Jeff Pearlman

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Good vs. Terrible

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So I turned on the TV this morning, and there was Josh Elliott, one of ESPN’s SportsCenter anchors, interviewing the author of a book about sexual addiction. I spent several years working alongside Josh at Sports Illustrated, and while we haven’t kept in close touch over the years, he’s someone I consider a friend.

The interview was, in a word, fantastic: Probing. Detailed. Thorough. Josh asked the right questions at the right time, and while it’s entirely possible he had a producer in one ear bellowing, “Don’t forget to bring up [X],” I’m pretty confident the bulk of the work was simply Josh being Josh. Back in the day at SI, Josh had the reputation of being overly cocky, and while it might have been somewhat deserved (Hell, I was accused of the same thing at The Tennessean—and rightly so), he was also a highly skilled writer/reporter who warranted better treatment.

As always, I’m babbling. I bring this up because, in Josh Elliott, I see everything ESPN has done wrong over the years—and why he represents a righteous path. From Chris Berman to Stuart Scott to Scott Van Pelt, The Network spent far too much time brandishing so-called “celebrities”—men and women who’ll be recognized in airports nationwide, yet who can’t interview their way out of a junior high school gymnasium. Scott is the perfect example here: No matter the situation, the interview always—always—comes back around to him. His opinions. His takes. His goofiness. Same with Berman. I still cringe at the memory of the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies of two years back (I was there, stalking out Michael Irvin), when he MCed the event and kept throwing around inane nicknames that had the freshness and zest of a Debbie Gibson LP. I was screaming in my head, “It’s not about you! IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!!” But, with those guys and so many others, it has been about them. For years and years and years. Now, it’s in their DNA. Yes, the world is watching because everyone loves football. But surely, they also love Me.

First and foremost, Josh is a journalist. A digger. He’s allowed me to turn on ESPN again and not throw hard objects at the screen.

Good for him.

Good for ESPN.

PS: A side note. My favorite Stu Scott story. Back when the Giants and Ravens played in the Super Bowl, Ray Lewis took quite a grilling on Media Day for the whole murder thing. At the end of the session Scott pulled him aside, gave him a tight hug and said (allegedly), “Don’t let these motherf•••ers bring you down.” An friend of mine wrote of the incident, and Scott left one of the best voice mails ever, including the line—”You wouldn’t understand … that’s just how we do.”

  • Dave

    I wouldn’t put Van Pelt in that category, but yup.

  • Kevin

    Boo-Yah! You got it right. Stu Scott, don’t get me started. The Berman nicknames got real old in the early 90′s! Not only does he wreck football, but when he does a baseball game on Wed. night it drives me nuts.

  • Jason

    chris berman… the al roker (fat buffoon) of espn.

  • Dan

    SVP doesn’t belong in the same category as those two clowns. He seems like he legitimately enjoys sports (he even posts on a University of Maryland sports message board) and he hosts the best radio show ESPN has to offer.

  • Lunch Boy

    SALPAL is the worst. Every story is about HIM. He can go pound sand up his ass.

  • Jeeves

    i wonder if scott would have hugged a white guy who helped commit murder

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life