffins: Oddly, you’ve placed them in the exact order I’d have chosen.

• One question you would ask Shannon Hoon were he here right now?: Why are you in my apartment and why aren’t you wearing pants?

• Who would make a better president, Donald Trump or Sarah Palin?: In that scenario, I think I’d dissolve the government and take my chances with anarchy.

• Three memories from your first kiss: 1) We were on a date at a carnival in the parking lot of the high school I’d just begun attending. 2) She wanted to take a walk in the woods, and I didn’t understand why. 3) Her parents sent her to boarding school soon after that.

• You wrote for Blender—which no longer exists. Five adjectives to describe the magazine: Dead dead dead dead defunct.

• What’s something you absolutely suck at?: Writing, if you ask Jann Wenner.

• I think it’s obnoxious bullshit that Toure guys by one name. Tell me why I’m right or wrong: I discussed this with Bjork, Christo, Basia, Adele, Enya, Sia, Reba, Pelé, and Morrissey, and they’re okay with it. Sting disagreed.

• My daughter wants Snapchat. She’s 13, and we’ve refused. Should we give in?: Yes. And tell me her screen name.
• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Peter Gabriel? How long does it go?: It ends in about 20 seconds. Peter uses his sledgehammer.



Mike Freeman


Back in the early 1990s, when I was an editor at the University of Delaware’s student newspaper, Mike Freeman was my hero.

At the time, while I was writing stories about Blue Hens cross country and field hockey, Mike was covering the Giants for the New York Times. He, too, had been an editor at The Review, and I viewed him as proof that a kid from Delaware could have a big career in journalism. I actually still vividly recall Mike returning to campus to speak to my sports journalism class, talking about chasing down quotes, calling out GMs, seeking truth when truth is often concealed. I would read everything he wrote; dig through the college paper’s archives to see what he had done in my shoes.

Anyhow, the decades have passed and Mike Freeman is still, in my eyes, the Blue Hen who made it, and my journalistic hero. After having worked for such outlets as the Times, the Dallas Morning News, the Washington Post, CBS Sports’ website, today Mike covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. He also is the author of an upcoming book, Snake: The Legendary Life of Ken Stabler, that is already available on Amazon. One can follow Mike on Twitter here, and view his Bleacher Report stuff here.

Mike Freeman, reformed Hen, you are the 278th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Mike, I’m gonna start with a completely random and oddly specific one: You and I both attended the University of Delaware, both worked as editors of the student newspaper, The Review. You preceded me be a couple of years, and while you were there a kid named A. Ross Mayhew, the editor and chief of the paper, committed suicide by hanging himself. When I was editor I used to read about him quite regularly, almost to an odd point of obsession. What do you remember about the whole thing?

MIKE FREEMAN: So first, thanks for being patient with me on my responses. You deserved better and sorry about it. Part of my reason for the delay was deciding just what I wanted to share, especially regarding Ross. I remember the great sadness everyone felt. I didn’t know him well since he was a senior and I was a freshman but that moment seemed to mark a dramatic change in the history of the paper. I know when I became editor, what happened to him was something I thought a great deal about, and I wanted to build a close staff that felt it could share anything with me, or anyone else on the staff. I didn’t ever want anyone to feel that alone.

Mental health remains, despite so much attention to it, one of the great issues of our society. Ross was one of my first exposures to it but far from my last. So many family and friends…and I’ve had my own battles. I used to wonder how someone could take their own life and leave family and friends behind to deal with the wake. Now I know better. Things can get remarkably out of control quickly.

One huge concern I have is that the NFL is creating a legion of men who suffer from great mental health issues, not in their 70s, but in their 30s and 40s. I think we’re just starting to get a grasp on what the violence of football does to the brain and some of it is just scary shit. And we’re 20 years behind in studying it in the NFL because the league lied their asses off about CTE for decades.

J.P.: You have a book coming out about the life and times and Kenny Stabler. I’m always fascinated by process more than actual subjects. So … why Stabler? How did you go about reporting it? How long did it take? In short—what was your process?

M.F.: One of the things that originally fascinated me about Stabler was how this Southern dude, who grew up in segregated Alabama, became incredibly cool with black people. I know there were plenty of white Southerners who despised segregation and fought against it but he was one of the few–shit, really the only one–I had known.

When I first started covering the NFL, I’d run into him at certain games, or other events, and we’d start talking. I always thought he was the most unique players I’d met covering the NFL. That whole group had a bunch of really smart and deep guys on it, including Gene Upshaw and Art Shell. I actually think that team was the smartest in NFL history.

This book is about 20 years in the making. Originally, I was going to do a book about football in the 1970s—easily the most brutal but most exhilarating chapter in league history. But the more I had conversations with Ken, the more I wanted to focus on him. One thing I have to say is that Kendra, his daughter, is a gem just like him. He has three daughters and they’re all fantastic.

In the end what I found was a far more complex man than people know. He was a partier, yes, but he was always conflicted with wanting to be his own man, while also wanting to be a married man. He’d leave behind his partying ways and become a dedicated father.

J.P.: I just read an interview you did with The Big Lead back in 2007, where you discussed white writers accusing you of landing some stories “because you’re black.” And while I hope this sounds sane, lemme ask: Is it possible there have, in fact, been times where being black has helped you land interviews? To offer some context—I’ve 100% used being Jewish at times when someone I’ve profiled is also Jewish. I’ve used geography (“Hey, you’re from Putnam County? So am I?”). Shit, I’ll use any in I can muster (“You have a daughter named Casey? So do I!”). So why would it be so bad if being African-American helped from time to time?

M.F.: Okay, great question. Long answer. Here we go.

So, you never land an interview solely because you’re black. Doesn’t happen. Never happens. You have to demonstrate to black players that first, you’re competent; second, you can be trusted; and third, you’re not an Uncle Tom. Trust me, that last point is really important.

There can be a feeling among black players that on certain issues, maybe an African-American man can understand them better than a white one. This was the case with a story I recently wrote on Trump and how support for him in the locker room was playing with black players. But also on that stories, I had frank conversations with white players about Trump and race.

When you look at LeBron James, and when he announced his return to Cleveland, he gave the exclusive to a white writer. That was one of the biggest stories of the past 20 years and LeBron didn’t say: gonna give this one to a brotha’.

And this really needs to be said. I’m not saying this is the case with LeBron, but there are definitely black athletes who think white journalists are better than black ones, and they give exclusives or big stories to white journalists. Happens all the time.

Black players want to see writers working as hard as they do. That quote from me was more about the laziness of some writers. They were maintaining the only reason I was getting stories was because I was black. Which was a fucking lie.

Also, let’s be honest, you yourself get good stories because first, you’re one of the best to ever do it. You’re one of the top three journos I’ve ever known. So shut the fuck up about getting stories ’cause you’re Jewish.

Appearing with Mike on Jim Rome's show.

Appearing with Mike on Jim Rome’s show.

J.P.: Back when you and I were coming up, the dream was to write for a print publication. A newspaper, a magazine. What happened? Do you think newspapers and magazines destroyed themselves? Was it inevitable? Would you still advise a young journalist to shoot for a print publication?

M.F.: Newspapers and magazines were arrogant. The arrogance hurt them. That’s really the bottom line. A lot of newspaper editors saw the Internet as this fringy thingy not worthy of pursuit or genuine exploration. I mean, I used to to hear this stuff all the time. It’s totally true. Our innovation was in our journalism. Part of this I get. Most journalists still think 8-track tapes are cool. We’re idiots when it comes to technology. This is true across the board and that was definitely part of the slow response to the changing landscape.

I would also tell a young journo that now, it’s not as necessary to go to a print publication. Some of the best editing and stories are online. Bleacher, as you know, has some of the best stories and editors of all the sites (shameless suck-up to editors), and some of the best writing including you (shameless suck-up to you).


J.P.: You were an insanely strong NFL beat writer at the New York Times. It’s always struck me as the hardest (worst?) gig in sports media. I mean, to care so much about Rodney Hampton’s swollen ankle? No thanks. Looking back, what were the keys to owning the beat? What do most beat writers miss?

M.F.: I loved beat writing. The best part was getting a story, or even a tiny little fact, that no one else knew. Beat writing is really where you get tested for your work ethic and dedication to the job. (I’d say column writing is a very close second or even tied.)

I remember one Christmas Eve, when I was covering the Giants, and I went to a practice. I was on the practice field watching, when one of the players came over to me and said, ‘What the fuck are you doing here?’ Players always noticed the most dedicated guys.

The best beat writer I ever saw was Jay Glazer. The dude was a machine. I think Jay is the only guy that ever out-worked me. If you want to know why Jay is so good, and why he gets so many stories, it’s because of that work ethic. I saw it first hand. I never saw anything like it again.

J.P.: You’ve never been quiet about your admiration for the work of Lisa Olson. Why the fuck doesn’t she have a huge job in the business right now?

M.F.: Lisa’s one of the greatest I ever read. Really smart person. Just talented as hell. When she was in Boston, she wrote some of the best features and stories anyone’s read. I think it’s only a matter of time before she’s back.

J.P.: How are you not sick and tired of sports? I mean, back when I was covering MLB for SI I just got more and more and more fatigued, until I couldn’t watch a game without dozing off. You’ve got almost 30 years in the biz. Are you not sick of the overachiever with the heart of gold; the stud prospect with tons of pressure; the team that doesn’t get the respect it deserves, etc … etc?

M.F.: I’m still in love with writing and reporting. Still really enjoy turning a phrase and doing reporting. I still have the same level of love for journalism now that I did when I first gone in the business. Yeah, I’m fucked up in the head.


J.P.: The golfer John Daly once filed a libel suit against you that was dismissed. I’m wondering how you found out he was suing you, and how it made you feel. Were you petrified? Resilient? Did you feel like flying off to Guam? Fighting? Both? Neither? And how relieved were you when it was dismissed?

M.F.: One of the more bizarre moments of my career. What a lot of people don’t know is that where the case was filed in Jacksonville, there was this old school judge that was initially overseeing it. My opinion: he was one of these guys that was still fighting the Civil War. That’s my opinion. Don’t sue me judge.

But then something really interesting happened. That judge retired. A younger judge that didn’t seem to care for reenacting Civil War battles (that’s a joke judge–don’t sue me bro’) took over the case. And very quickly threw it out. The judge said everything I wrote about Daly was true, including the part where I called him a woman beater. ‘Cause that’s what his ass was.

Daly is one of the biggest turds in the history of sports. A totally overrated golfer and a clown. Just think about this for a second. Could an African-American man get away with being overweight, lazy, smoking, accused of domestic violence, and overall be a total waste of talent, and yet still be celebrated the way Daly is?

J.P.: I have a v-e-r-y strong level of disrespect for Mike Lupica. But I actually don’t know him. You worked in the same city, in the same press boxes for years. Thoughts?

M.F.: Don’t really know him. First time I met him was in a press box and he turned to me, not knowing me, and proceeded to bitch about his seat, and tell me all the things he accomplished in his career. Never introduced himself to me. The guy, though, was one of the more amazing talents I ever read. He’ll tell you so, too.

J.P.: You and I both do a lot of work for Bleacher Report. It really seems like they’ve figured this whole digital journalism thing out, but maybe I’m on crack. What’s it like working for B/R? How does it compare to your days at the Times; your days in Jacksonville?

M.F.: I have to say, and not because I’m trying to suck up (that was earlier in this Q & A) but it’s the best place I ever worked. Everyone gets it and the site cherishes journalism and the written word.



• What’s the greatest line ever written in sports journalism?: “Straight cash, homey.” Not a written line but my favorite quote of all time. Best line, by far: “Gentlemen, start your coffins!”

• Rank in order (favorite to least): San Diego, Nate Dogg, Jeff Komlo, clam bakes, the Olympics, Mike Schmidt, Sly and the Family Stone, skipping rocks, Chris Pine, meatball sandwiches, Rose Dawson, Dr. Oz: I hate all that bullshit except Chris Pine and San Diego.

• I think Jared Goff is going to be a very mediocre NFL quarterback. Thoughts?: As long as Jeff Fisher is his coach, he’s got no shot to succeed.

A hip-hop artist named MC White Owl did this for my last book. What do you think?: Dayum, that’s really good. Can he do a video for my book?

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? What do you recall?: I’ve been a pilot for two decades. Quick story. I was flying a Cessna 152 approaching Caldwell Airport in New Jersey. There was moderate turbulence. The plane got shook hard once and the prop started winding down, and then stopped. I started going through my emergency procedures and just as started them, the prop started right back up. I didn’t think I was going to crash or die but I knew when I landed I was going to eat an entire large pizza. I did. Pepperoni.

• I fear death—the inevitability of nothingness. Does it plague you at all? If no, why?: I’m an atheist. We all just fade to black, dude. It’s possible we’re all living in a simulation, too. Don’t laugh. Lots of scientists are now seriously considering that. I just want to know why the creators of this goddamn simulation didn’t make me a billionaire. A real one. Not a fake one like Trump.

• Five greatest female sports columnists of your lifetime?: 1. Jemele Hill (You, Jemele and Jim Trotter are the three most well-rounded people in sports journalism I’ve ever known. Jemele can do anything. She should have her own show, to be honest); 2. Christine Brennan (A pro’s pro. Nice as hell, too); 3. Lisa Olson (Maybe most underrated talent I’ve ever read); 4. Jackie MacMullan (One of the gutsiest people I’ve known. Gets athletes to trust her, which is hard to do); 4. Judy Battista (Shitload of talent. As much as any NFL columnist I’ve ever been around).

• Five nicest athletes you’ve ever met?: Michael Strahan, Ken Stabler, Carlton Bailey, Art Shell, Aaron Rodgers.

• Five biggest asshole athletes you’ve ever met?: Really, the only true jerk I knew was Marvin Harrison.

• One question you would ask Young MC were he here right now: I would ask: what would happen if I didn’t bust a move?


Ross Rice


Back in the early 1990s, one of my closest friends at the University of Delaware was a kid named Scott Capro.

As freshmen, we lived across the hall from one another. As juniors and seniors, we roomed together. Scott was (and still is) terrific, because he was blessed with a truly detailed knowledge of my two favorite subjects—sports and music.

While I was pretty strong in the one area (sports), my musical range was somewhat limited to 1980s hip-hop and Hall and Oates. Well, thanks to Scott, I came to know the music of Elvis Costello and Pearl Jam; of John Wesley Harding and … Human Radio.

Yes, Human Radio. Back in the day, Scott would regularly stroll down to Main Street and spend hours inside Rainbow Records, seeking out the next great thing. He’d listen and listen and listen and listen before ultimately plopping down $20 for a couple of CDs. On one particular day he randomly picked up Human Radio’s eponymous 1990 release, then brought it back to the dorm. I remember little of the album, save for a song named, “These are the Days”—which I have probably listened to, oh, 700 times.

I digress. Because of Scott Capro and Rainbow Records and life’s random weirdness, today’s 277th Quaz Q&A is Ross Rice, the lead singer and keyboardist for (the recently reunited) Human Radio and a man who can speak on the highs and lows of the music business; on the beauty of a well-constructed song; on returning from the depths and playing out of love (as opposed to seeking profit).

One can visit Human Radio’s website here, and follow the band on Twitter here.

Ross Rice, you’re the hairiest (and coolest) Quaz to date …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Ross, so one of my all-time favorite songs is “These Are The Days”—which has been a staple in my life for the past 25 years or so. What can you tell me about the tune? The origins? The meaning? Do you dig it as much as I do? Are you sick of it?

ROSS RICE: Love that you love it, Jeff. Despite it’s precocious cleverness, I’ve always felt that that tune had some legs to it. That was one of those really nice sunny mornings on the stoop in Memphis, coffee and cat, got a good little guitar progression going, got a little visit from some nice young fella from the neighborhood Jehovah’s Witness church (I think our house was something of a finishing school for them, we could be quite merciless, especially on LSD), and out it popped out nice and fresh. Don’t really know what it means actually, just a little slice of life with a side of Nietzsche. I’ll still pick it publicly now and then, it’s worn much better than most of the others…


J.P.: Your band had one hit. “Me and Elvis,” which came out in 1990 and reached No, 32 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. And I wonder whether you were at all like the baseball player who wins the World Series as a rookie and presumes it will always be this way. How did y’all respond to having a hit? Did you assume there would be more to come? And are you at all haunted/dismayed by a “one-hit wonder” sort of pegging?

R.R.: Weeellll, I wouldn’t really call it a “hit” per se, it got some love from morning jocks who with the gentle prodding of our esteemed label pushed the rock up the hill a ways. Let’s just say I do kind of regret writing the tune, which originally was a goofy little ska thing we had some fun with our Memphis peeps doing. But lo and behold our producer David Kahne (whom I still admire greatly) saw it as some kind of existential treatise on the demise of youth and rock ‘n’ roll. So he tarted it up while serious-o-fying it. Then of course the label went Memphis=Elvis, and we had our first single chosen thusly. Can’t blame em, makes sense from the marketing standpoint! But it would require a follow up too keep us from “the pegging.”

“My First Million” was scheduled for a second single, had video treatment and director lined up, got top five phones in every test market, but then the president of the label saw us in New York City, and reportedly said “Who the f*** are these guys?” So we didn’t get to find out if there could be more to come, it was shortly thereafter all tour support dried up, and we were offered a graceful exit. At that point we were damaged goods, nobody else would go for us. Such is the harsh reality of our groovy little industry!

J.P.: Your band is from Memphis. I started as a music writer in Nashville in the mid-1990s, and it was near-impossible for rock bands to emerge from the city, because the suffocating cloak of the country industry was overwhelming. How about the rock music scene in Memphis? Was it strong back then? Did you have to overcome musical perceptions of the town?

R.R.: At that time (late 80s/early 90s) there was a crazy signing glut going on in Memphis, and I think all over the country. We did a producer showcase at one point where four out of 12 bands were offered major label deals. And yeah, there were some really great bands happening, and the club scene was improving, more venues, people out enjoying live music. We found ourselves well booked in Memphis and the surrounding areas. But once we were out of the south, the Memphis thing could be problematic. And we did not sound at all like a band from Memphis with our un-sexy synthesizers and violins. Lots of reviews of our record or shows started with “I was hoping for some great new Memphis-style music from this new band. Instead we get … blah blah blah … I’m so disappointed … they suck!” No. Miss All-Stars, Grifters, Oblivians, Al Kapone, Three Six Mafia … bands like these had “Memphis-ness” we somehow did not. But we weren’t trying for anything like that, I had just done six years of R&B, two years in a house band with Duck Dunn. I’ve played Green Onions on organ with Cropper and Dunn seven times. Didn’t feel the need to elaborate on that with my music!

J.P.: You guys seem to be in the midst of a comeback. How did that happen? Why did it happen? And what are the hopes? Goals?

R.R.: I was in the Hudson Valley of New York for the last decade while the other guys were all in Nashville still. A dear friend of ours asked if a reunion might be possible for a benefit, I made the trip, and we had a blast! We had broken the band up to keep our friendship intact, so it was effortless. This started a long-distance writing process, where I came to town occasionally, and we’d set up at Castle Hyrkania (Pete’s place, available through AirBnB!) with a single mic in omni at the center, and goof off, come up with cool stuff. I took those recordings and made things out of them, which we developed. It was an organic mutual process, and everyone contributed. Then I moved back to the area to start school, and we had enough material to do a record, so we did a Kickstarter, overestimated our appeal and fell short, started over on Indiegogo, and found ourselves with a cozy little budget to record and manufacture a small run of CDs and vinyl. It’s been pretty hilarious with the emails, we’re learning how to be a record label by screwing up constantly! Our emails the other day concerning bar codes were epic.

Hopes and goals? Ah, none really other that servicing our donors, doing some record release gigs in select towns, getting it on CD Baby and the World Wide Interwebs, and working the social media somewhat (God, we suck at it, but we’re gonna try). We’re not getting in the back of the Penske van again rolling around Mississippi trying to get discovered anymore. We just wanted to make the record to prove that we were still relevant to ourselves and immediate fans and friends. So far so good. Oddly enough, we are taking a meeting with a label guy next week who had just heard the new record, wants to buy us lunch. We do like lunch.

J.P.: I’m friendly with some guys from Blind Melon, and they signed a record deal back around the same time you guys did. And they insist it was REALLY easy back then; like deals were falling from the sky. True? False? How did you land the deal? And was being signed to a label all you’d hoped?

R.R.: See above. Yeah, I think it had something to do with performance royalty licensing, something that was changing over in 1990. Folks were getting signed left and right. But let me tell you nine out of 10 bands that were signed in that rush shared the same fate we did. It was a crazy and exciting time, really. Our manager leveraged a tentative offer from one label into getting us enough buzz that eventually an A&R guy from a huge label from L.A. flew into town, our people picked him up and brought him to Beale Street where we were set up in a blacked-out club, full PA and light show. He walked in, we started playing … 30 minutes later we stopped, he got up, got back in the car, and caught the next flight out. Three days later he called us up with an offer, and suggested David Kahne producing. Being Fishbone fanatics, we assented heartily. A publishing deal followed shortly thereafter, which was also quite nice.

For a little while it was pretty sweet, the record got good notice and airplay, some decent reviews (some quite scathing, too!). But once we got out on the road we got a better sense of where we stood with our label. Which was pretty uncertain ground … turned out we were a band signed by west coast A&R to an east-based label over the objections of the east coast A&R staff. We were kinda doomed from the gitgo.

The olden days.

The olden days.

J.P.: What happened when you played the Roxy in Los Angeles? Details, please …

R.R.: Hehe. Yeah, the previous night we had opened for the Allman Bros and George Thorogood in Phoenix. Got into L.A. the next day, made some rounds, even played “These Are The Days” at CNN. Taking the limo back to the Roxy, traffic was a bitch, but our Russian driver was savvy, knew the back ways. When we emerged on Sunset, we beheld the source of the congestion: Our beat-ass tour bus! When the driver was backing into the venue lot, the engine had fallen out of the mount onto the street, blocking Sunset Blvd. from 4 to 7 on a Friday afternoon! We jumped onto the bus to grab our crap while L.A. serenaded us with honks and curses, and went inside for soundcheck. Where it was revealed that an important piece of my gear was missing, left behind in Phoenix. Guys were dispatched to SIR for a replacement, I got to spend two hours re-programming the sucker. We might have been good that night, but I don’t remember. The stress and animosity has lingered on, however!

J.P.: When you see people like, oh, Justin Bieber or Demi Lovato selling out stadiums with their own brand of fabricated shit, do you at all get irked or annoyed? Do you ever wonder why plastic pop is so celebrated while musicianship is sorta ignored?

R.R.: Well, I used to I suppose. But it’s been ever thus. Might as well get pissed about bad weather or water being wet. There’s always been great music available, so we (Human Radio) have always had hope that if we could somehow also make great music, we too could have a place at the table, so to speak. What we’re seeing is a dying industry trying to figure how to survive by creating sure things. They’ve limited the allowable producers and songwriters to a select few (mostly Swedes and Atlantans, apparently), focus-grouped singers publicly with The Voice and Idol and the like. The pipeline to the Internet and radio is more direct now with only three large-scale companies left. They’ve taken a lot of the guesswork out of the business, which has drastically reduced innovation. Records don’t rely on great performances, haven’t for some time now. And a big artist performance relies less and less on the variable of music, it’s more about choreography, lights, action.

Personally, I’m well past the point of giving a fuck about the record business. I feel pretty damn good as a result, and I enjoy music so much more now.


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

R.R.: Many great moments … so many of my favorite musical experiences were pretty modest really. My favorite gigs have often been last minute calls, when I didn’t know the people, didn’t know the music, expectations weren’t super high, but the music was fun, the house was full, the band/artist I worked with was really happy, the beer was plentiful and cold, and we all got paid. This has happened more than a few times, the most notable for me being with Isaac Hayes and Eek-A-Mouse. But when Human Radio played its record release in an un-air conditioned (thanks, light dude) Beale St. venue packed to the rafters with 300+ on a hot July night, that felt pretty damn good to me. Though I almost passed out from heat exhaustion three times, and photos of us doing our acapella encore look like we’ve been doused with a fire hose. The day we signed our record deal was pretty triumphant as well, I might add. The future looked awesome from that moment.

Lowest? The gig suck list is extensive, but I don’t visit it often. But HR playing for our lives before a roomful of A&R in ’92, playing at the top of our game with our best stuff, nobody interested, that was real hard. The day we broke up was really painful yet somehow a relief. But I’ve learned to laugh off major live problems. I inverted a crash cymbal in front of 60,000 Memphians playing the 1812 Overture at the Sunset Symphony. Ka-chunk! I got fired shortly thereafter. And had the good fortune to step on my cord and de-plug in front of 10,000 at Wembley Arena London with Peter Frampton. RIGHT on the first “bwah bwah bwah” solo in “Show Me The Way.” Stooped down, plugged back in, shrugged with a goofy “Who me?” grin and jumped right back in. The look Peter Frampton shot me mid-solo was delicious. And I got fired shortly thereafter.

J.P.: You were a young kid when Human Radio began. You’re no longer a young kid. How does aging impact your skillset as a musician? Playing keyboard? Singing? Are there things you can’t do any longer? Are there things you’re better at?

R.R.: I’ve been playing keyboard professionally all this time since, so I feel pretty confident with my game right now. Haven’t had any age-related difficulties, knock on wood. Not to sound boasty, but I think I’m a much better singer now that I was in 1990 too, less inclined to pull the Frank Zappa tone out! When I had my Very Sexy Trio in New York it was all about Fender Rhodes and falsetto, which I’m fortunate to have in my toolkit. My drumming and guitar playing have suffered, but I’ve been working on an MFA in Recording Arts and Technologies, so my tech chops are growing steadily. Editing/publishing/writing for a magazine for 4 ½ years in New York got me more disciplined as a writer. Teaching at the Paul Green Academy of Rock got me into wanting to pursue a future as a teacher. Raising two kids to adulthood made me waaay more patient. Guess I like to think I’m improving.

Back in 1990

Back in 1990

J.P.: This isn’t an insult—I swear. But you have super long hair. Was that a conscious decision. Like, “I’m always gonna have long hair?” Did it just grow and grow? Ever think of slicing it all off?

R.R.: Kept forgetting to cut it. Naw, I’ve had long hair since elementary school in New Hampshire in the 70s, where I got so much shit for it even then, I knew I was onto something. Since then I’ve always liked the way it looks on me, and the wife still digs it. I’m one goofy motherfucker with short hair; my car door ears and Scotch super-schnozz need balancing out bigt ime.

J.P.: This might sound cliché, but why do so few bands last, uninterrupted, for more than a few years? Is it simply a matter of ego? More? Why did you guys break up?

R.R.: We broke up because we were friggin broke, dude. Gig monies were dropping, when we couldn’t pick up another deal our brand took a hit. The downward arc appeared, momentum shifted to the opposite direction. It was the damndest thing. One day one of the guys called a meeting, said he couldn’t afford to keep on. The rest of us decided to stop instead of replacing him. We broke up as good friends. But keep in mind, we were signed within a year and a half of forming. Our arc was accelerated in both directions by the times.

The fact that bands last at all is a miracle. You have a creative relationship that operates on one level, and a business relationship operating on another. Friendships and personalities are under great strain in this environment, where very few things are certain, and alliances are often tested. If you could figure out how to make a band that can survive the long haul (I’d say 5+ years), I imagine it would be similar to the process of assembling a successful team of astronauts for deep space runs. It’s rough out there, man.



• What do you think of Ray Rice?: Not holding up the name too well. Most of us Rices are sexy MFs who love women (some of us love men too, but I digress), and are righteously beloved by them in return. When polled, many of us Rices agree he should maybe switch to a less loving and nurturing moniker.

• My college roommate, Scott Capro, introduced me to your guys in 1991. Anything you’d like to say to him?: Hey Scott! How’s it going, man? Thanks for the spins on the victrola!
We have a new album for you, so let us know how we can get you one. Cheers!

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Doug E. Fresh, boba milk tea, B.B. King, bottled water, back acne, Dan Zanes, Chris Ivory, Bill Haslam, Dan Fogelberg: BB King, Doug E Fresh, Dan Zanes, Chris Ivory, bottled water, Dan Fogelberg, boba milk tea, Bill Haslam, back acne.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Oddly enough, no. Even when I was about to die in a plane crash coming into Telluride last year (with Mike Farris), when a storm suddenly swerved towards us resulting in a frightening 270 degree maneuver, and landing an hour away. The pilot was such a cocky dude, I just figured he could back it up when the shit hit the fan. And he did!

• One question you would ask Warren Moon were he here right now: How does it feel to be such a badass? Do you feel like you get the respect you deserve? You should.

• Five things you never want to smell again: Papermill, fast food coffee, Miller Lite, van farts on second week of run, cheap laundry detergent

• Why the name Human Radio?: We made a long-ass list. Lots of funny stuff. This was the only name that nobody said no to. I had written a song a long time ago about being in a cover band at a Holiday Inn (which I was) called “Human Radio” which caused me to submit it as a name. The song itself sucked, however.

• The guy next to me in this café refuses to cover his mouth as he coughs. What can I do to him?: Fart in his latte.

• Best joke you know?: Kye is the king of jokes in our group, I should get him to pipe one in here. I like stupid jokes that are long and pointless and require a performance. But here’s a quickie I’ve always enjoyed. Man walks into a bar with a duck on his head. Bartender says “what can I get ya?” Duck says “Can you get this guy off my ass?”

Miley Cyrus calls and offers you $700,000 to tour with her this year as her backup singer. However, you have to wear a pink tutu and pierce your anus. You in?: Lemme get some miles in on the Stairmaster to purty up my quads and get my hemorrhoids cauterized. School can wait.


Al Bernstein


Back in the day, when I was a kid and the Sugar Ray Leonard-Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns-Roberto Duran foursome ruled the sport, I absolutely loved boxing. It was probably my favorite sport, and I’d watch and watch and watch, rooting for the underdogs, blasting the favorites, anxious for my hero (Leonard) to vanquish all foes.

Then, gradually, I lost interest.

The game was just too brutal and inhumane. No union, tons of trauma, lots of creepy older men making millions of unsophisticated youngsters from the inner-cities. I walked away, and—with rare exception—never looked back. What once seemed magical and splendid felt grimy and gross.

That being said, the one redeeming aspect of the sport was its announcers and, in particular, Al Bernstein. Throughout my childhood, Al was the soundtrack to boxing. Appearing primarily on ESPN, he broke things down, explained the mechanisms in easily understood terminology, brought humanity to a vicious world. He wasn’t a smooth, silky voice lording from above. No, Al was human and gritty; my type of guy.

Anyhow, these days Al serves as a boxing analyst on Showtime for Showtime Championship Boxing. He is, hands down, the best in the business.

One can follow Al on Twitter here, and order his new book, Al Bernstein: 30 Years, 30 Undeniable Truths about Boxing, Sports and TV, here.

Al Bernstein, welcome to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Al, oftentimes when I ponder boxing I think back to Tex Cobb taking an absolute beating at the hands of Larry Holmes. It wasn’t only an embarrassingly brutal fight, but it was also the last one called by Howard Cossell. And here’s the thing: I love boxing. I truly do. The athleticism, the strategy, the artistry. But it’s also ugly, brutal, occasionally debilitating. Al, you’ve devoted much of your career to boxing. Does that ever come with a crisis of conscience?

AL BERNSTEIN: Interesting question. Though I boxed as an amateur and played many sports I have to say that most of my endeavors in life have been decidedly non violent. From music and theater to horseback riding to writing and everything else in between I have embraced things that don’t fit the boxing paradigm. And yet, so much of my adult life has been about boxing. Though I have covered other sports I am known for boxing. There have been occasions when I am sitting there calling a fight when the violent nature of the sport seems overwhelming. But, since I treat it as a sport I am able to compartmentalize enough to get that out opt my head. Gene Hackman once told me that he is sometimes ashamed that he loves boxing as much as he does. But, I believe it is a sport—I feel that even participating as an amateur, as I did, can be a very rewarding experience.And over all these years the one core thought that guides me is the unabiding respect I have for all boxers.

J.P.: This might be a bit more lame than my general questions, but I have to ask: A seminal moment from my youth was Leonard-Hagler. I watched the fight on a closed-circuit showing at Westchester Community College with my dad, and all I wanted was for Sugar Ray to win. Afterward, I was euphoric, giddy, floating. Al, what do you remember from the event? The night? And who do you think actually won?

A.B.: It was one of those amazing nights at the outdoor arena at Caesars Palace that defined the 1980s in boxing. A few years earlier I had called the Hagler-Hearns fight in that same venue. The Four Kings (Hagler, Leonard, Hearns and Duran) were boxing royalty and all the events involving them were special. The big fight atmosphere that week was amazing—unlike anything—even for that era. Everyone was there that weekend and I had an interesting vantage point to see the great and near great on hand because I was singing doing my musical show at Caesars for three nights leading up to the fight. The audience each night was a who’s who from that time. The fight was interesting, but was certainly not like Hagler-Hearns. I thought Hagler won the fight by 2 points as one of the judges had it. It could have gone to ray by a little, but the 118-111 score was absurd. It was an amazing event though.

J.P.: I have a theory. Recently, after the death of Ali there have been a bevy of Best Living Fighter lists—and Mike Tyson never cracks the Top 10. Like, never, ever. They say he never fought anyone. They say he was severely flawed. They say he was an embarrassment against Holyfield. And, while the points are sound, I feel like people forget how absolutely dominant and impenetrable he was for a window in time. Al, is Tyson simply not as good as I remember? Or are people suffering from fogged memories?

A.B.: I think the truth on Tyson in his prime is somewhere between those two extremes. He was dominant over a decent group of heavyweights and that Tyson would certainly be a hand full for any heavyweight in any era. Bu, he was a smallish heavyweight who would have trouble with two types. Really big strong men who could physically handle him (Like Lennox Lewis and probably George Foreman) or terrific boxers like Ali or a Larry Holmes in his prime. Of course, Holyfield had his number and the reason for that is Evander’s toughness and chin combined with his accurate combination punching, ability to counter, and creative arsenal of punches. Tyson was very good in his prime, but I think he’s in the middle of the top 10 heavies of all time and certainly not in the top 10 all time fighters of all weights—not even in top 30 for me.

J.P.: I’m embarrassed to say that I wasn’t aware that you are, at your core, a newspaper guy. You started your career in 1974 as the managing editor at Lerner Newspapers in Chicago. So … what was the scene? The situation? How did you land the job? What were you covering? Good memories? Bad? Both?

A.B.: I was the sports editor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and my goal from the time I was 10 years old was to be a sports writer. After college I got a job as a reporter at Lerner Newspapers, but in hard news. I covered politics, community affairs, etc. I did an investigative series on an illegal land deal for which I won an award by the Chicago Newspaper guild and that propelled me to the job of managing editor of part of the newspaper chain. I was really young, like about 26 or 27—too young. My goal of being a sports writer was pushed father away as I served as editor of that newspaper. I freelanced in sports, but lived in the news world. And, I wasn’t even really writing much for the paper. I got promoted for my writing and then I was an administrator. By the time I was 30 I was burn out on being a newspaperman. To this day I am proud of the work I did in community newspapers, but I got burnt out. However, the experience that gave me has been so valuable in everything I have done since. That foundation served me well.

Alongside Steve Cunningham, the IBF cruiserweight champion.

Alongside Steve Cunningham, the IBF cruiserweight champion.

J.P.: You were hired by something called ESPN in 1980. Were you more of the “Holy shit! This is going to be huge!” camp or of the “What the hell is ESPN, and will this thing last a month?” camp? What were the early days of the network like? 

A.B.: I was ecstatic to be able to break in with ESPN. Remember I was having a hard time even getting to cover sports! I wrote a book on boxing and did a little TV in Chicago and then when ESPN came to Chicago as one of the four stops for the Top Rank Boxing Series I clawed my way in as a kind of helper because I knows there boxers in that area. then I got a chance to sit in on one of the shows and it went from there. We were all inventing cable television back then. ESPN was only in about 3 million homes when I started doing boxing in 1980. And yes, we did not know how long it might last. Everyone cashed their checks very quickly. It all felt like television’s version of community theater. But, it was becoming a cult hit and the boxing show was the most watched series on ESPN in those first four or five years. In my book I wrote that “we were to television what M.A.S.H unites were to medicine.” Still with not too many resources we made some very good television. many talented people worked at ESPN in those early years and we all felt like a band of brothers pushing forward. those were halcyon times for the Sports departments of the over the air networks (ABC, NBC and CBS) and the creature comforts for those folks were pretty amazing. Not so much for us. LOL But, I certainly didn’t care. I was thrilled to be sportscasting and to grow along with ESPN. It was exhilarating.

J.P.: TV seems like a pretty thankless profession, oftentimes ruled by surface imagery, sexiness over skill, youth over knowledge. Yet you’ve survived and thrived for nearly 40 years. How?

A.B.: Well, sports television has gone through some seismic changes since 1980 and I have been around to see all of them. Navigating through those changes can be tricky and I have hit some bumpy spots like everyone else, but overall I have been really fortunate. Perhaps one key for me is that as a broadcaster I have always lived in the present. While I appreciate sports history and honor it, I don’t litter my commentary with references to the past. So, I don’ think audiences of any decade feel like I’m looking backwards. While I have adapted and evolved, especially by embracing things like social media, I have actually never changed my approach to sportscasting or my methods. The exact same guiding principles and technique that I used in the 1980’s are the ones I use today. While I hope I have improved on some technique from the very beginning there has been little or no change in how I do it. This was a risky approach because the role of analyst or color commentator has indeed changed over these past 36 years. In recent years many networks and indeed producers have come to value argument over discussion, opinion over information and loudness over intelligence. Humor on sports telecasts has become more sophomoric and commentators on live events often talk about topics only vaguely related to the action in front of them. That kind of behavior was once chastised, now it is encouraged. All this is not to say there are not many talented sportscaster who ply their craft superbly, but for the most part sportscasting has become about the sportscaster overpowering the event, not just enhancing it. All this is especially true for the analysts, more so than the play by play announcers. So, for me to be an analyst who is operating somewhat differently to the pervading atmosphere has left me open to danger. I was very fortunate when I left ESPN, where the “chew the scenery” approach by analysts had been firmly installed, to go to Showtime where they wanted my approach specifically. And from 2003 to now have been tremendously enjoyable and fruitful for me. I enjoy sportscasting as much today as I did in 1980.

J.P.: Calling a fight seems nearly impossible. I mean, I’ve covered my share of ring action, and I struggle to simply figure out the sequence of a combination. So what are the keys to doing televised boxing well? Is it instinctive? Are you furiously jotting notes? Both?

A.B.: The first key is to be well prepared. That’s true of anything I guess, but a sportscaster needs a lot of information to be good. As an analyst on a boxing event I have several responsibilities. 1. To use data, stats and conversations with the boxer to at various points in the match help explain something that happened and or add to the viewer’s knowledge of the fighters themselves. 2. Analyze the action so that you can add insight into what has just happened and what might happen. Those are my two main mission statements—and a third, ancillary one is to be entertaining and interesting in the way you do those first two. I come to ringside with bullet point notes culled from all the prep work that we have done leading up to the fight and from viewing video of the fighters on the card. I have made rules that I live by. 1. Try never to over talk the event ( a common malady these days in sportscasting), 2. Never talk in the first or last 15 seconds of any round (so as not to interfere with the play by play person) 3. Try to never talk in spurts longer than 20 seconds because action can change so quickly in a boxing match 4. most important of all check yourself constantly to make sure you are talking about both fighters and not dwelling on just one, which leads to 5. Be fair and NEVER prejudge what the themes will be in a fight or sporting event. There may have been times in these many hundreds of boxing shows I have done where I may have violated some of those rules, but I assure you it was never intentional. Even With the structured and organized approach I try to take, there is instinct involved. You need an innate ability to read the ebb and flow of the boxing match to be effective as an analyst on live boxing. You have to be in the moment and most of all pay attention to every detail as much as you can.


J.P.: You appeared as yourself as a fight commentator in Rocky V—a film even Sylvester Stallone has disavowed. I know this is random, but I’m wondering what you remember from the experience? And did you know the film was sort of a turd as it was being filmed?

A.B.: It was a nice experience, as almost all the movies experiences have been for me. It’s interesting to participate in film and episodic TV. Certainly different than doing live TV. I have had pleasant experiences around Sly over the years. I could not really tell if the film was going to work from the scenes I was involved in. I know the film was not the best of the series, but I was struck that Tommy Morrison was so professional in his approach to this film. He had never acted before and was thrust into this leading role. He was not exactly Olivier, but I thought he did very well given his total lack of experience. I will say he knew his lines for every take and was always trying to improve. In every movie I’ve been in I play myself and so the funniest Tweet ever sent my way said this. “I just saw you in Play It To The Bone. You came pretty close to nailing the character.” Now that was funny.

J.P.: You’ve said, “Ray Robinson is the best who ever lived.” Why?

A.B.: He was 131-1 as a welterweight. Think of that. And many of the men he faced would end up in the Hall Of Fame. Then he moved up to middleweight and was brilliant all the way up to 40 years of age. He did everything well in the ring. he had one of the best jabs ever, one of the best left hooks ever, a great right, superb uppercut, he moved like a ballet dancer and he could hit with astonishing power. He fought terrific fighters like Randy Turpin, Bobo Olsen, Jake LaMotta, Gene Fullmer, Carmen Basilio and many others as a middleweight. I just think he was everything you would want a boxer to be.

J.P.: Random one: I’m terrified of my own mortality. Absolutely terrified. I hate that I’ll die; hate the idea of eternal nothingness. This is the shit that keeps me up. How about you? What are your thoughts?

A.B.: That’s a deep question. I can say that as I have gotten older I think about mortality more. The realization that you have fewer years left than you have spent on earth can be daunting. But, my wife faced death when she had stage four breast cancer 13 years ago at much too young an age for that and through great treatment and her own efforts to help the process she is still here and living a very active life. So, a premature death has haunted our family—as it did for me as a youngster when my dad died when I was 12. But, I feel fortunate to be around and pretty healthy, still able to enjoy my profession, ride my horse, go sing in clubs from time to time and enjoy life. I have a 17-year-old son and that keeps you active and involved. The part of your question that does get me melancholy sometimes is realizing now that there are certain things in life I will probably never do that I want to—available time and circumstance will not allow them. I’m not religious so I see actual death kind of as you do. So, that makes me want to enjoy life as much as possible.



• Five greatest right-handed Jewish fighters of your lifetime: Well, Dana Rosenblatt was a lefty, so that rules him out. Mike Rossman was half Jewish, does he count? LOL. I’m going to have to defer on this one—not sure I can come up with a good list.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): X-Men, Dmitriy Salita, unicorns, the Corner Bakery Café, Cindy Crawford, L.L. Bean, Stuart Scott, Synchronicity, Bon Iver, Lexis, LL Cool J, Chase bank, fish tacos, Trent Richardson, your left knee: X-Men, LL Cool J, Cindy Crawford, Stuart scott, LL Bean, Synchronicity, Lexis, Dimitry Salido, Corner Bakery cafe, unicorns, Bon Iver, Chase Bank, Trent Richardson, my left knee, fish tacos

• How many fights have you been in in your life? How’d they go?: In the ring about 20 or so (3 losses) outside the ring 5 or 6. One bad loss, one good win, others in between.

• Five reasons one should make Atlantic City his/her next vacation destination?: Hmm. My wife had a home in Brigantine, which is lovely. For AC, I guess the ocean, the taffy, the White House subs, headliners at the casino and gaming if you like it.

• Funniest thing you’ve ever seen Don King do?: He has never been funny to me.

• Three memories from your first-ever job: I worked a summer job at a candy factory on my summers to make mopey for school. It was packing boxes, shoveling chocolate into a vat and driving a forklift. It was great for staying in shape for sports, and since I lived with my single mom and we lived paycheck to paycheck so the money was helpful. The main memory I have of that is meeting some really great people who worked in that factory to support their families.

• If Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney fought 100 times, how many times would Cooney have prevailed?: I think 15 to 20.

• In exactly 28 words, make an argument for John Ruiz: He worked as hard as any fighter ever. He had courage and grit, he upset Evander Holyfield and he has really helped amateur boxing in the United States.

• Can a very pretty woman who farts hourly (and loudly) still be sexy?: Well, that’s only a few seconds of the hour, so probably yes. And, this is a very weird question.

• I absolutely loved Creed. Most of my friends did not. Your thoughts?: I think Creed is a really good film


Matt Webb


Two years ago, when we first relocated to Southern California, our son befriended a lovely classmate who was polite, courteous, fun—and the son of a man who sells guns.

I did not feel particularly great about this.

I mean, what did I know about guns? I was never aware of any of my New York pals and/or neighbors owning one. I certainly didn’t feel the need to keep a firearm in our house. So, again, being a guy who believes strongly in greater tracking and less access to firearms, I was not euphoric upon learning this little piece of information.

Then I met Matt Webb.

First, he was simply a nice guy. Second, he was a ridiculously involved father. Third, he was open minded and a fantastic listener. And, fourth, we talked about guns. And talked more about guns. He was chill and up front. He taught me some things I never knew, and was far from enamored by the NRA and the idea of unlimited, unchecked weaponry. When our son went to the Webbs for a play date, and the wife asked about a firearm in the home, they could not have been more decent. In short, Matt Webb is good people.

Hence, I asked him to come and be the 275th Quaz, and talk about guns and protection and hunting and safety and the NRA. Matt’s company, Badrock Tactical, can be found here.

Matt Webb, you’re the magical 275th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Matt, I’m gonna throw one at you, because it’s always fascinated me and you’re a good person to ask. So I often hear people with guns in the home saying they have a weapon present for safety. “I want to protect my family,” etc … etc. And I get it. I truly do. But statistics seems pretty clear that a gun in the home is far more likely to kill/injure a loved one than stop an invader. So why, in your opinion, is it good to have a weapon in the abode?

MATT WEBB: Let me start by saying that “having a gun in the home” isn’t a universally good idea at all. So, in my opinion, one should only have a gun in the home as a mechanism for protection if they are equipped to have said weapon. To provide detail on what I mean: Are you trained in handling a weapon? Do you have adequate weapon storage security? Do you have a FEAR of handling the weapon? If there is ambiguity or uncertainty when you answer any of these questions, then you 100 percent SHOULD NOT have a weapon in the house. If you are a safe, have adequate storage and training, then having a weapon in the house can provide peace of mind in knowing that you could neutralize or eliminate a threat should one arise. The reality is that the police and 911 are not tasked with protecting you. They will actually tell you that if you ask them, so if one feels threatened, it is a way to provide security if proper measures have been taken to ensure safety.

J.P.: Your business, Badrock Tactical, specializes in the selling of—among other things—high-end AR platform tactical rifles. I am not a gun expert by any means, but the wording “assault rifle” immediately causes me to shudder. I ask with total seriousness, and zero snideness: Are you selling dangerous weapons that should not be out there? Why is it OK to sell assault rifles? And how can dealers like yourself make certain they don’t wind up in the wrong hands?

M.W.: The first thing we should do with respect to this question is clarify a detail that may seem frivolous to you, but it really grates on knowledgeable firearms owners … we DO NOT sell assault weapons. An AR-15 is not an assault weapon. What may seem like semantics to you is in reality a very big detail that gets glossed over by mainstream media. An assault weapon is a “select fire” (meaning it has the ability to shoot in full automatic mode). Now I realize that legislatively we as a society have started to lump many firearms in as “assault weapons” simply by visible characteristics (pistol grip, detachable magazine, flash suppressor, folding stock) … which, by the way, none of these attributes makes a firearm more or less dangerous. Now, with that out of the way, we do sell AR platform weapons, which are no more or less dangerous than a lever-action, bolt action or other semi-automatic type rifle or pistol. They simply “look scary” and the platform is used by our military, so it is assumed it is more dangerous.

The reality is that an AR type weapon is popular because it is highly modular, highly accurate and simple to operate. As far as sales of firearms, it doesn’t matter if it is an AR15 or a wooden-stock 22 long rifle … a purchaser in California (the only place we, as an FFL, can sell firearms) is required to complete a firearm safety course, submit to a background check, provide a thumb print and go through a 10-day wait/background evaluation before a firearm can be purchased. So is it possible to 100 percent guarantee that a firearm won’t end up in the hands of someone with ill intent? Of course not. No more so than I can guarantee a person won’t go into a hardware store and buy an axe or a Wal-Mart and buy a knife or get behind the wheel of a car drunk.

J.P.: We’ve spoken at length about the NRA, and you’re a gun owner who seems somewhat turned off by the organization. Why?

M.W.: My thoughts on the NRA are that it is far too stodgy and inflexible. As a responsible firearm owner, I feel like both sides (pro and anti-gun) need to look at options to make our country safer. I think the NRA falsely represents a “redneck” stance that does not embody all firearm owners. I, for one, am in support of waiting periods and background checks in every state. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to require a test and a license to own a firearm. We do it with a car, so I have no problem with that concept and feel that it should be a part of firearm ownership.

J.P.: What do people like me not understand about guns, gun ownership? What do you feel like we’re missing?

M.W.: I don’t know that people like you are “missing” anything, per se. I think that more knowledge about firearms in general would help curb some of the preconceived notions about different types of firearms. The media gets it wrong so often and really tends to generalize, which is very frustrating for someone like me. But I think it’s just a cultural thing. People either appreciate and/or enjoy firearms activities (target shooting, competition shooting, hunting, etc) or they don’t. Obviously, given the large percentage of firearm ownership (in both absolute numbers and percentage of Americans who own firearms), firearms are popular to own in America. For those who don’t “get it” … my guess is that they have only focused on the negative and they have never had the opportunity or interest in exploring any of the positive or enjoyable parts of shooting sports. If you grow up in New York City, for instance, owning a car may be “odd” and taking a train is absolutely the norm. To someone growing up in North Dakota, this would seem extremely odd and they may not “get it” … but it’s just an exposure thing, I think.


J.P.: How did this happen for you? Like, what’s your background? How did you first become familiar with firearms? With shooting? What was the draw for you?

M.W.: I’ll start by pointing out that I grew up in Montana. Specifically, Badrock Canyon, in Northwest Montana near Glacier National Park. The actual community was Columbia Falls, MT located in the heart of the Flathead Valley. As a Montana boy, I spent much of my free time hunting, fishing, camping, target-shooting and just being an outdoorsman. I was raised in a house that had guns, obviously, and I learned to shoot at a very young age (probably about 5-years old) from my grandfather. Both my step-father and my grandfather were avid hunters and shooters and both had been in the military (Vietnam and Korea). For me, guns were not a big deal in the sense that I had a very healthy respect for them, but I didn’t view them as evil or an instrument of violence. They were used for hunting and for sport shooting. Now that I live in California, I certainly don’t hunt anymore, but I do enjoy target shooting still when I have the opportunity.

J.P.: Whenever a school shooting happens, we wind up in this huge, ugly, unproductive political debate. The left screams about cutting back on guns and increasing background checks. The right insists a gun is merely an instrument, that we need to focus on mental health. Matt, what says you? What can we do that would have a legitimate impact on safety?

M.W.: Nobody likes when there is a mass tragedy of any kind. Whether it’s a shooting, or a train derailing, or building blowing up or a multi-car freeway accident … on and on. As you pointed out, though, when such a tragedy occurs with firearms, it provides a political platform and the bickering starts. My feeling on it is that I think we could always do more to help in the areas of mental health, but I don’t think it will stop mass tragedies. We could completely ban firearms, and it’s not going to stop mass tragedies. The reality is (in my opinion) that bad people find ways to do bad things. It is naïve to think that a “gun ban” would take the guns out of the hands of the people who are causing harm anyway.

And even if it did, just for the sake of argument, bad people would still do their thing. It’s incredibly simple, fast and cheap to make a homemade bomb. You don’t need a driver’s license, you simply need YouTube and Home Depot and about five minutes of free time and you could make a device far more devastating than a firearm. I’m not sure what we can do to have a legitimate impact on safety. I guess if I were allocating dollars for programs it would be on teaching tolerance and promoting civic activities that brought people together rather than politicizing everything and tearing us apart.


J.P.: It seems like some guns are demonized more than others—and that gun owners often say, “Dude, you guys have NO idea what you’re talking about here.” So what’s an example of a gun people fail to grasp? And why?

M.W.: Some guns are definitely demonized more than others—like the AR15!! I kind of covered this a little bit before, but it’s worth repeating. The AR is demonized because it is popular to pick on and it has the “look” that it should be more dangerous. There are far more crimes committed with handguns. A high-powered rifle (.300 Win Mag, .338 Lapua, .50 cal, etc) are far more lethal, yet an AR is an easy target because our troops carry it, so the thought goes that the general population should not. I obviously do not agree with that stance.

To me, in my eyes, the AR is simply a firearm no more or less deserving of our care and respect as firearms owners than any other weapon. It is not an assault weapon, capable of full-automatic firing. Those types of weapons are for our military or for those that are willing and can afford the nearly two-year long and extremely expensive process of getting approved for one.

J.P.: In 1994 Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assaults Weapons Ban into law—and many Democrats and Republicans cheered. It expired in 2004 under intense pressure from the NRA, and now no longer exists. What did you think of the ban? Was it useful? Useless? Important? Unimportant?

M.W.: The 1994 Federal Assault had no impact on gun crime. The FBI Crime Reports support that fact unequivocally. Primarily because, even prior to the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban, less than 2 percent of gun crime was committed with said weapon. The reality is that violent crime with a firearm has continually declined in total for the past 25 years—and the crimes that do take place are primarily committed with a handgun. So, no, an assault weapon ban will have zero impact in my opinion. Because like with most gun control laws, it only will impact law abiding citizens. I hate to point out the obvious, but people who commit crimes, with or without guns, are by definition criminals and couldn’t care less about whether there is a “ban” or not.

With wife Robyn

With wife Robyn

J.P.: You have three kids. What is the best way to approach gun safety with children?

M.W.: With my three youngest boys, we have taken the position that they should be comfortable with the idea of firearms. What I mean by that is that we have taken the time to teach them basic firearm safety. I’ve taught them how they work and what they are used for. We have also instilled a healthy respect for their power and capability of devastation. Since they have been exposed to them in a safe, non-threatening manner and had the opportunity to ask questions and go target shooting … they have become a “non-issue” in that they don’t even think about them being at our home because they are completely unaware that they are in the home due to the type of safe we choose to keep in our home.

I should point out that I’m a firm—absolutely firm—believer that firearms in the home have to be in a gun safe. There is never a scenario that a firearm that is in the home shouldn’t be locked away and inaccessible to anyone other than the owner. I was raised that way and we never had anything that came close to an accident or problem and I feel the same way as a parent.

As a matter of fact, in today’s world it is a good idea to inquire about homes where your kids may go to play or hang out. It was something I took for granted until your lovely wife Catherine made the inquiry to us … and it really hit me that we should be asking that question too. Not everyone is as responsible or as careful as us, and we should know what kind of environment our kids are hanging out in. I know my kids won’t pick up a gun that isn’t theirs or play with a gun, but I have no idea what other kids may do …



• Rank in order (favorite to least): Matt Kemp, Chubby Checker, David Beckham, E.T., Flo Rida, Spotify, Montana State, Jude Law, Judy Dench, Kiki Dee, boogers: 1. Flo Rida, 2. Spotify, 3. ET, 4. Chubby Checker, 5. Matt Kemp, 6. David Beckham, 7. Judy Dench, 8. Kiki Dee, 9. Boogers, 10. Montana State.

• Five all-time favorite ice cream flavors: 1. Salted Carmel, 2. Cherry Cheesecake, 3. Cookies and Cream, 4. French Vanilla, 5. Chocolate

• What scares you more: Ebola or climate change? Why?: Hmmmm … Ebola because I don’t know how I would get it and it would freak me out. With climate change, I feel like I’m already “dealing” with that and it’s going as well as can be expected.

• Tell me your best joke: Teacher: Whoever answers my next question, can go home.  One boy throws his bag out the window. Teacher: Who just threw that?  Boy: Me and I’m going home now.

• One question you would ask Garry Templeton were he here right now?: If Garry Templeton were here right now … I’d ask him how he ever blew a gig like managing a baseball team in Maui.

• Would you rather eat a 12-inch log of Jeff Beck’s poop or stick a needle in and out of your eyeball?: I’m going for the needle in the eyeball over Jeff Beck’s 12 inch poop log … in a landslide. Great guitar player, but the poop? No thanks

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Jerry Brown? What’s the outcome?: I crush Moonbeam in a scheduled 12 round bout. It’s over in the first round. His corner throws in the towel.

• Greatest movie line of all time?: Val Kilmer in Tombstone. There are actually two. The first one is when he and the gang are going room to room in the brothel and they tell everyone, “Don’t move!” Then he sees a couple getting busy and he says, ”No, no, by all means … move.” The second one is, of course, his very famous line: ”I’m your huckleberry.”

• In exactly 17 words, explain why Beverly Hills Cop II is a superior film to Gone With the Wind: My wife said this is a ridiculous question because Gone With the Wind is so much better


Maurice Patton



In many ways, Maurice Patton is a common media story.

He’s the guy who devoted much of his life to covering sports for a local newspaper. He cultivated sources, pursued leads, took pride in producing riveting, detailed copy. Then, one day, the newspaper decided his services were no longer needed. And he was shown the door.

In many ways, Maurice Patton is an uncommon media story.

He’s the guy who considers his departure from print a genuine relief. He no longer waits for the other shoe to drop; no longer enters the newspaper headquarters-turned-crypt and fears the inevitable hug from the ink-stained grim reaper.

He has been set free.

He has been born again.

He has been renewed.

Today, Maurice Patton, my friend and former Tennessean colleague, runs his own site, Mo Patton Sports, that covers Middle Tennessee athletics. He also hosts his own podcast, and Tweets prolifically. Here, he talks in detail about watching print die; about covering sports in the deep south as an African-American man and why he prefers the Dooble Brothers to chicken fried chicken.

Mo Patton, you are the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Mo, I’m gonna start with what, for this section, is an unusually self-indulgent question. Back in 1995, when I was a young asshole reporter, you were covering Tennessee football for The Tennessean and I was a baby high school reporter with enough arrogance and dickishness to fill 100 rooms. Anyhow, our sports editor flew me to New Orleans to write a lengthy Peyton Manning profile—and I remember thinking that you must have been really pissed. A. Because it was your beat; B. Because I was insufferable. I never asked out of embarrassment—but here we are. So do you remember this? Did it, rightly, piss you off? And how awful was I (I can take it)?

MAURICE PATTON: Honestly, I don’t remember it. There was a lot going on at that time, though. I took on the Tennessee beat after covering high schools for five years. This was before the Titans and the Predators had arrived in Nashville, so UT was ‘the’ beat in our sports department, even though it was a pain in the ass because Knoxville is three hours away. And I’m sure there were a handful of people who weren’t comfortable with the decision for me to be assigned to the beat, for a number of reasons—and we’ll leave that at that. So, I don’t remember it, but I’m not surprised by it. And while I don’t remember being pissed off at that, there was another situation where a takeout piece on a prominent Nashville Sounds (another beat I covered extensively) pitcher was assigned to another (former) Tennessean writer and I was pissed off about that one. Over 24½ years, though, there’s a lot to be pissed off over.

As for you, you were obnoxious, everybody knew it, and it was just a given.

J.P.: Two years ago you were let go by The Tennessean after more than two decades at the newspaper. I’m wondering how this hit you, how it impacted you. And how did they tell you the news?

M.P.: Seriously, my initial emotion was relief. We had been through so many “layoffs’”over the five years or so prior to mine that if you were being real with yourself, you knew it was just a matter of time. Everybody dies. The timing was amazingly stupid, even for them: You’re getting rid of both your high school sports guys three weeks into the high school football season, and you’re clueless as to how you’re going to replace them. At the same time, I had written three front-page pieces in a three-day period right before I was informed that “we won’t be going forward with you”—their words. So while I wasn’t fool enough to think I was “safe,” it wasn’t a move that would have, or did, make a lot of sense. As I said, once the process of everyone reapplying for their jobs (knowing that some jobs had been eliminated) was completed and they let everyone know that they’d be huddling with an HR person and a newsroom lead person either around 10 am or around 2 pm, the prevailing thought was those with the later meetings were safe and those with the earlier meetings were gone.

Even as sadistic as those people were, it defied logic that folks would have to wait around all day to find out they’d be jobless. So I walk in, sit down, and … the person delivering the news had her script written out on a notepad. It was upside down from where I was seated, but I’ve been reading upside down for as long as I’ve been covering high school basketball. So I knew before she said it. And I breathed easier when I left that meeting than I had for probably three months prior. At least it was over. Irritation, resentment? Yeah. But relief.


J.P.: What went wrong with newspapers? Besides the obvious rise of digital mediums, can you look back and see obvious mess-ups that damned the medium?

M.P.: I can’t speak for all of them, but where I was, the Internet and the downturn of the economy kinda collided, I think. And the resistance to go behind a paywall from the start was, in retrospect, probably a mistake. Because once you give the information away, you can’t go back and try to charge for it later. That’s a paradigm shift your readership isn’t going to easily swallow. It’s a lot harder turning a “yes into a “no” than the other way around.

J.P.: You’re an African-American man who covered sports in the deep South. What comes with that? What I mean is, have there been moments where you’ve had to bite your tongue? “Boy”-esque references? Did you ever feel coaches or parents or players looking down at you? Or looking at you with some genre of contempt?

M.P.: *LOL* I probably bit my tongue more in the office than covering my beats. I never felt uncomfortable doing my job. I felt uncomfortable at times with who I was doing my job for. I know there was at least one sports editor who had a problem with my needing to interact with certain people in this town for a particularly sensitive issue that arose after I came back to the high school beat in 2009, who took over this specific story and later tried to paint it as if I wasn’t covering it aggressively enough, when everybody in the department knew the deal. But coaches, parents, kids connected to my beat—rarely did I have an issue. Maybe three in 20-plus years.

Once, I called an out-of-area coach to do a football playoff preview and he made the offhand comment that “we’ll be fine if we can keep our niggers in line” I made it a point to interview him after the game. Never have I seen a white guy so pale. Funny story: traveling with a coworker to a UT-Alabama game in Birmingham, we stopped at a convenience store south of Huntsville for a drink and some chips. I rang up, asked for a receipt (for expense report purposes), got it and walked out. Guy behind me steps up to ring up, guy working the register disdainfully asks “What’s he gonna need a receipt for?” My coworker says, “Same thing I do.” Thing is, I’ve been an African-American all my life, to steal from Doug Williams, and I’ve been in the South all my life. If you wear that stuff, you start reacting to things that aren’t necessarily there. There has to be an ability to pick your spots, if you will—figure out what’s important and act accordingly.

J.P.: Along those lines—back when I was at Sports Illustrated we were embarrassingly under-represented when it came to minority reporters. Do you feel like media has improved in this area through the years? Or is it still a large issue?

M.P.: Hard to say. From where I am, I don’t know that things are any better now than they were at any point previously in my career. It may be a regional thing; maybe things are better in other places, in other cities. And as an aside, I think it’s an issue that the media is somewhat hypocritical about from the standpoint that, while the media points at a lack of diversity in so many other fields, it pays little or no attention to the lack of diversity in its own field.

J.P.: I know you attended Middle Tennessee State, I know you live outside of Nashville. But how did journalism happen for you? What was the path?

M.P.: Actually, I pretty well fell into journalism. I wrote for my high school newspaper, but I was an accounting major and was a student worker in the sports information department at MTSU. The summer before I was supposed to graduate (more on that in a second), I started working part-time at the local newspaper. Meanwhile, a couple of senior-level accounting courses were kicking my tail for the second time. Didn’t get my accounting degree, didn’t feel like changing majors and spending another three semesters in school, so I found a job at a tri-weekly paper in my hometown and embarked on my journalism career. I did manage, seven years later, to go back and get my degree in university studies—primarily because a couple of jobs that I had applied for required a degree as a prerequisite.

J.P.: What’s the key to covering a team? What I mean is, you spend all season tracking these same players, same coaches. It seems like it could get really dull and repetitive. So how to bring forth lively coverage? Find new storylines?

M.P.: You have to immerse yourself in it. Engage, interact with and talk to whoever you can, because you never know where a story is or who has it. And the worse the team/program, the more important that becomes, because you can only say “this team sucks” so many different ways. And to me, you can’t always be a reporter. People have to know they can talk to you off the record, that every conversation isn’t an interview. People have to be comfortable with you.


J.P.: From afar, it’s hard to grasp how despised Lane Kiffin was after he left Tennessee following a year. You’re in the state and you cover sports. How bad was it? And did he deserve the contempt?

It was pretty bad. But I think the timing was what made it the worst. It was January, about a month before National Signing Day, when he took the Southern Cal job. He’d only been there a year. I think those were the two factors that created the firestorm. Was it deserved? Depends on your perspective, obviously. To me, if he didn’t want to be there, he needed to be gone. And he considered USC his dream job. At the time, it was pretty much a no-brainer: UT was coming off the tail end of the Philip Fulmer era and trying to get things righted, while USC was USC. And is there ever really a good time to change jobs?

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

M.P.: Greatest? Covering the first two of Tennessee’s back-to-back-to-back women’s basketball national championships in 1996-98. Lowest? Any time I’ve ever gotten beat on a story.

J.P.: What’s the absolute craziest thing to happen to you as a reporter? Your money story …

M.P.: Didja hear about the college basketball coach that threatened one of his assistants with a gun? My beat. Tennessee State men. Nolan Richardson III. Christmas 2002. Top that.



• Rank in order (favorite to least): The Doobie Brothers, Mike Organ, Carlos Rogers, Twitter, Swett’s, art museums, McDonald’s urinals, the number 109, iced coffee, Reggie Smith, chicken fried chicken, nasal hair: Twitter, Mike Organ, Swett’s, The Doobie Brothers … Chicken fried chicken, Reggie Smith, Carlos Rogers109, art museums, iced coffee, nasal hair, McDonald’s urinals.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No. But I usually try to sleep when I fly, so I can avoid those thoughts.

• Biggest blunder you ever made as a journalist?: Thought I was recording an interview, didn’t take notes, realized later my recorder malfunctioned. Technology is a beautiful thing – when it works.

• How did you meet your wife?: At a club. Where else?

• Without looking, how many Elton John songs can you name?: Crocodile Rock. Goodbye Norma Jean. Levon. Rocket Man. Saturday Night. Your Song.

• One question you would ask Shia LaBeouf were he here right now?: Could “Lawless” have been any more violent or bloody?

• What pattern is on your bedspread?: It’s a quilted comforter with Biblical verses.

• Would you rather have a third leg or 17 dogs?: A third leg. 17 dogs would drive me nuts.

• The world needs to know: What was it like meeting Craig Moon?: He’s no John Seigenthaler.

• Please write a poem that includes water, Chuck Muncie, Ritz crackers and Frank Sutherland: Poetry is my weak spot.


Jay Fiedler


If you’re a Jew, and you love sports, you can’t get enough of Jewish athletes.

I’m not entirely sure why this is, though it probably has much to do with that fact that, as a people, we sorta suck at things involving throwing and catching. Want your taxes done? We’re killer. Need an agent? We rock. Write a song, solve a puzzle, explain the meaning of life? We Jews have pretty much got it covered.

But sports? Eh … not quite.

That’s why today’s Quaz thrills me. Jay Fiedler—Dartmouth grad and my fellow Jew—spent nearly a decade in the NFL, bouncing around for a few years before landing the starting gig in Miami in 2000 (His task? Oh, nothing big … just replace Dan Marino). Jay wrapped his career with the Jets and Buccaneers, and his 69 career touchdown passes are 69 more career touchdown passes than you and I combined to throw.

Today, Jay is co-director of Sports Academy at Brookwood Camps, a New York-based summer camp program run by the Fiedler family. You can follow Jay on Twitter here.

Jay Fiedler, mazel tov. You’re the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Jay, while researching your career I was shocked—beyond shocked—to see that you’ve now been out of the NFL for more than a decade. This is actually something that happens to me quite often. I’ll look up a retired athlete, assume he’s been retired, oh, four or five years—then wind up surprised that it’s been so long. Or, put different, I feel like I was watching you a handful of seasons ago. What I wonder is, does it feel this way to you, too? Like, do you feel like a guy who hasn’t played in 10 years? Has it gone fast? Slow? Does it feel like another lifetime?

JAY FIEDLER: It’s funny you say that, because I feel the same way at times. Where did the years go? It still feels like it was yesterday when I was playing. The memories of the games and the locker room camaraderie are still so vivid so it doesn’t seem like that long ago, but when I get together with former teammates, I do realize that we are a lot older than we used to be.

J.P.: Kinda random, but since we’re both Jewish and I love Jewish jocks—how observant were/are you? Were you raised religiously? Bar Mitzvah? Did you parents drag you to synagogue? Do you feel like a cultural Jew? Religious Jew? Neither? Both? And how has been Jewish impacted your life?

J.F.: I was raised with a strong Jewish identity, but I won’t say we were very religious. Which is to say I did go to Hebrew school and I had my Bar Mitzvah in a reform temple, but did not go to synagogue after that. I do consider myself more of a cultural Jew with much pride in my identity. The sense of community and family that Judaism stresses has had a great impact on me.

J.P.: You had, by far, an above-average NFL career. You lasted more than a decade, you were a starting quarterback. But I wonder, what was the difference between you and superstar quarterbacks? I mean zero offense. But could you have been Marino/Elway/Steve Young/Brett Favre? Or are there physical or mental (or both) limitations? And what makes the greats great?

J.F.: As a competitor, I’d like to think that given the right opportunity and circumstances, I could be discussed in the company of the greats. The greats are great for a multitude of reasons. Each of the four you mentioned had different physical skill sets, but the commonality is incredible work ethic, instinct, dedication, grit, competitiveness and durability.


J.P.: I’m guessing you saw “Concussion.” I’m also guessing you follow the CTE story. So I have to ask: A. How are you? B. Are you scared? C. How do you feel about football these days? D. Is the sport in any trouble? E. Are you OK with kids playing? I mean, I know you train players. So how can you/we make certain everything works out OK?

J.F.: I don’t need Hollywood drama to tell me what I already know. I have not seen the movie, but I am quite familiar with the story and the issues. (A): I have had a few concussions in my career, but I don’t currently have any after effects or post-concussion symptoms. (B): I wouldn’t say I’m scared, but I am aware of the potential issues I may face in the future. (C): I have always loved the sport of football and still do. Sports are all physical in a way, but football has become the face of the concussion issue because of its nature and its popularity. It’s the same popularity which makes the NFL, NCAA and High school associations great vehicles for educating the public about how to deal with concussions better than ever before. (D): There is a lot of talk about football being in trouble because of the lower participation numbers at the youth level. I don’t think the sport is losing many of the top level athletes though, so I don’t see the pipeline falling off too much. (E): Tackle football is not, and shouldn’t be a sport for everyone. Let flag football be the participation sport for youth, but tackle football should be only for those who are physically able to protect themselves on the field.

J.P.: What’s been your post-retirement path? I mean, you stop playing in 2006—and are you lost? Sad? Thrilled? I know you owned the East Kentucky Miners of the CBA—which is definitely quirky and interesting. And why did you ultimately join the family business and start running the Sports Academy at Brookwood Camps? And what does that entail?

J.F.: When I injured my shoulder in 2005 with the Jets, I thought that I would be able to return to the NFL after surgery. It ended up taking two surgeries and two years to finally realize that a return to play wasn’t going to happen. During that time rehabbing, I had the opportunity to get involved in a small way with a minor league basketball team in Florida. I grew up in a basketball family and always loved the sport, so when the opportunity to stay competitive in athletics after I officially retired from football presented itself by owning a CBA team, I jumped on it. It was certainly an interesting experience seeing professional sports from the other side of the paycheck.

I got involved with some other businesses as a consultant and business developer, but when my father’s health began to fade, it opened up the opportunity to join my brother in running our family’s summer camp business. We transitioned our traditional sleep-away camp into a combination of the best sports camps and traditional camps in one. With our connections in the sports world, we are able to attract world-class instructors at The Sports Academy at Brookwood Camps that no other traditional camp can match.  We give our campers amazing instruction in the activities they love, while also giving them a family atmosphere that allows them to have great summertime fun.


J.P.: You’re famous for being the guy who replaced Dan Marino. At the time you played it very cool–but what sort of pressures did that come with? How did you handle it?

J.F.: I have always had a very even-keel personality with a practical outlook. I knew there was nothing I could do in Miami to match what Dan did with the Dolphins from a statistical standpoint, but I also knew that I could win games playing to my strengths. My focus was on earning the respect of my teammates by working hard and doing whatever it takes to win.

J.P.: Ryan Fitzpatrick is called “smart” 1,000 times per NFL broadcast because he attended Harvard, just as you were called “smart” 1,000 times per NFL broadcast because you attended Dartmouth. But does it matter? Like, is a quarterback from Harvard or Dartmouth at any sort of on-field intellectual advantage than a guy from Delaware or LSU or Washington State? And what did Dartmouth do for you, football-wise?

J.F.: I hated when they labeled me that way, not because I didn’t think I was smart, but because the way people said it implied that I wasn’t that athletic. To answer your question though, book smart and football smart are two very different things. It still takes a good deal of intelligence to be football smart, but you must be able to transfer intelligence from playbook and opponent study into instinct. The best thing Dartmouth did for me, football-wise, was put me in an environment where you knew that you needed to be exceptional at something to stand out and excel.


J.P.: What’s the absolute worst pain you ever felt as a football player? And what’s the story behind it?

J.F.: The worst pain physically was when I tore my left shoulder in 2000, my first season in Miami. I got sacked against Tampa Bay and when the defender threw me down, I landed with my elbow in the ground. The force pushed my humerus bone right up through my rotator cuff. I had to play with a harness on my shoulder and couldn’t hand off with my left arm, but I played through it for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

J.P.: Is it weird being remembered for something you can no longer do? Do you know what I mean? Like, I ran track in college—and nobody gives a shit. My wife was in a sorority at Bucknell—distant past. But if I say “Jay Fiedler” to people, they immediately think of you first and foremost as a quarterback. Is that OK? Does it get old? Do you mind telling stories from your career? Do you just wanna move on?

J.F.: That’s OK with me. It’s nice to be remembered for something, isn’t it? If it gives me the opportunity to meet new and interesting people, then I can always shift the conversation in the direction I want. I don’t mind telling stories from my career, just don’t bring up the Monday Night game against the Jets. That’s when I want to move on.

J.P.: Were I a professional athlete, I probably wouldn’t want to deal with me. What I mean is, I’d find the media annoying/irritating/intrusive. I’d probably wanna scream, “What the hell do you know?” So … what’d you think? How did you deal? What about after an awful loss, when you played like crap, and the questions come? How bad is that?

J.F.: I never minded answering the tough questions after a loss. I just didn’t like when journalists already wrote their stories before asking the questions. I also didn’t like the lack of originality at times. I must have answered the same questions a thousand times my first year in Miami after replacing Marino.



• The world needs to know—what was it like playing with Dedric Ward?: Dedric caught two of my biggest completions in Miami during two-minute drills. One was a long gain to set up the game winning field goal against Denver and the other was a fourth down completion against Oakland on the game winning drive.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Gefilte fish, Olindo Mare, espresso, Dabney Coleman, Chris Childs, cranberry muffins, plastic silverware, Chick Fil A, public toilets, the Jaguars’ hemets: Olindo Mare, espresso, Chris Childs, cranberry muffins, Jaguars helmets, Gefilte fish (gotta have lots of horseradish with it, though), Dabney Coleman, Chick Fil A, plastic silverware, public toilets.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Never. I’m a good flyer.

• The five most physically talented teammates you ever played with: Randy Moss, Herschel Walker, Junior Seau, Ricky Williams, Jason Taylor.

• Five reasons one should attend Dartmouth over Yale, Harvard or Stanford: Amazing down-to-earth people, Sophomore Summer, the most Ivy League football titles, “Animal House”, the EBA’s chicken sandwich.

• Three memories from your Bar Mitzvah: Bad singing on the bimah, tons of food, first cigar.

• Do Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens belong in the Hall of Fame?: Yes

• What’s your secret quirky talent?: Wouldn’t be a secret if I tell you now, would it?

• I’d rather eat my Aunt Mary’s mucus than live for a prolonged time in Jacksonville. What am I missing?: The great golf in the area.

• Three interesting things you can tell me about your mother: She is a breast cancer survivor, she became a Browns fan as a kid when my grandfather took her to a football game against the Giants, she collects frog figures and artwork.

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Jerry Barca

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As a guy who writes biographies, I probably look at books a little bit differently than most.

For example, the first pages I turn to are not located in the front, but the rear. I love indexes, bibliographies, acknowledgments. If a writer clearly didn’t do his/her research, I’m snobbily dismissive. If only, oh, 20 people were interviewed, I cringe and question the depth and dedication. Am I being fair? Maybe not. But I’m a creature of the business.

Hence, when Jerry Barca’s “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” came to my house a month or so ago, I skimmed through the usual pages … and was blown away. Quite simply, the man busted his ass. He didn’t merely trek down tons upon tons of interviews; he looked through tapes, combed through old articles, sought out anyone with even the slightest connection to the 1986 Giants. The resulting product is a wonderful book about a wonderful collection of characters; one I can’t possibly recommend enough.

One can order “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” here, and follow Jerry on Twitter here.

Jerry Barca, you are the 272nd Quaz.

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Jerry, I was reading over promotional material for your book, and the first bullet point concerns Bobby Johnson, a pretty solid receiver who, according to your reporting, was a crack addict during the Super Bowl run. I’m a bigger fan of reporting than football, and I’m fascinated by this stuff. Soup to nuts, how did you report the Johnson material?

JERRY BARCA: Well, I hope you get to the pages of the book. They’re pretty good, even better than the promotional stuff.

Bobby Johnson has a pretty important spot in Giants history. Before David Tyree made that catch in Super Bowl XLII, there was fourth and 17 in ‘86. In a pivotal game that season, the Giants were down 20-19 in the closing moments at Minnesota. If they lose, they wouldn’t have had home field advantage for the playoffs, and who knows how the rest of their games against Denver and at San Francisco and at Washington would have turned out. On this fourth and forever play, Bobby Johnson makes the catch. A 22-yard gain. Raul Allegre kicks the game-winning field goal and the Giants get rolling after this.

As the writer, of course, I want to tell as much as I can about this play, this game and the key figures involved and Bobby Johnson is a huge part of it.

I had heard about Bobby’s drug use through other interviews and research I had done for the book. When we got on the phone to start the interview, I asked him if he had any questions for me. I start every interview that way because I’m going to spend the next hour or more asking intrusive—sometimes ridiculously intrusive—questions about someone and their life, so I’m up for anything they want to ask me as well.

In that opening part of the conversation, I told him I wanted to speak in detail about his drug use and asked him if he was up for that. He said he was. We took it from there, talking about that catch at Minnesota, his life in East St. Louis, Illinois, his catching on with the Giants, details of first time he used crack and through his years of addiction.

J.P.: Lawrence Taylor is the undisputed biggest name and biggest star from the 1986 New York Giants—and he didn’t speak to you. I’m curious: What efforts did you make? Was there a point when you finally realized, “Crap, this is impossible”? And how do you feel his lack of participation impacted the finished product?

J.B.: His character comes through in the book. Lawrence has said a ton already, and now you have his teammates, coaches and the Giants front office offering their perspectives on him during this stretch of time. You get the Giants reaction to finding out he was in New Orleans days before the ’81 draft, to him signing a personal services contract with Donald Trump, him rolling dice the night before the Super Bowl, and sharing a bottle of champagne with Phil Simms’ brother at the hotel after the Super Bowl. There’s a whole lot of him in there. And, at the same time, I would’ve been more than happy to interview him for the book.

I tried. There were weekly communications to someone in Taylor’s camp for more than six months. His agency even took questions. They said he doesn’t really do this stuff, but the fact that they took the questions gave me hope. I’d send emails. “Checking in.” “Hey, just want to stay on your radar.” “Hi there, just wondering if …”

Other people called and sent emails on my behalf. At one point, there was a former teammate who was scheduled to play golf with LT in Florida. There was this window where I was to call and LT would talk to me while playing the round of golf. The window came. I called. It went straight to voicemail. No call back. That was quitting time for me. You know this. You can’t force people to do an interview.

Jerry as a rookie reporter on the beat.

Jerry as a young reporter with the Herald News.

J.P.: You worked as a media relations intern for the Detroit Lions during the 1999 season, when Bobby Ross, Gus Frerotte and Greg Hill led the mighty team to an 8-8 record. Man, that was a shockingly good year for a shockingly talent-deprived squad. What do you recall from the experience?

J.B.: A lot. You have no idea. I’m an intern. I arrive in Detroit after working at the 1999 World University Games in Mallorca, Spain. That was a great experience. Kerri Walsh Jennings was on that women’s volleyball team. This was also Kenyon Martin’s coming out party as a hoops force. Anyway, I get to Detroit. This was going to be the year Barry Sanders became the all-time leading rusher in NFL history. I remember talking to my roommate, the other media relations intern, and we’re looking at the schedule saying things like, “Think he’ll break it on Thanksgiving against the Bears?” Obviously, a reference to Walter Payton, who held the record at the time. “What about on Christmas, against Terrell Davis and the Broncos?” Then, about two weeks in, we’re watching SportsCenter in this dumpy basement apartment and the news hits as our phone rings. It’s one of our bosses. Barry is going to retire. Be at work early. It was crazy.

The Lions started out the season 6-2. They had a great win coming back to beat the Rams—the Greatest Show on Turf—in the Silverdome.

I also had my first car that year. A leased Honda Civic. While running an errand for the team, I was t-boned leaving the Silverdome. The car was smashed. I was fine. One player drove around me, looking at what had just happened. Another player, Stephen Boyd, stopped his car. By now I’m on the side of the road. He drove me back to the offices and wrote me a check the next day for the damage that had been done. Pretty incredible act of generosity that has stayed with me.

Another lasting memory was the salary and life lesson that came with it. As interns, you make about $100 a week and you’re grateful for the job because there are about 400 other people who sent their resumes to get the same position. There was actually an overfilled drawer in a filing cabinet with the resumes of people who wanted this spot.

One day when I was complaining about something, longtime Lions assistant coach Don Clemons told me: “Remember this: You’ll always have enough money for a roof over your head and to have a beer.” And he’s been right. No matter how life has looked at some points, I’ve always had a roof over my head and enough money for a beer if I wanted one.

J.P.: I know precious little of your journalistic career: Two books, Syracuse, contribute to Forbes, So how did this writing thing happen for you? When did you know it was what you wanted to do? What’s the path?

J.B.: I definitely took a different path. I always enjoyed writing. When I was in fourth grade I wrote a fictionalized account of my football team—the West Orange P.A.L. Mustangs. It was 17 pages, front and back, on loose leaf. I forced my mother, sister and brother-in-law to listen to me read the whole thing out loud one night in our kitchen. You can imagine, the look of boredom and exhaustion on their faces as this fourth-grade level story unfolded in my fourth-grade level reading voice.

When I was an intern with the Lions, watching the beat reporters in Detroit—Mike O’Hara, Curt Sylvester, Tom Kowalski and Paula Pasche—it looked like they had so much fun. I applied to Syracuse for a master’s degree because I didn’t have the training to do what they did and I figured Syracuse was the place for it. They also had a graduate assistantship in the athletic department and that was the only way I was going to be able to afford a master’s degree.

When I started, I ended up on the news side. I became a municipal reporter in New Jersey. First as an intern with the Star-Ledger, then I covered Paterson, N.J. for the Herald News. Within a couple months of being there, the Herald News sent me to Turkey to cover these three teenage girls trying to live their dream and make it in the music industry via Turkey. One of the girls thought when they came back to Paterson Angie Martinez would be playing their music on Hot 97 in New York. It didn’t happen.

After a stint in New Jersey politics, I settled into what I do now. A bit winding, I know.

I enjoy it, and I’ve been lucky enough to get involved in some documentary films, too, Plimpton!, which came out in 2012. I produced an upcoming 30 for 30 ESPN Film, and I’m working on two other films at the moment.

Carried away with former Giants linebackers Carl Banks and Gary Reasons.

Carried away with former Giants linebackers Carl Banks and Gary Reasons.

J.P.: Don’t take this the wrong way, but I constantly thinking about book subjects, and the 1986 Giants never jumped out at me as a must-write subject. I mean, they had a superstar in Lawrence Taylor, and a big-name coach, and they won in New York. But it just never jumped off the page as an all-time, all-time fascinating team. Tell me what I was missing.

J.B.: Ha! I had some apprehensions at first, too, but they are definitely an all-time fascinating team. Once I got into the material, it was pretty astounding. There’s the pop-culture connection with the origin of the Gatorade shower, which is now ubiquitous in sports. Phil Simms is the first player to say, “I’m going to Disney World.” There’s the odd connection to the Genovese crime family. You’ve got New York City nightlife in the ‘80s. Bill Parcells in his formative years as a head coach. It’s pre-elite Parcells. It’s a guy fighting for his professional life. That’s fun stuff to detail.

This is also a period when Wellington Mara goes from being hung in effigy outside the stadium to being embraced as a paternalistic figure in the NFL.

Don’t forget about Bill Belichick and his start with this team and the reason he didn’t become the Giants head coach.

These guys are also remembered. Mark Bavaro, Carl Banks, Harry Carson, George Martin, Phil McConkey, Leonard Marshall, and Jim Burt. They are all quite interesting and continue to draw interest from football fans.

As I’m reporting all this, I came to find this is a team that gets passed on to generations. It’s definitely unique. Whether it is Belichick showing film of this team to the Patriots or the plethora of Simms, LT, and Bavaro jerseys you still see at Giants game there is a special staying power. There will never be another first Super Bowl champion for the Giants and these guys are the foundation for who the Giants have been since.

J.P.: What’s your reporting process? Like, you decide to do this book. How do you attack it? I love the nitty gritty.

J.B.: Immerse myself. Immerse myself. Immerse myself. Get as deep into the material as possible. Get the game tapes. Watch the games. Take notes on what happens on the field and the interactions on the sidelines that the cameras pick up, but the announcers don’t talk about. I’ll take video of certain things and text it to interview subjects or show them video during the interview and it usually jogs the memory and elicits some great responses.

Read. Read. Read. Read everything. Pull the thread. I have to put things in the context of their time. This is 1986. I’m reading about the Challenger explosion, the Tylenol scare, Iran-Contra—none of it made the book, but it made me more knowledgeable about the era. And there are nuggets sometimes that did make the book—the deaths of Len Bias and Don Rogers.

Interview prep is also critical. I’m still looking for how to do the best interview, or at least better ones. And I know my better ones come from the best prep. Whenever I’m transcribing, I inevitably start criticizing myself as I listen to the interview. “Shut up, Jerry. Geez.”

On the writing front, I have four kids. So I have headphones that act as earplugs. I throw on some lyric-less SiriusXM Chill and I’m in a different world than the one around me. I write and re-write and re-write and re-write.

J.P.: Let’s say, in the course of reporting this, you found out Phil Simms was having an affair with a flight attendant on the team charter. Do you report and write it? Do you debate it? Do you broach the information with him?

J.B.: I hate hypotheticals. Probably started when a high school girlfriend said, “What if I went to a party and one of your friends …” I’ll be your huckleberry though on this one though.

I don’t think anyone you write about should be surprised about what they read about themselves in print. I’d go to the subject and have the conversation about it and take it from there.

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

J.B.: I’ll start with the lowest. I’m an intern with the Star-Ledger. My journalistic brains have fallen out of my head. I’m a source of heartburn for my editor, and he’s a great editor. It’s one day after work. I’m in the spare bedroom in the garden apartment in Bloomfield, N.J. looking at myself in the mirror, intimidated by the talent I was working with, and asking myself, out loud, “Do you have what it takes to make it in this business?” And, at that point, I didn’t have the answer.

The high point was writing a series of stories, today they’d call it longform, on Elias Steves, an 11-year-old battling cancer. Changed my life. Made me less selfish. I was working for the Home New Tribune in Central New Jersey. In the pre-viral days of the Internet, we’d get letters, handwritten, from San Diego, Seattle, Michigan and other places too far away to know about this story. He was a precocious, faith-filled child. It was an inspiring story about him dealing with his own mortality. There are so many parts of this story that I’ll always remember.

I became close to him. Rubbing his back as he coughed up a mixture of blood and mucus as cancer filled his lungs.

I was at his bedside when he died. I was there when his mother said good-bye to him. Still remember his only semi-conscious words that night were him saying, “Sorry,” to his mom.

It was hard to do newspaper reporting after that. A short time later, I left the newspaper for a stint in New Jersey politics.

Jerry with former Wisconsin star Melvin Gordon.

Jerry with former Wisconsin star Melvin Gordon.

J.P.: I fucking hate Mike Ditka. You got him on the phone from a golf course. What was the interview like?

J.B.: Yikes. You’re a little harsh on Ditka. The interview was short. He was done with me after a few questions. The golf shot he hit in between questions was solid. I could hear that sweet thwack and my seven years of caddying experience told me it was a good one.

J.P.: I noticed the media material accompanying your book was on letterhead from a PR company named, “Athlete & Event.” I’m always fascinated by book promoting–because it’s awful. Did you have to hire your own publicity squad? Did St. Martin’s outsource? And what do you consider the five-star keys to book pimpin’?

J.B.: First, write the best possible book you can. Second, figure out how you’re going to get that book into as many hands as possible. Put together your dream team of people who can help you. Like you mentioned, or alluded to earlier, I’ve done some stuff journalistically, but I’m not Jeff Passan cranking out great copy on a near daily basis on baseball. I don’t have that built-in platform of readership. So I’ve got to work it. It’s like the old publishing saying goes, “If no one reads the great book next to the tree falling in the forest, does that book actually exist?”

As far as Athlete & Event, it’s run by Chip Namias, a longtime NFL PR director who is as connected in the business as anybody.



• Why does the legendary Solomon Miller only receive three mentions in your book?: Hmmm … I think I smell a sequel.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Butch Woolfolk, Iheanyi Uwaezuoke, school picture day, Peter Criss, aspartame, mac and cheese, legalized marijuana, Harry Potter: Iheanyi Uwaezuoke, Butch Woolfolk, school picture day, mac and cheese, Peter Criss, legalized marijuana, aspartame.

• Five greatest sports writers working today: First, I wish there were weekly rankings. I’m sort of a fan boy of journalists. It would be total insider media stuff, but imagine a radio show: “Well, what did you think of his lede though? Really amazing stuff. Metaphor use wasn’t forced either. That’d hard to do, Kip.”

All right, here’s my answer: Greg Bishop, John Branch, Peter King, Greg Tufaro, Mike Vaccaro.

• One question you would ask Geena Davis were she here right now?: What’s the square root of 14,629?

• You spent three years, nine months as the communications director for Edison Township. What was the wildest thing you ever did as the communications director for Edison Township: What happens in Edison, stays in Edison.

• You went to the Newhouse School of Communications. I failed to get in. What did I miss?: Soaking in the constant, daily, formative conversations and actions of future media stars. Really was incredible. Pete Thamel had recently graduated, but he was around. I took a sports reporting class with Jeff Passan and Greg Bishop. The younger guys, at that time, were Eli Saslow, Chico Harlan and Darryl Slater. I was a grad assistant in the athletic department while getting my degree, so I missed out on a lot, too. But it was great to be around that level of talent.

• In exactly 29 words, how was tiny Joe Morris such a great runner?: Super smart, hit the hole and made cuts up field without losing speed, had an underappreciated offensive line that was bolstered by Maurice Carthon, Zeke Mowatt, and Mark Bavaro.

• Could the Giants have been a regular playoff team with Scott Brunner at quarterback?: No.

• What are the world’s three grossest smells?: Ammonia, the lingering smell of burnt scrambled eggs, and vomit.

 • Three facts about the first person you had a crush on: 1. She was a second-grade student teacher; 2. It was second grade so I don’t remember what she looked like; 3. I picked flowers off people’s lawn on my walk to school and would leave them for her in her classroom.

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Jesse Martinez

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Every so often, a Quaz arrives back at headquarters and is greeted with a yawn. You know how it goes: I’m super-psyched to read it, then I open the file and … pfft. Boring, uninspired, flat. Admittedly, this doesn’t happen all that often. But, truth be told, it does happen.

Well, not today.

Before this Quaz, I knew precious little about skateboarding, and even less about Jesse Martinez, a hard-nosed 51-year-old boarder and a man whose successful fight to bring a skate park to Venice Beach resulted in the riveting new documentary, “Made In Venice.” To be blunt, Jesse isn’t a guy to fuck with. He’s edgy, hard, determined, steely. He fears neither death nor violence and (as you’ll learn in this interview) he responded to a horrific beating with … well, trust me. His answer will blow you away. Jesse emerged in the 1980s as one of the best street skaters in Los Angeles, and was a founding member of Steve Rocco’s original SMA World Industries team. In other words, he’s legend.

One can learn about “Made In Venice” here, and pick up some more Jesse details here.

Jesse Martinez, you are Quaz No. 271 …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Jesse, I’m gonna start with a weird one, just because you seem like you’d have a good answer: Back in the 1980s, when I was a kid, e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e who had a skateboard seemed to worship Gator. I mean, he was the man. Beyond the man. Then all sorts of shit happened, he wound up in jail, etc. And I wonder—does he have any legacy to speak of? Do kids know he existed? Should they?

JESSE MARTINEZ: That’s a touchy one with me because I was such good friends with the guy. Gator should not be forgotten. What he did for skateboarding was totally separate from the one big horrible mistake, but it’s hard for me to stand up for him. From knowing the guy personally and doing demos with him, he’s an extremely good guy with a great heart. What happened that night with him and that girl, I’ll never know.

Long story short, he should not be forgotten, and also what he did should not be forgotten. What he did is unforgivable. If that was my daughter, it would be a totally different scenario right now. I would be like, “The guy better be on death row.” There would be no ifs, ands or buts about that. I know the guy so well and I was actually with him, that girl and his girlfriend in Arizona a few weeks before that happened. It was weird when I found out what happened when I got back into town. I was shocked. Knowing Gator, I knew it had to be a horribly drunk, drug-related mistake. Deep down inside, Gator is not that guy, but we all make mistakes. You can ask other skateboarders who have made horrible mistakes and are still in the limelight. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be, but it’s like in any sport, your heroes fall sometimes. That’s why I tell people. “If you’re going to idolize somebody for what they do in a sport, don’t be disappointed when you find out that, in real life, they are not who you thought they were.”

For good and bad, Gator should not be forgotten for what he did for skateboarding and for what he did that ruined his life and ruined a whole family’s life. That’s all I have to say about that one.

J.P.: What is the absolute worst injury you’ve ever suffered via skateboarding? What happened? How did it feel? What was the aftermath? And did it have any impact on you?

J.M.: Okay, we were shooting the Thrashin’ movie, in the mid 1980s and I was bombing the hill. There were a bunch of us. One of the guys, his name was K.O., he’s from the Jaks. He’s a really good friend of mine and he’s still skateboarding to this day. He came shooting by me and I knew things didn’t look good, and I caught up to him, and he got the wobbles really bad and flew off his board and we ended up colliding into each other. I ripped all the muscles in my thigh of my leg right below the hip and I was bleeding internally. I had to go to the hospital for a couple of weeks … blah, blah, blah … I wound up not skating for a good six months that I was injured, but there were really no repercussions from that injury.

As a skateboarder going on 44 years of skating, I’ve been incredibly lucky. I don’t know what it is, but I have taken some of the worst slams—like all big-time skaters. If you want to be one of the best, you have to throw caution into the wind. That’s just the way it’s been for most of my life. Maybe it was built in me to where I don’t know the words, “Take it easy.” I just do what I can do the best that I can do. That injury really didn’t affect me at all.

What has affected me now is time. Like Jay Adams said, “Skateboarding didn’t get old. I did.” As I’m inching toward 50 years of skating non-stop, which is my goal, all of the small injuries that I’ve had—knee injuries, ripped ligaments, and just being beaten, nothing ever broke—are now catching up to me. There isn’t a step that I take that doesn’t have pain. I’m literally crawling out of the car when I go to skate a hill. With all of the pain in my knees, ankles, elbows and my back, I’m amazed that I can skate like I do. It’s weird, though, because I’m in more pain when I’m not skating. When I’m skating, I feel nothing and I don’t recognize any of the injuries that I know I have. It’s like I’ve told people, “The less I skate, the quicker I die. The more I skate, the more I live.” It just seems like I gotta keep skating. That’s the bottom line.

Jesse with some of Venice's skate kids (photo by Dan Levy)

Jesse with some of Venice’s skate kids (photo by Dan Levy)

J.P.: You’re the focus of a new documentary, “Made in Venice” that details the decades-long fight to have a skate park built on your home turf. Looking back, how much of the struggle was based upon a certain perception of skateboarders as slackers, druggies, vagrants? In other words, do you think a good number of people accustomed to suits and ties just didn’t want you guys around?

J.M.: That sort of goes both ways. It was 50 percent the city’s fault that it took so long to get the park and it was 50 percent our fault. To get the park, you have to remember, this was Venice in the 1980s. It was coming off the era of the ’70s, which was just out of control. We were all influenced by what came before us. In the ‘80s, you had 30 of the top professional skaters in the world living in one of the roughest beach communities in the United States. I’m not exaggerating. In the ‘80s, Venice was no place to be acting like a fool. If you did, most likely you got your ass handed to you very swiftly, so the perception of the skaters from the city back then wasn’t the best. The Venice skateboarders were inter-tangled with the local gangs. They were our friends and family members or we went to school with them since birth. The city looked at us in the same way as any other group that they didn’t approve of in Venice, because it was a rough time. There were a lot of fights and a lot of shit went down, but a lot of skating went on.

Some of the best pros in the world came out of Venice in the ‘80s, but the city looked at us as kids who were out of control with no direction. Honestly, if I was a city guy, I might have thought the same thing because we were a little out of control. When we first started approaching the city for the skate park, I got that feeling that they looked down on us and I still get that feeling today. They look down on us and on me, especially. I know this for a fact. The City of Los Angeles is just wishing that I would disappear because I have been a thorn in their ass for over three decades now. I saw how they looked at us when it came down to getting the skate park. They thought, “Oh, okay, you guys are organized now.” One thing the city didn’t realize is that just because we’re skateboarders and we look a little bit edgy doesn’t mean we don’t have smart friends all over the world. In the ’70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, there were a lot of crazed skateboarders, and now those skateboarders aren’t kids anymore. Those kids are adults now and you’d be surprised to find out what a lot of those skateboarders have become. They have become police officers or city people, and some of the most respected people in society. The city found out real quick that we weren’t just the scraggly hoodlum skateboarders on the beach any longer. Like I said, skateboarders have a large network of friends and skateboarders have a special bond. No matter if decades have passed, skaters still look out for each other. That’s what happened with the Venice Skate park. Throughout time, people reached out to us and said, “Hey, I used to skate with you guys in the ‘80s and I want to help.” Through the network of skateboarders, we were able to get this skate park approved.

We always reached out to people when things got tough. When I say tough, I mean when the city handed us paperwork that we didn’t understand. When they handed us paperwork, it was 100 pages thick with requirements that we had to fill out. That’s where Scott Brown, Stephanie, Melanie, Juice Magazine and all these people stepped up who are really knowledgeable about this and, if they didn’t know it, they could find it out. Between the skateboarders who grew up in Venice and all the people back in the ‘80s and ‘90s who came in, they really became our support system. What we didn’t know how to do, they did. Juice Magazine wrote all the paperwork for us. Scott Brown and his girl did so much legal stuff for us, too. I saw some of what Scott Brown’s girl had to do one time and I was like, “Oh my god, I’m glad I skate.” I couldn’t understand how that much paperwork had to be filled out just to propose a skate park. I think just the sheer amount of support, from everywhere, made the city go, “You know what? We have to approve this.” With support from the skate community and the people in Venice, it just became overwhelming for the city. It seems like they really never wanted a skate park there, so we had to tell the city guys, “None of you really live in Venice. None of you were born and raised in Venice, so how do you know what Venice needs and wants? You don’t live here. You come to the beach every six months to shoot a photo under a tree.”

That’s what I brought up to the city in a meeting a couple of weeks ago, when they asked me how can I keep going for seven years of cleaning the park every day for free. I said, “I was born and raised in Venice and I love where I live.” That’s one of the problems. You have a lot of the city employees that are not from Venice and they didn’t grow up in Venice and there’s no attachment to Venice. To clean the park so thoroughly and love it so much, it would be smart to hire people who live in Venice. There are a lot of local people who would love to have city jobs. I really do think the city truly underestimated the skaters of Venice and how we could actually get together and resource people who could do things we couldn’t do. It took almost three decades, but we got it. Now I look at that park and go, “Wow. We did it. Everybody pulled together and everybody who loves Venice got this skate park.” I think it’s pretty amazing what we did out there. The city just has to realize that they have to play ball with the skateboarders in Venice because we are not going anywhere.

Photo by Dan Levy.

Photo by Dan Levy.

J.P.: Weird question—but I’m 44, I’ve never boarded in my life and I’m increasingly aware of my own mortality, as well as my bones’ propensity to break. Would it be impossible for me to learn to skateboard? Like, is this something that must begin at youth?

J.M.: It’s advisable to start when you’re young. At 44-years old, I suggest you wear full pads and just enjoy skateboarding as much as you can without really injuring yourself. There’s one thing about skateboarders, 40 and up, who have been skating since 8- or 9-years old, their bodies have built up a tolerance for pain. You’ve gone through years of small fractures or decades of hitting the ground and it’s strengthened your body. I wouldn’t doubt that a lot of skateboarders out there have hairline fractures but don’t realize it. You just build your bones and strength. By the time you get to my age of 51, your bones are as hard as a rock and you can take a beating and, let me tell you, I take beatings almost monthly that would normally kill a 51-year-old man. That’s the thing. I see other guys my age who don’t skate who are 51 and they look 60. I think to myself, “Am I really 51? Why do I feel like I am 22?” That’s the other thing about skateboarding. It keeps you mentally young. To start at 44, with no background of skateboarding experience, my advice is to wear full gear and take it really slow and find a professional skateboarder like Eric Britton or Bennett Harada, to give you lessons. That’s the best advice I can say. Take it slow, wear full gear and wear a helmet, and good luck.

J.P.: How did this happen for you? You’re a kid in the world; Southern California. How did you find skateboarding? When did you first realize you were good at it? Great at it?

J.M.: Well, the first time I ever came in contact with a skateboard was in 1971. One of my cousins found a car and took it to my grandma’s house and, in the back seat, there was a skateboard and they gave it to me. That’s how it all started.

When did I realize that I was good on a personal level? I’ve never considered myself top-notch. I’ve always considered myself an all-around great skateboarder. I can skate everything. I’ve never sat back and asked myself, “When did I become good?” There was really never a time. I knew one time I was on a run, whooping ass and winning amateur contests left and right, but there was never a moment when I was like, “Now I’m ripping and I’m the baddest guy in the land.” I was always too busy skating to ever really stop and think about it until just now when you asked me. There was never a day where I thought, “Now I’m really good.” I’m still learning. I took up downhill skateboarding a little over three years ago, at age 48, and I’m learning all over again. Even though I was a professional street skater and so-called master vert skater, I got into this new realm of skateboarding called downhilling and it’s almost like I’ve started over skating again. I admit that I have an advantage with decades of background in skating.

To answer your question, there was never a time when I looked back and thought, “Now I’m ripping.” I never really thought about that. I’m a humble dude and I know that some dudes are better than me. There’s no way around it. I’ve skated with the best, most gifted skateboarders that have walked the earth. I was standing next to Mark Gonzales at contests, or Christian Hosoi, and these other gigantic names like Eric Dressen. I know for a fact that these dudes, all around, are better than me, but if they’re going to beat me, they’re going to have to work to beat me and prove they are the best. There is no way I’m going to let them walk over me without making them work for it. That’s how I’ve always felt. I’ve always accepted that there are guys who are just naturally better than me. There’s always somebody better. You can accept it gracefully and be who you are and wait for your moment where four guys fall and suddenly you are first or second, which has happened, but I’ve never had this big head where I thought that I was the best in the world. I’ve always accepted my role in skateboarding. I knew that the odds were 99-percent sure I wouldn’t win an event, but I’ll be damned if I was going to make it easy for anyone else to win.

J.P.: Shortly before the first anniversary of the skate park’s opening, you were jumped and severely beaten while working at the park. You wound up with swelling of the brain. What do you remember from that night? And does it at all cause you to lose some faith in humanity?

J.M.: Well, no, it doesn’t make me lose faith in humanity at all. That happened about a year after the park opened. This is LA. It’s a rough town. If you’re going to walk up to 15 or 20 guys by yourself, you best know what you’re doing. I kind of overstepped my bounds that night. I should have used my years of experience to know that I might have been getting myself into some serious shit.

When everything went down in the park and I wound up getting jumped, and had to go to the hospital, I had no hard feelings. After a couple of days, I was fine. I was beat up, but I’m a skater. It takes more than that to put me down. I got up after a couple of days and I was a little beat up, but no big deal. I had no animosity toward the guys who jumped on me. I knew they were all young—18, 19, 20. I know how it is at that age. You’re not making the best decisions. They did arrest some of the guys that did that, but I told the judge and the prosecutors, “These are just kids who made one mistake. You’re telling me that your’e going to charge them with multiple felonies?” They shot me with tasers and sprayed me with Mace and jumped on me, but everybody gets one in their lifetime and that was my one and I accepted that. I told the prosecutors that I refused to press charges and I refused to identify any of them. They were shocked.

The family came up to me about a week later at the Venice Skate Park. One of the fathers walked up to me and wanted to thank me because they were offering his kid a five-year prison deal for that. I’ve seen what five years in prison can do to a person. Five years is enough time to change a man. At that point, that kid wasn’t a man, but he would come out of prison a man, and after five years inside, he would not be the man that society would help, unfortunately. I told the prosecutors that I was not going to cooperate. That’s when the father came up and thanked me. I said, “Hey, no problem, man. Your son made a mistake. Big deal. I’m alive. I can take an ass whooping. I ain’t no pussy.” I basically let them all off the hook. I saw one or two of them and shook their hands and they said sorry to me and I said it was no big deal. If everybody else would handle stuff like that, the world would be a better place. Just because you make a mistake, it doesn’t mean that I need to ruin your life.

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

J.M.: The lowest moments were both my parents dying, and my brother. Those were some of the lowest moments in my life, like anybody. That’s standard issue. Everybody’s parents die and sometimes your brothers die before you. Those were the lowest points in my life.

Greatest points in my life? That’s hard to say because every day is the greatest day. I always try to remind myself of how lucky I am. Even though I’m not rich and I don’t own a fancy car, I’m rich in friends. I came up from a rough upbringing, so maybe I look at life a little different than other people. A little for me, is good. I don’t need a whole lot to think that I’m rich. As long as I’m alive and I can skate, every day is a great day.

J.P.: You’ve listed “Bones Brigade ‘86” as the greatest road trip of your life. I love road trip stories. Why was this the greatest? What happened?

J.M.: Well, first of all, it was the Bones Brigade tour. Second of all, I’m with the most legendary skaters on the face of the earth. Suddenly, I’m in the tour van with them. My career went from driving in a pickup truck and barely having enough gas to make it to a contest to have a great time with Natas, to being in a tour van with the most legendary skateboarders in the world. That’s what made it so incredible. There were a lot of great moments, all the people we met and all the great demos and all the wild stories on the road. It was just the fact that I was riding for Powell and I was in a tour van on the Bones Brigade tour with every skateboarder who every skater in the world would kill just to sit and talk with. All of a sudden, I’m a teammate and I’m in the van with them.

When I get out of the van, they would always announce, “Here is the Powell team.” In the ‘80s, there was no other team. Powell Peralta was it. There was nothing better than Powell in the ‘80s. They had it all: freestyle, street skating, vert skating. Everybody was a winner on Powell. They were all champions; the world’s best. Suddenly, for me to be on that team, in that van, with those guys, that’s what made it the greatest tour ever.

J.P.: How has age impacted your skill-set? Are there things you could do at 25 that you can’t do at 50? Do you think you’ll still be skateboarding at 60? At 70? Is longevity a motivator? A source of pride?

J.M.: Okay, there’s a big difference between 25 and 50. A 25-year-old and a 50-year-old are not going to be doing a handrail session together. As you get older, your injuries catch up with you and that limits what you can do with skating, and that varies from skater to skater. There are skaters who have great insurance and financial backing and they can get the best operations possible. On the other hand, you have guys like me. I get hurt, I heal, and then I keep on skating. As you get older, it really depends on how your lifestyle was. Were you a big drug user or a big drinker or a healthy eater? I’m an exception to all that. I’m extremely lucky. I love Hostess cupcakes. I don’t like health food. I do nothing to advance my health, but somehow I keep going.

Then you have other guys that eat all the right foods and do all the right training and have great insurance and get all the best medical, but they’re just as jacked up as me. There are a lot of variables. On the other hand, I’m out here beating 20-year-old kids down legitimate mountain runs. It’s kind of hard to say if you’re better at age 25 or 50. It all depends on the skater, your physical health, your mental health and straight drive. Number one is your drive to keep skating, that fierce determination to continue on ripping. The guys who go on for decades and never quit are the ones who truly love it. They love skating day in and day out. They can’t live without it. I have such a drive for skateboarding. It’s all I know. It’s all I do. I know many guys just like me, like Steve Caballero, Steve Alba, Micke Alba, Ben Schroeder and Lance Mountain … I could go on and on. There are guys who are fighting their injuries and just keep skating. Ben Schroeder and Allen Losi and dudes like who have gone beyond suffering for skateboarding and they continue to skate.

I know Allen Losi can’t skate right now, but I know the moment he can, he’s going to jump on a skateboard. Those are the guys who continue to rip their whole life. It’s a tough question, but I would say that it depends on the person and the drive in you and how much you can throw fear into the wind. Fear is always a part of you with skateboarding. It will never leave you, no matter how big you get. The fear of slamming gnarly will always keep you on point. It all depends on the 25-year-old and the 50-year-old. It’s all about that person and what kind of person they are. That’s the difference. Are you a maniac with no caution or someone who just takes it easy? If you see a guy who just always wants to take it easy, that’s the guy who’s probably not going to last through four decades of skating. They won’t want to keep doing it. You have to have that drive to keep going no matter how old you are.

J.P.: You received a letter from Jay Adams when he was in jail—and you never opened it. Why?

J.M.: You know what? It’s because I’ve never opened a letter from jail. I’ve always had this rule of, “I’ll see you when you get out.” That’s sort of the way I was with Jay. I never opened his letter. I just thought, “When you get out, I’ll see you and we’ll carry on our adventure here.” I know it’s kind of weird and maybe even a little rude not to open that letter, but I don’t know. I really can’t give you an honest answer why I never opened it. I have opened some of them, but I opened them after he got out of jail, and then I read them. Maybe it’s because I know what can happen in prison, that I’ve always had this fear of opening any letter from prison. Maybe that’s it.

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• Five greatest skateboarders of your lifetime?: Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Rodney Mullen, Steve Caballero, Shogo Kubo.

• Rank in order (favorite to least):  Neil Blender, London, “Silence of the Lambs,” The Osmonds, My Uncle Marty, Lance Armstrong, Brett Favre, Belinda Carlisle, Tampa, Oreo cookies: Neil Blender, Lance Armstrong, Oreo cookies, London, Uncle Marty, Tampa, The Osmonds, Belinda Carlisle, “Silence of the Lambs,” Brett Favre.

• Three memories from first-ever date: 1. Her brother said, “Who the f— is that?”; 2. Her dad came out and said, “Who the f— is that?”; 3. They both tried to jump on me and I beat them both up.

• Why did your parents name you Jesse?: I have no idea. None.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Flying into San Francisco with Tommy Guerrero, we got hit by a gust of wind. I was sitting in the window seat and the wing literally missed the ground by just a couple of feet. That was close. Guerrero didn’t see it, just me.

• What do your shoes smell like?: My shoes smell great because I only wear my socks for a week or two and then I throw them away and buy new ones.

• The next president will be …: You want to know who the next president will be? It’s not going to be because of a vote. It’s going to be because this is the way it’s just going to be. It’s going to be Hillary Clinton. I don’t trust her for nothing, and I believe that Trump would do more than any other president in the last 40 years because he does not care, but it’s like rolling the dice with Trump. It would either be incredibly good or it would be shit. He’s either a go-getter or he’s going to totally fuck everything up. With political power or who knows who, Hillary is going to win because of that. She is in the game and she knows everybody and she’s got the backing. I don’t care how much money Trump has or how many votes he gets, he is not going to win. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s just the way it is.

• I have a wrist wart that refuses to go away. Any advice?: Go to the doctor and get it frozen off.

• Best advice you’ve ever received?: It was from my father. “It’s better to have more friends than enemies.” He was right because I’m rich in friends, which is better than having enemies.

• Who’s the world’s greatest insanely tall skateboarder?: Everybody knows that. It’s Ben Schroeder. There’s no one bigger. He’s taller than Neil Blender. If you want to talk about the gnarliest big guy, it would be Neil Blender. Neil Blender could kick some ass if he ever wanted to. Neil Blender is one of the greatest forgotten skaters in the history of skateboarding. If you ask the younger generation of skaters about Neil Blender, they will say, “Who?” Neil Blender is one of the most unique professional skateboarders ever to be born. That guy is a cut above the rest, even more unique than Hosoi or Gonzales. I’ve seen that dude skate. Even with a hand plant, to this day, I’ve never seen another human being attempt it the way he does. He’s doing one foot inverts, noseblunt in, and he would stop it on the coping and rip it like a soldier. I would just sit there amazed at how such a big man could be so graceful. That’s how it was.