Jeff Pearlman

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Rocker’s Talent No Illusion

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 12.03.53 AMWe all have embarrassing stories to tell.

Most of us, however, opt not to tell them.

I do.

In the early days of 1990, the big thing going on at Mahopac High was Illusion, our school rock band. Over a three-night span, students would fill the gymnasium and watch our peers cover songs by Styx, the B52s, Bryan Adams, etc. It was fun and cool and funky—and it resulted in my having an absolutely ginormous crush on Teresa McClure, the group’s keyboardist.

At the time, I worked as the sports editor of Chieftain, the school newspaper. Hence, I decided what we needed was a profile of McClure—a girl I didn’t know; a girl waaaaaaay out of my league. Somehow I arranged an interview, and we sat down at a table in the library. For, oh, 30 minutes, I lovingly stared into Teresa McClure’s eye, throwing out one softball question after another while thinking about what our children would one day look like. She was pretty and perky and—best of all—musical (as Kay Hanley rightly noted to me, the ultimate turn-on), and I desperately wanted her to become my girlfriend (one of which, at that point, I’d never had).

The story ran on the front page of our little paper, and I hatched a plan.

An amazing plan!

A brilliant plan!

A surefire plan!

A plan only a 17-year-old virgin could ever think of.

I looked up Theresa McClure’s phone number. I found a quiet place. I dialed it. Someone answered. I hung up. I dialed it again. Someone answered. I hung up. I dialed it again. Someone answered. I … I … I …

“Um, can I speak to Theresa?”

“May I ask who’s calling?”

“Yes, eh, Jeff eh Pearlman. From eh eh school.”

“Hold on, Jeff …”

Pause.

Pause.

Pause.

“Hello?”

It was the most angelic voice I’d ever heard via a telecommunication device. Sure, looking back she probably had no recollection of our meeting. But, hey, that didn’t stop me. I had The Plan. “So, Theresa, this is sort of weird, but my dad gives me money every time I get a front page article in Chieftain. So, eh, I’m calling because I sort of owe you, and I wanted to see if you’d want to go out some time?”

The words were awkward and pathetic.

“OK,” Theresa said.

OK? OK! OK!!!!!

“Great,” I said. “I’ll see you at school …”

That was that. From that moment on, Theresa McClure avoided me like herpes. I’d walk past her locker, oh, 30 times a day (stalkers learn young), and she’d never glance my way, never even look. I left her notes that went unreturned. Passed messages via mutual friends that died on the vine. Ultimately, I asked Laura Garraway—a cross country teammate who knew Theresa—to give me the truth.

“You really want it?” she asked.

“I do,” I said.

Laura gulped. “She thinks you’re … nice,” she said. “But she wants nothing to do with you.”

“By nothing, you mean …”

“Really,” Laura said. “Nothing.”

It was my first broken heart.

PS: Here’s the crazy conclusion. About seven years ago I wrote a magazine piece about all my boyhood crushes, and what ever became of the women. I tracked Theresa down, and we went apple picking together with our families. She was lovely and charming and delightful—and we’re now Facebook friends. Toward the end of our day I said, “Theresa, I have to ask—and please be honest with me—what could I have done differently?”

She smiled and chuckled warmly. “You had no chance,” she said.

  • That’s awesome. I’m going to see my high school crush in 2 weeks at our 20th reunion; I have absolutely no idea what I’ll say to her. I feel pretty confident I won’t be as terrified trying to talk to her as I was in 1993.
    But then again, I can’t exactly ask, “Did you know I had an enormous crush on you for four years, and you barely ever acknowledged me?
    Ah, good times.

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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