Jeff Pearlman

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Category Archives: QUAZ


Emily Schaeffer


Last October, I was scanning through Facebook when I stumbled upon an angry rant from Jessica Kupferman, my former University of Delaware classmate. It seems that her 17-year-old daughter, Emily, had been sent home from Brandywine (Del.) High for violating the school’s dress code. This is what she was wearing …

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Yup. It’s a cruddy jacket and black leggings. As sexy and risque as a stick of Trident. While I enjoyed Jessica’s angry ode to stupid academic rules, what truly got me was the aftermath. Namely, instead of meekly adhering to poorly constructed regulations and fading into the abyss, Emily battled back. She spoke up, spoke out and drew the interest of local media. And while I don’t know if anything changed, I found myself overflowing with respect for the young woman.

Which brings us to the 190th Quaz.

Emily Schaeffer is a high school senior unafraid to put herself out there. I asked her mom if her daughter would consider being Quazed, and the response was a quick, “Absolutely!” Will she discuss what it’s like to be a high schooler in great detail? “Absolutely!”

This was no lie.

If you’re a parent, wondering what your teen is thinking, meet Emily. If you’re a teen, wondering why you feel so alone, meet Emily. She’s cool, she’s smart, she’s vulnerable, she’s aware.

She’s an absolutely fantastic Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK Emily, so this all starts with a Facebook post from your mom, who was outraged by reaction from a school administrator to the (jarringly unrevealing) outfit you wore to Brandywine High School recently. Your mother said a school official saw you and said, “I’ve had enough of this with you. No more leggings for you ever.” So … what happened? In detail …

EMILY SCHAEFFER: OK, just as a little back story, the code of conduct says that you’re not allowed to wear “form fitting pants” without a shirt that covers four inches above the knee. I wore leggings only one other time this school year and I was asked to change, and I was compliant.

So I came to school an hour late wearing my aunt’s plus-size jacket. I went into the office and my administrator saw me and pulled me aside. He told me something along the lines of, “It’s something every day with you. You’re not allowed to wear leggings. And since you’ve already missed so much school, I want you to go home and change.”

For a moment I tried to tell him, “But Mr. Regan, I know this is covering up to four inches …” He replied by repeating what he said before. I drove all the way back home to change and came back to school, missing another hour of class time.

J.P.: It sounds like this is something of an ongoing issue at your school: the way female students dress, and the reaction of administrators—most of whom (I’m guessing) are male. Am I wrong? Right?

E.S.: There are three male and two female administrators at Brandywine. And, honestly, the only ongoing issue is the inconsistency of the rules. Some days no one will say anything to students about dress code. Others, you’ll either have to wait in the “time-out” room for a parent to bring you a change of clothes, or you’ll get sent home to change. I’ve heard they like to “make examples” out of some girls.


J.P.: I can’t imagine being a high schooler in 2015. It just seems sorta sucky, especially with all the technology, everyone on Instagram, talking shit, showing pictures of the party you weren’t invited to. Tell me—what role does social media have on the life of the current high schooler? And is it more for the better of the worse?

E.S.: Instagram and Twitter have a huge role in the lives of average high schoolers. Personally, I don’t have Twitter—I think it’s the worst of them all. Social media has led everyone my age to believe that every thought they have throughout the day is important and worth sharing with the public. Social media has been in my life since the sixth grade, and because it’s been in my life my entire teenage years, I have literal documentation of everything I’ve ever done or thought from age 12 until now. It’s horrifying. No one should be reminded of how awful they were when they were 14 and 15. Before you turn 16, you are a completely different kind of person than you will be for the rest of your life. And the horribly embarrassing things you say and do on the Internet as a pre-teen potentially have the power to hurt you later in life. That being said, social media has given a voice to an entirely different kind of bully. I’ve been on both ends of cyber bullying. I know how it feels to completely trash someone online, knowing only I have the power to delete it. People can “like” what I say. I also know how it feels to read the post that someone wrote about you, feeling your stomach turn in knots and your heart drop. It’s total power, and total humiliation.

Between arguing with people online, the “shit talking” like you said, and the naked pictures and personal relationship things like that—I think i speak for a lot of people when I say social media has made life as a teenager extremely difficult.

J.P.: I never thought about body image in high school. Never thought about the value of how I looked; whether I was too fat or too skinny. None of that. But it seems like girls are under such insane pressure to look a certain way. Do you feel it? And, if so, how does that manifest itself?

E.S.: All over television you see women who are skinny and covered with makeup. You see women with big boobs and little waists. You hear men on the radio talking about big butts and long hair. I know as a young girl I felt so awkward because I didn’t have what these women had. I felt like total shit about myself for a really long time because all these women were special. They were being talked about in songs and they were on my television. I didn’t feel as special as them because of this. And it’s not just your weight or your makeup, it’s also how your peers will look at you. Boring or slutty. Like a good girl or a whore. I don’t really know how to explain how it manifests itself. It’s messy. It’s a constant battle with a bitter voice in your head. “I want to eat this—no, you need to stay thin.” Or “I want to wear this dress —no, you’ll look like a whore.”  Or “I want to wear this shirt—no, youll look like an idiot. Show some more skin.”

I’ve spent the majority of my teenage years trying to find the right balance of makeup, the right balance of skin to show, the right kinds of clothes and the right styles of hair. It’s hard enough trying to find yourself as it is. The pressure to be perfect makes it worse. Every girl who reads this will relate to looking in the mirror and picking herself apart. Every girl will relate to seeing a really beautiful woman and getting knots of jealousy and sadness because they don’t look like she does.


With Nate, her brother.

J.P.: Blunt question. My daughter is entering puberty, and it scares the hell out of me. You’re 18. A high school senior. You’ve been through it. How should I, as a dad, handle this stage? Is there a Do list and a DON’T DO list?

E.S.: Always always always talk to your daughter. Remind her that she’ll make a lot of mistakes, but you’ll always be there to listen to her and to help her. Tell her that you’ll always be there to protect her from the mean girls at school and the boys (or girls) who break her heart. Make sure she knows she’ll always have you to support and love her. Tell her she’s beautiful and loved. That she can be anyone she wants to be and do anything she wants to do.

J.P.: Do you feel like you understand boys? How they think? Why they act the way they do? Do you find them mostly infuriating, endearing or frustrating?

E.S.: I don’t really want to generalize the actions and feelings of an entire gender. Every boy is different. But everyone is a product of their surroundings, so I think there are a lot of different types of boys who act generally similar. And it all depends. I think some boys are great. Other boys could get hit by a bus for all I care.

J.P.: There’s a perception out there that your generation is pretty dumb and disinterested. Fair? Unfair? Do you think most of your classmates know about ISIS? Ebola? The California drought? Or is it all about college and Saturday night parties?

E.S.: I think that perception is totally unfair. I think my generation, for the most part, is a lot more insightful and intelligent than people think. Yes, my classmates know about ISIS and Ebola. Aside from what i think about social media, it’s also very resourceful. People my age talk about “world issues” online a lot. I don’t think my generation is filled with a bunch of idiots, but I do think my generation is somewhat desensitized about the world.

Emily with her mother, Jessica.

Emily with her mother, Jessica.

J.P.: Back when I was your age, I’m pretty sure I thought of people in their 40s as ancient. I’m 42. Am I ancient to you? And, more to the point, do you ever think about aging? About death? Or is it mostly the here and now?

E.S.: No! you’re definitely not ancient. I can’t wait to be older. Being a teenager sucks so bad. I feel like I’m a lot smarter than everyone treats me. I do think about aging. Having a job, being done with school and having real responsibilities sounds like a dream, honestly. And, yes, I do think about death. It’s a little disappointing to think that this is it. You do whatever you’re allowed to do, whatever you can do to survive your whole life, just to die and that be it. I wonder, Does your brain just turn off? What happens? Where do you go? i don’t believe in a magical man in the sky. I don’t believe there’s some magical place you go after you die to hang out with everyone on the history of the earth who’s ever died. I think science has proven religion to be a bunch of crap. But thank you for giving me a minor existential crisis.

J.P.: I know shitloads of people who look back at high school as the best time of their life. Do you think that’s genuinely true, or merely a glossy flashback? Because I sorta remember high school being really hard and awkward and pressure-stuffed.

E.S.: I think that’s a really general question. I think it’s different for everyone. I’m sure some people really did love high school. I’m sure it scared the living hell out of others. Personally, I think some adults just say that because they didn’t have any real responsibilities back then. I’m sure that everyone’s disappointed being an adult and not a kid anymore. I assume nothing is fun or carefree anymore for most people.

J.P.: What do you hope to do with your life? And do you have hope in humanity?

E.S.: I hope to change something in the world. Whether it be with my voice or something I physically do. I don’t want to live my whole life being a waste of space. You can do anything you want to do, I feel nothing holding me back in my life. So knowing that, I want to do something that made my life worth remembering. Or just simply living. And yes, I do have hope for humanity. I don’t think everyone in the world is evil, i think the evil people are just more exciting to talk about.



• Rank in order (favorite to least): Taylor Swift, Radiohead, Chief Justice John Roberts, Wilmington Blue Rocks, “A Walk to Remember,” Lenny Kravitz, blocks of cheese, math class, Sparky Lyle: Chief Justice John Roberts, Sparky Lyle, Taylor Swift (as a person, NOT as an artist), blocks of cheese, Wilmington Blue Rocks, Radiohead, math class, Lenny Kravitz, “A Walk to Remember.”

• Be honest with me—have you ever heard of Hall and Oates? And do you know any of their songs?: Yes, i have. Maneater was written about me actually.

• Five reasons one should live in Delaware: 1. Please don’t. 2. It’s close to Philadelphia. 3. It’s close to the beach. 4. It’s a small state so it won’t take long to escape. 5. Wawa.

• Five all-time favorite musicians: City and Colour, Queen, Neck Deep, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Def Leppard.

• Tell me one thing about your mom that could embarrass her: My mom is a terrible cook and makes a decent dinner like, once a year on Thanksgiving. It’s usually good but she still burned half the skin off her arm one year from turkey juice. Another time she burned the outside of the bird and the inside was still frozen.

• Do you support the legalization of marijuana. Why or why not?: Yes and no, mostly no. I think it’s mind-altering and I don’t really want to live in a world where people can walk around high all day. There’s a weird obsession people have with smoking weed that I’ll never understand, but I feel like that’s only because it’s not allowed so it’s “cool and exciting.” But at the same time, I think it should because that fascination wouldn’t be so strong. Also because iId be a total hypocrite not to think it should be legalized. I think alcohol should be legal and it’s just as bad for you.

• Tell me a joke: I can only think of “yo mama” jokes and they’re all offensive, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Lol

• I want my kids to stop growing so fast. Any ideas how to make it all slow down?: Spend time with your kids, just them. If you take away their phones and friends and Internet and actually hang out with them and talk to them, you’ll see they’re still really young. Also try to be a part of the things they do with their friends or by themselves.

• Why do so many people enjoy the music of One Direction?: Because it’s simple. Easy lyrics to remember on top of a simple repetitive beat. Everything is repetitive. and the lyrics are general enough that every girl in the world can think, “Wow these cute boys are talking about a girl just like me!” Because children are lost.

• What’s the nicest thing someone has done for you?: When I got my wisdom teeth out, my mom kept bringing me literally piles of toast to eat since it’s all I could chew. Like every hour on the hour she made me four-to-six pieces of toast with butter, and would refill whenever I asked.

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Rob King

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I believe in the magic of Facebook.

Well, maybe not the magic. But the healing and redemptive powers. The ability to bridge gaps.

The reason—Rob King.

A couple of years ago, I really disliked Rob. Did I know him personally? Eh, no. But back when I was a columnist for, Rob was in charge of the entity. Toward the end of my gig (it was freelance, and I stopped for a reason I can’t actually remember), the website agreed to run an excerpt from my forthcoming Roger Clemens biography. I was psyched, thrilled, euphoric. Then, because I am actually quite stupid, I wrote a post on this blog listing 10 things I disliked about ESPN. It was merely a flip entry. No good reason. Just … because.

Anyhow, the day before the excerpt was scheduled to run, an editor told me that Rob—upset over my blog post—changed his mind. Goodbye Roger Clemens material. Farewell, direct link from to Amazon.

Man, was I pissed. P-I-S-S-E-D. I ripped Rob to my friends and family members; swore off ESPN and … and … and …

I was wrong. Like, not even close to being right. You don’t ask for a favor, then slam the favor giver. It was stupid and short-sighted and—via, Facebook, months and months later—I acknowledged to Rob that he was correct and I was a toad. And, with that, we became Facebook chums.

Rob and I chat from time to time, and he’s great people. He’s also had a tremendous career, rising from newspaper obscurity to the head and overseer of SportsCenter. Here, Rob talks Stuart Scott, The Network and why, in a digital age, ESPN’s signature show still matters.

Rob King, welcome to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Before we really get into this, Rob, I’d love to know—with his recent passing—how will you remember Stuart Scott?

ROB KING: A ferociously proud father. A trailblazer. A relentlessly competitive athlete. A kind, generous, courageous man who embraced new friends, cherished old friends and understood our profound responsibility to show humanity to one another.

How will I remember Stuart Scott? Every day. Every single day.

J.P.: OK, Rob, so earlier this year you were named the Senior Vice President, SportsCenter and News, jumping over from digital and news. My question is this: Does SportsCenter still matter and—even if the answer is yes—how can it continue to matter? What I mean is—we have access to information at all times. Smart phone, tablet, laptop—whatever. We don’t need to wait for a broadcast to deliver information. So how do you keep a popular program rolling when, it seems, we don’t really need a popular program?

R.K.: Here’s a shocker: I think SportsCenter still matters! More important, by orders of measure: fans think SportsCenter matters.

It matters because the very idea of SportsCenter has always centered on more than just being “a popular show.” SportsCenter is a promise to fans. Wherever, whenever something happens in the world of sports, our team is driven to serve fans with the very best information, perspective and original content.

We bust it to produce engaging, unforgettable television, but we also expend the same energy to provide that level of service across digital-native environments: social platforms, mobile screens, etc.  And fans hold us to that promise, believe me. My TweetDeck dashboard includes a channel that monitors activity around “@SportsCenter.” Everything we put on air and every piece of content we post online or on our social handles generate immense feedback, positive and negative.

In the end, SportsCenter has a unique and cherished place in the hearts and minds of sports fans. We view this as our dearest possession and our greatest responsibility.

With Tallulah.

With Tallulah.

J.P.: I recently moved to California, and I’m at the gym during the late-night SportsCenter. The two anchors are usually Stan and Neil and—just being honest—they sorta irk me. Actually, lemme rephrase. They don’t irk me. They seem like nice, fun guys. But the schtick irks me. Constant jokes, comments, laughs, catch phrases. Dammit, I just wanna know what happened. My question is: What’s the line between delivering sports news and making it sports news/entertainment?

R.K.: Wait a sec! Your first question just got through explaining that you already know what happened.

Truth is, we’re charged with serving an array of sports fans. Avid fans know much of the news of the day, but still enjoy interacting with the informed perspective and unique personalities on our shows. Casual fans may or may not know every headline or each new development. Some fans receive mobile alerts or see highlight clips shortly after plays happen. Others have heard about the play, or have seen a version of the clip but want to know a little more about the context of the action.

Our anchors accept the challenge of serving the diverse needs of the audience, and they do it with a mixture of authority, humor, and curiosity. Yes, there’s an important level of utility to what SportsCenter provides—scores and highlights, as fast and as complete as possible. But the other imperative—wonder—shouldn’t be ignored. Not only do fans what to know what happened, they also want to know what might happen, or how something happened, or what’s likely to happen next. And because sports routinely delivers an Odell Beckham Jr. catch or a Russell Westbrook lane attack, fans also want to connect with people – our anchors and analysts – who are every bit as excited about these moments as they are.

By the way, you and I see Stan Verrett and Neil Everett very differently. I think they’re amazing. And man, they work hard at what they do.

J.P.: You and I are both print guys. We started at newspapers, worked at newspapers for a long time. I wonder how you feel about the death of print. When you hear of newspapers folding and staffs being cut back and six-page sections, does your heart break? Or do you simply see it as an inevitable transition?

R.K.: So let me go “silver-lining” first. There’s more writing and more reading being done out there than ever before. So when we talk about the death of print, we’re really just talking about a particular form of distribution of the written word. Writers and editors matter and will continue to do so, it says here.

But yes, my heart does break when I hear of the gradual dissolution of newspaper and magazine newsrooms. So many friends have moved away from journalism and storytelling, and that’s an incalculable loss to society, to culture, even to fair, responsible government.

I also ache for those who are attempting to re-imagine the business model against a backdrop of breathtaking volatility. Change may be inevitable, but transition is far too genteel a term for what’s going on these days.

As you know, a hallmark of the business—lousy hours and so-so pay aside—was that it was fun, and you always went to work hopeful to discover a new story or publish something fascinating. I hate watching the hope seep out of newsrooms.

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J.P.: It’s no secret that, in big-time televised sports involving male athletes, women seem to have a marginal role: Perky sideline reporters. Often blonde, often young, often charged with asking a couple of lame questions. Rob, why do you think women aren’t doing play by play or color commentary? Certainly there are women in media who are more than qualified, no?

R.K.: I’m proud to work at a place that has recognized the play-by-play talent of folks like Doris Burke, Beth Mowins and Cara Capuano. Lisa Salters, Julie Foudy and Maria Taylor are unique performers who report with creativity, tenacity and fairness. Across our networks, whip-smart journalists such as Jemele Hill, Heather Dinich, Kate Fagan and Jane McManus are constantly redefining the “margins” within which women can perform.

It’s an honor to have Hannah Storm, Linda Cohn, Suzy Kolber and Chris McKendry—trailblazers who have excelled in each of the roles you mention above – as colleagues and mentors to everyone in our shop.

I don’t mean to duck your question, because its basic premise—that we have miles to go before we can claim true equal opportunity—is one I wholeheartedly agree with. I would simply be remiss if I didn’t point out that our company is committed to leading this necessary change. An important part of that commitment is empowering women in decision-making roles, and that’s an enormous priority across all of ESPN.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t say that blonde hair isn’t a sin, and it doesn’t signal uniformity of intellect. Holly Rowe, Sam Ponder and Britt McHenry are hardly the same people, but each is experienced, talented, informed and essential to our mission.

J.P.: I know you attended Wesleyan and Penn State, know you started at the Commercial-News in Danville, Illinois. But … what’s your path? What I mean is, why journalism? When did you know? What was the bug? The moment? The incident that made you realize, “This is what I want to do with my life?”

R.K.: All I ever wanted to be was a cartoonist. That’s it. You know that Malcolm Gladwell theory about the 10,000 hours? Well, that’s how I spent mine, from the time I was about 4 or 5 until I hung up my brush and pen in 1997. I copied comic book art, swiped “How-to-Draw” books from libraries, won book fair poster contests and pored over newspaper comic strips.

In seventh grade, I read an article about famed St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial cartoonist Bill Maudlin and thought, “That’s it. That’s what I’ll be.” I joined the junior high newsletter and the yearbook committee and began my career.

When I got to Wesleyan, my plan was to major in government and minor in art. I did neither, choosing instead to major in English and waste time clinging to the edge of the men’s basketball team’s bench. When I graduated without a portfolio or an NBA contract, I returned to the ignominy of my parents’ house. Luckily, I got a job sorting mail at the Washington Post, where Ben Bradlee strode the hallways and Herblock, the Post’s legendary editorial cartoonist, took me in as a mentee. The Post newsroom immediately felt like home. On occasional Sundays, Bob Woodward would ask me to accompany him to Baskin-Robbins, where he’d buy ice cream for everybody in the office. Herblock demanded that I draw a cartoon a day and bring it to him each day to review.

So that’s where I first fell in love with newspapers and journalism.

I managed to sell several cartoons at the Post, lucked into a one-year university fellowship at Penn State, and took the first gig that would let me be a cartoonist—in Danville, Illinois. I didn’t pay much attention to the job offer apparently, because once I arrived at the 27,000-circulation paper, I learned that I was also an assignment reporter and a graphic artist, too.

After a year, two weeks and three days in Danville (not that I was counting), I moved on to Gannett newspapers in Cherry Hill, N.J. and Louisville. Both places let me do cartoons, including a daily comic strip called “The Family Business.” The strip lasted six years and earned me zero dollars, as both newspapers also required that I also perform real work in the design and photo departments.

The work apart from cartooning introduced me to two new passions: storytelling and working with people. Cartoonists are solitary performers, especially in collegial settings like a newsroom. I found that I’m happier and more productive when I’m part of a team. And writing and editing—key cartooning skills, as it happens—have never felt like actual work.

I “retired” from cartooning when my wife and I moved back east to be closer to family. Again, I lucked into a sports designer role at the Philadelphia Inquirer, which turned into bigger assignments over the ensuing seven years. I left visual journalism for sports in 1998, taking on a deputy sports editor job that had one unforgettable perk: meeting and befriending one Stephen A. Smith. That’s right, I admit it.

I departed the Inquirer as deputy managing editor and joined ESPN, plunging headlong into sports TV in 2004. After three years in studio production, featuring work with Outside the Lines, ESPNews and our golf and NBA studio shows, I moved to as its editor-in-chief. The next six years were a Digital/Print blur that introduced me to a redesign of the web site, oversight of ESPN The Magazine, espnW and the Local sites and a host of product developments.

And now I’m back in studio production, working in an environment where storytelling and teamwork and visual creativity are the lingua franca. Looking back, it almost feels as though there was something of a path. Let’s pretend there was.

J.P.: Serious question—why do we continue to place former athletes in the TV both? With v-e-r-y rare exception, they never add any genuine insight, and oftentimes they speak in clichés and nonsense drivel. I know you’re gonna disagree, but am I REALLY wrong? Are Ray Lewis and Trent Dilfer telling me anything a guy who’s watched tons of football can’t?

R.K.: Yep, I disagree. Trent Dilfer’s breadth of knowledge of how to play the QB position is astonishing, if you ask me. Trevor Matich teaches a master class every time he talks. Cris Carter has been amazing all season long. And I have never heard Tom Jackson offer anything but passionate, genuine, heartfelt insight. I can think of dozens of others, including newer performers like Kara Lawson, Danny Kannell, Taylor Twellman and Brian Griese , who have made a huge difference in our shows. Dag, I forgot Jay Bilas! Curt Schilling! Jalen Rose!

Argh, this question got me all aggravated. Next question!

J.P.: I used to work at Sports Illustrated, and there were, literally, two African-Americans on staff, I mean, it was pathetic—we’re covering fields that are heavily minority represented, yet we didn’t reflect that demographic at all. I’m wondering, as an African-American man, if you’re satisfied with diversity in the sports media. Do you feel like enough strides have been made? Is there still resistance? And have you ever felt, throughout your career, that employers or co-workers viewed you with skepticism or limited respect because of race?

R.K.: The answer here mirrors the earlier discussion about women in sports media. No, much more can be done, and yes, resistance exists in pockets. Happily, at every level at ESPN and across the Disney Company, we’ve embraced Diversity and Inclusion as a core company value. This isn’t just about numbers, it’s about opportunity and education and smart business. It’s about getting the very best out of people. To your point, it’s about positioning ourselves to be reflective of the audience we’re trying to serve.

And yeah, I have encountered skepticism throughout my career. My parents worked hard to prepare my siblings and me for this as we grew up. They emphasized the importance of integrity and intelligence and being willing to burn the last drop of midnight oil. They also emphasized that this wasn’t just about us. It’s also about respecting the sacrifices they and others made for us. And it’s about honoring the colleagues in our current workplaces and the generations to come.

My daughter is the LeBron James of 7-year-old West Hartford, CT soccer, and she deserves a career in sports if she wants one. With that at stake, I can withstand a little skepticism.

J.P.: Do you ever feel dizzy? It just seems like everything in the business changes every five seconds. It’s all about websites! No, Twitter! No, tablets! We need shorter articles! No, we need longer articles! How do you keep up? And how do you know what’s around the corner? Is it even possible to know?

R.K.: Change isn’t a problem in our world, it is our world. Audiences have changing expectations. Technology continually offers solutions to new problems. Consumption of content is constant. So is production. We aren’t going backward, so we may as well buckle up. I think it’s exciting to ask how we should tell stories in a world in which more than half of our audience will a) view them on a tiny screen, b) discover them on a social feed, or c) try to consume the content while in transit, bringing inconsistent mobile data speeds into play.

Earlier, I talked about folks who are attempting to reimagine the business model against a backdrop of breathtaking volatility. Well, that isn’t just the duty of business types. We content folks share that same responsibility.  We should be energized by bold attempts to attack these problems, like Medium and BuzzFeed and Vox. And we need to join in.

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J.P.: Back in 2010 I released a Roger Clemens biography, “The Rocket that Fell to Earth.” You were heading at the time, and the site was going to run an excerpt. Then, a few days beforehand, I wrote a blog post (Top 10 Things That Irk Me About ESPN), and you decided not to run the excerpt. I was bitter at the time—genuinely bitter. I mean, I’d spent the preview two years writing regularly for the site. But, when I really reflected, I understood it was a stupid move on my part—don’t shit on someone doing you a favor. This is my lead in to a long question—how protective are you of ESPN? How important is it to you to defend the company? Its integrity? Its name? Because, lord knows, ESPN gets slammed all the time …

R.K.: ESPN is an amazing place, full of incredible, passionate professionals who love sports and love serving sports fans. I am so grateful to be here. And so, yes, I’m protective of the brand.

But I’m especially protective of our people. As you know, what we do is hard, Jeff. Working here means working day and night, holidays and weekends, pre-game, in-game and post-game. Everywhere I look, I see someone with his or head buried in a screen, busting to get the subject and verb right, to cut the perfect highlight, to surface an amazing stat, to create something fans will never forget.

Our people deserve to believe that their integrity and commitment to excellence is worthy of protection … especially from unwarranted criticism.

Having said all that, I’m personally glad that you and I went from where we were in 2010 to where we are now, especially since it led to our publishing an excerpt from your book on the Showtime era of the Los Angeles Lakers. Being protective doesn’t mean being vindictive, particularly where it might keep a great piece of writing from fans.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Danville Dans, Reggie Jefferson, Karate Kid II, Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda, Central Park, Toledo, blueberry muffins, the Nike campus, neck tattoos, dimples, Maggie Gyllenhaal: Central Park, Nike campus (never been but oh would I love to), Danville Dans, dimples, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda, Reggie Jefferson, Toledo, blueberry muffins, neck tattoos, Karate Kid II.

• In exactly 15 words, make an argument for or against Tim Raines as a Hall of Famer: Better all-around Expo than Andre Dawson and Gary Carter. And they’re already in The Hall.

• How did you propose to Jennifer?: We met in a Philly tavern/restaurant called The Rose Tattoo, where she was waiting tables. Five years later, as she got off her shift, I got down on one knee right at the very spot we met. We were living together at the time, so a “No” would have been awkward.

• As I write this, someone is spreading strawberry cream cheese on a bagel. This just seems wrong. Thoughts?: Live and let live weirdly.

 • How did you find out Santa Claus wasn’t real?: Wait, what?

• Five reasons one should make Bristol, Conn. his/her home?: I live 20 minutes away, so the only answer I’m really qualified to give is “proximity to the office.”

• What’s the greatest moment of your youth sports career?: Two homer, two double, all-star game MVP performance in the Montgomery County, Md. fourth-grade Cub Scout softball league. And a trip to McDonald’s after. All downhill from there.

This is my favorite TV moment in history. Your thoughts?: That’s tough to beat. Gives a whole new meaning to a “mean tweet.”

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and a one-armed Ray Lewis? What’s the result?: The bell rings, Ray charges and I soil my trunks. Ref stops the match right there.

• Five greatest sports journalists of your lifetime?: In alphabetical order: Richard Ben Cramer, David Halberstam, Gary Smith, Wright Thompson, Ralph Wiley

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Kyle Brandt

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So this is sorta weird, but today’s Quaz features a man who—until a month or two ago—I never considered for this space.

Oh, I’ve known Kyle Brandt for quite a while now. For the past three years I’ve been a semi-regular panelist on Jim Rome’s CBS Sports Network show. Kyle is Jim’s (radio and television) producer, so whenever I arrive at the studio, I’m greeted by a guy who has three important virtues: A. Genuinely nice. B. Genuinely funny. C. Respects Hall & Oates.

That magical trifecta, however valuable, isn’t enough to be invited into the selective and dignified Land of Quaz. Then, a few months ago, something happened. I was speaking with Jim after a day’s taping, and Kyle’s name was brought up. “It’s funny going out with him,” Jim said, “because people still recognize the guy from The Real World.”

Um, what?

“You didn’t know Kyle was on The Real World?”

I did not. So I returned to my abode and operated the magical Google. And I immediately remembered Kyle—the wife and I used to be regular Real World viewers. But that wasn’t all. Kyle played halfback at Princeton. Kyle spent three years as a Days of Our Lives cast member. Kyle appeared in a really weird commercial featuring Randy Johnson. Kyle was the object of affection for a website designed in 1982. Kyle, um, judged a Miss Teen USA pageant alongside an ogling Nick Lachey.

In short, the 188th Quaz is the quintessential Quaz.

One can follow Kyle on Twitter here, and view his IMDB page here.

Kyle Brandt, shirtless dunker, welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Kyle, you’ve had a truly fascinating career. So I have to start with what must be considered the defining moment: In 2003 you were a judge at the Miss Teen USA pageant. Um … what? Details, please. Details …

KYLE BRANDT: First thing’s first. It’s creepy to judge a teenage beauty pageant. There’s a bikini category. They’re minors. You’re judging their bodies. More on that in a second.

Nick Lachey was a fellow judge. His wife Jessica Simpson was performing during the show. (So was Justin Goddamn Guarani. That breaks the #2003 scale).  Anyway, another judge was Vanessa Manillo. I remember thinking it was odd that Lachey was flirting with her. Because not only was he married to Jessica, but they had just premiered their reality show … which is all about them being married. Guess what happened eight years later? He marred Vanessa Manillo!  Also—Cobi Jones was also a judge, he was the only American soccer player I had ever heard of, and he was a cool dude.

Back to judging teenage girls’ bodies. There was a lot of coaching from the producers about that category. They kept telling us we were looking for “symmetry of form.” Which, is just some bullshit term to cover their asses. So, as it turned out, there was exactly one moment in the live broadcast when I spoke on camera. They went to commercial after the bikini category. The producer tells me that Mario Lopez, the host, is going to go to me with a question when we come back. For whatever reason, probably ego, I was expecting the question to be something about myself.


I was caught totally off guard. Had no idea what to say to AC Slater. So for some reason, I went full pervert: “Whew! Man! I’m still trying to recover from it!”

I’ve never felt more Megan’s Law in my life. I’m still trying to recover from it. From ogling those high school girls? Barf. I should have been maced. Or arrested. Even Slater, who is a renowned Casanova, responded with an awkward laugh and didn’t ask a second question. He shouldn’t have asked me a first.

I should have just said, “These girls are looking really symmetrical out there tonight, Mario.”

Kyle, left, as part of a dream panel along with Manillo, Jones and Lachey.

Kyle, left, as part of a dream panel along with Manillo, Jones and Lachey.

J.P.: Until recently, I only knew you as Kyle, the cool executive producer for Jim Rome. Then, while on the set one day, Jim mentioned that people still recognize you from The Real World. And I thought, “Um … what?” Then I Googled, nodded—wife and I watched that season, I just never made the connection. So, to get this out of the way: Real World Chicago—how? Why? Good experience? Bad experience? And how much of your career can you credit to that experience in one way or another?

K.B.: Dude, you can’t imagine how many times I’ve been talking to someone at a bar, or a party, and they’ve said to me, “So, I just have to ask …” It happened last night. That show is a life tattoo. I got it when I was a second semester senior in college. They came to campus and did an open casting call. My friends and I got drunk and went to it for shits. This is way back before the term “reality show” existed. This is when The Real World was must-see TV. Naked Ruthie in Hawaii. Stephen slapping that girl with lyme disease in Seattle. So we went to the open call.

I remember the late Mary-Ellis Bunim asked me how I would feel about a gay man telling me I was attractive. Odd question, but I said, “Well, it’s already happened twice today and I appreciated it both times.” She laughed. Four months later she casted me and I did that show in my hometown of Chicago, two weeks after graduating from college.

I’ll rattle off the answers to the Kyle Brandt Real World FAQ:

• Yes, we got paid. About $5,000 for a four-month shoot. You sign away everything, you get nothing, and if you don’t like it—they’ll just find another fratboy to take the position. I had no problem with that.

• No, I don’t regret doing it. Great life experience. Don’t get me wrong, I wish I’d done things differently. I was so nervous and uptight the whole time. I so worried about looking like a douche, that I ended up looking like a douche.

• And of course, “Is The Real World REAL?” People think they’re going to blow your mind with this question. Like, wow. Incredible stuff, Mike Wallace! It was pretty real. They didn’t create scenarios. But they edit it to create characters. I have a huge problem with anyone who goes on a  reality show and complains how they were portrayed. Of course you look terrible. That’s what those shows are for—to put your face on a dartboard so the country can make fun of you. Shut up.

Kyle with Jim Rome

Kyle with Jim Rome

J.P.: You spent three years, I believe, playing Philip Kiriakis on Days of Our Lives. Soaps have always fascinated me, because they’re both corny and riveting; widely watched and widely panned. How did you land that gig? Did you enjoy it? And why did you stop playing Philip?

K.B.: Awesome time in my life. So fun. I was an ordinary auditioning actor in Los Angeles back in 2003, albeit with some notoriety from MTV. When I went in for the part of Philip, I remember thinking it would be cool because Philip’s dad Victor is played by John Aniston, soap legend and father of Jennifer. I had this whole plan that I was going to befriend him, meet her, hang with Brad Pitt and become a movie star. But first I had to land the part.

My agent advised me to wear a really tight shirt because they were going to want to see what my body looked like. “For those shows, they need to see the goods.”  She also said I should be tan. So I spray tanned for the first time in my life … then I went to Banana Republic and bought the smallest T-shirt they had. It was a light blue Extra Small Lycra cotton T-shirt. It honestly looked like baby clothes. I looked like such an orange dipshit. Exactly what they were looking for. It worked.

I loved that job. So many bizarre experiences. My character was a Marine who loses his leg at war, so I did a scene with Paul McCartney’s then-wife and real-life amputee Heather Mills.  My character then became a NASCAR driver (with one leg!) so I got to meet Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. and all those guys. Regarding how cheesy soaps are—of course! That’s why they work. And we absolutely knew it at the time. I remember dozen of times standing on the set saying, “There’s no way I’m saying this. I can’t stay this without laughing.” We would laugh through half the scenes. You honesty think we didn’t know how bad/funny this scene was?

But the best part of that time were the gigs you’d go to on the weekends. They’d send you to a department store in Tuscaloosa, or a hardware store in Birmingham. You’d get a really nice check to sit at a table for two hours and sign head shots for housewives. Sometimes they’d wait in line for two hours. I’m serious. And let me assure you … when a big soap opera fan waits that long to meet Philip, they’re going to get their money’s worth. Big hugs. Hand holding. Butt grabbing. Last-minute cheek kisses before the camera click. You name it. The picture below this answer has become infamous on the radio show. It was taken on the dance floor at an event I was paid to attend in Greenville, S.C. in 2004. It’s known as the Southern Sandwich. After that weekend, I went on my blog and referred to the event as a “Grope Fest.” The people got pissed and didn’t invite me back. Most of the soap fans were really nice. Some of them were really grabby. Most of them were clean. Some of them smelled like old ham. For people who loved soaps, they didn’t seem to love soap.

I only stopped playing Philip because at some point you have to leave college and get a real job. That’s how it felt. Unfortunately for me, that job was not becoming a movie star and The Aniston Plan never panned out. Plus, soap operas are a dying genre. I thought I’d have a better future in the fresh, emerging market of sports radio.

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The Southern Sandwich in all its glory.

J.P.: So I know you’re from Hinsdale, Illinois, I know you played football at Princeton, I know you’ve acted and Rome. But how did this happen? Birth to now? When did you decide this was the sort of career you wanted? Why did you stop acting? What are you trying to accomplish?

K.B.: My career path has been so strange. I remember during my first-ever meeting with Jim, I said to him: My background’s pretty odd, man, and I’m not sure you’re going to like it. But he loved it, because it’s so different. Football … acting … sports media.  I used to want to be Walter Payton. (except for that weird nitrous thing). Then I wanted to be Matt Damon. Then I wanted to do what Jim does. I stopped acting because I wasn’t going to be 40-years old, living in a one-bedroom apartment, and praying that I get a callback for some shitty TV show. That’s the life. These Channing Tatums, Chris Hemsworths? They’re lottery winners. They’re holding the giant check and the balloons. The are the 1 percent. Less than that, really. The other 50,000 hunky white dudes who want those parts? They’re going to eventually get their real estate licenses or become a personal trainer. I wasn’t going to risk that. You have to be an extremely good actor or incredibly lucky. I was neither.

J.P.: In a 2010 interview with Princeton’s alumni publication, you said, “If you appear on a reality show, be prepared to answer questions about it for the rest of your life.” I can hear you groaning with that reply. How true it is? How annoying does it get? Is there any possible escape?

K.B.: When The Real World season was airing in 2002, I was 23. My friends and I used to play a game when we’d go out and people would approach me. We’d rank the interactions from one to 10. Getting a one meant you were the most obnoxious asshole ever. Like someone who walks right up to your table and starts berating you for the way you treated somebody on the show. A 10 was somebody just saying, “Hey man, saw you on that show. Good luck.” There were almost no 10s. Lots of twos and threes. A few ones. I think the biggest lesson I learned from that dynamic is that when you see a public figure out somewhere, and you think they don’t notice that you’re talking about them or talking a picture of them—you’re wrong. They do. They always do. You’re not being nearly as subtle as you think you are. I saw Jenna Jameson at a restaurant a few months back. It’s odd seeing a ’90s porn star in person because you feel like you’re running into an ex-girlfriend. But I tried to take a picture of her and act like I wasn’t. She knew exactly what I was doing. Sighed and turned away from me in her seat. So busted. I’m sure she gave me a one. I deserved it.

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J.P.: As a former Delaware Blue Hen, I’m a big I-AA football guy (I still call it I-AA). You were a really good running back at Princeton. I’ve always wondered if there’s something special or unique about playing sports in the Ivy. Do you think it’s any different than being a Blue Hen or New Hampshire Wildcat? Does it come with expectations? Standards? And why’d you go to Princeton?

K.B.: A lot of the time playing sports in the Ivy League means you are a enough student to get in, but not a good enough athlete to play at a big-time program. Unless you play squash or lacrosse. For me, when I was getting recruited out of high school, my options were this: 1. Play running back at some place like Western Michigan or Toledo, maybe get on the field as an upperclassman. 2. Walk on somewhere like Northwestern or Purdue. Maybe cover kicks some day. 3. Be a three-year starter and get the best possible degree at Princeton.

It was so easy.

I can’t speak to being a Blue Hen or playing for New Hampshire, but I don’t think the actual experience of being an Ivy League athlete is that different. Not on the field. There are the same idiots talking the same kind of moronic trash talk in a Princeton-Harvard game as I’m sure there is in Alabama-Auburn. It’s not like everybody insults each other after a tackle with enlightened insults or sonnets. I remember being a little disappointed that everyone didn’t seem like a genius or something. It was the same cast of characters you’d see on any football team. Dirtbags. Idiots who forget their assignments. Cheapshotters. The two-to-three guys who can barely stay eligible, and the one guy who gets kicked off the team for plagiarism.

Another thing about being an Ivy League athlete? Nobody goes to the games. Princeton built a brand-new stadium that debuted in 1998. My first game as a starter. The place was packed. The governor was there, more than 30,000 fans. Electric. And then the final score was Princeton 6, Cornell 0. About 70 percent of those in the stadium left at halftime. I don’t blame them. They probably went to a squash match. We blew it.

J.P.: You’ve been with Jim Rome for a long time. When I inevitably tell people how great Jim is, I get a lot of, “Really? He seems so [Fill in the blank]. What’s it like working with Jim? And what do you think people are misunderstanding? And why?

K.B.: Of course you think Jim is great. You’ve actually met him. And you’ve worked with him. Ask any journalist or author to fill in that blank and they’ll glow about the guy. Because he’s totally professional and respectful of what they do. It’s like Howard Stern with comedians. They love him because he makes them look great. Anyone with something negative to say about Jim falls into one of three categories. 1. Other people in the industry jealous of his career. 2. Die-hard sports fan types who don’t like him because he laid out their team. 3. Mouth breathers still cackling about the Jim Everett thing back in the fucking 1990s. So who the hell cares what those people think? He has great friends in his personal life. And great respect from those who have worked with him in his professional life. Most of all me. It sounds like I’m kissing my boss’s ass. I get it. But I’ve worked with him for seven years because I like it. The worst bosses are the ones who are unfair, or who send mixed messages. There’s no bullshit working for Jim. Get up early. Know what the hell you’re talking about. Work your balls off. Get to the weekend and do whatever the hell you want.

People ask me what he’s like, too. I think they can’t grasp that when the show’s over … he doesn’t just stand around spitting fire about the Lakers or dropping “manual buzzers” on people in conversation. He’s a fun hang. He loves alt rock. He has great stories He’s funny when he drinks. He hates himself after he eats a bunch of Halloween candy late at night. Like a normal dude. Better than that. An awesome dude.

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

K.B.: I haven’t had my greatest moment yet. But my proudest moment thus far went down the first time I hosted The Jim Rome Show in 2012.  Just me. No co-host. No wacky sidekick. Three hours of radio to 250-plus affiliates. In fact, I talked so fast that I think I actually delivered eight hours worth of content that day. I’ve never done cocaine. But I imagine if I did, that first show is how I would sound.

The low point? About five years ago, I met Bo Jackson. He lives the same Chicago Suburb as my Dad. The idols of my adolescence were Jordan, The Ultimate Warrior, and Bo. I had all his posters. I had his cross trainers. I had 13 touchdowns in one game with Bo in Tecmo Bowl. And then as a 31-year old I had a chance to meet him.

I was so nervous, that I shook his hand and said, “It’s great to meet you. I’m Bo.”

I said the wrong name. He goes ,”Oh yeah? There aren’t a lot of us.” Understand, I work around athletes for a living. It’s no big deal. I never get nervous. But for some reason, Bo reduced me to that kid in the Mean Joe Greene Coke commercial. Only way less clutch.  So what to do? How to salvage the encounter?  At that point, I had two options. Either I could double back and say, “Wait. Actually, my name’s Kyle”—and look like a total asshat. Or I could just play along and pretend my name is actually Bo. Guess what I did.? You already know. If I ever run into him again, and I probably will,  I will do it as “Bo Brandt.” Bo knows.

J.P.: Is acting hard or easy? Being serious—do you feel like it’s a craft that needs to be perfected? Pretending? Do we overrate the ability? Underrate? And how would you rate yourself?

K.B.: Of course it’s hard, Pearlman. Let’s see you get up and do a dramatic monologue or read some lines from The Mentalist. It’s funny, because when you’re auditioning for a part, you try so hard to really a-c-t. Like get into the role, think about your character’s past, all that shit. And then when it comes to being on camera, it’s about doing as little as possible. Every acting coach I ever had would preach about “stillness” and “subtlety.”  Basically—they would teach us to just do nothing.

I think it’s very hard to do good acting. It’s like rapping. Anyone can do it badly. Just come up with some stupid rhymes and talk with your hands. But to rap and actually look cool? There are like, 20 people on the planet who can do it. I feel that way about acting. Daniel-Day Lewis becomes Abraham Lincoln like it’s no big deal. Liam Neeson could have probably done it. Kevin Spacey. But imagine the rest of the population in a top hat trying to do that voice. We’d all look like imbeciles. Because acting is goddamn hard.

By the time I was done, I think I could hold my own. Not great. Maybe not good. But strongly passable. Somewhere between Van Damme and Van Der Beek.

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  You were the president of Beta Theta Pi while at Princeton. I’ve long stereotyped frats as asshole plantations. Tell me why I’m the asshole here: You’re not. And as president I was the asshole plantation owner.  True story: One night in 1997, our fraternity rented out this little Chinese restaurant for the night. I was a pledge at the time. And the rest of the pledges and I were forced to chug Jim Beam until we puked. No big deal. I was game. But the brothers wanted to dial up the entertainment factor. So there was this giant window across the front of the restaurant looking out on the parking lot. They made each one of us go outside,  press our faces against the window and barf all over the glass.  We all did it.

Assholes? We were savages. Just wildly disrespectful to the poor people who ran the place. I think about it all the time. Like—it wasn’t enough that this pack of jackals puked in rice bowls and flower pots all over their restaurant. No, they had to desecrate the exterior too. Look at this poor place. Of course they’re closed down now. I feel terrible. So I guess you’re sort of wrong. We weren’t a plantation. We were more efficient. We were an asshole factory. Looking back, I wish the Tri-Lambs had shown up with their sweet jheri curls and kicked our asses.

• You’ve never appeared on an MTV spinoff show. It sorta seems like free money for little work. So why not?: Jeff. Have you seen the promos for those things? If I ever got an itch to do one … and I started to think it might be a fun little gig like you’re saying … all I need to do is see one promo for whatever Challenge is airing and I’ll say, “Hell No.” It’s always a montage of people crying, screaming, getting injured, having sex on night vision, and getting sucker punched by six-packers in bandanas. I’m not doing that shit. Not to win a surfboard, or a Saturn, or whatever they give to the winners. Pass.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): General Hospital, Tonya Cooley, Westminster, Eddie the Eagle, Kyle Korver, Shannon Hoon, Blackish, Eric Dickerson, Felipe Lopez, Yahoo, corn on the cob, Ben Stiller, podcasts: 1. Podcasts. I just finished Serial. I can’t listen to one second without thinking that Sarah Koenig is totally in love with Adnan. The episode where he says she doesn’t really know him? It felt like a seventh grade break up; 2. Kyle Korver. Pure gunner. Good dude. But one time I was out on a date with this PR rep, and she kept texting with Kyle Korver and bragging about it. What a blocker. But the ladies like that guy. Have to tip the cap. 3. Eric Dickerson. Two things I loved about him as a player. His upright style was just begging tacklers to take his head off, back in a time when it was actually allowed. His career shouldn’t have lasted one week. He played 11 years. And the other reason? The Rec Specs. I wore them as a kid. He and Horace Grant helped me avoid getting bullied for it. Respect the Specs; 4. Corn on the Cob. If you’re the kind of person who uses a knife to cut the corn off the cob … you’re a serial killer. Stop doing that; 5. Ben Stiller. To this day, the two hardest laughs I’ve ever had  in a movie theater were #1) There’s Something About Mary when his nuts are caught in the zipper.  #2) There’s Something About Mary when he opens the door with the load on his ear; 6. Westminster. The dog show? Makes me think of Fred Willard doing shi tzuh jokes. The Abbey? Never been, sounds boring.  Westminster CA? Top notch donuts, great vietnamese food, and that’s it; 7. Yahoo.  Remember when we used to “Yahoo” things? It’s like the MySpace of search engines. I don’t like their obnoxious hillbilly jingle. I bet the guy who recorded that jingle is on a yacht right now. Screw Yoooooo-ooooo-huuuue!! 8. General Hospital. It’s like the Spurs of soaps. Long running, respected, can’t be killed. Susan Lucci is Tim Duncan; 9. Eddie The Eagle? Hold on. Let me Google. … A British skier? I was thinking this was going to be some Division I-AA mascot from a school that you like, Pearlman.  But then, you would never include something just because you’re really into it. Oh wait a second … 10. Shannon Hoon.  FINALLY. How the hell did we get this far without a mention of The Melon? My life can be broken into two halves.  The first half, when I thought the only Blind Melon song that anyone knew was “No Rain.” And the second half, when I met Jeff Pearlman. Maybe I sell the band short? Maybe I should spend more time with their music? I don’t know . All I can say is that my life is pretty plain; 11. Felipe Lopez. Back to Google. No, wait. I’m going to “Yahoo” Felipe Lopez … St. John’s hoops. Got the SI cover. Played through 1998. Dude, all i remember about the 97-98 season was watching from the stands as Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter and the Tarheels came to Princeton University and dunked all over some 6-foot-1 Economics major; 12. Tonya Cooley.  I actually know someone who has done soft core porn. That’s pretty cool. Yahoo that. In fact, I LIVED with someone who has done soft core porn. That’s pretty cool; 13. Black-ish. I like Anthony Anderson. I love that they convinced ABC to let them call the show this. I will never watch it. I think almost all scripted comedies are Crap-ish

• The world needs to know—what was it like working with Kristian Alfonso?: She’s disarmingly nice. And she is a modern master of crying on camera. I once heard a legend about Kristian … that she can shed a tear down her left cheek, or right cheek, depending on which makes for a better shot.  An ambidextrous crier.  When I’d have emotional scenes, I’d just squint my eyes really hard and think about my family dying. I ended up looking like I was lifting something really heavy.

• We give Kyle Brandt, circa 2000, 20 carries for the New York Giants against the Dallas Cowboys. What’s your stat line?: To hell with that. If we’re making up magic football games, I’m not running behind the Giants. I want to run behind the Cowboys. But let me clarity. 2000-Me with the 2000-Cowboys? They were horrible. Emmitt barely averaged four yards per carry. I think I might get injured before the 20 carries.

But put 2000-Me behind that old Jeff Pearlman Boys Will Be Boys offensive line? Now you’ve got something. If 2000-Me was running behind 1992 Larry Allen and Mark Tuinei? I’ll get you 104 yards and a Touchdown. That’s 18 fantasy points. Then again, 2015-Me could probably get 80 yards behind that line.

Of course, all of this is contingent upon me not getting stabbed with scissors by The Playmaker during my pregame haircut.

• Three memories from appearing in a 2003 Right Guard commercial?: 1. It was my first paid acting job. I played the part of “odor.” I got hired because I went the extra mile. For my part, they were looking for an arrogant jock douchebag, like a 2003 version of William Zabka. For the audition we were supposed to stare right into the camera and look like a  dick. I decided to ad-lib and say, “Yeah I called you a little bitch. What are you going to do about it? That’s what I thought.” They loved that. I went full Zabka; 2. The director of that commercial, Rawson Marshall Thurber. Not only does he have one hell of a name, but he went on to direct the Ben Stiller Dodgeball movie. So he is the go-to Hollywood director for all dodgeball-based projects; 3. Jim Breuer was awesome. He walked around the gym the entire time singing Metallica songs in a perfect James Hetfield impression. I loved him; 4. (bonus)  Randy Johnson. We were told before he arrived on set not to talk to him, not to ask for autographs or whatever. As if I had brought my Diamonbacks cap with me to the shoot.  He was also the worst actor you could possibly imagine. Remember how I said acting was hard? Well, 71-year old Robert De Niro would have more success as a starting pitcher right now than The Big Unit would have as an actor. By far. He actually had a line. After he pegs the shit out of us with dodgeballs, Jim Breuer goes, “Well that was fun.” And then Randy was supposed to say, “I had a ball!” Get it? Really clever little play on words. But he couldn’t handle it. They gave him 15 takes. With coaching and directing between each one. It was as if he was doing like a bizarre James Earl Jones impression. Drunk Darth Vader. It was so bad, so stiff, that they cut it completely from the commercial. I can’t even imagine how much money they paid him, and he doesn’t even speak.

• I will trade you my (nonexistent) head of hair, $200,000 and my entire Hall & Oates catalogue for your head of hair. You in?: Hell no. First of all, I already have the H&O catalogue. It makes my dreams come true. My wife and I listen to Darry and John all the time. Not even kidding. It’s pop perfection. But all I’d be getting from you is whatever average B-sides and pretentious vinyl you’ve collected. I love those dudes, Jeff. But I don’t want an autographed copy of “Whole Oats” and I don’t need “Private Eyes” on cassette.  Another key factor—I have a massive head. You know bald is supposed to be cool now? Like, shave your  head and you’re Jason Statham? Not me. My head size is bigger than some men’s waist size. No sale.

• Celine Dion will pay you $20 million for one night of romance. You also have to wear a leash and call her, “Mistress Bobby Bonilla.” You in?: Are you shitting me? For 20 million? Of course. My heart will go on. Dude, for 40 million … I’d have a night of romance with Bobby Bonilla and call him Mister Celine Dion. I’m in. (Important Note! I would not have relations with anyone other than my wife, for all the money in the world.)

• What happens after we die?: Not a damn thing. I’m so jealous of people who believe in Heaven. I would love to believe I’m going to drop dead … open my eyes … and I’m 13-years old again. Christie Brinkley from Vacation wants to go play Nintendo with me while I eat deep dish and drink root beer. That would be Heaven. But I think everything just goes to black and we start to rot.

• Five reasons one should make Hinsdale his/her next vacation destination?: Easy. 1. Jim Thome; 2. Bobby Thigpen; 3. Dizzy Reed; 4. Bill Rancic; 5. Morris the Cat. All born in Hinsdale. That’s more than 600 home runs, more than 200 saves, the sixth most important Guns N Roses member, an Apprentice winner, and a cat food mascot. Scoreboard.

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Jennifer Hanson

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This is sort of weird to admit, but a couple of months ago I found myself obsessed by Leave the Pieces, the seven-year-old country song performed by The Wreckers.

I originally heard the tune on Pandora, and it stuck. I bought it on iTunes and played it and played it and played it. Hells, I played it so often that I reached out to both members of The Wreckers—Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp—to be Quazed.

Sadly, neither responded.

Then I took it to the next level. “Leave the Pieces” was written by Jennifer Hanson, a singer/songwriter with her own website. I contacted her, and immediately heard back.

Good news: Yes, she’d love to be Quazed.

Bad news: She wasn’t that Jennifer Hanson.

Why, this Jennifer Hanson didn’t even know “Leave the Pieces.”  But then, in the strange way life often works, this Jennifer Hanson turned out to be (I’m guessing) better than that Jennifer Hanson. She’s a singer and a songwriter. She’s Canadian. She has an amazing voice, she appreciates Tupac, she’s a jazz singer who doesn’t love Miles Davis, she croons in 1,001 languages, Simon Le Bon didn’t impress her, she danced (badly) for Pete Townsend.

One can visit Jennifer’s website here.

Jennifer Hanson (not to be confused with Jennifer Hanson), welcome to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Jennifer, I’ve done more than 185 of these Q&As, and this is a first. I e-mailed you because I thought you were the songwriter Jennifer Hanson who wrote “Leave the Pieces.” Instead, you’re the songwriter who didn’t write “Leave the Pieces.” Which makes me want to start with these two questions: 1. How often is this mistake made? 2. What do you think of the song “Leave the Pieces”? 3. Have you ever met your name sister, Jennifer Hanson?

JENNIFER HANSON: This mistake is made every few days, I sell approximately 20 CDs/downloads a month, then get e-mails telling me they made a mistake but like my music. Truth is, I’ve never heard the song, “Leave the Pieces.” Should I?

As for the other Jennifer, I have never met her, but I’ve tried to get her people to sort out all the websites where we are mistaken for one another. I am mentioned on Wikipedia, however, on her page where it says not to be confused with the Canadian jazz singer of the same name!


J.P.: You’re a jazz singer. I’m gonna be totally honest—I’ve never loved jazz, in the way I’ve never loved wine. People will say, “Just try this glass of so-and-so! It’s from 1943 and the flavor just …” And it never works. People will say, “Just listen to Miles Davis on this track …” And it never works. Jennifer, what am I missing? And what do you love about jazz?

J.H.: I’m not really into Miles Davis either, I keep wondering, where’s the singing? I’m not actually a jazz singer, it’s just part of my job. I also pretend to like wine. I think what I like is great singers singing great songs. Frank Sinatra singing “Fly Me to the Moon,” Julie London singing “Cry Me a River,” Chet Baker singing “Embraceable You,” and Johnny Hartman singing “Lush Life.” Most people consider those songs jazz in the same way they consider me a jazz singer. It’s really just the popular music of that time … the top 40, if you will. Jazz instrumental music is a fairly small audience that I do occasionally like, but I’m a lover of music with lyrics.

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J.P.: This, from your bio: “Jennifer is one of the few singers in the Southeast who sings extensively in French and also in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. She also knows the anthems of at least 10 countries, just in case.” Um … I’ve gotta ask. How, and why?

J.H.: Well, to answer in order: 1. I make more money, because most people won’t take the time it takes to learn a few songs in other languages; 2. I come from Flin Flon, Manitoba, where hockey is what holds the community together. We’ve had many different countries play hockey there, and my sister and I sang the anthems which included whatever country happened to be playing; 3. Getting out of one’s comfort zone and putting yourself out there is what singers do. Learning the songs from other countries is definitely out of the comfort zone and a way to broaden horizons, even if it’s for the two people in the audience who might speak Portuguese and know who Antonio Carlos Jobim is.

J.P.: What’s your journey? Like, womb to now, how did you know you’d become a singer? Where’s the love of music from? How did it develop? When did you say, ‘This is what I’ll do with my life?’

J.H.: I come from a huge family that did two things—read books and play music. We still sing whenever we get together. My older sister Susan was the first one in our family to become a professional singer, and I wanted to be just like her. I never had an “Ah ha!” moment, I have always just been a singer. I don’t think we always make a choice, it happens by osmosis. I was immersed in music from birth and I hate getting up early. A no-brainer was to live the music life.

J.P.: Your debut CD came out in 1999, and you won a Prairie Music Award (Canada) for best jazz recording. I’m a writer, and I’ve always felt writing awards are kinda bullshit. I mean, who’s to say one story is better than another. I feel that way about music, too. Agree? Disagree? And where is your Prairie as we speak?

J.H.: It would be even more embarrassing since I think I wrote half of three songs on the album. It was for jazz recording, and it was a very small category, and I really think the other guys should have won. I hate awards of any kind because music, like writing, is personal, and different kinds appeal to different people. And Britney Spears has won how many Grammy Awards? [Answer: Just one] Is that really a club I need to be a part of? My prairie is Manitoba which is a beautiful, haunting, cold and culturally totally awesome place.

J.P.: When I was a teenager, all I wanted to do was have sex with a singer. There’s just something soooo appealing about that particular talent. However, I don’t have that particular talent. So I wonder—do you get it? And, as a singer, do you look at other singers and feel that tug? That pull? That ping in the heart?

J.H.: Having dated other singers, I can say that there’s no pixie dust that rubs off on you like you think. We have huge egos and criminally low self esteem, so you’re taking the chance that the experience will be all about them. I like to think I’m more well adjusted than that, but I haven’t always been. Singers (and any proficient musicians) make music very sexual, and yes, singers feel that, which is why we’re able to translate it to the audience. It makes us feel exactly the way you think it would. I met David Bowie one time and I have to say, he had some serious mojo magic around him—a tangible aura. I also met Simon Le Bon, who was clearly famous and looked great, but didn’t have it so much.

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J.P.: You’ve sang the national anthem at many NHL games. What are the vocal complexities of anthem singing? Is it an easy gig? Scary? And have you ever messed one up?

J.H.: The American anthem is the hardest, it has a huge range which is why it’s almost never sung live in the really big games. It’s too easy to fuck it up. It’s terrifying being in front of 20,000 people with no band to hide behind. Some singers can handle it, others cannot. I sang for the Winnipeg Jets from 1989-96, and I enjoyed it because I truly loved the team. I also was young enough to take the stress. The hockey club also treated me very well and I was there when we lost the team, so I was totally invested. Those things make the difference between a passionate anthem, and someone singing as many notes as they can get into one phrase just to show off.

J.P.: You’ve clearly had a great career. But you’re not a household name, a la Katy Perry or Lady Gaga. Did you ever crave fame? Do you crave fame? Does it at all bother you how so many musical lightweights become superstars, and so many true talents linger in the shadows a bit?

J.H.: I’ve had a great career because I’ve always made a living playing music. I thought I wanted fame, because it’s what you’re supposed to want. I went though a period in my late 30s when I kind of mourned that I wouldn’t have a bigger career, and then I got over it. It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, because one thing shouldn’t define us, even if we’re really good at it.  Also, when I met my husband and had kids, I didn’t want to be the kind of mother who kept going on tour. I took my kids a few times then realized I couldn’t do both. So I made the choice to be with my family and bloom where I was planted.

Does it bother me when lightweights make it? It used to, when jealousy played into my low self esteem. I don’t watch music reality TV or award shows because it doesn’t mean anything to me, and the really good singers on American Idol haven’t had the opportunity to spend thousands of hours learning good stage presence. So their shows are very planned and staged so that there’s no worry of dead space or a joke that failed or any real intimacy with the crowd. If you’ve ever watched the Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop you can understand how most artists feel about art and shit that’s marketed to the masses tarted up as art.

J.P.: I love hip-hop. Love, love, love it. You sing jazz and standards from the 1930s and 40s, among other things. I wonder, do you get rap? Can you appreciate a Tupac song? A Jay-Z tune? Do you even consider it music?

J.H.: What I like about rap is that it’s roots are really and truly organic, people will make music in whatever way they can. In the case of rap and hip hop, I think it came out of the absolute lack of arts in the schools and communities, so people just used what they had—their rhythm, their muscle memory of generations of music, their turntables, which became instruments. How frickin’ cool is that?

I heard the Eminem song with Rhianna, and he sounded like a pissed off white guy, so I don’t really get that. But Tupac, he was speaking for a generation, I appreciate him as an artist. I don’t listen to a lot of rap-right now—it just seems like it’s a contest of who can be the baddest motherfucker  and be the hippest (Is that even a word anymore?) representation of their generation. Now my kids are talking about trap, which I keep calling tarp just to piss them off. But I do get it.

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J.P.: I would love to hear the stories of your greatest on-stage moment and your lowest. Please …

J.H.: My greatest stage moment has not been the tours of Europe with the pop groups or the big audiences, but two moments. My second favorite is when I sang with my church choir at a contest called, “How Sweet the Sound”—which was a national contest. We did not win, and we were probably the only white choir and I bitched for weeks about it because I was worried that we would have our butts handed to us on a plate. From the moment we started the song, “Oh Happy Day,” the crowd went nuts and I was the soloist and the judges were famous gospel singers and I pulled out my best gospel chops, and it was so much fun. Everyone was  really accepting and joyful. And I was reminded once again that it’s just about the music. It’s always got to be about the music.

My favorite moment was a party I played at with my family rock band, The Hanson Sisters, about six years ago. We were playing in our hometown and it was a party for a hockey tournament and there were a bunch of ex-NHL players there from our hometown—Bobby Clarke, Gerry Hart, Jordy Douglas, etc. And there were probably 1,000 people there, and we could just feel the love and the joy that the audience had for this great weekend, and the fact that we love our community, and hockey, and the energy coming from the audience just about blew us off stage. It was a tangible energy that hopefully every musician gets to experience in his/her career.

The worst one is not really singing. I tried out for the musical Tommy. Pete Townsend was there and liked my voice so I was told he wanted to hear me one more time. I showed up to really give it my all and then they told me I had to dance for him.

Think Elaine in Seinfeld. Dancing for Pete Townsend.

He made excuses for me to the choreographer because he liked my singing. It was excruciating to have to dance for one of the most famous rock stars in the world. I got the part but was told I had to move the next week so they could teach me how to dance. I didn’t take it. I hate dancing.

I have dozens of embarrassing moments by the way—this one still haunts me. I was singing the anthem in Atlanta for the Thrashers because the Canadiens were in town and I thought I would sing the Canadian anthem in both French and English. I started in French and then just forgot the words, so I inserted the words, “Pepe Le peu,” into the phrase and then went into the English part. I actually hoped the ice would open and I could just disappear into Valhalla or wherever it is that mortified singers go … at least the non-French speaking people didn’t know.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Debbie Gibson, Jonas Salk, Nick Jonas, Davey Lopes, mango salad, Venice Beach, Ikea, Richard Dawson, Toronto, the knuckleball, your left foot, Diet Sprite: You’re weird. But here I go … My left foot (my hi hat foot—I play drums), Toronto (the band not the city), Mango salad, Venice Beach, IKEA, Jonas Salk, the knuckleball, Richard Dawson (only for The Running Man), Davey Lopes (baseball?), Debbie Gibson, Nick Jonas, Diet Sprite

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Yes, I recall thinking (it was a small plane with an open cockpit), “Why is the pilot flipping madly through the manual? This can’t be good. Please Jesus, don’t let this really smelly man sitting beside me crush me to death.”

• One question you would ask Doug Flutie were he here right now?: Can we be in a band together?

• The inside of your car smells like …: Something piney from Yankee candle or some crap like that with a soupçon of old coffee.

• You’re offered $200,000 to take all of Snoop Dogg’s songs and adapt them to jazz. You in?: Absolutely, could I do what I like with the other $180,000? Would I have to swear?  Isn’t he called snoop lion or something now?

• In exactly 26 words, please offer your take on the band Hanson: I have no idea what they do now but I think we may be related. They are blond and Scandinavian. I am sometimes blond and Scandinavian.

• Why do you believe prayer does/doesn’t work?: Of course prayer works. Not for winning games, but for joy and everyday peace.

• I’m Jewish. The other day I accidentally ate some bacon bits. Now I feel awful. What should I do to atone?: What would Jesus do? (He was Jewish)

• I know some people who think Mike Trout is better than Rickey Henderson in his prime. I consider that ludicrous. Your thoughts?: Rickey Henderson was more handsome and charming. Those are my only requirements for professional baseball players.

• Five greatest female vocalists of your lifetime?: Mahalia Jackson. Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Julie London, my sister Susan.


Aaron Crump

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Back when I was editor of the student newspaper at the University of Delaware, the staff chose to rename the features section. At the time, it was called—lamely—Part 2. So we decided upon five ideas, and held a vote. The winner: Serendipity.

Since that time, I’ve loved the word. In case you don’t know, it refers to a joyful accidental discovery; an uncovering of something unexpected.

Which leads to this week’s 186th Quaz Q&A.

A few weeks ago, while trying to track down former Loyola Marymount guard Bo Kimble, I Googled around the Internet, seeking out any clues to his whereabouts. Somehow, in the course of the search, I stumbled upon the words, “Hank Gathers’ son” and stopped cold. Hank Gathers’ son? Hank Gathers’ son? WTF? For those who don’t recall (or who weren’t born at the time), back in 1990 Gathers was a star forward at Loyola Marymount who collapsed on the court and died. It was enormous news; an awful tragedy that has stuck with me for nearly 25 years.

Anyhow, as is often the case, my digging took a left turn, and before long I was Facebook messaging with Aaron Crump, the son of Hank Gathers.

Take a seat, have a Pepsi and meet the son of a college basketball icon.

Aaron Crump, welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Aaron, I grew up watching your dad. I remember him well at Loyola Marymount, remember his death (painfully) well—but I don’t think I ever knew Hank Gathers had a son until a few days ago. So, first, I know you work in sales, but can you tell me who you are. When you were born? Who’s your mother? What do you do? And what was it like growing up without your father?:

AARON CRUMP: It’s an honor to be Quazed. My name is Aaron Crump; son of the late, great Hank Gathers. My mother’s name is Marva Crump.

I was born on May 15, 1983 (my mother tells me she took me to the parade on Broad Street when the Sixers won the title), which makes me 31 years of age.

Earlier this year, I started a non-profit organization fittingly named The Hank Gathers Legacy Group. I partnered with one of my best friends who runs a non-profit of his own. Together, our goal is geared towards mentoring youth through not only the game of basketball, but thought-provoking discussion and community events as well. Being as though I’ve never been able to properly honor my father in the manner I feel he deserves, what better way to preserve his legacy than trying to instill what he embodied (hard work; dedication, heart, drive, focus) into the youth of today?

As for what it was like growing up without my father, well, it’s a very complex question to answer, simply because I didn’t have time with him as a conscious adult like most people. I knew of him as my dad, and from what everyone told me he was a great basketball player. But whenever I was with him I had fun and felt loved and protected. I guess, to answer your question, it was tough. The toughest thing was not having more time to compile some more good memories.

With Jeff Fryer and Bo Kimble, former Loyola Marymount teammates of Hank Gathers.

With Jeff Fryer and Bo Kimble, former Loyola Marymount teammates of Hank Gathers.

J.P.: There’s something … haunting, I think (for lack of a better word) about learning about you. Maybe that sounds weird, but it’s almost like learning a piece of someone you admired so much still exists, after you presume it’s gone. I wonder what it’s been like, for you, knowing you have this famous father, but not knowing your famous father. Is that strange? Fulfilling? Heartbreaking?

A.C.: You’ve been writing professionally for a very long time sir, and you couldn’t find a better word than ‘haunting’? Lol.

Dude, you make me sound like a ghost or an ancient artifact from basketball’s forgotten history. It’s not weird now, but it sure used to be. I look at it in almost the same way when meeting someone my father touched, only from a different perspective. I am gaining pieces of him that I never had. I was so young when he passed. When I come across people who still remember him as a great person or ballplayer, or how it made them feel when he died … I welcome those interactions now because he lives in those memories.

Even his death stirred love and compassion, which—to me—have to be two of the greatest emotions we have. If you can impact at least one person your whole life in that manner (if only your child), how can you not have done your job as a human being? That’s beyond awesome in my opinion. I didn’t always view things that way but now that I’m older and a bit more mature, I’m able to embrace it all and take the good from it. To know that you and others admired him, makes me proud to be his son.

I used to struggle a lot with not knowing my dad personally like some of the people who were close to him. How rough it was to hear stories about him when I was younger, well, that’s for another time, maybe. But I used to feel as if everyone knew him better than I did. That was, I believe, mainly out of immaturity and a sense of jealousy.

As of right now though, I don’t feel that way. You asked what it was like to have a famous father and not know him. It’s true that I didn’t get the opportunity to know him the way that some people did, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know him. I like to think that I am good father, partner and person … all things I believed him to be. These things weren’t taught; they come naturally. I know myself, so in essence, I know my father because I am partly what my father was. That inspires me to be what people knew him to be. He was an excellent role model and set me up to be a successful human being. Nobody can say for sure why we’re here on this earth, but I refuse to believe that his mission was solely to be great at the game of basketball. To me, it was just a medium for a greater purpose.

That in and of itself is fulfilling.

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J.P.: I’m pretty sure every sports fan from my era has watched the video of your father’s very public death. Have you? How many times? What was that like for you? And, in hindsight, do you blame anyone? Do you think things could have been done to prevent it?:

A.C.: I remember vividly the night he passed.

My grandmother woke me up out of my sleep and proceeded to tell me that he had passed away. I went downstairs with her to my mother who was staring at the TV, crying. It felt as if everyone was looking to me for a reaction.So I gave them one.

I cried.

The weird thing is, I only cried because I knew that was what everyone else was doing and so it seemed appropriate. I was extremely saddened, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a moment to grieve. Everyone else was so devastated that it kind of paralyzed me. I understood what death meant as a 6-year old, meaning I would’t be able to hang-out with him anymore. But I never felt as if he left me. To this day, I don’t feel as if my dad is gone.

True, he’s not here. But I don’t feel abandoned by Big Hank. I never have.

As for the video, I’ve seen it. Going back to the night he passed, I saw it then. I saw it once more a few days later and then maybe a couple of months ago when looking at one of his highlights on YouTube. I mean … I feel the same way now as I did then. I don’t want to actually see anyone pass away (violently or not), let alone my father. I don’t think anyone does.

I don’t blame anyone for his death. It was his time. I’ve always felt like that as well. Could there have been some preventative measures taken? Maybe. Sure. But none of us can say with confidence that whatever was to be done would have saved him. Again, I believe it was his time.

J.P.: What’s your basketball experience? Did you play high school? College? Are you any good? Do you have your dad’s height?

A.C.: I don’t have much of a basketball résumé. I played my junior and senior years at Cheltenham High School and was pretty good. I attended the Community College of Philadelphia after high school, but I’ve never played on a collegiate level. I still play, and I am absolutely better than the average basketball player (depending on who’s average), but I’m not a professional. My first cousin on my father’s side, however, is named D.J. Rivera. He plays professionally overseas for Al-Riyadi in Amman, Jordan. My other first cousin, Jordan Gathers, plays Division I at St. Bonaventure here in the states (he’s also very good).

I’m proud to say that they carry on the basketball player aspect of my father’s legacy. They’re much better than I am, but if any average Joe reads this and thinks he or she can take me out there on that court, they’ll be in for a rough evening.

I hope.

J.P.: What’s been your relationship with your dad’s former teammates at Loyola Marymount? Do you know them? Speak with them? What have they told you about your dad?

A.C.: I have pretty good relationships with Chris Knight and Jeff Fryer, both of whom played with my dad in college. I was a part of a piece Yahoo Sports did on the team this past March and they were extremely warm and shared some stories about Hank. They’re stories I don’t want to share here, but they brought me great joy. I also speak to Bo Kimble on occasion, but most of those guys haven’t seen me since I was a tike.

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With daughter Dasia.

J.P.: What’s your life path, birth to now? Where’d you go to school? Where were you raised? When did you first know about your dad? What do you want to do for a career?

A.C.: My life path is a story in an of itself. I was born and raised in North Philadelphia, where I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through the third grade. After my dad passed, my immediate family and I moved to Cheltenham, Pa., where I stayed and studied up until high school. The beginning of fourth grade was when I began to understand that lots of people knew of my father.

J.P.: When you have a father who died from heart disease, how does that impact you? Are you worried? Do you go for many checkups? Are you in good health?

A.C.: Around the time I was late into elementary school, there were lots of test that were run on me to determine if I’d be susceptible to the same type of heart disease that he had. I remember having to wear a heart monitor for several days straight at one point. I turned out to be OK and over time, I haven’t had any trouble. Again, I was too young when all of this happened to fully understand the circumstances surrounding my father’s death. Ultimately, I would like to not only raise awareness of the importance of heart screenings and preventative measures, but also to raise awareness of the man everyone knew as Hank Gathers.

J.P.: What sort of NBA player do you think Hank Gathers would have been?

A.C.: If my father were in the NBA now, it’s ridiculously hard to say what sort of player he would have been. He was a hard worker and I know he would have gotten progressively better.

I’d say he’d look like Blake Griffin in terms of athleticism; he’d have Hakeem the Dream’s handle (yeah, I said it), Karl Malone’s strength and power, along with his mid-range jumper; and a heart that can only be forged in North Philadelphia (no disrespect to any other part of the world).

Crump, (third from left) never lit up UCLA or Michigan, but he's had his moments in the Philadelphia Men's Basketball League.

Crump, (third from left) never lit up UCLA or Michigan, but he’s had his moments in the Philadelphia Men’s Basketball League. Which is more than most of us can say.

J.P.: With the passing of time, do you at all worry about people forgetting about your father? And what can you do/do you do to keep that from happening?

A.C.: At times yes, but not like you may think.

From what I’ve heard, anyone who knew my pop would be fighting an uphill battle to forget him. I feel the need to educate the younger generation that may not know of him; or know of him but nothing outside of him being a good basketball player who passed away at a young age. In my eyes, his story should be celebrated because kids need that hope. Especially those in the neighborhood where we grew up.

I don’t mean that in the sense that they can become a famous 6-foot-8 beast on the basketball court (which is certainly OK), but that if you know who you are and know who and what you want to be, and you’re willing to work hard and dedicate yourself … you can be successful in whatever you choose to do, too. Those are facts. My dad is proof.

I gravitate towards children, and I think it’s extremely important that they realize their potential. That may seem cliché or corny, but once I started to embrace parenthood, I began to realize that it’s not about me any longer. I feel I may be able to best make an impact through reaching them. That’s my goal or dream occupation, and I’m working toward being able to do that full-time in some capacity. As far as honoring my father’s legacy, I am actually working with my uncle, Charles Gathers, to produce a documentary on the re-introduction of Hank Gathers. It’s pretty cool, considering he has a background in film and he’s my dad’s brother.

I’m also working on a book chronicling my journey.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Tom Brady, Las Vegas, Bo Kimble, Vanilla Coca-Cola, Ron Gant, Hall & Oates, Ferraris, Sebastian Vettel, Bran Flakes, Mookie Wilson: I’m gonna go with Tom Brady, Las Vegas, Bo Kimble, Ferraris, Ron Gant, Hall & Oates, Mookie Wilson, Bran Flakes, Vanilla Coke.

• Three memories from the birth of your daughter?: 1) Me waiting for the cry when she arrived. 2) Her quieting down once she heard my voice. 3) Pulling an all-nighter in the rocking chair with her in my arms that first night in the hospital. I must have pressed the button for the nurse at least 20 times.

• What’s your all-time least favorite name for a boy?: Theophillis (No disrespect to Theophillis London. I like your music.)

• Five greatest movies of all time?: Wow. In no particular order, I’m gonna go with The Matrix (all of them), Star Wars (all of them), Harlem Nights, Avatar and The Wiz.

• Three reasons one should make Philadelphia his/her next vacation destination?: The Art Museum. The Eagles play here. We have the only real  cheesesteaks available to the world (It may say “cheesesteak” on the menu … but it’s not really a cheesesteak. I’m telling you guys. False-advertising is what is really)

• What’s the favorite of your tattoos: I have about 13 tattoos, but the one that has the most significance and meaning is the one I have of the Eye of Horus.

• What are two things you want your daughter to experience in her lifetime?: I want her to experience the feeling of unconditional love for someone outside of her immediate family. And I want her to experience the brief disappointment that comes with failure—followed by success.

• What do you think about Huey Lewis’ role in We Are The World?: I think he’s outdone even himself with that one. Lol

• Climate Change—hoax or huge problem?: I believe it’s neither.

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Glitter Goddess


The Quaz exists for two reasons:

A. I have way too much free time.

B. I’ve always loved interviewing the cool, the funky, the offbeat, the unique.

Which is why we’re here today, holding the 185th episode of this Q&A series with a woman who goes by, simply, Glitter Goddess.

Glitter is the third sex worker to appear in this space, and she’s as unique as they come. She refers to herself as a “Pro-Dominatrix and Femme Fatale,” and offers her services both in person (if you’re up for a trip to Houston) and via phone and Skype. She doesn’t have actual sex with clients, but has no beef with people rubbing her feet, cleaning her apartment and bestowing her with gifts and such (For the record, if anyone wants to clean my apartment and show up with gifts, I’m 100-percent game). Sometimes, folks just want to talk. Sometimes, folks want her to pretend to sit naked on a cake. Hey, whatever works.

Anyhow, one can visit Glitter’s website here, and follow her on Twitter here. She’s never heard of Arian Foster, has no great question for Steph Curry and doesn’t fret over penis size.

Glitter Goddess, welcome to the land of the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, so your business genuinely fascinates me. But what fascinates me most is that—in a profession where 99% seem to use fake photos, hidden identities—you make your own videos, pictures, etc. Does this not concern you at all? Couldn’t it bite you in the rear? You apply for, say, a job at a law office, they Google Image you …

GLITTER GODDESS: Yes, it could. I went into this profession/lifestyle knowing secrets are not secret forever. I don’t use my real name with anything associated with Glitter Goddess, so that helps and is practical for my general safety also. The truth is, I have no interest in ever working a corporate job or working for other people in general, so this ‘issue’ might not ever be a problem for me. I’m 27 and I’ve only ever worked one ‘job’ in my life which was at a picture framing store. I worked twice a week for a year right after I got out of college. On the other hand, I have started at least 15 businesses. I prefer the freedom of working for myself and I put in the time, energy, and anything else required to make sure I am successful so I don’t have to follow someone else’s plans for me. I have no corporate back-up plan, though I do have a naughty idea for breaking into the corporate world. I would love to be the beautiful relaxation specialist/hypnotist/dominatrix behind CEOs and presidents who have a hard time unwinding. My true back-up plan though is exploring different aspects of me and what I am capable of. I am also certified as a color consultant, a portrait painter, and currently facilitate personal growth for clients in private sessions. I don’t see any reason to leave what I do. It is exciting to me every day and I love having that personal connection that fake photos could never foster.

J.P.: How did you become “Glitter Goddess”? Literally, what was your path from womb to now? How did it come to you as a profession? When did you start? And who are you? I know you live in Houston, but … married? Kids? Dog owner?

G.G.: I have a cat. Not married, no kids, and no interest in being married or having kids. I do have a boyfriend. We have been together for almost three years. Monogamy was not part of the deal when we first got together and it doesn’t come up as often now, but we don’t have rules about it. Who am I? These are deep questions. I am pretty much what you see. I am a beautiful woman who loves psychology and seeing how people work. I love beautiful things, personal growth and getting my way.

The story of my start could go back to the beginning when I lived in Hawaii and had a huge window overlooking the beach. I used to put on my bathing suit and lipstick at 8-years old and walk back in forth in front of this window teasing the boys. Did anybody see me? Probably not, but that was not the point for me. I liked looking beautiful and could feel the control and power I had as a woman even at such a young age. When I moved to New York City from the West Coast I really found my dominance. I had men come over and pay me $100 to clean my apartment and massage my feet. I thought any woman would be crazy to say no to this, as long as the men were sane and, trust me, I vetted all of them. Turns out not all women want this. I did and still do and I am constantly coming up with new ways to have the willing supplicants in my life bring me more ease, happiness, and pleasure. I don’t need any of it, but at this point it would be hard to imagine my life without the men that are so sweet and such a contribution to me.

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J.P.: So I was reading your web bio, and it says you have a background in, among other things, “addiction recovery.” Yet clearly phone sex can be an addictive behavior (“I love making addicting hypnotic videos and audios”). So are you taking advantage of addictive personas? If you know someone has, say, legitimate sex addiction issues, would you consider him/her fertile ground (cha-ching), or someone to help?

G.G.: I am open to what they are looking to get out of a session. Some guys come to me with addictive patterns. They want to role play that I am the professional, but that I turn on them while they are vulnerable and I take advantage of them. That is fun for me when it is their idea. I would not do that without their prompting. Those guys truly have no interest in stepping away from their tendencies, they are still enjoying it. Here is a little secret. I actually love when people come to me for true help. I had someone find me on Niteflirt tonight and we did an hour session. He was one of the very few who have contacted me for what we might call ‘real help.’ He was disturbed and looking for help after learning that his wife had cheated on him. After the call he said, “The way I felt before the call to now is night and day different. I think you may have just saved my marriage.” Nothing beats that feeling and no one is measuring, but it is just as wonderful as when someone is totally smitten, devoted, and hopelessly addicted to me. A true dominatrix derives joy in helping someone submit in the way he secretly desires, but maybe doesn’t realize he desires. She makes him think it was her idea all along, though the hints originally came from him. This may be giving away too much, but I get all the information from my subs from what they say they would like to experience. If I am into it too, then that is where we go and we both love it.

J.P.: Another thing on your bio—“ I show women how to orgasm who have never cum.” Kinda jumps off the page. A. Why do you think so many women have never orgasmed from sex? And how do you help them?

G.G.: I didn’t cum until I was 24 so I have firsthand experience here. Some women do cum very easily and others have tried and tried and can’t figure it out. What finally worked for me was following the First Orgasm Instructions, by Betty Dodson. They worked. Her 10-step guide on the internet changed my life. When I moved to New York City I got in touch with her and we are very good friends to this day. She has amazing techniques and she has a way of humorously dispelling myths about sexuality so we don’t have to feel wrong or broken. I use some of her techniques and others from my favorite sex book, Sex is Not a Four Letter Word, but Relationship Often Times Is, by Gary Douglas. I do private sessions on the phone and in person with women. Half of it ends up being physical techniques and the other half is getting over the mental hurdles.

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J.P.: Why do you think there are 8,001 pornographic/sexual sites catered toward men for every one for women? Are we simply more desperate? More pathetic?

G.G.: I don’t have an answer for this one. Men are more visual and many men respond sexually to pornographic content more than women. There is also the fact that women have the golden vagina. Women have so much power just being born female and men are more likely to have a single digit IQ (their erections).

J.P.: I have this image of you doing a call, and a guy is jerking off, doing whatever he does, and you’re filing your nails, watching Friends re-runs with the volume off. Is that the case? Ever? Or how do you do your calls? Where? What’s the mindset?

G.G.: It is different for every call. I don’t have a TV. When I do watch something it is on Hulu or hbogo, but I don’t watch them during sessions. I have painted my nails and toenails on calls (which lots of guys are into actually), but filing them would be too loud. On a typical day I am wearing a bra and panties, since that is what I am comfortable in and I am pretty engrossed in my calls. On cam there is no time or privacy to do anything else but be present for the call. Sometimes I zone out during phone hypnosis sessions. I like how it feels.

J.P.: I’ve gotta ask: How does the family feel about your profession? Was there a moment you told them? Explained? What was that like?

G.G.: My mom is the only member of my family who knows. She was sort of surprised and curious, then alarmed about my safety, then cutely intrigued. She does not ask many questions mostly to honor my privacy, but she is naturally curious and has a doctorate in psychology. The one person I would not want to know is my grandpa. Plainly, there are some things I do that would be hard to re-frame so that he would not be horrified. At first my mom called my slaves my ‘friends’—which was adorable. We talk less about it now than at the beginning. I also teach classes to women and men about being the dominatrix of your personal and business life. She mostly imagines I do that all of the time, though I do a lot more naughty stuff that she just does not ask about.

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J.P.: I 100% don’t get “foot worship.” Feet are stumpy and weird and funky. They smell, they sweat, they’re dirty. So why would anyone wanna worship feet?

G.G.: Some people like them and some don’t. There are foot worshipers who can’t wrap their heads around what turns you on, too. Sexual arousal is such an individualized experience. I have heard that sensations from the feet and genitals transmit to the same area of the brain.

Underneath it all, there is a fetish for everything and I love the way it feels to have my feet massaged and licked. It does turn me on when done well. I take pleasure in taking care of my feet, too. I paint my own toenails and love to lotion them and exfoliate them. I take care of them as I do the rest of my body. It is also wonderful to have someone on their knees, below me, begging to kiss my feet. I do a better job of explaining the appeal from my perspective than from the submissive’s.


J.P.: Best story from your Glitter Goddess career? The one that stands out in your mind …

G.G.: Cakey Butt! I’ll just be copy and pasting this one from my archives. I got this message on Niteflirt from someone inquiring about doing a call with me:

Can we do a call where you are a cake baker, and I am a powerful and famous food critic?

You are furious because I wrote a review for your carrot cake in the nytimes saying it was too dry and lacking hearty texture.  So you kidnap me and smoosh a carrot cake with your butt, and then sit on my face with your cakey butt and make me eat the carrot cake and yummy white frosting out of your gorgeous ass.

All until the forced cake feeding makes me admit that the cake is delicious and the review was a lie because I was paid off by your rival French cook, Lisette.

J.P.: I’m obsessed with death. It often consumes me—the reality that, ultimately, I will cease to exist for eternity. I’m guessing this doesn’t particularly bug you. Why? Why not?

G.G.: Actually, death is something I think about a lot. My dad died of cancer when I was 16. He was seemingly healthy, fit, worked out everyday, ate healthy, but did have a lot of stress in his work. He got appendicitis and the doctors found he had cancer metastasized all over his liver. We had three more months of up and down, not knowing if he would make it. After that I was pretty upset. We were close and I loved him a lot. I drank alcohol a bit when my mom was not looking, and when that didn’t work I tried spirituality. I got a grant in college to research the process of death and dying. Did people change aspects of their lives, interactions, and relationships when they knew they were terminally ill? So I volunteered with Hospice and met some dying people. From what I found, no, people did not change. I was shocked, so I did a whole interactive art exhibit forcing people to look at what they would change if they had a week, a day, one hour to live. It was packed and strangers picked up the pens I provided to write on the art, in front of everyone else, their responses to question like, “What is one thing that you are determined not to regret when you die”, and “What is one thing that scares you about death.” So when I was 21 this is what I did for fun. I asked these people to have conversations and publicly display their intimate thoughts for other people to read and reflect on. My findings led me to the idea that each moment is there to live fully and that being happy is the meaning of life for me. Ultimately, I found peace with all of this when I started taking classes with Access Consciousness. I like Access Consciousness since the tools are about uncovering what each person knows, not about believing other people’s ideas.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least) American cheese, Arian Foster, pop-up VW vans, Jurassic Park II, corned beef, Huey Lewis, tablecloths, Cindy Lauper, poetry, The Nutcracker: American cheese, Cindy Lauper, pop-up VW vans, “Jurassic Park II,” Arian Foster (I had to look this person up, which I am sure will be seen as shameful), tablecloths, Huey Lewis, poetry, The Nutcracker, corned beef

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Nothing more than big turbulence. I like being high above the planet. My parents told me there was a big lightning storm once when we were flying from the mainland to Hawaii. I don’t remember it so I was either 1. Asleep or 2. Enjoying it. Not sure which

• Are big penises really so much better than small ones?: Nope

• What’s the sexual taboo that troubles you the most?: Pedophilia is completely unacceptable. I have reported callers on Niteflirt for it. I am not sure if Niteflirt can do anything but I hope so.

• One question you would ask Steph Curry were he here right now?: Had to Google him too. I am not a sports follower, so I’d go with, “How are ya?”

• What should I buy my wife as an affordable-yet-loving Chanukah gift?: When I was card shopping the other day I saw a card that had a little fried potato pancake creature with it’s arms outstretched for a hug and on the inside it said, “I love you a latkes!” Go for that and a meaningful note inside.

• In exactly 22 words, please make an argument for the Chia Pet: My cat will eat any plant I have inside, poisonous or not. A chia pet is really a cat person’s only choice.

• Five reasons one should make Houston his/her home: The restaurants are fabulous; Rent is amazingly cheap for what you get; You can come and get hypnotized by me; The weather is great when it is terrible for everyone else and the rest of the time there is AC; The people are amazingly friendly.

• Five things you always carry in your purse: Lipstick/lipgloss; My iPhone; Purse floss; Gift cards from my good boys to Starbucks, Wholefoods, Sephora, Nordstrom; My Prada wallet

• Would you let your kids play tackle football? Why or why not?: I don’t have kids, so it is pretty hard to imagine. I would guess yes.

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Pat Barry

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I’ve never believed in Santa Claus.

It’s a Jewish thing. When you’re raised without Christmas, the concept of a fat man in a red suit bringing presents down the chimney doesn’t fully resonate. So, early on, my folks let me in on the secret, with the requisite order, “Don’t tell your friends who believe …”

Of course, being a little asswipe, I told them all.

Why? Jealously. Beneath my, “Chanukah is better than Christmas!” banter, I knew the truth: Christmas is the greatest holiday known to man. Easily. Yeah, there’s the whole confusing Jesus-is-born-to-a-virgin thing. But, beyond that, it brings together family and food and a tree and tinsel and ornaments. Why, every December 25 I’d find my way two houses up, at the Gargano house, pretending their holiday was mine.

Alas, it wasn’t.

Though I’m not entirely certain the point of today’s lead-in, I am quite sure why Pat Barry is the glorious 184th Quaz. Namely, because he’s THE Santa Claus. Look at the beard (legit). Look at the outfit (custom made). Look at the red cheeks and the jolly glow and the desire to bring genuine happiness to myriad people. I initially saw Pat’s business card hanging in a Dana Point coffee shop, and I immediately knew he’d be perfect here.

Which he is.

Ladies and gentlemen, ho … ho … ho …

It’s Santa Claus.

JEFF PEARLMAN: Pat, you’re a professional Santa Claus. Which makes me immediately wonder—how does one become a professional Santa Claus? Like, when did you decide to do this? What was the impetus? Why?

PAT BARRY: About four years ago I returned from a vacation during which I decided not to shave. About two months into it someone mentioned that I looked like an old-fashioned Santa Claus, like the one from Miracle on 34th Street, and it just piqued my interest. I started looking in to what it would take, took a class over a weekend on some good do’s and don’ts and decided to pursue it. I resolved that if I was going to do this I would do it right. I bought a good custom-made suit (it is all about the suit … but more on that later), boots, belt, glasses, gloves etc. I made up cards and joined FORBS (Fraternal Order of Real Beard Santa’s). This is a group of Santa’s in Southern California and throughout the nation who all believe in keeping the spirit of Santa alive and in good taste. I learned a lot from them about not only the business aspect but the charitable opportunities available.

Most all of my business has been word of mouth and then repeat business. I work with a catering company, Spectacular Catering, and am the Santa for a number of his events. I do a few charitable visits, including a Marine Corp Christmas Party and others as requested. I do post a few business cards here and there and am always looking for new clients. When I’m not at the North Pole, I can be reached at

J.P.: So I’m a Jewish guy who sorta looks at Christmas with sadness. It seems like it should be such an important holiday, religiously, and yet it has been reduced to this commercialized marketing bonanza, mostly about gifts and chocolate and lining up to throw elbows at WalMart at midnight. Am I off on this? Am I missing something? What’s your take?

SANTA: No, you are probably not off about one aspect of Christmas but there are plenty of other parts you need to look at. Christmas is also about family, hope, charity and good times. I meet with hundreds of kids each year at events put on by Home Owners Associations, private parties, corporate events, and home visits (I do not sit at malls). They are frequently dressed in their ‘Sunday Best’ for pictures or matching clothes with siblings. Each one is thrilled to get a chance to meet Santa and talk with him. After all, this is something they usually only get to do once a year. I often have to ask what they want for Christmas—because they forget to tell me or are too excited. Some bring me hand-lettered lists with pictures colored in.

On almost all of the occasions the close and extended family is there with cameras. The visit is a family event that parents want to remember. I try to make it as personal as possible for each child. At a home visit I get kids names in advance but you can always come up with something to make it memorable for each child. I often stop kids at first and talk about something; matching red clothes to my suit or missing teeth (‘Didn’t you have all of those last year?’) or how much taller they look! I never promise anything, but see what I can do.

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J.P.: Why do you think people respond so profoundly to the character of Santa Claus? I mean, he doesn’t fly like Superman, he doesn’t have a cool costume like Batman. What’s the universal appeal?

SANTA: But he does fly in a sled pulled by reindeer; try and top that.

There is something about the red suit. Put yourself in it, add some boots and small glasses and you become transformed. How often does a child get to meet someone he/she has read about or been read to about since he/she was very young and who does these magical things. Do you know of anyone who has elves for friends? Or a wife who bakes the best cookies in town? When was the last time you left cookies and milk for the plumber?

The red suit I have is custom made for me and very high quality, but the tackiest suit with a fake beard will often suffice as someone’s home Santa suit. We used to dress up a different member of the family or a neighbor for when my kids were small. Looking at the pictures now it is embarrassing but the kids loved every minute of it.

J.P.: What’s your absolute greatest moment from being Santa?

SANTA: Hard to say, as there are so many. The thrill of having a youngster come up and give you a hug for no good reason rates pretty high.

J.P.: What’s your absolute worst moment from being Santa?

SANTA: Honestly, I have not had one yet.

J.P.: How do you prepare for a gig? You’ve got a party to do in an hour. What’s your warmup? Your voice exercises? Your jolly jolt? Do you eat? Do you get nervous?

SANTA: My only routine is in the order of putting on my suit and accessories. I need to stay focused so I do not forget anything. Often the hardest part is fitting into my small car. When the elves got it for me they thought a Miata was really big.

For longer gigs I often have a changing room on site. Once in the suit I never drink or eat except water as I always want to look as good for the last child as the first. I am not a singing Santa so no vocal warmups. I was never in theater before so I wouldn’t know a routine or warmup if it hit me in the belly. Surprisingly I do not get nervous although I would never consider myself a performer. So much of what I do is one to one so I do not feel like I am standing out in a crowd (ironic, as I am the only one in a red suit and boots).

Pat with his brothers of FORBS. Just try and pick him out from the crowd ...

Pat with his brothers of FORBS. Just try and pick him out from the crowd …

J.P.: Do you think it’s wrong for parents not to let their kids believe in Santa? What I mean is, surely there are parents who want their kids to know the real world; who would rather just have children know their presents are from the store, and Mom and Dad bought them. Is that not cool in your mind?

SANTA: As my role of Santa it is not to judge how parents approach my image. No matter what a parent may tell them they can still believe if they choose. We all know the Cat in the Hat is not real, but that does not mean we cannot enjoy the story. Do you still make a wish before blowing out a birthday candle and hope it may come true?

As kids mature they know the presents came from the store and parents buy them. But Christmas is about the whole package. Its the change of seasons, the decorations, the excitement of Christmas morning, the family gathering.

J.P.: What’s your story? Womb to now? How’d you get here? Where are you from? What’s your career background/path?

SANTA: It all started over 1,700 years ago in a small town in what is now Turkey with a man named Nicholas …

Actually, Southern Californian born and raised. Grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, went to college in San Diego and started working at a Boys and Girls Club in northern San Diego County. From there I ran the Boys and Girls Club in Laguna Beach for 16 years, was the Director of Community Services for the City of Laguna Beach for 11 years and then moved into property management for the last nine years. I retired from that career last April and besides Santa have not decided if or what comes next.

J.P.: What’s the difference between a great Santa, a good Santa and a meh Santa? Like, how do you define greatness in the gig?

SANTA: You have to believe. Each child only sees you once a year and maybe for only a few minutes, and for only a few years while they believe. It is my job to give them the best experience on each of those few occasions. Santa is always friendly, will adjust to any occasion and cares about them as individuals. Remember that they believe you know them as individuals, you know their house, what you gave them last year, etc. You are allowed to be a little forgetful as I am old and have lots of kids to keep track of. If they walk away with a smile and a wave Santa has done his job.

J.P.: How do you feel come December 26? Is it a relief? Deflating? Do you take a long vacation?

SANTA: This year for the first time I am going to keep the beard year around. I usually shave on Christmas Day in deference to my past employers and start growing again in April. No employer now so I decided to keep it on and gain a little length.

The month of December is a whirlwind. I do about 20 visits that vary from 15 minutes to four hours each. I suddenly have no commitments; relief yes, but also sorry that it is over as I enjoy it so much. No vacation planned yet.

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• Five all-time favorite holiday songs: Not big on any particular holiday songs but once heard the ‘Bonanza’ TV cast do a holiday album that was memorable to say the least.

• I’m skeptical that, in a really fierce storm, one reindeer’s nose could lead the way. I mean, how much light can one nose generate?: You would be surprised. I consulted Rudolf about this question and he was offended that you would doubt his abilities to navigate the globe.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Sammy Hagar, almond extract, Mongolian food, the Easter Bunny, C.J. Wilson, P.F. Chang’s, snow, A Walk to Remember, New Edition, Huntington Beach: Easter Bunny (a very old friend), snow (who wouldn’t like it?), PF Chang’s, Mongolian food, almond extract (any food is good food), Sammy Hagar (rock and roll is here to stay), C.J. Wilson (lots of time for baseball in the off season as long as the elves are doing their jobs), Huntington Beach (good pier), A Walk To Remember (never read it but will have to now), New Edition (do not know them).

• One question you would ask Sandy Koufax were he here right now?: How fun was your career?

• Do you think Justin Timberlake will ever reunite with the rest of the Nsync guys?: No

• Would you rather have a wool hat permanently glued onto your head or change your name to Oyster Snail III?: As long as it was red, fur lined and had a tassel at the end of it.

• Best joke you know: Three elves walked into bar …

• Why do you think Barry Bonds can’t get in the Hall of Fame?: Once you get a dark cloud over you it is hard to get rid of it.

• What’s the coolest car you’ve ever driven?: The sleigh, of course.

• Would you rather have $500,000 or the power to never again have to go to the bathroom?: The bathroom is a peaceful quiet time.

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Britt McHenry

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ESPN is a striking entity to behold.

It’s a place where television stars are made; where names go from regional obscurity to national recognition. Chris Berman. Stuart Scott, Dan Patrick. Rich Eisen. Robin Roberts. Kenny Mayne. Linda Cohn. Whether you like these people or abhor these people, you almost certainly know these people. Their stylings. Their catchphrases. Their high and low TV moments.

You know them.

Just being honest … I’m not sure how many people reading this know Britt McHenry just yet. Yeah, she’s got 65,200 Twitter followers and 19,200 more on Instagram. But, at age 28, she only arrived at the network in March, and seems to randomly pop up here and there. This game. That locker room. This moment. That moment.

The relative obscurity won’t last.

Why? Because McHenry is very good at her job. She asks strong questions, without merely nodding robot-like at the answers. She follows up. She insists she’s not in this for fame or endorsement, but because she loves sports and loves journalism. Her pedigree (Stetson University soccer player; Northwestern masters in journalism) backs it up.

Anyhow, I love the idea of having rising stars explain how, exactly, they became rising stars.

The Quaz welcomes Britt McHenry …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Britt, I’m gonna start with a totally weird question. My daughter is 11, and r-e-a-l-l-y tall. You’re 5-foot-10—also really tall. How was that for you as a kid, being taller than boys? Being—I’m guessing—the “gangly, skinny, long girl”? Did you have to grow into your height? Were you always happy being tall?

BRITT MCHENRY: I played a lot of sports as kid, predominantly soccer. Ironically, I was the shortest on every roster for a long time. Coaches used to call me “Little Brittany” when I was your daughter’s age. I absolutely hated it and would cry to my parents about it weekly. My dad is 6’3 and my mother is 5’7, so they constantly reassured me that I wouldn’t be vertically challenged. Turns out they were right. In seventh grade, I grew 6 inches. Yes, 6 inches. The following year, I grew another three. I was skinny, gawky, and had big feet before I grew into them; oh, and don’t forget the braces. It was a really attractive time in my life.

Now, I love being tall. It benefited me in athletics and afforded me an opportunity to work with the Wilhelmina Modeling Agency in college. Thanks to Wilhelmina, I never had to work another day at the T-Shirt and Sandal Factory Outlet in Key Largo or enlist in another real “character building” summer job, much to my parent’s chagrin. Tell your daughter height pays off.

McHenry, left, during her college soccer days.

McHenry, left, during her college soccer days.

 J.P.: You’ve had a crazy fast rise—you’re 28, holding a prime position at ESPN. So … how the hell did this happen? I mean, I know you’re a New Jersey kid, know you played college soccer at Stetson. But I’m sure many aspiring TV journalists would love to hear the path.

B.M.: Honestly, until about the age  of 18, I wanted to be the next Mia Hamm. Clearly, that wasn’t in the cards. To this day, I still idolize her. But, I was never one of those people who dreamt about being on television. I was an English major and thought I’d go to law school. My parents were actually the ones who recommended the reporting route (fearful I’d end up on their sofa with a seemingly worthless English degree). In high school, I’d always wanted to go to Northwestern’s acclaimed journalism program, so I decided to apply there for my masters. Since I graduated Stetson early and Northwestern’s masters program is only one year, I ended up at the ripe age of 22 in Washington with a community reporter job at the local cable station, NewsChannel 8.

It was very unglamorous. On my first day, I was handed keys to a beat up Ford Focus, a camera, a laptop, and told to go shoot a story. I had never even driven in DC before that. I started out in news and a year later graduated to weekend anchoring. It felt forced, though. As a former athlete, sports just seemed to fit my personality better. My news director, who oversaw both NewsChannel 8 and the ABC affiliate (the promised land to us cable reporters), was like most local news directors: He hated sports. I remember him telling me, “the sports department just asked to cover Nats Spring Training. If I won’t send a news reporter out of state for budgetary reasons, why would I send a sports reporter out of state?” Well, It just so happened that I was going home to Melbourne, Florida for a brief vacation. It also just so happened to be Stephen Strasburg’s first big league training camp, and the Nationals train 20 miles away from my parent’s house. So, I grabbed my camera and told the sports guys I would shoot video for them. In turn, it led to my first shot at anchoring (because nobody wanted to work on Easter) and my news director figured it’d be a slow news day. Wrong. Donovan McNabb was traded to the Redskins that night.

There’s no better test than live TV, and somehow I passed. They permanently moved me to the ABC affiliate as a sports reporter, and I gradually became a weekend anchor as well. When Rachel Nichols left ESPN, there was an obvious void and opening within the bureau department. An aside, I’ve always looked up to Nichols, who’s a fellow Northwestern alum. Fortunately, I didn’t bomb my audition. The hiring process is grueling at ESPN, you meet with no fewer than 20 people, and they really test your sports knowledge. Understandably, there was some concern about my age for a role that is entrenched in professional sports (I auditioned at age 26), but some great people at the network believed in me. I owe several people thanks for the opportunity.

Alongside Pete Rose.

Alongside Pete Rose.

J.P.: So when I did a YouTube search for you, the very first thing that pops up is a video titled, BRITT MCHENRY..SHE’S GOT WHATEVER IT IS. Many of your Instagram photos are accompanied by sexual comments. It seems like women in journalism go through this shit all the time, and I wonder how it makes you feel. Weirded out? Concerned? What?

B.M.: It definitely weirds out my close friends and family. My best girl friends joke they hate being in any photo with me because they instantly get followed by 10 strangers. I don’t get bothered by it because I don’t pay attention to it. There’s always going to be some list or ranking of “hottest this” “hottest that,” and it’s both subjective and trivial. At the end of the day, and hopefully a very long career, I want to emulate women like Hannah Storm, Robin Roberts, Suzy Kolber, Wendi Nix. All those women are beautiful, no doubt. But they’ve proven themselves as credible journalists and empowered business women. The goal is to have somebody watch my reports and enjoy the substance. Good or bad, the only feedback that truly matters is that of my employers and colleagues.

J.P.: I’ve always been a writer, and I sorta cringe when I hear TV reporters called “The talent.” Britt, serious question: Does it really take that much talent to be very good on television? More than it takes to write? Or produce? And what are the necessary skills?

B.M.: I wouldn’t say either requires more “talent,” but obviously all are very different skill sets. It is absolutely difficult to host a show when the prompter goes down, segments get cut, guests are sitting next to you, and you have to quarterback the whole situation. It’s also very challenging to ad lib and come across smoothly on camera if things break down in the field.  Essentially, in my opinion, the best on air people can combine all of those skills. A great example is Trey Wingo on NFL Live. He has a producer’s mind, he’s extremely poised on air and like all of us, he writes his own material. It’s a personal favorite of mine when the occasional critic will say, “Thank God you have a writer and a teleprompter or else you wouldn’t have a job.” Well, we have neither in the field. That particular insult is actually a compliment (in a weird Twitter sort of way).

J.P.: What does it feel like to absolutely fuck up on air? And what’s your biggest fuck up?

B.M.: It’s not ideal, can tell you that much. We have so many hits throughout the day, you’re bound to trip up from time to time. It’s just inevitable. The key is to be able to recover quickly—which isn’t always easy when things replay. I used to take mess-up’s particularly hard because I know there’s a large base of people out there waiting for it given that I’m both young and female. It doesn’t matter if you have 20 perfect hits, viewers will harp on the one that’s not. So, you have to learn to let that go. If I pronounce a name wrong every now and then, so be it; just don’t make it frequent (and pray it’s not recorded).

J.P.: You’re all over Twitter and all over Instagram. Serious question: Why?

B.M.: Good question. Facebook was created my freshman year of college, so my generation is arguably the first to grow up with social media. From a news gathering purpose, I love Twitter. I very rarely read newspapers anymore. Instead, I follow all my favorite writers and publications which span a variety of topics. If something interests me, I’ll click on the tweet. I genuinely like engaging with viewers—even find it to be a test of wit if I can respond to mean tweets creatively. Do I wish I had a thicker skin handling inappropriate comments on social media? Absolutely. There are people far better at handling it.

What bothers me is when the trolling comes from fellow media members. In a Utopian world, we would all have enough professionalism and respect for one another to avoid such behavior. Not always the case. For example, a local Philadelphia anchor, whom I had never even met before, tweeted a response to a picture I recently posted that read, “Crazy how modest you are.” The picture was of me as a teenager wearing a polo and pigtails. It was hardly meant to brag; if anything I was poking fun at myself. It was intended in jest as part of the “throwback” trend on social media and to engage with viewers. But, the picture came from Wilhelmina, whom I included in the tweet. I have no doubt in my mind this man took issue with it because the picture was related to a modeling agency. Which in my opinion is a bit sexist.

The fact is, anytime the positive comments start to proliferate so will the negative ones. Everybody in media, in this growing age of social media, needs to learn to deal with that. My focus is journalism. It’s not anything else. But, I don’t see the harm in documenting travels or sharing creative ideas or jokes that might come along. I’ve rarely, if ever, posted anything regarding my personal life, nor will I. Professionally, however, Twitter and Instagram are great vehicles for the network and for branding. I believe you can balance the serious element of things with what you enjoy on the side. I did it as a student athlete and hope to continue to do that as a professional.

With Teddy Bridgewater

With Teddy Bridgewater

J.P.: Sometimes, especially when something like Ferguson happens, I think to myself, “Damn, why do I care about sports?” I mean, it just feels so meaningless and inconsequential. Do you ever get that way? Are you ever like, “Steelers? Who gives a crap when climate change is melting the planet”?

B.M.: To an extent. I think no matter what you’re doing, it’s important to stay abreast of current events. During football season, I buy a copy of The Economist every week for that very reason. I’ve found it can be dangerous to get too involved in subjects like Ferguson because I’m not covering it, nor am I completely knowledgeable about everything that’s happening. Once again, it goes back to the previous question and issues with Twitter. More often than not, it’s wise to hesitate before typing to ensure any kind of opinion is warranted.

J.P.: Random question alert: Tell me everything about your senior prom experience.

B.M.: The only thing any girl remembers is the dress (apologies in advance to my friend and date, Dustin Brookshire). I wore a rhinestone studded hot pink gown, and my mom took a million pictures. The allure of prom was always the stuff leading up to it, not the actual dance. I do vaguely remember dancing to Lil Jon’s “To the Window, to the Wall.” Not sure if that’s the actual title of the song, just remember those genius lyrics. It’s an early 2000’s classic.

J.P.: Britt, I just read this story about former NFL star Darryl Talley, and I have to ask: When do we, as a profession, say, “We’re done glorifying a sport that is destroying people?” We don’t endorse cigarette smoking, crack, coke, etc. Even soda and fast food. But we cover and glorify football as if it’s this amazing thing. You agree? Disagree?

B.M.: Since I’m currently in the middle of NFL coverage, I’m going to abstain from answering this one.

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J.P.: Bob Ley spoke with me about “red light fever”—the arrogance, the ego that comes with excessive TV exposure. Do you ever feel it? The high of airport recognition? Of signing an autograph? Is it a real thing? And why do you think people are so drawn to those who appear on TV? I mean, it’s just a box in our living rooms, no?

B.M.: Living out of a suitcase, I rarely look all that put together at the airport so hopefully people don’t recognize me. Occasionally, I’ll get a weird stare like, “Hey, you look familiar,” or “Did I just see you on TV?,” but that’s about it. I used to think all of that would be much cooler than it actually is. While flattering, it doesn’t matter if your name trends on Twitter or a thousand people follow you because that’s not tangible love or affection. Ultimately, what matters is if you’re fulfilled in real life; the day to day interactions with people you care about and trust. Loving your job is part of that. Even though people see what they think is a glamorous version of an individual covering their favorite sport, when the camera stops rolling that individual is probably headed to a dingy satellite truck to eat fast food with their producer. Still awesome, but that’s the reality. No disrespect to Jimmy Johns…

Having the opportunity to start at the network so young has taught me that crucial lesson early. Reporters shouldn’t become the story. Now, do I like using the platform to help certain non-profits? Yes. Is it fun to do an occasional magazine shoot? Definitely. All of that has its perks but should be used in doses. Thankfully, I have a family that will bring me back down to earth real quick, if I ever acted or thought otherwise.

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• Tell me three things about your dad: He’s incredibly intelligent, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, and he asks more questions than any reporter I’ve ever met—fact.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Darren McFadden, spiced nuts, Rick Ocasek, Johnson & Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Adam Levine, Cage the Elephant, your coat hangers, Kingpin, neck tattoos: Chris Hemsworth was the only thing I saw in this sentence.

• The world needs to know: What was it like being soccer teammates with Brittany Jones?: If the world finds out, let me know. We weren’t teammates. I was, however, teammates with US Women’s National Team goalie Ashlyn Harris. To this day, she’s the most naturally gifted athlete I’ve ever seen. Ask her to randomly play any sport, you’ll see.

• When you hear “Reggie Jackson,” do you first think of the Yankee slugger, the Thunder guard or my third grade classmate?: Your third grade classmate told you he knows me? Man, some things aren’t sacred anymore …

• Greatest moment as a San Diego Padre dugout reporter?: When I left. Quitting a job after two weeks was something I never thought I’d do. Technically, I never truly started, there were contractual issues. I wanted to be more than just a sideline reporter in my career. Therefore, it’s probably the best “worst” decision I’ve ever made.

• If roses smelled like shit, and shit smelled like roses, would we love the smell of shit or roses?: Roses. We’re a culture that loves visual stimulation, even if what’s beneath the surface stinks.

• You last updated your Facebook page in 2012. Why?: I made the mistake early on in my career of accepting EVERY friend request, thinking it would help people see my work online. Big mistake. My Facebook is beyond repair in the amount of strangers it’s accumulated. Also, who doesn’t get sick of the constant baby and proposal pictures. It’s a sad world when you consider Twitter to be your respite.

• How many times per year would you say you pick your nose? And do you think the phrase, “I never pick my nose” is a 100 percent lie when uttered by adults?: I’m sure in 20 degree temperatures during some of my live shots recently, there’s a lot of questionable nose activity in an effort to compose myself on air.

• Five reasons one should make Mount Holly Township his/her next vacation destination?: None, ha. I was born there, but my parents moved shortly thereafter. Dad knew what was up (my very feisty mother, who’s a New Jersey native, will not approve of this comment).

• One question you would ask Priscilla Presley were she here right now?: Can we go back to the Chris Hemsworth question. What about him?

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Perry Wallace

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In the fall of 1966, a young man named Perry Wallace enrolled at Vanderbilt University.

He was black.

Now, if you’re young or naive or young and naive, this might not seem like such a big deal. Hell, turn on the TV today, watch an SEC sporting event … and there are tons of African-American faces. Athletes. Cheerleaders. Coaches. Fans.

Such was not always the case.

By signing a scholarship to play for the Commodores, Wallace became the first black man to play basketball in the (oft-racist) SEC. And while he was accepted by teammates, the road was a rough one. Wallace faced the abuse of rival fans, the excessive physicality of opponents. He always had to sleep with one eye open on the road, yet never felt entirely at home on campus.

Through it all, Wallace handled himself with remarkable control and patience, ultimately graduating in 1970 and going on to a career as a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice. In 1992 he was appointed to the EPA’s Environmental Policy advisory council, and he now works as a professor of law at American University.

Wallace recently cooperated with author Andrew Maraniss on a fascinating new book, Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South.

Perry Wallace, pioneer—welcome to the Quaz …

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JEFF PEARLMAN: So Perry, we just found out that the police officer in Ferguson won’t face trial—and the reaction has been equally heartbreaking. Looting, violence, etc. I’m wondering, having lived through and experienced the civil rights era, what you’re thinking …

PERRY WALLACE: Nothing has been surprising about Ferguson, in my view. And this includes the decision not to indict and the explosion of violence. First, for all the progress that has occurred, America still has the potential for racial violence and confusion. This is what we get for engaging in such premeditated denial, blatant arrogance and partisan bickering. Among other things, there is a failure on the part of leaders (until an explosion like this happens) to try to bring people together to promote mutual understanding. Also, looking at the Keystone-Cops-like behavior of the local police, one sees, frankly, a fairly typical police department—lacking in the proper training, skills and insights suitable for a modern America. And unsurprisingly, the governor and the prosecutor were equally ham-handed in handling matters squarely within the range of both duty and foreseeability.

Finally, one minor, although controversial, point is that more black parents, leaders and others need to have “The Talk” with more young black men. Admittedly this would be like telling the victims to be more careful—and I recognize my peril here, but this is far from blaming the victim (as often happens in cases like this and in rape and domestic violence cases). My only point here is that I want these young brothers to “choose life” over death by “managing” and “de-pressurizing” these encounters. Obviously, this will sound like some out-of-date, old Tom talking, but plenty of black men my age and older have lived long, proud (enough) lives by not “taking the bait,”  whether wittingly or unwittingly dangled before them, from policemen and others. In other words, what if Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown had been taught how—and why—Perry Wallace exercised restraint and control in the face of virulent racism and handled his sense of anger and outrage another way—such as pursuing social change constructively and developing himself as a person? The answer, I believe, is clear. Oh, and one other thing: they’d still be alive, alive with their families and friends at Thanksgiving, alive to know wives and children, alive to know grandchildren.  What a shame this all is.

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J.P.: Perry, there’s a question I’ve long wanted to ask someone with your background: You’ve seen the vileness of racism up close. You’ve heard people scream every epitaph in the book. There were thousands upon thousands of whites who were against integration, against the mixing of races—until they learned their teams could win lots of sporting events. Then, hey, it was OK. I sorta feel like this still exists today—“We love you on the court, but we sure as hell don’t want you dating our daughters.” What I want to know is, how do you reconcile this? Does it bother you? Did you have to get past it? Or am I making something out of nothing?

P.W.: What I think is happening is that progress is partial—and often precarious or shaky. Realistically, or certainly from my perspective, we’ve come a real distance when those people accept black athletes at all. These folks are simply not able to go all the way (daughters and such). My way of dealing with this is to recognize that I have one life, and it’s going on now. In my highest moments of overcoming, I find pleasure and satisfaction in a very practical way, by celebrating the progress.

J.P.: There’s a quote in “Strong Inside” that was stated about your freshman year of college. You said, “The overwhelming number of students either ignored us or were hostile.” I’m guessing, over the past five decades, you’ve run into many of these people. Do you get apologies? Acknowledgments of idiocy and hatred? Awkwardness? And can you, truly, forgive someone who 50 years ago thought of you as sub-human?

P.W.: I haven’t seen a lot of the people in question because I have lived primarily in Washington, D.C. and farther up the coast. So the opportunities for many encounters haven’t been there. Even so, there have been a very few occasions when someone has apologized. More than likely, however, they just act as if nothing had ever happened—I call it “playin’ crazy.” Of course, I don’t bother to unearth old idiocies, or remind people of what they were like—no benefit to anyone.

On forgiveness, yes, I can forgive a person who saw me as sub-human—but it works best if they have shown some contrition. Even when they don’t, I just “play crazy” and act as if there was no problem. My thinking is that I’m actually celebrating my personal victory in overcoming and preserving my humanity, and they have to reckon with themselves and higher forces.

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Perry being inducted into the Vanderbilt Athletic Hall of Fame.

J.P.: What’s your take on the usage of “nigga” (A intentionally included) by blacks and whites today? What about African-Americans who say it’s “taking ownership” of the word?

P.W.: I think the popularization of any of the various forms of the N-word just shows that there has been enough progress that the people involved have hardly any real idea, or working knowledge, of what pain, hurt and tragedy underlies the word. They have simply drawn on the fact that, historically, blacks used it in only rather private, intimate settings, and they have put it over into the public domain as fully acceptable usage. You won’t see people in my generation and older using the word—certainly not loosely and in public settings.

J.P.: You were 18 when you enrolled at Vanderbilt in 1966. You clearly knew what you were walking into; knew it was a cause larger than scoring points and getting an education. When I was 18, I just wanted a friggin’ car. Where did your courage and forthrightness come from? How did you have the strength to step into such a world, knowing it’d be anything but easy?

P.W.: I didn’t really know what I was going into. But I soon found out. When I did, I decided to stay and fight, drawing on strength from my family and faith.

J.P.: What does it feel like to be called “n—–.” I really, really mean this. I feel like most people don’t know. Don’t understand or don’t care to know. But you’re young Perry Wallace, walking … wherever. And the word comes out. What does that feel like? What goes through your mind?

P.W.: There’s always a shock, a sting in hearing it. But I’ve never let it disarm me or throw me off course—even though it really may bother me and I may have to spend some time gathering up the strength to fight.

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J.P.: Do the southern coaches who recruited black players deserve tons of credit for doing the right thing? Or were they just trying to win? And does that distinction matter?

P.W.: Obviously I can’t know the minds of these guys. But it wouldn’t surprise me if they weren’t mainly just trying to win. Remember, they don’t tend to be great moralists or social justice advocates. The distinction does matter, however, in that it shapes both the nature of the institutional change and the protection and nurturing of the black athletes (C. M. Newton is the champion of a values-oriented coach).

J.P.: I’m pretty fascinated by something. You’re from the south, you attend Vanderbilt, you experience some horrific stuff. Then you attend law school at Columbia in New York City. Was the Nashville-to-New York move like going from Mars to Pluto? What do you remember about those early days in the Big Apple? Were you overwhelmed? Overjoyed?

P.W.: Yes, it was a culture shock. But it was softened by my having spent time in New York City and having lived in Philly. Also, I grew up really wanting to live in a large urban and urbane city. So at times I was overwhelmed and stressed. But I really wanted to make it, and since I had essentially been run out of Nashville, I had no real choice but to make it.

J.P.: I wrote a book that came out 10 years ago—and from time to time I still have people come up and tell me that they enjoyed it. And, in a way, it feels like it never happened; that is was so long ago, I hardly remember writing it. Is it strange, for you, to be most known for something that happened five decades ago? Are the memories still fresh and vivid, or do you sometimes feel like you’re telling stories about stories?

P.W.: Because I’ve given literally hundreds of interviews, it doesn’t feel strange. Even so, I feel like I’m somewhere between having a fresh memory of the times and telling stories about stories—where I am on the spectrum depends on the particular memory.

Young Perry from his childhood days in Nashville

Young Perry from his childhood days in Nashville

J.P.: I was watching Black-ish the other night—really funny show. And the father is upset with his son, because he doesn’t know he’s supposed to give the head nod to other African-Americans when they walk by. The wife says to her husband, “Maybe you struggled for equal rights so our son doesn’t have to worry so much about race.” To which the husband, to laughter, says, “Noooooooo.” I’m wondering, Perry, whether life ever feels that way? Do young African-Americans fail to appreciate the struggle? And is it ever uncomfortable/disappointing to observe society and see young blacks unaware of what so many went through? Oh, and do you do the nod?

P.W.: Of course no young black can have a full sense of what the struggle was like—and it would be unreasonable to expect that they do. But in some instances, for example when they are acting tragically because they have low esteem issues related to race and status in society, it is especially sad that they are ignorant of what sacrifices were made so that they could have a positive sense of themselves and could conduct themselves that way. And yes, I do the nod–if they seem to understand and appear ready to reciprocate.

J.P.: This is a political question and relates to little, I suppose. But you worked with the National Urban League, the District of Columbia government and the Justice Department—so it’s not altogether out of left field. I’m a liberal’s liberal. Civil rights. Gay rights. Amnesty. Etc … etc. I voted for President Obama twice, and overall think he’s done some good things. But I also think, perhaps not his fault entirely, he’s done one really, really bad thing: Killed the hope for change. What I mean is—he truly convinced voters he symbolized sweeping change, independence, the power of positive and powerful thinking to overcome so much. And yet, here we are, and it all just seems sort of the same. Politics as usual, fighting, arguing, etc. I’m not disappointed in Obama so much as I’m disappointed in the system. I feel like Obama was as good as it got, and it still sucks. Curious what you think about that.

P.W.: Obama really wanted to effect real change. But he was specifically stymied and generally stymied. The general part reflects how encased and loaded down the system has become, with campaign finance, partisanship (specifically the various right wing demagogues over the past 30 years) leading the charge. The specific part refers to the amazing, white-hot hostility and blinding fear that has gripped the country—all levels—because somehow a black became president. Now, to be sure, he has made misjudgments (starting off with healthcare reform was noble, but jobs would have stood him a chance of fighting off some of the hostility and doubt), but most of the problem, I think, relates to his being stymied.

Finally, I relate a lot to Obama, as a pioneer. I understand his care, caution and balance. I understand that blacks and others on the left would come to see him as weak and indecisive. Mostly, however, I understand that his approach was the one that had the remotest chance of succeeding. The problem, I say reluctantly, is that America (a large enough segment of it) is not really ready for a black president. And while some blacks now have learned the bitter lessons of this black presidency (although only some blacks), I can’t foresee when in the future the circumstances will be right for another black to make a run for the office.

With his wife, Karen, and daughter, Gabby.

With his wife, Karen, and daughter, Gabby.


• We take 25-year-old Perry Wallace, put him on the Knicks right now. What’s your stat line for the season?: Six points, seven rebounds, four assists.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Yes. Things slowed down in a terror-filled few minutes.

• What happens after we die?: When it’s over, it’s over. Which is why you do your best, give your best, and enjoy this bad-boy (life) while you can.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Ronnie McMahan, Lucky Charms, apple cranberry oatmeal, Muriel Bowser, Gerald Ford, Eric Hosmer, Philip Bailey, dirt roads, left-handed relievers, Tel Aviv, Nirvana: Nirvana, apple cranberry oatmeal, Ronnie McMahon, dirt roads, Lucky Charms, left-handed relievers, Tel Aviv, Muriel Bowser, Gerald Ford, Eric Hosmer, Philip Bailey.

• Five all-time favorite political figures: JFK, Barbara Jordan, Parren Mitchell, Bill Clinton, Shirley Chisholm.

• One question you would ask Dana Plato were she here right now?: What support systems/groups would have saved you? (our daughter is adopted)

• I’ve lost complete faith in the impartiality of the Supreme Court. Am I completely wrong?: I think you are very right–correct. The ones on the right are just so discouragingly partisan and political. Long ago my focus as a lawyer changed from litigation for civil rights to helping secure political and economic rights.

• My dad turns 72 in a few weeks. What should I get him?: Get him some CDs of some music from his coming-of-age years and some DVDs of some great old movies. Don’t worry if he doesn’t understand at first. Sit with him and enjoy some of them to get him warmed up.

• Five reasons one should make Nashville his/her next vacation destination?: Music. Food. Culture. But let’s be honest. I grew up wanting to leave and to up North, to an urbane life. My wife grew up in NYC, I was in law school there–We love it. And we also love Paris, where we both have real connections. So I could only honestly give you three reasons.

• I’m pushing hard for the big DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince comeback album. Will you join me in my efforts?: Yes. I was drafted by the 76ers in the early 70s and developed an attachment to Philly culture and music traditions. Plus their music is high quality and not vile towards women, etc.