Jeff Pearlman

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On John Bohrman

A good man.

A good man.

As a kid growing up in Mahopac, N.Y., there were a handful of adults who—often inadvertently—taught me lessons that have lasted well into my 40s. From Vinnie Gargano, I was gifted with the ability to understand the intricacies of baseball. From Dottie Miller, I picked up a warmth and compassion. From Robert Walker, I got the power of a strong whistle.

And from John Bohrman, I learned what it meant to be an involved public servant.

Mr. Bohrman was the dad of Darren Bohrman, a kid in my grade with ridiculous athleticism and a killer jump shot. He also served as my first-ever youth basketball coach. And he was, truly, an amazing one. Warm. Decent. Engaged. Fair. Although few of us were at Darren’s level, his dad made certain to give us all equal time and high-quality instruction. I remember him never yelling or berating. It was all about picking things up. About educating.

Years later, when Darren and I were older, Mr. Bohrman ran something called the MSA (Mahopac Sports Association) High School Basketball League. Basically, it was a league for those of us who either chose not to play for the school team (Darren) or weren’t good enough for the school team (me). And it was—in a word—awesome. For three years, I was a member of the Runnin’ Jeffies (admittedly, I named us), a squad made up of Scott Choy, Steve Celli, Jonathan Powell, Matt Heywood, Peter Nesbitt and a handful of other guys. Once per week, games were held in the gymnasium, and they were competitive and feisty and often fantastic. Friends during the day turned to combatants at night. It wasn’t great basketball, but it was great.

Two of Mr. Bohrman’s sons worked as officials, and Mr. Bohrman reigned as, well, a quasi-commissioner of all. He attended every game, scored many of them, resolved disputes, created the schedule. On and on and on. And why? Because he was a good man. A great man. A community-driven man who craved not glory or credit, but aiding the town the best he could.

Truly, I can’t stand this loudly enough: This country needs more people like John Bohrman. Legitimate servants of the greater good. Caretakers of our youngsters. Guardians of decency.

Sadly, I learned a few moments ago that Mr. Bohrman passed of a heart attack.

I have not seen him in well over two decades.

Yet I feel as if I’ve lost someone special.

On Josh Allen and racist Tweets

Allen (left) is worth millions. Kaepernick is apparently not.

Allen (left) is worth millions. Kaepernick is apparently not.

In case you somehow missed this story, Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen Tweeted a bunch of racist stuff back when he was in high school. This, from a Yahoo piece that uncovered the since-deleted Internet offerings

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Allen has said the Tweets were related to TV and movie quotes, and African-American teammates from Wyoming are defending his integrity and decency. Which, of course, is fair and probably righteous. For all we know, Josh Allen was a stupid kid who thought it OK to use the n-word as long as he was relating it to other sources. I mean, as I often like to note, youth is truly wasted on the young.

And yet …

At the same moment some NFL franchise is about to make Josh Allen a multi-millionaire, it’s worth remembering (for the 8,653,322nd time) that Colin Kaepernick remains without a job—for the sheer audacity of speaking out on police brutality against minorities.

Hell, I’ll repeat that in more basic terms:

• Josh Allen, unproven small college quarterback: Tweets a bunch of racist stuff, about to be rich.

Colin Kaepernick: Guides team to Super Bowl, knees during the anthem to protest police brutality against minorities, unemployed.

It’s a fucked-up world.

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Ken Shetter

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I grew up in a small town knowing I’d inevitably leave my small town.

Why? Because I wanted to see what was out there. I wanted to roam, explore, check out new places and meet new people and experience life away from the comfortable-yet-suffocating boundaries that surround my place of origin.

So here I am in Southern California, a mere 3,000 miles away from Mahopac, N.Y.

Ken Shetter is not me. Or, perhaps, you. He’s the mayor of Burleson, Texas, a Fort Worth suburb of 40,000 residents and the place where he was born and raised. Why has he stayed? Love. For the people. For the land. For the potential. And why is he the city’s mayor? All the same reasons.

Today, Ken talks job experiences and life experiences; why he would be a better president than Donald Trump and why—as the governor of Texas—he will one day mandate the Houston Texas become the Houston Oilers.

One can follow the mayor on Twitter here and Facebook here.

All hail the chief. He’s the 357th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Ken, you are the mayor of Burleson, Texas, a suburb of Fort Worth with a population around 40,000. And I wanna start with a weird one—at this moment we have a man with no political experience in the White House. Which has people thinking, “Who’s next?” Oprah? Mark Cuban? The Rock? So, Ken, does a small-city mayor have the experience to jump to the presidency? Can that argument be made?

KEN SHETTER: The argument can certainly be made that many small city mayors are at least as well suited as those you listed (including the current occupant of the White House) to run for president. In fact, one of the things about being a local elected official is you have to learn to be accountable to those you serve very quickly. It is not unusual to encounter a constituent with a concern, complaint or suggestion in the grocery store or at one of my kids’ school events. That kind of personal accountability, if one takes it seriously, is an important element of the experience gained from serving as a mayor. In addition, local elected officials have experience making decisions that impact people’s everyday lives to a greater extent than officials at any other level. Think about it—we are responsible for making sure you have clean running water, that your toilet flushes, that your trash gets picked up, that you have a decent neighborhood to live in, that your kids have good parks to play in and that you are physically safe. Those are some of the most important functions of government at any level. Of course, the lack of national name identification makes such a leap unlikely, from a political perspective.

J.P.: You’re in Texas and you’re a Republican. Yet, judging from social media, you don’t seem to be hard- hard- hard-core far right or a Trump backer. Sooooo … how does that play? What I mean is, you’re in a state that’s run deep red for many moons. How have you succeeded with a divergent world social view?

K.S.: Actually, it’s worse than you thought—I’m not even a Republican (gasp!!!). In my official capacity, I am nonpartisan. Our city charter requires us to run and govern as nonpartisans. While it’s no secret that I lean center-left (some would say just left), I work well with folks of all political stripes and certainly promote a number of policies that some would associate with conservatism. I have promoted strong accountability and transparency practices, been fiscally responsible and prioritize strong public safety.

I think I’ve been successful in my campaigns for two reasons. First, the city has thrived during the time that I’ve been mayor. We have doubled in size, our economy has been remarkably strong, and we’ve focused on quality of life. Second, when you govern in a nonpartisan context, you have the luxury of just arguing the merits of an idea or a platform, without getting bogged down in partisan BS. In fact, when some have tried to introduce that as part of the conversation or debate, I think it has generally backfired—turns out people like nonpartisan government. Also, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a hometown boy—it’s harder to despise someone you’ve known since they were in diapers.

Delivering Meals on Wheels with son Alister.

Delivering Meals on Wheels with good ol’ Alister.

J.P.: What is the day-to-day life like for the mayor of Burleson? Soup to nuts? What are you doing? How many meetings are you attending? What are the main issues you need to address?

K.S.: Because I have a full-time job in addition to being mayor, most days are a mix of mayor and day job duties. We have official council meetings every two weeks on Monday nights. Most weeks I will have a few other city-related meetings and often speak to civic or student groups. Of course, every day involves phone calls and emails from city staff members and citizens. I know my day is about to get more complicated if I get a call from a staff member that begins, “Mayor, there’s something I need to make you aware of …” There really isn’t a typical day or week, but I would estimate that spend, on average, between ten and twenty hours per week on city business.

The main issue I deal with is management of our population growth, which implicates public safety resources, public works and transportation infrastructure and development policies.

Currently, the development of a public plaza in our Old Town district and the expansion of higher education opportunities are particular areas of focus for me.

J.P.: How did this actually happen for you? I mean, I know you attended Baylor. I know you have a law degree. I know you’re in your mid-40s. But when did you know politics were for you? When did the lightbulb go off?

K.S.: I am one of those weirdos who was interested in politics and public policy from the time I was a small kid. In fact, even when I was nine or ten I would get in knock-down-drag-out political arguments with family members. My goal was always a career in public service. When I was in my twenties a seat opened up on the city council and I threw my name in the hat. I intended city council service to be a stepping stone to higher office. Funny thing happened—I found serving in city government to be far more rewarding and consequential than I expected. Any time I’ve thought about running for another office, I always felt like there was more important work left to do as mayor.

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J.P.: You also serve as the president of One Safe Place, a non-profit that focuses on preventing crime and violence. Well, how do we prevent crime and violence? It seems rather impossible, considering the amount we have in this nation … every … single … day.

K.S.: It would be impossible to eradicate crime and violence, but that doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands—there is a lot of good we can do for a lot of people! At One Safe Place we have several different programs (including Crime Stoppers and a DOJ federal grant program called Project Safe Neighborhoods), but for our discussion, I’ll focus on our family justice center. We serve victims of domestic violence and children who live in violent homes. The idea of a family justice center is to bring all the services a victim needs together in one place, and to integrate those services so they are more effective for the victim. There are twenty-two different partner agencies working together through One Safe Place. We prioritize domestic violence because it makes up a significant percentage of all the violent crime committed, because perpetrators of domestic violence pose a danger to the community at-large and because most of our violent criminals grew up in homes where there was violence.

To drill down a bit more, we are particularly interested in strangulation as part of domestic abuse. A significant percentage of domestic violence victims suffer non-fatal or near-fatal strangulation and that has lots of ramifications. First, there are often long-term medical consequences that aren’t immediately evident to the victim, and second, victims who have been strangled are 700% more likely to ultimately be killed. It also turns that intimate partner strangulation is a warning sign for violent behavior outside the home. For instance, there are multiple studies which have found a majority of cop killers have a documented history of intimate partner strangulation.

Sometimes my work at One Safe Place and as mayor intertwine—I’m proud to say the City of Burleson was recently the first city in the US to adopt an ordinance creating a strangulation protocol for first responders. Among other things, the ordinance requires an emergency medical response anytime strangulation is alleged or suspected.

Finally, I can’t talk about One Safe Place without mentioning Camp Hope Texas. We do a week-long outdoor adventure camp for kids exposed to violence. In addition to traditional camp activities, we have a special curriculum designed to increase our campers’ level of hopefulness, which is the key to creating more resilient kids who can overcome the traditional cycle of violence.

J.P.: I just came upon a story from 2015, headlined BURLESON MAYOR’S PRO-SAME-SEX MARRIAGE POST DRAWS MIXED REACTIONS. It was about you posted a congratulatory message to LGBT friends on Facebook—and the backlash that followed. And I wonder, did you at all see that coming? Did you debate the initial messge? And how have you seen the views of people morph on gay rights during your time in office? If at all …

K.S.: The initial post was a simple congratulatory message to LGBTQ friends, with an expression of hope for LGBTQ youth that this was one more indication they were fully loved and accepted. A citizen challenged me to justify my statement as mayor, considering what the bible has to say about homosexuality. What actually got all the attention was my response to that citizen (which you can read here). I certainly expected that the post could get a lot of negative reaction. While a few responses were downright hateful, most were very positive. In fact, the large number of positive responses served to provide further affirmation to the LGBTQ community. I even got a few responses from citizens who said for the first time they felt accepted in their own community, and they had thought that would never happen for them. It was a great lesson for me—NEVER miss an opportunity to let people know they are loved and they belong in our community.

I certainly have seen the views of people morph on gay rights during my time in office. I don’t think there’s any way the post I wrote in 2015 would have received so many positive responses if it had been written in 2003.

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Meeting with first grade students at Irene Clinkscale Elementary.

J.P.: Your last election was May 2017, and you beat two challengers—Katherine Reading and John Garrison. I wonder, how do you move past an election? What I mean is, the months leading up are filled with criticisms of your performance, your stances. Then this vote happens, and it all ends. So … can you let any bad feelings go? Can you run into Katherine or John at, say, CVS and have a buddy-buddy convo? Is it awkward? Weird?

K.S.: You don’t have much of a choice—there’s always a city council meeting within a couple of weeks of the election, and the work must go on. In terms of personally letting feelings go, the honest answer is sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t. After having served in local government for almost 20 years, I’ve had lots of opponents and made lots of people mad over the years. I can almost always get over it and repair relationships … but I can’t deny there are some folks out there who wouldn’t vote for me if I was running against Satan (an actual quote from a voter in the last election) and they’re never going to feel differently.

I am happy to report there are no lingering hard feelings from the 2017 election, at least between the candidates.

J.P.: It’ the elephant here, so I’ll ask: Donald Trump. You’re in Texas. Can you explain his rise? His appeal? Because I see a lifelong conman with no convictions or moral compass. How do so many, um, not?

K.S.: I agree with your assessment and would add that I think he’s a literal threat to our democracy. My best explanation is that his victory was a combination of two things: One, there were a lot of people on the right who despised Hillary Clinton, and they thought there was only so much damage one man could do. Two, there wasn’t enough excitement on the left to turn out the vote for Hillary Clinton in places where it really mattered.

I think all the hand-wringing over the angry white voter is kind of ridiculous. Just looking at demographic forces, the focus for those wanting to elect progressive candidates should be on turning out the kind of coalition that elected Barack Obama.

J.P.: You live in a gun-friendly state. I’m terrified every time my kids leave for school. Seriously, what can we do about this? Are there ANY steps that the nation might agree upon?

K.S.: Yes! I think the most important thing we can do is pass comprehensive background checks. That’s the first and most important step to making sure we keep guns out of the hands of people we all agree shouldn’t have them. It drives me bonkers when politicians say, “We just can’t do anything until we find common ground.” About 90% of Americans agree on comprehensive background checks. For the love of God, that is common ground.

J.P.: What’s the appeal of living in the town where you grew up? Like you, I was raised in a small town where you always saw familiar faces, did things repeatedly, drew on traditions and festivals and the such. And, to be honest, I wanted out. And left. So why stay? What is it about a small town that does it for you?

K.S.: This is a great question. In fact, I often ask teenagers, “What do we need to do to make sure you want to stay or come back after college to raise your family?” For me, the fact that most of my extended family lives in Burleson (they have for generations), and that I actually like them, makes it hard to leave. We also have the advantage of having a lot of the benefits of a smaller town while being right next to Fort Worth, which is one of the most vibrant big cities in the country.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH KEN SHETTER:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): roller coasters, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, TLC, Justin Bieber, “Ocean’s Eleven,” USFL, puppies, Jeff Flake, peppercorn medley grinder, overly ripe fruit: Puppies, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, roller coasters, Jeff Flake, peppercorn medley grinder, Ocean’s Eleven, TLC, USFL, overly ripe fruit, Justin Bieber

• Five reasons one should make Burelson his/her next vacation destination: In no particular order: 1. Outstanding food and music in Old Town; 2. Awesome golf courses; 3. We’ve got two great wineries; 4. We have events throughout the year that are worth the trip: free summer concerts, a big bicycle race in the Spring and Founders Day in the Fall are just a few examples. Plus, we’re always thirty minutes from something amazing in Fort Worth or Arlington (but stay in Burleson and get the added value of small town charm); 5. The Old Town Ghost Tour.

• One question you would ask Kim Jong Un were he here right now?: Do you speak English?

• My nephew Jordan won’t let me chaperone his senior prom. What should I do?: Find a single teacher and go as her date.

• In exactly 17 words, make an argument for the acting talents of the late Jim Varney: He has never uttered the intolerable, fingers-on-a-chalk-board-annoying, moronic phrase, “Git-r-done.”

• What’s your secret talent?: I grew up playing the fiddle.

• Would you consider running for governor, then insisting the Houston Texans become the Houston Oilers and switch back to their old unis? Please …: Yes, absolutely. And I would pass a law that every head coach of the Houston Oiler had to legally change their name to Bum Phillips.

• If you had to hang out with three 1980s sitcom characters, who would they be?: Coach, from Cheers, Hawkeye, from MASH, Judge Harold T. Stone, from Night Court.

• Don’t get mad at me, but I’ve gotta think you received a few “Ken Shitter” ridicules while growing up. Yes? No? How bad was it?: Actually, I got a lot more Barbie cracks when I was growing up. The “Ken Shitter” ridicules have been more common since I’ve been mayor. Like water off a duck’s back.

• I’m not sure the Reds getting Cesar Cedeno from Houston was such a great idea. Thoughts?: Well, I’m a lifelong Rangers fan, so my strongest Astros thoughts involve bitterness that they won the Series before the Rangers did.

The worst job

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As I write this I’m sitting in the storefront window of a Whole Foods, watching two young women as they stand outside trying to engage departing customers in some sort of charity/sales endeavor.

It’s not going well.

People stop, walk away. Or pretend they’re on their phones. Or pretend they don’t hear. It’s a rough gig that—I’m 100 percent certain—they’ll one day tell their kids and grandkids about. It also reminds me of one of my early jobs—which I have told my kids about …

Back in the late 1980s, I lived near a splendid shopping pavilion known as the Jefferson Valley Mall. It was located, oh, 15 minutes from my house, and employed a solid 17 percent of my classmates. Melissa Fiore worked at the Greek restaurant. Amy Regan and Gina Girolamo worked at Friendly’s. Jen Perrota worked at Service Merchandise. Donna Gargano worked at Wicks n Sticks. Dave Leib worked at Sears. On and on and on. Were there a pimply-faced 17-year old checking you out at a JV store, it was likely a Mahopac High student.

Anyhow, I was hired by a place called the Consumer Opinion Center to walk the mall with a clipboard and take surveys. So one day it’d be about, oh, rice. Then another day maybe popcorn. On special occasions, we’d offer $10 for people to watch a movie trailer and give their assessments. Now, this might not sound so awful. But it was awful. You’re 17-year-old Jeff. You’re gangly, you’re pimply, you’ve never kissed a girl. Your job is to approach strange people—95 percent of whom will automatically reject you. It was the worst of the worst of the worst of the worst, because every evening I’d return home feeling like the world’s greatest loser.

God, it sucked.

So while I probably won’t donate to whatever cause the women are peddling (I like picking my charities carefully, not on a whim), I will express my empathy, my understanding, my respect.

And I’ll tell them about the JV Mall.

About the stories they’ll one day share …

On the lip of 46

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As I write this, it is 11:54 pm, and I’m six minutes away from my 46th birthday.

Yup.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is, “Youth is wasted on the young,” which was uttered by George Bernard Shaw, who has supported the sentiment by being dead for 68 years. I don’t think the words meant much—if anything—to me through my teens, 20s and 30s because those spans still feel green. You see life through the prism of what’s coming down the road. Where will you attend college? What will you do tonight? Where will you live? Who will you marry? How many kids will you have? Those are the ponderings (generally) of the up and coming, and they’re thrilling

As I sit here at 46, however, I get what Shaw was saying. Youth is wasted on the young. Somehow, upon hitting the 40s you suddenly become aware of how fast the days go by. And the weeks go by. And the months go by. Blink—done. Blink—done. Blink—done. It’s entirely perception, obviously, because 24 hours are 24 hours whether you’re 2, 12, 25 or 46. Yet for some reason, as we age the days pass with greater speed. It sucks, because that flicking of time is accompanied by declining skills. I hate to admit this, but my brain isn’t as focused now as it was a decade ago. Thoughts enter and leave in a blink. I have an idea, get distracted, and lose it for two days. That never used to be the case.

Athletically, I’m a shell of what I was (which wasn’t even particularly amazing). I jump less high. I sprint slower. My back hurts.

Again—youth is wasted on the young.

Wait. It’s midnight. I’m officially 46.

Where was I?

Oh, right. Aging.

So here’s the thing: Despite all the agony, I’d rather be here than be where I used to dwell. I was an idiot at 25. I was less of an idiot at 35—but still part idiot. At 46, I’m confident. I’m established. My marriage is terrific, my kids are wonderful, I live in California and bask in the sun. What I might lack in youthful enthusiasm I make up for with wisdom and understanding. I own context I once lacked. I get history, because I’ve lived it. I see young cockiness and I laugh, because it’s terribly misguided and misplaced. One day, you—Mr. 26-year-old—will be in my shoes. You’ll stand here, remembering what it was to be younger.

To be a kid.

Where was the respect when it mattered?

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I love the above headline

LOVE it.

It’s atop a Politico story, and explains that Donald Trump won’t attend Barbara Bush’s funeral because—with security and all—it’d just be a big ol’ pain in the butt, as well as an inconvenience for the Bush family.

Well, bullshit.

See, people have pride. Most people at least. And while men like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio allowed themselves to be ruthlessly mocked by Donald Trump (then, when he won the presidency, nuzzled by his side), the Bushes don’t play that. George H.W. Bush—proud man. Barbara Bush—proud woman. George W. Bush and Jeb Bush—proud men. Do I agree with their political leanings? Rarely. But they’re at least (in day-to-day life) honorable and decent. Jeb Bush ran a pretty awful campaign in 2016, but—to his credit—he refused to reduce himself to a Trump level of ugly, lying awfulness. He walked away with pride. Not as a name-calling infant.

So now, as we sit here, I’m quite certain the Bush family wants nothing to do with Donald Trump, the man who has ruthlessly attacked them on multiple occasions. They don’t want to hear from him. They don’t want to shake his little hands. They don’t want his fake bullshit non-empathy.

They don’t want him around.

Not today.

Not ever.

The sacred breakfast ritual

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So almost every Friday morning before school I take my son Emmett out for breakfast.

It’s a cherished ritual—one I started with my daughter Casey several years ago. We pick a spot, kick back, order pancakes or eggs or whatever … and talk.

Anyhow, this morning we wound up at a place that served a pretty limited menu (some omelets, some pastries), but offered the Los Angeles Times for free on a nearby table. I grabbed the paper, said to Emmett, “Wanna look at the comics?”

“Sure!” he said.

Within moments, the above scene came to action. Emmett was reading, giggling, pointing out funny strips. I had my head in the sports section—Dodgers in trouble, Chargers might draft a running back in the third or fourth round, Ducks playoff disappointment. We ate and we read and we read and we ate, and from afar I could see someone thinking, “Hmm, that’s so anti-social. We need to better communicate with our children.”

Only, well, it was beautiful. I have myriad fond memories from my childhood home in Mahopac, N.Y. The New York Times or Report Dispatch spread across the table. Dad reading the front page, my brother reading business, my mom complaining that it’s rude to read and eat. I’d grab the sports section, catch up on the Jets and Mets and Nets. It was one of my absolute favorite things to do. Comfortable. Comforting. Reassuring. We’d converse in between articles—I’d inevitably complain about the Jets’ quarterbacks or the Mets’ third baseman, to which Dad or David would say, “Hmm.”

I don’t miss newspapers as a day-to-day thing. Fuck, I barely think about it. But when one returns to my hand, especially alongside a plate of eggs and a cup of orange juice, I’m transported back in time.

And I feel love.

Dear guy across from me …

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Dear guy across from me:

There are seven open tables inside this coffee shop, but you chose to sit right across from me. And now you’re talking to yourself as you write.

I don’t get it. Why did you choose this area to sit? It can’t be because of me. I’m gross and smelly and something of a cafe slob. Truly, I’m baffled. There were all these spots. And you’re grunting. Sorta loudly.

If I get up and relocate, will you be offended? Will you even take notice? I feel oddly guilty about this, because you don’t seem particularly bad or harmful. So what am I supposed to do here, as you sip from your small cup of coffee? Because this relationship—it’s not working out. Like, at all.

OK, I’m getting up to leave.

It’s not you, it’s me.

No. Wait.

It’s you.

— Jeff

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Hayley Elwood

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Hayley Elwood is all over social media. You can follow her on Instagram here. You can follow her on Twitter here.

But here’s what you won’t see from the Los Angeles Chargers’ team reporter: Pictures of her with her head enlarged via Snapchat filter. Pictures of her in a skimpy bikini on a beach. You won’t see Elwood partying with players, hobnobbing with celebrities, auditioning via YouTube videos to land a spot on some stupid reality TV show.

Nope.

Dating back to her days as an undergrad at UC San Diego, Elwood has prided herself on professionalism; on earning respect via hard work, knowledge, inquisitiveness. That’s why, for my money, she’s one of the best NFL team-employed reporters in the profession.

That’s also why she’s the 356th Quaz.

Today, Hayley talks about how her career has been made (largely) off of Twitter; how—as a San Diego native—she felt about the Chargers’ move to Los Angeles; how Natrone Means is better than Kevin Quackenbush and Celine Dion has herself a new employee.

Hayley Elwood, you’re the new Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Hayley, you work as the Los Angeles Chargers’ team reporter. And I ask, with no disrespect, what exactly that means. If you work for the team, how is there reporting involved? Like, are you digging for information, scoops, breakthroughs? Or is it more about conveying the information relayed to you?

HAYLEY ELWOOD: No disrespect taken. The reporting is conveying news that’s either relayed (hires/player signings) or gathered on own (through interviews) on the team’s website and social channels. Since the media landscape has evolved, so too have sports teams’ own digital departments. I can really only speak to the NFL, but teams have digital media departments comprised of writers, reporters, producers, shooters/editors and social media people who create content for the teams’ websites and social accounts. I spend my days writing articles and doing videos for Chargers.com. Very rarely are we the “news breakers,” given a little thing called Twitter, but we’re more of the “news confirmers” and in other ways, try to highlight stories that may be different from what you see on ESPN or another place. It’s our job to be a hub where Chargers fans can go to for news.We also get access to players that other reporters don’t given that we’re around these guys so much. So that’s nice for getting to know a player on a more personal level and finding a unique story.

J.P.: So you spent 2015-16 as the Lakers’ in-arena host at the Staples Center—which means you worked Kobe’s last game. I’m fascinated to hear what that was like; what you remember. Also, how would it have changed your role/approach that day had Kobe, say, shot 2 for 14 and scored six points in a blowout loss?

H.E.: That game was so insane, and there are times where I still have to remind myself that I was there. It was a “lighter” game for me given I had essentially zero in-game responsibilities, so it was one of those take-it-all-in kind of days. I just remember an immense media presence. Which, duh, it was Kobe’s last game. My usual in-game hangout spot was in one of Staples Center’s Zamboni tunnels but towards the end of the fourth quarter, they started letting media in for the post-game festivities and it just became a swarm of people. Given my role, Kobe’s performance or hypothetical lack thereof, wouldn’t have affected me that much, but I think if the score/stats had been different, the whole vibe would have been a bit more subdued. But he went out in true Kobe fashion and Lakers fans probably couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Mike Pouncey is the tall one.

Mike Pouncey is the tall one.

J.P.: You’re a UC San Diego grad, you worked for the Chargers for three seasons before they moved to LA. So, I wonder, how did you take the news of the move? Personally, I was genuinely crushed for the people of San Diego, who had loved the team for decades. But, I guess, business is business. Or … something?

H.E.: The news was interesting to say the least, especially also being a native San Diegan (we do exist!) But, for me, I got a job out of the move. I had worked my butt off for years in hopes of obtaining that elusive full-time job in the sports media industry (more on that below), so I was and am, very fortunate and thankful to have received an opportunity.

J.P.: So you’ve described your path to sports media as “atypical.” Which seems pretty fair, considering you spent 10 years working at a dance studio; considering that you held three jobs simultaneously. So, soup to nuts, how did you get here?

H.E.: So quickly on the dance studio, that was a job I held all throughout college and beyond. I grew up dancing but when I graduated high school, I traded in the tights for the computer. I went from working the front desk to managing, and it was the perfect job because it was working for a small business that had a little bit of everything. Post-UC San Diego (where I majored in communication), I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do as a career—the studio paid the bills, but it wasn’t what I went to school for.

My parents work for a local news station so having grown up around that environment, reporting/anchoring was kind of always in the back of my mind to maybe pursue. But, instead of going the small market route, I chose the freelance path. I grew up a football fan so my first real experience in the sports world was interning for EAG Sports Management. When I realized PR wasn’t for me and I figured out I wanted to be more in-front of the action vs. behind the scenes, I enrolled in some classes at Palomar College to get the more “hands on/practical” experience and was able to build a reel. From there, I hustled, and I have Twitter to thank for pretty much every job after that.

I freelanced for FOX Sports Next/Scout.com as a field producer covering high school football recruiting. I literally followed the guy on Twitter who ran FS Next, he followed me back and I sent a message with my resume. Got an interview and then a job. I started with the Chargers in 2014 which was another job I initially saw posted on Twitter. Then in 2015, I saw the Lakers tweeted an application for their hosting position. That was the craziest year because I was managing a dance studio while working for two professional sports teams. The studio was awesome because my boss allowed me flexibility to pursue other passions on the side, while I was still able to work/collect a paycheck that came with full benefits. There’s no way I could have done the freelance thing without having some sort of sustainable income. It hasn’t been easy, and it’s taken me a while to get here, but it’s paid off. So to those who may be grinding it out, just stay patient. Things will come in due time.

Interviewing Charlie Joiner, the Hall of Fame wide receiver.

Interviewing Charlie Joiner, the Hall of Fame wide receiver.

J.P.: The other day you Tweeted out the news that the Chargers hired Rip Scherer as the new tight ends coach. And I got to thinking—do you care about stuff like that? Do you have to care? Does Scherer’s background, experience, etc impact your career?

H.E.: I do care and I think if you don’t, then why are you even doing this? When you work for a team, you essentially become an extended part of that team. Whether it’s players, staff or coaches, these are people you see virtually every day. Now, what Rip does on the field doesn’t directly affect me personally, but, you always want the team to do well (always better covering a locker room after a win than a loss) and coaching certainly plays a role in that. Knowing I had to do a sit down interview with him, I obviously had to do research on his background and find unique angles to talk about. One of them? He was Ken Whisenhunt’s coach at Georgia Tech when Whiz was a player there. But now, the shoe is on the other foot with Rip working under Ken. Small world.

J.P.: A lot of young journalists read these, and I think one of the issues they often face with pro athletes is fear and trepidation. Fear of approaching, fear of asking “stupid” questions, fear of being embarrassed. Did you have that at all? Do you ever still have it? And what’s the secret to walking boldly in your field?

H.E.: I absolutely had that and still do in a way. As reps and years have gone on, I’ve definitely gotten more comfortable, but I’m not complacent. I think the second I don’t feel challenged when preparing for an interview, then something is wrong. I’ve worked with Laura Okmin, who as you know, has had incredible longevity in this business, and even she says she still gets nervous before her first game of the season.

The key to walking boldly is preparation. Know what you’re talking about, and you’ll give yourself the tools and the power to have a conversation instead of a generic Q&A. I’ve learned to phrase questions in different ways to find better answers. I’ve “studied tape,” aka watched other reporters in the business whether it be sit downs or post-game interviews, and noted the types of questions they ask. I’ve learned never to start a question with “talk about….” That’s not a question, that’s a command. Lastly, don’t ask someone something that can be answered with a yes or no, because that may be what you end up getting back.

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

H.E.: Greatest moment? Lots of good ones, but I’m still young, so it hasn’t happened yet. Lowest? Probably blanking/freezing during a live standup. It wasn’t ideal, but having it happen allowed me to check myself. I made a joke about it in the next standup that I did, and I regained confidence. The best part was that the woman who wrote the script put the part I froze on in the next week’s script so I got a chance at redemption. Luckily, second time was the charm.

J.P.: I’ve always bemoaned the fact that female journalists/reporters are routinely judged and critiqued on appearances, whereas men in the same field can look like lumpy potatoes. Do you feel like you deal with this? Do you hear the chatter, the remarks, the assholes? Does it impact you? Am I making something of nothing?

H.E.: You aren’t. There’s a definite double standard. I read this interview on Vulture.com last weekwhere Meredith Vieira talked about filling in for Bob Costas during the Sochi Olympics when Costas was dealing with pink eye. She actually became the first woman ever to solo host prime time Olympics coverage. But as nervous as she was to make sure she did a good job stepping in for Costas on her first night, she said so many comments she received on social media were about what she was wearing. Like huh? How is that okay?

With all that said, I’ve been lucky that I’ve been OK as far as not receiving comments on social media and what not, but I know others haven’t been. I’ve had to get serious about working out (on my own accord, it wasn’t like someone told me to) and in-season, I’m basically camera-ready every day at work because I usually shoot at least one video a day. Camera-ready for a woman is doing your hair, makeup, wearing the right clothes, etc. Guys can essentially roll out of bed, shower, get dressed and be good to go.It’s different for us because we get judged on appearance and knowledge.

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J.P.: On Jan. 15 you posted the news of your engagement on Instagram, alongside a photo of you kidding your fiancé. First, mazel tov. Second, how far are you willing to go, RE: sharing personal info on social media? Is there a line you won’t cross? Do you prefer to be wide open?

H.E.: Thanks for your well-wishes!  I have such a love-hate relationship with social media. Love it because of how it’s opened doors for me professionally, but hate it (at times) because it’s become such an integral part of today’s media landscape and I feel like people in my role sort of have to be more active on it. I don’t want to be wide open because I need to maintain some sort of privacy at the end of the day. I enjoy Instagram, but I try to keep a good blend of personal and work stuff on there.

In regards to the engagement, that actually happened the day prior to posting the photos. I felt like I wanted to put it out there on social because it was a part of my life that I wanted to document, but, I gave it time to enjoy on my own with calls and texts to family and friends. I think lines I won’t cross are doing things that could jeopardize me being taken seriously in this business: Doing IG stories with filters on my face, posting photos in bikinis looking off into the distance with some pithy quote as the caption. These social accounts are not only extensions of you as a person, but also as a professional. I want to go far in this business and be respected, and I think talking into a camera with dog ears or heart eyes can take away from that. Look, I enjoy having fun and maybe I’m taking it too seriously, but that’s just my m.o. If for some reason I end up doing one or any of these things, feel free to remind me of this conversation!

J.P.: You worked the Pro Bowl in the rain. Nobody tackles. The scores are often 50-43. Does this game need to be fixed? Are there improvements that can be made? Does it not matter?

H.E.: I don’t think it matters because the fans still eat it up and fans generate revenue. What’s crazy is literally how many people go to the week’s festivities and the game. I had never been before, but the last two days of practice were slammed with fans. I guess if you really love football and want to see a bunch of players in one setting, the Pro Bowl is your chance to do that? But man, I couldn’t believe how many people were there. However as for a non-game-content suggestion? Put it back in Hawaii!

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH HAYLEY ELWOOD:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Natrone Means, pinto beans, tudor homes, Migos, Kevin Quackenbush, iTunes gift cards, clean tissues, cranberry muffins, Shania Twain: Cranberry muffins, iTunes gift cards, clean tissues, Migos, Twain, Means, tudor homes, pinto beans, Quackenbush.

• Who wins in a bubble gum blowing contest between you and Antonio Gates? What’s the outcome?: Gates. Guy’s a future hall of famer.

• I never get invited to the fun parties. Any advice?: I don’t either! Maybe it’s because I don’t do Snapchat filters?¯\_(ツ)_/¯

• One question you would ask Keyshawn Johnson were he here right now?: Looking back, what did you learn from your time in Tampa and your contentious relationship with Jon Gruden that you didn’t realize at the time?

• Three things we need to know about your fiancé?: Originally from Kansas, plays guitar, has two middle names and a hyphenated last name.

• How do we solve the problems of climate change?: Start by acknowledging that it’s real. Which given the current political landscape, we’re unfortunately not going to be solving it for a while.

• Three things you always carry with you?: Phone, prescription sunglasses and hand sanitizer.

• The world needs to know—what’s the key to not dropping a microphone in heavy winds?: Work on that arm strength.

• Celine Dion calls. She’ll offer you $500 million to move to Las Vegas for a year and serve as her personal minute-by-minute life MC. Meaning, 20 hours a day, 365-straight days, you need to broadcast everything she says into a toy mic. You in?: Yes! Who wouldn’t be in for $500 million?

• Why do I have so many mugs?: Because it’s always important to stay hydrated—or have ample dust collectors.