Jeff Pearlman

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Peter Gammons is the Larry King of sports television

Nearly 10 years ago, shortly after I wrote the John Rocker profile for Sports Illustrated, Peter Gammons garnered an “exclusive” interview with Rocker. During their on-air sit-down, Rocker teed off on me, questioning my ethics and judgment, etc … etc.

Gammons just sat there.

This evening, I was watching Alex Rodriguez’s interview with Gammons on ESPN. Here is what A-Rod had to say about Selena Roberts, Sports Illustrated‘s excellent writer, and the person who broke the steroid story: “What makes me upset is Sports Illustrated pays this lady Selena Roberts to stalk me. This lady has been thrown out of my apartment in New York City. This lasy has, five days ago she was thrown out of the University of Miami police for tresspassing. And four days ago she tried to break into my house while my girls are up there sleeping, and got cited by the Miami Beach Police. I have the paper here. And this lady’s coming out with all these allegations, all these lies, because she’s writing an article for Sports Illustrated. And she’s coming out with a book in May. And really respectable journalists are following this lady off the cliff, and following her lead. And that to me is unfortunate.”

So what did Peter Gammons say? Again, absolutely nothing.

Over the years, I’ve only known Gammons in a Hi-and-Bye capacity. We’ve spoken on the phone a couple of times, and recently he blew me off after agreeing to talk about Roger Clemens for my upcoming book. I certainly respect the man’s knowledge of baseball, and was happy when he returned from his stroke.

That said, well, gimme a break. The reason Gammons scored the interview with Rocker a decade back is the same reason he scored one with A-Rod today: He’s the Larry King of sports television. Softball questions, limited inquisitiveness, an easy time for all involved. I’m not sure if Gammons was jealous of Selena for scoring a huge story, but he had to—absolutely had to—follow up Rodriguez’s presumably ludicrous accusations with a question or two or three or 10. “Alex, are you saying Selena Roberts literally broke into your building? Alex, can I see the paper you’re referring to? Alex, you rip Selena Roberts’ reporting? But wasn’t she, ahem, correct?”

Seriously, give me a break.

  • Oh No Romo

    I thought Jim Gray was the Larry King of sports television. I am confused.

  • Daniel

    I completely see your frustrated and if I were in your situation I would be mad as hell. BUT, Peter Gammons wants to maintain good relationships with everyone in the game of baseball. A-Rod is 33 years old. Let’s say he has 7 years left in the tank. Would you advise Mr. Gammons to pressure A-Rod and potentially put his relationship with the best player in baseball at risk for the rest of A-Rod’s career. I can’t say I wouldn’t take the same road as Mr. Gammons…

  • Cyn

    You’re absolutely right, Jeff. It’s ridiculous that he didn’t counter anything ARod said. Especially the parts about Selena Roberts. He accuses her of breaking and entering and Gammons comes back with nothing?

    That interview reeked of Gammons feeding ARod prepared questions and not following up for fear of possibly getting an unscripted response.

  • joe

    great points jeff! keep up the great work. as you have alluded to on your blog in the past, writers must find a balance between doing their job and gaining access. obviously we know where the once great gammons stands.

    keep up the great work! your stuff is important to sports journalism…

  • Cyn

    “Peter Gammons wants to maintain good relationships with everyone in the game of baseball”

    Then he needs to stop pretending he’s some kind of in-depth sports reporter and fess up to being nothing but a mouthpiece for the players.

  • Lee M

    Not entirely unsurprising, as ESPN has a vested interest in keeping MLB (and any other pro sports it has a very cozy relationship with) happy.

    I mean, look at how they handled Van Pelt when he spoke out on Selig.

    Sic semper tyranis, WWL.

  • J

    Oh well. Boo freakin hoo.

    You sports writers love to dig into peoples lives and will go as far as to hurt that person and destroy them. To bring public shame. As Selena is doing with the book she is writing. Hey thats your job, fine. But god forbid someone calls out the tactics many use to get their story and their credibility and its all hell breaking loose. “Don’t question the media or a journalist, we are sacred and like to think of ourselves as being important”.

    You guys love getting on the soap box and shouting from the mountain top to point the almighty finger of the sports writer. Get over it, most of you are a joke and an even bigger joke that this whole steroid thing has broke in the last few years and didnt break in the 90’s. Did it take Jose Canseco coming out with a tell all book for you clowns who are in the clubhouse day in and day out to figure out these guys were abnormally big? Are you freaking kidding me? It didn’t hit you when McGwire and Sosa’s jerseys didnt fit?

  • Seth Davis

    Hey Pearl-Jam, I just discovered — and bookmarked! — this blog, courtesy of the Deadspin link. You continue to mesmerize me. I only wish I could see you in that Michael Phelps Speed-O. (Is he circumsized by the way? I couldn’t quite tell.) Thank for the chuckles. In the meantime I promise to do all I can to make sure television sports keeps sucking. Love and kisses, Seth Davis

  • Jeff, wouldn’t a really good reporter not see that they’re being used by someone with an agenda against A-Rod, and insist that ALL the names be given to her? I’m not a Yankee fan, but Roberts story was not great journalism; it was opportunistic career advancement. That’s fine. But don’t sit here and besmirch Gammons for not asking tough questions when Roberts obviously didn’t care to ask her source why A-Rod was the only person being outed.

  • Non-Fan of Pearlman

    I remember the time that Jeff Pearlman wrote a garbage article on David Wells (calling him fat numerous times after Wells gave an interview). Pearlman is all about generating controversy and being the story, not reporting it, as also evidenced by the inflammatory title of this post. Save your $20 and don’t buy his junk books.

  • ChcagoJeff

    Umm lets be a little real here. Is it Gammon’s job to “stick up” for Selena Roberts. I concur he should have followed up..but i just don’t see any ESPN vehicle as being actual journalism. These guys have been in the pocket for a very long time now. THis is purely TMZ type stuff.

  • Steven

    It looks like you are a little jealous of Peter Gammons receiving the interview.

  • Mike

    I agree Non-Fan,

    Jeff is complete trash. You suck Jeff. You’re just as bad as Selena.

  • Steven

    Jeff, it sounds like you are jealous of Peter Gammons

  • Kim

    I’m amused that commenters who think Jeff’s writing is “garbage” would go to the trouble of reading his blog and airing their own remarks.

    He must be doing something right.

  • Rob

    Larry King? Gammons reminds me more of Bob Woodward. Everybody in D.C. WANTS to talk to Woodward. Get out in front; control the terms of the debate. Even Bush did it. Woodward doesn’t go out of his way to offend. Gammons doesn’t either. If Gammons doesn’t offend them TOO much, players will keep talking to him. Players keep their dignity, Gammons keeps his access. Somebody has get behind the microphone. Is anyone still upset that Woodward initially got it wrong about the Iraq War?

  • jvwal

    I wonder how much of this is the result of Gammons’ relative lack of experience as a TV interviewer. He is a professional writer and reporter; as far as I know, he’s done very little interviewing on-camera.

    There are major differences in interviewing tactics for print vs. broadcast. If your subject says something outrageous in a broadcast interview, you really have to confront them immediately. If you’re interviewing for print, you can let them go ahead and say outrageous things, and then you print them in your story along with proof that what they say is outrageous.

    If Gammons is relatively inexperienced at broadcast interviews, his brain probably isn’t wired for that instantaneous response.

  • Dave

    Hey Jeff, you know I’m a big fan of yours but I’m going to disagree on this one. Yes, Gammons should have followed up. But if you’re interviewing the biggest star in the game about the biggest story in sports and you have more information to get from him, Selena Roberts is not going to be a priority. Plus, if he put Alex on the defensive at that point or got him mad, he may not have given more information about the things people really care about. A-Rod was pretty vulnerable throughout the interview. It seemed like PG was walking a line of getting info while keeping A-Rod calm so he could give more info. There are a lot of follow up questions to ask about steroids, where he got him, and yeah about Selena Roberts. But that interview was a great intro. I’m sure Selena’s a pro who knew what she was getting into when she wrote the piece, just like you knew what you were getting into when you wrote the Rocker piece. If you’re good enough to have a national forum, you have to understand that people will try to tarnish you when you write bad things about them. You’re both good enough to not need Gammons to defend you.

  • pearl jam

    It’s obvious that you’re jealous of Gammons and the fact that you defend Roberts for following him (yes she did to some extent, see the police report) and profiting on him on an unauthorized book that talks about his personal life is disgusting. He admitted he did something, and unlike Pettitte he didn’t read from a piece of paper someone wrote for him. What more do you want from Alex, do you want him to snitch about others that did it, and then be further disliked in the game and then be potentially criminally involved?

  • Apper

    Congrats on this lame attempt to make yourself feel important and for someone to notice you doing so. This sounds more like a Gammons grudge than anything relative to the actual situation.

    Do you not think this was controlled situation? Come on, use your head.

  • John

    Jeff,
    Nobody outside Boston thinks Gammons is a legitimate reporter. Calling him Larry King is kind.

  • Chris

    I’m not sure that it was Peter’s place to debate Selena’s reporting “tactics” with A-Rod or press him about her research. ESPN received a statement from SI that allowed Selena to defend herself. (Besides, I thought Rodriguez came off terribly in going on the attack against Roberts. For someone attempting to be contrite, it seemed like the wrong move. Also, it’s apparent his beef is with union reps, former teammates, government officials or whomever the four people are who hung him out to dry. Apparently, a quartet of folks thought he was a hypocrite or liar.)

    That said, it was a disappointing interview at the start. It’s embarrassing to avoid the questions that EVERYONE at home is shouting at the TV!

    –“In this time frame, 2001 through 2003, how often take testosterone and steroids?”
    –“Athletes today are like human machines. Alex, why should we believe that an elite athlete with millions of dollars on the line, wasn’t careful with what he was putting in his body?”
    –“How can you ‘feel terribly’ if you’re not certain what you were using? Don’t you just ‘feel terribly’ that you were caught and your legacy may be tarnished?”
    –“Even though baseball had no formal penalties for a failed test in ’03, do you think you cheated the game and the fans?”

    Of course, this “question” was a joke: “Given the opportunity, would you like to go to Major League Baseball and say, ‘OK, what can I do to help kids across the country?'”

    Peter tried to circle the wagon a few times on the leak and how A-Rod got access, but he could have whacked him a little bit more — for clarity’s sake. I don’t know that another reporter would have squeezed much more out of A-Rod, but Peter at least could have asked some important follow-ups.

  • Tim

    Personally Jeff im a fan of yours. Reading “Boys will be boys” (which is a fabulous read by the way) and thinking that a guy who writes this kind of book about one of the most storied franchises in the world is going to publicly disrespect Peter Gammons. Its pretty clear that there are two types of journalists that ive noticed. People that argue and right about the points and facts presented to them. (EX: Peter Gammons) Then there are POT STIRRERS, people who use everything against everyone. (EX: YOU) Not that its not a great move because people love reading about it, but Gammons doesnt deserve shots from you because of his style. It is not his job to protect you from Rocker or Roberts from A-Rod hes a reporter he was doing what he does best reporting. Sorry Jeff just really feel you were wrong on this one.

  • Non-Fan of Pearlman

    How much credibility should we give to the “Jerry Springer of Sports Journalism” when he opts to rip the “Larry King of Sports Television”?

    I suppose if you cannot land a big interview of your own, it is best just to critique someone who is able to do so.

  • YOU FOOL!! You’re just like Tom Verducci with your comments about Peter Gammons. You and every other “baseball writer” are just jealous of him, you’re not in the HOF like he is and you never will be! Stop crying over sour grapes because he won’t talk to you about your book.

  • I really don’t think Mr.Gammons has to defend Salena Roberts. She’s into sensationalist journalism(remember who broke the Duke Lacrosse story, and they turned out to be innocent)He would be defending her type of journalism.

  • David

    Right on, Jeff! The Gammons interview was a Public Relations exercise for A Rod, and Peter came across as his PR agent and not as a journalist. PR is the life of an ESPN commentator, so there is no surprise in his approach. In one egregious example, Peter didn’t even ask Alex for a specific time frame, but answered his own “question” when he said “So you took PED’s between 2001 and 2003” to which a smiling Alex replied “Yeah, that is roughly accurate”… What a joke! Peter’s credibility is now shot with me, and probably with many other fans of his general work. What a shame.

  • Look let’s be objective. Peter is not known for his tv interviewing. He’s a baseball writer and a damn good one. He wouldn’t be in the Hall Of Fame if he wasn’t.Some can do both he’s not one of them. Even though he grew up a Red Sox fan I have never once read any pro Sox slant,or bias. He was always one of the most objective writers.

  • Joe

    Peter did the perfect job. A couple of people have said it already that there is no reason for him to tear into people and barge into their lives. Jeff, you must have the same exact opinion about Rick Reilly. He’s one of the best sportswriters of his time and he never digs into players personal lives. If you think Rick Reilly is doing it wrong, just quit your job, cause you’re too dumb for it.

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